Keep Going, Don’t Stop Your Devotions

So I got Between the Worlds: Notes From the Threshold, by Sarah Kate Istra Winter (also called Dver, also called Oinokhoe). I recently read most of it while I was on a one-night solo camping trip. I did this last week, one of my last fun things before school started. Spiritually, I took this trip to reconnect with my Deities and re-center myself after I went through some stuff. I took my drum and I went deep enough in the woods of a friend’s property, so I would not be disturbed, not to a communal campground (just ….. no.) I drummed and sang and poured offerings to the spirits and read a couple books just focused on my religion, I prayed and I pathwalked and honestly? I wish I had enough time to be out there for more than the 27 or so hours that I was.  It was great and refreshing but I’ll keep most of the experience to myself.

There’s actually a LOT to discuss in this book, just like the first one ( Dwelling on the Threshold: Reflections of a Spirit-Worker and Devotional Polytheist ). I highly recommend them both, lots of food for thought that can deepen your practice and your connection to your Gods and spirits. But what I really want to talk about is “Do Not Stop Your Devotions” on page 130. Ms. Winter discusses a frequent problem seen in the pagan/Polytheist community, even among the very devout. During times of crisis, a stressful change, or even something good happening, like a celebration along the lines of a wedding, people justify stopping their practices for a while. Now, we’re human. It’s understandable if you miss a day sometimes. But when it adds up, it starts to become a problem. And there is a trend, at least with the most vocal of folk on the internet, where most people will justify why they are shelving their devotions.

This is definitely a problem with modernity and the modern perspective. The more you study the ancient world and try to shift into ancient worldview, the more you will hopefully move away from that. We need more actual worship in the community, and less Paganism-as-Political-Theater, please. She goes on to discuss the practical problems that giving up (or, hopefully, just “pausing” ) your spiritual activities can cause. Namely, you feel less connected to the Gods (No! Really?) and then your motivation to do these practices in the first place can wane more. It becomes a cycle that feeds on itself. I have experienced this unfortunate phenomena myself. She makes this further point, probably more eloquently than I can: 

“The first problem with this is that it is evidence of a certain internal prioritization that I find sadly common amongst even supposedly committed pagans – religion is separated from “life” and not valued as highly as “life stuff” like relationships, career, etc. Of course when “life stuff” gets in the way, religion is going to take a backseat, right? But it doesn’t have to be like that. One can choose to make religion a priority, just as important or more so than any of life’s ups and downs.”

This has been so true in my experience. I’m not sure if I will ever get back to where Athena and I used to be. The other Gods (seem to) have forgiven my indiscretions. But I still feel somewhat disconnected from Athena, and I’m not sure if that will ever be completely remedied. It’s a little disconcerting, but all I can do pick up and keep going, trying to make up and hope for the best.

“It might seem understandable that when feeling overwhelmed or in crises, one might let go of a part of ones life that doesn’t seem immediately urgent – the gods are always there, after all, and will be when the crisis is over. But not only is it extremely rude to neglect Them when it becomes difficult to do your practices (and less likely that They’ll come through with assistance if you’re not maintaining reciprocity) it is almost guaranteed to dig you even deeper into the pit you’re already in, emotionally and spiritually speaking. Because having that powerful connection to the divine requires consistent work. Like muscles that atrophy without exercise, your sense of closeness with the gods with weaken the longer you starve it.”

I’ve been pretty good at keeping my practices up through a lot of life changes, like moving and changing jobs and now starting school. Even through struggles with depression, I have kept my practice up. My writing on this blog or making videos for my YouTube channel may drop off, but if I have to choose, I will always choose real life spiritual experiences to writing about them. The writing and videos are an extra, an enhancement to my spiritual practice, not a replacement for worship in the physical world. 

My weakness – and I suppose we all have one – is men. Relationships. Oof, I hate that admission. I can’t even call it love in some cases, but limerence and infatuation can take a toll on my spiritual connections. Yes, you can make an argument that it’s a sacred gift of Aphrodite, buuuut …. Come on. We all know it’s not always a gift. Sometimes it’s destructive. Even in myth. Another reason to stay celibate until I figure my shit out, I suppose. And, for women with my background, my specific traumas, which I’m not going to detail, it’s not unusual. I’m aware of all this. And it’s still difficult to break the pattern. For a while, I’m gonna be too damn busy to date anyway. It’s going to be a bit of a balancing act to do work and school and make my religious life a priority, and still nurture the few friendships I have that are important to me. Social life is still about to go down to almost nil. Men are just not even on the radar anymore.

My morning routine has changed, since I detailed parts of it in my video 4 Tips and Tricks to Change Your Mindset (link here). I still pray every morning. Meditation has been getting more difficult for me lately, due to some “life stuff”, but I still attempt it. The praying is the most important part of it for me. If I have time, I sit in front of the altar for a while. I used to write in my affirmation journal every single day, but with as much as I have been working, something in my routine had to give and it wasn’t going to be the prayers. I experimented with doing prayers and the affirmation journal on alternating days, but discarded that. I’m human and I do miss days, I’m not saying I’m perfect. But I prefer to pray every single day. I try to write in my affirmation journal once a week, but that doesn’t happen as much now either. I had been doing it steadily for 2, almost 3 years, and it may have served its purpose. I do, however, listen to a YouTube video of “morning gratitude affirmations” every morning, while I stumble to the coffee maker and take the dogs out and do all the morning things before prayers. It’s less active than writing in the journal, and maybe since I am often still in a semi-conscious state when I begin, it will dig into my psyche more.

I am still struggling to come up with an appropriate religious evening routine. Evening is often when I decompress after a long day, and procrastination is my eternal enemy. It was quite a while before I got my morning routine to become second nature, so it’s okay if it takes some adjustment. I’m still working the evening part out, but I am still practicing my morning prayers every day!

I’m going to end on another quote from Sarah.

“Avoiding the urge to compartmentalize them as outside of my spiritual life (because nothing is outside my spiritual life). I needed instead to integrate them fully and keep taking all the powerful emotions they engendered and turning those over to my gods and spirits, again and again.”

Well said. Yes, nothing is outside my spiritual life. I am not a Full Moon Pagan. I am a Pagan all the time and I live my values at all times. 

Some Thoughts on Money and Energy

I might be a little more scattered than usual in this video. I have been feeling a push to share this particular theme, so here it is. It’s not just instructions on how to make a prosperity bowl, but a few thoughts about the spiritual aspects of money, and the negative beliefs surrounding it that many people have. I have more to say on that subject, actually, but time is a limited resource, and I am eternally busy. I am happy to have created this however. The Panathenaia video is still coming, but will probably be late.

A Few Words on Lughnasadh

Look! I actually made this one BEFORE the festival in question! By like a day, but, that’s progress for me! Also probably because this particular festival is not that big of a deal for me in my personal practice, but I thought it was important to cover. Now, will I be able to make my planned Panathenaia video before said festival is over, that’s the question ……

A Letter to the Dead

Long dark tresses fell to the floor

Bzz Bzz Bzz

Went the shaver. 

A sacrifice of beauty, an offering of pain. 

A shocking change if not forewarned – 

Good. 

I should look different. I’m not the same.

.

We didn’t even have a body then.

It was more than a month before he got your ashes. 

.

I still think of myself has having long hair

I look in the mirror and see the mess growing back

And I remember.

.

I miss you

Not as much as others who lost you, I’m sure. 

I wasn’t around much at the end.

We grew up, we drifted apart – 

Then you cut me out.

.

Your kids are doing okay, if you’re wondering. 

As well as can be expected I suppose. 

I hope it’s nice where you are. I hope you’re happy. 

I hope you found the peace you didn’t in life.

I’ve done some crazy things since you left.

Forgive me. 

.

You were trying to die for a long time, 

Not overtly with scars or loudly with a gunshot 

But with one drink at a time.

Your passing drove me a little mad, 

Even as I tried to be strong for your family. 

.

I miss you.

The worst thought, the absolute worst,

Is the possibility that you died hating me,

The fact that we never got to make up. 

I only wanted to help you.

But you wanted to drown in a bottle. 

And if you wouldn’t grab a liferaft for your husband or children,

You certainly wouldn’t for me. 

.

I’m sorry.

Not Normal

This is normal, you tell yourself

As you drag yourself to a job you hate

To make just enough money to pay for someone else’s home.

Pop a pill to get thru the day

Drink a fifth to get to sleep

Convince yourself that this is normal –

Another day of your life, gone. 

.

Bzz bzz bzz

The locusts swarm the stores

Consume consume consume 

A hit of dopamine when the credit card swipes

More useless junk, another link in the chain of debt – 

And the hit doesn’t even last as long as it used to. 

.

Chatter Chatter chatter

TV volume turned to 11 – as loud as it goes 

To drown out your thoughts 

Desperate to ignore the empty hollow in your chest,

The sense that life is meaningless (but maybe it’s just life like this?).

.

Everyone else is doing fine, Doing well

Huge smiles on Facebook and the ‘Gram, 

They look so happy

You must be the one who’s wrong.

But your rich cousin with the long blonde hair, the beautiful children and huge house – 

Her husband hasn’t touched her in years.
They sleep in separate rooms,

As he rubs himself raw to violent videos

Of girls his daughter’s age being debased.

Thank God we aren’t prudes like we used to be!

This is good …. Right?

Drown out your doubts, stuff it down.

The anxiety attacks are a result of a neurological condition,

Not intuition that something’s wrong.

.

Our entire society can’t be sick, right?

No, it’s me, I’m the broken one.

This is normal, this normal –

Everyone says it’s normal!

Obviously I’m not normal.

Well if society says this is normal,

I’m done with normal.

The Choice

I actually wrote this about 6 months ago. I knew what my choice was. It just took me too long to make the right one.


Must there always be a choice 

Between sacred things and the safety and security this world offers?

I know I’m being called to make a sacrifice, but I fear what that sacrifice might be.

Is not love something to celebrate, a cause to rejoice?

No celibacy is required by Pagan Gods,

The union of two into one is holy sacrament instead.

The wrong mate can pull away the focus from holy things, I know

Must I choose between my heart and my soul? 

Past lovers made the choice difficult enough, but with their ill treatment ultimately paid the price

And lost my love, for my own sanity’s sake. 

He seems so nearly crafted to complement me, so kind, so strong, and forgiving of my many faults, willing to support me where I am weak ….

But. 

But.

This one thing. This ONE thing.

He is faithless. 

Not so cruel and mocking about my belief as my last love, no sneer upon his lips when he speaks of it, and for this I counted myself lucky. 

But.

But. 

Is lack-of-contempt enough? 

It is easier to be of the same culture, to have shared rituals that bring you together and reinforce the holy bond you share with your spouse, but for him I was willing to do difficult-level relationship, even after my last disastrous one. 

And more than “easier” I feel a powerful call to a path that many would not understand.

I fear to lose him, but I also fear to compromise my faith again.

Besides the impiety of such an act, of turning my back on what I know to be true, 

The misery would seep from my pores 

Oozing forth

To slowly poison our love.

I would lose him anyway, just slower.

In a more cowardly way. 

Perhaps I am a coward to not set him free now.

Can I not pursue the path my soul is called to take, and also have this person who makes my heart sing?

Can I not be both a priestess 

And a wife?