Spiritwork, no matter what anybody will tell you, is hard.
The thing is, it doesn’t always feel that way, and it doesn’t always look that way when you’ve got an outsider’s view on somebody’s else’s practice. I know I for one have - since the pandemic - been guilty of being quite keyboard-happy with my experiences; largely because with my husband working an offshore job, I’ve spent a lot of my time going “if I don’t talk to people online or the gods, I’m going to start learning what language the ferrets speak”. But even if someone is posting about their spiritwork (be it godphoning, shadow work, past life study or something else entirely) all the time, what you very rarely see is what the magician behind the curtain looks like after they’re done. That’s what I’d like to talk about today.
“Hey Siri, turn on lower power mode.”
Burn-out in witchcraft, as with any other task or ‘job’, is a real issue that isn’t spoken about enough. Spiritwork is no different. Society expects you to keep plodding on, and points fingers labelled ‘lazy’ and ‘imposter’ at people who need to take a break. If you take nothing else from this article, listen to me when I say that no matter what they’re talking about, that line of thinking is utter bullshit. Nobody knows your limits, your coping mechanisms, and your needs other than you. Keep that in mind as we’re going forward. Even if you enjoy your work or your hobby or your practice, there’s going to come a time where your body or your mind or your gods/friends (or all three!) are telling you to take a time-out. So what do you do when that time comes around, without falling off the wagon?
First off, fall off the wagon for as long as you need to. Or hand someone else the reins and sit on the back of the wagon. The spirits and gods that you work with are probably centuries older than you - if not considerably more - and who’s to say they experience time the same way that we do? A phone with no battery cannot place calls; a devotee or companion cannot do whatever it is that is asked of them without a charge, either. It might seem like something silly is what tips you over the point of exhaustion, but then again, how many times have you frantically tried to check twitter just one more time on 1% battery when you’ve been out of the house longer than expected? (No? Just me?)
The point is, you use up your juice in increments and you might not notice the volume’s low until low is zero. And when you hit zero, there’s no sense in pushing through because it’s like having no minutes left on your phone. You’re manifesting or communicating or channeling into the void. You need to get that juice back. And so you rest, for as long as it takes for you to be fully charged - because if you start again at 2% you’re going to be right back where you started again before you can say Mercury in retrograde. If the entities that you work with aren’t willing to wait for you, then my honest advice is to give them the bird and tell them that you aren’t willing to work within their expectations. A relationship has to be healthy and beneficial on both sides.
Grande, Triple-shot Mocha with Extra Cream
But how, you ask, do you recharge? It’s not as though humans have USB ports, and in a more general sense you can’t just stick us on the deck during a full moon and hope for the best. Well when it happens to me, the first thing is addressing the needs of this unfortunate mortal sleep sack I’ve found myself in. (Sorry.) Namely, ask yourself: “What does my body need in order to get back to work?” Often it’s the simple things. Have a glass of water (drink the whole thing), eat some carbs (Eggos and poptarts are generally my go-to) and maybe hop in the shower or the bath. Have a nice, long soak and do… absolutely nothing.
“What about-?” Nope. “Can't I just ask Loki if-" Nope.
Plant it. Eat something. Drink something. Get that crick out of your neck. Take a nap. And maybe have something with caffeine or proper sugars when you wake up, so that your get up and go doesn’t get up and go back to bed before it has a chance to get up and go do magic. The important thing is that while you’re getting your spiritwork mo-jo back, you can’t do anything that uses up that spiritwork body, and the vessel you’re living in needs to be attended to as well. Self-care is the best tool in a witch’s arsenal, so don’t forget to use it. This advice is brought to you by the 🍏Apples of Idunn™️*.
Don’t Put the Pendulum Before the Spiritworker
Now that you’re full of beans (coffee or otherwise) it’s time to get the engines going again. You know how I said we weren’t going to do anything spiritwork-y until we were 100% good to go again? I lied. I’m the product of Odin’s machinations; sue me. (Please don’t sue me, I have ferrets to feed.) That said, we’re not going to go from nothing to channeling Loki on a joy-ride to Target, so hold your eight-legged horses. It’s important to start off slow; apart from anything else, if you burned out badly enough there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to pick up the phone and still hear ‘the subscriber cannot be reached…’
Silly though it might sound, it’s important to exercise your spiritwork muscles from time to time, which is a good way to get back into the swing of things after a well-earned break. Start by meditating. Go, or stay, somewhere quiet, do whatever you need to do to get into the mood - I find that trance-y music with a good drum beat does the trick, because it turns off my conscious mind - and put out some feelers. Make sure to do this somewhere that is safe! You might have idle wards that you’d not have to think about when you’re at your best, but those might need a kick-start as well. Ward your space, cleanse it if that’s your kind of thing, yeet any bad spirits or vibes with some simple spells, and see what you can feel. Invite the spirits that you trust to say “‘sup?”
You might not feel anything straight away. If you’re used to clear visions, or HQ streamed words, then you might need to start small again. Even when I don’t have the energy for serious work, my gods tend to make themselves known with little touches of my skin, or if I can’t even tune into that, some subtle interference with the wyrd wide world around me. A lot of the time, Odin makes it clear that he’d like to work with me by messing with my music to play a song that’ll get my attention, or having a crow sit outside my window at 7am for an entire week telling me to get my arse into my study and do some divination. (I’m not grumpy about the crow, you’re grumpy about the crow!) Once you feel something, give ‘em a wave back and then call it for now.
Over time - you might need hours, you might need days, be honest with yourself - try and get a little closer to your personal best. Think of it like getting back into running after spraining your ankle. You’re not going to do five minute miles the first day you throw out the crutches. Once you feel like you’re getting back into the swing of things, you might want to start using your tools again, or giving more intense channeling and spiritwork a careful shot.
You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid
A part of growing in any magical faith or practice is learning your limits as well as your strengths. Remembering to look after yourself so that you can study and grow is a part of, well, growing up. Sometimes your spiritwork will throw you curveballs that you need to process on your own, and sometimes the real world is just a little bit too much for you to hand the ethereal as well. Whatever the case, train yourself to recover safely and sanely, and y’all will be okay.
* Disclaimer: The 🍏Apples of Idunn™️ are not a substitute for actual sustenance. Please consult your Godphone before taking the 🍏Apples of Idunn™️. Side-effects of taking the 🍏Apples of Idunn™️ in lieu of proper self-care may include: • Backtalk from your Godphone • Terrible Spiritwork Decisions • Bees, Probably • Compromised Immunity to Mistakes • Migraines, Exhaustion and Physical Illness