Eremitical Life for the Layperson

I found it surprising to learn that one monastery currently has more oblates than monks, according to a recent news story.  The New Camaldoli Hermitage, a Benedictine monastery in Big Sur, California, has 24 monks but 700 oblates, people who live in the world and affiliate with the monastery community, in the spirit of monastic life.  Although this shows that sadly, monastic life is just too much for most people, it also shows that it still has a great appeal.  And, just as there is renewed interest in contemplative practice among Christians and those following other faiths, there is new interest in pagan contemplative practice and life as well.  Please note these two sites that address this emerging practice, and visit them.

There is little to guide us in Wicca or any other paganism if we wish to practice a more eremitical or monastic-style spirituality.  There is the tradition of the solitary practitioner, but this provides little detail for daily practice.  What we may find helpful if we wish to craft our own contemplative spiritual practice is the tradition of the Oblates of St. Benedict.  Although this particular rule or way of life cannot directly apply to pagans, the basic idea can.

“An Oblate is a lay or clerical, single or married, person formally associated to a particular monastery. The Oblate seeks to live a life in harmony with the spirit of Saint Benedict as revealed in the Rule of Saint Benedict and its contemporary expression.”

Oblates do not take on a new set of religious practices and are not required to say a certain number of prayers or engage in special devotions. They do not live in a religious community or take vows. They regulate their lives according to the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, applying the teachings of the Rule to their lives in the world.  They are affiliated with a Benedictine community and committed to living according to monastic principles, including regular worship and moderation in living.   For more information see

Although pagans do not have monastic orders to affiliate with, nevertheless, the main notion of being an Oblate remains the same:  living in the world according to contemplative principles and including contemplative practices in daily life.  For pagans, one can include devotional practice in the daily routine.  To my mind, it seems easier for us to find the holy in the everyday, as we revere the earth and Her animals, and, for that matter, each other, so much more than Christians do.  A simple and easily accessible devotional activity would be to sit in a garden or under a special tree and just listen to it.  This is very lovely and not at all difficult; no breviary required!

If we wish, we can go even further and make our practice more eremitical.  I do not advocate undertaking ascetic practices, which go against pagan values, but we can live even more measured lives of quiet contemplation and solitude, and careful consumption of Earth’s resources.  This is difficult to incorporate into a working life, and impossible for those with children, but it can be done, at least partially.  The key is discipline.  Prayer and a prayerful awareness can be increased during the day, even if the time devoted to it is short.  The intention alone of doing this increases our awareness of the enchantment in everyday life.

I am heartened by seeing so many turn to this way of life and spiritual practice.  This practice brings peace for those who engage in it, and that peace extends to all those around them.  Even though it may not feel like you’re doing very much, the energy you generate with contemplative practice changes all who come in contact with it.


Copyright © 2017 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “Eremitical Life for the Layperson

  1. In the Order of the Sacred Nemeton we have ideas to begin a Second Order which will probably be very much like the Oblate life. We are a contemplative Druid monastic order.


  2. Thank you for mentioning my blog Her Eternal Flame, about contemplative Brighidine mysticism. I hope to add more entries soon. I hope to hear more about contemplative practice and spirituality in pagan and polytheist religions and traditions in the years to come.


  3. Maybe I did not understand fully, but how is the prayerful attitude and focus different than what is already focused upon in solitary devotional practice? I love the idea of applying monastic influence to Wicca, but I’m not sure I see how it differs from normal wicca in the way that you are explaining it. Perhaps I missed the point of your article? If so could you please re explain?


    1. Solitary practice can also be ecstatic, or whatever else the practitioner decides. Contemplative Wicca is only contemplative. There is a monastic order of Druids in the UK, as well as a pagan hermit in the US that I know of. There are others with an interest in contemplative practice, so, although we are few, we are here & practicing (and blogging). For more info on my work, see the About page, as well as my archived articles. Hope this helps. Blessings!

      Liked by 1 person

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