There’s a simple, beautiful connection in lighting a candle, some incense, and saying prayers. I’ve done it all my life. I did it when I was a Catholic, praying for the Intercession of the Saints, Mary, and Jesus. I do it when I light candles now, asking for my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir to speak with me, to bless my family and I. Just sitting and talking with Them for ten, fifteen minutes, and despite a crush of harsh things coming down in the last week, I feel a sense of connection.
It’s not that I think anything is going to get resolved tomorrow, or even by my next paycheck. It’s walking forward knowing the Holy Powers are walking with me. Knowing that I can face the problems in my life with allies before, behind, and alongside me. It’s the feeling of connection I get when I smoke with the Holy Powers, sharing the pipe with each statue, and talking about the day, the week, what is on my mind, and thanking Them for being in my life, for the blessings They bring. That connection doesn’t always bring peace. Sometimes it brings anger, sometimes it brings weeping for the things They’ve gone through. Sometimes the connection brings frustration, as yet another thing gets added to my plate, or something I thought was key to me is taken away.
I think at times I give the impression that my conversations with the Gods are completely staid, or totally ceremonial affairs. However, a lot of my prayers go something like this:
- Hail or rote prayer.
- Whenever I light a Fire I always make a rote prayer that is made out of respect.
- Extemporaneous prayers, talk with the Holy Powers about the day, week, month, fears, thoughts, hopes, dreams, etc.
- Divination might be involved, especially if I’m asking questions I need confirmation on.
- Hail or rote prayer of thanks.
Offerings may be made before, after, or book-ending the prayers and dialogue. But how do I hear the Gods?
Sometimes I have impressions of, or spiritually hear words. Sometimes impressions of or spiritually get smells, an emotion, music, the feeling of a hand on my shoulder, or lips on my forehead. Sometimes I get a combination of these. Sometimes I get abject silence. My conversations with the Holy Powers can go in a number of directions, and part of that is natural intuition on my part, and what They are able or willing to use on Theirs. What also plays into this is what ritual tools I am using, and where I am. Outside in the garden, I feel a kind of flowing connection with the Gods of our garden with the Earth beneath my feet, the Ancestors, and the landvaettir as we pray to Them, whether planting, plucking, harvesting, or otherwise working with Them. Inside in the dark at the altars with the candles lit, the energy tends to be much more focused, intense, and personal. Again, it depends on how the Holy Powers respond. There have been times in the garden, particularly when I take out the compost and hail Hela and Niðogg, when the connection was focused, intense, and personal, equally as much as inside. That reminds me: I need to get some devotional items for Them inside.
What I find powerful with regular devotional work is that such conversations, dialogue, impressions, and so on, can become part of, to borrow a phrase from John Beckett, ‘our ordinary times’. I say ‘can’, because not everyone has such connections, nor are they required to be a polytheist. That said, that awe, that connection, that intuition can be cultivated by devotional work. It can be, and is invited each time we kneel in respect, prostrate in honor, give thanks, gift our offerings, open our mouths to pray, and share our lives with Them. We invite that connection to suffuse our lives each time we make space for Them. Each time that our religions twine with the whole of our lives, becoming lived rather than just identifiers. Each time we put our religions forth in our lives as matters of consequence, and not merely matters of belief.
The simplest connections have made for some of the most powerful interactions with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir I have had. The simple little connections are what have sustained me in the hardest times, and keep me righted in the easier ones. Regular devotional work does require discipline, but it does not require a lot of ‘stuff’, especially if that would get in the way between us and the Holy Powers. Heck, even the rituals I put on with the church I serve require relatively little tools. What matters is that the connections between us are made, Gebo is made, and respect is kept.
So even in the hard times, keep up the devotional work. Especially then. Having that ground of discipline and connection has gotten me through, and keeps getting me through the challenges I face in life. As the polytheist religions continue to grow and thrive, putting down these roots will build up each member in strength and resilience, and do the same for their respective communities.