The Global Impact of the COVID-19 virus on humankind has been devastating in many ways. I need not go into depth. Beyond the advised medical protocols and social conduct issues, one of the most significant problems has been the cultural changes.

Some people are optimistically expecting a vaccine will come about in the near term. Not to throw water on your positive buoyancy, please do keep in mind that in nearly 35-years, medical science still has not produced a vaccine for the HIV virus, the cause of AIDS. All that has been created are expensive medications, none of which cures the HIV virus. For a long time, HIV killed a good deal of the LGBTQ population in the 1980s and 90s, and it caused massive social and personal conduct changes.

Let us also consider a little bit of history. The 1918 flu pandemic killed roughly fifty million people on a global scale. In the United States, upwards of 675,000 died because of it. An odd trait of the 1918 Flu was the fact that most of the deaths were in the 15 to 34-year-old age group. If you are reading this, your ancestors survived the 1918 flu. Both sets of my grandparents told me when I was a child, how they suffered through it and how many of their friends did not survive, leaving their young children to live with relatives or go to orphanages.

So here we are again with yet another pathogen and another pandemic. Still, this time it is not just one small culture like the LGBTQ community that is affected but a global population. The elders and anybody with diabetes or other chronic health issues are at serious risk.

This COVID-19 pathogen on first appearances seems to be nature’s way. Killing off the weak, the sickly, and the old. The nasty thing about COVID-19 is the exponential rate of infection transmission.

So, will there be a cultural impact on the general pagan community and our Wicca culture?  The quick answer is a yes.

If you are a Solitary practitioner, you probably are not going to be affected by what I am going to say. BUT even as a solitary, if you occasionally attend regional pagan festivals, you will probably find that these events are mostly cancelled. If some of these events are not cancelled, would you go? Consider the saying, “Do you feel lucky?”

In my own case: I am 68 years old and a well-managed diabetic so two major risk factors. In addition, I am a Trans-Woman, so I have as they say a Male chassis. Males have been hit harder with COVID-19 fatalities. This witch will not be going to any gatherings for the foreseeable future.

Professional Advice

I am a provisional member of regional Interfaith Clergy Counsel. Needless to say, I am the only Wiccan/Pagan faith leader amongst about 30 mainstream clergies. My presence and point of view have frequently been a challenge to many members of this group. But the COVID-19 pandemic has put us all on the same page. None of our congregations can gather; ministering is intense, and there are significant issues to be concerned with.

At the end of April, the Interfaith Clergy Council hosted its 2nd ZOOM meeting.  At that meeting we had a medical doctor guest speaker who is an Epidemiologist {An infectious diseases guy!}

He explained there are two kinds of contact: Intimate or Random:

Intimate – Close interpersonal and close contact like in school or church. These are a NO-NO in terms of dealing with communicable diseases like COVID-19.

Random – Contact such as loose mingling, like in a supermarket or at the State or County Fair; these situations can easily and quickly become Intimate contact as crowds congregate.

He was asked about safely gathering in a faith community environment with social distancing. While he was okay with social distancing using masks, gloves, and staying outdoors, he nixed the notion of SINGING since the act of doing so would be the equivalent to sneezing. No!

Both the Catholics and I asked if outdoor ceremonies in fields and parking lots would be okay. The answer was, “WE JUST DON’T KNOW.”  He pointed out that faith groups have a sizable number of Elders, and Health compromised people in their congregations, and the pagan community is no different.

The Epidemiologist suggested moving forward with serious restraint and caution for the foreseeable future. Consequences from Faith gatherings right now  are still an unknown. He pointed out that this was less about protecting yourself and more about protecting others, in essence, “breaking the chain of transmission.”

The other thing the Epidemiologist brought up was the issue of contact tracing. COVID-19 is spread mostly by asymptomatic people. One person gives it to someone else, and the contagious infection spreads exponentially!

He explained to us why contact tracing is so crucial. He recommended that our congregations start keeping a daily contact journal. He suggested that we all begin writing down the people we come in physical or close contact with daily and do this for the foreseeable future.

In the back of my mind, I considered that many pagan and Wiccan people gather at group events. Many of them we know by only by their craft name. I advise you to start politely getting an actual name and phone number for the foreseeable future. I hear some of you screaming privacy concerns. As Wiccans, we vow to DO NO HARM. Consider for a moment one asymptomatic person at your next circle. Wouldn’t you like to know if you have been exposed?

Several of the theologians at the Zoom meeting pointed out that this sequestering and quarantining is teaching us something. They emphatically asked all faith groups to start practicing quiet contemplation while we are waiting in the silence. In Wiccan/pagan terms, this means: “Take a few minutes each day to sit quietly, clear your mind and wait patiently for the Whisper of the Goddess.”

At one point during the meeting, the question was asked what we all could be doing as a larger diverse family of faithful. I pointed out that many apartment complexes have daily noise making for saluting the front-line caregivers. I explained that our local Wiccan group had recently started reciting the Charge-of-the-Goddess each night at 8pm on our decks, patios, and out our open windows.

As luck would have it, the other clergy loved it! They began suggesting a time for a short prayer that could be publicly promoted with all the regional faiths saying their own individual prayer at the same appointed hour on our decks, patios, and open windows. The suggestion had overwhelming support from the assembled clergy. As a result, at the end of the meeting. I managed to get dragged onto a committee to promote this idea of a collective hour of prayer.  “Hmmm Wiccans and Pagans leading the way with unity public prayer in Syracuse, NY. Who would have thought?” {Grin}

Let us examine the immediate and possible long-term implications of COVID-19 if you are in a Gaggle, Circle, Coven, or Coven Clan or get occasionally invited to one.

Many of our gatherings of three to a dozen people are usually held in our family rooms, living rooms, and cellar spaces. The Epidemiologists on the radio and on TV news now tell us that inside gatherings are the worst-case situation and the highest risk. They recommend meeting outdoors. That said, they say that masks are still recommended if you are going to be yelling “Hail and welcome” sorts of calls at the top of your lungs; it’s just like singing, a NO NO. They recommend gloves if there is to be minimal contact like passing a ritual item.

Several final considerations:

1: No common cake passing or ale passing.

2: The average Wiccan and Pagan members are usually a huggy lot. With COVID-19 social distancing protocols, hugging is taboo.

3: It is not uncommon to enter a circle and get anointed with sacred oil. Again, nix the physical contact along with everybody touching a shared container of holy anointing oil.

Recently, a priestess friend of mine greeted everyone at the circle’s threshold. She asked them their seeking purpose, after which using an eyedropper, she released a droplet of the sacred oil onto the entrant’s right hand. The person then self-anoints using that oil. That works for me.

In our group, we are talking about using a large rental gathering space for a group drumming circle. An outside place is preferred, but a substantial inside area is suitable. We plan to measure six feet apart drumming nests marked by blue painter’s tape squares all around the room. Everyone wears a mask, no one touches someone else’s drum, and each drummer brings their own beverage/refreshments but not to share.

Through all this sequestering, isolation, and quiet, I personally view all of what is happening as a Mother Gaia’s time out for humanity, so we can reassess what we really need to be doing.

Bright Blessings

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