How are you getting along with the COVID-19 social distancing / quarantine / lockdown? So far me and mine are healthy, which is the main thing. None of us are out of anything critical. But I’ve never experienced anything like this.
I’ve had my routines disrupted before, with illnesses, cross-country moves, deaths of family members, and such. But I’ve never had my routines disrupted for so long with no clear end in sight. At least when those disruptions were happening the rest of the world went on as usual. I was disrupted, but the world around me was the same as always.
This is different.
The only word I have for it is surreal.
I’m trying to strike a balance between staying informed and not obsessing about things I can’t control… which those who know me well know I find damn near impossible. But in this upheaval of ordinary life, I see some things I need to pay special attention to. And I suspect most everyone else does as well.
1. Maintain your spiritual practice
Does it seems like I’m always harping on daily spiritual practice? There’s a good reason for that – it’s really important. Regular practice – meditation, prayer, offerings, time in Nature – keeps us connected to our Gods and ancestors, to our highest values, to our communities, and to our identity as Pagans and polytheists. If we do this regularly over a long period of time, it becomes second nature and it gives us a firm foundation for living in difficult times.
But disruptions to our routines can disrupt our routine practices. I’m used to saying my noon prayers when I go out to lunch. But on days when someone schedules me for a lunch meeting (or when I’m working from home) it’s always a challenge to remember to do the noon prayer. When the stimulus is removed, the response is no longer automatic.
The solution is to find a new stimulus. I’ve tried putting a blank post-it note on my monitor – I see it and remember why it’s there. I’ve found that if I can actively say “remember the noon prayer” once I’m in the office I almost always remember it.
Find what works for you so that you maintain your core practices.
2. Don’t worry about being “productive”
I’m still working my day job, but pretty much everything else is cancelled. I have more time to write, or to read, or to do lots of other “productive” activities. But doing any of those things is hard right now. I’m doing the basics and beyond that I’m struggling.
Adjusting to the “new normal” is hard… and it gets harder as it becomes apparent this isn’t going to be over in 30 days or maybe even in 60. There are emotions involved I don’t completely understand within myself, much less that I can evaluate in other people.
If you need to take things day to day, then do it.
3. This is not the time to dwell on long-term plans
Less than two weeks ago I wrote 6 Pagan Things I Want To Do Before I Die. While I mentioned the Coronavirus as an example of something that might keep me from going to Egypt, the whole piece (especially the “Gerald Gardner plan” for becoming a full-time Druid) is grounded in the assumption that the world won’t change dramatically over the next 30 or 40 years.
While we are clearly in the early stages of the Long Descent, I’ve never suspected there would be a major drop all at once. I may have been very wrong.
Or maybe I wasn’t. We just don’t know yet.
The closest analog to COVID-19 is the 1918 “Spanish Flu.” It lasted for about 18 months and killed perhaps 50 million people world-wide – that’s the equivalent of 200 million today. But we have much better medical technology, and our containment strategy isn’t being hampered by a world war.
At this point we simply don’t know how long this will last, and we have no way of knowing what the world and our part of it will look like when it’s over.
I’m not giving up on any of the things I want to do before I die. I’m not booking any trips for next year either.
I’m not good at this. As I’ve written about many times before, I like detailed plans with maps and schedules. I’ve gotten used to spiritual uncertainty – now I have to deal with material uncertainty. I don’t like that, but it’s counterproductive to dwell on a future that may not be – both the dreams and the nightmares.
4. Keep your divination specific and short-term
It’s tempting to try to divine the long-term outcome for this pandemic. In my experience, though, the further out you go, the less useful divination can be.
I do not believe the future is fixed, so there is no “future” to be read. Rather, divination shows us where we’re going and what things will look like once we get there – if we stay on the current path. If you don’t like where you’re headed, make changes now.
Now, imagine trying to project where not just you but the whole world is going to be in 18 months.
Instead of trying to figure out when this will be over, use divination to help you figure out what you need to do today or tomorrow or next week. Be honest with yourself – if troublesome cards come up, deal with them as they are rather than trying to rationalize them into what you want to hear.
I do yearly divinations and they’re at a 50,000 feet level. This year’s reading suddenly looks extremely accurate (especially The Lovers crossed by the Nine of Swords) but I certainly didn’t see this specific crisis coming.
Divination is a helpful tool, but it’s most helpful when you keep your questions specific and short-term.
5. Watch for what you’re overlooking
I hesitate to write this segment.
I see conspiracy theorists screaming that this is all a hoax to cover up what “they” are doing to us. This is real and denying its reality will get even more people killed than are going to die anyway.
I also see well-meaning people talking about how restrictions on human activity are causing improvements in air quality, water quality, and wildlife activity. They’re cheering this on, as the virus that’s causing it is killing a few, sickening many, and upending the lives of all. Have a little consideration for your fellow humans.
The Coronavirus is a natural phenomenon that’s doing its own things for its own reasons. But as I said last week, that doesn’t mean that people won’t try to take advantage of it. Keep your eyes open for political opportunism, exploitation, and profiteering.
Various spiritual persons are also trying to take advantage of this situation.
I have nothing specific to report. But the Grand Game I wrote about in 2017 is still very much in progress, and it will be for some time to come.
Don’t just pray to your Gods, listen for Their direction. Don’t just make offerings to your ancestors, listen for their wisdom. Don’t just say hello to your local land spirits, become their allies.
There is always more than one thing going on, even when the big thing is a worldwide pandemic. The more you see the more you know, and the more you know the more you can respond in beneficial ways: for yourself, for your family and community, and for the entire world.