Devotional Practice

Sannion has suggested that many people are in need of some direction as to starting or maintaining a devotional practice. I am perhaps not the best guide in that my own practice is rather personalized and idiosyncratic. However, I thought I would give some examples of what I do nonetheless, in case it helps anyone. (Though please, please don’t just copy my examples unless they are truly directly relevant to your own practice and spiritual relationships – rather, use this as a way to spark ideas for the types of things you might do yourself. Devotional practice should be personal, and arise from your own understanding of and history with your deities.)

Some folks recently have described a single day in their practice, but each day is too different for me to do it that way. I don’t have many daily practices other than following certain taboos, a few simple things I always wear or do as I go about my day, that sort of thing. More and more, I have been led to a free-flowing sort of approach that tunes in and responds to the forces around me, rather than executing a pre-planned set of actions. This is actually trickier to do well, a balancing act. Ideally, it should lead to more devotional practice and magic, not less. I think I am only ready for this now because I spent so many years building a foundation.

One thing that helps me keep the balance is my schedule of holy days. Each month, certain days (calculated by the lunar calendar) are set aside to focus on certain gods or spirits. Right now, I have eight of these, but I’m always in the process of refining it. This ensures that I never go too long without giving Someone their due. It also keeps a sort of rhythm to my spiritual life, going through the cycle over and over. Added to this are festival days (which involve more elaborate and specific rituals and activities), which are more unevenly scattered across the year. Of course, even on a day with no special focus, I might end up doing major ritual or trancework. But here are some of the smaller things I do more often to maintain and deepen my devotional relationships.

Prayer Beads – I have a set of prayer beads I made about 5-6 years ago, where each god or spirit or group of spirits in my “personal pantheon” is represented by a different, symbolic bead (amber for Apollon, lava rock for chthonic Trophonios, etc.). I usually take these out on my walk to work in the mornings. I do not have set prayers. Often I simply pause at each bead and hail the entity, and perhaps talk to Them extemporaneously for a bit. Sometimes I ask for help with something, give thanks, etc. Sometimes I go through and with each one mention a certain type of thing sacred to Them, or recall the last devotional act I did for Them, or the next I plan to do, or something of that sort – almost a game, meant to keep my mind on these things. I find this practice nicely centers me in my web of divine relationships.

Clothing, Jewelry & Hair – On holy days, I always pay attention to what I wear, choosing the colors associated with that deity, and anything else that seems appropriate. No matter what day, there are certain colors and fabrics that are off-limits to me, and everything I wear must align with the aesthetics of my spirits (which have slowly become my own for the most part, but definitely didn’t start out that way). Every day, I braid my hair in some way – this began several years ago as a temporary devotional practice for one of my spirits, just something to be noticeable and remind me of him each day, but then I felt strongly that I should keep doing it, and I think of the braids as intertwining myself with my gods and spirits. It is also significant to choose to make that more important than any personal preferences as to how I wear my hair. I also choose my jewelry carefully – every single piece I own has meaning, usually directly connected to a specific entity, and which pieces I wear each day are my statement of intent. No matter what else, if I go outside the house I am wearing a ring for my Husband and one for Dionysos, and when I am in my home “alone” I wear a second ring for my Husband. I wear a small piece of jewelry when I go to bed each night to connect with my dream-spirit. I also have stretched ears, which I did on request from my spirits to symbolically open my hearing to Their voices, and only wear a few simple sets of plugs, having given up pretty earrings as a sacrifice. (I also have nearly 30 devotional tattoos which state my allegiances in a permanent manner on my skin, but while I have them every day, obtaining one is obviously a more special occasion.)

Images and Playlists – I keep a large folder of images that I find beautiful or powerful on my computer. I have them sorted into various folders, including ones for most of my gods and spirits. My usual screensaver is a random slideshow of all these images (since my computer is on for hours each day usually, it’s a nice way to be reminded of Them, and also useful occasionally for divination), but on holy days I set it to just the folder of that specific entity. Likewise, I keep playlists of music for each of Them and play them on Their holy days or when doing any sort of ritual for Them. I revise both of these periodically, as my relationships and understandings of Them change over time.

Shrines – I have shrines for all of my gods and spirits in my house, but some get a lot more use than others. Most are just placeholders of sorts, making a space in my home for Them and an appropriate place to leave offerings if necessary, but not a focus of worship, as a lot of my worship is done outdoors. The shrines for my Husband and Dionysos however have cushions in front of them and I often sit in front of the “activated” shrine (when the candles and incense are lit) and pray and commune with Them. All my shrines developed organically over many years – the items on them tend to have deep significance and I periodically review them to make sure they still represent my current view of Them. I try to personalize anything mass manufactured (for example, by painting common statuary), and mostly focus on unique items that have a history with us, even though those are usually much less spectacular (for instance, the small lump of white marble I found on the shores of Naxos on Dionysos’ shrine, or the bowl of unusual coins I have slowly accumulated for Hermes, or the special ritual pipe for my Husband made from a bone of His sacred animal). On holy days, I light up the appropriate shrine while I am home. But I also often do this whenever I’m feeling Their presence, or want to invite Their presence. Especially at night in a darkened house, the glow of the shrine draws all focus there.

Physical Offerings – I make both traditional and personal offerings to the gods regularly. At the very least, I do this on Their holy days, but with my core group I do it more often. These might include things like: alcohol (paying attention to both the type and even the picture on the label), flowers, incense, coins, stones, food, drink, etc. Each one has a wide variety of sacred symbolism to draw on. So I might pour out Stone IPA beer for Hermes, or leave figs on Dionysos’ shrine, or lay out a piece of honeycomb for the nymphs in some numinous spot outdoors. Aside from the shrines, repositories for my offerings might include bits of wild nature throughout the city, special trees or stones, the creek, or I might leave something on the street or at a crossroads, especially if it is for Hermes or might double as a glamourbomb for someone.

Activities – On holy days, and sometimes on other days that feel imbued with the presence of a certain god or spirit, I try to tailor every activity to Them – what book I read, what movie I watch, even what errands I do. I might save a shopping trip for Hermes’ day, or go out dancing on Dionysos’ day. I’ll start reading a book about sleep on the day for my dream-spirit, or start an art project on the day for my collective spirits who are closely tied to my artwork. I clean the house on the last couple days of the lunar month, in accordance with the practice of taking out the sweepings on Hekate’s deipnon.

Miscellaneous – I say a special prayer to Dionysos each time I consume any kind of intoxicant. On the full moon, I smudge all the animal spirits who live in my house in the form of pelts, taxidermy and bones. I only smoke cigarettes for ritualistic purposes in very precise circumstances, as per the taboo laid down by my spirits (or else I get rather ill). On certain holy days, I do not eat meat, due to Their wishes. On Apollon’s day, I have a special set of taboos and actions due to the oracular work. Almost all of my non-fiction reading is religious in nature, either overtly or somehow related to one of Their interests.  I am constantly open to receiving any omens or communications They might send me as I go about my day; I pay attention to things I see when I’m thinking of Them especially. I do divination when I need to know what They want or am not sure I’m receiving a message properly (and I find choosing the method of divination to be important in itself – runes for Odin of course, a fairytale Tarot deck for my spirits, a Greek mythology deck for my primary deities, etc.).

Hopefully that’s enough to paint a general picture of my approach to devotional practice. I would very much like to see more people writing about what they do.

~ by Dver on August 13, 2013.

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