Socially Distanced Mabon, Samhain & Yule?
For your consideration as understatement of the year: 2020 has been challenging.
If you follow a Wiccan tradition or something similar, then a key tenant of your belief system is to harm none. During a global pandemic, this is an even taller order than usual, as merely speaking with someone or giving them a hug can result in them getting sick or even dying (sorry to start off so morbid, but I will get more positive).
Life has changed. Anyone who has ever done a Zoom chat or a teleconference (which I think is almost everyone at this point) can attest to the fact that it is not the same as human interaction. We used to speak face to face with everyone, and now it is a horrific experience when someone asks us to turn on our video. In fairness, I do also understand that we never used to go to the office unshaven, with no makeup and still in our underwear.
However, for many witches, the craft is about connecting with nature and the universe, which includes other people. Our new reality doesn’t lend itself well to that… We have to ask questions like “How does a coven of thirteen witches limit their social bubble to ten people” and “how many witches can stand six feet apart in a circle with a diameter of nine feet?” If the pandemic doesn’t cause nightmares, these math problems certainly will.
None the less, there are ways to connect with the universe without breaking any social distancing laws. In Ottawa we are blessed to have a lot of nature. Even if we don’t have our own yard, there are parks and natural spaces all over the city. While we can’t necessarily give hugs to everyone that needs one or everyone we would like to, it is my experience that hugging a tree has never been as grounding and cathartic as it is in our current environment. Now, practice for most witches involves more than hugging trees (but it is a good start). However, as we head into Autumn, the question must be asked: “can our Sabbats be socially distanced too?” The answer: “yes!”
Mabon is a perfect occasion for getting outside. Why not go out to an orchard, pick some apples, cast a circle and around an apple tree and have a little celebration/ritual while you are there. As long as you are not harming any trees, or burning down the orchard, nobody is going to mind. In case you are worried about being judged, there is a new orchard in Ottawa (Ivy Orchard), with an owner who is very open to the witch community, and a Yoga teacher to boot. Even though it is a young orchard and the trees are not ready yet for apple picking, they would bless your Ceremony with their ancestral presence. You can book some time in this new orchard for you and your coven by reaching out at www.facebook.com/ivyorchardottawa, and you can always book a Yoga Lesson while you are there.
What about Samhain or Halloween? Well, at this time of thinly veiled connection to the afterlife, there is nothing better that some divination in a place of sanctity. Many spirits congregate in the downtown area of Ottawa, why not visit them? If you haven’t done it, I recommend starting with the Ottawa Haunted Walk at www.hauntedwalk.com/ottawa-bubble-ghost-tours/ which is socially distanced this year for your benefit. However, I would book early if you want to do it on October 31 (which is a Saturday and a full moon / blue moon). Then, after your walk, head over to the banks of the canal by the NAC (which is on the location of an old cemetery), get out a blanket, your favorite divination tools, cast a circle and commune until all of your questions are answered. Don’t forget to bring a little offering for the ancestors to thank them for their help.
Yule is tricky for sure, given society’s tendency to gather and make merry at that time of year. However, socially distancing doesn’t mean that Yule can’t be great in 2020. As we give thanks for the return of the Sun, we can express our gratitude by sharing with the universe. In a year where people have lost so much, there is a need for generosity. Food-banks and shelters need assistance, but you may have friends or family in need. Reaching out, offering a pre-made meal can be great, or just taking the time to quietly sit and listen to them as they come to terms with everything that they are going through can help them and provide you with an extraordinary feeling of connection to the world.
You can also enjoy the season by spreading animal safe decorations of nuts and berries on trees throughout the city with friends. Feeding nature at the darkest time of year and making trees beautiful can be amazing. Using the time to do a gratitude ceremony can make it an evening to remember. Wrapping up the evening with some hot apple cider, or your usual “cakes and ales”, can cap off the night perfectly.
This year is a challenge, but it can help us focus our intentions and make rituals more meaningful. Whatever the Sabbats bring, be true to yourself, have fun and be safe!