My Pagan Lent

Diving back into a cherished ritual of my childhood, as the woman I am today.

Kathryn Dickel
Pollinate Magazine
Published in
7 min readFeb 22


I started Catholic School pretty late in the game– 6th grade. Although I was born into Catholicism, my parents abrupt departure from their marriage at the same time I was supposed to be getting my first communion, at age seven, meant that I didn’t cross that important threshold and arrived at St. Theresa’s School without perhaps the most important sacrament under my belt. It was a blessing in disguise. My twelve year old soul was much more equipped to appreciate the story, theology and ritual behind the communion sacrament. To this day I’m not sure why the Catholic church lands this essential sacrament on children who couldn’t possibly understand the depth and breadth of its meaning. What I also encountered during this process was the Lenten ritual in its entirety, and I fell in love. Say what you want about the Catholic church, but Catholics know how to do ritual.

Lent is a 40-day cycle from February to April that observes the resurrection story of Jesus of Nazareth through a series of rituals. This story is the pinnacle of Christian faith in that it transforms Jesus into the full embodiment of God through the miracle of coming back to life after dying the horrible death of crucifixion; one of the most brutal forms of murder invented by humans.

For those of us on the mystical/esoteric side of theology spectrum, the story of Jesus is the story of love’s triumph over the plague of hatred. In this regard, humanity will always need this story. It is also a story that mirrors the annual miracle of earth’s resurrection as it returns every Spring from the death of Winter. A miracle that Pagans have been celebrating for millennia beyond Christianity. The miraculous energy of this time is reflected in the long ritual of the Islamic Ramadan as well. Whatever tradition you may practice, this incredible transition of death into life is about rebirth, redemption and renewal. It is ultimately a journey into the depth and complexity of hope.

I’ve been feeling the tug back into ritual observance of this miracle. I can feel it in my bones, from multiple directions. My history, my senses, my ancestors are all calling me to step into the rebirth cycle this year and I’m inviting you to come along. Below I have sketched out how I merged my multiple influences into a 40-day ritual of honoring death and opening to resurrection. My guides are referenced here, but I will give you a heads up, I always seem to find new guides when I commit myself to the journey of ritual.

As part of my pagan lent I will drop in now and again with updates, reflections and suggestions born from my own journey and will be happy to receive yours as well.

Initiate Yourself

As with most rituals, Lent starts with an initiation of the body in some fashion. It is called Ash Wednesday, when the mark of the cross is made with ash on the supplicants forehead. I actually still love the anointing of the forehead, or third eye, present in the Catholic tradition. Ashes are a symbol of preparation for new life. The ash of the burnt tree provides nutrients for the new sapling’s emergence. As we begin, we open our spirit eye for our journey. We give it the nutrients it needs to fuel the awakening of our soul’s seed. We embrace death as the giver of life. What will we let die in the next 40 days that will bring forward a new sapling? If you don’t have or want to use ash, consider anointing with oil of frankincense or a spring flower essence you are called too. I’ve also used a bath as an initiation practice.

Also remember we are in New Moon energy at the beginning of this Lenten Season. New moon energy is the energy of the dark and still womb. We can use this energy to set an intention for our next 40 days with the anointing.


Lent is a great opportunity to slow down and simplify your intakes of food, altering substances, information and digital interaction. As you build through the 40 days you can harness the restored energy these modalities provide for your rebirth. I already do intermittent fasting daily, but during lent I am going to try and extend that to Ramadan levels and hold off food until dinner (but stay hydrated). Another place I plan to ‘fast’ is with my phone. Try not picking up your phone for specific hours of the day/night.

Because I am a woman in American culture I am also going to pick a day or two in the week when I do not primp or apply make up. I’ve been working with this energy as I age, and want to give my struggle with beauty standards some extra focus during Lent.

All of these practices call us to sink into our bodies in a multitude of ways and do some ‘spring cleaning’. Centering your body for 40 days may help you feel the joy of simplicity and make room for new growth.

Gratitude Instead of Sacrifice

When I worked with the Ramadan ritual a few years ago my teacher emphasized the importance of cultivating gratitude through the ritual. You’ve heard the phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ right? In the Catholic tradition, followers are asked to sacrifice something such as not eating meat on Fridays. I prefer to step into the gratitude of Ramadan as opposed to sacrifice of a traditional Lent.

This is how I approach the transformation of sacrifice to gratitude. I pick something that I take for granted because it is normally so present for me and I center it on Fridays. I exalt it. Perhaps it is a food item and instead of eating it without consciousness, I withhold from it every day except Friday, then I celebrate it. Perhaps I choose a friend that I love and adore but that is not in my world on a regular. I reach out on Friday for a phone call, a meal or to write them a letter so they may be reminded of my gratitude for them. The power here is in changing your habits so that you can change your consciousness, it’s not to abstain from something to reinforce self loathing.


Speaking of habits one of the most powerful parts of lent or Ramadan is the long game aspect of it. When you do something every day for 40 days it takes hold. So pick something and do it EVERY DAY of Lent. Light a candle, take a walk, pray, journal — whatever it is, do it religiously during your journey. During Ramadan prayer is performed every morning at dawn. Being consistent with the time and process around the ritual is even better.

Ritual does two things for me during Lent. It provides grounding and discomfort. A few years ago I wrote a piece on gratitude every day of Ramadan. By day 18 I was struggling and wanted to quit, like really quit. I leaned in all the way to the struggle. I felt it, I wrote about it, I pondered it. I had some real talking to’s with myself to get through that discomfort. When I got to the other side of it I experienced a level of empowerment I hadn’t felt before. It built confidence inside of me for every struggle I’ve had since.

Make Room for the Mourning and Discomfort

In the Catholic tradition, at the end of the Lenten season is Holy Week (from Palm Sunday through Easter). This journey within the journey focuses our attention in the brutality and darkness of Jesus’ murder, his forgiveness and eventual resurrection. For me this is a singular gift within Lent. A time where we can step into the hurt we have felt and caused over the prior year. We have an opportunity to mourn what was lost or taken. We have an opportunity to ask for forgiveness, externally or internally will do. We have a time to be in relationship with deep discomfort. We don’t have to do this alone either. We can reach out to each other in this processing. What’s important to understand is that we cannot be reborn until we’ve embraced death. We can not heal until we’ve processed the hurt.

Prepare with Pleasure

Lent often gets a bad wrap for the aspect of struggle that comes up, but there is another side– preparation with pleasure. Every sleeping garden bed of winter needs preparation before planting and so do we. We till the hardened soil by giving and receiving love, during Lent you can till your hardened soul in this way. We add nutrients to the soil, so feed your soul with music, poetry and simple pleasures. We cover the soil, don’t be afraid of the dark and cover your soul with slow living. We plant the seed, by the end of our journey you will plant the seeds born of your intention at the beginning of the journey. What ways can you nurture love of self and others for the next 40 days?

I wish you a beautiful, intense and transformative journey my friends. Keep in touch!

©Kathryn A. Dickel, 2023



Kathryn Dickel
Pollinate Magazine

Writing on Spirituality, Relationships, Culture. Support: https://medium.com/@kathryndickel/membership TW:@Kathryn Dickel IG/FB: @pollinateritual