A month for Freyr: day 17

There’s been some online activity on how to start devotional practices. Sannion brought it up, after being asked about tips and material on it, and he compiled a list of blogposts that might help. He included the present series on Frey, for which I am grateful, especially since I haven’t written a post specifically on devotional practices. And then my mind quickly answered: it’s high time you do it, Helio! So what follows is a four-steps plan on how to start and maintain devotional practices. It can be used for Frey and indeed some of the examples are taken from my own routine, but they can be easily adapted to any other deity.

1. Pray
The spoken word is one of our most basic forms of communication. Our parents want to hear our first words, we naturally learn our native language and even if we cannot read or write, we nonetheless speak (or learn how to express ourselves through gestures). If this is true among living people, why should it be any different between humans and the Gods, ancestors and wights? If you want to create a solid devotional routine, praying is a very good place to start. Do it at least twice, in the morning and before going to bed, to one god or more, collectively or one by one. Your prayers can be as long as a hymn or as short as a sentence, taken from ancient texts, written by you or a mixture of both. Just make sure they’re sincere and meaningful – to you and the Gods. Two examples from my daily routine are a morning prayer to Ingui and another to Mercury before going to bed.

2. Focus
A focal point can enhance your devotional practice. Ideally, you should have a home shrine, which can be as small as a shelf or as big as a whole piece of furniture, decorated with many or just a few objects. Additionally or alternatively, you can use natural features as a focal point, namely trees, lakes, rivers and rocks. Whatever your choice, use it regularly and keep it clean: dust it, clear it of trash, pray in front of it or turned towards it. You can also arrange a portable shrine to take with you when you’re travelling (see a good example here). A final alternative or additional focal point is an object you can carry in your pocket or around your neck to use whenever you pray, honour your chosen deity or ancestors or simply want to feel connected. It can be a figurine, prayer beads, a pendant or a ring, to name just a few examples. I have a small figurine of Frey, based on the Rällinge piece, which I carry with me when I’m doing something for Ingui, from raising a midsummer pole to leaving offerings to Him on a hill top. I also wear a caduceus around my neck, so it’s always with me when I’m on the road or working.

3. Integrate
You know you’re a devotee when several things in your daily life connect you with your chosen gods. And I’m not talking about ritual moments: I mean good old ordinary actions, from the kind of food you eat and the way you move around to how you deal with others and the things you do in your spare time. The key is to integrate worship in your daily life, not just through morning and night prayers or formal ceremonies, but also through small things that are relevant to your chosen gods and can be used to honour Them. For instance, a devotee of Frey might want to privilege organic food, bake his/her own bread, take part in events that support sexual minorities, be an active member of the community, donate to a local food bank or keep a small garden, especially if it allows you to grow your own food. If Pan, Faunus or Silvanus are among your gods, you might want to take long walks on the fields and woods, plant trees or play a flute. A devotee of Mercury can offer help at a homeless or animal shelter, exercise his/her body, aid lost tourists, offer fresh water to travellers, buy a lottery ticket. Neos Alexandria has tones of suggestions for a large number deities (see here) and there there’s a lot more you can do if you put your mind to it. Sacralise your routine, pray to your gods every time you do something as a tribute to Them, write short lyrics you can sing while honouring Them.

4. Dedicate
Worship also requires greater events. Pick a day of the month you find meaningful, dedicate it to one or more of your chosen gods and pay Them tribute on a monthly basis. In my case, I’ve chosen the 21st of each month to honour Ingui, offering Him incense, food or a beverage, sometimes baking Him bread or planning a special activity. This gives structure and regularity to my devotion, thereby strengthening it. You can make it a weekly practice if you want to and then there are also major annual events, which include more formal religious ceremonies, decorations, meals, games and other out or indoor activities. Take some of the examples from the previous point and use them or check out what major events are taking place in your area and integrate them into your celebrations. For instance, every year, at the start of Spring, I run a half-marathon and use it to honour Minerva, whose ancient Roman festival was on March 19. In order to dedicate my effort to Her, I drop some wheat grains on the floor at the starting line and offer Minerva the medal I get at the end. I’ve done the same for Mercury and this month I honoured Hercules by dedicating to Him a bike ride. You may also want to use part of your own body by tattooing it, though I’d advise caution: if it’s a permanent tattoo, make sure you really want to do it.

There is one last suggestion I’d make: take it easy! This is not something you can create overnight – it takes time, persistence and an amount of trial and error. There’s a reason why this is a four-steps plan: you start with number 1 and work through the rest. Start by praying, start by talking to your gods on a regular basis. Then add the rest according to your possibilities and don’t give up when things don’t go as planned (because that will happen every now and then). Devotion is, after all, something that thrives and survives despite the adversities and the Gods deserve that effort from our part.

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