Here are four questions on our relationships with our Gods and our obligations to Them.
Do we (generally speaking, clearly there are exceptional circumstances out there) have duties or responsibilities to Gods we’re not oathed to?
Page duBois titled her book on polytheism A Million and One Gods. That number is metaphorical, but it illustrates the point that there are more Gods than we can know, much less than we can form devotional relationships with.
The only obligation we have to all Gods is respect. Beyond that, I think it’s helpful to think of our obligations in tiers, or in expanding circles.
I have oaths with Cernunnos, Danu, and the Morrigan. My responsibilities to Them are pretty much whatever They ask.
I have long-term relationships with Lugh, Brighid, Isis, Thoth, and Cerridwen. Their statues are on my shrines and I pray to Them every night. My responsibilities to Them are not unlimited, but they are very broad.
There are other deities I have encountered on my journey: Artemis, Hermes, Osiris, Ma’at, Loki… I avoided Loki for years (me and trickster Gods generally don’t get along) but when he requested my services last year, I was honored to say yes. And that’s how I look at deities in this circle – if I can participate in Their work, I will.
Meanwhile, I continue to actively avoid Odin – working for the Morrigan is enough for me.
And then there are all the Gods I’m not familiar with. If one of Them comes calling I’m going to listen, if only out of curiousity. But I have no obligation to begin worshipping Them or working for Them.
Is there a minimum level of devotion a God requires? I began by venerating each God I work with in every ritual, but as I add more Gods, that starts to look unsustainable. But I feel that there must be some minimum level to say I have a relationship with a God.
Each relationship between a God and a human is different. Each is subject to Their requests and our abilities.
I do not include every deity in every ritual. My public rituals typically have one or two “deities of the occasion” who are the focus of worship for that ritual. More is unnecessary, and dilutes the attention of the assembly from the one or two Gods we want to focus on for that working.
I pray to the deities in the first two “circles” I mentioned above every night. I make offerings to Cernunnos and the Morrigan every week. I have special days each year for the others, though to be honest, that comes from a religious order I belonged to that no longer exists. I still keep the feast days because it seems like the right thing to do.
What does it take to maintain the relationship? It takes something – you can’t ignore a God for months on end and then expect Them to be there if you need Them for something. But don’t assume what it takes is the same for all.
For me, the minimum level of devotion is inclusion in my daily prayers. Beyond that, it’s a question of what They request, and what I can deliver.
What is a good daily ritual for Cernunnos? Do you invoke or evoke Him and what method do you subscribe to?
Invocation and evocation are not part of my regular practice as a polytheist. My regular practice is one of devotion: of prayer (speaking to Him), meditation (listening for and to Him), and making offerings (in hospitality and in love). Because I have done these daily and weekly rituals for many years, and because I am oathed to Him, He’s never not there.
I have experienced Him in ecstatic communion (what some would call invocation) on several occasions. That’s a very different thing, far too intense to do on a regular basis… not if I want to maintain my grip on the ordinary world… which I’m required to do.
As for rituals that will build such a relationship, my main suggestion is daily prayer and meditation. This need not take long. A few minutes is enough – if you do it every day. Try to do it outside. Cernunnos is a God of the Wild – even a suburban back yard is better than indoors. But indoors is better than nothing – I’m about 50/50 on inside devotion vs. outside devotion.
Prayers can be scripted or extemporaneous or a combination of the two. After you finish your prayers, stop and listen. Listen for His presence. Listen for anything He may say to you. It may be nothing for days and weeks, and then one day He’ll have something important you need to hear. But unless you pause and listen, you’ll never hear it.
Other than regular meditation, what methods and practices do you recommend to develop the ability to see and hear spirits (Gods, the dead, other beings, etc.)
Begin by setting reasonable expectations. Do not expect to ever see spirits with your physical eyes or hear them with your physical ears. These things occasionally happen, but they’re rare – or at least, they’re rare for me.
More frequently, you’ll sense the presence of someone just outside your peripheral vision, or you’ll see them in your mind’s eye. You’ll hear a voice in your head, except it’s coming from behind your head, not inside your head. You’ll have a dream that is unlike normal dreams, or you’ll suddenly know something you have no way of knowing.
Is this a spirit or is it your imagination? Try to verify it externally. See if anyone around you had the same or a similar experience. Mainly, pay attention and see if what you learn turns out to be true. Over time, you’ll learn to separate “you” from “not you.”
The best way to learn to “hear” and “see” spirits is through guided meditation. The best way to learn to move through guided meditation is to learn visualization. The best way to learn visualization is by reading fiction. Not just magical fiction – any fiction will do. In my experience, non-magical fiction is better for a learning aid, because magical fiction can create unrealistic expectations.
Some people can’t visualize. If that’s you, try some of the techniques in Mastering Magick by Mat Auryn. Mat’s first book Psychic Witch contains numerous exercises that are helpful in learning to hear and see spirits.