The pandemic has moved my spiritual life inside. I don’t just mean I’ve abandoned public spaces. I’m spending less time with external ritual and more time in solitary meditation.
On January 1 this year I filled out my 2020 Author’s Planner, confidently blocking time to write books and talk about them. On January 5 my partner Alex was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. My life shifted dramatically. I went into coping mode: I am his caregiver and I can do this! I re-arranged my planning from “rest of our lives” to “what can happen today”. Go to the gym. Go to the park and have a picnic. Make sure to go to choir practice, connect with people, and let the music soothe me.
The pandemic rolled over us just like the cloud from Mount St. Helens. I was living in Spokane, Washington in 1980. I saw it first as a black line on the horizon, then a bank of black like nothing I’d ever seen before, then it swallowed the world. The ash fell for days. The two families I lived with were quarantined in our house. For weeks we changed our clothes in a makeshift hallway whenever we went out for groceries to keep the ash from getting into the house. It took many months to clear away the debris and get back to normal life.
The news in February this year was the black line on the horizon. It wasn’t enough to keep us home from PantheaCon . I was eager to go as I expected it was my last chance to present for a while. I’ve been focused on outward sharing, last year I headlined two conferences and presented at several others, so I physically travelled a lot and interacted with hundreds of people. I knew taking care of Alex was going to step on my ability to accept speaking engagements so I was happy to connect with my friends at what was billed as the last PantheaCon. We all realized later that it might also have been the last con period, at least for quite a while. It turns out that the coronavirus was already circulating in February.
By the first week of March the pandemic equivalent of volcanic ash began to fall. I walked into the house and shut the door. My 2020 plan was already toast and I’d already shifted my thinking to day-by-day so I didn’t have a lot of future to relinquish. On the other hand everything about taking care of someone with ALS got even harder. No more restaurant dinners or runs to Costco to pick up casseroles, no more friends coming over to help with chores, no more trips to the park, no more choir. I added cooking dinner every night and ordering groceries online to my chore list. Doctor appointments became major campaigns, fitting out with masks and allowing time for testing at the door.
Overnight it seemed like the whole magical world moved online. My thinking shifted again. I had scratched the idea of making presentations at all this year. However I feel strongly that every person with a spirituality has a calling to support community during a worldwide crisis, so I have agreed to every request to provide an online presentation. For example I’m one of the virtual speakers at the Scottish Pagan Conference 2020.
I was impelled by a sense of urgency to make videos and blog posts. I created a ritual to Hygeia and Aesclepius. Many of my friends feel a similar urge to provide spiritual support. Lon Milo DuQuette started reading his books for a few minutes each day on Facebook Live. Denny Sargent, also known as Aion Hermeticusnath, recorded simple breathing and chanting meditations. Dr. Megan Rose offered an elemental energy balancing meditation video and recording. The Tara Mandala Center posted a resource page for the 20th Tara who protects against disease and included a video of Lopon Chandra Easton’s mantra practice.
Some of the urgency I felt came from the need to respond to our collective suffering, some of it came from the increased risk that my life could end at any moment. I asked myself, if I wanted to make sure I left one message, what would that be? I wrote about offering my life to the goddess. I desperately wanted to shake everyone I know and say, “It’s all for Her! For Her!” Then I had to laugh at myself. Spiritual insight doesn’t live on the page, it lives in practice.
I think now that the flurry of activity at the beginning of the quarantine was a coping mechanism. Coping with Alex’s ALS moved seamlessly into coping with a pandemic. When something is broken I want to fix it; when something has gone wrong, I want to make it right. We’re not really separated if we can meet on Zoom, right?
As the quarantine has gone on the feeling of urgency has faded. The physical separation from my coven and community has deepened into retreat. I do the Hygeia ritual every night, dropping in the names of the medical workers and ill people that I know. That’s an external practice, but most of my magic is conducted in my body and heart/mind. Since my Tantric initiation several years ago I’ve been sitting daily, since the pandemic I’m sitting for longer periods and more than once in a day. I study with women Tantrics who are comfortable with technology and lead practices online.
I sit with Durga and Tara. I create practices too; every night I sit with Nuit. In Tantric practice it’s called deity yoga, in the west it’s called theurgy. I like to think of it as deity practice. You call the deity by name, imagine the deity in however much detail you like, feel into the warmth of their presence, and chant, or just sit quietly. It’s incredibly helpful to have a moment of peace in a time of crisis. I may be separated from the physical world, but magically I can fly anywhere in the infinitely vast universe.
I’m dialing back the outward offerings again. In 2017 I engaged in a year of theurgic practice, sitting with one of the Olympian henads each month. (Henad means that each deity is in themselves the entire universe). When the pandemic started I launched this practice again. I had an ambition to make videos of the deity sitting for each one as I went, but I’ve decided to do the videos when I’ve completely all twelve of the deities. I’ve realized that I’ve been pushing myself hard. I’m feeling an increasing need to step back, slow down, and share the practices more organically.
In my county the virus has been driven down almost to R