What are the logistics that go into devotional practice and work? (Continuing from Part I here) Obviously that’s going to change depending on which person you’re asking. For me, it’s a matter of delving in and really thinking about my own practice.
These are Jack of Wand’s questions to me:
- How often do I pray?
- What do my prayers look like?
- How often do I make offerings?
- Do I work with some gods more than others?
- Do I have a shrine? What does it look like?
So, let’s dive in!
How often do I pray?
This fluctuates, to be honest.
Some months I pray 3 times a week. Other months and other times I’ll only pray perhaps 1 or 2 times a month. I’ve never been consistent on this, not ever. And admittedly, most of the time I’m what you would call “inconsistent” on this front. There’s no set schedule or real consistency on the timeline for prayers. But…I am pretty confident that I pray far less than most other polytheists or pagans that work in a devotional context at any level.
Perhaps this inconsistency stems from the fact that I wasn’t raised Christian or in some other religious tradition where you pray on a daily basis. I think if I was raised in a tradition where prayer was a daily thing, perhaps I’d be better at being consistent about this kind of thing. Because, there’s something to be said about the ease of carrying over from a childhood tradition or habit; it’s easier than having to “start from scratch”, so to say.
And I admit that part of this is my nature. I feel awkward praying, so I honestly am not the best as being consistent and keeping this up. But, I’ve done a bit better than I was way back 5-6 years ago. Still, I struggle with a set schedule (and I’m rather loathe to set one up, because then it feels…like a chore? Yes, chore is the word that comes to mind), and I don’t think I’ll be setting an official schedule up anytime soon.
The only time that is set schedule for prayers is special days; and these pair with my offerings for particular gods or holidays. But I’ll touch on that again further down.
What do my prayers look like?
I never just pray when I want something (that’s rude)–and it would be disrespectful for me to do that. And so, that is one of the defining things behind my prayers, when I do them. I do pray for when I want something, that’s a given. But I also offer up general prayers on occasion (special, specific dates).
As for the particular prayers themselves: well, there’s 2 types.
- General Prayer
- Petitioning Prayer
And I think sometimes even these overlap, but I can generally keep them separate.
These are what (to me) most people do when you think of praying. I’m talking about your general “thank you for this bread/meal” type of prayer. Or for the general type of “thank you for safe travel” type of stuff. These are the things I picture when people talk about general prayers. Not a petition for anything to happen–just, general thankfulness for what one has, or what was given.
I do this on occasion, of course. But I don’t do it every day. It feels…disingenuous to me to do this every day. Like, I’m lying and overhyping something to cover up for daily life and cares and concerns. And, I feel that “over doing” the general prayers just makes me less appreciative, and renders my genuine prayers less effective & less meaningful.
When I do this, it is the same thanks:
- Thanks for success in an endeavor
- Thanks for receiving something
- Thanks for a sign or clarity
So my prayers of this type are probably no different than other peoples, at least not as long as the same definition is being used.
These are my more common type. Even though these are also pretty infrequent.
These are my prayers when I am asking for help, asking for something. Generally, these are only after I’ve done all the “mundane” work first; all those normal non-magical/non-devotional things that should always be done in concert with work. When those are not enough, or when I feel that I need the extra oomph–that’s when I turn specifically to petitioning prayers.
Kind of…like a magical lawyer to help out in a court case. Once you’ve tried all the pre-court things to help yourself (like discussion, negotiation, etc), you then turn to a lawyer to help. It’s kind of like that for me with petitioning prayers.
These are the big work, when I need some special oomph or attention into something I want, or am working on.
So what specifically do I do?
That’s the part where I feel a bit underwhelming to write it out. It’s really not all that exciting, because I don’t do anything fancy or extravagant, to tell the truth.
I’m a fan of simple and easy–K.I.S.S method, all the way. That’s less chances for me to screw up, and less opportunity to offend whatever god, spirit, ancestor or entity I’m working with. And I like the easy method, it means I do a bit better about being more “consistent” than I would otherwise be.
Specifically, I prefer to be quiet in my prayers. Part of this is due to history of living with family; but the major part is really just my natural personality. (Here is where my friends would laugh and say I’m a liar–but I really am quiet by nature) I either do them in my head, silently, or I will speak them aloud, but quietly.
I usually offer up my prayers in English–but sometimes German is better. For all that I’m fluent in German, I also admit that I have to be more deliberate in my German usage, because it’s not my native language. So, sometimes it is better and more prudent to pray in German, because it keeps me focused and ensures that I really think over and understand what I’m about to say.
There’s no pomp and circumstance. Just simple words; plain words. I don’t like flowery speech. Too easy to lose the meaning, or to mix up intention and desired results in pretty talk. Straight-forward, direct speech is how I pray. Polite, too (obviously!), but no sugar-coating. And I don’t hide what I am asking for. If I want it, I ask for it plainly.
How often do I make offerings?
The majority of my offerings are for special dates, in conjunction with prayers. So–those days when I’m honoring a specific god, or using a special day to ask for something; I pair with the prayers for most impact and also for showing the most respect with my intentions.
Otherwise, I do offerings as needed, or as for how often I get the feeling that I should be doing it. Admittedly I kind of “wing it” here. Since I don’t actually have any innate senses to these things (being head blind can occasionally work in my favor), I’m fully comfortable in giving offerings as I feel is needed. Or, if I get some kind of notice or divination tells me I should offer something, then I do that.
All in all, offerings probably happen a bit more frequently than prayers. I admittedly do tend (special occasions, or on just general days where I get the feeling/sense that it is needed) to also offer up the first bite of my food to the gods. This is not daily, not at all. If I make some special food–like cornbread, I’ve mentioned that before–the first piece always goes to the gods, spirits, or ancestors.
Do I work with some gods more than others?
I think perhaps some people are capable of playing “fair” with the gods. It’s not possible for me. And, well, it’s also just not wanted. There are some gods I have major connections to, and others I have zero relationship with. So, I work far more with some than others; and I always have.
I work most often with Veles. By and far, he’s the one I have the strongest working relationship with. Perhaps that makes sense, considering his associations. And he’s the first one who really came to me; the reason I got interested in this pantheon–just why I started researching. So, regardless of all other things, I would always have a soft spot for him. On the other hand, the next one I work with at the moment is Perun.
From there, I work with a few other gods, like Devana, Simgarl, and Hors on occasion. There are others, too that I will work with when the occasion calls. I barely work with Mokosh, for varying reasons, perhaps I’ll explore those elsewhere.
On the opposite: those gods I never work with. I don’t work with Rod (who lots of Slavic pagans claim is the “creator” deity)–I don’t actually acknowledge him in my practice at all. Other people believe him premiere god; I do not. And I have no work with him.
For me: people and gods get on like people and people. You get along with some more than others. And there are certain gods you might not need to work with, while others require a lot of work. Some you just like better; and there’s nothing wrong with that either. So, from my perspective being selective, or choosing particular gods is no problem.
One of the ways I work with the large majority of Slavic gods is by doing offering + prayer on special days. So for example, Veles’ days, Perun’s days…and of course on particular holidays, as well–for the general larger group.
And I’ve discovered that my gods like offerings. So: food is a big one. Vodka is also good. Particular gods might get particular offerings; for general, I use the “all purpose” offerings of mine, that I know will be accepted by everyone I am working with. Offerings are a big thing for specific days or large workings with all the gods for me.
Do I have a shrine? What does it look like?
No, I don’t have a shrine.
It’s not for lack of want…more, lack of space. There’s nowhere for me to have a set up shrine–not without it getting in the way. If I have one, I want it to be set up. I don’t like the portable, pack-away type. It’s just my personal preference for this, obviously. Because I feel like if I’m going to set one up, I want it to have an air of permanence about it–that it’s not going away anytime soon.
If I ever get somewhere where I have the room for one, this is what I want:
- Simple table for the shrine
- A piece or two of specific wall art behind the table
- Important symbol, statue, item or thing associated with my gods
- A special item/symbol/etc for ancestors
- Important symbol/statue/etc for spirits and entities I am working with
I’m not really looking at fancy or extravagant–just, something to show my respect and that I’m serious about my devotions and my work.
I would also like to be able to set this up in a space that isn’t my bedroom (ideally speaking). But that’s a whole other consideration for the future; when I’ve gotten a bit more room and a bit less stress on my plate from other concerns.
That’s it for this time; and I think this was already too long. But! this is already far too long (over 2.100 words!), so I’ve got one last question to go over.
I’m going to have to extend to a Part III for the final part: looking into how to build a devotional practice with limited sources–and how I’ve been doing it. So look forward to a Part III, soon!∗