Devotional Arts and Crafts: a roundtable discussion

This post is the result of a roundtable discussion held on the Bacchic Underground in February and March. The discussion didn’t get as much participation as hoped; alexeigynaix wrote fully two-thirds of the below words, when they had planned on at most one-fourth and had hoped for a smaller proportion. But hey! There’s a comments section! If you have anything to say in answer to any of these questions, or any responses to make to any of the roundtable participants or earlier commenters, leave a comment!

Opening Questions:

1) How do you define “art” or “craft”? Is there a distinction, or an overlap?

2) What makes art and/or craft “devotional”?

3) What sorts of art and/or craft do you do? For what reasons? For what purposes?

4) Tell us about the process of one of the devotional art and/or craft projects you are or have recently been working on.

5) Are there any particular experiences with devotional art and/or craft that you want to share?

6) What questions would you like your fellow roundtable participants to answer?

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Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 4: Distraction and Importance

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Alex:

Okay, so I have had the phrase “moving meditation” stuck in my head for the past couple of days, since you sent me that last section, Rebecca. Only it’s being sung like SJ Tucker sings the title of her track “Moving Meditation”. And, okay, sometimes—okay, often—my head is all “In the corner of my mind stands a jukebox, playing all my favorite memories” (that’s from “Jukebox In My Mind” by Alabama, only sometimes “least favorite” is more appropriate). It might not mean anything. But I have noticed on more than one occasion that the particular bits of the particular songs that get stuck in my head sometimes have particular relevance. The question then becomes, is this song important, or is this phrase important?

Says someone who’s slowly making their way back (they hope) to baseline from the mother of all autoimmune flares, and is also home sick from work on this meltingly warm midsummer’s day (it’s mid-May in the mid-Atlantic), and who consequently doesn’t want to move much at all!

I believe what I shall do right this moment is put on “Moving Meditation” and its two remixes on repeat and go dance. Where by ‘dance’ I mean ‘stand looking out my patio doors and sway side to side’.

…I made it about once through one track. (These three tracks are each just shy of six minutes long.) Outside has trees and bees and breeze, you see, and I’m easily distracted.

I want to talk about that from two angles. First, ADHD. (No, I haven’t taken an Adderall in the past six hours—but nor should I have, I think. I did take one this morning.) The internet, being what it is, has endless ways to keep my most easily distracted mind occupied—though a lot of the time I find myself just refreshing the same few sites in hopes of new content—and sitting here netsurfing and chatting just does not get things done. Not spiritual things and not mundane things—or not for the most part, anyway. All the other Hellenic polytheists I know are people I only know online, and talking things over with co-religionists is in itself a good thing to do. And most of the other writers I know, certainly all the ones I’m friendly with, are people I only know online, and there’s nowhere better than an IRC channel full of writers to go with a question such as “…what word am I thinking of? It means something like ‘momentary’ but sounds something like ‘effervescent’…” (It’s ‘evanescent’.)

But talking talking talking isn’t writing writing writing, or doing doing doing. I can endlessly tell my co-writers what’s going to happen in my novel, or I can stop talking for an hour and put actual words on the actual screen. I can endlessly contemplate to my co-religionists the prospect of going to say hi to the nymph of this here lake, or I can, you know, stop chatting, put on shoes, grab a bottle of drink-offering, and take an actual walk down to the actual lake.

Which comes to the second thing about my distractibility. Silence Maestas hit on it in their March essay “Devotional Practice Shouldn’t Make You Feel Like A Failure”:

I’ve occasionally caught myself (not recently but it still kinda happens) using my apparent failure at devotional regularity as a club to hit myself with, emotionally speaking. “Oh, I’m so bad; I can’t even remember to say my prayers every day/week/whatever. I let a day/week/whatever go by without lighting the incense. Oh I’ve failed to speak with the Powers, I really suck, why do They spend any time with me?” Although I have made much progress, I still frequently feel like I’m kind of a devotional failure, like my Beloveds would be better served by someone else, that what I’m giving isn’t as good as They deserve, that I should be all around a better, brighter, smarter, sexier person before I even bother with Them.

These thoughts are entirely natural BUT they are not a very healthy or helpful way to think about my role in the sacred relationships I’m part of. Do I imagine that the Gods haven’t ever been forgotten for a day? Do I imagine that They have never lived with someone busy from morning to night with the cussed DOING of life?

[…]

I can’t use devotional practice as a source of evidence proving that I’m a shitty person.

And my anxiety brain and my depression brain are bound and determined to convince me I’m a shitty person. Sometimes this works better than other times. If I were better at remembering evening devotions to the Ancestors and Heroes, and better at doing more complex and mindful devotions to the Gods, and better at organizing rituals, and better at regularly reading classical texts and scholarly texts to acquaint myself better with the particulars of my religion as it was practiced millennia ago, and…

(Notice how none of those are ‘or’. Always ‘and’, and there are many mundane ‘and’s omitted here for brevity. I must be perfect at everything, in more realms than anyone, or else I am an utter failure.)

But even for a fully abled, neurotypical person, that standard is unattainable. For someone like me…

I think, in fact, I will now go put on shoes and grab a bottle of wine for a drink-offering and walk down to the lake for a few minutes. Only a few, because it is in the nineties Fahrenheit this evening and I will melt, and also I’m not sure I could be standing up for very much longer today at all—but I’ll do it. And earlier this afternoon I did, in fact, light a candle and pray to Metis and Athena and pour them offerings of clear water. And tonight I will, in fact, pour out clear water to the Dead—the Beloved and Blessed, the Kindly and Restless, the Ancient and Forgotten, the Healing and Holy, and the Many Dead—or anyway to the Holy Dead, because I haven’t memorized this list quite yet. (Three guesses where the list came from…) And if I remember it when I get back from the lake, I’ll print out the Hex.Ink prayers to the Heroines of the Purple Thread and tape those to my bathroom mirror, for easier recollection.

Perhaps it’s not much. Certainly it’s no sacrificial hundred head of cattle!

But what I am capable of doing, however limited I may be by my multiple disabilities, is not unimportant. And it’s not nothing.

I have sent for a warrior
From on my knees
Make me a Hercules
I was meant to be a warrior
Please
Make me a Hercules

(Sara Bareilles, “Hercules”)

This concludes this series—if, perhaps, only for now.

This series is being posted simultaneously at Bacchic Underground, Never Unmindful, and Delmarva Nikephoros.

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Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 3: Meditation and Self-Care

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Alex:

Freshly brewed tea is a favorite offering of mine. I brew the tea (loose-leaf in a tea ball, because I might be a touch of a snob), stir in honey and milk, and pour spoonfuls into the sink, usually to Hestia, Athena, the Olympian Muses, and the Titan Muses, in that order. Honestly I probably should offer libations more often and incense less often, because there is never any telling when my asthma will react to the incense smoke—but I enjoy the scents of incense, and…well, between my paycheck job and the endless quiet reminders that I am not working hard enough (evidence, I don’t have enough money), there really isn’t a lot that I can take a moment to enjoy. I don’t think the Gods begrudge my enjoyment of what I am offering Them; They ask for first-fruits, not the whole harvest, and the first portion of sacrifices at feasts, not the whole hog.

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Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 2: Prayers and Offerings

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Alex:

Rebecca, you mention morning and evening offerings. Are you willing to describe those practices as you perform them, and in what ways you designed those practices to be accessible to you?

I have been attempting to establish a somewhat more elaborate routine of daily prayer for some time. I have almost given up, to be honest. There’s just some sort of road block in my mind, especially if I want to do the prayers on a cycle rotating by the day of the week or of the month. And then I yell at myself for forgetting, and all the little voices that proclaim my incompetence and unworthiness start up. It’s more in line with self-care to just…not obligate myself to perform daily prayer.

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Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 1: Introduction

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Alex:

Today I woke up at five minutes to ten. I had meant to attend today’s local Unitarian Universalist service, perhaps to provide a polytheist perspective on the week’s topic, perhaps only to hear other perspectives and to interact with local people whose religious values in many (though not all) respects are similar to mine. But I had forgotten to set my alarms, and services begin at ten.

Today I poured out brief libations to a litany of Deities and then brushed my teeth; lit a candle to Hestia, used the same lit match to render a bowl of water into a bowl of holy water, and took a shower. Today, tired and in pain from that small exertion, I sat down on my sofa, opened my laptop, and hardly moved again till after noon.

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Wind the Labyrinth

Begin with Ariadne’s ball of thread

You walk upon the bones of those
Who passed this way before
You roll the bones

You turn the game-show wheel of fortune

Each twisting path is all the same
You spin and spin and spin and spin
How often have you spun this way before?

Sweat stings and it’s so hot in here
A gadfly or a whip-cut?

Staccato dance
Surrounded yet alone

Shadow puppets
Who pulls your strings?

Wash the fleece and card the fleece
And draft the roving into strips
You spin and spin and spin and spin
How easily wool fiber snaps
How strong once spun to thread

Ariadne’s ball of thread
A ripe apple’s like in size
They tried to bury us
They didn’t know we’re seeds

A cross, four curves, four dots
Join each to each around and round
Two lines, one black, one red
The labyrinth winds back and forth
A spiral
A mirror at the center
Who are you?

 

Sponsored for publication by Elizabeth Barrette in barter for her poem “Until the Restoration

Portable Altar Kit

Article by Amanda Forrester, originally posted at Temple of Athena the Savior.

Like many Pagans, I just don’t feel right if I don’t have have my altars around. Paganism is a religion that requires a minimum of a few tools, and often its adherents can go a little overboard acquiring more and more stuff. As I’ve said before, just creating an altar is an act of devotion, lovingly picking each and every piece not just for its aesthetic qualities, but even more importantly, for their symbolism. When I have moved, the altars are usually the last to be packed in the old house, and the first thing to go up in the new house (after the heavy furniture for that room is moved in, so I don’t risk breaking any of the delicate pieces).

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