Friday posts are written by Sage of the blog Sage and Starshine. Every week or so they explore a different aspect of the Otherfaith through the letters of the alphabet.
This week I want to build on the previous essay about devotion to look at practical ways to start, rekindle, or strengthen a divine relationship in your life. We’ve established that all of us – human, spirit, and deity – are individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses. We all have personhood, which means consent and autonomy play key roles in these relationships. We all have preferences on what kind of relationships we want, and how we want to approach or be approached by our Beloveds. Let’s say you’ve decided all that and you know who you are (right now, at least!) and what sort of relationship you’d like to pursue. Our next question is… how do you decide what to do?
I think it’s important to note that anyone can pray to their Beloveds, converse about them, ask for or practice divination, and otherwise determine their divine partner’s opinions about the state of the relationship. Your satisfaction and their satisfaction are equally vital. Even if we can’t hear or sense our Beloved’s responses, it’s still important to make the attempt and ask. It’s just good manners!
I need to be honest and admit the inspiration for much of this post comes from my friend Jenett’s website. Jenett is a priestess in a religious witchcraft tradition and also a librarian, both of which make her excellent at organizing information and communicating ideas clearly. Her site “Seeking: First Pagan Steps and Tools” is written with the newbie Pagan in mind, but offers a lot of rich insight to “how and why do we do this religious thing?” for people of all experience levels and religious persuasions. In particular I’m lifting ideas from her essay on ways we learn and how we can apply that to our religious practice. I’m going a step forward and applying that to specifically devotional practice. What’s the difference between religious practice and devotional practice? I’d say primarily attitude; I can light candles and incense all day if I want, but if I’m not completing those actions for someone else then I wouldn’t call them devotional. (Your mileage may vary!)
Jenett links to a really nifty online quiz that tests your different modes of intelligence. My top three were language/linguistic, interpersonal/social, and intrapersonal/self-reflecting. I’m really good with words, I’m really good with people, and I’ve got a really good idea of what’s going on inside my head. My lowest scores were in visual/spatial reasoning, body movement/kinesthetic, and musical intelligence. So I’m not the best at moving in my body, knowing where things are around me, interpreting maps or visual puzzles, or at really getting and appreciating music. I, like everyone else, am a mix of these intelligences and smart in different ways, not all of which have to do with things like academic success or high IQ scores. Those are actually very limiting ways of approaching intelligence because they value certain ways of thinking and understanding the world over others. It’s also important to remember that intelligence, according to this theory, isn’t some static quality you get at birth. You can stretch and build intelligence just like any muscle, and you can play to your intellectual strengths in all areas of your life – including religion.
A newly-recognized form of intelligence that the above links don’t discuss is spiritual or existential intelligence. I mention this as a reminder that intelligence does come in any and all forms, and that new types are still being discussed and “discovered” today.
Devotionalism, Intelligence, and You
When we’re aware of our strengths and preferences we can start to apply them to our devotional lives. Perhaps collectively, the different standards of intelligence could contribute to an overall “devotional intelligence,” though I worry that such an approach, no matter how thoroughly explained, may unfairly preference certain individuals and ways of being smart over others. I’m pretty clumsy and knock things over a lot, and had a hell of a time learning to drive because I had no concept of objects in relation to my own body, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still offer devotional dance to the gods. My struggle with body/kinesthetic and spatial intelligence is part of the offering.
I’m going to suggest ideas on how to give devotion based on the theory of multiple intelligences, but remember that these categories can be fuzzy and theory is just theory. Take what makes sense for you and your particular devotional style and forget the rest.
This is about learning through doing and movement. People with high kinesthetic intelligence might be great dancers, enjoy sports, or constantly need to fidget with their hands. To incorporate kinesthetic intelligence into your devotion, you can:
- Act out myths or spiritual concepts as you learn them.
- Create devotional dance for the different gods; experiment with which movements and rhythms feel natural for each deity.
- Try out a physical form of meditation, like walking a labyrinth or tai chi.
- Choose ritual items or sacred jewelry based on how they feel, both physically and spiritually.
This form of intelligence asks questions like “why are we here?” and “what is my purpose?” It is linked to ethics and morality, as well as connecting inner self to the greater world. To exercise spiritual intelligence through devotion, you can:
- Take up the study of ethics (also known as moral philosophy).
- List the values of particular gods (such as the Dierne’s concern for consent) and consider how you can embody those virtues.
- Practice skills in mysticism, energy work, magic, or divination as ways to understand the gods.
- Explore your spirit body through meditation or visualization.
This is about words, communication, and storytelling. It includes both visual language (reading and writing) and spoken language (speaking and listening). To use this type of intelligence in devotion, you can:
- Read our myths and consider what they mean to you.
- Use freewriting to explore your devotional relationship.
- Look for books, essays, documentaries, or podcasts that relate to different gods’ purviews; what topics remind you of your Beloved?
- Write about your experiences with the Otherfaith. You can submit essays and poetry to “Of the Other People” or let us know where you’re writing, and we’ll link to you.
This deals with manipulating numbers, thinking logically, and organizing data. If you excel at this type of intelligence, you likely have an easy time understanding processes and structures. To use this intelligence in devotion, you can:
- Organize what you know about the gods in a way that makes sense to you. What information are you missing?
- Dedicate time spent studying logic and critical thinking skills.
- Make mind maps of myths and spiritual concepts as you learn them.
- Describe rituals or guided meditations with clear, logical sequences of events. What do you do, in what order, and why?
This intelligence deals with sound, rhythm, tempo, rhyme, and harmony and can be equally interested in spoken poetry as actual music. To use music intelligence in your devotion, you can:
- Create playlists for the gods on YouTube or Spotify.
- Write chants for your Beloved, focusing on which sounds and rhythms fit with their personality.
- Focus on meter and rhythm when reading or writing poetry.
- Play music as a background to meditation or prayer. Focus on how certain sounds and instruments evoke different feelings.
This is knowledge of and connection with the natural world: ecosystems, local weather patterns and geographical features, and lore surrounding animals and plants. To explore devotion through natural intelligence, you can:
- Connect Otherfaith myths with the world around you. Where is the nearest river (the Ophelia) and what watershed does it belong to (the Laethelia)?
- Go outside or use natural sounds as a backdrop to your meditation.
- Make pilgrimages to sites sacred to the gods, such as the Appalachian Mountains for the Laetha or the seashore for the Laethelia.
- Research common flowers, vegetables, or houseplants associated with your Beloved. Tend to those plants, starting them from seed if possible.
This is knowledge of your emotions, your mental state, and who you are as a person. Someone with high self intelligence could use a variety of tools to learn more about themselves. To use this in devotion, you could:
- Journal about your introduction to the Otherfaith and the gods or spirits you particularly care for.
- Practice regular meditation and mindfulness to become aware and stay aware of your inner state.
- Make time for self-care, such as visiting a professional massage therapist or practicing energetic hygiene.
- Read (or write!) spiritual devotions or self-help books that focus on a particular aspect of your life you’d like to improve.
This is knowledge connected with groups and social interaction. Someone with high social intelligence knows how to connect with people in a variety of ways. To practice this within your devotion, you can:
- Contribute to online religious discussion whether through blog posts, social media, or instant messaging.
- Cultivate a close group of friends to discuss spirituality with and make maintaining these friendships part of your religious life.
- Meditate or pray with others when possible.
- Visualize meeting and talking with deities and spirits, or practice journey work to learn about them in person.
This is proficiency with what objects look like and how they’re positioned in relation to other things. You might prefer visual or symbolic ways of obtaining information, such as through graphs and pictures, and may be highly artistic. To use this in devotion, you can:
- Make scrapbooks, vision boards, or Pinterest boards full of images that remind you of your Beloved.
- Study a form of divination that makes use of symbols or artistic puzzles, such as runes or Tarot cards.
- Spend time arranging the objects on your altar or in your room to reflect your spiritual goals. Pay attention to things like color, texture, and shapes. What visual cues help you feel connected with the gods?
- Keep a scrapbook to doodle and take artistic notes. Draw images of the gods or illustrate your favorite myths.
Wrapping it up
As you probably noticed, many of these devotional suggestions overlap with multiple kinds of intelligences. Blogging for me is a mix of social, self, and language skills, whereas my near obsessive doodling helps me visualize information in a mix of spatial and logical skills. Try anything and everything, mix and match, and never be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. We, like our relationships, grow with the effort and love given to us.