Devotional Polytheism

Devotional Polytheism October 28, 2014

devotionalDevotional polytheism is what I “do.” Most Pagans, witches and/or occultists I know are involved to some degree in this practice, even if most people don’t use the term as a label or description. I like it as a descriptor, as it cleanly explains what the bulk of my practice is about. When I saw that Galina Krasskova had written a book on the subject I was immediately interested.

Galina Krasskova is an interesting internet personality. People seem to love her or hate her; few, other than myself, have ambivalent feelings toward her. Krasskova is a polytheist blogger, one that I don’t follow, though after reading her book that might change. I may have had an unfortunate introduction to her writing: she has said some down right mean and bitter things in the past, and that tone put me off. I am pleased to say that her tone overall in Devotional Polytheism is pleasant and encouraging.

The book is in two parts. Part one has chapters on subjects such as basic exercises, altars, ritual, and so on. The second section is basic outlines of how a weekly and yearly practice could look. Krasskova uses her Norse tradition, which doesn’t have much meaning for me, although the point is the structure, and I realize that much of my structure looks similar to hers.

Krasskova begins her book stating – and she reminds us of this throughout – that we get to decide for ourselves what our devotion looks like; the two most important things to remember are respect and consistency. Given that polytheist practices can vary wildly, I thought Krasskova’s basics were a nuanced way of embracing this reality. More importantly I really appreciated her repeated reminders to “start where you start.” Pick a practice and just begin. When it comes to personal devotion, I think just beginning is more important than doing it Right or Formally. Those things might be important later, but starting is the key.

Krasskova and I have many more areas of agreement. She emphasizes personal and spiritual boundaries (super important to me) and she spends time talking about breath work in the forms of grounding and meditation (both forms are also large parts of my practice). Gratitude is central to relationships with her gods, her communities, and her practices; it also important to me in those contexts.

In several places Krasskova bemoans the “potluck and party” attitude most Heathens have in their approach to ritual. I cannot speak to the Heathen community at all, but some of her descriptions of that attitude sound familiar to me. In Feri circles, though, I sometimes find the opposite to be the case: everyone is trying to “out trance” the others! Ritual and community can tricky, no matter the tradition.

My major disagreements with Krasskova are with two sentiments she repeatedly expresses in her book. The first is that devotional work is hard. I really don’t agree. Personally, I find my devotional practices to be a joy. It’s hard only in the sense that doing anything as a grown up is hard: each of us has only so many hours in a day; finding time for all the things we need to do (paid work, cleaning, eating, exercising, and so on) can be daunting. But if it’s important to us, we’ll find a way.

The second area of disagreement is Krasskova’s insistence that “in the face of the Gods, all else should be inconsequential.” Repeatedly, she reminds us that nothing is more important than the Gods. Here we significantly part ways. I disagree. Once upon a time I might have thought this, but now I cannot agree. Part of my divergence here is based on my own theological understanding of the gods and part of it is based on being a parent. While I am of use to my gods and perhaps as beloved by them as they are to me, I am not so important that my devotion and skills are of the utmost importance, nor do I give my life force over to anyone or anything. I might share that life force, I might even submit from instance to instance (gestating and birthing is submission), but never do I subsume my Self. And as a parent, I could not in good in conscience put the gods before my children. At this point they are too young to fare for themselves. It is my duty, my privilege, my honor to put them first. There are times they may not interrupt, but never do the gods “come first.” I have had a god politely let me know that we can work together later, when the kids don’t need me so much. I don’t think that Krasskova has children or dependents. In that case, putting the gods first and foremost is much more possible, if that is her choice and priority. We part ways on that point.

Those two differences aside, I enthusiastically recommend this book. I wish I had had this book several years ago when I began to take my own devotions more seriously. I think I even could have gained much from this book when I was a practicing Christian. The book is encouraging, helpful, and well-written.

One delightful surprise is found at the end of the book. Krasskova includes an appendix, which is basically a series of discussion questions for a novel she loves and has used with her own students. Seeing this appendix made my heart leap! It is CS Lewis’ Til We Have Faces, one of my favorite books of all time. I most certainly think Krasskova and I have more in common than we don’t! Reputation be damned. While I am still making my way through another heavy book for review, I have decided that I am going to re-read Til We Have Faces. It’s been over a decade since I’ve read it. What shall I see in the story now?

Since this is a self-published book through her publishing house and printed on demand I’ll admit that I expected the quality to be weak, but that was not the case. There are a few typos, but nothing out of the ordinary. The cover design is pleasing and the formatting clear and nicely done. While you can get a copy at Amazon for $1.80 less than at Createspace, I recommend purchasing your copy from the latter source, because I think Krasskova gets more of the profit. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

"Did you ever read about St. Seraphim of Sarov? He is an Orthodox saint who ..."

What I Miss About Being A ..."
"Contemplation is a good beginning... Introspect, contemplate, initiate and once you find what you seek... ..."

Shiva the Witch God
"Wiccans can be polytheists too! Jason Mankey deftly proved this at last year's MGW. You ..."

Many Gods West 2016
"Congratulations! I'm glad to hear this will continue. If you'll have a Wiccan among you, ..."

Many Gods West 2016

Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Pagan
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Great review! I too have trouble with Galina’s internet persona, but at the same time I admire her passion and occasional brilliance. Sounds like this book is worth looking into.

  • Nakhtbasterau

    Thanks for the review! I read her blogs from time to time, and I am totally on the same page with you about where my opinions generally part ways with hers. Devotion is joy. And my son, and any future child/ren I am blessed to have (gods willing) come before anyone else, even my gods. I believe that having children is fundamentally the greatest offering one can give to the ancestors, and I also feel that many, if not most, modern polytheists/pagans have really lost sight of this. I’m loving your new Polytheist Parent blog, by the way. Having children is a sacred and joyful duty, much like the path of devotion to one’s gods is.

    • Thank you! Speaking of Polytheist Parent…. gotta get cracking at the next installment!

  • To be honest, the lack of a digital version is what holds me back at this point. Between your review, some thoughts from others, and my own curiosity I would like to read it but I’m fully converted to digital books at this point. I may just have to drop Galina a line to see if there’s any way to pay for a PDF or something. Thanks for your review!

    Edit – of course the lack of apparent contact information on the Sanngetall press site makes getting in touch a little problematic. I guess I’ll email her directly!

    • You’re only digital?? I admire that for environmental reasons, as well as the ability to travel lightly. But my brain much prefers paper books.

      • I’m not only digital, I just strongly prefer it. Contrary to recent surveys, I find that I retain the information better; or perhaps more exactly, it’s easier for me to highlight and make notes within the document, and because I can access the data from just about any device, I have those notes and the text at all times. Thus, whatever I retain is available quickly and what I can’t remember, I can always search for as needed. This is, incidentally, why I have an Evernote of Shadows and not a book of the same.

        I’ve been hoping that someone will come along and offer e-books at a discounted rate if you turn over the print copy so that I could begin converting my entire library over to digital in some capacity but, sadly, it seems we’re not there yet.

        The only thing I hate about digital print is that I am a big fan of my books on the shelf and how they look and what it says about me as a person that a visitor can peruse my library. We don’t have that with digital, yet, though if I were independently wealthy (a man can dream), it wouldn’t be too hard to construct one or more digital bookshelves showing providing a similar experience on a digital touch screen hanging on a wall.

    • Galina Krasskova

      Nikki, thank you for a lovely review. David, Sanngetall Press is planning digital editions in early Spring.

      • Excellent! Especially since I didn’t email you *blush*

        • Galina Krasskova

          LOl NO worries, David. I saw the post you left at Sanngetall Press. Quite a few folks have been asking for digital copies so …it’s in the works.

  • Till We Have Faces — also one of my favorites!

  • SabrinaFaire

    Just wanted to tell you – I love your blog! Seeing a “new post” notice in my inbox is one of my favorite things. I’m very interested to hear about how your closing-up-shop experience (closing the altar and examining your relationships) is going/has turned out. Thanks for writing!

    • Thank you so much! I’ll think about writing that post. It might not be very exciting though.