“I went to collect the few personal belongings which…I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.”― Colette
No matter how secular the practice of modern witchcraft becomes, we never forget or forgo the lessons of the ancient goddesses completely. These stories and histories of magical women who forged their own paths with their own power offer us empowerment and inspiration in the best of times, and even in times like these that I would say are absolute shit — amirite?
The entire world is learning a lesson about solitude right now – everyone. The pros and cons, the challenges, the humour, the freedom, the terror, and the brain-melting monotony. As a certified loner with severe social anxiety, I didn’t think more alone-time would pose a significant challenge to me. It would have been pretty cool if I could have just had a chill quarantine with no serious life lessons, tbh, but that’s not really #witchlife so here we are. At the beginning of this year – which was only 3ish months ago by the way! It feel like 8 years – I decided this would be the year I focused on my issues with physical intimacy, including sex and dating. HILARIOUS. No matter what we had planned for the year, it’s now got this extra layer of solitude.
There isn’t really a single goddess of solitude because every person has different lessons to learn when they’re left to their own devices. Being alone means different things to different people. Home means different things to different people! While some of us are experiencing physical solitude, others are feeling it more in their minds and hearts even when surrounded by family. To some, peace and quiet would be a gift right now and to others it’s what’s slowly driving us bonkers.
Solitude meant something different to each of the following goddesses, but the unifying theme is the strength they found in being alone. Through their stories we can find the spiritual support and inspiration needed to find our own solitary power.
Hekate (Greek) – Magic
When it comes to working alone, Hekate is the queen of that too, right along with being the queen of earth and heaven and hell and the land and the moon and the oceans and the crossroads and…. well you get the picture. Hekate is the greek goddess of Witchcraft, and all the doors that can be opened to you through magic. She’s often shown wielding keys and a torch to serve as your guide on a dark pathway with a trusty dog by her side. For many, Hekate is a fearsome sight to behold and her dark nature is exactly why people either love or can live without her. In times of fear and darkness, Hekate opens the door to other worlds and asks you to find the way using your own innate magic.
In general, Hekate is #feministwitchgoals – she can see in all directions, and through all of space and time at once, can travel between worlds and anywhere she pleases, is respected and feared by even the king of the gods, is a psychopomp who’s always welcome in the underworld, is a protective force for women of all ages – including young persephone!, and is almost always in the company of dogs and only dogs. No men, only dogs.
When faced with quarantine, Hekate shows up with the magical keys to the universe and reminds you that witches fear no walls. She can guide you through dream work, astral travel, exploring past lives and future possibilities. She can open your third eye, help you channel the magic of any moon phase, and meet you at the crossroads of your mind in meditation. She offers protection when reaching beyond the veil and communing with spirits, and reminds you that you have all the power you need.
With the material world currently brandishing an out of order sign, why not step fully into the magical one instead? Use this time to learn a new magical topic or trade, explore your psychic gifts, start reading tarot or practicing some other divination, or dive in to the akashic records. Bring your pup along as your familiar to gain her favour. (take pics)
Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft by Cyndi Brannen on Bookshop.org
Lilith (Hebrew) – pleasure
I’ve been thinking of Lilith as the unofficial patron of the pandemic. I’m reading Glam Witch by Michael Herkes with the Witch n’ Bitch this month and I just keep thinking “she’s exactly what we need right now!”. Lilith’s story of solitude is long and confusing, but like most epic tales, it began in a garden.
Lilith was the first wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden – created from the same clay by god to be Adam’s equal. Men, unfortunately, gotta MEN and Adam demanded subservience from Lilith during the act of sex. Lilith believed that her pleasure should be equally important during sex, while Adam believed it was her duty to please him.
“but she only comes when she’s on top”— James [Laid]
So Lilith chose the wilderness and fornicating with demons over a lifetime in paradise under the protection of god. From then on, Lilith became the mother of demons, the first vampire, the succubus, the demon queen of snatching children and a cautionary tale to any woman who put their pleasure and their life on the same level as a man’s. Lilith didn’t just leave a garden, she left humanity behind. When angels came to collect her and bring her back she was struggling against the elements and the wilderness, but still she chose her freedom to choose for herself over the safety of the garden and of humanity. Instead she fornicated with those demons and beings of the night and learned magic and witchcraft. She survived, grew, gained her own power, and came like a faucet whenever she pleased!
Love and Sex in the time of Corona can seem an impossible thing to find, but Lilith can help you find it for yourself – within yourself. Instead of using sexual pleasure as a distraction from the world, see it as a way to create a new one. Use this time to explore what you want, to explore your needs and desires and fantasies, to explore your body and your mind. If you’re partnered you can include them, of course, but it’s not an absolute requirement. For a moment, focus only on your pleasure and your power. Raise energy through sexual exploration and gratification to lend to your magical work or the goals and dreams you have for your life. Fill your room or home with the sounds and vibrations of ecstasy and gratitude, and find enough humanity within yourself to sustain you as you trudge through the dark wilderness.
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Hestia (Greek) / Vesta (Roman) – surrender
Of all the goddesses on this list, Hestia’s tale of solitude is BY FAR the most fucked up. Hestia, or Vesta in Rome, is the Goddess of the Hearth – often she is really only thought of as a force rather than a person. The fire that keeps the home, and Rome, alive. Before she was the fiery heart of the home, she was the oldest of the Olympians, first born to Kronos and Rhea. For those who are familiar with the story of Zeus, the king of the greek gods, you know that his father was driven mad with fear that one of his sons would overthrow him and so one by one he swallowed all of his children. Rhea eventually had had enough and tricked Kronos into swallowing a rock instead of Zeus, and he came back to cut his father up and free his siblings. Hestia was the oldest sibling, which means she was the first one swallowed and the last one rescued. While Rhea was the earth itself, Kronos was the dark, infinite cosmos. Hestia’s story of solitude, therefore, takes place in the dark, black infinite void of the universe.
I told you. WILD.
How does a goddess who spends an amount of time that is really not comprehensible by human brains in an inky black void of nothingness completely alone end up being the warm beating heart of the home and family? Surrender. Hestia’s only hope in that time was to surrender to the situation, and trust that all was not lost. She had to let go of fear about the future, she had to let go of analyzing the past and what she could have done differently, she had to let go of needing anyone else. She had to let go of everything but herself. In nothingness she was everything. The warm fire of her heart glowed warmer and brighter in the blackness, and so she was able to hold onto it while she surrendered everything else.
As soon as her siblings started to stack up in the cosmic digestive tract I bet she really missed being alone, tbh.
Once free, Hestia continued to be an internal goddess – again, more of a force than a person. She projected warmth and stillness, and encouraged moments of meditative contemplation.
Hestia encourages us to surrender to solitude so that we can find our own inner fire. To be thoughtful and present rather than allowing fear of the future and regrets from the past to consume us. It’s ok if you’re not crushing the quarantine by getting a lot done or writing that novel or making a million dollars or doing a million stupid home projects. Seriously – none of that stuff matters. It’s ok if your body is changing, it’s ok if you’re eating fast food or not exercising. It’s ok if you’re just sitting there by yourself, accomplishing nothing, being nothing but you. What matters is that warm fiery heart at the centre of your being, that’s you, and that fire will still be burning when you’re free from this.
Psyche (Greek) – Loneliness
The main focus of Psyche’s story is her relationship with Eros or Cupid, the sexy winged gold of erotic love who shone like he was dipped in gold, and the trials she went through to prove her devotion to her love with eventually gained her the status of Goddess. Before she was married to the god of love, Psyche was an uncommonly beautiful mortal girl who was so lonely she attempted suicide multiple times. Actually, that describes Psyche almost all the way through the story. She feels completely disconnected for her family, her community, and humanity in general. People around her fetishize and infantilize her. She has no control over who she is or the direction of her life. No control over who she is at all. Psyche never gets the message that what she wants and who she is matters, and never has a close connection with anyone she can trust ever. Even her sisters act like petty hoes and her husband the god of love never truly shares himself with her until after she literally walks through hell to find him.
Through all of Psyche’s trials she learns her own worth, she finds reasons to live, she explores the darkest depths of her mind and soul and is rewarded not only with immortality and divinity – but a family of equals. In the end, Psyche learns who she is and what she wants and Eros learns that real intimacy means sharing that deep dark stuff and trusting that those who love you still will. The cure for Psyche’s lonely life was more loneliness and solitude. Years of wandering, of suffering, and literal torture at the hands of the personification of love (Venus/Aphrodite) gave her the space and a reason to heal.
Psyche wasn’t named the goddess of soul for nothing. Through loneliness we can discover our own needs and desires, our weaknesses, strengths, and our identity. Through pain and suffering we grow and change, and though the love of others can soothe some ache, the love we have for ourselves is what truly brings us peace.
Nemetona (Celtic) – Sanctuary
This lesser-known Celtic goddess was brought to my attention through Doreen Virtue’s Goddess Guidance Oracle deck and I felt an instant connection. Nemetona is the goddess of sacred oak groves and sanctuary. She loves outdoor spaces that prompt quiet moments of powerful reflection. Her lesson in times of solitude is that of safety – or more appropriately, feelings of safety.
Home really is my sanctuary, my safe place to be myself and work my magic. I often describe home as the one place where I truly FIT. Everything there is made to appeal to me, to inspire me, to care for me. And physically, I literally fit. I make sure I don’t have to squeeze through spaces or that my booty isn’t knocking everything down around me. In a world that constantly feels too fucking tight, home is a place where I am a perfect size. I’m sure this is an idea many of you are familiar with – at home you are never Too Black, Too Loud, Too Fragrant, Too Weird, Too Different, Too Disabled – you’re just you. Nemetona doesn’t require you to add a bunch of energy or items to a space to make it a magical sanctuary, instead she asks you to strip it down to what makes it sacred naturally.
As a goddess of the sacred Oak groves, Nemetona is quite partial to growing plants and outdoor spaces. I used to think of her as the patron goddess of my balcony altar. Now I see her in the house plants I hang in my windows, feel her in brooms and acorns and pinecones that decorate my home, and think of her whenever I feel grateful to have a place where I fit.
Dancing with Nemetona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space by Joanna Van Hoeven on Bookshop.org
This is ground-breaking stuff – the key to surviving solitude is hanging with your pets, masturbating, practicing witchcraft, putting your needs first, breaking down your social defenses, and completely forgoing any attachment to the outside world just for a little while. No matter how you spend this time, all of these goddesses encourage you to find strength in solitude and in yourself.
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