A member of the Circle of the White Stag community asked an important question. What follows is the question, and my answer.
“Spirituality is a hard thing for me. It’s one of the primary drives for the changes I’m making in my life over the next year. Changes to simplify and realign the course the rest of my life will take. Exciting and daunting to be sure but well worth it at the end of the day, I believe. And it’s another reason I need to lean on this community and the advice and encouragement you all provide. To that end I’d like to discuss the oath (of belonging), if I may, and how to apply it to the business of living and to gain a better understanding of it in general. The first phrase calls upon us to put the Ancient White One and the White Queen first in our reverence. To me this means, among other things, devotion. Which is great as I need a focus for daily/weekly/regular spiritual activities. One question is how do offer devotion to “pillars of reality”? I know they don’t need such things so is it wise to make them a focus of regular devotional practise? If anyone is inclined to share how do you structure your reverence and apply this first phrase to your life?”
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“The most important thing I think I can say about this is regarding the idea of personal devotional structure. In some way, nothing helps as much as a good devotional practice, and nothing hurts as much as failing to keep a devotional practice up. And so, I always counsel people to go as easy on themselves as possible- to create an easy-to-maintain devotional schedule or structure, so that the possibility of “failing” at it is all but eliminated. You get more from something you can maintain for years with ease than you do from something that’s complex and impressive-seeming, but can’t be maintained for longer than a few weeks or months.
You have already rightly pointed out a critical factor- that the “pillars of reality” don’t need human devotion (or devotion from anyone.) Of course, for me, the “pillars of reality” are things like the reality of relationalism, the sensual, invigorating experience of contact with others and co-creation of self with others, the soul-deep pleasure of enjoying being alive and having bonds with others, and the sense of awe we naturally have when we have moments to take in the immensity and beauty of the wonder we all belong to. Those are the fundamental pillars of what’s real, in my thinking.
I accord the powerful persons who are the Ancestral sources of life with the honorary titles “pillars of reality” or “pillars of life” because in a more direct sense, they are; they, too, co-created; they comprehended the great sense of wonder that all beings must feel at this timeless situation of existence we are in, but they also contributed all this vital power which became our species and the countless other living species of beings here, and so many other things, too. In our human perspective the Great Ancestors are very much fundamentals of life, a lot like the solid presence of the Earth itself under our feet or the air we’re breathing- and as we know, the Foreparents have a deep connection to those things, too.
And while the Pillars of Life may not need our devotion, something inside of us wants to make a satisfying expression of appreciation at the wonder of all this. And that, to me, is where the mandate of devotion comes from. Cicero said “Gratitude is not only the greatest virtue, but the mother of all other virtues.” Devotion and gratitude are very close to one another; they are deeply kin.
The Pillars of Life may not need our devotion, but we’re not quite the fulfilled, happy beings we can be if we don’t show devotion, which is always another function of being grateful.
Some would say that the Great Ancestors (as they organically interacted with one another) may not have intended to sire all of this life that we belong to, so why be grateful at what is ultimately an organic, spontaneous, unintended consequence? And the answer to that is “because it’s still amazing; because great and mysterious forces and acts long ago still came together, and the pain, enjoyment, bliss, and wonder of that still fills every cell of our bodies.” We can be quite happy and grateful that something came to pass, even if it wasn’t 100% planned in some silly rational way.
And beyond that, the Great Parents- as with many other parents of a lesser stature- still feel bonds and kinship towards their many offspring- just as a human parent may discover that they feel bonds and love with their offspring, even if the offspring was a surprise, or not intended. Love, bond, kinship- it doesn’t take planning to be what it is; it comes to be, and so it is; and it’s joyful, it’s naturally fulfilling and powerful.
So we always have a lot of weird, happy, strange wonders to be grateful for, and we want to express all this somehow. And so, we try to create vehicles of devotion. We have benefited greatly from how the many processes and relationships of life work; rain falls, the earth drinks and becomes fruitful, creatures arise from the earth and water; some of them give up their lives for our own lives in another sort of relationship, and we sacrifice for one another, too. Somewhere down the line, every peaceful moment you have, free of hunger or discomfort, was purchased for you at the cost of life-force and effort elsewhere. When you think of that, you feel grateful (if you are a healthy, clear-thinking person, I mean.)
Showing devotion and gratitude should never be complex or hard. It should never be a thing you find yourself dreading doing. If you ever catch yourself not looking forward to an expression of devotion you have established for yourself, change it. There are literally limitless ways, infinite ways, you might show devotion and gratitude to the world of life, and to the Unseen (which is part of the world of life.) Find the ones, or create ones, that are easy and satisfying. Make sure they fit into your life.
Not everything has to be a huge ceremony. I focus specifically on non-elaborate ceremonies, and even non-elaborate sorcerous acts for my sorcery, because I long ago realized that what you lose in elaborateness or complication, you gain in confidence and engagement. If you had a stone somewhere outside your home, a naturally-occuring stone or boulder that had a natural “cup” or indention on its surface, and like the people of old Lancashire, once a week or once a moon you went out to the “cup stone” (Boggart Stones, they came to call them) and filled that cup with milk as a sign of respect for the local spirits of that place- that would be enough. It seems like not a lot to do, but I assure you, if you do this for years or decades straight, it becomes a massive demonstration of giving back and respect.
And that always beats an elaborate production that doesn’t last longer than a few weeks or months.
In my own life, I do the Dywenys Fayerie Offering (an offering of bread and drink) every full moon. I never miss it. I do it just like it is described in the first volume of Vision of the White Stag. I do sometimes use certain other powerful names for the Fayerie Queen and her King, but otherwise, it’s just as written there. The next morning, I bring the given-over ale/wine and bread to an Elf Cup (a stone-lined offering circle) I have in the woods back behind the house. That’s my chief devotional structure for the month. All other devotional acts I do are adjuncts to this one. When I need special favors, or when I’m just feeling inspired, I might grab a few things, head out to the woods or hills, and make an offering.
If your own feelings and inspiration in the moment guides it, it’s always good, always needful, always satisfying. And you should leave the “sails of your soul” open to the winds of need, desire, and inspiration- in this way, the Unseen itself might help you to do devotions that you never expected. But ultimately, there’s never any need to be over-burdened by them.
Just going for a walk once a day or once a week- a Serpent-Walk like arrangement, in which you pledge to just be aware of your surroundings, and appreciate them, and relax, and to “smile in your heart” at the beauty and fitness of all things around you- that’s an act of devotion, too. If the only thing you ever did was put your hands on the ground and say “Thank You” with 100% gratitude inside you, even that would be enough.