In Sickness and In Health
Article ID: 15072
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: May 27th. 2012
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Despite the title, this essay has absolutely nothing to do with marriage, handfasting or marital vows (Iím not married yet, so I donít feel qualified to talk about that just yet) . Nope, todayís topic is magickal and spiritual practice in times of illness. Now, I know this has probably been talked about before, but I have a good reason for writing this now: Iím sick. Nothing really big, just a small sore throat and a ton of coughing. Hey, itís one of the dangers of living at college and being in contact with a variety of people in different levels of health. But being sick got me thinking about this topic, and I felt like writing again.
Letís face it: despite our best efforts to keep ourselves in the best of health, there are numerous times when we fall ill. Many of those who tread the Pagan paths know a variety of healing techniques or are recognized healers themselves, yet even they must fall ill sometimes (unless some of you have never been sick in your livesóin which case I applaud you and must admit a little bit of jealousy) . Now, to be clear, Iím not talking about chronic illnesses; Iím mainly concerned with more communicable diseases, with sickness being temporary but easily spreadable. Iím sure what Iím going to talk about could easily apply to those with chronic illnesses, but I donít consider myself informed enough to discuss chronic illnesses thoroughly and accurately.
That being said, our spiritual and magickal practices are often integrated into our day-to-day lives. Our paths are those that must be lived in order to be truly effective. For example, yesterday while trying to help my sore throat, I brewed a cup of herbal tea and invoked the aspect of Airmed, the Celtic goddess of medicine and herbalism (and one of my favorite deities in the Celtic pantheon, despite her somewhat sad story) . Along with that, I feel like Iíve been doing a lot more reading and writing on spiritual topics than Iíd normally do when Iím at full health (usually because Iím so freaking busyóIím looking forward to summer) . Yet one of the biggest parts of my usual spiritual practice involves yoga, because Iíve been practicing it for years and it helps to strengthen both my body and my focus. And I havenít felt physically well enough to go through with my usual practice. Itís made me sad, but if my legs are achy and I donít feel well enough to do much besides rest in bed and drink tons of fluids, doing a full yoga workout just doesnít seem like the best idea. Basically, sickness can be a big disrupter in our spiritual lives.
Iíve been wondering: despite wanting to be back in full health (hopefully before my Beltane ritual) , Iíve noticed a somewhat disappointing trend in my spiritual habits between when Iím healthy and when Iím sick. Because Iím often cooped up in bed when Iím sick, I find it easier to take time to at least study, contemplate and pray. When Iím healthy, I always seem to have a harder time forming these habits and doing more with my spiritual life than when Iím sick. Again, part of itís because Iím busy and working my butt off when Iím well, trying to juggle a full schedule of classes with various extracurricular activities and work-study, but part of it is because I often have trouble forming habits. Yet, when I am sick and feel like I have that time to delve further into the Craft, I often feel my energy change, usually to a state where working with various psychic or magickal techniques probably isnít the best idea. Wearing myself out further through energy work when my energy doesnít feel right just seems like a bad idea.
Okay, so now that weíve defined the crossroads, letís further define the best path to take (ack, not sure that was the best metaphor to use, but Iím having trouble thinking of a better oneÖ) .
Being sick is often the time for self-healing spells, and I donít see anything wrong with performing these when sick. I mean, if itís your true will to get back to full health, then it makes sense to work those magicks to help yourself along. This should be done within reason; wearing yourself out from doing lots of healing spells and becoming more ill as a result doesnít seem the wisest route to take. Keep in mind your state of being and state of mind when thinking of what spells youíd like to work. Personally, I think simpler might be better in the case of spell work during illness. As long as the spell is meaningful for you, it doesnít need to be extremely complex, and it will still be effective without taking further toll on your body, mind and spirit. Let me give you a personal example.
Normally, I do a lot with energy work and color magick; itís some of my favorite magick to do. However, after getting back from the nurseís office yesterday, energy work and color magick seemed out of the question; I wasnít physically, psychically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually capable of that when I collapsed into bed. Still, I had the herbal tea the nurse had given me to help with my throat, and from that was born the spell I mentioned in the beginning: brewing the cup of tea and invoking the Goddessí aspect of Airmed. The spell was still very meaningful for me. I love tea and itís soothing properties; even my parents, who arenít Pagan and who are skeptical of magickís existence, often extol the benefits of a good cup of tea. Airmed is a goddess of medicine and herbalism, which fit well with the herbal tea, and I often feel a special connection with her. Thus, the spell still felt like it worked well, and it didnít stress me further as my usual practices wouldíve done.
So what about other kinds of magickal, ritual or psychic work? What about prayer? Should any of that be done while youíre sick? Well, with the former, I defer to the words of the late Scott Cunningham in his book, Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (a seriously great book, one Iíd recommend to anyone, solitary or not) . He devotes Chapter 3 of Part I of the book to this issue, discussing various changes in the body due to both illness and medication and drugs. But I think this statement sums up the chapter best: ďBe attentive to your body. It usually knows whatís best. Forcing yourself to perform Wicca rituals while facing challenging illnesses and conditions can be dangerous.Ē (p. 23) If you feel yourself unfit to go through with your usual practices, wisdom suggests that you refrain from those practices until you feel better. Prayer, on the other hand, is a different matter. In my opinion, a quick prayer asking the God and Goddess (or whomever you worship) for a speed recovery is totally fine when you feel sick. I canít think of a good reason why prayer wouldnít help during times of illness.
However, prayer and magick shouldnít be all you do to help yourself along the recovery process. Despite some of my less favorable experiences with doctors, nurses and other practitioners of allopathic medicine, I wouldnít forsake it entirely. In fact, allopathic medicine has come a long way in the last several decades. Many of the resources I look to often advise in favor of using magick to assist in recovery but not totally replace proper medical care. Yes, I worked magick to help myself feel better, but it was after seeing the campus nurse to see what was happening with my body, and, even then, the other remedies she recommended for me helped quite a bit. Allopathic medicine is very helpful in recovery, and its benefits shouldnít be overlooked, even by those skilled in various alternative-healing techniques.
So that brings us to the last issue I brought up in the beginning: keeping up habits both in sickness and in health. This is something that is probably more related to my personal situation and capabilities, but I hope it will be helpful to anyone else who reads this. Part of the problem relates to my own problems with habit-forming and focus. I often have great desire to form new habits, particularly those related to my spiritual practice, but I often lack the focus to go through with making these new practices a daily habit. Having a busy schedule doesnít help, but Iíve recognized that this is a problem that I need to work through myself. I need to find or build the focus to enhance my spiritual practices and explore new aspects of my Wiccan path.
Fortunately, I think Iím making some progress: reading my new kindle (Dad gave it to me before spring break, and Iíve already loaded it up with new e-books on Wicca and Paganism) and contemplating the topics I was reading about was something I really began to cement into a habit while Iíve been sick, and I can feel in my heart that it will continue to be a strong part of my spiritual practice even after I recover. And letís not forget these essays I love to write for The Witchesí Voice: writing has become an important part of my spiritual life, and itís something Iíve definitely been able to keep up. As Iím writing this essay, four of my essays have been published here on The Witchesí Voice, and there are at least five more that Iíve submitted for approval.
So to all of you reading this, whether currently ill or in full health, I wish you a heartfelt Blessed Be!
Cunningham, Scott. (1997) . Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Llewellyn: St. Paul.
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