Carl Neal at Pagan Square offers an interesting and stressful experience in a local wooded area years past:
When I opened my eyes and looked around, I saw there was a young couple on the adjoining trail with their small child. Although the look on the adult’s faces was priceless, it was clear that they were disturbed that I was hugging and talking to a tree and telling it not to be afraid. I smiled at them and started to explain what I was doing as I stood up. The couple didn’t wait for my explanation. Apparently standing up made them think that the “crazy tree-guy” was going to attack them so they ran down the trail like jack rabbits, with child in tow, and vanished onto the main trail leading back to the central parking area.
Exercising the better part of valor, I bade the tree spirit farewell and slide back to my car (parked near the “secret” back parking lot) just in case Park Rangers were dispatched with a straight jacket.
I’m willing to bet that most people who have done any sort of pagan or magic thing in a public areas know the nervousness that comes when other people approach. At the very least, it can be disruptive and embarrassing. At worst, it can pose a safety risk, especially if you are doing anything at night.
I can’t help but think that had there been a crowd of tree huggers that the couple would have passed on by with a chuckle, but seeing a Solitary left quite a different impression. Yes, being a Solitary Pagan can be a risky proposition. Not because being “out of the broom closet” might cost a job but because saying hello to a fairy just might get you put in restraints!
Depending on what you are doing, there is a risk that you might be seen as slightly insane, and there may be some authority figures involved. I myself have had encounters with the police in which they expressed concerns about ritual tools and weapons and wanted to know why I was in a given area at a given time of night.
My own past activities are not something I want to go into great detail about, but let’s just say that there were times in which I was in public parks past posted hours. I was lucky that the police officers I spoke with were friendly and happy to let me be once they were satisfied I was not doing anything dangerous or seriously illegal. There may have been other times when I was on privately owned wooded land — this was very stupid and I cannot endorse such actions, as private landowners may take more aggressive measures, and companies that own land are willing to prosecute those who ignore “no trespassing” signs.
The issue here is one of personal safety. If you are a solitary practitioner, and don’t have anyone to buddy up with when you go into wildish areas, you must exercise extreme caution. (I usually went out with Jack or other folks when I prowled around in my younger days, so at least I wasn’t totally alone.) If you are too far off the beaten path, there can be a risk of simple falls and injuries, but if you’re close to the beaten path there can be risks involved from people walking up on you. I’ve never had anyone come up on me when I was doing anything too weird that couldn’t be resolved by being still and quiet for a moment until they went by, but Neal’s story illustrates a potential for more direct and awkward encounters. And as I mentioned above, take care where you go, as access to some places is limited and can potentially get you into legal trouble.
So if you’re going to go out and play among the trees and things, and insist in going by yourself, keep a few things in mind:
1) Know the area first. Don’t tread into unfamiliar territory by yourself.
2) Dress for the weather. Make sure you’re warm if it’s cold out. Make sure you have water if it’s hot.
3) find a secluded spot for any work you plan to do. Even in busy areas, you can usually find a quieter place off the main path where people don’t go much.
4) Be careful about what tools you take with you. This is especially important if you have any ritual knives. Know what is legal to carry in your locality.
5) Be respectful if law enforcement becomes involved. Sure, they might think you’re weird, but most of them don’t care if you’re weird as long as you’re not causing trouble.
6) Be aware of your surroundings. While it’s hard to keep an eye out for passersby if you’re in a trace state, listening when doing any other work can let you know if anyone is approaching. Sometimes just being quiet for a moment is enough to avoid a potential conflict.
7) Be mindful of land boundaries! Most public parks close after dark, and you may have the cops called if you are seen. Be careful about trespass signs and warnings. I could offer tips on how to access such land with care, but for liability reasons I will not, and will simply advise you to stay off other people’s property.
8) Make sure someone knows where you’ll be. Just in case.
On the risks and considerations of solitary practice