The Triple Goddess of Sustainability

When we talk about sustainability, the trifecta of actions we can take to help it along consists of “Reduce”, “Reuse”, and “Recycle”.

I don’t really use the Triple Goddess concept in my personal practice, but this fit too perfectly into that framework to pass up! And honestly, the more I look at this the more I think I might have finally found a trio that works for me!

So. Here is my fun little exploration of the Triple Goddess archetype as seen through the lens of environmental sustainability.

Recycle: This lovely Maiden transforms that which is used and discarded into something completely new by restoring it to a base state. A blend of scientist and activist, She rattles off plastic grades while advocating for neighborhood recycling programs. I picture Her as a college student, maybe, checking off an address on Her clipboard (or ticking a box on Her tablet) as She tosses another bag of cans into the bed of Her pickup truck. She’s convinced that new up-and-coming technologies are the key to saving the planet, and She sees recycling as the first step to that. She also steers us away from things that can’t be recycled, helping us find better and more sustainable alternatives. Recycle teaches us that what’s old can be made brand new again, if we’re willing to go through the necessary work to make it happen.

Reuse: I picture Reuse as a lovely earth mother and DIY goddess, with a messy knot of paint-spattered hair and a toolbelt. Her creativity overflows when She sees the potential treasure in someone else’s trash, and She’s got the skills and know-how to bring it out both practically and aesthetically. That abandoned dresser on the side of the road? A little of Her magick turns it into an absolutely gorgeous showpiece in Her bedroom. Or maybe instead it becomes an entertainment center, a kitchen island, or a changing table – Her carpentry skills are matched by her vision. She’s the Matron of the thrift store, too, able to turn that 80s prom gown into something absolutely smashing for next month’s wedding. Reuse thinks answers to sustainability lie within the land, the natural world, and what’s available to us right now. She’s a proponent of plant-based diets and the glories of compost. She teaches us that a little creativity and elbow grease can breathe life into something thought dead and useless.

Reduce: An often-neglected part of the sustainability triad, Reduce is a strict task-mistress. She teaches us that the best, most effective way to walk with a light footprint is to carry less to start with. Reduce encourages us to embrace zero-waste groceries, no-buy commitments, minimalism, and smaller and simpler homes. She also helps us see that our quality of life doesn’t drop – and is perhaps even enriched – when we step away from our consumer-driven lives for something a little slower and more present. I picture Her as an older woman in a simple off-grid cabin, serving sun tea in old mason jars on a covered country porch. Reduce thinks that the key to sustainability lies in tradition, and looks to the lifestyles of the past (within reason) as the best inspiration for living in the present and prepping for the future. She’s the cautionary one of the three, teaching us that sacrifice is necessary for sustainability too.

Of course, Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce don’t exist in vacuums. The three generations of the Sustainability family are incredibly close-knit, and each takes joy and satisfaction from sharing Her approaches and discoveries with Her kin. Just think of the things we could learn from talking to all three, and following Their lead in our own lives!

And there you have it – the Triple Goddess of Sustainability! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and encourage you to invite this triad into your life for 2018!

It’s the Little Things: Rethinking the Lighters on Our Altars and Shrines

When I was learning magick back in the day I was warned away from using matches because they contain sulfur on the tips, which was said to introduce “unwelcome energies” to whatever workings most of us were doing. I was steered to lighters instead, and have used them since.

It’s time to rethink that.

Every year 1.5 BILLION disposable lighters end up in landfills, they can’t be recycled, and there are gruesome pictures of birds that have eaten them and then died – the shineys look like fish. (Don’t Google “albatross chicks” and “lighters”, y’all. It’s horrible.) And all that’s before we even get to the carbon footprints of both the manufacturing of the plastic lighters AND burning the fuel within!

Refillable lighters save the lighter from entering the landfill (at least temporarily), but what about the plastic bottles the refillable lighter fuel comes in? That’s usually considered hazardous waste, so recycling can be dicey depending on local rules. Butane has to be kept under pressure, which makes their containers more process-intensive to manufacture and even worse from a recycling perspective. And, again, refillable lighters still burn petrochemicals, which add to our carbon footprints.

Either way, THAT is energy I don’t want to bring to my workings!

So, back to the humble match. I did some research, y’all. Diamond Greenlight matches (the only brand made in the US) are made from either sustainably harvested trees or 100% recycled paperboard.

For wooden matches, one tree can make up to a MILLION matches, and they can even grow back from the same root system after being felled. Burning wood is carbon neutral*, too – the same carbon is released whether it’s burned or it naturally decomposes.

The paperboard ones are a little more flimsy, but they’re made from completely recycled material and, again, they’re carbon neutral*.

The tips of both styles do have trace elements of sulfur on them, in addition to a couple of other things like glue, but the amounts are so minimal per strike we can’t even calculate a toxicity on them. They pretty much burn away instantly, relying on the wood or the paperboard to maintain the flame until being extinguished.

As an aside, I’m not a fan of big business or anything, but back in 1911 Diamond voluntarily released the patent on its safety matches so competitors would stop using the way more dangerous white phosphorus in their products. I can approve of that!

Still concerned about the sulfur on the tips? Sulfur is often used in banishing magick, sure, but that’s because it’s associated so strongly with protection and purification workings. An infinitesimal trace of it when we light candles or incense isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

I just picked up 320 small wooden Diamond Greenlight matches for $1.49 at the grocery store. Better deals are available on Amazon, though – here’s 1000 of the paperboard ones for $5. The latter is both made of recycled material and recyclable.

Why does this even matter? Because the little choices we make echo through our lives and our world in ways we often don’t consider. Getting into the habit of thinking about these kinds of things in relation to our sacred and magickal work will hopefully help us learn to be conscious of the choices we make in other parts of our lives too. That can only be a good thing.

*Note: There’s some hedging about whether burning biomass is truly carbon neutral, and most of that hedging seems to revolve around sustainable forestry practices. In this particular case I’m inclined to go with the carbon neutral take, especially for the paperboard matches since they’re recycled to start. However, that’s me. Please do your own research and choose accordingly. 

Daily Devotions – Mealtime Offerings

Honoring the Lady of Home and Hearth was the heart of regular day-to-day practice in ancient times. Taking place in kitchens across the Proto-Indo-European world, it was carried over to the descendent hearth cultures too.

For the most part, our ancestors were practical people. They understood that regular practice couldn’t be maintained if it was approached like a full seasonal festival every time. Seasonal festivals can only be lavish and complicated because they’re done seasonally. As our day-to-day lives are much simpler than a three-day festival involving the whole town, so our daily devotions are simpler than a full High Day ritual.

Perhaps that’s why one of the most pervasive types of regular devotional activity is the humble mealtime offering. Even those of us raised in non-religious households are familiar with the idea of bowing our heads in thanks before a meal. If you’ve ever done it yourself feel blessed – you’ve taken part in a practice that was prevalent before Christianity and has survived remarkably intact to the present day.

Mealtime offerings are one of my absolute favorite types of regular devotional work. Mine only take about sixty seconds per meal and still manage to resonate throughout my whole day. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!

Intrigued? Read on!

Why Mealtime Offerings?

Oh, the many reasons, y’all. This type of devotional work has some serious traction behind it.

  1. It’s a time and type of devotion we’re already accustomed to in modern American culture. Granted we might not see it out and about very often, but if someone bows their heads over their plate before eating we know exactly what they’re doing without having to ask. Some of us may have even grown up doing it. It’s a familiar place devotion-wise, is what I’m saying, and if it ain’t broke why fix it?

    A family praying before a meal.

    Many of us might have taken part in this over the recent Thanksgiving holiday even if it’s not part of our usual practice.

  2. Mealtime offerings aren’t time- or labor-intensive, and there’s no expectation that they should be. We want to eat while it’s still hot! There’s no pressure to make them longer, or fancier, or hugely profound, or whatever else. We’re hungry. Get it done.
  3. They’re not intimidating because we know they vary, and that’s ok. Some folks have a set prayer every time, others make it up as they go, some adults go on forever with it, and some kids use quick nursery rhymes. It all works, so we can feel confident in knowing that whatever we come up with works, too.
  4. Eating is when we take the produce of the Earth and consume it, our foods dying so that we might live. When we die we’ll become part of that same cycle, feeding the earth for those who come after. Recognizing that most fundamental of truths is about as nature/earth/cycle centered as we can get, making it an excellent anchor for devotions.
  5. Mealtime offerings are in the lore! Not only can we draw on our own experiences with this, we know for a fact ancient polytheists did them too. Greek and Roman families made offerings from every meal on their household shrines/in their hearth fires, for instance (which is what my personal approach is based on).
  6. Mealtime devotions continued from ancestral practices right through to the present day (albeit in different forms). Because of that, they connect us directly to what our ancestors did regardless of the faith they practiced. There’s not much else in our lives that can do that. Nifty, huh?

With all of that going on it makes all the sense in the world to take a minute or three out of our day to join the party!

Timing 

We all eat. Ideally, we all eat multiple times a day. We don’t need to look for opportunities to do mealtime offerings. We’re kind of spoiled for choice!

I make offerings at every meal that involves heat to prepare. Some folks might be more comfortable with something else, though, and that’s ok too. Other timing options include only meals eaten in your home, only the evening meal, only Sunday dinner, breakfast every other day… Honestly, they’re your meals and your devotions. What works for you?

My Mealtime Offerings

In my practice meals are the dominion of Wéstyā, the Proto-Indo-European Lady of the Flame and Goddess of the Hearth. She is naturally the Goddess I look to for all domestic matters, and it is to Her that I make mealtime offerings.

I have two versions: one for when I eat at home and one for when I don’t.

At Home: In the old days Wéstyā was always present in the hearth fire. Few of us even have hearths anymore, though. That’s ok. All it takes is a candle or oil lamp in the kitchen, lit when we start preparing our meal and extinguished when we’re done with clean up. Can’t make the kitchen candle/lamp work, for whatever reason? Put Her candle on your shrine instead. I have roommates and limited counter space, so I honor Her on my shrine.

Anyway, when I begin preparing my meal (or when I start ordering delivery), I take a moment to light a candle for Wéstyā. As I do, I say:

Wéstyā is here, heart of my home. 

When the food is ready to serve/arrives courtesy of the local pizza joint, I offer Her a small bit of whatever it is before anything else is served or eaten. She gets first dibs. I just take a bite-sized piece of whatever (no meat, though – She doesn’t care for it) and put it in the little dish I keep ready for the purpose by Her candle. As I do, I say:

Burn on our hearth, Wéstyā, source of all that is holy. Bless us who dwell here, and smile on our home, and give special care to guests that our care of them might honor You.

Then eat as usual. When the meal is done, collect Her plate along with all the other dishes and clean up. Return Her cleaned dish to Her shrine while saying:

I welcomed You into my home with the offerings due a guest, Wéstyā, but I know that I am ever a guest in yours. May Your flame always shine bright. Blessings to You, Lady of the Flame!

Blow out Her candle, thus scattering Her blessings around the home. Done!

What I particularly like about this setup is that it reminds me to consider Her during the entire meal, from preparation through cleanup. However, at no point does it feel overwhelming, scary, or difficult. When I first started with this approach I kept little cards with my lines by Her candle (since everything is said there), one for each section, so I didn’t forget or stumble. After a while I naturally memorized them, but I didn’t feel like I had to. And I still keep the cards underneath Her candle, just in case.

Westya's place on my shrine.

Wéstyā’s place on my shrine. On the left, you can see the cards tucked underneath and the dish I use for Her offerings. On the right, the cards are spread out so you can see them. Unless I’m burning the candle the top covers it – I like this particular candle holder because the handle part looks like a flame too!

Away from Home: The process doesn’t really change, just the actions. I say the things I’d normally say, but in my head instead of out loud. Instead of lighting a candle I visualize it. And instead of putting Her offering on Her shrine I set a small plate up for Her to the side. I’ll either bring one with me or, if I’m in a restaurant, I’ll just request an extra saucer from the wait staff. I’ve never once had anyone not dining with me question it. Not a plate-type meal? That’s fine. Use whatever is being used for whatever you’re eating.

Variations

What I use is obviously not the be-all/end-all of possibilities for mealtime offerings. It’s totally ok if you want to change it up. Hell, I based what I actually say in large part on prayers written by Ceisiwr Serith in Deep Ancestors. Feel free to adapt what I’ve provided here to reflect your practice, the Powers you honor, and the way you take your meals. Or write your own!

I usually prepare, eat, and clean up my meals solo, so my devotions are written that way. Want to involve more people? Have the head cook do the first part, whoever’s in charge of clean up do the third, and maybe rotate the second. Or have the oldest/youngest do it. Or rock/paper/scissors for it. Or draw lots. Or roll dice. Be creative!

Want to honor a different Power? Feel free! An obvious substitution here would be the Greek Hestia or the Roman Vesta, but any home and hearth goddess would be a perfectly suitable choice. Want to honor Ancestors or Land Spirits instead of a goddess? Go for it!

Really like the candle part and want to use one away from home too? Or live somewhere that candles are absolutely prohibited (like a dorm)? Consider dedicating one of those battery-operated tea lights to Her and using it instead. Switch it on when you would usually light the candle, leave it on during the meal, and click it off when the plates are cleared and you’ve given thanks. Use a real candle if you can, but if you can’t by all means use what works.

A package of 2 LED tea lights.
Two for $1 at the Dollar Tree. Complete with “flickering effect”.

Really, the sky’s the limit here.

Devotional work doesn’t have to be difficult, complicated, intimidating, or time-intensive. It always, always goes back to hospitality – being ready and willing to entertain, offering food/drink, and being respectful. As long as you hit those three points you’re on the right track!

POLL: Hurdles to Devotional Work

I’m a big proponent of regular devotional work. Daily, weekly, whenever we feel moved – as far as I’m concerned the timing doesn’t matter so much as long as we do it.

Every time I see devotions talked about in Pagan or polytheistic circles, though, I see a few people swearing by the practice and a metric fuckton of people saying they don’t/can’t/won’t. Why is that, do you think?

I asked about it on my Facebook and got some great feedback, but then I decided I needed a larger sample size. Hence this poll! Please complete it, share it, whatever. If there’s something I missed in the answer selection, or a point you’d like to expand on/clarify, please leave a comment. I really want to know what y’all think!

Enough PIE to Go Around: A Response to “Survivor? Or Pioneer?”

Oh, look! Feathers in Amber posted a response to my previous post and offers some excellent additional points too! Absolutely worth the read, so head over and check it out!

Feathers in Amber

“If you are like most people, then like most people, you don’t know you’re like most people.”
–Daniel Gilbert

You may not realize it, but Caer Jones just wrote the most important post on polytheism you’ll read all year. This is the point at which I pause and urge you in the strongest terms to go read it before continuing with my article. Got it? Alrighty.

bronzehittitefigures These bronze animal figures are from one of the earliest Indo-European cultures, the Hittites.

Jones addresses a lot of important concepts in her article. The first is that most of what we consider modern paganism or polytheism is descended from a culture known as the Proto-Indo-Europeans. You won’t find the Proto-Indo-European nation on a map, nor are there any ancient documents written in their language. As far as we know, they didn’t have writing, and our best conjecture of the language they spoke is…

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Libertas – Freedom in Service

For every blessing there’s a burden, and devotional relationships are no exception. The latest over at Gangleri’s Grove talks about some of the highs and lows in a devotional life, and I personally found that it resonated quite a bit. Check it out!

I was reading a novel a few days ago and came across a line from Seneca “deo parere libertas est” – to serve/devote oneself to a God is freedom. I was so intensely struck by the sentiment that I’ve been mulling it over since I first read it. Certainly, it is a sentiment that I […]

via Libertas — Gangleri’s Grove

Survivor? Or Pioneer?

*Note: I am specifically speaking about polytheisms centered around PIE religion and the descendant IE faiths. There are other polytheisms out there, of course, but they’re both a) not nearly as commonly practiced by those identifying as “Pagan” or “polytheist”, and b) far beyond the scope of this post AND this blog. I’m also American, so writing primarily for that audience. Thanks for understanding.

My deepening study of Proto-Indo-European religion is resonating through my life in some interesting ways. I’m constantly finding new bits of info or perspectives that challenge what I thought I knew.

It was through that study that I was suddenly able to see a perspective so ingrained in modern Paganism/polytheism that I didn’t even know it was there until I had an alternative for comparison.

It boils down to this: When we practice our faiths, do we see ourselves as Survivors? Or Pioneers?

The Survivors

When it comes to modern PIE-descended polytheism, Survivors see the world like this:

The Survivor Scenario.

At one point in history Proto-Indo-European religion ruled the day, at least for a specific part of the world. It was a polytheistic faith, and it established the ground rules for all the derivatives and variations that came after. 

Over time different descendant groups developed distinctly different playbooks, but they were all still for the game established by the PIEs. The Romans and the Celts and the Norse were all different from each other, but they retained their polytheistic roots and were built on that original Proto-Indo-European framework.

Then Monotheism came in like an atomic bomb, blowing all of those beautiful, distinctly different polytheistic faiths to smithereens. BAM! PIE-descended polytheism (with the exception of the Vedic, which took a completely different route) disappeared from the world entirely, leaving us unmoored and adrift from the traditions that came before.

It was a polytheistic apocalypse, and those of us claiming polytheism today are the last survivors. Like the folks in Mad Max or Waterworld, we scavenge the ruins of once-great civilizations for whatever glimpses of authentic meaning still remain amongst the wreckage, because however tattered those remnants are they’re still better and/or more authentic than anything existing in the here-and-now.

Gathered around a campfire in a blown-out hellscape.

“Back before the world ended, people came from all over for training in the Great Mysteries! How amazing would that have been?” “Right? SO much. I was born too late, dammit!” *tosses another stick on the fire, brooding as the sparks fly*

This view – the Survivor Scenario – is why so many Pagans enter their practice with a sense that they’re either reliving or attempting to revive a bygone era. They believe, consciously or not, that the Golden Age of polytheism has passed us by. For Survivors, modern polytheisms will always be fundamentally inferior to ancient polytheisms, and our efforts will at best get us within shouting distance of what our ancestors once had. We often despair of doing even that.

It’s a view of polytheism that forever looks back and never ahead.

The Pioneers

I’ll admit, the Survivor Scenario is the one I’ve been working with for years now. It permeates modern polytheism so strongly that I didn’t even know it was there until I started getting more into my studies. Once I saw it, though, I was able to see an alternative to the Survivor Scenario. I call it the Pioneer Scenario.

Pioneer Scenario

Most of us who claim polytheism today rarely go back to the original PIE culture (at least as far as I’ve seen), instead focusing on individual hearth cultures that came from it. Even worse, we tend to look at the entire body of knowledge belonging to each culture as monolithic. It’s like we think these cultures sprang fully-formed from the ground and didn’t have any growing pains at the beginning, that they didn’t have centuries to develop, that they didn’t have to start somewhere.

We never consider that the original Proto-Indo-Europeans were a migratory people, and every time they reached a new place to settle they were again faced with the task of adapting their practices to fit the circumstances of their new home.

When we see that, though, we begin to see Modern America as simply one more culture in a long line of them. We’re attempting to do the exact same thing with our polytheism our predecessors did – plant it in a new homeland and grow it into a faith that’s rooted in tradition but relevant to the here-and-now.

Like any of the other groups we’ve got a mixed bag of challenges and blessings that will shape how our particular polytheism grows, but to make anything lasting we’ve got to ditch this idea that our culture is inherently inferior. It’s different, to be sure, but it’s not deficient.

Once we accept that, we can venture beyond merely copying what worked for the other PIE cultures. Doing so won’t work, not in the long term, because it’s not ours that way. We have to seize the opportunity to create new traditions that both honor our PIE heritage and this new cultural landscape in which we find ourselves. Just as our ancestors did before. Otherwise we really will be the last polytheists standing.

Lewis_Clark

“What new adventures lie thataway?” “I don’t know – let’s go find out!”

Our challenges and blessings are both significant, though, and we’ll need to keep both in mind if we’re going to succeed in establishing a uniquely American polytheism.

As far as challenges go, our ancestors had the benefit of living in a world where polytheism was the norm. We don’t. It’s also true that we no longer have an unbroken chain of inherited knowledge for any hearth culture. I can’t go to my local Druid, spend 20 years learning the lore, and practice Druidry the same way ancient Druids did. That opportunity is long past. Only a tiny portion of all the writings that once were have survived the passage of time, too, and a huge swath of oral history is forever lost. These losses are truly tragic.

Instead of dwelling on the losses like the Survivors, though, the Pioneer asks “What unique blessings can this new cultural landscape bring to the PIE table?”.

And there we have quite the list.

We in the modern era have archaeology and psychology and sociology, biology and chemistry and physics, to deepen our understanding of our world far beyond what our ancestors had. We can use that to fuel our polytheism. We can share information between continents, in real time. I’m sharing this blog post using a system containing information that rivals the most celebrated libraries of the ancients, and almost 90% of our population can read it. We’re not just locked into studying one hearth culture to the exclusion of the others by virtue of our physical location alone – we’re in the enviable position of being able to study all of them, simultaneously, from the comfort of our own homes, and we can use that knowledge to inform our practices.  We may not have the depth of information our ancestors did, but I’m betting we’ve got way more breadth, and that information is available to damn near everyone regardless of class or family lineage. And while social progress can be debated, I am thrilled to live at a time when it’s more acceptable to challenge traditional gender roles, or openly live as LGBT+, or to hold any number of other individual perspectives that can enhance our collective experiences.

Personally, I think focusing too much on the Survivor Scenario hampers our ability to adapt, and it impedes our ability to appreciate where we are as much as where we’ve come from. Which makes it harder for us to build something that will carry us into the future.

I’m doing my best to reject the Survivor Scenario entirely. It doesn’t serve anyone. I’m consciously choosing instead to focus on what modern America has to offer as we take our place with the other hearth cultures at polytheism’s table. I’m excited to see what this branch of the PIE family tree will one day grow into, and I’m eager to do what I can to help.

What about you?

Ask the Puritans for Your Money Back

I’ve blogged about some of these topics before, as have many others, and I’m sure we’ll keep seeing stuff like this until we’re all better able (and more willing) to get out of our own way. Always good to have a reminder!

Feathers in Amber

Recently, I made a little post on Facebook. It read simply:

“Does anyone have a recipe for money drawing oil? Much obliged!”

Hardly headline news, right? I certainly didn’t think it was going to be a request that merited a full-blown blog post. But before I tell you more about what I intended when I wrote those two sentences, why don’t I give you a little tour of the responses?

Some of the people replying to me made a lot of assumptions right off the bat. These included:

  • The assumption that the money drawing oil was for me, or for a working I was doing on my own behalf, rather than a friend or client.
  • The assumption that I was not aware that I could purchase the oil already made.
  • The assumption that I asked about the money drawing oil because I was currently in financial difficulty.
  • The assumption that…

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Updates and Journeys

So, updates! I’ve been diving into studies of proto-Indo-European everything of late, and my studies in that area are leading to some really fascinating clarifications/expansions/outright changes to my practice.

One of the most interesting updates – to me, anyway! – is how it’s changed my approach to the Wheel of the Year. My Wheel has always been extremely individualized, and some of that’s still there, but studying PIE stuff has also shown me that I wasn’t nearly as off from PIE practice as I thought I was! I just filter it through a more modern perspective, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re interested in checking out where that’s at now, pop on over to The Wheel of the Year and take a look-see! I expect some further changes to it as I go, but that’s then.

Also in that vein, I am officially working on the Dedicant Path for the ADF, with proto-Indo-European as my hearth culture focus. Expect lots of similar updates and realizations over the next little bit! I for one am super excited about it.

I hope that y’all will join me on this new journey in my life. It’s been a long time coming.

Have a lovely day!

Prayer Ritual Basics

Since posting about my upcoming Prayer Ritual I’ve gotten several requests for a how-to guide. I figured the best place to start would be an explanation from the one who inspired me to do this, Stevie Miller over at Feathers in Amber. She graciously provided the below explanation and photos of her techniques. One of the things I most like about her practice is that she’s not afraid to experiment with different approaches, so you’ve quite a few examples to start with!

Starting an Open Prayer Ceremony
Stevie Miller

If you have spent any amount of time on social media–and really, who hasn’t?–you’ve probably seen a surprising amount of people asking for prayers. It might not occur to you, as it didn’t for me, until you start looking for it, but these requests are everywhere: sick and injured friends and family, job searches, hurting relationships, house fires, cars breaking down. In a circle of just a couple hundred people, things like this can be going wrong every day.

As a spirit worker, I seem to have something of an “on duty” sign that lights up when people specifically ask for prayer. Even if the people making the request are from different traditions than mine, or outside of polytheism altogether, I often feel moved to help. But since I didn’t want to impose my beliefs on others, I wanted to come up with a way to figure out who wanted that kind of help from me, and how I could offer it on a regular basis without it taking over my life.

A simple prayer ritual to Odin with an offering of mead and incense.

A simple altar layout for a prayer ritual, featuring an offering of mead and incense.

Enter the weekly open prayer ceremony. I let people know that I will be lighting candles and reading out petitions once a week and that I’m open to requests. Suddenly, those requests came flooding in from every direction–more than I even had candles for! People loved the idea, and I even got asked if others could pray for me in return, and if I wanted donations to be offered to any charities in return for this sacred work. I was also asked to write the article you’re reading now.

I also found that this practice has benefitted me. The routine is fantastic for ensuring that I’m offering to and talking to my Powers regularly. Social accountability–that is, other people expecting that you’re going to do something, and your posting evidence of it–is great for establishing and maintaining a good habit. It has also made me feel much more connected to others. Spirit work, especially when you serve a really niche tribe–and in my case, a discarnate, non-human tribe–can be an extremely lonely path. But with this, I’m using my skills to do good for others, and hearing back about how it has helped them. It has been starting to make me feel like I really do have a community, and they need me.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made. She kept the cord on the altar for a week so that the Gods could watch over everyone’s intentions.

The Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits seem to enjoy being needed too. I’ve consistently gotten messages over the years, both intended for myself and intended for others, along the lines of “Ask Us! Come to Us when you are in need! We want to be a part of your lives and your works. You don’t need to do this all alone.” Calling on the Powers regularly for the people has strengthened my bond with Them too.

I wholeheartedly believe the world will be a better place when more of us are praying for each other and offering to the Powers. So if you’d like to start an open prayer ceremony of your own–which I would strongly encourage!–I’d like to offer some tips.

Define your community: Maybe you just want to open your ceremony to people close to you, or maybe you want to make it public. I post publicly on social media about it, and, odd exceptions aside, accept every prayer petition I receive. You may want to do it differently. Whatever you choose, figure out who you’re offering this service to and how you will let them know about it. An alternative is to simply gather up the prayer requests you see and hear in day to day life. You’ll be surprised how many you encounter once you start looking for them.

Set your boundaries: What Powers do you want to work with? Will you let people request prayers to a specific deity or spirit? What kinds of prayer requests will you accept? When will you accept prayer requests? What is your maximum capacity? These are all things you will need to define for yourself and your audience if you’re going to do open prayer ceremonies.

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A beautiful altar layout utilizing nine candles to represent the collective prayers said. Note the rune stones in front of the candles – she drew a general omen for everyone she prayed for and shared the results.

Create your ritual: I’ve found that it’s easiest for me to deal with open requests if I keep my ritual format simple. I do a simple invocation, I make offerings to the Powers I have invoked, I read the petitions of the people while lighting candles, and I thank the Powers for Their blessings. Sometimes I will add a component where I take an omen, such as a three rune pull or a card draw, or a component where I meditate and listen to see if the Powers have any messages for just me personally or for all the people being prayed for. That’s it.

Distance offerings: Since I’m praying for people who are scattered all over the country, I took up a practice that seems to be gaining popularity in polytheist circles: I promote offerings to charity in the name of the deity being honored that week. For example, the last couple times that I have worked with Odin, He has made it clear that He would like offerings in His name to be made to Alzheimer’s research. This allows people who are not present at your ceremony to take part if they feel so moved by giving something in exchange. Reciprocity is important in many traditions. It also helps you work on causes your Powers find important, which can only improve your devotional relationships, right?

Simplify: I keep the whole process simple because it’s easier for me to focus on the petitions, and to keep this process going without getting burnt out. For example, you don’t have to light an individual candle for every single petition. I sometimes use 9 which is a symbolically important number in my tradition; for many 3 is also a sacred number.

An image of nine tealights arranged in a pattern centered on an Odin jar candle.

Miller’s use of nine candles during a prayer ritual.

Offerings can be low key, like a nice beverage or some incense. I use Wednesday as my day of the week because that day is named after my Patron Odin (“Woden’s Day”). Keeping it on the same day each week makes it easier for me to remember (I’m lucky if I know what day it is!) and also makes it easy for people to know when their prayer requests need to get to me by.

After my prayer ceremony is over, I usually share a quick snapshot of the lit up altar just to let people know that their petitions have been spoken. I’ll share any commentary that I have from the rite itself, especially if I took an omen and want to share my reading of it.

In the future, I plan to work with different Powers and offer prayer ceremonies focused on particular intents, such as healing and abundance. I’m hoping to foster connections between people and deities or spirits they may not be as familiar with too.

I hope that this has been helpful and that you are inspired to start your own open prayer ceremony! Blessings to you and your communities.