How Does Paganism Handle Turnover?

A friend messaged me this morning to tell me she’d been fired. The news was unexpected, as it often is, and she was understandably torn up over it. My heart sunk, and I hurt for her. I wanted to reach out and embrace her, but I couldn’t. There was only text between us, and the text was insufficient. Words are not the same as touch, the same as shoulders, the same as passing the tissue across the table. Words are sometimes not enough.

About a year ago I lost my job. It was non-traditional creative work, not the kind that pays regularly or has a set schedule. But it was still a job, and it was a central focus of my life. Losing it was devastating, and profoundly disorienting.

I didn’t allow myself much space to acclimate to my new state of joblessness. There was no time. There was a mortgage which had become, overnight, too much to manage, and I had a sense that the momentum I’d worked so hard to build in my career over the previous decade would be for nothing if I didn’t figure out, immediately, what I would do next. On top of all that, the people with whom I’d worked closest, who had become my support system — professionally and personally — were gone.

So, I scrambled. I called on friends to make introductions, and I began developing new business relationships. At the same time, my husband and I made the quick and difficult decision that if we were to stay afloat we would have to move out of our home. There was no way around that. So, in the course of a month we found a realtor, cleaned out most of our things, and put the house on the market. It sold in less than two months, and we moved across town into our smaller, more-manageable, for-rent abode. It was October, and a cold air had blown in. Hardly any time had passed, but nearly everything in our world looked different.

Turnover is a word misused in conversations about business. It’s vernacular for a cold, calculated process of comings and goings; new name-tags, new punch-cards; a new face to smile at, or laugh with, or avoid. But turnover would be better used to describe what happens in the heart, in the home, in the entire universe of the person who’s experienced a great loss. We undergo, perhaps even suffer, a turnover.

Many people “turn to faith” in moments of crisis, but it occurs to me that this phrase may not sit well with many contemporary Pagans, especially those who come from more literalist Christian backgrounds. Perhaps “turn to tradition” is less loaded, but I’m not sure it means the same thing. Turning to faith is often painted as an act of one rejecting logic, or practicality, or something sensible. Faith is the problem, it would seem. But I’m not sure I see it that way. People “turn to faith” because they hurt, and they’re reaching for something to sooth the pain.

We fall down, and we get up. Sometimes it seems that this is our only choice to make: to get up. As we sort through our faiths, our beliefs, our correct terminology, our religious traditions and our community disagreements, there are people on the edges of every conversation who are simply trying to get up from whatever knocked them down last. It seems to me that if our religions aren’t equipping us with the tools to help our neighbor get herself up, or to help us lift ourselves up from whatever tragedy has beset us, then they are lacking something essential.

I wonder –

What have you turned to in moments of crisis? Faith? Tradition? Have you experienced a loss which led you to become more religious, or less so? Do you feel like Paganism, in any of its expressions, provides us with the tools to support one another in moments of pain, of suffering, of turnover? If so, how? If not, why?

Please share your story in the comment section, and feel free to engage one another in dialogue about your experiences. Then, pass this post along.


22 responses to “How Does Paganism Handle Turnover?”

  1. Naya Aerodiode Avatar

    I turn to reason in my moments of difficulty. I reason things through. Once I start looking at things with clarity and logic, I start being able to see the path through my difficulties.

  2. Crafters22001 Avatar

    I experienced a diagnosis of cancer and due to my Pagan religion I saw it as part of a natural process and not evil, as Nature does not see death as evil but as something we share with all living things and that I was , am & will be part of Nature

  3. Jeffrey Keefer Avatar

    Teo, thanks for sharing this. I know when I face real trials like this, I tend not to mention them too outwardly due in part to a catholic background (where the victim gets blamed for being the victim; “Well, you should have known better / prepared / . . .  if only you would have . . . “) where a sense of shame and inadequacy gets all confused with unrelated experiences. With this said, it seems that different traditions in paganism would have different perspectives on spirituality and / or religion, in other words a support thing or network . . . or an opportunity to feel support in some way. Your questions do challenge.

  4. Shell Mountainsmith Avatar
    Shell Mountainsmith

    In late 2006, my husband of ten years died suddenly and in such a way that his memory was tarnished for me and I moved to another state to be closer to family.  My job fired me six months after promoting me because of new ownership that saw no value in women unless they were subservient. The next job had a powerful woman boss who falsified records, stole my clients, and set me up to be fired for “nonperformance” so she could inherit the rest of my clients.  The one after that was a commission only no insurance thing where I broke my foot and needed expensive tests and my doctor said I wasn’t allowed to do it anymore because of the physical nature of it.  The one after that was worse. 

    I sat in my car with a pomegranate and a tealight and begged Persephone for a rebirth.  I decorated an altar in Brigid’s colors and begged her for a position where I could care for my family and be my technical geeky self.

    In about a week, I was fired, oopsie, allowed to resign, and then as I sat there crying, because all the tarot cards had been saying upheval ending in good things, and I couldn’t see the good things.

    A recruiter called, and the prospective company that had dragged their feet had decided, and wanted to hire me.  The kicker, I had to move six hours away, me and my family, within two weeks.

    We did it in a week and a half.  Every night, heck, twice or three times a day, I was pulling tarot cards.  They consistently said to have faith, calm down, and just walk the path.

    I just got my first commission check today, and on top of my salary, makes us ALMOST able to tread water financially, and as soon as the job comes through for my other half, and renters get into the old house, we should be okay…

    Then two day ago, a tree split and fell on out old house.  But the situation since has convinced me to forgo the company that has failed to rent it out, get my own renters or a new company, and chosen family is paying for me to make the drive and remove the tree.  And other than the possibility of unseen damage, the worst of it looks to be a bent gutter.

    My faith has sustained me.  It will be okay.  It’ll be a twisty crazy path and all kinds of crap will happen, but it will indeed be okay.  

    But…um….don’t pray for a rebirth, unless you understand that birthing is done in pain and blood, and is only nice after it’s over, and that only until the baby wakes you up for a midnight feeding.

    As to the support of others….My chosen family….a former Catholic nun married to a Nature loving biker…. a Native American lady and her very gothy husband….a devout Anglican consorting with a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness…. my wife is a former Morman and is a transgendered woman.  Of born family, there are three conservative Christians and three liberal Christians and the conservative ones are the ones who made the drive to check on my home when I couldn’t get there and pulled the section of tree off of it…. I don’t know as if any of them are technically Pagan, but they’re good folks who love, and that’s enough for me.

    You build your own community, or you don’t. I choose people with faith and heart, and don’t much worry about the particulars, and they do the same for me.  *smiling*

    I turn to the divinity who created me and is in me and the wonderful people put here to love me and be loved in return.  Because it will rain, the sink will back up, the dog will pee on the rug, the tree will fall on the house, the crazy employers will mistreat you, and crap just happens.  It will.  But it will be okay…. eventually, and in ways you don’t expect.  

  5. W. Keith Baldwin Avatar
    W. Keith Baldwin

    It’s interesting timeing, seeing this post just now.  As I sit here reading it, I am down to two more weeks at my workplace, before I and my family make a major move to Vancouver Island from mainland Vancouver.  While this upset, this turnover, is a voluntary one, after eleven years emplyoyed with this company, much of the same emotional state is very similar.

    I have not yet found new employment.  Last month, I made an offering to Thunaer, with promise of a significantly larger one after, in exchange for help finding new, suitable employment by the first of July.  Earlier this week, I repeated my prayer with another offering.

    In this last month, I have felt a certain strengthening of ties, and finally swore myself to Him a few weeks ago.  Is this a direct result of these major life switches?  I don’t know.  We’ll be, however briefly, moving in with my in-laws – the only people who we are still “in the closet” with, religion-wise. Perhaps by strengthening these ties now, it will help prevent them from deteriorating later. Perhaps, though I doubt it would have happened.

    I do take additional comfort in it.  Hopefully it will help me get through the coming months…

  6. Pamela Avatar

    I underwent (suffered) the same thing, Teo. I had been in Colorado for 18 months, bought a house, worked hard to imbed myself in the budding brewing community of Fort Collins, had friends. But then a long, very painful slide occurred in which I lost my car and then my house. I wasn’t smart enough, or really did not have the resources, to jump from the sinking ship. I was fortunate that members of my Pagan community saved me from the streets. And then my Pagan community supported me emotionally until I could tread water on my own again. So, for me, it was not just faith, but my community.  But my faith is so much stronger now, likely because I feel that my needs (physical and emotional) were provided for by members of the community.

  7. John Beckett Avatar

    “Turnover” sucks.  It disrupts lives and forces you to rearrange your priorities from what gives you fulfillment and pleasure to doing what has to be done.  It hurts.  Any religion that tries to make it not hurt isn’t doing you any favors – it’s simply providing opium.

    As a Pagan, though, I know I have ancestors who faced far worse “turnover”:  they crossed the seas in tiny ships, defeated invading armies, survived famines and droughts, followed migrating herds and fled encroaching glaciers, and left the plains of East Africa for whatever lay to the North.  They survived all that or I wouldn’t be here – I can survive a job loss. 

    As a Pagan, I know there are gods and goddesses who have an interest in me.  I know they aren’t going to “fix” things for me – they may very well have caused the turnover in the first place for reasons I may never know.  But I know they’ve called me to do things for them, and I can’t do that divine work if my life is in shambles.  If my employer has just shattered my life, I have to put it back together as quickly and as strongly as I can so I can get back to the work the goddesses and gods are expecting me to do.

    I’ve made three cross-country moves because of “turnover”.  None of them have been easy – one was horrendous.  But I got through them all because I knew I could, and I because I knew I had to.

  8. Kourtney Avatar

    It was when a close friend of mine died very young and very unexpectedly that I started to look for something, anything, that may help me understand. I wasn’t raised in any one faith, just a vague ‘sure there is something out there’ sort of mind set. Which was great because it left me entirely open to learn about me and how I wanted to work faith into my life. It was when my friend died that I started that journey. It was when my daughter was born 10 weeks premature, weighing not even 2 lbs, that I found what I was looking for. Since that time I have turned to by faith countless times. I turn to my Gods for help and understanding, to my guides for guidance, and my faith in the whole thing, the reason for it all, to get me through it. If it weren’t for my faith I would be in a much darker place.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you, Kourtney, for sharing your story here. It’s truly touching, and a testimony to your deep connection to your Gods. I pray that you and your family enjoy good health, and the blessing of a Divine love in your hearts.

      Peace be unto you.

  9. Sincerelynight Avatar

      I have a transgender history and have always felt alone in the world.  Five years ago I was laid-off and have since been unemployed.  I am lucky in that my fiance has a job that supports both of us.  I transitioned genders from female to male 16 years ago and remember looking to my Christian upbringing and “faith” to help me survive.  It didn’t help and, in fact, simply gave me reasons to feel badly about myself.  I remembered the brief moment in my life, at age 13, when I’d begun to question Christianity and had “discovered” paganism.  So I took another look at paganism and found that allowing myself to openly embrace those things I’d always believed in anyway was the life-saver I’d been looking for.  Now, having lost my job 5 years ago, being past “employable’ age at 56,  having a credit history destroyed by late payments and cancelled credit cards due to unemployment, AND having a transgender history has pretty much ended my ability to walk among the ranks of the employed or to even apply for employment with any sense of possible acceptance.  I can honestly say that the most difficult part of any of this has been to learn to accept myself and find validation from within without having the external validation of a job or career with which to define myself or to give me a sense of place and purpose in the world.  The one sure thing I have had to rely on has been my connection to Mother Earth and to the Lady and the Lord.  Much like someone else said earlier, I have become a more spiritual being yet have moved very far away from belonging to a spiritual community.  I am a solitary practicing pagan and being so has saved my life.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Peace and blessings to you, Sincerelynight. Thank you for joining this conversation, and for sharing your experiences here.

      It saddens me that you didn’t have the support you needed when you made your transition, but it sounds as though you have a much better support system now. Your fiance, your connection to the Earth, the Lady, the Lord – all of this seems like the kind of relationship that fosters growth and good health, emotionally and spiritually. You have a solid, solitary practice that sustains you, and you are developing a level of acceptance and self-love that comes from inside of you, that isn’t dependent upon outside validation. These are admirable qualities, for sure.

      I hope that as you continute to grow into greater self-condifidence that you discover a passion that sustains you both spiritually and financially. I do not believe that 56 is “past employable” by any means, for I believe that your experiences — especially as someone who has lived through a broader spectrum of gender and identity — provide you with insights that can benefit the world. The key will be to find the place where those experineces are welcome, invited, and well suited.

      I pray that when you knock upon the door, it opens before you, and you are welcomed in.

      1. Sincerelynight Avatar

         Thank you Teo.   I truly appreciate that you took the time to respond, not only to me, but to the others who commented as well. 

        Like you, I also do not believe that 56 should be an age considered unemployable, but the reality is such that it is so.  I would also like to believe that my experiences in life have value that others might find useful, but again, the reality isn’t so, although I find it very refreshing that you think they might have benefit in the world.   At this point in my life I have decided to, once again, become a formal student and return to university to pursue personal interests.  I have yet to find a specific focus for a dissertation-type topic but generally speaking I hope to somehow involve my undergraduate Philosophy degree, my Masters in Criminology, my experience as a person who has transitioned genders, and my interests in theology (specifically as a pagan).  I hope that the next door I knock on opens widely and it is that of an institution of higher learning that will fund my PhD studies….so again, thank you for you kind response and Blessings Be to you and yours.

  10. MasonicTraveler Avatar

    Your questions are excellent ones. In many of the esoteric communities, they focus on the community so long as you can be or are a part of them. Very often this is necessitated through participation yet when these life events take place it is these very acts that may drop off because of shame, depression, or lack of means to support the community financially which in itself can leaded to more shame and depression for ones inability.

    Having gone through my own journey of change, I’ve found my sense of spirituality increased while my involvement in the spiritual community decreased, needing to focus more on life preservation than community growth. In part this happened because of the communal nature of the societies to which I belonged. The support just wasn’t there or at least I was unable to see it, which was my own failing.

    As to doing it better, perhaps we need to address these realities of change more openly and acknowledge them, especially for those going through them. And then try to work together to be there to help those in need in the way you did, by introductions, networking, and sharing one another’s stories.

    1. kadiera Avatar

      “I’ve found my sense of spirituality increased while my involvement in the spiritual community decreased, needing to focus more on life preservation than community growth.”

      Same here – when life gets complicated enough, making it out to things like chat nights and evening-long rituals is just not in the cards, but I have found self-care, through spiritual activities, to be an important part of coping with difficulties. Around here, a half hour ritual is often too long…there’s no way I could manage a weekend at a festival.

    2. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, MT, and for your kind words. I’m so grateful that you’ve joined the dialogue on Bishop In The Grove.

  11. Thelettuceman Avatar

    I recently had an issue where I was threatened with expulsion from my university because of issues I do not want to get into.  Thankfully, everything was resolved in my favor, but it was a weeks worth of absolute stress and terror (I lost 7 pounds in four days, I am the opposite of a stress eater).  I was speaking to my mother about it later and she said something along the lines of “I don’t mean to be insulting, but your “faith” did absolutely nothing for you there, you completely fell apart.”

    She’s one of those “The universe will provide” New Agey types now.  I’m a bit more literal.

    I think in some cases, Paganism is really a self-sufficient tradition.  We stress these things.  Many of our traditions across the whole of it  put supreme emphasis on our own self-reliance.  I know in my case, my gods are not the types to coddle and give out their favors with the frivolousness “Dear , I want a new car” prayers that so many people beg for.  Individuality and self-sufficiency are facets to my spirituality, reinforced because I’m a solitary practitioner and I don’t have the support network of anyone nearby.

    I also tend to compartmentalize things, and I realized that.  It’s not that I don’t have faith in this matter, but it’s the fact that I keep it separate from the aspects of my other lives.  Not hidden, I just tend to not immerse myself in it at all times.  Maybe that makes me a bad Pagan, I don’t know.  That’s the way it has developed lately.   But when I have issues that are up to circumstances I have absolutely no control I pray and offer for the winds of fortune to possibly blow my way. 

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you so much for this comment, and for sharing your story here. I hope that since the situation as your university is resolved you’ve been able to put back on that 7 pounds! Eat! (he says in the voice of his grandmother)

      You bring up a very intersting idea, TLM, and I’m not sure that I believe self-reliance, in any or all cases, is even possible. I think we *believe* we are self-reliant and self-sufficient (I know I often do), but there are ways that we are interconnected and reliant upon other beings that are undeniable. We don’t exist in a vacuum; we exist in an ecosystem.

      I say all of that not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with the seemingly self-reliant appoach you (or I) have taken. I’m just inviting us both to consider that we may need more support than we often think.

      I wonder, too, if there’s a lesson hidden in your impetus to pray. Perhaps, as another contributor to the conversation suggested, keeping a regular practice might allow us to stay “in the flow of spirit.” I wonder what a regular practice might look like for you.

      P.S. You’re not going to find anyone here calling you a “bad Pagan”! 🙂

  12. David Salisbury Avatar

    I’m a big plan of prevention (in the spiritual context here). If I’m in the flow of spirit  before a crisis, I tend to have a much better time dealing with it than if I were experiencing a shaky time of practice prior. For me, committed daily practice means that when disaster strikes, I have a stable center point to work from. The crisis still sucks, but having that stable core of practice helps me see clearly enough to navigate through it with some clear vision.
    But sometimes when my practice slips up and something awful happens within that time (thankfully this has been rare), I turn not only to my practice, but to all the other things that support me that I don’t usually need to call on.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you so much for this comment. I’m glad you’re a part of the dialogue, David.

      This makes a lot of sense, David. It’s the holistic medicine approach: fight a cold by strengthening your immune system, stay healthy so that when you encounter illness you can fight it off. I suppose I see the “turnover” as the broken leg which happens to an otherwise healthy, holistically nurtured person. When the bone breaks, the bone is broken.

      But, even in that case, the care one provides themselves through a daily practice can speed up the healing. I, like you, am an advocate of a regular practice.

      I’m curious about the “other things that support me that I don’t usually need to call on.” Are these things spiritual in nature, or are you speaking more about a support system of people?

    2. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you so much for this comment. I’m always happy to hear your voice in the conversations here.

      What you say makes a lot of sense, David. It’s the holistic medicine approach: fight a cold by strengthening your immune system, stay healthy so that when you encounter illness you can fight it off. I suppose I see the “turnover” as the broken leg which happens to an otherwise healthy, holistically nurtured person. When the bone breaks, the bone is broken.

      But, even in that case, the care one provides themselves through a daily practice can speed up the healing. I, like you, am an advocate of a regular practice.

      I’m curious about the “other things that support me that I don’t usually need to call on.” Are these things spiritual in nature, or are you speaking more about a support system of people?

  13. Karen Avatar

    My layoff of 4 years ago was a trigger to me finding my faith again.   I had become so corporate and dead inside from over work, stress, and politics that I had nothing left.   Being laid off forced me to face what had become a wasteland in my spirit.   I reconnected with myself and found myself turning back to the spirituality I had dabbled in my early twenties.   After decades of trying to conform to what was considered the US-traditional “norms” I said to hell with that, it was killing me.    I discovered that what I had been interested in as a young adult was in fact called Paganism.   I will be forever grateful at being laid off.   It saved me.  

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for sharing your story, Karen. I’m grateful that you’re a part of this conversation, and I’m so glad for you that your “turnover” inspired the kind of faith-kindling introspection. Go to what gives you life, I say, and if your rediscovered Paganism is that source of life then pour your heart into it!

      Many blessings to you as you continue to grow on your spiritual path.