PBP Week 31: P is for Practice.
When I first found paganism, and witchcraft, everyone was interested in sharing their beliefs. Beliefs are shared easily through an anonymous forum on the Internet, while still being difficult to prove or disprove. It was easy to find something I could believe in, or beliefs that rang true to me. However, I knew there is more to this whole Paganism business (or any other religion for that matter) than just what you believe. Religion after all, is about practice: not just the “What” you believe, but the “What” you do because of what you believe.
Fifteen years ago when I started out there wasn’t a lot of information out there about what Pagans actually do. Practice was private. Learning rituals often involved workshops, coven membership, and normally required participants be over the age of 18. As a result, I am sure I delved deeper into traditional witchcraft, because as far as “practice”, rituals, and spells, that’s what was available in bookstores. I am often frustrated when people equate “Pagan” with “Witch” because I know logically it’s not so; it doesn’t have to be be that way. It is conceivable for there to be Pagans out there who poo-poo my voodoo. Go to any Pagan Picnic in the US or Pagan Pride event, and you will find few if any. So many Pagans in this culture are wrapped up in the New Age, Metaphysics, and Witchcraft because of this problem of information on Pagan practices.
As I started meeting more Pagans, I began to see why so many people don’t talk about Practice. I noticed the snobbery and showboating early on, being a teenage girl I was probably well attuned to this kind of catty attitude. You have people who believe, if you don’t do X, Y and Z you are simply not Pagan enough. Then there are people who no matter what you do, they have to one up you. You once roasted a goat at a Dionysian festival over an open fire? Great! So did he, and he slaughtered it himself. You keep one altar per god in your home? Awesome! She has altars to so many gods her house looks like a museum (or a neat freak’s nightmare). You made your ritual up based on historical research and deep meditation on symbology and meanings that are important to you? That’s fine but she painstakingly recreates ancient rites and rituals all in her own living room and is blessed by the gods as a result. If any of this sounds familiar, I am really sorry you’ve had this experience. It’s disheartening, maddening, and can turn most people off of the idea of sharing our real practices.
I am going to be brave, and tell you what I really do, what I want to do, and what I am trying to do to get to where I want to be. This post is about what I consider my religious practices. In truth, I do a ton more “witchy” stuff in my opinion than I do religious stuff. Before I put it all out there I am going to say no matter what you do, or how you practice, if you practice and your practice is fulfilling and meaningful for you: you are Pagan enough. There isn’t a Pagan Olympics (that’s like the Oppression Olympics, and gets us nowhere): there are no medals at the end of this journey.
Most of my practice is small devotional things. I do things for different deities, for different reasons. My practice and relationship with Dionysos is very different from my practice with Hecate or Aphrodite. Additionally, I even have relationships with other deities that I simply don’t consider myself a particular devotee of, like Loki lately. Dionysos and I have a traditional Maenad relationship, I most often offer him my body in dance or song or another ecstatic practice. I feed him, giving him devotional offerings of wine, red meat, fruits, sweets, and curry. Why does Dionysos like curry so much? I don’t know – maybe it’s because the Dionysian cult maybe have developed from the Shiva cult; he just does. I am pretty accepting of the deities I think: they sometimes just are, like people. I do not currently have a regular devotional ritual to Hecate outside of offering beer and wine at crossroads on Fridays. I am still getting to know her, when she is ready she will let me know what she wants from me.
My worship to Aphrodite is probably the most consuming practice, and this is mostly because she was the first deity I really dedicated myself to worshiping. For Aphrodite I do devotionals, I recite hymns in rituals, I thank her, I leave her offerings of roses, oils, and I generally try to be as thankful as possible for all she has blessed me with. However, my devotion to Aphrodite is more than just this: I live my way in a life to please her. I practice my version of Pagan modesty and Pagan Kosher in regards to her value of beauty, femininity, and sexuality. My body is my temple to her and how I keep it is direct worship of her. I do my best to look nice. I try to act like a lady to make her proud and I think sex is sacred. Now, I am not a prude by any means in fact I think I’ve been described as “sexually outgoing.” That may be so and I may dress a little over the top sometimes (I LOVE my boobs I mean, really they are magnificent), but I’m not “slutty.” I don’t like using that word, and I don’t think a girl who has slept with a hundred guys is any better than a girl who’s slept with none or one; I think sexual relationships are natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Sex is also sacred. Once you have sex with someone you have given yourself to them. It’s not like you are necessarily going to run out of love and soul, however if you don’t channel those things and effectively negotiate how much of that you’re giving in any given relationship you will run into problems. If I’m not policing my sexual and emotional boundaries, I believe I desecrate my sacred temple to Aphrodite.
In the future I would like to have seasonal rituals that honor my deities, recreate Dionysian rituals, or have a sexual partner to practice sacred sexuality to directly worship Aphrodite. I may find those things, and I may not, but my practice is what it is and it makes my life meaningful and sacred. That is what makes me Pagan enough. I don’t need rituals from books or ancient scrolls – and neither do a lot of “big name” Pagans. I recently saw an interview with Freya Aswynn who talked about how she found her practice through meditation, devotion to Odin, and trial and error. We have all come to this path in our own ways so we need to make a concentrated effort in Pagan culture to stop showboating and just share those things we actually do that make our lives meaningful.