Although you could live a long time as a pagan without rituals, I don’t recommend it. It’s sort of like driving a car and deciding to shift into neutral. Coating could feel fun for a while. It’s certainly less work! And, as long as you’re going downhill, you’ll still be moving. You’ll probably even feel the wind in your hair . . . at least for a little while.
However, once the potential energy runs out, you can get stuck very easily.
When we allow our spiritual practices to coast, we might not like where we end up. We might find ourselves in a crappy neighborhood. In the lowlands, stressors can compound. It’s easy to make bad decisions when we’re stressed and feel we have few choices. When the car won’t start up again, summits can seem insurmountable. If we feel we can’t escape, we might decide to find a place to live in the lowlands.
I’m saying all of this from personal experience. Living without a spiritual practice led me, unknowingly, down a dark path. Fears crept into my subconscious, and I took them on without questioning whether I believed in them or not. I felt alone spiritually.
How do we end up in the Spiritual Lowlands?
Life happens. We have to work, take care of our bodies and homes, and tend to our partners, friends, and family. All this takes a lot of time. When additional responsibilities show up, time can pass by faster than we like. The evaporation of time can be imperceptible. Before we know it, we may have missed a full moon or a sabbat.
Or maybe a crisis happens, disrupting regular life. This can take many forms, such the death of a loved one or an accident; or natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes. These all-encompassing crises can take over our lives. When happens, anything not related to survival can fall by the wayside.
Or maybe your coven had problems. Maybe you didn’t vibe with them anymore, or perhaps there’s a problematic person that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Or, if you’re a solitary practitioner, you may find it harder to commemorate the sabbats with a satisfying ritual. If there’s no one reminding you of the date or planning a ceremony, you might run the risk of “dialing it in.” It can be so easy to merely think a happy thought on the full moon and carry on. That’s what I did, for quite some time.
Only, happy thoughts don’t go very far.
Jump Starting Your Practice
The first step in recovering your practice is to realize it has slipped. When was the last time you celebrated a moon or sun cycle? Why has it been so long?
At this point, it’s important to set an intention to get back into practice, no matter what phase the moon is in. Look toward the next moon or sun cycle. Even if you don’t feel like you can do anything, mark it on your calendar anyway.
It’s important to realize that we often need divine intervention the most when when we’re the busiest. We need reinvigoration when we’re spending our energy like it’s free, when we’re scrambling to go to this meeting or that, when we’re setting up appointments between coffee lunches and an almost-empty gas tank. Taking a moment to connect is crucial. Do everything you can to prioritize your coming-back ritual over any other events on the same day. Say no, or reschedule other events, if you must. Keep your ritual plans.
Over the next few days / weeks, think about this celebration day. What does that specific holiday means to you? Figure out a way to work your intention into the sabbat. Or if it’s a new moon, set your intentions to renew your spiritual practice. If it’s a full moon, release anything holding you back from performing your spiritual work. You may want to purchase or gather anything that helps you connect to the ritual, like a new candle, or a bouquet of wildflowers or herbs. When the day comes, show up and do the work! Write down how you feel afterwards. You may be surprised at your emotions.Other ways to get into the spirit again include the following:
- Go to a pagan festival. Not all of them involve camping – there are a few in hotels, with all the convenience and hygiene you can take!
- Join a local group and take part in their next ritual.
- Build some kind of pagan community, even if it’s on social media with a fake name. You may find that other people can inspire you to delve deeper, or maybe you’ll discover something new that will inspire you.
- Get real and honest. Maybe you’ve evolved so much that your patron deity doesn’t suit you anymore. Celebrate yourself where you are and where you want to be, and be open to growth, possibly with a new god or goddess.
- Do research. Buy new pagan books and read them, cover to cover. Look up rituals and gods on the internet. Research a ritual to help you get your spirit back.
- Go to therapy. This is a no-brainer, but if you’re feeling stuck, there’s nothing like talking to a therapist to help you sort things out. Especially if you’ve been coasting for a while, it might be time to dive deep. There’s no shame in therapy. I’ve been there, and several of the most well-adjusted people I know have gone as well.
Avoid Slipping Back into the Lowlands
The trap that I’ve fallen into at this stage is slipping back into a busy life and forgetting to plan ahead. This kind of sporadic practice is what I call “fix-it ritual,” or the band-aid approach. In this state, one appeals to the gods only when there’s something wrong, or when it’s convenient. While this sloppy practice might be good enough so that we can still set intentions and manifest, it’s usually not enough to truly form a bond with our beloved deities.
If you don’t show up for ritual to celebrate the gods very often, do you think they listen? If we only practice only when things are really bad, we run the risk of looking like whiners to our beloved gods, and no one wants to be that person.
If we only ask for growth in the darkest of places, we miss the beautiful upward and inward spirals of spiritual evolution that can only happen when we’re feeling good. That’s why this next step is crucial.
Plan Ahead for the Next Ritual
Once you get back into the ritual swing of things, keep it up! Mark the next date on your calendar. Better yet, buy a pagan calendar that has the moon and sun holy-days already marked on it. There are tons of great pagan calendars out there — your purchase will support a pagan business. Best of all, you’ll never have to look up the time or aspects again for that year. They’ll already be on your calendar, clearly marked and prioritized.
Build a baseline
Once you’ve started your metaphorical spiritual engine and the juices are flowing, create a regular practice again as a sort of baseline. Decide what works for you. For me, it’s celebrating the new moons, full moons, and the solar wheel of the year. That’s enough for me to feel reinvigorated and to sow my intentions / cast away what I don’t need on a regular basis.
Regular practice is like the fluids in our autos. The more we upkeep the maintenance, the longer we’ll have the car, and the more agreeable the car will be to getting us to everyday places as well as up that giant hill, and to the next gathering.
Regular practice helps connect us to the cycles of the earth, our own internal rhythms, our evolving desires, and our sense of self. When we connect with our gods, we have a strong foundation to stand upon when things go awry. Ritual elevates everyday life to a more fully lived life. Don’t wait for things to get really bad, like I did, before coming back. Rest if you must, but keep moving forward.
“If you can’t fly, run.
If you can’t run, walk.
If you can’t walk, crawl.
But by all means, keep moving.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.