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Paganism and Depression

By Lynna Landstreet

Posted on the "Depression and Spirituality " forum at Wing of Madness,
Wed, May 16, 2001.

Posted by another forum member:

I'm a Neo-Pagan, and wonder if there are any others like me on the board. I'm a solitary pratictioner. Following the Lord and Lady is not a path for the faint of heart, and the depression is creating static even in my relationship with Them. I know They are there, but I can't seem to concentrate enough to actually do rituals or even participate in Circles. So much energy goes into carrying this that I don't have energy to spare. Any other Pagans going through similar?

My reply:

I 'm a Wiccan and have been for 22 years. I've also suffered from clinical depression on and off for most of my life. I know what you mean about lacking the energy or concentration ability to do rituals when depressed. I also often feel that if I'm having a hard time I shouldn't participate in group rituals because I'll just bring everyone else down. And I've experienced the feeling that the Gods don't care about me or are disappointed in me, or that I just can't connect with them at all.

But I think that often the times when we feel least able to connect with the Gods are the times when we most need to. I know sometimes when I'm depressed I avoid ritual and even skip or rush through the small daily devotions I would normally do. And I will often end up feeling a certain tension due to that -- I'll find myself continually glancing over to my Danu shrine and it will seem almost as if it, and She, are glaring at me accusingly. But when I can manage to force myself to go the shrine, or to ritual, and open up and let the Gods know what I'm going through, it helps A LOT.

More than once when I've finally done it, I've ended up collapsing in tears in front of my shrine and sometimes not even been able to speak coherently, and just found myself repeating over and over "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" as if I felt I had to apologize for my very existence or at least for not turning out to be the person I somehow felt they expected me to be. In the immediate present it sometimes seems to make things worse instead of better -- it brings me face to face with one of the most painful areas for me, the feeling that I've somehow failed as a witch or a priestess by still suffering from depression.

But once I have poured all that out, I end up feeling as though a huge weight has been lifted off me, or as if an infected wound has been opened up and allowed to drain in order that it can start to heal. And in place of the rejection or judgement I expect, the feeling I get from the Gods is one of compassion, sadness for what I'm going through, but most of all acceptance.

I don't believe that the Gods are all-powerful or that they can wave a magic wand and make depression go away. But they can help us to deal with it -- if we let them. I think one of the most poisonous lies ever to infiltrate the pagan community is the idea that it is wrong to bring "negative" emotions like sadness and anger before the Gods. They created us as we are, flawed human beings with good and bad qualities and the capacity for both joy and pain. And the balance between the light and dark is integral to Wicca. I don't think the Gods expect us to be perfect or to pretend to be, or to be always happy. I think what they require from us most of all is honesty, and the courage to face up to being who we are.

If you don't feel up to doing formal ritual when you're in the midst of a bad episode of depression, then don't. Formal ritual isn't necessarily what you need, anyway. But do try to make some kind of contact with the Gods. It may be difficult when you're feeling as if your whole life is one big failure and you couldn't possibly be anything other than an embarrassment to them. But difficult doesn't mean it's not worth doing. You are as much a child of the Gods in your darkest times as in your brightest, and you don't ever need to feel afraid or ashamed of coming before them as you are.


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