Personal Spiritual Practice: Past and Present

Since I was very young, I have self-identified as a spiritual person. For me, relatedness and interconnection are at the core of spirituality. Spiritual pursuits link me to the beings of this and the other Worlds. Consequently, when I think of spiritual practice, it is a practice that identifies, maintains, and strengthens relations between myself and the other beings that I share this and the other worlds with. Consequently, spirituality is a critical part of my existence. Because everything exists is dynamic, complex, interconnected relation, to not be spiritual is to be alive but not living, to be out of touch with what matters, to drain meaning away from life. In the past, when my spirituality waned with various emotional tides, I felt like all the color and taste were being bled out of my experiences. Oftentimes, in the absence of a strong spiritual sense, I felt isolated and alone. However, when my spirit is full and functional, I feel plugged into everything and the boundaries between me and other beings, between here and there, fade and I feel integrated into something larger, something shared. I maintain spiritual practices in order to return to that sense of interconnectedness and to strengthen relations across the Worlds.

Over the years, the practices that support my spirituality have changed quite a bit, taking multiple shapes. Way back in the day, an active social calendar and prayer were the lion’s share. I have always been social and I consider that part of me to be an important part of my spirituality. People, human beings, are a part of the Worlds and so I count my fellow mortals among the folk that I feel a need to connect with and form meaningful relationships with. Prayer was critical because that was my link to the Christian God. Sometimes I felt heard, sometimes I thought he might be answering; however, the positive feedback was limited and I was not convinced that I was not imagining said positive feedback so my practices eventually morphed into small rituals and deity invocations of the Pagan variety with Pagan concepts of the divine at the core. The social calendar of course remained. Some of my socializing was not with people of my spiritual persuasion and some of it was. Once I made the switch to a Pagan worldview, I felt more like I was on the best track for me and my spiritual development.

When I was still living at home with my mother, before beginning college, I would establish an altar for ritual but nothing permanent that I kept in the house, not because my mother was not open to it but because I was just not quite there yet on my spiritual path. In addition to my periodic Pagan ritual altars, I also engaged in meditation and energy raising on a semi-regular basis. My favorite thing was to sit on the porch during a rainstorm and form energy balls that I would promptly reabsorb after I was finished. I also took those times on the porch -rainstorm or not – to speak with the Divine Feminine, the Goddess. She was not terribly talkative but I could feel her presence and her “unconditional positive regard” more certainly than I could sense the same the Christian God, so I was content for a time with the Goddess. Her Mother aspect was near and dear to me in the formative years of my Pagan spirituality. It was also during this time that I purchased my first tarot deck, entitled the Mythic Tarot. The deck was and still is a really great tool for me. In my mother’s house and in the Mother’s care, my meditation, energy exercises, and divination were happening, in some combination, a two to three times per week.

Once my college years rolled in, I began keeping a permanent altar in my dorm room. Meditation tended to fall to the wayside quite a bit because I was busy socializing with friends and writing papers in the wee hours of the morning. However, my energy exercises and some form of divination held the course. The one thing that I regret about those years is that my schedule for energy exercises and divination was thrown off. Although regularity was difficult to find in terms of practice, my personal belief system, the network of understandings, meanings, and perspectives that would undergird my future practices, continued to develop. I would spend late nights (or rather early mornings) before bedtime pondering the gods, the nature of energy, the existence of all types of spirits and the like. At this time, I was not terribly concerned with spirits (beyond the elementals) and ancestors so my practice did not really integrate them very much, beyond certain times when the Wheel of the Year called for such work. When I occasionally kept sabbat rituals, the focus was on working with the gods, and the elements, and honoring the turning of the year. As college pressed on, I felt the need to return to a more regular practice but I was not sure what direction I should take for myself. As a result, once I graduated from college (upto about 1.5 years after), I continued to maintain an altar but meditation at this point was long gone, energy work was extremely limited, and divination was a big fat “no”. I was pretty done because I was not sure where I was going and emotional hang-ups were interfering.

Once I decided to attend graduate school, I felt invigorated again in all parts of my life, including my spiritual life. Suddenly I felt good about returning to regular spiritual practice. I returned to mediation, energy work and spell casting, divination, ritual craft and the like. I joined all those groups I mentioned in my previous post and I attended regular sabbat celebrations.

Over the last four years, in my personal practice, I have been doing a lot of deity work. I make weekly prayers as well as offerings of flame in the form of candlelight and incense. The incense varies, but in the last few months I have been giving Purple Haze to Hekate, Mercury (planetary) to Mercury, Goddess of Love to Freyja, Root Chakra to Nerthus, and High John the Conqueror to Odin. I obtain all of these incense varieties from Beads-n-Botanicals in Urbana. I typically select them based on their baseline energy as well as their fragrance. It is less important to me that the incense bear the name of the deity and moreso important to me that the incense be energetically sympathetic. Consequently, I have used incense varieties other than those listed but the one’s given here are the current winners. Several times per year, I also make more complex offerings. For example, at High Days, I may make herbal offerings for Hekate, Mercury, and Nerthus (often but not always Mugwort, Marjoram, and Patchouli, respectively). Odin and Freyja usually receive mead or a hard liquor that I have on hand, like vodka.

Additional deities that I have recently begun relationships with (like within the last six weeks or so) also receive weekly incense offerings along with the Fabulous Five mentioned above. They are: Elegua, Oya, and Dionysos. Elegua and Oya receive the lovely Elegua and Van Van incenses respectively, Dionysos gets the Satyr incense. Again, all from Beads-n-Botanicals in Urbana. I made my first High Day offerings for Elegua and Oya recently, where I gave them cinnamon vodka which they both seemed to appreciate. Dionysos and I have yet to have a High Day but I recently gave him a wine libation. Thus far, Dionysos seems the easiest to please of the three. I am still working out what Elegua and Oya would like in terms of offerings. Rum and candy seem to be very high on Elegua’s list though he seems alright with Tequila in a pinch. Oya is a bit of a mystery lately. However my research is yielding a number of viable options.

Beginning this week, I hope to go back to basics, to return to a regular meditation practice. I think it will help me to recenter and “tune in” to energy a little better. I also want to do more experimentation with energy work. I hope to test out a few different methods for raising energy and note the differences between the methods, a bit more of a scientific approach. I generally favor that approach but I want to make the process more regular and more meticulous, taking less for granted. This will be in addition to my regular “temple maintenance” work for the gods as well as the future directions mentioned in my previous post.

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4 thoughts on “Personal Spiritual Practice: Past and Present

  1. Do you have a method for choosing incenses or was it just trial-and-error? It seems like you’ve settled on some pretty specific ones linked to specific deities so I figure there might have been some sort of process. I’m not very familiar with incenses since I worry that the many and varied species of animals that live in the house with me might be adverse to something for some reason, but in the warmer months, I feel like I can open a window more regularly to help mitigate this cause for concern.

    • Typically, I search the selection to find items that seem to have a similar energy to the deity’s. Once I have a few options, I start smelling them :-). I narrow down what I like, and purchase from there. If a more appropriate/better smelling incense is developed, I will switch. I have gone through quite a few incense varieties for each deity, and I am pretty sure they will change again soon!

      Ultimately, most sources say that it is the smell of the smoke that the gods enjoy and accept as an offering. Also, it is the smoke itself that carries our prayers to them, so yeah, after the energetics are covered, the big issue for me is does it smell good. When I have been burning a particular scent for a while and it no longer appeals to me quite the way it once did, I take that as a sign and switch it up to keep things fresh and hopefully pleasing to the gods.

      • That makes sense. I have such a difficult time with detecting specific energies in general (lack of practice, I think, more than lack of aptitude) that while I can intellectually follow what you’re saying, it’s harder for me to relate than it might be for others. Oh well 🙂

      • You could potentially flip my approach and start with smell. What does a particular incense make you think of or how does it make you feel (e.g. refreshed, contemplative, spiritual, meditative, energized, etc.), and go from there eventually pairing the feeling/thought with the deity.

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