Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Personal Practice

This week's Pagan Experience prompt is about personal practice. I would say that at the moment the core of my personal practice is built around a series of daily, monthly, and yearly rituals.

My daily ritual is pretty simple. I have a small shrine on the back of my oven dedicated to Hestia, and while making dinner I light her candle on the shrine, and leave a small offering - generally a bit of whatever is for dinner, but sometimes it will be wine, olive oil, or something along those lines. Sometimes I recite a hymn to her, or make personal prayers, but often it's just the offering with a simple 'thank you for your blessings.'

The 'monthly' rituals are based around the lunar month, and are inspired by, but not strict reconstructions of, ancient Greek practices. The ancient Greeks marked the beginning of the new month with their new moon, which was the first sighting of the crescent moon, but I guess I'm a little stuck in my own old habits, because for me the astronomical new moon is where I start the cycle. On the new moon, the first of the lunar month, I hold a somewhat larger ritual for Hestia and the household spirits, where I give offerings of barley cakes, wine, salt, olive oil, and aromatic herbs, and thank them for the blessings of the previous month, and ask for the continued support.

On the fourth day of the lunar month I hold a special festival for Aphrodite. I do a working ritual with her each Sunday, but her monthly festival is just about honoring her and celebrating her, rather than preforming a ritual with a specific goal in mind. Incense and music are the offerings for this festival, and occasionally dove shaped honey cookies.

The sixth day belongs to Artemis and the nature spirits. I strongly prefer to hold this ritual outside when I can, but sometimes it's not always possible. Even if the ritual can't be held outside, I try to spend at least some time in nature on this day, even if it's just going for a short walk, or looking at the moon a bit. Out of all the monthly rituals, this is the one that I've been doing the longest, and has seen the most changes in how I celebrate it. However, it generally involves making an offering to Artemis of something that the local wildlife will also enjoy, such as birdseed, which I can leave out after the ritual.

The last day of the month is for Hekate and the ancestors. As it's the last day of the month I spend the day cleaning up a bit, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning out the fridge a bit, washing things down, and cleaning off the shrines. This way everything is clean and ready for the new month. Anything that comes off a shrine (or around it) goes into an offering bowl for Hekate - things like incense ash, partially burned incense, any offerings that might still be on shrines, candle wax drippings, used matches, old flowers/herbs, etc. They are offered to Hekate so that she can take the old away to make room for the new, both in a literal and symbolic sense. I also offer her many traditional things like eggs, garlic, bread, cheese, and onions. I have also found cookies decorated with stars, locks, and keys, which I have found make a wonderful offering to her. Traditionally these offerings would be left at a crossroads, but I generally leave them at a stonewall at the edge of the property. The cookie gets buried or burned, if I am able to do so, as it is strictly for Hekate. Everything else is left on the ground at the wall, and I assume animals probably enjoy them. I chose the wall because it is a liminal space, so sacred to her, and is a much more private location. I also make offerings at my ancestor shrine on this night. The next night starts the cycle again.

Then there are the yearly festivals, which are the Sabbats that I'm sure many are familiar with. They fit very nicely with the climate where I live (well, with a few adjustments here and there), so they're something that's stuck with me throughout my time as a pagan, even if the details have changed since then.

Of course not everything I do is quite so structured, but over the years I've found having these cycles really keeps me in tune with my deities, with the spirits, and with nature. It keeps me motivated to practice, and to keep deepening these relationships and bonds, so that things don't become stagnant, and so I don't find myself having done nothing at all for months at a time. Certainly it's not something that would work for everyone, but it does seem to keep me focused, which is something I need a good bit of help with at times!

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