So it looks like the next big debate is going to be all about piety and devotion. Specifically some people feeling that other people think they’re more pious than the rest and others insisting that they can be devout without actually having to do anything at all.
Yeah … this should be a super productive conversation. No way at all for that to engender misunderstanding and antagonism, right?
But one cool thing I’ve already seen come out of it is people sharing a day in the life of their devotional practice.
I don’t really consider myself all that pious or devout. When I spend more time masturbating than I do actually worshiping the gods and spirits it’d be kind of absurd for me to think that.
But I’ll play along and share what a good day of devotion is like for me. Obviously things are quite different when I’ve got a big formal observance such as the handful of holy days and festivals I keep each month or when I’m doing an oracular session, but I’ll have to save an account of what those days are like for another time. This is just a good devotional day and you should also keep in mind that I normally only have two or three of these a week so I’m not really bragging here. When it reaches the point where I’m doing this every single day and go far deeper than I do now, then I’ll have a reason to pat myself on the back. I’m also not doing this to make myself seem better than you. I already know that I’m better than you. I’m Sannion and you’re not, case closed. What you should be asking is not “How do I compare to Sannion?” but rather, “How can I do better than I have in the past?”
So … I walk through the door around six thirty in the morning, exhausted and reeling from the banal horrors I was witness to during my shift at the convenience store. I strip off my vest and toss it in the corner, eager to be rid of the associations and constraints on my identity that come with wearing it. I take a couple moments to breathe and center myself in the presence of my gods and spirits — whose representations cover most of the available space in my modestly-sized apartment. I turn the computer on so that it can warm up while I prepare my breakfast and then I eat and wind down by checking my e-mail and the assortment of polytheist and arts and culture blogs that I follow. If it’s a spiritual emergency or something I can whip off a quick response to I’ll answer it at this time, but most serious stuff has to wait until I’m more collected. I chat with Dver and Galina a bit, usually about developments in our relationships with our respective gods and spirits or various upcoming rituals or festivals we’re planning or the artistic projects we’re working on at the moment. And then I get offline to putter around my apartment for a while.
I’ll listen to music, watch a movie or read one of the books from the stack I’ve always got checked out of the library. (Usually some kind of academic study of ancient Greek and Roman religion or some obscure aspect of folk Christianity, though I also read plenty of graphic novels and Italian literature.) By ten or eleven I’m usually ready to crash and so ask Spider and Hermes to send me a dream if there’s anything they wish to communicate to me. Then I masturbate and pass out in a stupor.
Around four or five in the evening I usually get up, have lunch, check my mail, decide I’m still not in the proper headspace to answer the serious e-mails (if it takes me more than two weeks to get back to you you should be honored as it shows how highly I value your communication) and then I do some random searches on Google and Youtube of things related to my gods and spirits. This often results in a couple posts here at The House of Vines. By then I’m usually in a pretty open state so I get up and make some simple offerings at Dionysos’ shrine. I light some candles and incense and pour out wine and beer or else water and tea if I happen to be out of alcohol. I pray to him with spontaneous words from the heart or just hail him by a bunch of his epithets if I’m not feeling particularly creative at the moment. If someone has asked me to pray on their behalf or do divination for them, I do so at this time. Then I either put on one of my carefully chosen playlists or let the music go on random so that he can help influence the mood. And then I just spend some freeform time basking in his presence. Sometimes I’ll just sit there meditating or thinking about one of his myths or aspects. Sometimes I’ll get up and dance or just move to the music, clumsy and childlike but relishing my own embodiment. Sometimes I’ll read a book or watch a movie that seems thematically relevant. Sometimes I’ll do more research online or go back to reading one of my books or make some more posts to the blog. Sometimes if I’ve got them I’ll ingest strange mind-altering substances.
After a couple hours of this I start to feel restless and cooped up, so I’ll gather my stuff and go out for a walk. I don’t usually have a firm destination in mind — I prefer to go where the spirit carries me. That can be down by the river or the woods at the base of Skinner Butte or to one of the parks where I do the majority of my writing or a winding, surreal trek through unfamiliar parts of my city. I’m at my best when I’m on the go and that’s often when I do my more intense magic and worship. As I begin the walk I try to put myself into a light, trancelike state where I’m open and receptive to the spiritual currents around me. I try to feel the flow and let it guide my steps to where I need to go. As I’m walking I greet all of the gods and spirits of my pantheon and listen to see if they have anything particular to tell me. I also hail them when I pass places where I’ve had important encounters with them in the past or in the case of the various land and city spirits I honor, when I approach where they live. I also call to mind all of the previous festivals that have been celebrated in these locations, which helps open me up more and feel connected to them.
I mentioned that I try to listen for any message they might have — but listen is perhaps too simple a word for this process. While it’s true that I sometimes hear their voices in my head or that they will communicate to me through the rotation of songs on my iPod or even that I’ll catch a random sentence from passersby that was clearly meant as an answer to some question I put to my gods or spirits, there are plenty of other ways for them to get their point across. I am always on the lookout for signs from them in graffiti or on billboards or things dropped on the ground. Sometimes I’ll catch a whiff of something on the air that will remind me of one of them or I’ll run into one of the animals or birds or plants associated with them and sometimes it’s very subtle and internal like I’ll feel a shift in my emotions or my thoughts will keep returning to a particular image or concept that when I follow up on it later usually reveals something significant about them. Signs like this are everywhere if you know how to look for them and though they may not mean a whole lot individually when they start piling up with a statistically improbable regularity you get the picture eventually. And sometimes they are ridiculously direct like when I found a little spider doll stuck in a tree wearing a Harlequin costume with its head torn off or when I heard Ariadne say, “Take up my ball, fool” and then I came home and found a ball of yarn lying in a pile of leaves outside my apartment. You don’t have to be a sensitive mystic type to figure out that something like that is more than a meaningful coincidence. Assuming that I’ve got to go into work later that night and I haven’t been struck with creative inspiration — which is often a side-effect of these altered states of consciousness — I usually wrap my meandering stroll up after an hour or two and head home. I often stop off at a store to pick up more offerings which I either leave in various places along the riverfront park or I set them up on Dionysos’ shrine when I get home.
I usually relax for a bit at that point — checking my mail and feed reader one last time — and gradually try to shift into convenience store mindset. Sometimes the transition isn’t swift or significant enough and I spend the first couple hours of my shift in an altered state saying weird stuff and doing things to mess with my customers’ perceptions and expectations. I especially like to play odd and devotional music for my gods and spirits or have the same song on endless repeat, which creates a different sort of altered experience for me and anyone who lingers too long in the store. I try to feel out what I should say and do for these people and have found some very peculiar and meaningful things come out of my mouth as a result. A couple times I’ve had a customer come back and credit something that was said to them (which I usually don’t have any memory of later on) with helping them to realize something or make an important change in their life. I also try to remain on the lookout for signs and messages from my gods and spirits during the shift because they can find a way through even in such a terrible and mundane environment. The other night I had a sketchy looking traveler kid from California, with even sketchier looking mutt in tow, ask me for a smoke while I was standing outside admiring the four day old crescent moon. “Sorry man, I’m running real low.” I told him. “Besides, I hate people and don’t practice charity.” He laughed and said, “But would you give me a cigarette if I were a god?” “Of course,” I grinned back. “Then give me one, because I’m a god in disguise!” So I pulled one of my cloves out and handed it over, saying “You deserve this for effort alone.” That’s the kind of shit that happens to you when you’re paying attention. A lot of the time even though I try to cultivate this open awareness nothing significant happens or all I pick up on is random, meaningless “astral junk” but it’s still important to make that effort because the more you’re paying attention the more you’ll notice.
And that’s what a low-grade devotional day is like for me.