Ah, yes, we are all still going through the Great Panini of Death. 17 months in and still no end in sight. There is some end in sight, but y’know, anti-vaxxers and misinformation and all that jazz. Despite there being a free vaccine here in the US (the worst affected nation in the world – as in, no one has more cases or deaths than we do), there are still many who do not wish to be fully vaccinated – or plain vaccinated at all. Due to this, that means that now there are stronger variants floating about. Wear a mask, even if you are vaccinated. Primarily wear masks indoor if you are vaccinated but there is more and more research coming out that you can still be a carrier for the virus, and thus get someone else sick. Covid is still pretty asymptomatic (even more so with each passing variant/mutation), Covid is still deadly (even more so with each passing variant/mutation), Covid is still around (even more so now that people are acting as if the Plague is over).

States in the US are stupidly opening up – mainly for money reasons – and some are dropping sensible measures, such as mask requirements, social distancing requirements and vaccine mandates for events & gatherings. Then you have unvaccinated people taking advantage of the current Honor System we have going on about self reporting if one is vaccinated or not. Since there is no visual difference between a vaccinated person or not, it is hard to make a proper distinction between the two. This makes everyone almost of Schrodinger Vaccination status. Are they lying? Are they not? Either way, it’s better to wear masks and not frolic so much together until the Pandemic is finally done for good.

All this to bring up those who are not solitary practitioners of Paganism and/or witchcraft. There are many temples closed, many practicing places closed, etc. And there are some that are open, way open. And then you have the Special Flavor of Anti-Vaxxer: “Nature will heal us all, we do not need vaccines”.

The stupid, it burns.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I would like to remind everyone, Pagan, Witch, and none-of-the-above, that nature, though wonderous and awe-inspiring, is insanely deadly and has zero problems with killing us all. (Given all the polluting and habitat killing we do ourselves, it really wouldn’t be that bad an idea, if you think about it from nature’s perspective.) The same nature that gives us daisies and cinnamon is the exact same nature that gives us viruses and hurricanes. Same entity. The exact same. And we pray to that exact same entity for luck, mercy and hope. So yeah, the acknowledgement of “Nature can be kind but wowsers, can nature destroy you faster than you were made” is kinda built into Pagan faith and witchcraft practices. Getting a vaccine is not rebuking any part of Paganism, magick, nothing. Science can work hand-in hand with nature (except when Science is trying to kill nature or force nature to fit an artificial lens that is incredibly short sighted). Now, most Pagan I come across has this understood through and through, but then there are the fluffy bunnies, the New Age folks and others who pretty much float around us mainly out of effort to boost their own egos and feel big and powerful. And, of course, very dumb and short sighted Pagan and magick practitioners (note earlier I said “most”, not “all”).

Now, into the meat and potatoes of this post.

Good thing we are all still under the same sky and our practices are nature based. It is entirely possible to just simply coordinate a time and do the rituals apart but together. Yes there are those who prefer to feel the close-by energies of your fellow practitioners but try to focus via the sky, not via tech or anything else. Spirit and energy can work like wind and wind is quite global. This can be very useful, regardless the size of groups. I have even seen things done through virtual reality (there is something called The Illuminati Simulator, where there is the purported claim that [quote site] but it’s totally trash, don’t use) but a ) most people do not have a VR headset b ) I would not really rely on tech to not break mid-rituals. I am used to lights flickering and things of the sort during my spellwork, I am not going to run my risks with an expensive headset. Now, the only traditions I see this possibly running into problems are for ceremonial magick practitioners, because every little thing is poignant and important, even the directions and places that people are standing. That leads to the next part.

If you absolutely have to do the ritual together – and I mean, there is literally no other way, even including the abilities of magick – then try to practice safely. Again, some traditions, it is important to be together. But do it safely. Have one person handle one thing. Nix all communal stuff such as drinking from the same goblet, try pouring into individual cups. Yes, drinking from the same source carries deep meaning, different from it being poured into individual cups, but surely the entities shall understand. This isn’t an expression of a lack of faith that the deities and entities around you cannot keep you safe from a virus, but don’t forget, there are deities of plagues and viruses. Do you think they would not like to pass up a royal opportunity to show out? Not all deities are the Respect-The-Invite-List-Please type. Heck, and this is excluding trickster deities, who also like to mess of things, especially when there is a golden opportunity. Respect those deities and play it smart & safe.

Given how covens are usually small and so are practicing groups – I have yet to see a megachurch equivalent of a Pagan worshipping place – please do try to establish social distancing. For some groups, this will be quite easy because they have to stand at several distant points (usually in a square/equal cross, at five points to represent the pentagram, etc) so hooray, social distancing is built in. I have been in relatively big groups (30+ people in a circle) but they would also practice outside since doing ritual indoors would have been terribly cramped. It is important to space out so not to spread viruses but also in general so people can be comfy, everyone can express themselves, so on and so forth.

Masks are important. I understand deeply that for some, the idea of wearing a surgical mask (not a ritual/traditional mask) or a cloth mask can feel restrictive to the ritual/spellwork or as if speaking through a filter. Again, if you have to wear a ritual mask or traditional mask, you can easily slide a regular mask on underneath. If you absolutely must – as in, there is no alternative, not even magickal – then be at least 12 feet away from everyone on all sides and only outdoors. Rituals like these can get shouty and sometimes blustering when in the passion of the moment. Be smart and be safe and most importantly, be respectful to all entities, including the uninvited ones. Tradition is important and the more ceremonial the ritual, the more restrictive it is. Every little thing is important but there is still at least miniscule room for change. Yes, there is also the idea of “won’t this deity/entity we are performing the ritual for be Not Happy that we’re trying to make room for the pandemic and the related plague deities?” Some deities and entities are very Me Only but if that’s the case, throw in an extra “this is why we’re doing all these precautions” part of the ritual. And make sure to include a “if you don’t like it, please don’t blame us – take it up with the other deity/entity that is totally stealing some of your spotlight” snippet. But still, wear a mask if you can.

Things should already be washed thoroughly for ritual, pre-pandemic. Washing and cleansing are important parts of ritual and practice because of the real and symbolic preparations of getting ready to perform ritual. Please do not be yukkers, wash thoroughly everything that will be interacted with. Wash it with soap, sanitize it with rubbing alcohol, do not just use plain water and call it a day. For commonly touched surfaces, such as staves, shawls and wands, make sanitation part of the ritual. If you’re going to create a cleaning solution meant for rituals, make sure that the cleaning content, usually rubbing alcohol, is 60% or greater. Shoot for 70% as the minimum. Even if it is as dopey looking as dressing up a bottle of hand sanitizer and deeming one person as the Sanitizer Person – I feel like chaos magicians are going to have a field day with that – still, have something in place. Rituals and groups already should have a clean up crew but it is important for everyone to do their part.

The pandemic is probably going to be going on until 2022/2023 at the sheer latest. 2024 for things to look pretty regular again. That means planning for adjustments. Vaccine rollout is slowing down, misinformation is rampant and the virus is steadily making its way through the entire Greek alphabet at record pace. Remember, the UK variant was Variant Alpha, we’re now officially at Delta and most likely going to see Epsilon quite soon – all within the span of roughly a year and some change. (I think if things go to Omega, the last of the Greek Alphabet, that’s going to be quite a kicker. In all the bad ways.) It is important to acknowledge this, even in the midst of practicing magick and/or Paganism with others. I am a solitary practitioner so it’s business as usual for me but for others who are used to practicing with each other, I’m quite sure it has put a dent in their practices.

Last but not least, if there is a Social Gathering Prevention mandate going on, respect it. Do not try to hold a ritual of 70 people when you’re only suppose to have a max of 5. The deities and entities around us are long-lived, they have seen adjustments due to war, oppression and previous plagues. A few changes will be fine.