Solitary Wicca practice is a legitimate form of worship.
Solitary Wicca Practice
Wicca is a religion. More specifically, it’s a religious framework. Like other religions, that framework allows for a wide range of interpretation and practice. At a top level, the most common differences in practice are those who practice Wicca in groups (covens), and those who practice as individuals. The Gumbo Wicca Tradition focuses on solitary practice.
In the preface to his book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Scott Cunningham describes the state of Wiccan practice in the mid-1980s, when he wrote the book. Wicca practice was limited to covens. These groups regularly bound their members to secrecy. So, there wasn’t a lot of writing in the public square. A new method of information exchange came into being at this time, online “Bulletin Board Systems (BBS)”, and the Internet-based forum structures like the USENET. These systems and forums enabled people from far and wide to connect and communicate. It was possible for initiates from various covens and traditions to come together online. The Wicca compared notes, discussing how they did things.
This more-open discussion about Wicca led to a number of thought leaders in the community at-large to turn their thoughts, diaries, and other private writings into published works. While many inside the covens rejected these writings, Seekers ranging from the dabblers to the serious embraced them.
That’s the world Cunningham saw when he began writing. His early books focused on practices that the Wicca (his form of the plural, those who practice the religion) could use in their rituals. Use of herbs, crystals, ritual technique, etc. As the USENET’s “alt” groups and commercial services such as CompuServe and GEnie grew, they became platforms for discussion of Wicca. Users exchanged recommendations of books. Other authors grew in popularity, such as Margot Adler (Drawing Down the Moon), Starhawk (The Spiral Dance) and the prolific Raymond Buckland. Llewellyn Publications identified this niche and got books into the hands of Seekers. Those looking to understand Wicca turned to their local “new age” shops for books, ritual tools, and community.
Solitary “comes out”
By the late 1980s, Cunningham shifted his personal practice of Wicca from a group focus to something more individual. The appeal of not being obligated to a group is strong in many. From introverts who just don’t “people” well to those who prefer keeping religious practice private, working alone attracted many seekers. Then there are those who feel threatened by friends, family, co-workers, etc., if they reveal religious beliefs that don’t conform with the majority. The term, “in the broom closet” gained popularity to describe this latter group.
Online activities and a wider range of published material helped all solitary seekers. The Wicca gathered on Compuserve on full moon evenings virtually. They enjoyed both the connection to others and their privacy. As the Internet grew, particularly after the development of the World Wide Web, solitary practice of Wicca exploded.
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner enabled Cunningham to pay his personal experiences forward. By compiling his notes into a published guide, he presented solitaries with background and structure.
This is how the Gumbo Wicca Tradition views Cunningham and the many authors who followed. To enjoy successful spiritual experiences, one should understand them. From the Wheel of the Year to how to set up an altar, we all need starting points.
Cunningham is our starting point.