Devotional Primer

Some of the questions I have heard lately have centered around devotion. In particular, I have heard questions about how to offer devotion to the gods in everyday life.  

I usually focus more on the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of my practice, so I could easily go into a long discussion about why libations and offerings are the mainstays of polytheistic religions because of the way they allow us to maintain reciprocal relationships with the gods.

Rather than do that (though I certainly can if there is interest in that), I’m going to provide a brief sketch of how to get started and then list a few different activities people can undertake as devotional acts.

Getting Started

  • Choose tradition/religion to study.
  • Study that tradition/religion for a year before dedicating yourself to that path.
  • Set up an altar to the god/s that calls to you
    • Note: Figure out whether the god/s that call to you are actually interested in working with you. If they aren’t, don’t force yourself on them. Just like how we aren’t compatible with all people, we aren’t compatible with all gods. If a god comes to you that makes you uncomfortable, you can ask them to back off and leave you alone. You are not required to work with every spirit/deity that shows up. Same goes for the gods – they aren’t required to work with every human who takes an interest in them.

Altar Essentials

  • Altar cloth – this can be as simple as a bandana or as complex as a tapestry.
  • Image of the deity – there are tons of options for this one
    • Printed picture from a Google search (if money is tight!)
    • Carved statue of the god (check Etsy)
    • A hand-drawn rendition of the god (either self-done or commissioned)
    • Etc.
  • Offering dishes– there are also tons of options for this one
    • Any extra small cups/bowls that you happen to have sitting around
    • Buy a small cup/bowl from a thrift store or Etsy if you can afford it
    • Etc.

As you get more familiar with the god/s that you’re working with, you’ll start feeling pulled towards certain items that the deities want on their altars. Whether or not you can afford it – well, if you can’t, ask them to help you get it for them. If a god wants something badly enough, they will make it happen.

Daily Practice Options

  • Prayer
    • You can find tons of pre-written prayers for most deities on the internet. It is okay to copy a few down and use them. Generally, you kneel (or stand, if your ability makes kneeling too painful)before your altar and offer the prayer to the god by reading it out loud. You can also write your own prayers.
  • Libation
    • Generally, libations are alcoholic. It might take some research to figure out what the god/s that you’re working with like to drink. It might take trial/error. To do a simple libation, you simply pour the drink into the offering bowl, invite the deity to partake, and then drink afterward and offer a brief word of thanks or hail the god. What you do with the drink afterward is tradition-dependent, but it is fairly standard to simply take it outside and pour it on the ground. If you have absolutely no other option, pouring the remaining liquid down the sink drain is okay – but this is if you live in an area that makes pouring the libation on the ground unrealistic and/or if your physical ability prevents this kind of moving around.
    • If you cannot afford alcohol, water is always an acceptable libation. After all, water is life. I have never heard of a deity that would reject water, and I have never experienced the rejection of such a libation.
  • Divination
    • Do a daily rune or tarot reading related to your relationship with the god/s in question.

Long-term Devotional Acts

  • Continuously reading all the information you can on your religion/tradition and the gods you honor
  • Creating art for the gods
  • Dedicating a particular event or community service to the gods
  • Taking an oath in the service of the gods
  • Becoming a devotee, godspouse, or clergy

I hope this has given those who needed it a basic outline that will allow them to move forward with their devotional practice.

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