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More about that Polytheist Devotional Meme
Firstly, happy spring. Winter is slowly starting to loosen its grip--I know it may not feel like it for those of us in the east but soon, very soon we'll be complaining about the warm weather. I for one, can't wait.
In the meantime, I've been working through more of my devotional meme. I would like to share the next few questions with you. Feel free to post links to your own blogs in the comments section, if you too are tackling these.
11. What blocks to devotion have you had to overcome?
HAH! Myself, ever and always myself. Devotional work takes courage. Over and above everything else it takes a tremendous amount of courage. Courage is a difficult thing to cultivate. There is always the necessity to challenge yourself to be better, do more, go farther, to not turn back or take the lazy way, the fearful way, the way of old habits and truncated passions.
In our culture, including most especially within our religious communities where it should be the exact opposite, deep devotional work is looked at (at best) askance. There are many people talking about having an experience of Goddess X or God Y, but few actually *having* the kind that rip your world apart, fill you with laughing, sobbing ecstasy of the heart so great that the fabric of skin and bone and muscle we call 'body' is almost too small, far too small, to hold it. It shifts our perceptions. The moment we are slammed soul first into the presence of a God it changes everything. It starts a process whereby the structures and mores of post-modern world are revealed as the empty, hollow edifices of soul-binding decay that they are. it starts a process of internal revolution, liberation, and throws us into a cosmic dance whereby our passing through our world serves as herald and honor guard for the Gods who have thrust us forth. It is to stand before a blazing presence so all consuming that there is no place where the mewling deceptions of our egos can stand. Devotion is upheaval. It is homecoming. It is joy. It is celebration. It is a deep all consuming love but first, before any of that may be so, it is upheaval. No wonder people fear it so and avoid it, even when it holds precisely the provision they so crave in the hard locked corners of their hearts.
So yes, I have found that I myself have been the biggest block to my own devotional process. it takes time to learn to stand in the midst of such terror, such throat closing, heart constricting terror all the time as one's world is reworked. It takes courage to keep functioning while this is happening, to foreswear the luxury of choosing to crumble. It takes courage to endure until the waters have calmed and the sweetness of a new shore is upon us.
i have said before many times that if there is a blockage between a person and his or her God, the cause lies with the person not the Deity. i stand by that, moreover I have found that the deepest and most insidious blocks occur when we are unwilling to look with clarity at ourselves and our motivations, to acknowledge our fractures, and our avoidance. The biggest blockages come when we cling to what we are and have been rather than what the Gods know we can become. We are called to be so much more than what we think ourselves capable of being. in the end, the only thing stopping us is….we ourselves in the dance of devotion refusing to follow where the music might lead. We ourselves…it's always in the end, ourselves. The Gods do not block us. It is only we in our foolish pride that do so to Them. There's the worst blockage, of all the times when I have wanted to pound my feet into the ground and trash my fists and cover my ears and scream and rant like a petulant child in a tantrum rather than forging ahead where i knew inevitably I needed to go: we are ever and always the biggest obstacle in this work. Ever and always. In all we do, i've learned, it must begin with courage.
12. What sort of festivals, memorials or seasonal observances do you keep throughout the year?
Oh Gods, my ritual calendar is a mess. LOL. I have to toggle between personal, household, and House Sankofa observances. I know as I type this now, that I'm going to miss at least one, probably more going through these.
Both personally and with the House, I keep eight seasonal festivals: winternights/samhain, Yule, Candlemas or Charming of the Plough (depending on who is attending the House rituals--it's usually far, far too cold for Charming of the Plough and we have several Brigid's folk in the House all of which means usually we default to Candlemas and incorporate some of the Charming of the Plough rites into the equinox rite instead), Spring Equinox (Eostre or Ostara), Walpurgis, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Autumnal Equinox.
Aside from that, there are several feast days for House sancti that we honor and of course monthly we gather for regular and ongoing ritual observance.
I personally observe certain rites and rituals seasonally for Odin and Loki, and given that my partner is Dionysian, as a household we keep the Deipnon and Noumenia, and as a multi-tradition House we incorporate several Hellenic and Dionysian festivals into our ritual calendar too, such as the Anthesteria.
Then there are anniversaries…in one of the traditions in which I am initiated, it is important to honor the Holy Powers on the anniversary of initiation. So that involves some ritual work as well.
Then of course there are the smaller daily rites that I keep for various Gods. Mostly I want to emphasize that outside of the seasonal rites, my ritual calendar both personally and House wise is somewhat flexible. I know for some people the seasonal work is a very important part of their practice but it never has been for me. It's nice and I specifically take pains to celebrate the seasonal rites but it does not impact my personal practice much either way. It seems that their purpose is far more for sustaining the community and reconnecting/refreshing their relationship with the Powers as well as reminding us of our obligations to the world. that's good and Gods know we need that, but it's a very, very different thing from the intensity of personal veneration.
13. Have you ever found it difficult to uphold your end of a bargain with the divinities?
I don't know how to answer this. Firstly, I don't think of myself as 'making bargains' with Deities. I am in a devotional relationship with my Gods, in service to Odin (among other things), and there is a necessary give and take of engagement that occurs regularly. I don't make bargains. I don't know that it's my place to do so.
I do, as both a devotee and a spiritworker occasionally receive binding taboos. Or sometimes in the course of my devotion through discernment, prayer, or direct experience I will come to know that the Gods wish me to do or not do something in my life from that point on. Do I have trouble upholding those commitments….no. Is it inconvenient and more than occasionally painful? Sometimes yes, absolutely. But that's the thing about commitments: upholding them shouldn't depend on the vagaries of convenience vs. inconvenience.
There is nothing that the Gods could ask of me that comes close to what I have been given and graced with over the course of this life and many others. There is nothing They could ask that would be *too much* to do. I may grumble and gripe, but that is the humanity of a moment; in the end, service is a joy and the opportunity to recommit again and again and again by keeping to my word, keeping to my commitments, and upholding the taboos and requirements that I have been given is also a joy. I don't, after all, place myself higher than what the Gods wish for me, and I value those relationships over and above anything else.
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