Devotions. In my experiences it seems that most neo pagans of various sorts are not especially into, or do, devotions. Oh, they might be dedicated to this god, or that goddess, and they might collect all sorts of images and read all sorts of books, but when it comes down to it, the most you might call “devotional” is that when they do a ritual and offer up some stuff and ask for something in return. It’s certainly not a regular practice, let one weekly or daily. This of course might be my own slanted viewpoint, as I find I am often interacting with people who are new to the craft, and so the idea of devotions is not something they are aware, usually because of their background. They might even be actively rejecting it, as it has something that triggers old memories of childhood religious training, or unpleasant interactions in a previous religious settings. So, they seem to fall by the wayside. I do believe there are people who do devotions, and I like to think I follow many of their blogs, but over all it seems to be something that is done more by longer established living traditions, like ATR’s, culturally situated Buddhist practices, Hinduism, etc…
Of course, what’s interesting is that if you look into some of the first books about Wicca and witchcraft, devotions are there, but not always obvious. I think because it’s kind of small in the context of a wiccan circle because it comes down to the cakes and wine. That is all it is. That is the devotional part of the ritual, but at the times I have done it, if you do it with reverence and it can be really intensely devotional. Although it seems that many groups treat it more celebratory then as an act of devotion and offering, and also a communion with the gods.
Of course there are many other ways that it can be done. My personal methods are mostly done through incense, a candle (or two) and clean water. All of the items are blessed by me, and in doing so I clearly state that it is for this goddess or that spirit, and set it out for them to partake from. It’s all pretty straight forward and also very historical, as many cultures have offered incense, flame and light, and water, perhaps followed with prayers of praise and adoration. Sometimes I have included food stuffs, usually sweets. Some other ways is that I find items or plants that have a relation to the god or spirit, and I leave them their, as part of their personal collection. For my main goddess I have given un-shelled walnuts, as she is identified with walnut trees. These were votive offerings that I have blessed, and remain in a bowl on her space by her. Another offering that is good to make is prayers. Making prayers to powers that you have a good relationship with, even just to thank them, and praise them, is a great way to build a relationship with them, especially if you don’t ask for anything specific, or just indicate general blessings and good fortune, which if they are spiritual close to you, they will already be supplying to you as best as you can. Not that asking hurts, but if you only go to someone to ask them for something all the time, I know people get tired of that behavior, and so I can only imagine that gods and spirits do as well. Sometimes it’s good just to be grateful, and express that gratitude.
Other devotions can be even more involved. Leaving things in specific places. What little knowledge I have of ATR’s is that various spirits have places associated with them, where offerings to them are expected to be left. It’s very easy to look into European and Mediterranean, and other regions of antiquity and soon figure out places that were that gods or spirits special zone of influence. It can be correct to leave offerings there. It also seems that some areas were also open to any spirit. Crossroads seem to be a popular place where all spirits go at some time, and so leaving offerings there, and placing them there in a ritualized manner with respect and devotional practice can be quite the experience. Doing it in a public place that is often traveled through, can also be an intense experience, as demonstration of your dedication to overcome potentially socially awkward situations (like being in a graveyard with a crossroads in the middle of the graveyard, leaving offerings for the spirits of the dead, and other beings, at midnight) that in and of itself is an offering of time, and facing your fears. Or going to the beach at dawn, and leaving offerings to be picked up by the surf. All these places can have a devotional element, that when done with a focused intent, can help you connect more with the gods and spirits. Another part of devotions can be timing. As indicated in previous paragraph, times can also be an important part. If you really start doing devotional practice, you end up with your own liturgical calendar of feast days, offering days and what not. Depending upon their role, some gods might want their offerings down during daylight hours. Other spirits might prefer them given at night, when it’s dark. Some might prefer it to be during a new moon, whereas others prefer a full moon. Some prefer having their water refreshed once a week, whereas others might need it refreshed every day, along with incense and prayers when it is given. It depends upon you and the spirits and gods being worked with. It also seems that spirits and gods know what they can ask for from someone, and not from someone else. While one person might be called to make baked goods which go uneaten for 3 days, until they are shared, others might only need to give a quick prayer. The one who must bake, can bake, and the one who can pray, is pretty much only able to pray. While some might think the physical offerings and time that went into them might be more meaningful, a heartfelt and sincere prayer done with focus and intention can be quite powerful, even more meaningful because of that focus and attention. But it has more to do with the time, that which can be given as well as the time that it is given.
By giving focus to offerings, place and time, a devotional practice will soon develop. From my own experience, a devotional practice will really transform and change how you interact with gods and spirits, as well as your own spiritual practice. When you start making offerings, it seems as though something switches on. It makes the spirituality more day to day, and more real in a practical physical sense. If you are willing to dedicate 5 minutes every day to relate to some spiritual intelligence, then maybe there is something more to this. Even if you are just operating from a psychological model, drives the point of a certain level of realness which change ones practice in a many ways.