I see this question all the time. There are so many books and how-to articles and blog posts about being Pagan. Fun Ways to Celebrate Yule, Connect With Your Ancestors This Samhain, Look At All This Information About A Goddess!, etc. So, imagine you’re a baby Pagan, Polytheist, or Heathen, and this is all you have. Now you know lots about deity, and how to practice ritual 8 days of the year, but you know practically nothing about how to be a Pagan every day. How do you do that?
I have something of an advantage here. I was raised in a home where religion was Important. Skipping the prayer before a meal was as uncommon as skipping the meal itself. We went to church every Sunday, no exceptions. I was taught to pray each morning, to do a cool visualization about putting on the Armor of God, to reach out to Him whenever I felt alone or afraid. I never did connect with the Christian God, and after doing some growing I began to question the morality of His followers, but I got a good foundation for how to Do Religion.
This may be observation bias, but I feel like the current crop of young people finding Paganism don’t have a lot of background in spirituality. Many come from atheist or agnostic households, and many more from vaguely Christian ones that don’t practice much at all. Learning the habits that make every day spirituality is important, but difficult if you’ve never been taught. Perseverance is key.
Two notes before I get into it. One, I’ve been accused of having Christian baggage when it comes to my everyday practices. Personally, I don’t believe that Christians have a monopoly on things like daily prayer, visualization, or relationships with spirits. Your mileage may vary. Two, I don’t think you have to have a daily practice to be a Good Pagan ™. Some people feel called to that and some people don’t, and that’s okay. Pick and choose from whatever you feel comfortable with on the list; the goal isn’t to do all the things. The goal is to build something consistent.
This one always seems daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Pick whatever time is easiest and least stressful for you. It can be a tiny, one sentence prayer. When I was a baby Pagan I honored Brigid each morning by turning on an electric candle on my stovetop, saying “I light the sacred fire of my hearth. Thank you, Brigid.” It was that simple. Now every morning when I make my tea, I pour a bit extra out for my beloved dead and sing a little song I made up. It’s short, it involves something I’m already doing every morning, but it gives me that time and a reminder to think about my beloved dead each day. That’s exactly what a daily prayer and offering should do.
If you’re interested in something more complicated, as I occasionally am, you might enjoy trying out a longer prayer, or different prayers for different days. I wrote a series of prayers to Mani that change depending on the moon’s cycle that was very powerful for me. I’ve gotten out of the habit, but honestly revisiting this prayer has inspired me to start up again. This morning prayer is a really beautiful way to start the day.
Meditation or VisualizationWe could go round and round on definitions, but really anything that might fall under these two categories is good practice. And here is where repetition is really going to do you some good. When I first started in the Druid group ADF, I began listening to their Two Powers meditation. I didn’t connect with it for the longest time, and my reviewer for ADF’s Dedicant Path would argue that I still don’t understand it as it’s meant to be understood. But after months of repetition, I physically feel the energies of the Sun and the still, deep Waters running through me as I walk myself through it.
Meditation is one of the primary ways I connect with the spirits of nature and place. Sit, silent and still, and concentrate on the things happening around you. Use one sense at a time: first hear the place, then use your eyes to pick out small individual details. Take it all in. It sounds complicated, but it’s as simple as taking five minutes to sit on the back porch and observe a tree or a flower. It takes practice, but eventually you will be able to observe that tree or flower and become so lost in it that you’ll forget everything else exists.
Simple Gestures of Acknowledgement and Gratitude
When I was learning to drive, one of my friends taught me to blow a kiss to a yellow or red traffic light as we passed under it, a silly superstition to avoid getting pulled over by the cops. I was just a baby Pagan at the time, with maybe a few months of practice and one Scott Cunningham book under my belt. With my tendency to anthropomorphize everything, it quickly began to feel like an offering to the Gods of Traffic that would protect me if I appeased Them. I still do it to this day.
Simple, little habits like this are what make me feel like a Good Pagan ™. I’ve taken time to create and cultivate a number of them. I always kiss my hand to the Platte River, my Goddess, or the Salt Creek tributary when I drive over them. When I am struck by the beauty of anything; be it a rainbow, a ray of sunlight piercing the clouds, the way the leaves of a tree look in the sunlight; I tell whatever spirit I feel is responsible thank you.
There are spirits all around you. Recognize, acknowledge, and thank Them regularly. It’s as simple as thanking someone for holding a door open for you, or saying “oh, excuse me” when you walk into someone else’s path on the sidewalk. Almost totally automatic little things. Build little Pagan gestures that will become just as automatic to you.
When a storm comes up, thank Thor (or whatever thunder/rain deity you honor) for the rain. When something triggers a memory of a passed loved one, remember them and affirm your love. Don’t just think “oh, I should do something to honor that” with plans of a big, elaborate ritual you’ll never get around to. Just quickly, in the moment, acknowledge it. It’s that simple.
A Thousand Ways, Just Pick One
Of course, there are a thousand ways to do your spirituality every day. Anything that works for you is a good thing. Just pick one, do it consistently, and let your practice and relationships with the Gods and spirits grow deeper.