Casual Devotion and Inexact Terminology

a photo of my main shrine, which is heavily used
I literally just took a picture of my shrine without doing any kind of special cleanup for this photo. You can see the remains of my khernips and the ashes from the burned rosemary sprig in addition to the god-sticks that are set out and the nearly-finished Hestia candle.

I was on Tumblr this morning and found an interesting thread about casual religionists. The original post seemed to be using casual as a synonym for atheistic or noncommittal polytheism in its first paragraph, but it’s possible that I misunderstood the person writing it. The term I use for atheists engaging in religious practice is culturally x, such as “culturally Hellenic polytheistic” or “culturally Jewish” or “culturally Christian.” I interpret the word casual a bit differently — more along the lines of without a high level of formality than as a synonym for apathetic, like the term business casual.

Part of the reason I restarted this blog is that I wanted to amplify voices of those of us who are polytheists and religiously devout, but who have no ambitions to be religious leaders beyond possibly serving on an organizational board in 5-10 years — those of us who have a target of being community elders in 40 years, not religious experts. There is religious expertise that comes from intense devotional education and leadership, seminary and graduate-level training training, and/or work with philosophy.

Not all of us can be these people, and as I said before, it’s not desirable for all of us to be. There is a place for devotees who are also professionals (in what the modern world would consider secular professions), and ultimately, I want out polytheists to be represented among all professions as role models for young devotees. There are still many stigmas against non-Christians in America’s work force.

In the ancient world, religious practitioners were merchants and farmers; apartment-dwellers and landed gentry; educators and politicians; and so many other categories. In the modern world, we have a certain amount of energy after a 40+ hour work week, and that energy needs to be split across a variety of tasks — family, friends, gods, and our personal development/growth projects and creative pursuits. I’m blessed that I can handle both a 40+ hours/week career and a 15+ hours/week writing practice, but it means that I have had to make hard choices over the years. I’m also not a priestess, although I’m pretty close when it comes to the Erinyes because I’m one of the few people who has a deep understanding of their cultus and context. (I’ll let you know if I end up buying purple robes.) If I needed to make deep time commitments to god(s), the breakdown of my time outside of work would obviously be very different.

I spend between 5-20 minutes/day on actual prayer and religious practice, depending on which gods are honored in the lunar calendar and what kind of practice the day involves. Days of purification and the Noumenia tend to be closer to 20 minutes. Mondays add about 5 minutes because I have my weekly offerings to Hermes and Athene (my professional patrons) and to Apollon for a weekly divination practice. Does it sound weird that I know exactly how much time this takes? I give prayers after I shower. On weekdays, I leave at 8:30 AM for the office. I need to have a rough idea of the amount of time I will spend in prayer so I can plan my morning accordingly and be on time. It takes me about an hour to drink my coffee, so I need to be done with prayers by 7:30 AM.

In addition to my morning prayers, I have prayers that I give to Apollon, the Mousai, Hermes, Mnemosyne, and Seshat on Monday and Wednesday nights before my extension kicks in and my Internet is disabled for several hours so I can focus on writing my 1.3 million word epic fiction project (update: I have written 200,000 words since mid-December, which adds to the 300,000 words I already have written in this project — I’m 38% of the way there). I write at other times during the week, too, but may or may not make prayers beforehand. Based on the Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth, I have also added a sponde for Hermes in addition to the incense he receives from me during these prayers. The shared cup of purified water has really enriched that prayer.

This is how I define casual religionist — someone who does the basic household worship, professional prayer obligations, and prayers/religious observances related to one’s personal projects to establish the correct kharis relationships with the gods. Of course, with the de-emphasis on religious practice in modern secular America, my definition of casual religionist probably sounds a lot like an extremely religious person to most people.

The above list does not include the personal spiritual growth activities I engage in — things like yoga, reading religious texts and philosophy, or meditation. Those are arête-focused tasks. The world is full of gods, and there are deities associated with each of these practices — but they benefit the gods only indirectly. I’m more focused in prayer when I manage my anxiety. I can bring more knowledge and expertise to writing hymns or making impromptu prayers or reaching out to a god when I improve my level of understanding of gods’ contexts.

The list doesn’t include special religious tasks, either, such as when I have a poetic or other commitment to a specific god to enrich or repair a relationship.

But these are my thoughts. ♨️

4 thoughts on “Casual Devotion and Inexact Terminology

  1. Polytheism was and is first a religion of the home. The cultus began at home with the family’s Gods. So, I wouldn’t say we are casual religionists. I would say we are Polytheists.
    Monotheism moved religion out of the home and into the church for God to be worshiped by groups, not families or individuals. So that is where the idea of formal worship got embedded. We just moved it back home that is all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, that is so true! I think that “casual” in this sense is that it’s not always very formal, which is another side effect of religion being moved out of the context of a person’s routine life. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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