January 10, 2016

Beginning to Do More

(part two in an ongoing series; part one is here)

One of the problems with so many books on basic paganism is, I think, that they don't start with worship, they start with exercises, with meditations and trance work and magic, or they start with ritual without any explanation of what ritual is for or how it works or what it means.

Some people want to start with those things, and there is nothing wrong with that. But there aren't a lot of books out there that start with the basic principles of worship, and most of them are for specific traditions.

Worship breaks down into three basic components: prayer, offering, and contemplation.

Prayer is simply addressing a god or spirit directly with some message. There are different kinds of prayer -- supplication, or asking for something; intercession, or asking a lesser spirit or god to intercede with a greater one; thanksgiving, does what it says on the tin; praise, extolling the good qualities of the god or spirit; and various kinds of statements of belief or intent -- but all of it addresses the god or spirit directly in an attempt to reach them.

Prayer can be very formal, like a hymn, or very informal, like the one-sided conversations in Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. They can be centuries old or extemporaneous. It doesn't matter how you pray, but if you wish to worship, it does matter that you pray.

For polytheists and spirit workers, I recommend that prayers of praise outnumber all other types of praise roughly 2:1. Be sweet to your gods. Tell them you love them, or that they're awesome, or whatever else, regularly. Ask for things infrequently, and only when you're doing your best as well.

Offerings should, I think, be fairly obvious. Things given as gifts to the gods. What offerings are most appropriate, the manner in which you give them, and what you do with them later depends a lot on the gods you worship and your practice. Food, drink, art, writing, incense, whatever you choose to give to the gods or spirits, that's an offering.

Offerings are possibly the element of worship that our Protestant-dominated society has most alienated us from. I think that's a shame. Offerings can be a wonderful form of communion with gods and spirits, can bring you closer to them, just as giving gifts to your loved ones brings you closer to them.

Contemplation is simply intentionally stopping to concentrate on thinking about the gods or spirits. This can be meditation, ecstatic communion, creating art about them, reading about them, anything that simply considers them, their nature, their actions.

You can start with any of these elements. The suggestions from the first entry on this remain that same: Begin now. Begin where you are. Begin simply. Begin with what makes sense. So, today, right now, stop and do something simple that makes sense to you. Stop and pray, stop and make an offering, stop and think about your gods or spirits. Just do it. You can elaborate on it later, come up with a prayer to say every day, think of a better offering to give, come up with some more specific way to contemplate them.