Hell Month in 2020

Hell Month in 2020 July 18, 2020

Back at it again at Patheos Pagan.

Hell Month

The spirits I work with tend to call July ‘Hell Month’. Years ago, the hot summer sun baking the Sonoran desert like an oven, I walked and contemplated (or, more accurately, whined about) the nightmares I had been suffering. Awful dreams more reminiscent of when one is struck by an illness than anything else, the nightmares left me feeling shaken and upset. My spirit partner had commented offhand, “Of course you’re having nightmares, it’s Hell Month.”

Summer in Tucson was always my least favorite season, of the two we had. (Well, three, considering the monsoons.) And as I worked more with those spirits, I heard the phrase utilized more often until I decided to incorporate it into the Otherfaith.

When we moved to a colder climate I wondered at the impact to my religious practice and spiritual life. Would July still ring through my bones as a time of mourning and frustration? Or would some other month claim those feelings, instill those feverish otherworldly nightmares?

There wasn’t an easy answer. There are more seasons here, where I live now, than I used to experience. Or perhaps just different seasons. Leaves change color and litter the streets. The trees smell differently. The explosion of green in spring brings more shades than I knew possible. The bony fingers of the trees reach to scratch pale skies in winter, with mist blanketing the landscape in an ominous enticing haze.

I had never understood the sort of environmental depression that could take hold in winter until living here. It wasn’t hellish, though. The trials of wintertime darkness have been well-explored and well-fought. Warm wine, twinkling lights, and family help fight it off.

The summer is more bearable here, certainly, but come July the nightmares do begin again. I suspect it is because of the energies I’ve tapped into with the Gods and spirits of my practice. I can no more escape them than I can escape my body; which is to say that any escape would sacrifice something too precious to forfeit.

Photo by Gilles Desjardins on Unsplash

Tower Time

I’ve seen a lot of posts onTower Time’. (Not included are the many social media posts talking about it.) I wouldn’t compare the Otherfaith’s Hell Month to Tower Time, because I don’t know if they really fit. The way my fellow bloggers talk about Tower Time, I have always felt it more apocalyptic than the stream of energy in July.

My loathing for ‘Tower Time’ may play into my hesitation to compare the two, though.

And I did loath the idea and its propagation. My fear was that such focus on doom and gloom would lead to dangerous places, that more often than not it was about posturing and frightening newcomers. (Even if I trusted the people writing or talking about it, it made me rather squirrelly.) I didn’t disagree with the premise – that there was something coming, that there was a scent on the wind, a stirring – but I had been hearing similar claims for years and years and years.

2020 has certainly put all those posts into a perspective.

Often when I read about the tumultuous times ahead of us, when I first started seeing all this talk of Towers, I assumed that change might come, but I wouldn’t be there to see it. The world as it is would continue on until it snapped. But that would happen later, always later. If I isolated that shift to some far off point in time I wouldn’t have to confront the deeper fear festering in my heart: that the change would come, and be awful and terrible to behold, and be worse.

Hell Month is supposed to be about being able to acknowledge the awful parts of our lives, our existence, our society, but it was always capped off by an inspirational, aspirational emotion. The Gods win over evil (whatever that is). The injustices of the world are righted. We aspire and achieve hope. You make it through hell.

You make the world better.

More Than a Month

It’s not just July this time around, though. For months, my brain and heart have stepped through the thick muck of Current Events.

A story I read recently mentioned ‘time disorientation’ and ‘depression’ as symptoms of isolation, and the author wryly commented in their end notes that aspect of the story hasn’t aged well, in this time of quarantine.

Time becomes like molasses one moment, then a rushing river the next.

It doesn’t help that where I am…well, we are returning to normal. More normal. My aversion to social media has only grown since March. Now, as my offline life and home settles back in to the familiar patterns, going online and glimpsing the rest of the world can become paralyzing. The paths my mind spirals around remind me of the line from Oliver Thorn’s video on data and surveillance:

I don’t want to think.

But we have to think about it. I have to think about it. That’s what the Gods were trying to show with Hell Month the whole time, I suspect.

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