Monday, November 11, 2013

Confessions of.... Gathering Hang Overs: Description and Treatments

Maybe some creative person can make a Gathering Hangover meme....

This morning after sleeping in, I got a call from a gathering virgin about a piece of luggage left in her car by accident. She sounded less than chipper, truly depressed. When questioned about her state, she said she was tired from the terminal drive home we had all suffered the day before (ten hours, folks) and she was back at work. I could hear that quiet desolation in her voice and I knew instantly what she suffered: the Gathering Hang Over. 

I hung up and texted her that she was suffering the Gathering Hang Over and got no response. I decided then to write up what a Gathering Hang Over is and some tips and tricks of dealing with this vicious reintroduction into mundanity, as Rene, an elder, puts it.

Most are familiar with suspension of disbelief. The state a person enters when they watch a movie, television show or read a book. This altered state permits a person to easily accept that vampires glitter, men physically shape shift into were creatures and the starship Enterprise actually flies to distant galaxies never explored. 

Gatherings create a paradox I call suspension of mundane belief. We take with us some things from the mundanity or our daily mundane existence into a gathering. Then we spend three to seven days (or more) moving into a realm where workshops have titles like “Meeting the Morrigan” or “Green Men Worship the Goddess” or “Casting a Steampunk Circle from Start to Finish” or “Animals, Magick and You.”[i] Titles where abstract and seemingly impossible concepts break down into real practices in spirituality and magic, that exists less at Hogwarts and more in our hearts, minds and homes.  

Many who attend these events do not have a lot of practice balancing the mundane world and their magical/spiritual realm. The mundanity they live with every day lacks very little evidence of the witch, pagan, heathen or high magician within their hearts. At most, there is a pentacle, Triscele, Thor Hammer or sacred symbol etched somewhere on their body or hanging on a necklace around their neck. The fact is the lack of promotion of daily practice becomes painfully evident when the burn of re-entry into the “real” world happens. 

People like Amber K., Azrael Arynn K., and Gypsey Teague live a life where they are what they are twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week. Most of us attend gatherings because we do not have the freedom in our lives to be all we are all the time. We cannot wear a sarong instead of a suit or at jeans to work. Gatherings give us the freedom to put on that corset we do not wear when shopping for groceries, wear the best ritual outfit and paint our face with woad because we have little opportunity to do so any other time. We look at the amazing resource and knowledge these leaders have and think that what they have obtained is beyond the structure of the life we have to live. We are veterinarians, traveling massage therapists, anthropological librarians, managers of organic farms, students, acoustical engineers[ii] and the place for woad painted face while wearing sarongs and casting with swords is not in our daily lives. Faced with the Gypsey Teagues and Amber K.s at festival we mistakenly believe it MUST be part of their daily lives.

Being the sister to Crystal Blanton and having the honor to have met a few well known pagan authors in their homes, I can tell you they do not walk around daily in woad painted faces, swinging swords and chanting in mystical languages before breakfast. Maybe Stephanie Woodfield might, however, I sincerely doubt it. (Please correct me if I am wrong Ms. Woodfield.)

These special things that happen at gatherings are special because they do not happen every day anywhere. Stephanie Woodfield’s coven most likely meets monthly and performs fantastic rituals every month and even then those rituals last hours, not days like gatherings (again, if I am wrong, please let me know). Gypsye Teague described her ships monthly voyage as a few hour event that ends in a feast in the Dining Hall presented by the Mess Shipman.  Their voyages do not last for days and days either. 

Ultimately, what I think sets the Teague’s, Woodfield’s and Blanton’s apart from most of those who attend gatherings is a daily practice and mindfulness. Teague may set sale on her own private airship every night at the same time to contemplate future voyages for her entire crew. Woodfield most certainly mediates and studies the myths and energy of the Morrigan daily. When we meet these accomplished authors we know that they carry an energy, an undefinable thing that we do not have and we gravitate to that like moths lost in a sea of darkness or Florida mosquitos who equate light will a fresh meal. 

We feed. We gorge and bloated load into our vehicles and re-enter the world still happily full. In a car, often lively with the energy of our friends or partner(s), we go home, enter our homes and remember we need to wash our underwear before the next day or we will go commando. Our kenneled pets, cats left to fend for themselves demand our attentions and we look toward our work in-boxes with fear and trepidation. The feeding begins to slip out of our bodies through all those holes we had before we left and we wake up Monday morning convinced we have walked in a dream and we will dream no more. Most knowing that the next big event is at least a half of year away and for some of us maybe an entire yearly cycle.

If we haven’t properly planned, then this shock to our system can cause the Gathering Crud, an illness brought about by sleep deprivation, excessive drinking and eating and moving our bodies in ways we do not on a daily basis from walking everywhere to dancing around a bonfire for nights in a row. Even if we have properly planned, then we risk Gathering Crud. 

As Mama Gina said often, “You can sleep when you are dead!” 

And right about now, most of us feel like we are dead.

So what is the cure?

I prescribe a Hair of the Dog approach, coupled with some real world solutions that just might ease the post gathering blues. 

First – spend some time this week meditating, doing ritual or doing magical research. If you were really interested in a presenter’s work, contact them and continue the conversation. Purchase their books if you haven’t and visit their website, Facebook, Twitter or other social media feeds. Sign up for their blog posts by RSS or email. If you were fascinated by a tradition, do some research into that tradition, make some contacts, look up their reading list and dive right in.  If you found a sudden love of drumming or flute playing or poi, purchase one of the aforementioned items and play in front of your altar or in your own room. If it was the great outdoors that calmed your spirit, then plan now for quick walk in the woods in the next seven days and reconnect with that energy. Go ahead and connect on Facebook, Twitter, other social outlets or through email with the great people you want to stay connected to. Before I had done much of anything when I got back, Kyler and Kami were already friended. I just didn’t want to lose those two. 

Second – start making the plan to return. Gatherings are expensive so get your envelope out now and write the gathering or convention you want to attend on in it – Florida Pagan Gathering, Beltane, 2014 – for example, put that last $5 you have from this gathering in it and start doing so every week. By the time tickets are released you will have enough money to pay for the entry fee especially if you consider most gatherings and conventions give you a break the earlier you buy your entrance.
Third – admit it to yourself, if not to me, you are constipated or have serious diarrhea. I have yet to come back from a gathering without some form of intestinal track upset. I call this the Gathering Blockage or Gathering Runs. You can “eweee” me all you want you know it is true. If you have the gathering runs DO NOT take over the counter medications, buy some bananas and eat rice. Lay off the diary, including butter. Take some probiotics which you can get at the pharmacy. If you have Gathering Blockage, probiotics is good to, however, no bananas for you – try yogurt with probiotics in it, Miralax or other over the counter solutions to get things moving.[iii]

If you have the Gathering Crud, start hitting the Vitamin C immediately. Tinctures and other homeopathic remedies can help you keep from slipping into a need for antibiotics. Go to bed early for the next week. Give yourself the advantage of extra rest to help your body get back to an even keel.
Vitamin B12 is another excellent choice for post gathering blues. It boosts energy levels and can help you shake that morning after feeling on the way to work. 

Last, do not jump right back into television, heavy computer use or gaming. Add it back slowly or not at all. The electronic age is a wonder and can often interfere with the positive gathering vibes you have created. Unpack instead. Wash your clothes. Clean out the camping boxes and wash the blankets, dry clean the capes and scrub your feet with a solution of Epsom Salts and peppermint (promise it gets the crud out and makes the feet feel invigorated). Honey and tea will help that swollen throat, scratchy from singing and yelling at the drum circle and aloe and coconut oil for the blisters from drumming.[iv]

I won’t tell you that you should have taken the day after a return from gathering off. (Okay I will, you should. I always do.) 

I won’t tell you that if you exercised daily walking all weekend wouldn’t seem like such a bad idea now. (Okay, I actually did just say that.)

I will assume that you used protection and won’t be scratching more vital parts of your body soon or having a gathering baby in nine months. 

I will also assume that you understand that all acts of love and pleasure are of the goddess and that does not a real relationship result in. So don’t invite your gathering bed buddy to move in this week. Try dating and seeing if the magic is still around sitting through “Thor” as it was watching ritual drama. 

Next gathering season, I promise, I will cover the things to do before you go so that your post gathering blues won’t make re-entry into mundanity so bumpy. My bad, I was more worried about making sure you didn’t lose your feet during the gathering, I forgot all about the rug ripping return. Jax, please forgive me!

[i] All presented at Florida Pagan Gathering, Samhein 2013; Lake Wales, Florida. Meeting the Morrigan presented by Stephanie Woodfield; Green Men Worship the Goddess presented by Fiann Beorn; Casting a Steampunk Circle from Start to Finish presented by Gypsey Teague; Animals, Magick and You presented by Amber K. and Azreal Arynn K.
[ii] All these professions I met at Florida Pagan Gathering, Samhein 2013; Lake Wales, FL.
[iii] I am not a doctor or nurse. These solutions are my own and if you experience Gathering Runs or Blockages for longer than four days, consult your doctor.
[iv] Seriously I am not a doctor. Don’t use things you know you are allergic to. Be careful applying anything to open wounds and seek medical attention if you have puss coming out of anywhere.

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