Pagan Blog Project: J is for The Junk Drawer

Most of us have at least one place in their home reserved for things that have no other place. A kitchen drawer, an upstairs closet, even an entire room if you’re particularly lucky or particularly disorganized. That one drawer in the kitchen, right next to the drawers of neatly stacked flatware or big spoons and spatulas. It might hold scratch pads and thumbtacks and spare keys whose locks are long gone, packets of ketchup and soy sauce left over from takeout meals, a screwdriver with a broken handle, pencils sharpened to a third of their original size, and dust, always a bit of dust.
Things not good enough to belong in the ordered part of the house but too good to discard, things that might be useful someday and certainly will if you throw them out, things you didn’t feel like finding a better spot for at the time.

If you’ve been pagan for a few years, or a few decades, you probably have a similar place reserved for old altar implements and ritual items you no longer use, either often or perhaps at all.

Sometimes these items are put aside because of an upgrade–I have a number of statues that are now in a cabinet because I found one I liked better to represent a particular deity. (Aphrodite has her own altar so all her statues are on it except the one that’s on the Big Greek Altar, but generally this is not an option.) I have three Hekate figures that I tried before I found the one I use now; those are stored away but I have no intention of getting rid of them. (I wouldn’t mind a dedicated Hekate shrine someday but now is not the time for it.)

Sometimes it’s because a path has taken a new direction. For example, I started out 20-some years ago on a Wiccan-inspired neopagan path; thus I have a lovely wand I made, years ago, from apple wood and amethyst, and while I have no use for it at present, I still value it and intend to keep it–just not on any of my current shrines or altars.

Sometimes it’s because there are things you’re just not using right now but will again soon, or maybe not soon, but sometime, and you need to be able to find them. For example, I am not, at this particular moment in time, dealing with color spirits–but I will, again, and I will need the tools I use, the stones and colored candles and words to focus on. Right now, they are in the drawer, waiting for me.

Sometimes it’s because there are some things that just accumulate–candle holders, tea lights, incense and matches, little offering bowls, tiny bottles and boxes and bags, stray herbs in unmarked jars–and they have to live somewhere.

In any case, here is this catch-all, this pagan junk drawer, and it is full of things, important things, less important things, unimportant things, and who can tell the difference?

I know that some folks will “decommission” items they are no longer using, particularly items that have been charged or are otherwise things of power. (This issue has not really arisen for me, given my general lack of woo or energy-awareness, but if I were to feel the need to do this I imagine I would bury it in salt for a while and hope for the best because I certainly couldn’t tell if it had worked.)

Another option is to gift someone else with something that is perhaps wonderful but is not for you.

I am not comfortable with the notion of simply throwing away something that has spent a fair amount of time on an altar or shrine. Then again I am a bit of a packrat so I am not all that comfortable with the notion of simply throwing anything away!

So finally there’s the option I have taken–put them away, store them, keep them safe. Because just in case. Because you never know. Because you’ll know what to do with them when the time comes to do it. Or because your descendants deserve a surprise or three when they are sorting through your stuff!

 

Pagan Blog Project: J is for (There’s Always Room For) Jello

If you are of a certain age, you’ll remember the advertising catchphrase, and maybe even the tune: “There’s always room for J-E-L-L-O!” I don’t know that I ever gave it much thought, but the principle seemed to be that, for something so good, no matter how big the rest of your meal, you could always manage to get down just that little bit more as long as it was Jello.

It may have been a good marketing campaign, but as a guide for life it is a problem.

Sayings like “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” and “If something is important to you, you make the time for it” are also a problem.

They are a problem because they imply that if we are not doing certain things (studying, reading, performing or attending ritual, building altars, writing prayers, etc.), any number of things that we or others think we should be doing, it is entirely a matter of choice. If it was really important to us to go to that Yule rite, we would be there. If we really wanted to fit in half an hour of devotional practice every day, we would do it. If we do not do these things, it is because we don’t place enough importance on them. We feel ashamed, or perhaps others shame us, calling our limitations excuses.

And sometimes that point is valid–some folks don’t go to festivals because there are non-spiritual things in their life that are more important to them (although really I figure that is their business as well, priorities are a personal thing). They don’t make time to pray because they don’t want to (also a personal thing in my opinion). Even given the time/energy/health/money, they would focus on other things.

But that’s certainly not the case across the board, and I would not even attempt to guess as to someone else’s reasons for doing or not doing whatever it is they do or do not do.

Time and energy, for most of us (I won’t say all because I don’t know you all), are finite. Only we know how much of each we have to spare.

Sometimes there is no time. There is no space. There is no energy. Sometimes there is no room.

Pagan Blog Project: I is for Inspiration

I was going to write about this last week (the first “I” week) and didn’t, wrote about something else. Now I have to, and the question I ask myself is “How do I write about inspiration when my own inspiration well has currently run dry?”

Inspiration, for me, is something that comes and goes. It has never been a constant thing–sometimes it lasts for days or weeks, occasionally for months, but eventually it will come to an end and I will be given time to recover from those days/weeks/months when ever moment not devoted to necessary other things is spent writing. It is a wonderful thing, even a thrilling thing, or at least I know it is because I remember it being, but right now in the drought season I cannot really remember it.

Which doesn’t mean that I cannot write if I need something written. Generally I can. But I don’t get that same flow where you just never stop. I can’t, right now, say that I miss it; it is a big old time sink, after all, and the rest of life is still there waiting and rolling on its way regardless of whether the muses are visiting. But it is an “is or is not” sort of thing, isn’t it?

Pagan Blog Project: I is for Informality

I am not a formal person. I spend my days in jeans and comfy shirts, no bra, no shoes or socks, hair unstyled (but clean!), and (it goes without saying) no makeup.

Most of my one-on-one interactions with deity are likewise not formal. I say my daily prayers (there are currently eleven prayers, addressing a total of 53 deities) while I am in the shower (a habit that has stuck from the days when my daughters were babies–they are now 15 and 19–and shower time was the only almost-guaranteed privacy I had). I am pretty good at staying with my daily practice, the personal, informal parts. I am less good with festivals and holidays–and when I do mark them, it’s likely to be low-key.

I do, of course, celebrate the heathen high days with my kindred, and these are, of course, more structured. But they are still relatively straightforward and informal compared with those held by some other groups. That’s our group, though–we are a direct bunch and we tend to like to get to the point of things.

In theory, I find complex ritual fascinating; the interweaving of the elements to form a pleasing whole is an art and there are some incredibly talented ritual artists. In practice, and this is purely personal, I find that a lot of structure tends to overwhelm the personal experience. For me, things I do in quiet corners are the most powerful.

Pagan Blog Project: H is for (My) Heathenry

I’ve always considered myself, within heathenry, to be a heathen–just a heathen, nothing more specific, nothing more defined. (I’ve heard that some heathens have an issue with multifaith folks who count heathenry among their practices; maybe I am just fortunate in the people I have met, but this hasn’t been my experience so I’m not going to address it here, apart from mentioning that I decided years ago not to use the word “Asatru” to describe myself and that was one of the reasons.)

I tend to prefer an Icelandic model and I tend to relate best (within the heathen context) the gods in their Scandinavian form–Thor, Odin, Freyja and Frey and so forth. (I’m a pretty hard polytheist but the Thunor/Thor et al. line is one I find a bit hazy.) I have a greater comfort level with the Vans and those of the Aesir who don’t mind a less structured approach, and am particularly fond of Sif and Skadhi; I grew up surrounded by woods and fields and gardens and I think that sort of thing affects a person. And although I think the heathen gods are pretty approachable on the whole, I do tend to be a bit more formal with gods like Tyr and Heimdall and Forseti and Frigg. (I am seeing a theme. Are you seeing a theme?)

Anyway, for my own use would I sat down and came up with this little list, where I put myself on various scales:

Formality: Low to Moderate
Ritual structure: Moderate
Woo level: Low
UPG level: Low to Moderate
Lore level: Moderate to Moderately High
God focus: Moderately High to High
Community focus: Moderate to High
Nature focus: Moderately Low

Is there anything I left out?

 

Pagan Blog Project: H is for Hearth and Home

Paganism, they say, is a nature-based religion. It’s one of the primary identifiers, one of the things that’s always included in “What is a Pagan” articles and lists. I think it’s one of the reasons some pagans and polytheists specify that they are “devotional” or “god-focused,” although most nature-based pagans I know don’t actually worship nature per se, rather honoring nature and worshipping nature-focused deities. (Not that there’s anything wrong with worshipping nature, of course, although some use the term “nature-worshipper” as they would use the term “idol-worshipper,” dismissively and pejoratively implying a literal and simplistic lack of understanding.)

Hey, I like nature. I grew up in the country, playing in the woods and fields, climbing rock piles, digging in the dirt. We always had a garden (I still remember the green zinnias I planted in my own little plot as a kid). As an adult I am more of an “indoorsy” person–camping’s uncomfortable, and fires on the beach don’t provide a lot of warmth once the sun goes down–but I still love my rosebushes and am awestruck by the northern lights in winter.

But as far as location goes, nature is not the focus of my religion. And yes, I am deity-focused. But the place where my faith resides is my home.

Pagan Blog Project: G is a Gift for a Gift

As a semi-reconstructionist polytheist, I don’t necessarily adhere to every single aspect of historical practice, but reciprocity is a principle that I hold to absolutely. A gift for a gift. The responsibility of host to guest and of guest to host. “I give that you might give.” Ghosti.

The role of exchange in building relationship is something a lot of folks seem to take issue with, and it is certainly a thing that can be done in a bare and contractual way–but if that is what you are doing, you are missing out.

Every relationship–every one–has some element of exchange to it.

The existence of the exchange confirms in some way the worth of the relationship.

There is no such thing as something for nothing.

(As a side-note, years ago, when folks would try to convince me to sign up with their church, one of frequent selling points was the claim that what their god gave was “something for nothing,” that what he gave was given with no strings attached. That, of course, was untrue. That whole “no other gods” thing is a pretty big string. After all, if someone offered to be your friend, but only if you had no other friends, while they maintained similar relationships with any number of others, would that seem like a good deal? Not all Christian religions take this approach, of course, but enough do that this was not a one-time experience.)

An offering is not a bribe. It is not buying favor. It is a single piece of a relationship.

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