In my Twitter feed a few days ago, I saw Shivam Bhatt’s advice about what to do (in a Hindu context) for religious activity in 10 minutes a day.
I really liked that tweet, and I like that he quote-tweeted himself to share his suggestions with others — I think that it is very important to give people options that can mesh with a busy schedule, especially since social media conversations might make it seem like everyone religious is doing hours and hours of prayer.
For that reason, I’m writing a quick post about prayer/offerings in 10-15 minutes.
A caveat: If you’ve read my last post, I’m now calling what I do Hellenistic Syncretic Polytheism. This post’s advice is specific to the HeSP context. It is, however, similar in format to what LABRYS recommends in their household worship book. It is also probably adaptable to other polytheist NRMs.
- One libation jar/glass
- One glass or Mason jar
- One sprig of dried rosemary
- Water, preferably purified
- 1-2 tbsp coarse salt
- A bowl for receiving libations
- Incense holder (optional)
- Incense (optional)
- Icons — names of gods written down, images, statuary, &c.
- Printouts of short hymns to read (or a book, like the Athanassakis translation of the Orphic Hymns; books of hymns work great in a phone ereader app b/c the table of contents is easy to toggle)
- A candle and its holder
- Liquid for libations, such as chilled tea or wine
- A shrine surface, which can be as simple as a bookshelf or cleared-away space (note that if you are planning to give Chthonic cultus, you should have a separate space for that — there are ritual taboos)
I have a much longer post with some practical advice on how to find ritual tools within your price point. If you’re in the market for bowls to receive libations, the woodcrafting from this seller is very gorgeous. You can also buy imported ritual supplies from Greece — this is my favorite shop for agalmata, and here’s another one with jars. If you worship gods from another pantheon, here’s an Etsy search result set you can play with.
Before You Start
The easiest way to be ritually clean before doing ritual is to schedule your daily ritual to happen after your shower. I will assume that this is the case going forward. But what if you cannot shower? Wash your face and hands.
From a logistics standpoint, you will need to also find time to do the ritual. If you shower in the morning, this means waking up :15 earlier. If you shower in the evening, it means building this into your post-shower routine.
Apart from bathing, prep will take most people 2-3 minutes.
- Put your libation liquid in the libation jar
- Combine the water and salt in the Mason jar or glass — it’s OK if the salt isn’t dissolved completely
- Lay out the incense you will use, if any
- If you store representations of gods due to lack of space, set them out
The Actual Ritual
First Five Minutes
- Light the candle.
- Set the sprig of rosemary on fire. You can just light the tip of it. Make sure the salted water is handy for dredging — be very careful with fire and rosemary needles because we all want you to be safe. Dredge the rosemary sprig ASAP in the water, swirl it around while saying something like “the water is pure,” “may all profane ones depart,” or similar sentences in Greek. Sprinkle the water on yourself and pray to be made pure.
- Say a prayer to Hestia, like one of the ones in LABRYS’ Hellenic household worship book or the Orphic Hymn to Hestia, or freestyle it. Libate some of the liquid into the bowl.
- Say a prayer to household Zeus. You can choose a set prayer as above or, again, just say sincere things. (Zeus is a storeroom god, so he literally presides over your stash of tea and tisane, clean sheets, and soft blankets. He’s also the King of the Gods and the Thunderer. These things can all be so at once.) Libate some of the liquid into the bowl.
Note 1: I’m assuming that you will be doing household worship alongside such prayers. If you are not doing household worship, some of these bullet points will not apply to you. In all honesty, though, someone in your household should pray to the household gods.
Note 2: I’ve gotten into the habit of doing hand clapping, and I’m not sure where I picked that up? Did I see it somewhere? Who knows! I usually repeat “may all profane ones depart” three times followed by one, two, and then three claps, and then a pause. I also clap twice before praying to a god to mark that the prayer is starting. You could also use a bell or something if trying this sounds intriguing to you.
Note 3: I pray to the benevolent household serpent generally right after Zeus.
Final Five Minutes
Now, another caveat: You will need 2-3 minutes for every god you pray to at minimum. If you know that you’re in a rush, please plan accordingly. Here are some other considerations:
- Do you want to pray to your professional patron(s) every day or using a specific rotation, like on Mondays (or Sunday night if you pray in the evening)?
- Do you have devotional cultus that you need to honor and acknowledge on a daily basis? If not, what kind of system will you work out?
- Do you follow a daily observance calendar that honors specific deities on specific days?
To fit something in under ten minutes, realistically speaking, you will only be able to pray to 2 gods maximum (or sets of gods, in the case of a prayer to the Mousai or to the Horai — they’re most often, but not always, treated as collectives), and you need to be mindful of length if you recite something.
Instead of praying to specific gods, you could theoretically also pray to an entire pantheon at once using a longer prayer like the one LABRYS’ household worship book has set down for the Noumenia ritual, which includes a lot of gods in it.
You will also need to make another choice, and that is about incense. If you’re on the go, it may not be practical to offer it if you’re worried about the fire safety risk. This is why I use shorter sticks of incense — Japanese incense can be snapped in half or thirds because it’s a solid stick of incense, and you can stand it upright in an incense holder bowl of something like white ash to burn down with no remaining stick to dispose of later. Do what makes sense to you and be cautious!
Okay, enough of that. For each god you pray to:
- Greet the god by name and epithets. You can look up epithets online using a variety of free resources.
- Offer the incense or make a libation.
- Do a recitation of a short hymn, poem, &c., or chant epithets for a predetermined span of time, &c. This is really up to you, and you don’t have to do the same thing for each god! When I give a few minutes to Apollon, I usually chant paean · pythian · apollon · apollon · apollon · pythian · paean (a chant developed by Todd Jackson from Kyklos Apollon) seven times while striking a tambourine. I don’t do that same thing for other gods.
- Silence. Allow for at least a few moments of silence.
- Thank the god and move on. You can pray to another god or move forward to ending the ritual.
At the end of your five minutes, thank the household gods and extinguish Hestia’s candle.
Note: I do all of my household/daily ritual in one go, so I pray to threshold gods before extinguishing Hestia’s candle. I offer them incense, and I pray to them for protection as I go out on my way from the home, in analog and digitally; to protect the home, identities, and data; and to protect everyone who dwells in my home. That usually takes 1-2 minutes. (Yes, I pray to the threshold gods to avert identity theft and data breaches.)
This hopefully gives a quick way to get started. My own daily rituals are usually longer — I can do them in 20 if I’m rushed, but they typically go 25-30 minutes on weekdays and 45+ minutes on the weekends — so it’s also easy to take the above format and extend it out into the time you have. If you have 20-45 minutes, you can do things like prayer repetitions on beads, longer textual recitations, or contemplative practices. But that is your decision to make. It’s your daily ritual.