Amazon.com Widgets
Currently viewing the tag: "Galina Krasskova"

While talking with my husband I realized that many of the arguments I’ve been making during my conversations with hard polytheists, particularly with Galina Krasskova (read our Facebook chat here and see the post it inspired from her here), are not necessarily reflected in or supported by the evidence of my own practice.

Or, in other words, I think Galina may have been right about a few things that I wasn’t admitting.

First, a regular devotional practice is a good — even great — foundation for a meaningful spiritual life.

Galina, and other hard polytheists I’ve spoken with, put significant value around the development of a devotional practice. If they were proselytizers (which they aren’t, technically) that might be the one message they’re preaching: develop a devotional practice. Do the work.

Act as if, Galina writes.

I’m familiar with the approach. And, in spite of all the things I’ve said in the past week or so, I have benefited from it at times.

My own practice has become much less regular and much less of a devotional practice in recent weeks and months. Interestingly, it stopped being quite so devotional after I had a very profound and palpable encounter with the Morrigan. One might think that there would be even more desire to develop a sturdy, robust devotional practice after something so visceral, but that isn’t how it’s happened and I don’t know why.

The periods in my life as a practicing Pagan that were most rich with spiritual awareness and the sense of connection were times when I had the most consistent and reliable devotional practice. During these times I was also much less concerned with critical thinking as it pertained to things like the nature of the gods, or the logic (or lack thereof) behind my actions. My actions were serving a spiritual purpose. They were keeping me in relationship with the gods.

At least, they were strengthening my personal sense of relationship. I was showing up before the shrine, doing the work, and as a result I felt more connected.

Now, during this period of less engagement with a devotional practice, I feel several things:

For one, I feel as though my critical thinking skills are getting a workout. I’m much more inclined toward objective analysis. That becomes problematic when I’m unable to shut that part of my mind off. My husband reminded me that ritual — like the kind I used to do daily in my devotional practice — can work wonders for shutting that function down for a while. In many ways, that’s ritual’s sole purpose. It prepares us for an encounter with the holy.

But I’ve also experienced a desire to do something different than what I used to do in my devotional practice. I want something less wordy, less structured. I want for something that isn’t so centered around ADF’s cosmology, or language that I’ve crafted for the Fellowship. This desire for fewer words comes, I think, from the fact that words are what tend to send my mind into an overactive frenzy.

For as much as I find liturgy to be valuable, especially when it comes to the regular celebration of High Days, in my daily practice I think I want something a little more formless. I’m not sure what that looks like, or how much it would resemble any kind of devotional practice.

I think, though, that the first step is to start listening more than I speak. I’ve been doing a lot of outward-focused work, and the ideas are flowing quite steadily in that direction. But it may be time to reverse the flow. It may be time for more listening.

I stumbled across this image, The Tree of Contemplative Practices, while searching out contemplative practices. It was published on the website of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, an organization that seeks to incorporate more contemplative practices into higher ed. In my ongoing pursuit to discover what a distinctly Pagan contemplative practice might look like, I find that this illustration demonstrates that there are many, many ways of developing a contemplative practice. As I wrote in my last post, cultivating a devotional practice may be one way to do that, but I feel the need to give myself permission to explore other ways of achieving the same state of awareness.

Perhaps beginning with one of these branches is a start.

© The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society Concept & design by Maia Duerr; illustration by Carrie Bergman

© The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Concept & design by Maia Duerr; illustration by Carrie Bergman

Have you found any of these practices to be relevant and meaningful in your personal spiritual journey? Perhaps they naturally fit into your religious tradition, as with the “Ceremonies and rituals” branch. But what about Silence? Storytelling? Deep listening? I know that I “bear witness” quite often on this site, and I like the idea that it may be a component of my own contemplative practice as a Pagan.

Tell me:

What do you reach for on The Tree of Contemplative Practices?

devotion

What, I wonder, are the differences between a contemplative practice and a devotional practice?

I’ve read a lot about devotional polytheism this morning. I read Galina Krassova’s first installment of her Fundamentals of Polytheism series, “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Theories,” and Galina places a great deal of focus on the development of a devotional practice. Many hard-polytheists I know in ADF do a similar thing.

Even in the Solitary Druid Fellowship we have devotionals, but those devotionals (I think) are very different than the kind of devotionals that Galina might be speaking of.

The first half of the SDF’s Morning Devotional reads like this:

I am one and we are many. Fellowship, in solitude.
Here I stand to greet the sun
And welcome in the morning light.

In my mind and in my body,
I hold space in solitude
For all of those who walk alone.
May they find comfort on this day.

And may the day unfold in peace,
And may this peace be born within,
And may my heart be set ablaze,
That I might shine into the world.

This is not language which supports a devotional practice with a specific deity, per se. This devotional is humanistic in nature. It centers around the human experience. When I wrote this devotional it seemed like the only way to create something that would be relevant and usable to solitaries of many different paths was to focus on what would be meaningful to the person, rather than focus on what one person (or tradition) thinks is meaningful to a god.

That said, ADF’s cosmology is present in the devotional:

I honor this fire.
The fire of the gods.
The gods of my heart.
The gods of this land.
May I come to know the mystery
Of the divine in all its forms.

I honor this water.
The water of the ancestors.
Ancestors of blood.
Ancestors of spirit.
May I understand the knowledge
Of the wise and ancient ones.

I honor this tree.
This living body.
This sacred plant,
With roots and leaves.
May I feel the spirits of nature,
And be one with all the earth.

This language is heavily symbolic, and open to interpretation. For some, “the gods of my heart” is too general. Or, perhaps it is inaccurate to their understanding of what the gods are or how they function. To me, this language makes space for the archetypalist and the hard polytheist, for either might use the idea of a “place in one’s heart” as a sign of deep connection and devotion. The rest of the language seeks to put one in a state of awareness and mindfulness of their ancestors and the living earth that surrounds them.

But again, it’s all about the awareness and interpretation of the individual.

The SDF’s use of devotionals seeks to ground people in their own conscious practice, not to place them in “right relationship” with the gods in any particular way. My intention was not to dictate to anyone what “right relationship to the gods” might even mean, but to instead trust that if they first sink into a deep and meaningful practice (even one that lacks a clear focus on any specific deity), that they will be led to the spiritual awareness that is most appropriate for them. They might come to know what value the concept of “right relationship” has in their own life and practice.

Perhaps, then, a contemplative practice can spring forth from a devotional practice if one makes the space for a certain degree of unknowing.

Galina emphasizes the importance of knowing in the context of her practice, and while she distinguishes that experience of knowing from “faith,” the two still look similar from where I sit.

To me, the statement “I have faith that the Gods are real” would be more compelling than “The Gods are real,” if for no other reason but that the former emphasizes the human element, while the latter does not.

I love the human element. I have to begin with the human element first, and from that place open up to something beyond my field of vision.

And that’s just where my temperament leads me. It isn’t to say that I’m correct, or that Galina is not. There is, I think we’d both agree, a distinct difference in what we do in our religious lives — and why we do it.

But regardless of our differences, there may be some common ground in emphasizing the value of a devotional practice. We may have different ideas that inform why we think a devotional practice is important — hers’ being that it beings the devotee in right relationship with the Gods, and mine being that it encourages contemplation — but we might be able to agree that one grows in their religious and spiritual life by doing things, just as much (if not more) than by simply thinking things.

And for me, contemplation is right action.