This post is part of a new ongoing column, The Busy Witch, by Jen McConnel. Look for it on alternate Tuesdays!
Life seems to move faster every day. Goddess knows that since I sat down and started writing this, I’ve popped up to get the laundry out of the dryer, clean up after the cat, and help my husband unload the groceries. And that’s just on the weekend! It can be hard enough to juggle all the mundane responsibilities of daily life. Who has time for spiritual matters on top of it all?
As tempting as it sometimes is to let our sacred practice slip to the bottom of the list, spirituality is a vital part of our health, happiness, and overall well-being. As Pagans, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to making time to worship. Other than the Sabbats and the occasional full moon gathering, most of us don’t have any routine structures of worship in place. While it can sometimes be frustrating not to have the weekly church service to attend, this also allows us a lot of freedom. We can craft a devotional schedule that suits our lives and our own individualized practice.
Like so many people when they first wander over to the Pagan path, I initially lacked guidance and direction. One of the most exciting and frustrating things about this faith is the lack of dogmatic guidance: I am free to create my own rituals and spells, but I am also left without much external structure or instruction. Because of this, I have had to develop my own spiritual discipline over the intervening years, and it’s challenging.
There’s a reason that some of the most populous religions in the world have firm hierarchies and scripture: it’s much easier to worship when the rules and boundaries are clearly marked. There’s no impetus to ask questions, to seek alternatives, or to step into a leadership role. As a mostly solitary witch, however, the way I worship is left entirely up to me, and sometimes, that means I get lazy.
It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like you are creating your faith from scratch, but that’s the beauty of Paganism; we can create our ideal devotional practices. Sure, there are mythic structures and archetypes to draw on from across the globe, and groups with defined hierarchical roles and dogmatic teachings do exist, but for many of us, we’re in the unique position of creating our own spiritual practice day by day.
As a writer, a wife, a teacher, and a friend, my days are filled with people and responsibilities. As a witch, I have made the commitment to myself to practice my craft every day. This doesn’t mean I prepare elaborate rituals every twenty-four hours; I leave the big rituals for the Sabbats, when I gather with an open circle and experience the invigorating and diverse sensations of group ritual. My day to day practice is much simpler, and entirely solitary.
I have a small end table in the southwest corner of my bedroom which has served as my altar for years. I decorate it whenever the mood strikes, but I try to change it up at least once every lunar cycle. Even if I don’t have the time to do anything else, I spend at least five minutes each night at my altar. Sometimes I chant, sometimes I work a simple spell, but most times, I light a candle and sit in front of it. Worship can be that simple, but don’t be fooled into thinking that simple expressions of devotion are void of power; those moments of solitude each night have helped me deepen my relationship with my patron, Isis, while at the same time opening my heart and mind to the beautiful possibilities of the Universe.
For me, being a witch and a Pagan is about conscious living. I don’t always succeed, but I try to live mindfully. I have become more and more aware of the food I eat, searching for ways to make healthy decisions that honor me and Goddess (I even went vegetarian for a year, but that’s a post for another time), and I try to cultivate a conscious attitude of gratitude in my day. Sure, I pray for what I want and use magic to help me, but I attempt to spend more time thanking the Universe for the blessings in my life than I spend begging. On bad days, that can be hard, but in the end, it all balances out.
As the great Sufi mystic poet, Rumi, once wrote, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth.” Whatever you do with your heart is an act of devotion, even if you don’t cast a circle beforehand. Twice a month, I’ll be sharing this column with you, offering up simple and easy suggestions to show you how I incorporate faith into everyday. After all, that’s one of the most beautiful things about being a Pagan; the infinite possibilities of magic that surround us in every moment. I hope you’ll follow along with this busy witch as she tries to remember to stop, slow down, and give thanks for every moment, both large and small.