A while back, I wrote a post about what it’s like to have times without the gods [seemingly] walking beside you. I wrote the post because I had noticed that a lot of people, recently, were beginning to come out of their shells. It was like, all at once, the gods had taken a great big hiatus and we were all feeling the solitude that this had caused. The reason I, initially, wrote the post was because I was saddened and upset by the fact that (A) there doesn’t seem to be a lot of chatter about the quiet times with our gods, (B) so many people were entering depressive phases because of said quiet time and (C) I had figured some basic things out about it, so why not share? I’m not a teacher, by any stretch of the imagination, but if I have some insight, I should be willing to share it.
I can’t hear my gods; what is happening to me?
It’s pretty common to start freaking the hell out when you suddenly realize that you’ve been tootling along in your life and all of a sudden, your OTHERS™ seem to be having a party without you or they took a leave of absence and just didn’t bother to mention it before heading out for their vacation. It’s one of those times where you look around and it hits you, maybe like lightning. In my case, it took me months to figure it the hell out. I had been so into the whole “just keep swimming” metaphor with my life that I had been plugging away at my daily offerings for months before I realized that Sekhmet wasn’t responding and neither was Hetharu.
It left me feeling uncertain and shaky, in all honesty.
But, after a while, I decided that I had to name this shit. It wasn’t just that they were all on vacation and I was left at home, continuing the good fight or just be-bopping along. It was more to it than just a little time where the OTHERS™ were incommunicado because it ended up going on for months and months before I finally zapped out of it. I ended up naming it “The Fallow Times” some time later. Since then, I think the name has both caught on (I’ve seen others use it!) and more than adequately describes those moments in time, from hours to months, when everything you had been doing for/with your gods is put to the test: To do or not to do while they’re away, more or less.
All in all, my definition of the Fallow Times is taken right out of the dictionary. The definition I chose for this was “not in use; inactive.” (And just because I like to inform others, fallow is also a color.) The concept is similar to the concept of shifting cultivation in which a farmer uses a plot of land for a while (it looks to be a two to three years, maybe) before moving on to another section of land to start farming that. And even though the farmers leave that land for a bit (or in this case, the OTHERS™), they do eventually come back.
I don’t understand; why is this happening?
I’ve thought long and hard about the why of this. In trying to figure it out, I’ve done some research. I’ve looked into my past entries about my particular Fallow Times, as well as gone back to read others’ experiences with the Fallow Times. I’ve also started various entries on the forum I belong to (The Cauldron) as well as read through the various entries about crises of faith. In looking through what data I’ve been able to cull, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no single reason that this happens to any of us. We’re all too varied as people, with different upbringings and beliefs, with varying practices and backgrounds for there to be a single answer to this. What I think is causing my block might not be the same as what you think is blocking you.
The thing is, after careful consideration and a lot of reading, I have come up with five possible explanations.
- Simply put, it’s the mundane overpowering the spiritual.
- The gods are busy.
- We want it so badly, we block ourselves.
- It’s a test.
- There’s a problem.
The first is, I think, possibly the most common. It’s that moment in time where the things that we do with our lives end up overpowering our spiritual lives. In effect, it’s our will to focus on home, school, work, family, moving, worries, etc. that causes this blockage in the first place. The thing that I’ve realized after having this happen to me on a few occasions is that it isn’t just an act of sacrificing the spiritual world that we are crafting for ourselves, although sometimes, that can be the case. I think it’s actually something that we don’t realize we’re doing until it’s well in the midst of happening. And what I’ve come to find is that once you realize that you’ve been so focused on the real world and real world problems, you end up depressed. This, I’ve theorized, is due to the possibility of endorphins being released when we worship, pray, do magic, meditate, etc. Whatever parts of the spiritual and religious world that we live in, we start to ignore and those parts end up fucking up our minds’ basic chemistry. So, on top of already having the stressors of reality barging in, we also get the stress of being depressed. It’s cyclical and I can safely attest really damn hard to stop, but there will come a time (after lots of patience and irritation and anger, but mostly patience) when the blocks fall away and the OTHERS™ come back.
The second reasoning may sound a little weird or silly, but it’s something that also has to be taken into consideration. The OTHERS™ don’t just focus on us, our wants and needs and desires, but they have other followers in the world to focus on, as well. There’s no telling of the OTHERS™ can be considered omniscient or omnipotent and with that thought in mind, we have to consider the thought that they can only focus on so many of us at any given moment. Another reason, I think, that “they’re busy” is an adequate reason is because maybe, they need to take a break. We can’t assume that they don’t need to sleep or eat or take a vacation like we do. We are, after all, created in their image, are we not? And just as we need solace or silence to get through things or to work through things, so too, maybe do they.
Recently, another aspect of this theory was brought to my attention. It mentioned that at certain times of the year, there are some gods that are incommunicado. In this, I’m thinking of people who can’t commune with the Cailleach during the summer or get in touch with Persephone in the winter time. Certain aspects of our gods may, too, play a large part in why they aren’t around when we think we need them most. From personal experience, I can safely attest that I find it harder and harder to feel/hear Sekhmet during the winter months, when the sun is weaker than it would be in the summer. As the Eye of Re and a solar deity, this stands to reason. The same model can be placed next to other deities who have certain aspects of themselves that are seasonal in nature. So, maybe it’s not just a matter of taking a break from the world that we live in, but also a time for them to visit their husbands or being less-than-thrilled with a specific season.
My third reasoning behind the Fallow Times is actually a new one. This is a kind of work-in-progress and only recently came to mind. It actually came to me after having read through a few threads on TC about crises of faith. The reason is a kind of “mind over matter” aspect. It’s actually a little weird and I hope to the gods that I can explain it right.
What I’ve learned is that sometimes, we want something so much that we make it next-to-impossible for it to happen. I’ve come to see this happening more and more often when it comes to new pagans who are seeking out patrons. (Maybe one day, I’ll go on about patrons… maybe for a P entry!) But, it’s also possible that we, as “experienced” pagans, want to have the relationship so badly that we also block ourselves. It’s a matter of trying to balance, I think. When it comes to the more new pagans, they’re just so interested in the prospect of having a god pay attention to them and they want the type of relationships that we have that they are scatter-brained in looking for said patron. They’re all over the place. And sometimes, we, as older pagans, can act in similar fashion, but maybe it’s also because we’re so used to the communication that in not having it makes us panic and freak out. It makes it so that our desire overpowers our experience. (I hope to the gods that made sense. Please, someone, if it didn’t, let me know. Or explain it better?)
The fourth is one reason that I hate to have to expound upon, but I think it’s also valid. This is the one where I mentioned that I think it could be a test. It is shit and it sucks that we have to go through these tests, but they’re important for the path that we are on, the OTHERS™ that we follow, as well as to the very core of our pagan paths. It’s a test to see how far we are willing to go with this path. It’s a test to see if we really mean that we want to be dedicated. It’s similar, I feel, to this: How much bullshit are you willing to put up with when it’s your significant other? We can apply this question to the relationships we cultivate with the gods. I’m not saying that the Fallow Times are bullshit, per se, but I can tell you that it sure feels that way when you’re in the middle of them.
What I’m trying to get at, though, is that these tests are important to our faith, in both ourselves as well as our religious practices. It is these moments that prep us for what is to come.
The fifth, I feel, falls into the “worst case scenario” category. (First, I’d like to say thanks Dver, from a Forest Door for saying so in my previous Fallow Times post.) It was actually because of Dver that this even made it onto my list since she suggested it. Her words were: “The only caveat would be that sometimes there is something actually wrong which is causing the fallow times, something which needs to be addressed, and so divination might be in order if it’s going on for a long time or seems unusual.” Since I’ve never actually had something actually be wrong that’s why this has never made it to my list of options before. But now that she’s mentioned it, it does seem to make a bit of sense.
And by “something wrong…” There are so many different possibilities that fall into this category that they really are too numerous to name. I can think clearly that it could be a possibility of an OTHER™ moving on after having given you all that they feel they could. It could be an OTHER™ moving on because they were merely a space holder for another one to come on in. (I recently read of a woman’s experience on TC in which this was the case. I find that fascinating and oh-so-intriguing when it comes to the interpersonal relationships of various deities!) It could, in fact, be that the patron you had chosen for yourself wasn’t ever meant to be yours. In cases of the last, I’ll mention that if this is the case, the OTHER™ in question is more likely to give you hints and pushes about that before you get sucked into the Fallow Times.
However say that any of these reasons are a possibility and you’ve fallen into the “worst case scenario.” Then, you know what tends to happen? You fall ever deeper in the Fallow Times. Buck up, though, because I’ve got some advice.
So, what do I do?
The first bit of advice in this arena that I have is to have patience. This is something that, if you join the forum I referenced here, you’ll find me saying a lot of the time. Recently, someone on that forum was having issues with a patron who had done a disappearing act. They were questioning if this particular OTHER™ was ever supposed to be their patron. (Again, I will have to write a post about patrons and finding.) I linked them to the Fallow Times and I explained that the best advice anyone can give is to simply have patience. Patience is one of those aspects of ourselves that we need to cultivate, but it’s an exceptionally useful skill. It gets you through times like these, when your OTHERS™ are missing, but it also gets you through the crap you’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis. So, first and foremost: Patience.
The second piece of advice is something that I’ve come to learn isn’t necessary, but should be thought of in-depth before a decision is made. What I’m trying to say is that, when you’re feeling like there isn’t much point to the worship and craft that you’ve been doing for the OTHERS™, sometimes you have to keep at it. Dver made a comment on my last post when I used the word “just” prior to the words “plugging away.” She mentioned, “though I’d say it’s not really ‘just’ going through the motions anyway, since the gods/spirits still get something out of your practices even if you don’t (because it’s not always about us), and because doing the practices IS the work and will create the feelings over time.” This was a thought that I had never considered, which would explain why I didn’t bother taking my advice during any of my Fallow Times.
But she raises a very valid point, which is why I linked the entry she mentioned. She’s right that the act of worship and crafting that we do in the name of our gods isn’t just about us and the connections that we forge therein. It’s also a matter of giving to the gods. As she said, “it’s not always about us.” And that, I think, is one of the things that we have the hardest time realizing when it comes to our personal practices. Yes, it gives a feeling of goodness and wholeness, but we’re also giving similarly to the gods. And maybe, just maybe, they need those feelings just as much as we do.
Plugging away, though, at whatever aspects of your practice that you did is exceptional. It shows fortitude and it shows a willing commitment. This aspect is important, especially if the reason behind the Fallow Times is due to a test of sorts.
But, what if the reason I’m here is because the OTHER™ left?
This is a good question; what do you do if the OTHER&trade in question has left? As I mentioned in my reasons area, the last possibility of the Fallow Times tends to be the case of there actually being something wrong. I mentioned a few reasons as to (what I could see) be possibilities. So, how do you “plug away” if the god in question is gone? What do you do then? Maybe the idea of “plugging away” isn’t possible now because, well, who do you worship now?
In this respect, I have to say that continuing with your studies would be a good idea. So, the OTHER™ that you wanted as your patron isn’t around anymore and no one else is stepping forward. Maybe, you should start looking into new areas to study, such as Feri, other forms of polytheism, witchcraft, etc. Another possibility is setting up a no-one-lives-here altar and just going through the motions anyway. You can focus more on fairies and wights and spirits instead of the gods. You can focus on the dead. At that point, all I can say is that you have so many different manner of possibilities open before you that any single possibility could, indeed, lead you to the thing you want most.
I’m so alone.
No, not really. The fact that I’ve had to write this entry should be proof enough that you are not alone in this. The reason a lot of us think that we are can be because we don’t know a lot of other pagans to speak to about this or maybe, we don’t read enough blogs to have found another pagan who is willing to write about it. Also, it seems that the Fallow Times is so not discussed because it’s like a deep, dark secret. To me, that’s ridiculous. How are people supposed to learn that having quiet time from their OTHERS™ is pretty damn normal if they don’t read about it? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that just because you are going through this pain and hurt doesn’t mean that no one else is.
- The Darker Parts of the Path: first mention of the Fallow Times in any concrete form.
- It Is Well To Lie Fallow For a While: the secondary form of this post.
- Dry Spells @ Kemetic Reconnaissance: a great Egyptian-based descriptor of the quiet times with a number of links for exploration of said Fallow Times via The Cauldron.
- We Are What We Pretend To Be by Dver.
- Fallow Times by Dver.