Door to the Beyond:Mental Health and Paganism

Come with me in our fourth monthly walk through the Door.

Look up the words, "paganism", "ritual" and "mental illness" (or "mental health"), and you will find a vast number of websites and articles. Look them up together, however, and you will start seeing stuff about "satanic ritual abuse", "obsessive-compulsive rituals", and a number of other dark issues.

Let me state categorically that there either is no such thing as "satanic ritual abuse" or it is so rare that the police cannot find anything. The people who are running workshops on the subject are simply in it for the money, whether they call themselves "seminar presenters", "ministers", or whatever. (If you doubt this, you can contact Kerr Cuhulain of "Officers of Avalon" for details. This organization can be reached through http://witchvox.com if you can’t find another way.)

Other "rituals" regarding "mental illness" seem to be in the area of frequent washing of hands, eating so many bites at each meal, talking to your "voices" (a feature which current study seems to show is promising in helping the problem), and so on.

But we’re Pagans. Whether you call yourself Wiccan, Dianic, eclectic, or whatever, we still mostly come from the same Western culture, but often act as though we are from a different culture (or time or place). As Pagans, we feel we have a connection to God/Goddess that involves more than simple lip service. We know that we are responsible for our actions, which is often in conflict with what our doctors tell us. We talk to Goddess, to ourselves, to our Guides, to our Inner Child, about our healing. And we expect results, as we enjoy the love of our Deities and guides.

We do rituals. Simple, complex, poetic, plain, wordy… rituals. This month we will discuss and create rituals to deal with our mental health issues.

Why rituals? Because we are Pagans, because our Inner Child controls our emotions along with the rest of our Magick, because it gives us a frame for our day that is easier to catalog the rest of our day with… because we celebrate Life in all its aspects, including the parts of ourselves we may yet to become comfortable with.

Why write simple rituals? Because we don’t need to spend 2 hours (or 20) each day doing ritual. Because if it’s too difficult, you will read it and say, "That’s nice, I don’t have time for that." Or you will dismiss it as not being part of your Tradition. Or maybe you are just looking for a reason to not do ritual, or to not take care of yourself. We all do these things. Many of us with mental health issues, especially Pagans, are still building our self-esteem from near-zero levels. Do something simple, see how much it helps, and you can choose to keep doing the same thing or come up with your own personal modifications.

A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value, which is prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. … In any case, an essential feature of a ritual is that the actions and their symbolism are not arbitrarily chosen by the performers, nor dictated by logic or necessity, but are, at least in part, prescribed and imposed upon the performers by some external source."

(from Wikipedia)

Some external source. Or, in the case of obsessive-compulsives or schizophrenics, some internal source which is not connected to their own reason. The best way to end a useless, thoughtless, uncontrollable ritual is to construct a useful, thoughtful one. Let’s do that.

Morning and Evening Rituals

In the morning walk outside and stand facing East. Call the Watchtowers, invite God and Goddess to be with you. Let your arms hang at your sides. This starts to let your mind feel the Earth. Let your fingers feel the power of the Earth come up through them. When you feel the power start to enter your hands gently rotate them. Let the power flow into your whole body. To finish raise your hands above your head to release any extra energy. Thank the God and Goddess.

In the evening just before bed walk outside. Face the moon. Invite God and Goddess to be with you. Raise your arms up to the Moon (if the Moon is not evident, face West). Relax your mind until you feel the light of the Moon come into your heart. Lower your arms and let the excess energy fall back to the earth. Thank the Goddess and the God. Dismiss the Watchtowers.

You have now put a simple, effective beginning and ending to your day, which will frame all your actions between those two events. It will keep you mindful of your own choice to allow yourself the full range of human emotions and actions. You will be mindful throughout the day of the love of Goddess and God, Earth and Moon, and Guardians throughout the day, which in turn will inform your actions and choices. Any time you find yourself leaving this position of balance, you can do a simple grounding ritual and work your way back to center. Be mindful of the fact that this ritual keeps the Guardians with you throughout the day.

You will find that taking a few simple actions like these will make the rest of the day go more smoothly, and your actions and choices will reduce the amount and time of the work you have to do.

The two rituals above were written by Caamora, a dear friend of mine who lives in the Western US. In fact, this whole article was written as a result of my calling her and saying, "I have no idea what I’m going to write about this month; do you?" and her response, "Why not write about rituals for mental health?" Feel free to modify them for your own needs.

I am also begging any of you to write me and give me ideas for future articles, or perhaps to tell me what you have gotten out of the articles I’ve written. Write me at [email protected].

I’ll join you next month for another stroll.