Another Day in Another Life…

Previous incarnation of Dionysos’ shrine, since simplified (and expanded)

There seems to be a new trend in the pagan blogosphere of sharing what one’s daily devotions look like.  I like it.  (Plus, it’s far healthier than the other bandwagons I’ve jumped on lately.)

Many who have shared are hardcore mystics and spirit workers.  My practice is much simpler than theirs, though I wouldn’t quite call myself a lay person – I feel called to a much more involved practice, but I am only just beginning on my path.  (Despite 20+ years of paganism!)

So here’s what my day looks like right now, religiously:

I wake up in the morning, get a cup of coffee and check out my blog roll.  Often this means I’ll quickly find myself bogged down in the pagan dramas of the day.  To avoid this, I try to pick one or two things to read that look inspiring or at least interesting.

(After all, I can always pop me some popcorn and read the train wreck later if I really want to.)

Once I’m fully awake I shower or – depending on the occasion and need – at least wash my face and hands.  Then I dress in my normal clothes for the day, gather my offerings and go to Dionysos’ shrine.  I’ll take a minute to prepare the shrine – tidying up, putting incense in place, lighting the candle – then I step away.

Then its time to get my head in order.  I’ll go over any prayer I intend to recite in my mind, then let it go.  I focus my thoughts I Dionysos alone.  When I feel ready, I approach the shrine (a processional of maybe 4 steps, but it is effective) and raise my arms in prayer.

I am not a poet.  I begin by reciting a written prayer, usually Orphic hymn #30, but others – ancient or modern – as I feel inspired to.  (If I make a mistake in the recital, I will step away from the shrine and begin again, unless the spirit draws me onrward.)

Then I offer thanks.  I do this in my own words.  I thank Him for the many blessings He bestows on the world and upon myself, and for specific gifts and blessings as appropriate.  I asking Him to accept my offerings, and with them my love and gratitude.

For offerings, in the morning I always offer incense.  I will add to this as inspired – most often wine, of course, but other items as well.  They are usually pretty traditional.

After I make the offerings, I speak to Him from my heart, offering praise and sometimes discussing my concerns of the moment – though I usually leave those for less formal prayers throughout the day.

I like to chose and epithet of His and spend a few moments in meditation on it.  It will stay with me throughout the day, keeping my thoughts with Him.  (I haven’t been doing this part as much as I’d like of late, though.)

I offer praise a final time and leave the shrine (backing away the first few steps as I believe it is rude to turn one’s back on a God.)

If it is a morning where I will have to leave for work right away, I will return and blow out the candle immediately.  Otherwise I leave it burning at least until the incense is done.

Then I finish my mundane rituals for the morning – make up, shoes, occasionally even breakfast – and spend some time with my family.

Before I leave for work (or on days off, immediately following my time with Dionysos) I approach my hearth shrine – the one in the public portion of the house – tidy it, light the candle, and make sure offerings are in reach.

Then I step away again and focus my thoughts on the Gods.

I return to the shrine and pray, using some variation of the following (my own, pardon the plainness):

I pray to Hestia, the great Goddess of the Hearth and Home

I pray to the household Gods and the Agathos Daimon

I pray to the Theoi who dwell on Olympus, greatest Gods of all

I thank You for another day, and for the many blessings you bestow upon the world and upon myself and my family

I will add my thanks for specific blessings as appropriate.

I then ask Them to accept my offerings, always incense and pure water* but often other things as well – olive oil, herbs, essential oils.

I pray that They will watch over, bless, and protect myself, my family, and our home on that day and the days to come.

Then I will offer praise to them, and back away from the shrine.  (Returning to blow out the candle immediately if I am leaving right away.)

Throughout the day, I will offer informal prayers to the Gods as inspired, often speaking to Dionysos rather casually about my thoughts and concerns or simply that might be of interest to Him.  I try to be open to His (and Their) presence in the world, though the challenges of modern life make this easier said than done.

When I visit places that remind me of him I will offer a greeting – for example, there is an “ivy tree” on the path I walk from my work to the bank every week.

(That’s pretty much all I do every day right now.  The following are practices I have done but have become sporadic due to the demands of life.  I am in the process of reinstating them.)

When I return home, I will burn incense at the hearth shrine for the Agathos Daimon.

Before retiring for the evening, I will return to Dionysos’ shrine for “quality time.”  (Not that the morning devotions aren’t “quality” as well.)  This is where I offer wine or whatever spirits I have on hand and share a glass with Him.  I will meditate, dance, listen to music.  I try to remain open to Him throughout the rest of the evening as I go more mundane things and “family time.”

If I have any questions for Him I will mull them over in my mind as I fall asleep, hoping for a moment of clarity between sleeping and waking.  I rarely have dreams from any of the Gods.

That’s it.  I’ve felt a pull for quite some time to begin honoring my ancestors and beloved dead, but I’m at a loss how to begin.  The same is true of the nymphs and land spirits, and other deities I wish to honor more directly.

I will do these things in time, but right now I have to remind myself that I am still recovering and my practice is growing slowly.  Rather than jump in with both feet and fail – as I have done many, many times in the past – I am trying to establish practices and show that I can stick with them before adding on something new.

So, um, anyone else feel like sharing?

*On water offerings:  I know that several people take issue with this practice on the grounds that in the west, pure water is so abundant and readily available that it is not a real sacrifice.  I choose to make these offerings for the following reasons:

     – Water is a powerful substance.  Without it, there would be no life on earth.  It is one of the greatest gifts of the Gods.

     – I understand “sacrifice” to mean to make holy.  Any sense of hardship on the part of the one making the offerings is secondary at best.

     – I have been poor enough in the very recent past – while living in a desert no less – that, even if I were to subscribe to the more common meaning of “sacrifice,” I have no illusions about the ready availability of necessities like food, water, and shelter.  Even in the industrial west.

Anthesteria 2013

I have to confess, I’d been worried about this Anthesteria.  I wanted to celebrate it properly, but I just didn’t have the emotional or financial resources to put together a major ritual at the moment, much less a three day festival.  In the end, I decided to keep things casual and see what happened.

The first day, Pithoigia, went beautifully.  Early in the day, I found the ideal wine – a locally made organic sangiovese, well within my very limited budget.  (I’ve never met a red wine grape I didn’t like, but I’ve got a soft spot for sangiovese.)  I live well north of the wine regions of California, so I had expected any local wines to be hard to find or pricey, likely both.  I took the fact that this was neither, and my favorite varietal to boot, as a very positive omen.

I gathered some ivy and wild flowers for the shrine.  The flowers were still pretty sparse at this time of year, so I supplemented them with clippings from some neighbor’s gardens.  The result was quite lovely. (I took some pictures, but the only ones that turned out were of the dolls.)

My husband joined me for the celebration itself.  We opened and drank the new wine, ready poetry in honor of Dionysos, listened to the Doors, and danced badly.  Later, there were more intimate celebrations.

A triumphant night!

Day two, Khoe, was problematic.  I had a job interview first thing in the morning, and guests joining us for dinner later in the day, so I was unable to really get in the proper frame of mind.  I made dolls for Erigone during my dinner party (much to the amusement of my guests), and my husband and I made plans to take them to the park and hang them later that night.

Unfortunately, but the time our guests had gone home, Francis was feeling quite sick.  So ill, in fact, that I wasn’t comfortable leaving him alone.  I had to improvise.

I went alone to my shrine and performed my rite in total silence.  This was eerie and surprisingly effective.

Drinking wine with Orestes and musing on his dilemma – divided loyalties and obligations.  I thought on my own obligation and desire to be a good wife conflicting that night with the desire and obligation to be a good devotee of Dionysos.  I was grateful that, unlike Orestes, I was able to come upon a compromise that I felt did right by both.  I drank my wine – all in one swallow, which was an interesting experience – and shouted praise to Dionysos.

Afterwards, I went outside in the rain and hung the effigies I had made earlier that night from a small tree in the yard.  In lieu of swinging for Erigone, I made a vow to write a post for this blog – thus remembering her and sharing her story with those who perhaps did not know it.

On the final day, Khytroi, Francis and I watched Schindler’s List and remembered the dead.  I thought of my immediate ancestors, those I had known in life, and mourned the fact that I could only remember my grandparent’s faces as they existed in photographs.  Then I got a very clear image of my grandmother laughing happily.  They all started to laugh – my grandfather, dad, my uncles – it made me feel much better.

Later, I made panspermia and took it to the cemetery to offer it to Hermes and the spirits of the dead.  I was planning to visit a particular spot in the cemetery that was off to one side and shielded by some trees.  I am still a little self conscious about public ritual and figured this would offer some privacy.  When I got to the cemetery, the trees in question – which I had only half remembered – turned out to be giant pines, covered in climbing ivy.  Again, a good omen.

As soon as I made the offering and directed the keres “to the doors”, I felt lightened.  The headache I had had all day eased up.

I could feel spring at hand.

Apologies

There I was, all excited about starting the Pagan Blog Project 2013 from the beginning so I wouldn’t have to play catch up, and what do you know?  It’s January 23 and I’m already two weeks behind.  Going on three.

In my defense, the job search has been eating up all of my time.  I think I’ll actually have more time for blogging and other things once I’m working full time again.

This month I celebrated Hecate’s Deipnon, Noumenia, and made libations to the Agathos Daimon for the first time and a possible result is that my luck has taken a major turn for the better.  I feel like a job – which would be the major turning point – is just around the corner.

In the meantime, I’ll be playing catch up for awhile, just like last year.

Why I Celebrate Christmas

christmas 2007

Aubs at Mystical Bewilderment made an interesting post recently about pagans and polytheists attitudes towards Christmas.  I touched on the following briefly in the comments to that post, but I wanted to elaborate here.

I had a great time celebrating Christmas this year. It was the first Christmas I got to spend with my mother in over 20 years, and she really enjoyed how much we were all getting into it.

So, part of the reason I celebrate is because Christmas is fun and it makes the people I love happy. And though, while I was growing up, my mother never let us forget that Christmas was about Christ first and foremost, our family’s celebrations were never overtly religious.  She’s the quiet sort of Christian.  We did all the secular stuff – tree, lights, cookies, presents, dinner, more cookies – but we never went to church.cookies The closest we ever came to actual religion on Christmas was one small nativity scene (a gift from my paternal grandmother who was afraid for me being raised by “heathens”) and some of our favorite carols. So, like Aubs, I don’t come with the religious hang ups many people have about the holiday.

For the last few years prior to this one, I’ve been feeling a strong desire to celebrate Christmas.

Not in spite of my religious beliefs, but because of them.  This is not from some misguided idea that Christmas is “really” a pagan holiday and should be reclaimed in the name of the Goddess – or whatever.  Rather, it has to do with my feeling of obligation to my community and a henotheistic, pluralist view of deity.

It started about the time I began looking towards the Ancient Greeks as an inspiration for my practice.  One of the reasons I’m skeptical about reconstructionism is that many of the ancient polytheistic faiths, and certainly that of ancient Greece, were religions of the polis.  The whole city was involved in each festival, every citizen was obligated to play their part.  With the exception of the few household practices that we know about, this does not translate well to a few thousand practitioners spread all across the globe.

But my physical community does have one holiday a year that a large percentage of the population participates in.  Even many who aren’t Christian partake in the festivities.  Living in Arizona, when most of my neighbors were immigrants from Catholic countries and I was spending a lot of time socializing with an – also largely Catholic – Irish community it seemed only natural to join with them in their celebration by attending midnight mass on Christmas eve.  This year, back home in California, watching the lights go up all over the neighborhood I felt as though I was neglecting some sort of communal obligation until I put mine up.

Many ancient polytheists were pluralistic, to varying degrees.  It was OK to honor the Gods of one’s neighbors as long as one did not neglect a duty towards one’s own Gods.  I personally believe that more Gods exist than those I worship, and it’s never a bad idea to be on a deity’s good side.  So, unless expressly forbidden, I see no harm in singing an occasional hymn to the Christ Child.

Even less harm in decorating a tree and seeing my mother’s smile when we light it up.

P – Pagan Piety (PBP week 32)

Piety gets a bum rap these days.

When someone is described as “pious” the intention is usually derogatory.  It is taken to mean that they have a holier-than-thou attitude or are hypocritical – faithful in action, but not in spirit. Also, because it is usually used to refer to members of the majority faith (Christianity in the US), members of the pagan minority who have had bad experiences with that faith or it’s members can sometimes react negatively to the word, even when it is intended to be complimentary.

Yet in pagan religions that place a large emphasis on practice, piety again becomes a real virtue.

To use the ADF definiton, piety in a pagan sense is “correct observance of ritual and social traditions; the maintenance of the agreements, (both personal and societal), we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.”

I like this definition, though I would prefer one that also addressed intent, (though not belief.) Because most neopagans come from cultures heavily influenced by the monotheistic faiths, we often bring with us their idea of pious intentions in addition to pious action. This may not be historical, but I believe it is a good addition. A proper relationship with the gods begins in the mind and heart of the individual.

As for societal traditions and agreements, that’s complicated.

In ancient times, piety was an important civil obligation, not just a religious one. The success or failure of the society as a whole depended on every member maintaining their proper relationship with the gods.

Today it is different. Worshippers of the old gods are a tiny minority in their communities. In the west, our societies are either purely secular or are under allegiance to the god of Abraham. If I believed that I was responsible for maintaining the agreements that my society has made with the divine, I’d be obligated to be Christian and to follow the rituals and traditions of that faith.

So how to be properly pious in a social sense? A few ideas come to mind. We can define our society more narrowly – taking on the obligations of our family, coven, or other group. We can, in the course of honoring our ancestors, try to make good on obligations that they weren’t able to fulfill. We can also partake in the religious festivals of the community in which we live, as much as outsiders are welcome to. Because of the pluralist nature of much polytheism, many pagans have no issue attending rituals for deities that they do not personally worship. For those of us comfortable with the idea, this courtesy could be extended to the God of Abraham – for example, by attending mass on Christmas and Easter without participating in communion.

I think the most important aspect of piety for modern pagans is the reminder that we should be actually practicing our religion. It is easy for so many pagans, myself included, to get wrapped in study, in learning what the ancients did (and then blogging about it). But it cannot end there.

A religion that exists only in the mind of the believer is not a religion.

And, to borrow a Christian aphorism, the road to Hel is paved with good intentions.

 

(Post written and originally published 9/29/12.  Backdated to reflect PBP due date.)