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.