Building a Devotional Practice with the Sky
Working with High Days is a wonderful thing, but High Days come and go eight times a year. What can someone do if they want to develop a monthly, weekly, or daily practice? This discussion will investigate building a devotional practice with the Three Realms, namely, Land, Sea, and Sky.
In coming to the sky as the object of devotional practice, it is a canvas upon which things are painted. The sky presents many different images, constantly changing and therefore offering many opportunities for devotion. There is dawn, dusk, sunrise, sunset, morning, afternoon, evening. If we separate the day in quarters, there is sunrise, noon, sunset, and what may be called “stars”, which is midnight. Not only is the time of day significant, but the events that present themselves in the sky are also significant. Just as water flows in a stream, the sky presents movement and change. There are many opportunities for devotion.
Just as the ocean seems endless in span and in depth, the sky is very much like that, but in an opposite direction. Where there may be a bottom of the ocean, there is no limit to the sky: it goes on forever and onwards. Our opportunities for devotion are not with the sky itself, but for what presents itself in the sky. This may include daytime observances such as sunrise, noon, and sunset. It may offer awe and devotion to the liminal times of dawn and dusk. It may observe instances such as the movement of clouds, and the failing of rain or snow, or the presence of storms, both great and small.
Sunrise and Sunset
Perhaps the most obvious object to see in the sky during the waking day in the Sun. There are many opportunities for devotion depending upon the position of the sun. Since in my daily travels I often see the sun come up and the sun set, I find this to be a perfect time to offer a devotional. As I see the sun break over the horizon, I say the following devotional prayer:
Red in the morning sky,
Nothing escapes your view;
I see your face at dawn.
Conversely, when the sun begins to sink beneath the horizon, I offer this devotional to act as a bookend to the one from dawn:
Red in the evening sky,
Nothing escaped your view;
I see your face at dusk.
For me, this is a way to bring a devotional working full-cycle. There is a lot of day between sunrise and sunset, but I like to acknowledge that the sun, overhead, sees all. It is a reminder of one of the cycles in our lives.
It is possible, depending upon where I am, that the only offering I have to Dawn and Dusk is the devotion itself. I rejoice in the opportunity to witness this event. If one has a fire nearby, an offering of sweet-smelling herbs is quickly consumed, and the resulting scent is a gift.
What to offer the Sky?
In making offerings to the sky or to solar events, one of the things one must determine is what kind of offering does one make? While water may be the ideal offering on land, it is rather difficult to offer it up to the sky. Since we often consider the sky to be the realm of the Shining Ones, then we can also make offerings of things that can burn, if a fire is present, or something reflective, whether it be mirror or crystal. In the most minimalist sense, the words that we speak and the act of devotion itself can provide the offering for the moment. When we consider devotional practices relating to the sky, especially lunar practices, we will devotionally empower water that we may use to offer to the sea.
A Diverse Offering
Since the sky is in some ways a screen upon which events occur, the offerings that one makes may act as an accompaniment to the event that are unfolding. To make a devotion to a storm, percussive sounds, such as the beating together of sticks may be employed. If one is honouring a rain event, be it gentle or strong, the collection of the water that results from the rain becomes an offering one receives during the devotional. When the wind is the object of devotion, then one may either listen meditatively to the sound of the wind or make sympathetic sounds like the wind while the wind blows.
The sound of the wind or the sound of the wind moving through other things like trees and plants and grasses are gifts that we receive just by being there at the time it happens. It is a gift of the moment and is a great way to anchor our experiences in the natural world. Therefore, in some ways, offerings may be made for that which has already been received, such as these wind-driven sounds.
Entity or Event?
A few years ago, at Midnight Flame Festival, we began doing Dawn Devotionals around the fire. Each person would say a few words and make an offering to the fire. The subject of the devotionals were typically Gods or Goddesses: Ushas, Eos, or others. I find this to be a beautiful way to honour these Beings. It occurred to me at a later point, that one could also honour to event of the dawn as opposed to the dawn itself. This is in no way a diminishing of the importance of these Gods and Goddesses but is a way of devoting to the happening as opposed to the personification. These liminal beings are powerful and worthy of honour, but I also feel that the events are given to us as gifts as well. Perhaps it would be best to honour them both or to do so on alternate days.
What Kind of Offering?
I like to use the materials at hand when doing ritual and/or devotional work. When making a sky-based offering, I believe that reflective or absorptive materials are best. A mirror with a bowl of water on it and a stone or perhaps a crystal in it is a way to offer water and stone, the two other pieces of the realms, to the third realm, the sky. If one were to place such a mirror and bowl somewhere, it could be a static place to do the daily devotional. As with other realms, the evaporation of the water represents the consumption of the offering. If rain is one of the events to be observed, the collection of water then presents itself as an opportunity for offerings in other places.
When to make the offering?
If the time of the devotional arises during a weather incident, do the devotion while the event is unfolding. The prayer, blessing, or offering will be consumed when it is transmuted by the fire or carried away by the winds. The fire and the winds will find their way into the sky. What remains is the memory of what was done and the knowledge that it is now on it way.
The sky is accessible to most of us every day. Either by starlight or by sunlight, we can experience and make devotionals to the sky every day. It is nice to have a photograph of the sky on a sky altar. If we find ourselves at a desk for our work, a picture of the sky will allow us a way to connect with the sky even if we cannot be outside at that moment.
For those incidental moments when we are called to devotion, and offering of herbs to a fire, smoke to the sky, or herbs to the wind provide a way to make a devotion when the time is just right. Keeping herbs as offerings for such purposes can be done without taking up a lot of space.
I call out to the sky:
That which stretches forever
Upwards and onwards.
I offer you water you incense
And sweet-smelling scents,
That as they move upwards
They mingle with your breezes
And your currents
That move through the places in my life.
There is no life,
And I honour the life in us both.
I will make these offerings
To you with regularity
Into the skies,
Like clouds rising from the land.
Thank you for the blessings
That you bring to my life.
So be it!