Hey everyone, I wrote this rant back on March 31, thought better of it and made it private because it didn’t seem like the right time to yell at people, and then did something stupid shortly afterward to my site that caused it to go down for months. Now that the site is back up, I have reread this rant and think it’s still relevant. So I’m publishing it. Whatever. It is what it is.
Dear beloved sacred arts community: I have been planning to write a lot more about this virus, but every time I start to do so, something changes and what I started to write was wrong or shows lack of listening and I go back to the drawing board. Some of you know that my day job is science writing; I am following the science behind this, but: I. Cannot. Keep. Up. This is SO distracting and I keep trying to remind myself to go outside, exercise, plan and cook dinner for my kids (they would tell you my efforts in the planning and cooking department leaves a lot to be desired), etc.
And this is changing so fast that there are differences in what I read from different scientists: there is a lot of research and data collection going on in many different places at once right now, and viruses do evolve. (If you don’t believe in evolution, by the way, you’re wrong. Look at viruses and bacteria (and they’re different, by the way); they evolve before your very eyes in some cases.) Anyway, my point is: what is true today, about this virus, to the best of anyone’s knowledge scientifically, may not be true tomorrow, and that doesn’t have to mean any particular scientist screwed up, it means that the situation is changing rapidly. Our lesson from that is: let’s not feel we have to be married to what we think is true today. Lighten up a little on the concept of what constitutes absolute knowledge.
But that has always been true, right? Humanity’s knowledge of stuff has always changed over time. We make mistakes and then we try to learn from them.
One thing I really want to address, though, and the reason I’m about to rant at you, right now, is the idea that this all came out of nowhere, that it’s been an Eight of Wands moment. I have been seeing the Eight of Wands in my cards for months. What a paradox, to be told for months that something is going to come along and startle you.
And yet, that’s what has actually happened to all of us. You know this, right? We were told for A FULL TWO MONTHS (here’s what we knew January 24, for example: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-24/cdc-confirms-coronavirus-case-in-new-traveler-outbreak-update) that this particular virus was out there and was going to travel all over the world; in fact, the Obama administration told the incoming Trump administration in 2017 that something like this would probably happen and ran them through an educational scenario in which this exact thing happened, to try to prepare the new administration for this very possibility. So we were told, hey, this is coming, it’s going to be bad, it’s going to startle you, and the news told us what the exact thing was that was going to startle us, and yet we are still SO SURPRISED.
Guys, we’re not very smart about things, sometimes.
As my late husband used to say, “you need a tarot card to tell you this?”
And don’t get me started on sacred artists not reading the news, not following it, because it upsets you and disturbs your energy. “Oh, it’s all politics.” “Oh, it’s all negative.” Well! I’m just going to say this once, but please READ it as many times as you need to: Reading the cards is enormously helpful. But it is NOT a substitute for reading the NEWSPAPER and other on the ground, in the world sources, which are far more specific and give far more detail!!!!!! Come ON!!!! Because I can’t even with some of you about this. You are not babies, you are ADULTS, so, ACT like it. If you’re not going to read about politics, that means you’re not going to read about power. Because that’s what politics is!!!!! If you’re not going to read anything negative, that means you’d rather stick your head in the sand and Just Not Know. Stop being so darned sensitive about the energy of it and just say to yourself, hey, this is the world, it’s probably going to mess with my energy, so I had better come up with some strategies for that.
I mean read the newspaper and then meditate, or meditate before and after, or take a walk. In the community of people who care about faith, we’re supposed to be GOOD at working with energy, and GOOD at self-care, not going around being so fucking debilitated by negative energy that we can’t apply our awareness to the news in the world. Ooh, negative energy. Ooh, I’m so scared. Shall I get you some smelling salts? Get a grip! There are scarier things than negative energy! You are people who talk to ghosts every day, MANY of you! How Can you, you, YOU, of all people, of all communities, be SO afraid of hearing about people dying???? Did you somehow miss the memo that says we are all mortal and always were? How could you have missed THAT memo? Of all the memos to miss!!!! Stop acting like precious princesses and act like witches! And that doesn’t just mean use rituals and prayer, it means put facts in front of your face, put your ear to the ground. Because knowledge helps situations!!!! You ALL know this!!!!
DO YOU THINK THAT YOUR ANCESTORS, IF THEY HAD GOOGLE, AND THE INTERNET, AND REPORTERS, AND JOURNALISM, AND SCIENTISTS AT THEIR DISPOSAL WHO PUT ALL THEIR RESEARCH IN A FORM THAT YOU CAN ACCESS RIGHT NOW IF YOU WANT TO, DO YOU THINK YOUR ANCESTORS WOULD HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO USE THAT RESOURCE AND NOT TO READ THAT INFORMATION BECAUSE IT MIGHT DISTRESS THEM? I AM TELLING YOU THAT YOUR ANCESTORS WOULD WANT YOU TO KNOW ALL THE INFORMATION SO YOU COULD REACT ACCORDINGLY. AND THAT INCLUDES YOUR PRIEST ANCESTORS AND YOUR WITCH ANCESTORS: THEY CARED ABOUT INFORMATION. THAT IS ACTUALLY TRUE.
If I had put my tarot cards next to the news, I might have started to make the connection: Eight of Wands plus the Hermit. Huh. I didn’t think so when I was seeing those cards before, but now, in retrospect, that looks a whole lot like a pandemic, doesn’t it? NOT that I would have EVER interpreted those cards that way, I would NEVER have thought of that, but I didn’t need to, because it was all over the news. And you don’t need tarot to tell you what’s already right in front of your face. Is the Hermit good at social distancing? Do you THINK? Can the Eight of Wands be exponential growth? It would seem so. And it tricks us. Exponential growth always does. Because it doesn’t come out of nowhere.
And when we are doing practices to work with energy, we need to bear in mind that even though it might have felt like it, this is not the energy of lightning, it’s more like the energy of a growing plant–it’s biological. We are only startled and surprised because We Weren’t Looking. You know how every time you turn around your kids are an inch taller? Or your plants are? That. Think of it this way: when you’re washing your hands, when you’re cleaning and sanitizing your surfaces, when you’re maintaining social distance, you’re repeatedly telling the virus, hey, this isn’t a good place for you to be, and you’re also telling the community, hey, this isn’t a good place or time to be getting sick with this virus. (I know I’m anthropomorphizing viruses, which are not alive, but I talk to rocks, too, so whatever.)
If you calm down a little, you’ll realize that there are lots of practices that we do repeatedly, regularly, and not only is this just one more thing that we have to address with practices that require practice, but also, our ancestors also knew about it, in a sense. It really tickles me in all this is that the practices of our grandparents and their grandparents and their grandparents before them, practices that are ancient, practices that predate science and medicine, are the VERY practices that scientists are now telling us are the most helpful: washing with soap and water, bathing, regular cleaning. Our ancestors knew there was such a thing as disease and they knew the best defense was cleanliness. And they knew we had to repeat our cleaning and washing and bathing regularly. And that was true before we had the tools of science. Our ancestors incorporated cleaning into their sacred practices long before Pasteur (and others) developed the germ theory of disease.
Think about that for a second. To me, that tells me yet again that faith communities and science are not at odds with each other: our practices absolutely can inform each other. If midwives hadn’t been washing their hands regularly, doctors would never have known that birthing mothers are more likely to die if you haven’t washed your hands before attending a birth and it would have taken science a lot longer to come up with the germ theory of disease.
And while it’s NICE that we know about hand washing in the West so we can remember to wash our hands, our ability to do so is a privilege, actually, and many scientists are on the front lines of trying to find ways to bring that very privilege, simple hand washing and hygiene, to the world’s urban poor who live in places without sewer systems and without running water, which is important not just because of Covid-19 but because of all the other infectious diseases that menace the world’s poor. (Here’s an article on this from the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, which is OPEN ACCESS and FREE because that’s how scientists roll these days: https://www.ijidonline.com/article/S1201-9712(20)30016-3/fulltext) I’m not just talking about non-Western countries, but about the rural United States and the poorest areas of our inner cities, which are prone to outbreaks of disease that most of us are fairly sheltered from. I know how dangerous some of those diseases are because when I was seven years old, living in Sahuarita, Arizona (between Tucson and Nogales–this was about a year before we moved to rural Alaska, where I know people who have caught tuberculosis, another disease associated with poverty), I caught hepatitis A from a friend. I turned yellow, even my eyeballs turned yellow, I spiked a fever that made me delirious, and my mom thought I was going to die. But instead I was hospitalized and hydrated and, spoiler alert, I’m 51 now and fine.
If we calm down a little, and pay attention to science, and the news, and the epidemiological effects of poverty, we might perhaps stop to consider how Covid-19 might affect our inner cities, our poor, our marginalized communities. Usually people of faith care a lot about people living in poverty, but I haven’t seen a lot of that so far on social media in what people are saying about Covid-19.
Yes, and I’m amping down now on the ranting, you’ll be happy to know, but yes, before we can effectively try to take care of others, we DO need to take care of ourselves with practices that support our mental health, and those very practices are often an example of knowledge from sacred arts germinating and growing in scientific communities. On a webinar he did for the American Medical Writers Association, that I listened to recently, microbiologist Larry Lynam, before saying a single thing about science, told everyone that he meditates twice a day and takes breaks to walk around his yard in nature when this all gets to be too much. That’s knowledge that came from the sacred artists and mystics of the world that is now out there nurturing our scientists. Which is awesome.
But we need to let scientists return the favor by informing us of their research. Which they are! They are tweeting it, publishing it, posting about it, getting the word out in every way they can think of. They’re not doing it out of the love of hearing their own voices. They’re doing it to help us. Amplify their voices. Or at least hear them.
Please read the news, but below are some other sources to consider (you can follow most of them on social media; you don’t have to do the rounds of these sources). This is just a list of a few sort of randomly picked sources. There are so many and my brain is so small! Please list more that you know of in the comments. But also be aware that you don’t have to read everyone on everything to develop a good understanding of what’s going on.
The World Health Organization (WHO) actually has a free class you can take on coronavirus as well as a dashboard of information.
Google Scholar’s home page has links to the coronavirus pages for quite a few medical journals: the BMJ, Lancet, JAMA, Elsevier, NEJM, etc. And if you want an answer to a specific medical or technical question, I would search here, not on Google generally. Just know that you’re dipping into the literature with this method: you’re not getting an absolute answer.
International Journal of Infectious Disease (again, this is open access and free)
Virology Down Under blog
Vincent Racaniello’s Virology Blog includes link to his podcast, This Week in Virology. It’s super technical and way over my head, but still worth a listen. This is like learning a new language, and sometimes immersion is helpful. I have heard things on this podcast that I didn’t understand but was intrigued by, Googled them, and found resources that could explain.
ProMed Mail is even more technical sometimes but it’s nice for giving you a sense of what scientists are doing, and it has coronavirus update summaries and maps.
Here’s a curated Twitter list of experts working on coronavirus: https://twitter.com/i/lists/1220869298631200769
Also on Twitter is Helen Branswell, a senior writer for Stat News, and I’m going to link to her tweet about funerals because that’s another place where sacred arts and science meet: https://twitter.com/HelenBranswell/status/1245005771194208259
I’m not listing the CDC because everyone does, I’m sure you know how to find it, but also, the CDC recommendations are what the government thinks is best public policy to tell you, not because of a conspiracy to trick you or anything, but because it’s believed that the average person can’t understand nuances. Well, I want to read the nuances, too.
Of course you can’t read all of this and I don’t. But if you poke around, you will start to calm down, because details are grounding. They’re a form of medicine for plague panic. They will help you to ground in the question that your witch ancestors and your priest ancestors would have asked FIRST, which is, what do we already know about this? I recommend you throw yourself headfirst into a sea of scientific details, even if you don’t understand them all, which I guarantee you I don’t. That is the best remedy I can think of for the freaking out that I see people doing. Pick one detail that intrigues you, research it, and use that as an entry into the topic. It will take time, yes. But it won’t take as long as trying to get those specific details from tarot cards.
Thank you for reading all the way to the bottom of this rant!