worship creep

The gods rather enjoy being worshiped; my evidence for this is how my devotions expand in length and complexity over time. While devotion is a good thing, I don’t believe that the gods think of time as a finite resource. The result, if I allow it, would be a life focused on devotion to the exclusion of all else. I call this the propensity for worship creep.

In worship creep, devotional practices get expanded incrementally, and slowly enough that it’s not immediately obvious. I might well have quailed at the suggestion that I should devote time to my gods every single day had it been proposed to me at the beginning, but now that’s a standard part of my life.

Sometimes, the amount of time nourishes me. When my secular schedule builds up, it can feel overwhelming; I wrote about that in my upcoming book, Empty Cauldrons. From time to time, I find it useful to review my regular practice and consider the ways in which is shores me up, and likewise how it taxes my resources. That usually involves some cutbacks. Choosing to lay down or reorganize how I worship is something I try to do in cooperation with the gods, but if I feel that changes need to be made immediately, that is what I do. Divination is how I navigate it in either case, whether it’s to work out an understanding or learn about consequences after the fact. All actions have consequences, and divination is a means to understand what that means in a given situation.

Not everyone may find the need to take stock like I do, but it’s still important to remember the wisdom of starting small. Why tell seekers and neophytes what’s involved in more complex daily practice? That could scare away people who, in time, could be more devoted than than their teachers were. Systems tend to become more complex over time, but the basic worship practice of Hellenic worship, at least, stays the same: make offerings to the gods because they are the gods, and for no other reason; the gods, having noticed, may from time to time choose to bestow blessings for reasons of their own. We offer what we deem valuable, if we value the gods. I think the reason gods ask more of their most devoted followers is because attention is love. Scaling back can feel hurtful, because it’s withdrawing some of that attention, but to love someone is to be willing to let them do their own thing from time to time. Gods leave us alone at times of their choosing; it’s okay humans to do the same. (This is why it is wise to think twice before swearing any oath to a god: “give a pledge, and ruin is near.”)

I have personally driven a person away from honoring the gods by oversharing how I perform my devotions. A friend who agreed to feed my cats said, “If I have coffee with me, how would I make an offering at the Caffeina shrine?” Instead of answering with something simple like, “Oh, just pour a libation in this bowl,” I explained my personal practice at the time, which included particular gestures, as well as phrases in ancient Greek. I do not think my friend made any offerings at that shrine. My friend does not need to start where I am right now, and I would have been more thoughtful to suggest something extremely simple, like leaving some coffee beans or brewed coffee and clearing it away the next day.

Scaling back on devotion is sometimes the best way to serve the gods, too. We must care for ourselves before we can be fully present in service to another, for one. Our work in the world can also be the work of our gods: “sing through my voice/pray through my hands/let the way be open,” wrote Abbi Spinner McBride. If we break no oaths and treat the gods with respect, I would be surprised to know of anyone who has found the way closed to more devotion or service.

One thought on “worship creep

  1. In my case it seems that because I am eclectic and serve so many the worship evolves over time almost into an “organized religion”. Like I am a mini Catholic Church with many Gods and Heroes in places of Saints lol. But yeah some are louder than others.

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