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When the music starts playing, the dancers wait to feel the beat. They find the rhythm and then move into it. As the dance progresses, the rhythm moves into the dancers; it inhabits them and they inhabit it. At first you may have to think about what to do with your arms and legs, your head and feet, but the goal, the joy of the dance is to move beyond that self-consciousness and be the dance.

I’m starting to get a taste of that in my devotions: I think I’m in the beginning stages of grooving on the rhythm. Things have slowly crystallized into a daily practice and some customs for festivals.

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is greet my cockatiel, Rembrandt, and uncover his cage. I then proceed to make a pot of tea, sometimes with my bird’s “help”, sometimes not. I start my breakfast with a bowl of cold cereal and milk. Before I sit down to eat, I pour a small bowl of milk and put it near my potted plants, saying, “Good morning, house spirits. Here is your milk.”

By the time I have finished my cereal and am thinking about some protein, my tea is ready. Before I I drink my own and have something with eggs or yogurt, I pour a small cup, fix it with milk and sweetener, and offer it to the ancestors. My most important ancestor is Mom, my maternal grandmother, who drank tea and passed her preference on to me. I have pictures of her, my grandfather, my dad, and some other folks on my desk now as an ancestor shrine. I say good morning and ask them to be with me through the day.

When breakfast is done, it’s time for my morning writing. About twenty years ago, I started doing Morning Pages as recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. I have done them on and off ever since, but in the past year I shifted from longhand writing to using 750words.com. (I got tired of using up notebooks only to store them and eventually throw them out or recycle them.) Before I start writing, I light a candle from my stove with a prayer to Vesta, and light incense as an offering to the gods. I make a brief request for blessing with my offering.

Because I am weird, and because I lived for a long time with a spouse who always had to leave for work before I did, showering and dressing are the last item in my morning routine. After I am dressed for the day, I pick up a small piece of amethyst and say a short prayer to Antinous composed by PSVL. The amethyst goes into my pocket as a reminder; I also sometimes carry prayer beads or a scarab bead I bought at a museum store. Then I put out the candle and start putting together my lunch.

On a normal day, that’s pretty much it. I sometimes make another incense offering in the evening. If I actually cook something for dinner, in a way that goes beyond just heating up food, or I order something delivered, I put a small portion on a plate and offer that to all the powers. If I indulge in ice cream, which I do more often than is good for me, I usually offer some of that, too.

If there’s a festival, I try to do more. I’m following the calendar of the Ekklesia Antinoou,which includes Greek, Roman, and Egyptian deities as well as dates specific to the lives of Hadrian and Antinous. This gives me something to work with, as Lupus often posts poetry for the festival and commentary upon it. I offer food, tea lights, incense, wine, and poetry, sometimes music. I decided a while ago that rather than trying to make friends with all the gods, all at once, I would use the festivals as a way of getting to know the deities and initiating a relationship. This has so far worked very well; I feel I made a strong connection with Flora and then Vesta during the Floralia and Vestalia. I’m particularly interested in the Roman deities and their festivals.

In addition to the daily and festival stuff, I read polytheistic and other blogs, translations of things like the Homeric Hymns and the Orphic Hymns, books on Buddhism. Some kind of study is always part of religious practice for me. I’m also trying to establish a sitting meditation practice (something which which I’ve never had much success).

The most interesting thing, for me, the best thing, is that my practice is passing my personal tests for determining whether a spiritual practice is working for me. Am I writing? Yes, quite a lot–fanfic, poetry, this blog, my Tumblr. Am I handling everyday stresses well? Yes, I am. Is my default position kindness to myself and other people rather than anger, irritation, impatience, self-criticism? Pretty much, yes. No fits of anger over tiny issues or panic attacks at every bump in the road.

The dance may get more complicated, more demanding as it goes on, but right now, I’m really enjoying just grooving to the beat.

I have been housesitting for friends this week, so I have with me only a minimal shrine, some incense to burn, tap water to offer. I decided I would write some prayers for the day and share them here, as well as say them later, perhaps with an offering of hot dogs and beans (my celebratory national holiday dinner *g*)

Prayers for Independence Day

 

To Columbia

 

Great goddess of these western lands, Columbia,

We whose ancestors came here have not always lived well.

We did not honor the gods and spirits who already dwelt here.

We were often brutal and dishonest toward the people of these lands.

We often took what was not ours and used it for our own gain and used it up.

And yet we recognized you and gave you a name, albeit the name of an invader.

 

Come to us now, Dea Columbia,

not draped in stars and stripes or wearing liberty cap,

but crowned with tobacco leaves and buds of peyote,

dressed in fine leathers or hand-woven gown,

bearing sheaves of the golden maize, heaps of tomatoes,

all the foods these lands have given the world.

Teach us to belong here as those who are born here,

teach us to eat and to drink what we find here,

teach us to use well the mind-changing plants,

teach us to speak to this land’s gods and spirits.

Make peace between us and our gods of the old lands

and the ways of this new land whose spirit you are.

On this Independence Day, hail to you, Columbia!

 

To Liberty

 

Hymned by so many poets before me, goddess Liberty,

you lift your lamp still by the door and still summon those

who seek a better way of life. Gift between allies, your noble statue

embodies the best of what we call America.

 

Mother of Exiles, shine your light on our future.

Bring greater liberty to this land of the free.

Bring greater justice to this shrine of democracy.

Bring greater wealth to the poor’s huddled masses.

Bring illumination to our understanding.

On this Independence Day, hail to you, goddess Liberty!

 

To the Founding Fathers and Mothers

 

On this anniversary of Independence Day

I call on George Washington, first President

of our nation, commander in chief, general

of the Revolutionary War, and on his wife Martha

 

I call on John Adams, second President of this nation

on his wife Abigail and on their son John Quincy,

sixth President of our nation, on their daughter Nabby,

who died of breast cancer, and on their other children,

Susanna, Charles, and Thomas.

 

I call on Thomas Jefferson, composer and signer

of the Declaration of Independence,

third President of our nation,

and on his wife Martha and his mistress Sally

and on his children, both free and slave

 

I call on all the signers of our Declaration of Independence

and on their wives, their children, their slaves,

their unrecognized, unremembered helpers, supporters, enablers.

 

I call on our Presidents from James Madison to Abraham Lincoln,

on their wives, their children, their servants, their slaves.

 

I call on the generations of Native Americans who helped European settlers,

fought with them, made treaties with them, were made war against by them.

 

I call on the Founding Fathers, the forgotten Founding Mothers,

the Native Americans and enslaved Africans,

the immigrants from Ireland and Italy, Germany and the Ukraine,

Russia, China, and lands around the world, drawn by

the torch of Liberty held aloft over New York harbor.

 

Hear me, noble ancestors, as I pray to you for help.

Help us to live out the potentials of Jefferson’s words,

that all men are created equal, that all human beings are persons,

that all persons have equal rights before the law.

Help us to keep separate church and state,

never to let one dominate the other,

never to let them join hands and become one.

Help us to treasure and conserve the lands

that were clean and wild and revered by their people

when our ancestors came to these shores.

Help us to do no more damage to our land,

no more damage to the lands of other sovereign peoples,

no more damage to the poorest among us.

Let there be liberty and justice, prosperity and peace

for all Americans.

 

Honor to the ancestors of the United States of America!

Honor and blessing to them, and may their blessing be upon us.

 

Apollon touched me once; I don’t know why.

A cool breeze on the back of my neck,

on a hot day; the hairs stood up, there

where he touched me. The breath of a god

on the back of your neck will chill you,

will stop you, as you’re walking down

the street. Who is that? you ask yourself

What just happened?

 

Apollo is a god of light, but not a god

of heat; he illumines without burning.

He shoots from afar, the Greeks said,

he and his sister Artemis. He doesn’t have

to come close to touch you; you will not

see where the arrow comes from, or

who it was that spoke. Only the clouds

will suddenly clear, the sun will be

visible, and you will feel, not warm,

but cool.

Image

Antinous the Lover

 

You do not have to wait to be chosen.

It is not necessary to be chosen by a god to worship a god. It is not necessary to be a priest, witch, druid, clergy, oracle, diviner, or any kind of specialist in order to worship a god.

Paying cultus to gods, spirits, and ancestors is normal. It may have been forbidden fifteen hundred years ago, it may be unfashionable and strange, but really, like walking and running, it is quite natural. Like breathing, it works if you do it.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you,” says Jesus in the gospels. He is speaking to his disciples, his special students. Put that out of your mind. It doesn’t apply here.

Antinous is my god and my gateway to acquaintance with other gods, spirits, and ancestors. He did not choose me; I chose him. But what is important is that Antinous welcomed me.

I am welcome in his presence, among his worshippers. I am welcome to his help and blessings. I feel at home with him. It seems kind of odd at times to be an ostensibly heterosexual middle-aged woman devoted to Antinous, yet I do feel I fit in.

There have been so many times and places in my life when I did not fit in, when I did not feel welcome, when I tried to cultivate someone’s friendship and good will and was ultimately rejected. To feel welcome with Antinous touches me deeply; it is a source of comfort, strength, joy.

If you are attracted to a god, a pantheon, don’t wait to be chosen. Do some research and find or compose some respectful prayers. Bring food, water or wine, pleasant incense and candles to burn out before an image. Pray and present offerings. Be consistent, be patient. You may well find that the door is opened for you and the gods welcome you in. And that can feel very good.

In the heart of a piece of coal

both the fire and the diamond

In the heart of a human body

both the blood and the pulse of nerve

In the heart of a clod of dirt

the spark of the star that birthed it

In every heart, in every hearth,

in flame, in lamp, in power plant,

Vesta, Vesta, Vesta

 

Goddess of the primal fire

who humbly consents to warm our homes

to cook our food, to drive the machines

that serve us, Vesta Dea,

may we also serve you

with prayer, with praises,

with fuels that burn clean,

with clean and focused hearts,

Goddess of the primal fire,

Vesta Mater, fire of life.

Has anyone else had this experience: Become involved in devotional polytheism, start cooking and cleaning more regularly?

I have an ambivalent relationship with housekeeping, though probably no more so than most women of my generation. My grandmother, born in 1899, held a factory job for over forty years, keeping it through the Depression while my grandfather took whatever short-term jobs he could get. My mother made a conscious (and resentful) decision to be a stay-at-home mom, but most of the actual mothering I got came from my grandmother, who retired when I was about four years old. I used to wish my mother would get a job and go out and do the things she loved; even in retirement, my grandmother remained active. (Yes, I have ancestor work to do.)

So I’m an indifferent housekeeper and a lazy cook. But I feel lately this constant nudging–I think of it as nudging, a tactile experience–to cook better meals and to clean up the apartment. To do the dishes and wash my hands before I make offerings for the evening. To cook something so that I can share a small portion of it with the numinous ones. Part of it is an expectation that if I’m going to invite the gods to visit me, by prayer and offering, then I ought to provide a pleasant place for them to visit, as I would for any guest. And part of it, which seems to be coming from the goddess Vesta, is a sense that “I’m worth it”; I deserve a clean, pleasant environment for my own enjoyment, and my home deserves my attention. There is not some higher value for which I can rightfully ignore dirty dishes or a backed-up toilet. No one else is going to do it for me.

And now that my backed-up toilet is fixed and my bathroom is finally clean, I am going to take a thorough shower and then make some offerings. Ave Vesta!

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