Tending the Garden of Your Heart

I was doing divination last night and the line came up “He who desires and does not act breeds pestilence” and immediately I was struck with a powerful corollary, namely, that we must then train ourselves to desire the correct things.(1) This is part of the discipline of devotional practice and I don’t think we talk about it enough. Devotion doesn’t just happen. We have to take the time to cultivate experience and praxis. Part of doing that is striving to make ourselves into the type of people willing and capable of engaging with the deep vulnerability piety so often requires. It demands a cultivation not just of particular practices, but of our character as well.

I think there is a tendency as moderns to compartmentalize our devotional world into what we do before our shrines, out of sight. I’ve often encountered the attitude that one’s practices are a small part of one’s life and the rest of their world is untouched by the tradition they practice or the Gods to Whom they pray.(2) All too often we unconsciously treat our spiritual lives as a hobby. This not only cripples our spiritual lives but opens us up to the despair that is so much a part of the modern world. Doing devotion well, really tending those relationships means making one’s internal landscape a place where gods and spirits might dwell. This in turn means being careful about what we expose ourselves too, and choosing carefully those things we put into our heads.

It also means learning to cultivate and desire the right things, things that augment our devotional consciousness, that make us more receptive to the Gods and spirits rather than those things that further entrain us to dismiss Them.

It’s not enough to do occasional devotional work if one’s devotion stops at the boundaries of one’s shrine. Living devoutly means living by the values of one’s tradition and carrying our Gods and spirits with us into the human world with every step we take. It means allowing that devotion to transform us from the inside out.

From farther back than even Plato and Aristotle, polytheists understood that virtue and character were things that must be consciously cultivated. The terminology may not have been developed until the philosophical flowering in fifth and sixth century Greece but the understanding was there. This absolutely applies to our religious work as well. This cultivation must become the core around which everything else in our worlds revolves.(3) If it doesn’t, we’re never really rooted in our devotion. It will always remain something outside of our hearts and souls, something that doesn’t touch or transform us, something at which we play.

There is nothing in our world that teaches us how to cultivate devotion well. In fact, what we too often see is the commodification of spirituality, its rendering down to its most shallow components, cultural mores that teach a subtle suspicion of religion and disrespect for devotion. Because there is nothing in our world that teaches this any longer, nothing that reinforces it, it’s up to us to do this for ourselves.

I’ve written before about learning to make good choices with respect to our devotional lives, but that starts right here, with learning to desire the right things. What those things are may vary from person to person, God to God, but it starts with curbing and cultivating desire. Because it is our desires, when they are unexamined and uncultivated, that will pull us away from our Gods, often before we realize it.

Note:

1. I have permission from the person for whom the divination was done to share this particular part.
2. This is true not just of polytheisms but pretty much across the board in the modern world with all religions to some degree or another.
3. It is significant that the word ‘cultus’ and ‘cultivation’ share the same root. In Latin, it’s actually the same word: colo, colere, colui, cultus, -a, -um.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on December 14, 2017, in devotional work, theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Well said. Everuthing I touch, taste and experience is through Apulu and by me. There is no breath, no moment that is separate.

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  2. I was trying to think of something different than “well said” since lykeiaofapollon beat me to it, but that was my initial reaction as well. So, well said. I can definitely relate to “He who desires and does not act breeds pestilence.” And that pestilence can build to the point where it clouds and confuses one’s . That might be another problem with modern society, many people no longer even know what their desires are anymore. Past the immediate and mundane and often materialist desires we all are likely prone to there doesn’t seem to be that much more that is desired by a good chunk of the population, at least as far as I can tell. I see myself as someone who has fallen into that trap at times, and the notion of relating it to devotional and spiritual practices is definitely a significant revelation. Thank you for connecting those dots. And thanks to your client for allowing you to share.

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  3. Okay, I’ll change the word choice a little – well written! When I was studying Gurdjieff, we learned to avoid taking in impressions that were toxic to our well being and efforts at awakening consciously. I think it is the point here, not to take in impressions that go against the grain of our relationship with our Gods. I don’t have a lot of time for my shrines, so I have to bring the Gods with me, and I do this through prayer, contemplation, and conversation. They are my beloveds, my reason for being, and my teachers. They oversee my comings and my goings, and I strive to remain in right relationship with them in every aspect of life.

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