Public health in sacred space is important. We take part in actions of community. We pass the drinking horn and the plate of cakes. We dance hand in hand. We even engage in sex magic, or working a ritual through sexual pleasure. The problem today is this: we are facing a day when diseases are global and drug resistant, and people have fewer ways to protect themselves.
We are living in a day where there is the potential for diseases to become epidemics. The World Health Organization or WHO, declared the Ebola outbreak in Africa a global health emergency, cutting through red tape to release funds and aid from around the world to help treat and slow the spread of the disease. Over the last decade, swine flu has tracked across the US. In the last century, Spanish influenza killed tens of millions globally, and that was before people had easy access to international travel. There is now a new crisis, measles. There was an outbreak in California, which is now closing in on 100 cases. This state has one of the highest rates of parents choosing, because of belief or misconception, not to vaccinate children.
Second, strains of bacteria are becoming more and more drug resistant. The MRSA outbreak at hospitals around the country, in which patients died because antibiotics just didn’t work, is one example. MRSA is an aggressive product of staff infection. PBS Frontline goes into this topic in their show about nightmare bacteria, which is on Netflix. Alternatively, people are developing allergies to all sorts of drugs, or to foods that could boost their immunities, because of the various toxins in drugs and in our environment.
I think it is important that we contemplate these problems, which are universal, when we engage in passing a plate of cakes, engaging in sexual activities with consenting adults for magic, or even just holding hands and dancing. These are ancient practices, meant to draw us close, meant to help us bond.We like to be touched, to be heard, to drink of our brothers and sisters. We feel we belong, and we feel powerful. But how do we participate in these things with less risk of contracting serious health problems?
If the issue is larger, an outbreak of flu for instance, a very basic step could be taken, mainly using hand sanitizer before and after ritual. Again, the use of individual plastic cups can be effective at containing communicable diseases.
The sad thing is that we have to make some concessions. It might mean not sharing a drinking horn at a Sumble, a Norse ritual of boasting and toasting, to keep a strain of the flu from spreading throughout a public gathering. But we have to be on guard at a gathering like PSG. I myself got sick last year, on two 1000mg vitamin C pills daily, with precautions, because bugs and rain were so bad last year. Even at a one-day event like Pagan Pride, we have to be careful.
We can put hand sanitizer at booths, use plastic cups for public or even private ritual, and practice safe sex. We can vaccinate and eat well, take vitamins and stay home if we are not well. If we value community, and our sacred space together so much, shouldn’t it be important to us to help maintain that? We keep negative spiritual energy out of a circle. Shouldn’t we try and refrain from introducing illness, especially considering those with allergies or impaired immune systems? Even if it means buying a box of reusable plastic glasses at a garage sale in case something is going around, or having everyone use sanitizer before entering a circle, it is a small price to pay for keeping the circle happy and healthy to stand together another day.