Questions on Piety from a Reader
In my previous post, I promised that if people wanted to ask me questions about my practice or about the way I express piety in my devotional life, I would be more than happy to answer them. Liza broke the ice and asked the following three questions, which I found very insightful, so I decided to tease them out into their own separate post.
Liza: For the newbie, young's, seeker without a physical community to lead them, how do you suggest they start? (Though I suspect I know this answer in part, I think it bears repeating)
I actually think a physical community can sometimes be something of a blockage to developing an engaged spirituality. It's too easy to grow to dependent on external validation or to allow the habitus of the group to limit what you'll do with respect to the Gods and ancestors. I find that while it can be a joyful thing to come together with a group and celebrate, or to perform the requisite public rites inherent in one' s faith, that the real work of spiritual engagement happens alone, between each devotee and his or her Gods. There's no way around it. The really crucial work of growing one's devotional relationships happens outside of one's social network.
With that being said, I would suggest developing an ongoing and consistent practice of honoring one's ancestors. I talk about this on my blog http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog.html (there are two tags on the right 'ancestors' and 'ancestor work' that readers may find helpful. Ancestor worker Laura Patsouris has also written an excellent book called "Weaving Memory" all about ancestor work which folks can find here: http://www.asphodelpress.com/specialty.html).
Then I would recommend praying. Prayer is really a spiritual lifeline. I don't believe we get anywhere without it. It really is essential. Talk to the Gods. Pray. and then learn to listen. Talk to your ancestors too. Additionally, I recommend certain meditation exercises like centering and grounding, that teach one to still what Buddhist practice calls 'the chattering monkey of the mind." (I usually recommend Sophie Reicher's "Spiritual Protection", which can be found here: http://amzn.to/15h1ICl).
But really, i'd tell people to start with altar work and prayer, both to the Gods and ancestors. There's something about setting up and maintaining an altar that speaks to the entire sensorium. It engages all parts of our senses, draws us in, and serves as a powerful psychological (and actual) sign that we're open to engaging spiritually. It's also a prayer-in-action. It's an active invitation to the Gods and ancestors, a welcoming. That's a beautiful thing and a powerful one.
In the end, develop devotional relationship just like you would any other relationship: give it dedicated time, attention, and respect. From there, everything else will flow.
Liza: what do you do, in your daily life (not in prep for holidays, events, seminars etc-though I realize you have so many, you may never have a "normal" day...) do?
I pray all throughout the day. I talk to the gods, I have a constant sense of Them and the ancestors…and i mean a very palpable sense of contact but that probably has more to do with being a shaman and spirit worker than a devotee. I make offerings and spend time at my ancestor altar first thing. Then, each day I make a different set of prayers and offerings to various Gods and holy Powers Whom i honor. This varies from day to day, of course. But on a day when I have no rituals planned, there is prayer, ancestor work, time for Odin, my daily round of offerings (and again, this varies from day to day), meditation, and then Work. Usually this is meditating and working with the runes, seeing clients, writing -- a lot of writing, studying, (a lot of studying), etc.
Liza: What do you suggest, or do you do, when you see a fracture that needs to be corrected? To try to reestablish a right relationship?
Ok, I will first pray for guidance and discernment both to the Gods and especially to my ancestors, who have a vested interest in sorting my sorry butt out. I'll meditate and probably even throw runes to see what the fracture is and what course of action is required. But often in cases like this, the person in question (and this holds true for me too) is too emotionally involved to read objectively ---and a good diviner must be able to enter into a purely objective and emotionless headspace to read accurately and without any illicit coloring to the reading---so after prayer and meditating, usually the next thing that I would do is to go to one of my elders or to a skilled diviner (I know several) or ancestor worker and ask for the to read on it.
We take it to the diviner's mat. That's what divination is for: to help sort out those fractures. Based on the reading, my own prayer and insight, etc. I will make the appropriate offerings, go to the Deity or spirit in question and apologize, and do whatever is required to right the situation. I'll also seriously assess my own behavior and look at why i allowed myself to fall out of right relationship in the first place. Why wasn't i mindful? Was I tired and not paying proper attention? I get cranky when i get really tired. Did I allow that to dominate when it ought not have? Was there some emotional issue or motivation that I wasn't addressing, that needs to be sorted out? I look at the reasons why and try to address that as well, so the issue doesn't arise again.
Good questions, Liza! Thank you for chiming in. Keep those questions coming, folks. Ashe.
(the image used here is from House Sankofa's 2013 Imbolc Ritual. The photo is by J. Prat).
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