Should I Do It While I’m Sick?
THE QUESTION—DO SICKNESS and Wiccan ritual mix?—is an important one, yet is rarely mentioned in Wiccan books. Why? Information of this nature is usually provided by the High Priestess, High Priest, or another experienced Wiccan. This is the type of question that usually doesn’t pop up until the student is suffering through a cold or is taking a prescribed, powerful medication. The subject is so important that it deserves a chapter within these pages.
When many solitaries begin practicing Wicca, they hate to skip rituals for any reason, including sickness. Many coven members feel the same way. Is this wise?
Many types of illnesses create dramatic changes within humans. Some of these changes are physical; others are mental, emotional, spiritual, or psychic. Are such temporary alterations beneficial or detrimental to the performance of Wiccan ritual?
These questions can be partially answered by an examination of illnesses and their effects. All information here pertains solely to religious Wiccan ritual and is generalized—you must use your own judgment. Be attentive to your body. It usually knows what’s best. Forcing yourself to perform Wiccan rituals while facing challenging illnesses and conditions can be dangerous. (For information on performing magic during sickness, see the end of this chapter.)
Illness and Wiccan Religious Ritual
The physical aspects of sickness are usually the most obvious, so we’ll begin here. Some illnesses create a pronounced lack of energy. It may be difficult to walk across the room, let alone cast a circle. In such a case, a ritual with limited physical activity is clearly indicated.
Casts on broken feet, hands, arms, and other limbs may or may not restrict your ability to set up an altar and hold a Book of Shadows. At least in doing so you won’t further endanger your health. Your movements in the circle, however, may have to be limited, so avoid slavishly following ritual directions. Adapt them to take into account your present physical condition.
If your health care practitioner has ordered bed rest, or told you to stay off your feet, follow her or his instructions. Either adapt ritual to a purely verbal and mental experience, or wait until you’ve recovered.
During many types of sickness (including colds), a pronounced change of consciousness often occurs. Slight dizziness, sinus pressure, elevated temperature, pain, and other symptoms can create the most remarkable shifts in consciousness—even in people who haven’t attempted to mask the symptoms with drugs. This type of consciousness can lend the ill Wiccan a radically different perception of the world; this can hinder ritual work.
If you’re staggering around and can’t seem to concentrate, it’s best to avoid working with magical knives, flames, incense, and other potentially dangerous magical tools. If you’re apt to “space out” (that is, become mesmerized by objects, fall asleep, or completely forget what you’re doing), it’s best to simply sit or lie comfortably and do little else. You might whisper a prayer to the Goddess and God, meditate upon an image, or perhaps draw a symbol and concentrate on it.
If you simply can’t concentrate long enough to formulate any type of ritual, it’s probably best to let it go for now and to resume ritual workings when you’re once again able to do so.
Emotional and Spiritual Changes
Let’s face it—most of us don’t feel good when we’re sick. We may be grumpy, irritable, impossible to be around, depressed, worried, and stressed. Such emotional shifts often make us think, “Why bother doing ritual at all? I feel so bad I’ll probably just blow it.” Sometimes we’re simply not in the mood. This is quite natural, and if you truly don’t feel like doing ritual, don’t. No one’s keeping score.
On the other hand, if you’re physically able to do so, performing ritual may actually make you feel better. Effective Wiccan ritual (which can be difficult to achieve during times of illness) gives us a spiritual boost, which in turn makes us feel better.
Finally, a simple prayer to the Goddess and God may comfort you and if nothing else, give you a different focus than that of your illness.
Illness can have great effects on our psychic awareness. Though this may not seem to be particularly important when doing rituals, our ability to tap into our psychic minds is necessary for effective ritual. Ritual is often empty and mechanical without this linking of the two minds (conscious and psychic).
You may possess the ability to physically, mentally, and emotionally perform a Wiccan ritual, but if you seem to be psychically shut down, ritual probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
Nonprescription and Prescription Drugs
Drug reactions are perhaps the most important factor in determining whether to perform Wiccan rituals during illness. The vast number of drugs now in use and their varying effects make it impossible to speak in any but the most general of terms.
Many drugs have no effect on consciousness, don’t alter the emotions, have no noticeable physiological effect, and leave the psychic mind alone. However, some drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) can cause just these changes. Among these are, of course, narcotics. If you seem to be suffering from negative side effects, limit ritual work while under their influence.
You must use your judgment and common sense in determining whether illness or prescription drugs will interfere with your Wiccan ritual. If your health care provider has told you to stay in bed, stay in bed and forget about setting up a circle. If you’ve just had stitches, don’t do an ecstatic dance to the Goddess around the altar, no matter how much you may wish to do so. If you’re suffering from lung complaints, don’t burn incense. If you’re taking a medication that prohibits alcohol use, don’t drink wine after ritual. Solitary Wiccans can do ritual at any time and, if necessary, delay or miss ritual as well. Illness is a legitimate reason for skipping ritual.
Don’t believe that you won’t be a true Wiccan if you can’t carry a candle around the circle on Imbolc because you’re confined to your bed. Missing a ritual due to illness, infirmity, or the influence of prescription drugs in no way makes you a lesser Wiccan. In fact, such a decision proves your intelligence and growing Wiccan experience: you’ve chosen to avoid performing what would most probably be a ritual lacking in energy and true contact with the Goddess and God. If this makes you a lesser Wiccan, I’ll eat my cauldron.
Magic and Illness
Performing magic during periods of illness may or may not be a positive action. It’s a natural time for self-healing spells, but spells for other reasons should be postponed, no matter how important the work may be. Waiting until you’re well not only allows you to give the magical rite your full attention, it also assures that you’ll be able to raise far greater amounts of energy.
When we’re sick, our bodies have lowered reserves of energy (personal power). Not only aren’t we producing as much as usual, we’re also using more energy for healing ourselves. Less energy is available for any other physical task, including magic. This lowered reserve can make performing magic during serious illness quite dangerous, for you’re drawing on the energy that would otherwise be working to heal you. This may extend the duration of your illness or slow the healing of wounds.
Willingly giving of this energy to solve someone else’s problems is a good and noble deed—at any other time. When you’re sick, you must be number one. Use this energy to heal yourself. Later, you’ll be in shape to take care of the rest of the world.
The bottom line: no magic except self-healing during illness.