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?
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 Hávamál“ mailing 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.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.