To say we’re living in stressful times would be a gross understatement. For those of us in the United States (and those influenced by the United States) the next 19 days are going to be even more stressful. And if the election result is anything other than a Biden landslide, that stress is going to continue for weeks to come.
Some people can ignore it. I’m torn between admiration for their ability to compartmentalize their lives so completely and disgust at their dereliction of duty to their fellow humans.
Most of us can’t ignore it. We have to get through it. And it’s not enough to simply stay alive for the next 19 days or 3 months or however long it takes. We need to be energized and engaged.
We have to take care of ourselves.
Much of the well-meaning advice dispensed during the pandemic can be boiled down to “cut yourself some slack.” These are hard times and we do what we can to get by. If that means a heavy dose of Netflix and wine, so be it.
But speaking as someone who’s had more of my share of Netflix and wine this year, the “cut yourself some slack” approach will only take you so far.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to get us through these high-stress times.
Normally in situations like this, my first recommendation is simply daily spiritual practice. Whatever it is you do that keeps you connected to your spirituality and your highest values, keep doing it. In this situation, though, I want to recommend some specific spiritual practices. And that starts with prayer.
Pray. Talk to the Gods. Talk to your Gods – the divine persons with whom you have a relationship, who have called you to Their service, or whose stories and virtues inspire you even though you’ve never experienced Them first-hand.
Don’t have anybody who fits that description? Perhaps it’s time to pursue Someone.
You can use formal, structured prayers or you can speak conversationally. You can ask for strength, guidance, and inspiration. But mainly, just talk to your Gods. Call Their names and epithets, recount Their mighty deeds, speak Their virtues. Let Them know you’re paying attention.
Our human relationships do not last long if we don’t talk to our friends. Our relationships with our Gods are much the same. Speak to Them – pray.
If you’re going to speak to the Gods, then also listen for the Gods.
There is value in Buddhist-style meditation that focuses on the breath and on emptying the mind – especially during times of stress. But I prefer more active meditation that focuses on a deity or an ancestor or another spiritual person. Speak to them, contemplate them, and then listen for their presence.
Is that the Morrigan you hear, or is it your own subconscious? If you hear what you want to hear, if it tells you to just wait and everything will be OK, or if it tells you that what you fear most is going to happen, that’s probably you.
If what you hear is something you had no way of knowing, if it tells you to do what you know you need to do but you’re afraid to do it, if it calls you to learn and grow and embody divine virtues, that’s probably not you.
With practice over time, you will learn to distinguish between your voice and the voice of Another. I’ve heard the voice of the Morrigan enough times I instantly recognize Her. I don’t recognize Cerridwen so easily, but I do know when it’s not me.
If in doubt, do divination. Or pay a good polytheist diviner to do it for you.
Mainly, take time to listen.
Words are important, but words can be cheap. Offerings are a tangible commitment to the persons we speak to in prayer and listen for in meditation.
Pour libations. Share your food. When appropriate, make special offerings, even if they rise to the level of sacrifice.
I have four rounds of regular weekly offerings. I know people who make offerings daily, and others who do it monthly. And I make offerings as part of seasonal and special rituals. Do what seems right to you.
While some deities have specific requirements or preferences, most times what you offer is less important than the fact that you’re making offerings. But, as I warn in the online rituals I’ve been doing, don’t offer the cheap stuff and keep the good stuff for yourself.
Make sure you include your ancestors in your offerings. They went through worse than this and they came through it OK. What they did, you can do too.
Make offerings in the coming days and weeks. Maintain and strengthen your spiritual relationships.
Certainly we should work magic “whenever you have need of anything.” Necessity is the mother of invention – it also provides a strong emotional current to power the spell.
But if we only work magic when we need something, we may not build our skills to the level we will need in times of trouble – times like now. I committed to work magic at every full moon this year, and so far I’ve done it… though sometimes it’s been hard.
There is no shortage of magical targets right now: medical, political, economic, or personal. Pick something, select a target, and then cast a spell. Use sigil magic, energy work, traditional witchcraft, or whatever method you prefer.
As witches, Pagans, and other magical people, we have skills others do not. Let’s use them, for the greater good and to take care of ourselves.
Connect with your community
This one is hard – there’s still a pandemic going on. But the only people I know who are still in total quarantine are a very few individuals with high-risk medical conditions.
Since May I’ve been meeting regularly with my local Pagan “pod” – a very small number of friends and co-religionists who are socializing with each other, but not with anyone else. We’re also working, going to school, grocery shopping, and such – we’re taking more than zero risk. But we’re not taking a significantly higher risk by seeing each other.
Those connections have meant the world to me this year.
If you can’t do that, there’s always the phone. I prefer e-mail or text for messaging, but for maintaining connections, there’s nothing like hearing a live voice.
Check on the vulnerable members of your community: those with difficult health and economic situations, and especially those who are most often targeted by white nationalists and other bigots.
Also, check on the strong members of your community. Some of them are doing OK, while others are barely holding it together even though they’re putting on a good front for everyone’s benefit.
I have good days and bad days. Lately I’ve had more good than bad. Here’s hoping that continues.
Do I need to say this? You may not need me to hear it, but I need to say it.
The polls are encouraging, but remember that on Election Day 2016 Hillary had a 71% chance of winning. But that just meant that if the election were held ten times, Trump would win three of them. We got one of the three, not one of the seven.
I like Biden’s odds. But until the election is over, the results are certified, and the lawsuits Trump will file after he loses are settled (or hopefully, dismissed), I can’t relax.
So I’m going to pray, meditate, and make offerings. I’m going to work magic and stay connected to my local friends and family.
I voted yesterday.
These are difficult times. They will not be over on November 3, or even on January 20. But we are strong and resilient, and we have powerful allies. We will get through them.