A lot has changed in the five years since I first created Diary of a Disabled Person, so I decided to take a look back at content produced in my first two years of writing and update some of my earliest articles. So, in no particular order, let’s revisit Doctors, not Deities (originally published 18th February 2017).
Despite good intentions, disabled people have often found themselves at odds with people who pray for their healing, not for the act itself but the way in which it is done. There are many stories in the community where prayers were given without permission, often in public, and sometimes involving their personal space being invaded. I never mind people praying for me but I do prefer it to be done with my permission, and certainly not with the expectation that I will suddenly leap up from my wheelchair yelling about miracles. Chances are I’m liable to do this anyway, but not because I’m healed.
At the time of writing the original post I was predominantly basing my experiences on Christianity, the religion I was most closely connected to. Since that time I have developed an interest in witchcraft and Paganism, and revealed this interest in a blog post in early 2021. While I have sadly not had much opportunity to go to moots due to the pandemic, moots being the closest equivalent to a church service within the Pagan community, I have been openly involved with the community long enough to notice the differences in attitude towards disability between Christians and Pagans. This is not meant to lambast either faction, but is merely a series of observations I have made.
Within Paganism there are a plethora of healing spells and rituals; it is practically its own field of magical practice. While crystals and essential oils have gained a bad reputation due to their misuse and overuse, both of these components often play important roles within healing spells alongside other elements such as candles, tarot cards, and herbs. Depending on the cultural origin of a spell or the particular school of thought the practitioner subscribes to, healing rituals will look very different, but most share the concept of appealing to a divine being of some kind to aid the healing process; not so far off a traditional prayer as you might think. The main difference that I have observed between the Pagan and Christian communities in regards to healing is that Pagans will nearly always ask for permission to conduct the ritual or enter someone’s personal space, and the expectation of an instant cure is not used to put pressure on or demoralise the disabled person.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. I have many good friends who are Christian who have always been respectful and kind, and never put any pressure on me during healing prayers. Conversely, while it’s rare I have still had negative encounters with Pagans in this regard.
At a Pagan fair I attended close to Imbolc (February 1st) just before the pandemic reached the country, I was cornered by someone selling crystal bracelets and bombarded with intrusive questions about the nature of my disability. Fortunately, the friend I was with managed to extricate me from the situation, but had the seller had their way I would have come away with more bands around my arm than the Michelin Man. Perhaps they were just trying to sell their product, and almost definitely they meant well, but the experience was still an uncomfortable one.
The conclusion I have come to is that the God being prayed to and the items being used in the prayer don’t matter nearly as much as the way in which the prayer is conducted. It’s OK to pray for the healing of disabled people provided you get their permission first. Similarly, do not invade someone’s personal space without permission, and in general I would advise keeping these practices private rather than public.
And no matter the intention, please, please stop trying to heal strangers on the street.
Part 5 of the Revisited series is available here!