COVID-19. It has upended and ended lives. Losing jobs, losing loved ones, losing our minds. I have been fortunate thus far to not have lost anyone I know, and I am I still employed. But that third thing. . .that one had been slipping away from me. My existing anxiety and depression have been ratcheted up to unseen heights by the existential dread of a world in fear, in stasis, in exhaustion, in chaos. A corrupt President fans the flames of a global health crisis into a political firestorm of lies, manipulation, and greed. My brain tells me: What’s it all for? Why get up in the morning? Why get out of bed? I have a job but not much work to do. I am loved and not alone yet desperately yearn for those seen only as words and faces on screens. My moods swing wildly with good hours and bad hours; emotions howling through my body and brain as the winds literal and metaphorical howl outside my window. And I know I am not alone in feeling these feelings. For so many of us, life has become worry, fear, paranoia, discomfort, isolation, boredom, overwork, no work–how can we make sense of what is happening? How can we connect with one another in authentic and meaningful ways when we must stay at home or stand at least six feet apart? How can we find order from this chaos?
Who are we? From whence do we come? What is the story of our people?
A great misty cloud had gathered together in the void
Swirling and spiraling; spiraling and swirling
Drawing ever-in upon itself.
At its center radiance shone forth
And drove outward the surrounding cloud
Gathering the waters together here below.
And so it was that the stuff of creation drew apart
To form the Fire Above
And the Waters Below.
The Solar Fire warmed the Cauldron of Creation
And stroked upon its waters with thunderbolts
And begat upon it Life.
And the Life begat the Creatures
And the Creatures begat the Ancestors
And the Ancestors begat Us– the Living People.
Upright like you, Great Tree
We bear upon us the mark of Creation
Then, now, and for all time.
Rooted in the ancestral waters of the World Below,
Spanning this Middle-World of form
And reaching ever-upward to embrace the Fire above.
These words were written by my dear friend and spiritual mentor the late Eric Canali, better known as Earrach of Pittsburgh. Earrach grew up on the suburban edges of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania playing in the woods and springs behind his parents’ house. His Druid name “Earrach,” spelled E-A-R-R-A-C-H, itself means “spring,” in Gaelic. As he writes in an essay he calls “The Yearning,”
When I was a boy, young as perhaps only five or six, I had begun playing in a stream that seeped down through the woods covering the hillside behind my house. That little stream winds far back into my earliest memories. I’ve always felt especially fortunate that I had it there to visit and explore, and also for the most wonderful blessing of all: yes, I had at my access the spring from which it flowed. . . .As I grew older, the richness of the landscape around my childhood home became even more valuable to me. In my teens the mystical, poetic part of me that was developing came to further rely on it. Through wave after wave of discovery, inspiration, and heartbreak it remained the palette upon which I mixed the ever-changing colors of my vision of the world. 
This poetic-minded lover of nature found his way to astronomy and later to Druidry, specifically a form of NeoPagan Druidry that came to be called Ár nDraíocht Féin or “Our Own Druidry,” more commonly referred to by the acronym ADF. In reaction to some of the other types of NeoPaganism flourishing in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, ADF’s founder grounded ADF in scholarship and gave it a guiding mission of performing public ritual. To those ends he designed a historically-inspired ritual format to be used by the fledgling Druid congregations he called “Groves.” I first attended a ritual at Earrach’s Sassafras Grove in 1997, and celebrating the Sabbats, or eight High Days of the NeoPagan Wheel of the Year, whenever I could with Earrach and Sassafras became part of my personal practice even as I continued to identify as a Witch to those I was also getting to know in the greater Pittsburgh Pagan Community.
And that’s how found myself co-leading a Druid rite as part of a series of “Unity Rituals” meant to bring that community together even while celebrating its differences. I had been to some Sassafras rituals and had paid attention, so they made me High Priestess along with a High Priest who had actually been the first person to introduce me to Sassafras and to Earrach. But he bowed out early in the planning process, and I ended up co-officiating with someone who knew less about Druidry than I did. Since I was now “the expert,” I realized I had to turn to the real expert, and that meant Earrach. Specifically I needed to understand this whole “Fire, Well, and Tree thing.”
You see, most NeoPagan rituals share the feature of creating sacred space during the worship ceremony. We do this for reasons both theological and practical, the practical being that Wicca, from which modern Paganism grew, had been a secretive religion, primarily practiced in living rooms and backyards, and there weren’t enough NeoPagans in general, let alone those who wanted to hold rituals for the public, to fund and sustain a public place of worship. The theological part stems from Masonry and Western Ceremonial Magic, which heavily influenced Gerald Gardner, the founder of what we know as Wicca today. In magic-heavy practices during which one can become quite vulnerable, practitioners have found it prudent to protect themselves by “casting a circle.” In Wicca we draw this circle with a knife, literally cutting away our own little pocket reality; “a time that is not a time, a place that is not a place.”
In wanting to clear away the Judeo-Christian magical “baggage” of Wicca’s roots, ADF’s founder sought to find a more authentically Pagan way of creating sacred space. Thus he hit upon what we call today the ritual step of “Recreating the Cosmos.” Many pre-Christian Indo-European cultures, and others besides, share the belief that the ordered universe was created out of chaos at a sacred center. By putting ourselves in tune with that sacred center, we too can form order out of chaos—we can create a sacred space from the profane, ordinary world around us. We also consecrate the time of the ritual by connecting it with this original sacred act performed by gods or heroic ancestors (depending on the culture) in a mythic, sacred time. In this ritual model, each action we perform in the first part of the ritual is a step on the journey from a profane to a sacred space and time. As philosopher and historian of religion Mircea Eliad so eloquently describes this journey in his book The Myth of the Eternal Return:
The road is arduous, fraught with perils, because it is, in fact, a rite of passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to the divinity. Attaining the center is equivalent to a consecration, an initiation; yesterday’s profane and illusory existence gives place to a new, to a life that is real, enduring, and effective (18).
As Earrach explained to me as I sought his aid in trying to lead that Druid Unity Ritual, in ADF practice, we most commonly imagine the Center as the World Tree growing as an axis mundi or “world axis.” The Tree’s roots are embedded in the Waters below and its leaves embrace the Fires above—the Waters and Fires being the essential elements of creation. The Tree connects the Upperworld of Fire, the Underworld of Water, and the Middle Realm of Earth—our world. We make invocations to the Fire, Well and Tree and offerings to representations of each, and through will, or magic, we turn the symbols into living embodiments. Sanctity radiates out from this sacred center, much as the heat of a campfire radiates out to warm those sitting around it. Through this sacred canter, we connect to all sacred centers similarly established throughout space and time. We often call this place “The Crossroads of Creation.”
Land beneath me, sky above me, land about me, fire within.
My blood is the waters of the Earth, those which flow and nourish.
My mind is the fires of the Heavens, those which burn bright and clear.
My spine is the great tree that grows between the two, uniting all worlds within the embrace of its roots and branches.
Standing at the center, as the center, the very crossroads of creation.
So be it. 
The writer, magician, and ritualist Nicole Egelhoff wrote these words to establish sacred space and time in her daily devotions. Like in Earrach’s creation myth, she compares the human spine to the World Tree, but she goes a step further in hallowing herself as the Well, Fire, and Tree. I’ve used this in rituals with Nicole over some years now, and when I set up an altar at my partner’s place and reestablished my daily practice when the stay-at-home order in my county began, I found those words coming to my mind more and more often. Orienting and consecrating myself as the axis mundi of The Cosmos helped me to reflect on the fact that I am the axis of my own cosmos, a thought that brought me profound peace in the midst of the COVID-19-induced anxiety and fear. As above, so below, right. Macrocosm and microcosm. If gods and heroes created cosmic order from cosmic chaos as Eliade would say in illo tempore, or “in that time,” I can create order from the chaos around me in this time.
So when tidying the apartment, pulling weeds and cutting back dead growth in my garden, folding laundry, putting away dishes, clearing out my email inbox, or organizing a closet or drawer I seek to stay mindful of the power of these actions on my mental and physical well-being. When I’m particularly focused, I’ll find myself repeating the mantra, “chaos from cosmos” in my head as I do these tasks, knowing that they are important to perform in and of themselves but are also part of the greater whole of putting myself in order. I see many manifestations of this concept in the actions of other during the chaos of this pandemic such as the pharmacy technicians that ensure we get our meds refilled, the sanitation workers who keep our trash and recyclables from piling up, the public health educators and policy makers who provide knowledge and guidance to keep us safe, and the health care providers helping to restore and ensure our health. I see it in those who are sewing masks, learning to homeschool their children, putting on clothes to telework, and in those who are simply managing to get out of bed in the morning. Each adaptation, each regulation, each masking and handwashing become sacred acts of recreating the cosmos of our society and our lives.
We can similarly use the concept of the Sacred Center as a tool to combat the isolation, disconnection, and loneliness we are experiencing during this time. By establishing ourselves at the Sacred Center, we can connect to all Sacred Centers. People in far flung parts of the globe, each connecting themselves to the Sacred Center, can meet up with one another at the Crossroads of Creation, a place that is, as Eliade says, “real, enduring, and effective.” Whether you experience this as a psychological phenomenon, a spiritual phenomenon, or both, this technique brings those engaging in it together a much greater sense of being in one another’s presence than interacting through technology alone. We can use this technique without the technology as well. The Crossroads of Creation are both a sacred place and a sacred time. If each member of your group intentionally meets at the Sacred Center together for a specific purpose, they can connect at the same sacred time even if they are connecting at different temporal times, allowing the group to work together even if physically alone.
I urge you to give these techniques a try. A simple way to begin is by engaging in the well-known meditative practice of imagining yourself as a tree, with roots leading down into the Well below and branches reaching up to touch the Fire above, and connecting yourself to these cosmic elements. Allow the Waters and Fire to combine within you and relish that moment of creation. Then let the Waters recede back into the Earth and the Fire radiate back out into space, but notice how you have been changed by the experience.
We stand now in the Middle World, with the beauty of the Earth, the land, sea, and sky, about us.
Oh mighty World Tree, sacred to those who came before us, you stand at the center of all creation—the crossroads of time and space. Proudly you stand as we stand, connecting us, this time and this place to all that has come before and all that will ever become.
Sacred Tree: We honor you!
The roots of the Tree delve deep, through layers of earth and layers of time, to touch the primordial Waters below. As we spring from the Ancestors, so do all waters spring from you—flowing forth to fill the sacred springs, rushing rivers, and languid lakes. The oceans that sustain us and the rains that nourish us find their source in you—the Well of memory and inspiration.
Sacred Well: We honor you!
The branches of the Tree grow skyward, through layers of clouds and vastness of space, to touch the celestial Fire above. As we bear the divine spark within us, so do all fires burn with your sanctity—blazing brightly to warm our homes, cook our food, and gather the folk. The fires that light our shrines and spirit our offerings find their source in you—the Fire of piety and creation.
Sacred Fire: We honor you!
Sanctified we stand at the Center of the World
Expanded below and above
Now we prepare to do our work
With strength and passion, and love.
So be it!
 Earrach of Pittsburgh. “The Creation Myth,” 1995. The Book of Sassafras (blog), Accessed on 3 May 2020: https://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/p/creation-myth-in-neo-druidic-liturgy.html
 Earrach of Pittsbugh. “The Yearning,” 3 March 2011. The Book of Sassafras (blog), Accessed on 3 May 2020: https://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/search?q=the+yearning
 Eliade, Mircea. The Myth of Eternal Return. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.
 Nicole Egelhoff. Personal communication. April 17, 2020.