The Wild Hunt just shared a thought-provoking interview with Cherry Hill Seminary (my alma mater!) Executive Director Holli Emore about the pros and cons of online ritual. Because of the coronavirus, many spiritual communities are taking their rituals, services, etc. online. Is this a good thing or not? The interview makes me think that's the wrong question to be asking.
The truth is, we're in this situation whether we like online rituals or not. Emore points out that we don't currently have the luxury of that debate, and I agree. Although the virus has upended so much that we love about being Pagan, it doesn't change who we are spiritually or change that Spirit(s) still speak if we listen. It's just that we may have to listen in a different way than we prefer, which includes how we do ritual.
My spiritual community has chosen to suspend all rituals (even online), but we are doing simple, solitary ones at home at a specific day/time. Then we meet online the next day to discuss as a group. No, it isn't the same as before, but these solitary rituals have opened up opportunities for spiritual growth and insight that might not have been there otherwise. It's pushed me to think about my practice differently and interact with the Spirits in different ways as well. I know I have learned things that I would not have learned in a typical group ritual experience. It's a bit of a test, too, I think. Are you willing to invest more time and effort in order to grow? Maybe this is a test to see who will follow through and who will not.
I also think these experiences are, ironically, drawing us closer as a community. Although we can't be there in person, this virtual experience is allowing us to open up to one another in new ways. One of our members lost her job while another is working around the clock. These are both new stresses--and opportunities for us all to show up as a community for one another. In a typical group ritual, I think it can sometimes be easy to show up, do our thing and then leave without truly connecting. Sure, we're physically sharing the same space, but does that mean we are really connected?
Another benefit of online ritual that I see is the opportunity to get to know people outside of my normal circle. Some Pagan groups are opening their rituals up to the public, and I've enjoyed this chance to sit in on some, like the spring equinox ritual led by Three Cranes Grove, ADF. I also watched the online Easter mass from The Vatican of all places! These are opportunities I would never have, most likely, if it weren't for social distancing. Learning more about each other always brings us closer. So instead of bitching about how we're suffering through this awful time, we should embrace this opportunity to expand our growth, creativity and knowledge through online ritual.