Having practiced as a Pagan/Polytheist for many years I’m still caught off-guard by how the process of worship can change; Not only that it can change but that it can be dramatically inspirational and feel wholly new.
Somehow within the Pagan community Polytheism has been equated with a meme that sees worship as ones focus being pushed outside, above nature, and even self. This probably comes from modern mans inability to excuse himself from the ideas of the predominant cultural myth. In Christianity and most of it’s denominations, focus is placed outside of the personal sphere and outside of the world and matter itself, god is seen as, and taught to be wholly spirit and not in the least associated with matter…many Pagans/Polytheists therefore retain some of this dualist thought, i.e. matter vs. spirit.
In the past I do admit to having some difficulty with the idea of gods and why they should be worshiped or acknowledged. There was a time when my Paganism meant Nature – Life -Truth…and that’s it. After many years of that practice it grew stale and I gravitated toward a deeper learning and study of Paganism and the myths that I loved.
Polytheism initially was not an easy fit for me…but I soon realized that I didn’t need to define the gods in the same way as others. My gods didn’t need to be physical, or be great ancestors, and they didn’t have to be psychological archetypes or representations of natural phenomena. I began to seek the gods on my own terms because the lens that I had been made to see them through (via school, cultural bias, religious bias, etc.) was far too limited. The gods became all those things I have listed and more…until I reached the point that I have been at for some time; that point being that the gods need no definition, and to spend my time attempting to pin one to them is useless and a waste of energy.
Experimenting with various ways to approach the gods is fundamental to enlivening a poly/pagan practice. My offerings are simple and done in a manner meant to initiate communication between myself and the being, idea, or thing to which I am offering. Usually this is done through words meant to call to the being/thing in a reverent state. These words are generally titles or name kennings, sometimes a list of deeds and feats, and most often a herald of the entities relationships are voiced. This is followed by the offering and then an offer to drink or eat together in kinship.
A new form of worship I’m experimenting with is wordless and silent. Instead of vocalized calls to honor a being with knowledge of their deeds or names I’m forcing myself to use mental images which embody this veneration. So, as an example, instead of calling to Sunna as the vibrant and living sun, or as the ‘glory of elves’, I visualize the blazing sun (and all that that entails) and may see the elves of the land and those in the halls of ljossalfheim and svartalfheim paying her homage as I do so.
What I have found with this type of wordless honoring is that an extremely deep communication takes place. Most of ritual takes place within the minds of attendees and clergy conducting the ritual. By removing the need for the mind to fabricate words and linear logical phrases, perhaps when using imagery as the device of reverence, the ritualist or worshipper is better able to communicate with beings that may favor images to phrases and the linguistic tedium.
This goes to the heart of what I’ve been finding lately; that in ritual one is literally entering a new vista of thought, an environment of self, time, and place almost completely separate from the day to day dreaming that clogs our every action, and the ‘ritual intelligence’ that the practitioner enters understands the world and the ritual time in images that go beyond language. To take this further, I’m thinking (and experiencing) that the ritualist begins to think mythically, that the physical self and what I call the mythic self begin to meld and bleed into an absolutely unique presence that interprets action, intuition, and insight via images.
Now as far as pagan/magic(k)/occult literature goes this is probably not a unique viewpoint. But for me it seems to be going beyond the usual visualization techniques and mental imaginings. Through this new technique of silent offering, I’m finding a language of images and a path of profound depth.
Perhaps I’ll add a Practice piece to this soon.