Honoring, A short Lesson
By Ana Hawthorn
large part of spiritual practice is the giving of honor to a Higher
Source. This holds true for Paganism as well in other religions. Many
come to this path because of a desire to give honor to Nature, to the
awesome beauty that surrounds us. From there, we may begin to identify
with the different personifications of Deity. Each of us holds a sense
of who the Gods are, and how they appear to us. Some are satisfied to
recognize them as a manifestation of the greater sense of the Divine
Feminine and Masculine. Many others, however, begin to recognize that
their image of Deity has specific elements about them. They have a
certain age, tools, hair color, cultural dress, colors, accompanying
animals or symbols. These elements lead to a specific Deity that aligns
more powerfully to our own internal natures, personal powers and
taking the time to honor our aspect of Deity, we help to develop our
own inner powers. You can find a fine example on what can be achieved,
with an in-depth honoring of Deity, within some of the still existent
Indigenous religions. For example, in some of the African-based
systems, God/dess’ are referred to as the Orisha or Loa. Every one has
one that ‘sits on your head’ and ‘one who walks beside you.’ Each
person, they believe, (most often) has a male and female deity that
rules the person. Whichever one is the more dominant element, is the
one that ‘rules’ your head and the other, of the opposite sex, is the
one which walks beside you. The one that rules your head is not always
the same sex as your Self. (For a more in depth look at this, I
recommend you look into the practices of Santeria, Voudon, Yoruba or
any of the other sister or parent religions).
stay with this system momentarily, because it holds an important
element to the honoring of Deity. Each Orisha (or Deity) has specific
elements sacred to them, items that identify their personality, powers,
and strengths. Something quite important happens with this knowledge,
which I feel is sometimes missing in the European Pagan community. Once
a person recognizes their Orisha, they wear the colors, use the
numbers, and hold dietary restrictions in line with their Deity. This
gives honor to the Deity and brings the person closer to them. This
closeness is facilitated by the maintaining of a shrine for each
Orisha. We will cover this momentarily.
importantly, this causes an important psychological change. Each aspect
of Deity is a path; a spoke of the wheel which leads to the All/Great
Spirit. Each archetype/aspect of Deity is a vehicle to spiritual growth
and development. They are the keys to the lesson we are here for.
when we work to maintain the shrine, to align our physical bodies to
the image of the archetype through color, number and exploration of the
use of the powers inherent to that Deity, we fine tune the path of our
own progress and in turn speed that progress.
shrine is simply an altar or sacred space devoted to one deity. This
shrine should be kept clean, maintained on the same day every week and
have offerings made weekly. A shrine consists of images that remind you
of the deity- candles, flowers, food and drink (or water) and anything
else that reminds you of them. The shrine should be set up in an area
that feels appropriate to you for that specific Deity, or for the
Ancestors. Your instincts will often tell you the best place to put
them. A protective God/dess will often prefer to have their shrines
near the main entryway. God/dess’ who have a strong hand in love will
often prefer the bedroom. Those Deities of hearth and home, often like
the kitchen. Ancestors will often prefer the main gathering area of the
house. These are just a few examples of the tendencies you might find.
Let your instinct flow when setting up a shrine. Something may seem
silly to you at first (what, a harmonica and a rubber ducky?); but in
time, you will discover that they make a surprising sense.
should also seek to communicate with them. Talk with your Deity(s), let
them know what you need, let them become a part of your life, your
meditation and let them know that you honor their involvement.
Ancestors should also be honored. This is something many of us have
lost in our culture. Our Ancestors will communicate with us, teach us,
protect and guide us. But energy must be given to them first. Ancestors
are important because they are part of the process that has gotten you
here. They are your heritage, they are the beginning source of the
habits ingrained upon you by your up-bringing, good and bad. They teach
you who you are at the root of your existence. Working with them will
help you to gain strength from your heritage. It will help you to
understand and repair the bad things as well.
everyone has a relative in their ancestry that they just don’t like, or
are downright afraid of. They should still be acknowledged and, in
time, perhaps be given a chance to redeem themselves, if the occasion
arises. It does not mean that you need to talk to them- ever. But they
are part of your family history and as a result they are part of what
you are- on some small level. It is something to think about. We each
must come to our own conclusions as to how we wish to deal with them
and facilitate healing.
ancestor shrine should be a collection of photographs and mementos from
your family- of those who have passed away. Be careful not to add
images of the still living- unless you are doing work in their name. A
fresh glass of water, a white candle and flowers should be placed upon
the shrine. Favorite or traditional foods should be offered on special
days. Monday is the most traditional day to do ancestor offerings.
with Deity, talk to your Ancestors! Being family, they are generally
far more interested in your life than other spirit-based beings. The
more involvement you give them, the greater the role they will take in
helping with your daily goals and desires. One word of advice, when
meeting ancestors you are unfamiliar with, take some time to get to
know their energies before you work with them. Just like a distant aunt
or uncle you barely know, wait until you are comfortable with them
before you give them a hand in your personal life!
in our many varied paths, would do well to take a page from the
practices of those who have successfully maintained the life of their
cultural pagan practices. This sort of honoring is an important part of
their lives for good reason. If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t be there.
What awaits us, is a closer understanding of our own nature and our own
journey. These weekly and daily devotions open the doorway to the past
and the future of our spiritual development.
Some Suggested Exercises:
Do visualizations to meet both God and Goddess. This is not to say that
there are only two, or that you must believe in one or the other. It is
to look into what deital archetypes are most prominent to you.
Make as thorough of a description as possible, including those elements
you know are special to them- gained through their communications,
dreams, and the elements that surround them when you meet them.
Meditate on the idea of the archetypes being a pathway for spiritual
growth. How does this knowledge effect you, your beliefs?
Build shrines to your archetypal Deities and your Ancestors. Describe
or photograph your shrines and write about what offerings you decided
to make to them.
5) Think about how you can walk the path of your patron Deity and begin to do so.
Keep a journal for one month.
Create or look for images that represent what you connect with as part
of your personal images of Deity. Add them to your shrine.
7) If you haven’t already, research your ancestors, ask family members for stories they
remember. Try to get to know who they were beyond a name in the family tree.
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