Virtual Spiritual Encounters

Desk top altar set up. iPad screen,representations of the gods; incense and offering; divination tools (runes, scrying bowl), and an offering bowl.
Example of a basic desk top altar for a ritual. Includes items for use during the ritual.

Creating Sacred Spaces Using Online Technology

The world is in a condition of a paradigm change. At the time of writing, travel restrictions, social distancing, cancellations of events, and recommendations for people to stay at home and “isolate” due to the fast spreading Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) have altered the way we are interacting with each other. The silent streets, closed businesses, and people scurrying about to get their shopping with as little interaction with others has created a noticeable shift in the universal energy, wyrd in Germanic practices, that influences how we perceive the realm of spirit.

As people find ways to maintain connection through online resources such as concerts, classes, medical appointments, conferencing meetings, and more, we are maintaining and expanding relationships and connections in creative ways that will last for a while to come. During this time when in-person gatherings and events are suspended, we can take the time to strengthen and build our spiritual community world-wide by harnessing the technology we have to reach out and get to know each other locally and around the globe.

Among these conferencing meetings will be the rise of virtual rituals, light/calming meditations and healings, and divination readings. These subjects have long been frowned upon by many in the spiritual community as inferior ways in which to have a spiritual experience with others, preferring physical interactions. The benefits of virtual experiences is that that participants are able to connect and create meaningful spiritual space with others from local regions to around the world. This is particularly valuable to solitary practitioners who normally have few or no one nearby with whom they can share these experiences on a regular basis.

From the safety and comfort of one’s own home (or garden, park, other natural setting if capability and connectivity allow), we can create a setting around us and connect them together like bubbles of sacred scared space via the web. Let’s go over a few of the ways that we can access these virtual spaces to continue connections with our local groups as well as expanding and including others who otherwise would not have a way to connect in person.

Ritual: This is often a controversial topic as there are some in paganism, including the Druid and Heathen communities, who think that virtual ritual is not effective. They take great pains to deny it has any value and denigrate those who participate as well as the event itself. My experience and opinion are that virtual ritual is a wonderful way to provide a deeply moving and sacred experience for those who cannot do so physically with people they know, trust, and care about.
One of the aspects that will require more attention of participants, is that of focusing on the ritual and avoiding the temptation to multitask and be distracted by activities and events around their location. To help deal with this, I encourage people to fully participate in the ritual, just as if they were attending one in person with a kindred, grove, or circle. Practice the very same etiquette you would at a physical event. Dress for the occasion (as you normally would – or maybe dress up more in your home), don’t type or surf the web simultaneously, set aside the time and space without interruption, and don’t talk or interrupt unnecessarily. Respect the person(s) facilitating the ritual as well as other attendees.

Another way to engage in the ritual is to not be just a virtual observer. It is different to have participants on a screen (either with or without video. Since some are concerned about being recorded, they may turn off video to participate) and to not be in the physical presents of the elements of the ritual. But, by mirroring what is happening with the facilitator with elements in your presence, you can feel more engaged and part of the ritual experience. To do this, the facilitator can send out a list of what ritual tools, offerings, and elements they will be using. Participants can bring similar elements and set up an altar space before them. As something is done by the ritualist, mirror it in your physical space. I think this will help establish a wonderful connection through the cyber realm and also knit the webs of sacred experience to everyone involved, very similar (even if not exactly) to physical ritual events.

Meditation and healings: These can also be very effectively done via a web conferencing platform. Similar to the ritual experience, participants can use the tips provided above to help set their room or space for meaningful experience. The caveat here is that video really should be used so that the facilitator can observe the person. It is also recommended that very deep trance and journeywork should not be done in this manner because a physical proximity is important between the participant and mediator for such deep experiences. For guidance and light calming techniques and healing discussions, video can be an effective way to communicate (just as phone guidance was prior to such advances).

Classes/Workshops: These have been provided for a number of years already with the increase in use and popularity of YouTube. You can find a YouTube video for practically anything that you want to learn or learn how to do. What this possibly expands upon is now creating a live event that your local group can join in from their own homes. With the increase of recommendations to remain away from even small group gatherings, this makes it an effective way to maintain group cohesiveness. It also provides wonderful opportunities to expand invitations to others in the local pagan community who may be interested in learning about your path, but may not have been able to attend because of a private location or fear of meeting unknown people. It also opens the opportunity of bringing in people from further way (such as solitary practitioners) as well as the potential for guest speakers.

Divination/Readings: Finally, we have divination and readings. Moving to a teleconference capability expands upon a communication technique that has been around for meeting the needs of seeking divine guidance for decades. Readings have been given by telephone, chat rooms, messenger, recordings, and letters.

Teleconferencing allows for an interactive experience that includes a way for each to see the other, the seeker can see the cards or oracle tool being used, and interact a little more easily than by other means. The tips above are useful here as well, since we want both parties to be present in the moment and attentive to what is occurring before them.
So we have an opportunity to truly turn a situation from doubt, uncertainty, annoyance, and isolation into one that can still include others and provide a way to share experiences and knowledge (gnosis) and maintain the vital connection of community. Something that is highly needed at all times, but particularly when we are faced with being alone (either physically or on our journey) or facing troubled times.

May your virtual encounters be blessed by the Gods, Goddesses, and beings you work with and filled with many shared experiences.

This article first appeared in Oak Leaves Issue #89 – Summer 2020, a publication of Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF).

Listen to my discussion about online ritual with Robb Lewis of the Ring of Ghosti on episode 36 of Gifts of the Wyrd Podcast.