I played around with some Chaos Magic the other night, and you know, for a one-person ritual in my living room, it was pretty epic, even if I do say so myself. I’d found some new techniques that I wanted to experiment with, and they worked way better than expected. By the time I was halfway through, I was like…
Once the rite concluded, I dismissed the Quarters (since it was a Discordian-style ritual, I used lyrics from “So Long, Farewell“) , then ate a pint of ice cream and immediately went to bed. There were notes I needed to make, but it was close to midnight and I was worn out, and I figured they could wait until later.
So I swaddled myself up in my comforter and crashed out. And when my alarm went off seven hours later, I was like,
I received several signs throughout the day that the working had been successful, which was cool, but I also felt punchy and unfocused, and I didn’t get much accomplished at the office (although I did win several games of computer solitaire, which was where my productivity peaked). Ultimately, the issue was that I didn’t put any effort into grounding after practicing some fairly delirious Witchcraft, and I had to suffer through that.
And yeah, okay, listen: Someone out there is going to read
nothing but the headline of this post and comment, “Clearly, you’re a terrible Witch. I never have to ground; real Witches don’t need to.” And someone else is going to be like, “You didn’t ground?! You fool. The gates remain unsealed. All is lost.” And the Sense Fairy is probably pressing a hand dramatically to her forehead and whispering, “If only he’d hugged that tree…”
And you know what? I welcome all discourse. But the point is that I’m occasionally not super-great at coming back into myself after ritual, and I end up with what an old covenmate of mine used to call an energy hangover.
“Energy” is maybe not the most accurate word to use here, since what usually causes the hangover is a bumpy shift back to a mundane mindset from a ritual one. Fortunately, there are things we can do to prevent and/or mitigate the effects, making the transition between the Otherworld and the Real World as smooth as possible.
Here are a few reliable ones.
I was able to attend PantheaCon one year, where I participated in two to three really big rituals per day. And the only thing that kept me from floating away was the football-sized sausage burritos that the hotel café served with home fries. Seriously. I ate like six of them over the course of the weekend, and never once had trouble staying centered.
A hearty meal — especially one with savory, protein-rich foods — is probably the best way to ground after ritual. (I’m partial to roast chicken and hummus, whereas Trowthy swears by Whataburger taquitos.) You know how it’s recommended not to eat anything heavy before going into a ritual? The opposite also holds true: Light foods prior to ritual make it easier to get into a good, trancy state of mind, and heavier foods afterward will help bring us out of it.
Incidentally, this is why Cakes and Wine is such an important part of a standard-issue Wiccan ritual (and why my favorite cakes are sourdough English muffins). It’s a watershed between the main ritual and the end of the Circle, and as such, it gives us an opportunity to have a nice snack and ease back into the waking world without any speedbumps.
Arte of Conversation
Cakes and Wine also gives everyone a chance to decompress and discuss what went on during ritual, which kind of organically leads to talking about topics of an ordinary nature: In my coven, once we start chatting about television shows or pet maintenance or whatever, we understand that we’re all restabilized and ready to close up the Circle.
If you’re doing a ritual by yourself, calling a friend once you’re done is a good way to ground as well. But instead of talking about the work you did, get them to tell you about their day: the errands they ran, their thoughts on matters of cultural import, etc. Lean into the conversation, and let the chit-chat pull you fully back into the mundane.
Write As I Say, Not As I Don’t Write
I never did get around to taking those notes, but I usually do try to get something down on paper right after spellwork, because the details are still fresh, but also because it’s fires up the analytical side of my brain.
There are people out there who can journal about their experiences for days on end, filling countless notebooks with profundities, and those people are lovely, but I am not one of them. Instead, I just go with an outline similar to this:
- Type of Magic
- Summary of the Working
And then I leave a little space at the end of each entry to record any updates or synchronicities.
Even if you’re not into journaling — and not everyone is — I strongly suggest keeping some kind of written or photographic record of the magic you’re doing. Getting your thoughts in order through documentation is itself a form of grounding, and one that’s definitely worth considering. (Just, y’know, don’t post your pics on Instagram until after your spell works.)
There Is No Shame in Tapping Out
If you’re not in a good headspace, whatever the reason, the most effective way to prevent a ritual hangover is to not be in a ritual in the first place. In the past, I’ve walked into rituals knowing that I was too tired or cranky to be of much use, and my contribution to the evening’s Witchcraft reflected that. And I walked out of those ritual feeling a lot worse than when I went in. So I had to train myself to be honest about what was going on in my brain, and to let my covenmates in on that info.
And sometimes, rituals can just get a little too intense, regardless of how we’re feeling beforehand. If that happens — if you start feeling overwhelmed, and you know you’re going to be a train wreck if you keep going — there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I need to step away from this,” then removing yourself and grounding however you see fit. Your psychic and emotional well-being are both for more important than whatever work is being done. Do not ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
The magic can wait until you feel up to it. I promise.
Above anything else, if you’re feeling happy but wobbly after a ritual, you can take grounding literally and go lie on some grass until your psyche clicks back into place. More often than not, just getting some air and spending a few moments by yourself will help you recover. Cleaning up your ritual space as soon as you’re done for the night is a good grounding exercise, too.
Oh, and also, hydrate hydrate hydrate. And don’t stay up past your bedtime practicing Witchcraft when you know you have to go to work in the morning. And please, please learn a lesson from my mistakes, and always remember that ice cream is much better for breakfast than dinner.