You may have noticed there was no blog post last Thursday. Gwion Raven provided a nice writing prompt for last Tuesday, but beyond that the Awen was not flowing. My fellow Patheos Pagan bloggers have been busy, but none of it inspired a response. The summer cold I mentioned last Sunday is still here and it’s making a difficult situation even worse.
That very careful prayer I prayed last Sunday? So far the response has been silence. No sudden infusion of strength, or skill, or wisdom. No healing, no recharging. Just more of the same. And then fatigue turned into frustration, frustration turned into panic, and panic turned into resignation. Meanwhile the world keeps moving and the need for the work we’re doing is as dire as it’s ever been.
This isn’t the dark night of the soul, when everything seems hopeless and you feel like giving up. This is the dry season, when you want to keep moving but it’s hard and joyless. The vision of a better world and a deeper practice is obscured by smoke and haze. When you’re hungry but nothing sounds good, when the joy of summer has turned into the monotony of oppressive heat. Pick your metaphor – this is the time when it’s not fun to be a Pagan.
This is the dry season.
If you’re sick, rest
One of the lessons of the marathon is that is if you refuse to give in to fatigue, you can accomplish great things. Another lesson of the marathon is that when you exhaust your body’s supply of glycogen, you hit the wall. It’s one thing to struggle through the final miles when you know the finish line is near. It’s another thing entirely to keep running when you’re sick and tired and there’s no end in sight.
Skipping the gym for another hour of sleep is a good start. But when you’re sick, sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you need a weekend on the couch. Most times I come home from my paying job with plenty of energy for my Pagan work – this past week I haven’t. Not much has gotten done.
So be it. Sometimes you have to rest.
Silence isn’t absence
The Gods have been silent lately. The Morrigan has had no new assignments for me. Brighid has been silent about the edits on my new book. Even the local land spirits have been strangely quiet.
But they’re not missing. I can still sense them in their usual places during my daily prayers and weekly devotions. They’re just not talking to me.
Are they being quiet out of compassion? Or are they off doing their own things for their own reasons that have nothing to do with me? I don’t know. But I am sure that their lack of communication – and lack of intervention – has nothing to do with the state of our connections.
No relationship is “on” all the time, including our spiritual relationships. Even our closest family members sometimes have stuff to do that doesn’t involve us. Don’t mistake silence for abandonment.
Maintain daily spiritual practice
I have to be deathly ill to go a day without brushing my teeth or taking a shower. I have to be about as sick to skip all my daily prayers. Our core practices keep us connected to our spiritual allies and remind us of what’s most important – even if it doesn’t feel particularly important at the moment. They’re a trickle of water in the desert. Even if it hurts to be reminded of the times when they were full of wonder and awe, the bit of power they provide can be the difference between keeping going and dropping out.
Everything may be important, but everything can’t be first
I’ve always been good at multi-tasking. When one thing stalls out or hits a “wait and see” time, move on to something else.
Multi-tasking isn’t really working on multiple things at once – it’s moving quickly from one thing to another. And in dry seasons, your capacity isn’t what it was during the good times. Where normally I can keep three or four projects going, now I’m struggling to manage two. Or one. And so choices have to be made.
Everything may be important. Everything may be equally important. But everything can’t be first. Something has to be set aside.
I left work early twice in the past week – rest needed to be first. I’m in a job where I can do that, at least occasionally. Other projects have had to wait. Better that they wait till I can give them the attention they need than to half-ass something sacred.
If hard choices have to be made, make them. Everything can’t be first.
Better days are coming
Sooner or later we all run into dry seasons. We get sick or overloaded, we run into a roadblock, or something else happens that takes the joy out of our spiritual work. But dry seasons are like Mercury Retrograde – they come and they go. They don’t last forever.
Colds eventually go away. Paying jobs ease up. Leaky roofs get fixed. The Gods start speaking again and those amazing ecstatic experiences return. Sometimes that takes weeks. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes it takes years.
If your Pagan beliefs and practices were meaningful to you before, they will be meaningful again – if you stay with them.
Sometimes you just have to be the Druid
Or be the Witch or be the Heathen or be whatever it is you are. Put on your robes, fire up your cauldron, and start brewing the Awen. Light the incense and pour the offerings. Draw sigils, light candles, and cast spells. Whatever it is you do, just do it. Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s getting you anywhere, just do it.
This is where Paganism stands in stark contrast to the mainstream. For most people in the West – especially Protestant Christians – religion is about what you believe. For Pagans and polytheists – and for most people around the world – religion is about what you do. More importantly, it’s about who you are.
If you’re a Druid, then you’re a Druid even in the dry seasons. If you’re a Witch, then you’re a Witch even when you don’t feel very witchy. Be the Druid. Be the Witch. Be the Pagan.
Dry seasons come to all of us sooner or later. The realities of life intrude on our plans, and so we deal with them, as we must. Accept reality, take care of yourself, do what must be done, and then be the Pagan you are.