The building of personal tradition is one that every person does, regardless of religious or spiritual affiliations. We necessarily create rituals throughout our days and lives, and the body of these form our own personal traditions. While religious traditions as a whole give prescriptions and guidelines for rituals, from large to mundane, it is the decision of the practitioner to incorporate said rituals into their daily lives. As most of us who belong to smaller, marginalized and less established (or less recorded, as in fewer historical records left) spiritual and religious traditions can attest, incorporating rituals into daily life can be a challenge. Well, at least it is for me, and from this point forward, I’ll be speaking from personal experience.
I hear the phrase “every act in your life is spiritual/magical/for the gods/etc” fairly frequently. This concept is both simple and complex, because it’s easy to think this on paper. Yet, when you try to take the concept and apply it to your own life, particularly when you have a fairly complex and frequently evolving religious viewpoint, it’s actually really damn difficult. Thinking something is sacred is a far cry different than actually taking the time out of your day to acknowledge sacredness.
I’m in a stage in my life where I’m trying to consolidate a lot of things mentally, including my feelings and identification with polytheism, paganism, animism, witchcraft and my own spiritual notions, set against the backdrop of college, working, apartment life with a nonpagan roommate, pagan friends, nonpagan boyfriend and parents who won’t find out I’m pagan until I’m graduated from college and doing well enough in life that they can’t blame my spiritual beliefs for bad things in my life like they have done video games and other hobbies (I’m not bitter, not one bit). Being at this chaotic and critical time, I’ve decided to establish some stability and really think hard about how I want to incorporate my spiritual life into my every day life, because really, they aren’t separate things.
Part of this examination involves looking at the taken for granted statement that everything in your life is sacred, and seeing how it would actually apply. Now, I know a lot of people can argue that, in fact, nothing besides ritual actions are considered sacred (in at least what we as humans do) and I get that. I understand miasma and I know it’s a thing, but I’m at a point where, to understand the bad, I have to understand the not bad first. So, the way I’m applying sacred here is almost a separate notion of the word, where I consider that sacredness is that which involves the gods/spirits/us/etc interacting in a not offensive manner to said gods/spirits/etc, but not necessarily something that is done in a sacred space or in a sanctified manner (again, this is personal exploration, and if you have a problem with my exploration of variations of definitions, well, I don’t particularly care).
The first area of this that I want to look at is food, particularly prayer at mealtime. This may seem like a very silly place to start, but I think it’s a good one. We are surrounded by people praying at meals (well, at least when the family gets together for the holiday, and your mother asks you to pray every time and you are pretty sure she does it because she suspects you aren’t Christian, and you awkwardly shuffle the prayer to some other person hopefully younger or less around the family than you) regardless of specific religious traditions. What better way to cultivate mindfulness about where our food comes from than before we eat it, right?
So, when I first think of praying before a meal, where does my mind go? It wanders to thinking something along the lines of “since I’m a polytheist, what gods should I thank for this meal?” While this isn’t an awful sentiment by any means, I think it shows a fair about of holdover from a monotheist/Christian upbringing. I’m an animist, and so I should acknowledge the spirits that were/are in the food I’m about to consume. I should think of the processes it takes to get such foods, whether it be from a farm or from a processing plant or from my own garden. I should think about the hands said food crossed after it was harvested, and the respective energies of those who handled the food. Of course, the gods should also be thanked as well. Yet, it’s taken me a bit to get the idea through my fairly thick skull that, while the gods are, well, the gods, the food I eat comes from much more than just their blessings upon the fields. While oftentimes pagans and others who are environmentally conscious focus on the bad parts of the food production, many of us, particularly when we are first starting out, forget to do the whole ‘thankful’ bit. As in, I’m quite thankful we have the technology to harvest, transport, roast and brew my coffee, regardless of whether or not it was fair trade. In fact, the origin of said coffee doesn’t change the fact that it still passed through those hands, it still has the spirits in it, it still went through the manufacturing process, it was still shipped to my kroger, I still bought it, I still roasted it in my japanese coffee maker, and I still poured a ton of coffeemate creamer into it. And it doesn’t change the fact that the gods definitely influenced all of it either. I just am now realizing that there’s more to it than that.
Every little action we do, everything we consume, everything we use and interact with, whether it be living, dead or inorganic material, is the way it is by a massive web of interactions that radiates throughout the world. Which means, of course, we are the way we are, I am the way I am, in the same manner. And that’s pretty damn amazing, when you think about it.