Mike has been playing The Witcher 3, which I deeply enjoy – a fantasy RPG where you play as a misunderstood monster hunter with unique magical abilities? Of course I love it – but I also appreciate it on a deeper level because it takes the invisible, intangible pains of the world and physically manifests them as monsters.
In the world of Witcher 3, the invisible experiences we feel viscerally, such as the loss of a loved one, a spurned lover, desire for revenge, become tangible. Monsters embody these emotions and tragedies to literally haunt the survivors.
Reconciling these pains then also becomes physical. It is far easier to take a sword to a demonspawn than it is to confront deeply seated fear and guilt, or loss, or regret.
The truly beautiful symbolism isn’t the fighting of these monsters however, but the in-game rituals that facilitate spiritual recovery through physical actions. The physical steps act as a guide of sorts, or granting permission to move on. “It’s just a few steps here; repeating a few words there. You can do this.” And in the act of moving through that physical space, deep emotional truths are confronted.
“Sometimes we can minister to the spirit through the body, and sometimes we can minister to the body through the spirit.”Gretchen Rubin
In a particularly tragic point in the storyline, Geralt (the Witcher) discovers that a husband’s repeated abuse has caused his wife to miscarry and then flee. In his shame, the husband tosses the remains of the stillborn aside, and turns to heavy drinking; without a proper burial, the miscarried fetus becomes a botchling, a cursed creature that preys on pregnant women.
With Geralt’s intervention, the father performs a naming ritual, in which he carries the botchling to the home; names her Dea, as he would have in life; acknowledges the loss and his wrongdoings; accepts her as family; and finally gives her a proper burial under the threshold. The botchling then transforms into a lubberkin – “a guardian spirit of the hearth that watches over the family it never knew in the house it could never call home.”
I find myself longing for a way to react tangibly to COVID-19. There is no literal demon to confront. It is an invisible threat with visible consequences; our tools to combat it are social distancing, self care, and the establishment of new normals to make it day to day. Increasingly, our daily structure is defined by us, and not whatever obligations we carried before.
One day at a time, as best we can.