by Ljot Lokadis
I know a lot of Pagans who have very strong feelings about spiritual practice – and usually these feelings are negative. For instance, I’ve known a lot of people who argue that to pray is to debase oneself, that no kind God would ever request offerings … and so forth.
A lot of these conceptions of what religion is and should be come from our religious upbringing. Paganism, Polytheism, and the New Age movement each consist largely of converts (very few of us were brought up in our belief system). Because of this, we all spend some time defining ourselves in relationship to the faith we no longer belong to. If the religion of our upbringing held that prayer is important, we shy away from prayer. If the religion used the word “worship,” we recoil from the word and the idea. If there was an emphasis on service, or on full-time clergy, we avoid these, too. It’s understandable that we flinch at these this way, especially since so many of us identify the religion of our upbringing as abusive, or its power structure as stifling. But prayer and regular religious rituals are things that sustain us and remind us of the place of the Gods, spirits, and ancestors in our lives. To throw them out entirely just because they’ve been misused is to deprive ourselves of valuable tools for creating spiritual connection in our lives.
A spiritual practice within the faith of our choice isn’t and shouldn’t be stifling. It should be a thing that reflects your experiences, and shapes itself to fit your needs. It isn’t a matter, as it was sometimes in our original faiths, of what prayers are best to say, or what posture is best to assume while praying, or unquestioningly accepting the edicts of a religious hierarchy, or anything like that. You can create the structures that will best sustain you, using your own comfort and your intuition, and historical and modern sources. The point is to be engaged – it doesn’t matter what that engagement looks like. The belief that everyone’s spiritual practice should look the same doesn’t have a place, here.
Prayer is nothing more than talking to the Gods, the spirits, and the ancestors. It can mean debasing yourself – just like how “talking to a human being” can mean debasing yourself — but prayer can just as easily mean expressing your thoughts, sharing your feelings, asking a favor, apologizing, or telling a spirit that you love Them. Praying reminds us that the Gods, the spirits, and the ancestors are in our lives, and still care for us.
And offerings? Pagan reluctance around offering practices seems to come from a different place, in my experience. Some mainstream religions make offerings still, but not many. We view it as an archaic thing, something that we don’t need to do as modern Pagans and Polytheists. It’s been written off in so much of modern Western culture as a superstitious way of appeasing a God or a spirit’s wrath, when actually most offerings are love-gifts. When you give a gift to a spouse or a friend, or you do them a favor or you invite them to dinner, are you appeasing their wrath or giving in to their demands? (If you are, I recommend consulting with a relationship counselor …)
Gods, spirits, and ancestors are people like you and me (even though They’re much bigger!). They will speak, if you speak to Them and listen. They will come into your life and your home, if you invite Them in. In a world that’s so hostile to Pagan, Polytheist, and other esoteric religious practices, it’s easy to run away from the kind of dedicated contact over time that can breed a close relationship to the spirits that you hold dear. But cultivating a practice of prayer, of meditation, and of ritual is a wonderful way to deepen one’s religious experience, and I encourage everyone to give it a try.
For more information like this, consider signing up for Mimosa’s newsletter. It’s free, and you’ll even receive a free ebook too! You can check it out here: Free ebook & newsletter