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Developing Devotional Practices Beyond Praying

Developing Devotional Practices Beyond Praying September 30, 2020

I’ve been a person with a very, very unstable routine. Once I think I found my way to make my days work, something will happen and shakes all around. The environment I live in is not the best one, no matter how grateful I am since it has taught me so much about patience and humility. It’s like trying to build a house of cards in the middle of a hurricane or trying to make a sandcastle last all summer. This affects me mostly when I try to stay faithful and do my daily devotions.

“Why praying, in the first place? If you consider our lives are already written and we have little no to option of freewill, it certainly doesn’t make much sense, but that’s now what a Deity would do in my opinion”. Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay. Cropped.

What is “Devotion”?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines devotion as “loyalty and love or care for someone or something”, “the fact of following religious teachings, or religious worship” and “religious worship or belief, or prayer and other acts of religious worship”. Let’s stay with praying for a while. There’s a reason for it to be included.

Merriam-Webster says that praying means “1: to make a request in a humble manner 2: to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving”. While the divine element is present in pretty much 99% of the definition we search for, the act of asking in a humble manner fits the general idea, if you ask me, and that’s something we can do not only to Deities but also other kind of spirits.

I pray my Gods to show me the best path to follow and protect me, my family and my house. I pray to my ancestors of blood to guide me in the difficult times and give me their wisdom. I show kindness and humility to any spirits that approaches and seems to have good intentions. You never know who may be about to how up, so it’s always good to stay open and receptive but doubt until you get proof they are not ill-intended.

Why praying, in the first place? If you consider our lives are already written and we have little no to option of freewill, it certainly doesn’t make much sense, but that’s now what a Deity would do in my opinion. Why create whole planets (because it’s impossible that ours is the only planet with living being on it) if you’re going to control every single aspect of its development and its race’s?

My late grandfather from my mother’s side used to say we are born with a destiny, a point in live to which we will arrive, no matter what we do, but that it’s up to us how we reach it. We go in a straight line, we run, swim, stop, go backwards, in curves, or whichever path you chose. But in the end you will get there. That does make some sense for me.

Praying as an act of devotion means that I respect the path that I am destined to walk, that I appreciate it, and want my Gods, ancestors, and whichever spirit I include as well to be part of it. My devotions are both to ask for help and thank when I am helped, to show kindness, respect and trust.

“If I’m a creator, what a better way to how devotion than to create?”. Image by Pexels from Pixabay. Cropped.

Besides praying…

Although the most common way of devotion, showing respect to a higher power, as praying, offerings and meditating, and are a fundamental part of every practice in development which shouldn’t be ignored (just to make sure we’re all on the same page and to avoid misinterpretations,) devotion is not limited to those three activities. It is much more.

As a Witch, I recognize myself as a child of the Divine. Gods, God, Universe, Cosmos… You name it. And, as a child, I am Divine in my own way. I came to be because the primal Creative Power wanted it to be so, which makes me a little creator in comparison, as one of my first teachers said. If I’m a creator, what a better way to how devotion than to create?

Think about the activities you like to do, things that leave you happy, make you mile and that you enjoy. Put education aside for a while, forget about what you can learn, and focus instead and what you love doing. And then do it more often, learn how to do it better, how to have the best time while on it, and reclaim your right to do it.

I like to read about Syria when I can, the country my family comes from, learn about it and its myths, stay updated about the news and learn about my family’s history. I have a family tree on my altar to the ancestors and it’s the focus of my devotions to them, but it means nothing if I don’t know that people. I like to ask questions, to know what they were like, what they did, what their life was like, and so on.

Mat Auryn also speaks about the greatest offering to a deity, and it’s something you want to keep in mind as well. However, don’t get too carried away and turn devotion into an obsession. You have nothing to prove as long as you know you are doing the best you can under your limits and conditions.

“Your practice is yours and yours alone, and you have the last word about what you can and cannot do (unless you commit cultural appropriation, which you seriously should not)”. Image by Waltteri Paulaharju from Pixabay. Cropped.

Nothing to prove

We live in a society that demands us to produce and consume as much as possible, to stay active, to make, create, teach, learn, experience and so on until your brain is fried. Then, and only then, you can focus on taking a time for yourself to relax, smile, breathe in and out, and contemplate the world, possibly with some pills to stay calm and your favorite tea.

Reading and writing are at the top of my list. I’ve been doing these two for most of my life and cannot fathom a single day without them. It’s not that I have to do them but that I need them. They are part of what I am and what I aspire to represent. I have days when I cannot get into a book for more than five minutes or write more than a few sentences, and it’s totally fine, because I only do them because I love doing them.

Drawing was a big pleasure when I was on high school. I never had the interest in drawing before and, frankly, I’m quite bad at it. It’s not something I’ve ever been good at, but it was something that I loved doing and helped me to keep going through the day when I was severely depressed. It gave me peace. Due to more traumas, some directly related to my drawings, I stopped all of a sudden, and only recently started working in reclaiming that part of myself. It’s a form of devotion as well, only meant to please myself and honor who I am.

Again, you have nothing to prove. Your practice is yours and yours alone, and you have the last word about what you can and cannot do (unless you commit cultural appropriation, which you seriously should not). Let time and experience be your teachers, and even the spirits will let you know what is okay for them and what is not. For example, I used to leave offerings for my ancestors of blood, until I seriously felt I shouldn’t keep doing it, or talk to them through a deck of playing cards. They only want to be remembered, to be acknowledge and respected, and I’m no one to go against that.

About Bader Saab
I’m an Arabic witch and journalist, also with a master’s degree about to be finished on digital research. I have worked as a book reviewer and written about pre-Islamic folklore. You can read more about the author here.

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