Wyrd Words: Daily Devotions

Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, every other week here on Agora!

The idea of setting aside a bit of time each day to focus on the spiritual is a common, and worthwhile, goal. How many of us have made that particular New Year’s resolution? We swear to ourselves that we’re going to schedule a special time for contemplation, and we’re always sure that we’ll make it this time. Some of us try morning prayers, others go with meditation, or Yoga, or reading the Lore. For a week or two we’re determined to stick to our guns and be “more spiritually focused,” or try to be “better Pagans.” Then life gets busy. We find ourselves strapped for time, and cutting minutes wherever we can in a desperate attempt to find hours in the day that just aren’t there. Unfortunately, that special time of contemplation that we told ourselves we would stick to always seems to be one of the things that gets cut.

So here’s where I put on my preaching collar and tell everybody they should all be good little pagans and say ten “Hail Thors” every morning before breakfast, right?


 photo clock_zpscac0e69a.png

Unfortunately I’m not that good at time management either…

When I was growing up, I sometimes used to see my grandfather wake up at suck-o’clock in the morning, so he could spend an hour alone contemplating a chapter of his favorite Bible. He did this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I always envied his devotion. It didn’t matter if he had been up half the night working late, this guy would be up and reading his bible at 4:30 the next morning like clockwork. I didn’t care much for my grandfather’s beliefs, but I never doubted the strength of his convictions. In my mind’s eye, the archetypal image of a truly faithful man was always of my grandfather, sitting in his ugly blue armchair, with his GIGANTIC annotated Bible, at 4:30 in the morning. Despite our differences, I always felt like I should find something to be that devoted to.

With that example as my guide, I tried everything I could think of to try and keep myself on that kind of daily routine. At first I tried to do a half hour of prayer every morning. Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at prayer (for much the same reason that I suck at talking on the telephone). I would sit down and invite the gods into my home… and then sit there… in awkward silence… with nothing much to say… So after a week I scrapped that plan, and I tried quiet meditation next. In case you’ve never tried it, quiet meditation, first thing in the morning when you’re still all groggy, is a one-way ticket to dreamland and a painful crick in the neck. So that plan failed after about 2 weeks.

I built an altar in the hopes that it would inspire me to do some kind of daily devotion more often. (The thought was: “If I put this much time and energy into building this nice altar, I’ll want to put it to good use whenever I see it!”). In the end, the altar got used on the holy days, but otherwise it just got very dusty. Every time I tried to do the kind of daily ritual that I thought I was supposed to be doing, it always seemed to fall flat. I just was NOT getting the sense of daily spiritual connection that I thought I was supposed to be getting. So after years of trying (off and on), I gave up.

Eventually I figured that I would do better to use my morning time slot for something more productive. If I couldn’t manage to get much out of daily contemplation, I could at least help others to do so. So every morning I went through my routine, updating the “Daily Hávamálmailing list that I run through my website. It goes like this:

Every morning I take two verses of the Hávamál, and create a “poster” for each one.

 photo daily7775_zps5f238605.png

Like this one! (Click here to read more about the stanza)

I then update my mailing list with a daily email for each new verse, wherein I write a paragraph or two examining each stanza. (If you click the image above you can read an example.)

Next, I go back through my archives and find the Stanza for that day. I post this to my Facebook Page, and the “featured” section of my website. Once that’s done I undertake the LONGEST part of my daily routine, and manually post that day’s verse to over 60 different pages.

The final component to my daily routine is a rune casting, where I pick the “Rune of the Day”, which then gets posted to Facebook and my web page.

The entire process takes about an hour and a half a day. I do all of this mostly because the online community asked me to, but also because I honestly believe it does some good, and I feel that I am contributing to the community I love. If I couldn’t manage to give daily offerings to the gods, I thought I could at least give this.

It was only once I had finally let go of my preconceptions about what “devotion” should look like that I FINALLY found what I was looking for. As I went about my day-to-day life, I started noticing the influence that the words of Odin were having on me. I’ve never been a charismatic or socially-inclined individual; yet my friends and coworkers started coming to me for advice, and for once I actually knew not only what to say, but how to say it. I found myself more capable of explaining thoughts that I’d always had, because my morning routine had already forced me to examine them. I had finally given up on finding whatever it was that my grandfather had, and lo and behold it found me!

We often have these preconceptions about what a “good Pagan” is or does. We set ourselves up against a standard set by others, and beat ourselves up when we don’t fit into the mold we’ve made for ourselves. For some people, like my grandfather, a routine of daily prayer works. Some people don’t feel the need for some kind of daily devotion at all, and that’s fine too! But if you’re like me, and you’re one of those people who always makes that New Year’s resolution, I have a simple secret for success.

Do what feels right, not what you think you’re SUPPOSED to do.

Maybe sitting in front of an altar and reciting prayers doesn’t feel right, but you always feel most inspired when you’re doing carpentry in your garage. Perhaps you’ve never been good at meditation, but you’ve always felt more clear and connected when you go out for a morning jog. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like what people imagine as “sacred time.” If you feel more of a connection with the gods while jamming out on your guitar then sitting in front of your altar, then PLAY ON!

Devotion can look like fitness, or music, or making chairs, or updating a web page. Don’t try to change your nature to fit a specific model of worship; that just leads to failed resolutions. Instead, choose the model of worship that best suits your nature.

Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/

  • Mikal

    Mead. The more I drink, the more devoted I become. :-P

    Seriously though, I completely understand how this feels, as I have a similar dusty altar in my side room. It stares longingly at me every time I pass by avoiding eye contact, but being alone in the woods has become my bi-weekly ritual after doing the exact same thing you are talking about.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      Ah how I wish I lived by some woods. Tempe is not known for it’s “back to nature” feel. LoL

  • http://strangegirlinalittlehouse.blogspot.com/ Nicole Platania

    I’ll tell you that the Daily Havamal has become my daily ritual. I may not spend the same amount of time on it each day but I always contemplate your interpretation and typically find a way that it applies to what’s going on in my world. So, thanks, your daily ritual has helped build mine.

    • xJane

      It has become mine as well—I’m very grateful for your daily posts.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      I’m pleased that my work has been of use to somebody! :)

  • xJane

    Part of my ritual is self-care. Independence and self-sufficiency being key components to Heathenism (just as community is), I work out or devote time to my career on a daily basis, usually in the morning (though not usually at oh-dark-thirty). Most of the rest of the day, I focus on others’ needs, so this is kind of revolutionary for me…

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      That’s important. If we let our own lives suffer while we focus solely on helping others, then pretty soon we wouldn’t have the strength to be of use to them anyway. It’s important to strike a balance.

  • Frimp

    I want to thank you for this post (and for Daily Havamal, as I’ve recently started “tuning in” for it and it’s been a wonderful addition to my day-to-day). You’ve articulated something that I’ve sort of felt but haven’t been able to articulate.

    I feel the gods when I run, and I push myself to get up that next hill. I feel the gods when I burn my poi, and I push myself to do that trick I’ve been practicing but that my brain is telling me I shouldn’t do because “AHHH FIRE.” I feel the gods when I sit down and write. And through it all, I think of them, and I do my best to honor them. I pledge my sweat and my burns and my words to them.

    Even with all of that, it’s been hard for me not to fall into the mindset of, “I’m not doing the things that one is supposed to do, so I must not be doing it right.” But, you know, that’s cultural, not spiritual. And the way I figure it, spirituality is about integration, not about following a particular “form.”

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      I agree completely. I beat myself up for YEARS because I couldn’t manage to do the kind of daily spiritual routine that my grandfather did. I felt like I lacked the discipline, even though I tried my hardest to keep up with the morning rituals. It wasn’t until recently that I finally came to accept that the only reason I was failing was because I was judging myself by someone else’s experience, rather than my own :)
      I know a LOT of people who go through this, and I wanted to share my experience just in case it helped others find what they were looking for.

    • xJane

      Ah! Running. Yes. I need to start that up again. Thank you for the reminder!

  • Jake Adams

    The “formulaic” way that some beliefs try to have you follow is what causes issues. that way a person interacts with his God(s) is truly only between themselves and their God(s).

    When I was a believer in my sect of Christianity I used to read my Bible instead of paying attention to the sermon or lessons that there being presented. I even went as far as to use a highlighter to highlight passages that meant something to me.

    When some of the other “older” church members found out about this I was blasted at every turn with ” That isn’t respectful” or “You know marking up your bible is Blasphemy right?” or my personal favorite to this day ” You aren’t worshiping god right by doing that”.

    To this day I get looked at by some of those people when I see them as the “odd duck” and when I came out ( we need a better term for this) as an Atheist I got the “Why do you hate God so much? Is it why you marked up your Bible?”

    I tell them the truth now. “I started down the road i travel not because of God but because of followers like you, so Dogmatic in how things need to be done that you drove me away. I don’t hate God I just no longer believe there is one because of people like you.” Tends to shut them up.

    Anyway. My point was, If someone is telling you that you are doing it wrong don’t believe them, odds are they are full of crap.

    • xJane

      That’s so unfortunate! It sounds like you were interacting with your god’s sacred word in a meaningful way—I’m sorry that people discouraged you from continuing. I hope that you have found a path with more supportive followers (or at least learned to tell those kinds of people just what they can do with their opinions!).

  • http://ourgreendreamhome.com/ Angelique

    I love this article and find it very inspirational. I’ve been subscribing to your blog for a while, but I just noticed for the first time that you’re in Tempe. We live in Mesa, and my daughter is a student at ASU, too. So, hello!

  • lilithdorsey

    Great advice, worship comes in quite a few different guises. BTW just luv that graphic of Thor !

  • http://www.rendingtheveil.com Christopher

    Great post.

    Especially now that I have a job in a cube farm, my favorite part of the day is using those Excel skills to work on a retranslation of an old text.

    I swear I can do in a few hours, at 20 minutes a day, what probably would have taken years a century ago. Research? Parallel translations? Dead language thesauruses?

    But you’re right. Discipline can mean devotion to a feeling, not just a set of activities.

  • Morgana Grey

    This is an incredible post, and heartily, I thank you for it. I’m a single, working mom and I’ve been struggling to re-incorporate my spirituality into daily life. I’m one of those folks who gets it in her head that I “need” to do something “this way” or “that way”… even if it doesn’t *quite* fit into my life currently. But in reading this post and understanding that it doesn’t matter how I connect to the Divine, so as long as I just connect… its comforting, if nothing else. :)

  • Wayne Roberts

    Words I will carry with me on my search not only for wisdom but also myself, I personally am coming to discover things and ideology’s that have been with me my whole life are connected to my lineage and has produced in me a sense of belonging and a calmness not ever experienced before. After reading this post I now understand why I to can’t pay homage in what I believe was the expected or normal way, but in saying that have realised it is now a part of my daily routine and has been for some time now, along with this a new sense of knowledge and freedom has emerged in me and for this my brother I Thank You. My devotion is exactly what it should be and has manifested itself without my realisation of it, Each morning I sit here before my laptop, reading and learning about my ancestral roots, My connection to the Gods and have begun to make a very real and raw realisation of who I am and what I believe in, not what I have been told I should believe. I have found solace, wisdom and great comfort in your words I THANK YOU …

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