When the Well Runs Dry

19 Jun

I have spent a great deal of my Pagan life with my well overflowing. I’ve lived with someone with a broke open head. I work for a deity that will throw things at you and tell you to learn how to juggle… while riding a unicycle on a tight rope. So I know all about the well overflowing.

But, for one very very very long year- I had a barren, dry well. A well so dry, that the ground at the bottom cracked and turned to powder at the slightest touch. Ground that choked and begged for any moisture at all.

What frustrated me most about this time was that I could see the water disappearing. I knew it was being soaked up by the earth, evaporating into the air. But as I would look at my well day after day, watching the water get lower and lower- I knew there was nothing I could do. All I could do is watch the water disappear slowly but surely. And as I watched the water disappear, I got angry. Very angry. I felt betrayed by the world. I had been handed the bare necessities to make ends meet- but just barely. I was frustrated that despite my best effort, things were falling apart.

And to top it all off, at the time, I felt like the gods just didn’t care. I couldn’t reach them. I couldn’t hear them. It’s as if they had simply vanished from my life.

This, my friends, is what we call a Fallow Time. It’s a time when the water runs out, the land becomes parched, and in many cases- all of the plants you had growing seem to shrivel up and die. It can be a time of complete frustration, utter despair, and can result in a complete lack of faith in not only your gods or guides, but yourself.

I think it’s common for every person to hit dry spells- whether in a religious context or not. We all have times when things just aren’t working. When we are out of our groove, and nothing seems to be panning out. And the biggest question I often see is- what do you do when these times hit? How do you handle it?

My best answer comes in the form of a quote from Avatar, the Last Airbender (series, not the movie):

“I don’t know the answer. Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel- you can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving you will come to a better place.”

When your water runs out your initial reaction is to stare at the ground. The plants are gone. The growth is gone- and all you are left with is a barren field. And usually when this happens, we all sit there- and just stare. We get angry that all we can do is look at the ground as it looks back at us- mocking us. And we stomp our feet, scream, throw fits- all at the ground. And for what? That doesn’t bring the growth back.

But what does bring the growth back? If this metaphor was a garden- the answer would be easy. The master gardener would tell you to clear out the old growth. Plow and fertilize your soil. Gather your seeds, and prepare to plant them. You could try to plant them now, and bring in water from afar- or you could wait until the rainy season comes back, and plant them then. Either way, the best way to spend your time in the interim is preparation.

So why can’t we take this metaphor and use it when the Fallow Times hit? Your practice is dead and barren right now. You might be having a hard time focusing. You could be preoccupied with other problems and mundane situations. There could be financial hardship. Any number of reasons can cause a well to suddenly lose it’s water. However, the best thing to do once the water is gone isn’t to rail at the land which sustains you. It’s to prepare the land to be able to grow again. Slowly, take a step forward, then take another and another. It could be a while before you reach fertile times again- but at least you know that when you get there, you will be ready for the rain. Your seeds will be in hand, and your practice will be primed and ready for growth.

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12 responses to “When the Well Runs Dry

  1. Aubs Tea

    June 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm


    • von186

      June 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Helpful at all?

      • Aubs Tea

        June 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm


  2. warboar

    June 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    This. So much this. Speaking in terms of both religion and (wonky) health. I tend to think of these things as being “sent out into the desert,” a kind of rite of passage or trial. If we survive them, we’re exponentially stronger and hopefully wiser for it.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been gripped by grief and despair, and just wanted to curl up into a pouty ball and protest life to death. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I’m just not one of those people, I suppose. I can’t say for certain that moving forward — or more appropriately, flailing around in a desperate attempt to survive — will always land a person in a better place. What I can say, at least for myself, is that knowing I didn’t give up, that I kept trying, that I fought opposition in every form tooth and nail until every last one of my teeth and nails were broken and gone, that I didn’t shoot myself in the face like a quitter, that I did my best to endure pain with Grace, I would be entirely at peace with myself, having no regrets, and could give a confident testimony before the jury of the Gods with a (fairly) light heart. And whether I passed that trial or not, I wouldn’t have any regrets in that situation either, because I imagine I would have done the best I could, as honestly as I could, owning my faults as well as my triumphs, and didn’t crumple up on the ground and just give up like a chump.

    In the end, I think, it’s all about consistency, tenacity, and backbone — even if you don’t “succeed” in the conventional sense, you succeed in a principled sense.

    • von186

      June 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      I think you and I are in agreement on this. Success is different for everyone, and arriving at a better place can be different as well. Sometimes better isn’t where we intended on being- but it’s where we need to be all the same. Like you, I am all about giving it my all and doing my best- even if the venture doesn’t end up as ideally as I had hoped.

  3. picklewalsh

    June 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Pray to the names and eventually the inundation will come

  4. Medewty Senu

    June 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I figure there is a reason for the Fallow Time, either something i didn’t do or something the Gods have in mind for me. Usually it’s the latter. The Gods were testing my ability to “wait on them” instead of insisting on having things my way (now, now, now). Learning to wait has been the hardest lesson to learn. Running ahead of Them has often caused me to make very bad mistakes in regards to my practice and personal relationships. Sometimes it’s just best to let the problem simmer instead of taking it off the burner completely. If you let the problem simmer, it’s still in your thoughts when the Gods do make contact again and you don’t have to reheat (start from scratch) your practice. So I just give them space and use my Fallow Time to accomplish other tasks and try not to be such a worry wart (my second biggest fault besides impatience).

    • von186

      June 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      I agree with the patience aspects. In some ways, your idea of letting things simmer mirrors my own- if you keep prepping your ground, you’re still keeping it in mind. In the end, I don’t know that there is ever one completely correct way to handle Fallow. It’s so different and personal for each of us.


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