If you’re paying the least bit of attention, you can see there’s something very wrong with our world right now. If you read or watch just a bit of news, you can see that politics throughout the West has reached a level of ineptitude not seen in over a century. And if you have just a bit of magical awareness you can see that this badness extends across the Veil and into the world of spirit.
Rising temperatures, weird(er) weather, unusually incompetent (and in a couple cases, genuinely dangerous) candidates for high office, a depressingly high rate of deaths among artistic and creative folks, a 7-year “recovery” that feels like we’re still in deep recession for everyone but Wall Street, and on and on and on.
Fools deny there’s a problem, politicians insist everything will be OK if you’ll just vote for them (and the world will go to hell if you vote for the other party), and skeptics insist it’s just the ups and downs of life and it will all even out over time.
Meanwhile, those of us who for years have heard the Gods and ancestors whisper “there’s a storm coming” are seeing the clouds get darker and darker. There’s an urgency and anxiety among the spirits (or at least, among the spirits I’m around), and just like humans, some of them are angry and reactive.
This is complicated. Let me be blunt. If you think there’s one cause to this, you’re wrong. If you think there’s one root cause, you’re still wrong. This is a complicated situation with its roots in Nature, in human nature, in our political and economic systems, in our religions and their many manifestations, and in our history and the countless decisions we and our ancestors made that brought us to this point.
Most people don’t like complexity. They want everything reduced down to one thing they can focus on, and they’ll get behind anyone who tells them a complex world is simple, even if there’s no more substance to it than “make America great again.”
And speaking of Donald Trump, he’s a not the cause of this. He’s both a symptom of the larger situation and someone who’s observant enough and amoral enough to take advantage of it.
We’re living in the early years of The Long Descent, so named by John Michael Greer. It refers to the decline of Western society in general and the American empire in particular. I disagree with John Michael on some of the specifics, but his general hypothesis – that every empire in the history of the world has eventually collapsed and this one is no exception – is strong. This will not be a sudden shift – we won’t hit bottom for a couple hundred years. But make no mistake – our empire is in decline, and no fascist nativist strongman can stop it.
We’re also living in what Byron Ballard calls Tower Time, named for The Tower in the Tarot. The Tower brings sudden, drastic, dramatic change. There is no sugarcoating The Tower – it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to hurt a lot. It already is. The Tower tears away the false, presumably to make room for the true… but there’s no guarantee one lie won’t be replaced by another, unless we make it so.
This is bigger than you are. You may be a powerful witch or magician, but cast a spell of protection against a hurricane and you’ll find out just where you stand on the scale of power.
This isn’t the Monster of the Week where you can kill it in an hour with time left over for commercials. It’s not even Lord Voldemort, who can be defeated after seven years of valiant struggle and allow your children to go to Hogwarts and play quidditch in peace.
The Neoconservative warmongers try to sell us on the idea that victory means wiping your enemies from the face of the Earth, after which all will be well. In the real world this is not a recipe for victory, it’s a recipe for endless war.
Whatever this “something bad” is – and to the extent that a combination of multiple separate forces can be spoken of as though they were a singular “something” – it can’t be defeated, at least not in the short term, and not by any individual or small group.
But it can be resisted.
Deal with it. I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit either, but we do. Don’t think for a minute that the battle for marriage equality is won and the road to full LGBT acceptance is all downhill from here. Do what you have to do to make the world a better place, and do what you do best.
Which is not to say there aren’t plenty of ignorant, stupid, and mean-spirited people out there. There are… and there some in your circles as well as in the other folks’ circles. But we need all the intelligence we can get, from whatever sources we can get it.
Respect your intuition. If something doesn’t look or feel right, walk away. And conversely, if your intuition is pushing you in a direction you think is unlikely or even impossible, check it out before you say no. If you’re about to make a major life decision, give it some deep thought, prayer, and meditation. Divination can’t tell you what you should do, but it can help you see where different courses of action will take you.
Be wary and skeptical (particularly when people are trying to sell you a product or a candidate or a religion), but never lose your compassion. If you lose your compassion, you’ve already lost.
Build your tribe. You aren’t going to survive this alone. And at the risk of sounding like a Libertarian, do not assume the government or government-run programs will take care of you. For centuries, families and communities took care of each other. Not nuclear families (a mid-20th century American perversion designed to make every man a king so he’d buy a “castle” in the suburbs), but extended families – several generations living in the same house, with other relatives living close enough to drop in on a moment’s notice.
The automobile and the rise of hyperindividualism killed the extended family. We aren’t going to undo that in our lifetimes, unless the curve of the Long Descent is a lot steeper than I expect. If you’re part of a good, well-functioning extended family, consider yourself fortunate… and don’t alienate them. For the rest of us, find the people who will be your family of choice and start developing those close ties now. That means you give your share toward the collective good. Ideally, everyone gives more than their share.
Include your spiritual allies: the Gods, ancestors, and spirits of your tradition, your family, and your location. This isn’t complicated: honor them on a regular basis, and when they speak (in dreams, in divination, in intuition, in synchronicities…) listen to them.
Take care of yourself. Eat good food. Drink plenty of water and moderate amounts of everything else. Get plenty of sleep. If you need medical care, find it, and then do what you need to do to be healthy. Remember that “healthy” doesn’t mean you look like a professional athlete, it means you can live your life the way you want to live it. If it’s not possible for you to be healthy, then be as sustainable as you can.
Hold on to what’s most important – family, friends, your art, your most powerful and intimate religious experiences.
Find what brings you joy and celebrate it.
The persistence of your ideals is your success. Many of our ancestors lived in circumstances that made the Long Descent look like a vacation. They did not judge the success of their lives by whether or not they were easy, but by whether they had lived virtuously, and by how well they had passed their virtues down to the next generation.
I do not expect that my ideals of reverence for Nature, worship of the Many Gods, the refinement of the soul, and lives lived in true community will become a widespread reality in my lifetime, or in the lifetime of anyone alive today.
But these ideals and the virtues they represent are helpful in bad times, and they can build a strong foundation for the good times that will come again at some point in the future of humanity.
I can’t explain the political, economic, and religious turmoil in our world with any degree of precision. I just know something bad isn’t coming, it’s already here. Let’s take care of ourselves, and let’s take care of each other.