Today's topic is inspired by a post I recently read on The Twisted Rope entitled "What Makes a 'Devout' Polytheist?" If you haven't already, you should take a few minutes to read it. Go on, I'll be here when you get back. I promise!
Her point could be summed up with these questions: "isn’t there more to your religion than the shrine you bow in front
of? Isn’t there more than one way to show your devotion to the gods and
the religion that they are a part of?" She talks about things like blogging and writing, community building (both online and off), crafting, or just talking to other polytheists about religion and gods as a form of devotion. And all of those can be just as meaningful as sitting in front of a shrine. Yes, spending time at your shrine is important, but devotion is
something that you live in all aspects of your life.
Otherwise your spirituality looks something like that of the anecdotal
Christian who attends church every Sunday, yet acts in a decidedly
un-Christian manner the other 167 hours of the week.
I know that for my part, my devotion is shown in the adoration I feel towards
my gods, in the sense of peace and joy I feel whenever I glance across
the room at my shrines. It is a simple, but profound experience every time.
While I more or less agree with everything that Devo said, one important thing that she didn't touch on is that (in my opinion) a big part of devotion is the way in which you treat your gods, inside ritual and out. Being a polytheist means viewing the gods as independent, distinct beings - and treating them as such. I believe that the gods care about us; they want us to be happy and whole, and they can help us to become so. However, this does not mean that the gods exist simply to please us or solve our problems. You shouldn't go to them with offerings and praise only when you want something in return, because the gods are not your personal biatches. In that sense, being devout is being able to honor the gods just for the sake of honoring them.
The other significant point here is that Devo (rightly so) differentiates between the devotional responsibilities between priests and laypeople. And that difference is what I really got hung up on.
For much of my life, I have wanted to be a priest. Even when I was a little girl and Catholicism was all I knew, I wanted to be a nun. A life of devotion to one's god and service to one's community is an intimidating prospect, but that life is one that has always been extremely appealing to me.
So where does that leave a polytheist wannabe-priest? More to the point, where does that leave the misfit tri-pantheon polytheist wannabe-priest? Can I be a priest of three pantheons at once, or do I need to pick a primary one to be a priest of? What do you do when you feel like you have no one community to call your own? Can I call myself a priest when I serve the gods but no community?
Among my friends, I have described myself as being my own priest, but I mean that in only the most matter-of-fact way. I literally do act as my own priest in the majority of my life and spirituality. But what does that even matter in a religious group filled to the brim with self-described priests?
So that's what Devo's post did to me. It reminded me for the hundredth time what a weird half-place I'm in. I enjoy ritual more than many things in my life (despite the fact that it is a chore on occasion). Aside from the good it does the gods, ritual is fulfilling and it brings me peace. As cheesy as it might sound, I really do feel like it is a way in which I am meant to bring some small bit of ma'at into not only my life, but into... well, everything. I try to do ritual and give offerings every day, and I often succeed. But I also fail miserably at times, so where does that leave me? I think of being a priest as a lifestyle, a profession, something that you not only want to fulfill, but are obligated to. But is that even possible - or more importantly, fair - when I also need to make a living and may not be able to put as much time into a priesthood as I feel I need to?
Dear Deithe, Iluma, and Netjeru, I feel so hopeless sometimes!