A few months back there was a thread in the ADF Dedicant Program List that talked about people doing ritual when they were ill. There seemed to be the idea that being ill was like being unclean and therefore unfit for doing ritual. In general practice I can see that there would be some valid points to the argument when it comes to health, especially in a group setting, but at the same time I can see where this kind of thought could become a major issue within our religion.
In everyday life everyone at some point gets sick. It simply is a part of the human condition that we must all live with. If someone has a cold or the flu maybe they should abstain from being at ritual. It would not be very responsible to be there spreading it around to everyone there. Beyond the fact of spreading an illness there is also the issue of someone that is ill disrupting the ritual it self. Of course they would not be doing such a thing intentionally but someone that is coughing, sneezing and sniffing their nose every few minutes can break the flow of ritual. There can also be the danger that if the ill person has been taking cold medications they could stumble, falling into the fire and getting burned or even hitting something hard during their fall. But these are issues with passing or seasonal illnesses. (You should also mention the possibility of the sick person being contagious and thus causing others to become sick as well.)
One concern with this train of thought is that there are other types of illness people can experience. I took the conversation on this thread pretty seriously. I do not like the idea of people with any illness being unfit for ritual or even magical workings for that matter. One of the things that most people don’t stop to think about is the fact someone with a chronic or even terminal illness could be listening to what they are saying. I know everyone has the right to their opinions. That’s what makes free will so wonderful. But we pride ourselves in ADF for our stride towards excellence. I hope that this essay will help some people out there get a little closer to that excellence.
I can not speak for others; my words speak only for myself. I am person living with a terminal illness. It is something that won’t ever go away. It can’t be cured. And in the end it will more than likely claim my life. But does it make me unclean or unfit to do ritual?
I do not think for one moment that it does. The illness does not contaminate the tools I use. It does not taint the flow of energy that runs through my body as I do my rituals or magical workings. And it certainly doesn’t taint anyone working with me that shares energy during a ritual or magic work. On the contrary, I find that it helps to fight the poisonous life that is surging through my body. Since coming to ADF and studying the Druid way, I have learned to focus the Waters of Life’s blessings into a burning light that fills my body, purging me of illness a little each time. It is a time of healing that I cannot find anywhere else.
But there is another very important factor in doing ritual even though I have this illness. I find a connection with the Kindreds that gives me the strength and courage to continue on each day despite the fact that little by little my body is failing me. I find hope in Their presence. I find a renewal for my soul that otherwise would have aged beyond my years. I do not believe that the Kindreds feel that I shouldn’t be approaching Them because of this. I actually feel the opposite is true. When I turn to the Kindreds I feel a happiness and warmth, a sense of harmony that tells me I am doing right by Them turning to Their love.
Though a passing cold or flu may make you unfit to share the Waters of Life with other members of your grove because of health and hygiene issues, having a chronic or terminal illness does not exclude you; you are not unclean nor unfit to share with those around you. Try to remember that the next time you are standing by someone new at ritual. You never know who is in need of the powers that the Kindred have to offer the fit or the ill.