Baby Polytheist…it ain’t hard

In the polytheistic communities one inevitably encounters a large vocab list of different items that have been historically used in worship, which can be intimidating to new polytheists. Someone coming into the Hellenic religion may feel intimidated by such things as phiales (shallow bowls, which are particularly seen being held by Apollon), oinokhoes (libation vessels), kylix (drinking cups) and so on. This is not to mention the discussion of various forms of iconry that people use in their worship. It can make a new polytheist feel not only intimidated but that they *must* have all of these fancy things in order to *really* start worshiping correctly.

I am here to say, “not so!” Truth is that many of us polytheists who have fancy shrines/altars and supplies of worship do not come by them over night. Everyone has to start somewhere, and often where you start is with whatever you have available in your kitchen. Take myself for instance, I have been worshiping the gods for nearly 20 years and not until just in the last few years have I been in a position to have statues and the like. In fact most of my recent statue acquisitions over the last year have only been because I discovered that I had a knack for making them myself. Many people, including myself, have little more than a framed printed out picture, a bowl from the kitchen to pour libations into and a cheap candle with some stick or cone incense that can be readily bought in many stores.

In fact after all this time I still don’t have a proper oinokhoe. That is not to say that I wouldn’t like to have one and that I don’t have it on my wish list (because I most definitely do!) but that I don’t let that get in the way of my worship. You know what I am currently using for my oinokhoe? A two-cup measuring cup, that’s what. I fill it up to pour it over the black agyieus stone/shivalinga that sits in my phiale. I don’t even have a traditional looking phiale either, but a small copper bowl that is roughly of the shape of a phiale in smaller size than what one sees depicted with the gods. The kylix I have was a gift too from a friend, and wouldn’t have it otherwise if it hadn’t been given to me not too long ago. Don’t feel ashamed to grab that wine cup (or mug, or glass) from the cupboard and use it as your kylix. Don’t worry about grabbing that measuring cup, water pitcher or whatever have you to use to pour libations as your oinokhoe. Or the cereal bowl for your phiale. It is not as complicated or as difficult as it seems.

This also goes for doing ritual in general…it is not hard, nor is it difficult. There seems to be this assumption that offering regular prayer is time consuming. I offer prayer and incense several times a day and write about my religious practices a lot on my facebook. I have recently been asked “what else do you do? How do you have time to do all that and still have time for something else?” And so it occurred to me that from observation of discussion that people have the misconception that basic worship is very time-consuming which can be intimidating too to new polytheists who wonder how they can set aside the necessary time. Truthfully most of my rituals (unless they are for major festivals which has more going into it) rarely take more than 30-45 minutes at most. Simple prayers take less than 15 minutes where I just offer a stick of incense at random with a prayer. Big festivals meanwhile take an hour or two, but for these one expects to schedule time especially aside from them. But daily regular worship is actually takes very little time out of your day…so just jump on in! Don’t worry about scheduling time to do it because you will find that you can do a ritual in the morning while the coffee is perking without any worries.

Just take pleasure in the joy that worship brings and in the cultivation of  your relationship with the gods. If you can’t remember technical terms and don’t have all the fancy equipment..well who cares! I seriously doubt the gods are observing saying “what kind of shit oinokhoe is that?!”  Just by the act of giving the offerings and prayers you are establishing your relationship. So just do it!

20 thoughts on “Baby Polytheist…it ain’t hard

  1. Reblogged this on Loki's Bruid and commented:
    I like this for its Pagan on a Budget, and because it emphasizes the importance of building a relationship and knowledge base. It takes time to learn ALL the things, and even when you think you know them all, there’s always more to learn and experience, and that is a good thing. Some people find a more heavily recon approach makes them feel closer to their Gods and ancestors; some people feel experiential approaches are what deepens their relationships. Neither approach is wrong, and most people do a mixture of them.

  2. I really liked this post, I had struggled at the beginning of my path as a young adult when I saw so many cool items or jewelry others had. I felt like my path wasn’t as good because I only had dollar store candles, a home-made necklace, and some incense. I even tried to turn a glass orb with glass fish inside it into a crystal scrying ball. But it didn’t work.

    Thank you for sharing this, I know many newcomers will appreciate learning that the items can be anything you have, not only the $200

      • lol I have had it do that to me too! Anyway yes I agree, it can get frustrating and a bit discouraging for a new person. Especially when metaphysical store mass producers are advertising things that one *must* have. Acquisition is pushed big time it seems, so much so that it is easy to forget that we dont’ need *stuff* to worship :)

  3. Reblogged this on lokastrommablog and commented:
    That’s how I learned some of hobby crafting…was in making my own ritual items. I think one thing working against so many ‘baby polytheists’ is the fact that we live in a consumer driven culture where we are programmed to buy!buy!buy! and many times our worth is decided by our possessions (whether we like or not). That naturally spills over into any practice that might be blossoming. I applaud the author’s article. Good Job!

      • When I was a baby polytheist and out from under my parents-way back when- I was living below the poverty line. Way below it. I was also struggling to take care of a child. Expensive ritual items were NOT in the budget. I thrift-stored most of my stuff and made what I could. But I definitely think that our identities are so based in consumerism that it is naturally going to color even our religion. I’m on the other end of things now (With a lot of help from Loki) and I see where it can be difficult for baby polytheists who are inundated with images of beautiful resin statues and wands, etc. That’s not even the artisan stuff, that’s the shop grade stuff…it can be very hard on us to have to live like that and then to also be expected a Universal Unity mindset? It affects so many things….
        And you’re welcome. I must give credit to Thor however. He pointed it out to me.

      • I have been there too being a momma living below the poverty line. It is not pleasant nor is it easy, and the desire for *want* can be very distracting. In a consumerism culture it is very easy to get caught up in the *want* and forget about the purpose of the whole thing that you don’t have to have “stuff” to give worship. But I do think you are right with the consumerism because we are conditioned to feel like that resin statue from the store is necessity.

  4. “Don’t worry about scheduling time to do it because you will find that you can do a ritual in the morning while the coffee is perking without any worries.”

    Unless you are one of those people who absolutely require coffee first to get running, like a car needs petrol (what you Americans call gasoline) ;-)

    Not that I am one of those persons, far from it. I strongly dislike coffee.

  5. Reblogged this on A Young Flemish Hellenist and commented:
    A blogpost by Lykeia, about how it is more important to make offerings unto the Gods, then it is to have fancy equipment like phiales and oinokhoai to make the offerings with. I myself tend to use common household appliances for worship, though usually I buy one (doesn’ have to be expensive) for specific use in worship. But even that isn’t really necessary :-)

  6. You’ve just made me feel a bit better about what I’ve been doing for the past 3 years as a Gaulish polytheist. It’s not easy to come by with what we know was used during the Iron Age, so I’m forced to look for the nearest cognates. Like you, I’ve been using kitchen containers as bowls for offerings, and some more modern utensils to light incense, candle-holders and even a knife to open letters as a knife to ceremonially cut the offerings… I wasn’t very happy about it; other Celtic polytheists I “know” are grownups (I’m 22 and I still live with my parents when I’m not at university) and have the best shrines I’ve ever seen and can practice/worship whenever they feel like it.

    But, alas, I’m coming to terms with my current limitations and I have to thank you for giving me a little push in the right direction. So thanks and keep on writing! :D

    • For 22 and juggling school and the constraints that come with living at home etc I have to say kudos to you. You know, as you get older you eventually acquire stuff. We aren’t lucky to be born into practicing traditions where there are items that would have been handed down to us by family members for worship (as I have one child she will inherit all of my ritual stuff when I eventually pass). So it is important to keep in mind that we are starting from scratch but at the end of our years will potentially have am amazing legacy to leave someone…if not children, then perhaps another young worshiper. so keep at it! Don’t feel bad at all for what you need to use to get by, these things are easy to replace….one’s devotional and religious feelings however are what is most important.

  7. Reblogged this on Wytch of the North and commented:
    An awesome post by Lykeia on why you should not wait until you have all the “proper trappings” before beginning to worship the gods. Heathenry does not have a lot of ritual equipment compared to Hellenismos, yet I went about a year after being claimed by Odin before getting a drinking horn, and it was a couple of years after that before I got the hand carved, specially commissioned one I had been craving. At this point, I have been collecting Odin images and related paraphernalia for about ten years and there are still things I want to get for my shrine, other images and tools I would like to have. I think there is a lot to be said for waiting for the right ritual objects to enter your life (if you keep your eyes open and pray for them to show up, they will!) and in the meantime just beginning your devotional practice. All you really need for that is yourself and the gods. Make time and space for Them in your life, open your mind and heart, and above all listen; the rest will follow when the time is right!

  8. This post came at a good time for me, I think. I’ve been obsessing for the past couple of weeks about setting up an altar for the Deity I feel called to, but since I have no suitable piece of furniture that I can use for this, in the space that me and my partner have designated my “altar space”, I’ve been putting it off until I find just the right table or dresser, just the right incense holder, just the right conch shell, just the right offering bowls, just the right shade of blue altar cloth… and in the process I realize I’ve been focusing more on the set-up of the altar than the actual Deity I want to do this for. *sigh*

    • I think that is a very common thinking for people to get stuck on, and very easy to do. One gets so obsessed about having it just right that it is so easy to miss the point..and that is for the worship. It is great to keep looking for those perfect things, but meanwhile to fully utilize what you have! I am so glad that this post helped.

      • I think it’s because you really want to do your best, really want to show you care, and then I think “pfff, a tealight…! Why a tealight when I can afford to get just the right thing?” – except that “right thing” is taking an awfully long time to come around; I need furniture that I can either assemble upstairs or easily get up the unstable roll-down stairs, and my practical streak won’t let me get just anything that’s big enough. And in the meantime I could’ve lit a bajillion tealights to show my appreciation and veneration, which is better than what is, essentially, turning out to be empty promises.

        That’s something to do for this next week, I think – tealights I can do every night, and it’s better than the promise of “soon, soon!”. No one likes the person who keeps saying “yeah, any minute now it’s going to happen, just wait a little bit longer, I’m almost ready, it just has to be perfect before it’s done, just be patient…” – and nothing ever happens. Tealights it is.

      • I can empathize, there are many times I have had to grudgingly go with the tealights myself. And you are right it is much better than putting it off!

  9. This is great! Regarding time: written out, it sounds like a ton of stuff, but I know how quickly some thing can go, especially once you get into a practice with them. (The struggle for me, then, is to make sure I’m not always doing things by rote, which is why my morning prayers are off the cuff and often consisted of nothing more that, ‘Good morning, I love You, please walk with me this day, help me walk with You, here’s some tea, must wake up now.’

    • oh yeah written out it can seem like a lot more doing that what is actually being done lol. But that is always the way it goes ;)
      Yep that is how I do a lot of things too, right off the cuff, so I am not messing with the frustrations of doing things perfectly by rote memorization.
      Which reminds me I need to start the pot of coffee for myself (and Apollon for his share too lol).

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