My spiritual practice has changed its course over many years. What once began as a daily meditation, then grew to hours of religious studies, which in turn morphed into honoring the Gods, and eventually filling up my calendar with Sabbats and Esbats. Every day had a correlated meaning, every element a symbol, and every goal a deity to invoke to help me reach it. And this was before all the intricacies of spellwork was adopted into my repertoire. I was overwhelmed.
It was too much spirituality for this pagan. I had become bogged down and cluttered. I had too many tools I didn’t need. My collection of blessed candles multiplied like tribbles. Crystals collected dust bunnies. My altar had grown into a monstrosity and had runneth over onto nearby tables and shelves. Taking a step back I thought, “When did my spiritual practice mutate from a sound foundation into a horde of STUFF?”
A change needed to be made, so last year I stripped my spirituality back down to its Foundation. It took me a while to figure out exactly what that Foundation was. For most people that focus is on what’s innately important to them (Inner Peace, Balance, Unconditional Love, etc.). I discovered, after watching my ADF boyfriend perform his weekly ritual, I was innately drawn to Devotion. All my life I have felt a yearning, a palatable pull, to be connected to God. Whether you call that God Jesus, Jehovah, Goddess, the Great Spirit, Universe, or your Mom. Regardless of the name, I wanted a relationship with the Powers That Be (PTB).
So, I donated my various wands and athames to a local group. Statuary of deities I felt no longer connected to went up for auction. The tribble candles were given away and replaced with thin, beeswax tapers used in Greek Orthodox ceremonies. My crystals, on the other hand, were cleaned and carefully stored away because I still use them for meditative purposes (Or creative ones like the Carnelian and Tiger’s Eye bracelets I’m wearing as I write this). My devotional spaces were finally able to breathe. And so was I.
Since that change, I have refocused my intent on cultivating my Devotion; building a relationship with not only my Gods, but with my Ancestors and Totems. I treat Them with the same courtesy and respect as I would any guest visiting my home. I begin by creating a welcoming atmosphere at their Shrine and inviting Them to attend. Next I thank Them for the good fortune I have recently experienced or for the simple blessings of food in the cupboards, roof over my head, people to love and love me in return. I honor Them and recognize Them. I do not take. Depending on my mood (or how stressful my week has been), I sit and talk to Them as one would with a friend over at Starbucks. And before They leave, I provide an Offering. For one Goddess, I offer water to the plant I have in Her name. For another, I offer anejo tequila (Seriously, She loves it.). For the Ancestors/Sacred Dead, I offer a lit candle.
The Ancestors/Sacred Dead are a new addition to my practice. In the past three years or so, my life has experienced quite a bit of death and honoring the Dead on Samhain did not feel enough to me. The above photo was taken at Lone Fir Cemetery, a cemetery where families have picnics, beer tasting, DIY tours of local historic figures, or ride their bikes. It is a sacred site, but it’s respected and shared, not shunned by the Living. The Ancestors/Sacred Dead are around us all the time, so why not build a relationship?
In the beginning as I developed this weekly Devotional practice, I spent a good half hour at each Shrine in my home. But as one friend and my boyfriend pointed out, the Powers That Be know what they’ve done so all the accolades are not necessary. Just be in the moment with true intent and five minutes of devotion can be as powerful as one hour.
Has this worked for me? Yes. I feel more connected and the need to do emergency spellwork (have altar will travel) has lessened greatly. It’s lessened because anything I need, I ask and give an offering in return. Reciprocity. When you give me a gift, I give a gift in return. Back and forth, continuous flow, and always building.