Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spiritual Practices

Spiritual Practices

A spiritual practice, spiritual discipline or spiritual exercises is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development.  A common metaphor used in the spiritual traditions of the world's great religions is that of walking a path.  A spiritual practice might be baking, gardening, blogging, running, knitting, reading, painting, hiking, meditating, prayer, yoga or calligraphy.

218713_193771729_n.pngPeople find themselves drawn to Paganism and Wicca for a variety of reasons.  Some may be trying to escape some other religion.  Others may be looking for a sense of personal empowerment.  Still others may realize that the beliefs they've held all along are in tune with those of a Pagan Path.  Regardless, once you've found your new Path, there comes a time when you may ask yourself "How can I make this spiritual system part of my daily life?"

One of the things that newcomers often delay doing is practicing their new faith because they don’t know what to do.  The reality is that what you do on Day One will likely look nothing like what you do ten years later.  We all grow, change, learn and develop.  In the forty some years since the rebirth of our way of life there have been a large number of different frameworks and methods developed.  Some were better than others but everything has changed several times.  We are all working to revive things as best we can and that means we all change how we do things as we learn more and get better at this.


  • Pay attention to the phases of the Moon.  Know what's happening in the skies, and notice how (or if) it affects the way you feel.  Learn about the constellations, the movement of the planets, all the things that go on thousands of light years away.  It will come in useful later on, particularly if you develop an interest in astrology.  The Moon's regular phases make it a very convenient timepiece and the periods of its waxing and waning form the basis of many of the oldest calendars.  In many traditions of modern Pagan cosmology, all things are considered to be cyclical, with time as a perpetual cycle of growth and retreat tied to the Sun's annual death and rebirth.


  • Recognize that you don't know everything there is to know.  Continue learning and growing and be willing to accept that sometimes new knowledge will come from unexpected sources.  Sources like the Poetic and Prose Eddas contain the largest portions of the myths.  Don't assume that you're always right, just because you've always done or thought something.  If you are interested in Anglo-Saxon customs, take a look at Swain Wodening’s Path to the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism for Beginners and Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times.  There are other sources out there, including blogs, sites to visit, books and websites that contain good information.  Check them out.  The more information you have the better off you will be.


  • iStock_000004407582Medium-1024x682.jpgShow respect for nature - do things on a daily basis that are good for the planet.  The Divine is present in nature and so nature should be honored and respected.  Everything from animals and plants to trees and rocks are elements of the sacred.  A large tree was frequently the source of luck and protection for Norsemen.  Recycle, compost, cut back on excess energy consumption.  If you believe the Earth is sacred, treat it as such.  Get in touch with the land.  Plant a garden and study the changes of the seasons.  Realize how good it feels to grow your own herbs and vegetables.


  • Feasts for the Norse often included sacrificed animals, ale in honor of the Gods and a honor of departed ancestors.  But in today's culture, eat a balanced diet to keep the body up.  Add whole grains into your diet, cut back on sugars and empty calories.  Bless your meals.  You can say something like - "Loving spirit, be our guest, Dine with us, share our bread, That our table might be blessed and our souls be fed." - Table graces can be silent, spoken or sung.  The specific forms and words are less important than the intention and cumulative effect, of pausing in gratitude for and awareness of life’s gifts and potential.  All these things are simple, but they are things you can do right now, today.


  • The Pagan religion was not a separate institution, it was a part of ordinary life.  Rather than special churches and priests, it was maintained by ordinary people from their homes.  Create a physical focus for worship in the form of images, altars or shrines.  For the Ancient Norse, the pillars of the high seat and the hearth were sacred within the home.  Outdoors, they built altars of heaped stones, sacred groves or a hof (temple) for the Gods.  Today, a rock can be placed beside the stove (hearth) to make a home for the house-spirits or a special stone placed in the garden for offerings.  Or use a table inside, covered with a cloth, topped with images, stones, a bowl, herbs, candles or whatever you find sacred, your personal altar.


  • love8292349.jpgIn most Paths of Wicca, both a God and Goddess are honored.  Find a way to honor the Divine in your daily life, rather than just at monthly Esbats or the eight Sabbats each year.  The oldest practice of Heathen praise was to give gifts to the Gods in the form of food, flowers, alcoholic drink or blood.  Surviving examples of prayer with Ancient Germanic people include the prayer of Sigdrifa, skaldic prayer to Thor and prayers incorporating old spells and chants.  Even if you just start your day with a morning "Thank you" to your Gods or to the universe itself, it's not a bad thing to acknowledge the gifts that we have in our lives.  This relationship is between you and your deity.  There is no right or wrong way to be friends with the Divine.  No one can tell you how to do this.  Let the Divine and your own nature guide you.


  • Heathens often honor the ancestors.  Make a simple shrine for them in your house - on a small table, your night stand or on a shelf, for example.  On it, place photos of your forefathers and foremothers and perhaps items that belonged to them.  Because it's not considered out of the ordinary to commune with the spirit world, many feel that their ancestors are watching over them at all times.  Remember them daily, talk to them and share your life with them.  Meditation is a way to let go of the issues of the day and address any Ancestors or Divines.  Placing flowers on this shrine every now and then would be a nice touch.  Recall them on their birthdays.


  • Behave in a way that is honorable - if you make a promise, keep it.  If anything comes out in the Eddas and Sagas, it is that without honor we are nothing.  This virtue reminds us that our deeds, words and reputation will outlive our bodies, and that the person we are in life will be remembered for a long time.  If someone needs help and you can provide it, offer it.  Spend a few hours each week volunteering at your local library shelving books or at the animal shelter scooping up.  Consider the impact that your words and actions have on not only the environment, but also on other people and on yourself.


  • Talk to others and ask questions.  The internet is a great tool for connecting with others and may be the best tool you have for getting to meet others.  It is not a substitute for person to person contact but if it’s all you have, as many of us really are the only one in a large area, then it can be a lifeline.  Either way, get to know others.  Not everyone you meet will be worth your time but I’ve found that most people are decent, hardworking and sincere.  Take the time to evaluate as objectively as possible everything presented to you.  Check sources if you need to, but think for yourself instead of just accepting what you’re told.


  • iStock_000003108132XSmall.jpgWhen you do something mundane, think about how you can use it in a magical application.  For example, when you're baking cookies, consider what sort of magical working you can incorporate into the recipe.  Maybe a thanks for the food that other don't have or maybe it was a recipe passed down from your ancestors.  Joy is a gift the Divine gives you and it is a gift you give to the Divine.  Life is meant to be wonderful.  Feeling good is one of the signs that you are aligned with the Divine.


Try to establish a daily routine.  It's easy to let your studies go by the wayside if you're all by yourself, so establishing a daily routine will help you keep on task.  Whether your routine includes meditation, reading, ritual work, or whatever, try to do something each day that helps you work towards achieving your spiritual studies.

While there isn’t one way to live or practice, there are things that are genuinely part of our ways of life and things that really have no place.  Those other things aren’t wrong, they just aren’t us.  Do the things that ignite and inspire you.  This is something you should keep in mind right now as this will take years to accomplish.  Just keep in mind that spirituality is made up of different ways of living as well as our religion.













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