This has been a question for me since I read my first book on Witchcraft. As a Child and even in my teen years, I have always been an awkward and shy social butterfly. I grew up Christian. When I was a Christian, I loved going to church. Not for the sermons and Sunday School lessons, but for the social aspects of it. Although, I knew I didn’t really fit in, I still enjoyed being around others. Especially if they were having a good time. I often was quietly watching the festivities of my peers from my invisible place near a corner or wall a short distance away.
As I grew older, I learned to be a little more involved socially. I was forced to interact with co-workers and was learning to speak up in front of people. At first I was very awkward and I constantly told myself, “don’t let them see you sweat”. As I moved through life I have always had just that one friend that I hung out with. I always felt awkward in groups. When I discovered Wicca, I found a public group. The first time I went to a group function was Samhain or Halloween. It was a celebration. I was so afraid that I sat back in a corner with a mask over my face all night. I did what I usually did. Found a corner of the room and watched the festivities as I sat there alone. It happened to be the first time I ever went to a new place completely alone, beside work or a new school.
I eventually met some people and relaxed a little. Ran out of the celebration at midnight like I was going to turn into a pumpkin. I kept going back and I was eventually politely informed that I was expected to participate with the group if I were to attend. It was expected of everyone. I found some really great Witches through this group and a very special Coven. I was taught a lot by these witches. There was one in particular that quickly became my mentor. I learned how to practice witchcraft not only on my own as a solitary witch but with a group.
I enjoyed working with the group, but I didn’t feel comfortable joining the coven. Isn’t it what every Witch wants to do? Wasn’t it expected of me? To join a Coven was my obligation if I wanted to become a real Witch. Joining a coven was a huge commitment and it seemed so close knit. A very tight circle. I was so uncomfortable with it. I knew if I joined a group like this my awkwardness would be blazingly obvious to everyone in the group.
Part of me wanted to take the plunge. I wanted to belong somewhere. I wanted to fit in with a group…but…I was afraid. I was afraid of being exposed. My darkest secret that I am actually very shy. Everyone would know and they would most definitely see me sweat. However, I did practice and learn from a couple of Covens over the years as well as on my own and from individual teachers. I never have yet to actually be initiated into a coven although I did complete a self-dedication. I have always managed to keep just on the outside of the group even though I enjoyed practicing with the Covens and public groups.
I currently practice with a Coven as I keep my own personal solitary practice going strong, spiritually connected and very individually designed. I have discovered that for me, I can be a part of a group. I can be accepted for all of my weird, awkwardness and still be true to myself and the craft as a solitary witch. For me, I discovered that essentially, every witch’s spiritual and magickal practices lay within their own personal and private spiritual and magickal practices during their own moments of solitude.
Some witches happen to belong to groups and share experiences that are both spiritual and social and for me it is tremendously fun. I enjoy meeting with others on Sabbats and esbats. I enjoy the all out celebrating and group rituals. I have also come to the realization that neither experience is “better” than the other. They are both different and both have their pros and cons. I realize that both the group experience and the solitary experience compliment each other. We are responsible for our own spiritual development and it is not necessary, at least in my opinion to be initiated into a coven or other closed and tight knit group. It is all worth experiencing and I love and benefit from both ways of practicing.
P.S. I’d love to hear how you like to practice. Do you prefer to be alone or with a group?