Deep in Devotion While Being Disabled


I don’t often talk about this, but I’ve spent the morning in conversation with a friend about the issues that can arise while being in grad school with chronic pain and disability. It occurred to me that this is a topic worth discussing in the realm of devotion too. How does one engage in consistent devotion when there are days that pain is so bad one can barely get out of bed?

I deal with this every day. I have severe damage to my spine, the result of a ballet career that ended in my twenties through injury. I have, as a result chronic, debilitating migraines, trouble walking on some days, and fibro myalgia. I’m a hot mess most days and some days the pain is bad enough that my world is a fog of hurt, every joint on fire, and I don’t leave my bed. I know plenty of people who have it even worse. Most days, I’m relatively mobile and I’m grateful for that. To say that this doesn’t impact my devotional practices would be ludicrous. It does, absolutely. It does not however, excuse me from them.

I don’t usually talk about this because to me, it’s not really relevant to whether or not I do what I need to do. I find work arounds. When I can’t do ritual, I can pray. When I can’t pray, maybe I can read and meditate on a text (though it’s hard to find a time when one can’t pray). If I want to make offerings but physically can’t, I’ll ask my husband or our house mate to help. I have certain baselines – like a few set prayers that I have memorized – that when I can do nothing else, I can do that. Then, there is always quiet contemplation of the Gods. That has benefit too.  I set goals for myself, things that I very much want to do for my Gods and ancestors. I strive to reach those goals, but when I can’t, when my physical condition interferes, I don’t fret. I do what I can and pick up where I left off when I’m more mobile. I think it’s important to set high devotional goals and constantly strive to meet them, but bodies do as bodies do and those goals are lifetime goals to be worked toward, always, even if we never manage to meet them. We can always work on building better devotional habits.

Part of doing that, is to have variance in one’s practices and radical honesty with yourself and with your Gods. It’s very, very easy to use one’s disability as an excuse to do nothing, to skive off of one’s devotional practices. This isn’t the way to go. We can always make excuses for ourselves; that’s the easiest thing in the world. One of the hardest is to admit one’s weaknesses or damage and do as much as one can anyway, even if it’s less than what one wanted. Some days that may be a simple spoken prayer, ‘I love you oh my Gods. I cannot do more now, but when I can, I will. I thank You for your blessings.’ But the corollary to that is that when you are able to do more, do it fervently, with love and devotion and most of all gratitude.

My practice varies considerably from day to day, depending on which Deities I’m honoring, what type of devotion I’m doing, and what my physical condition is. It also matters whether I’m working for clients or am engaging in my own practices for myself and my household. In each, I try to do the most that I can do. When I can’t, I can’t and I don’t beat myself up about it (well, maybe I do a little but that’s a hard behavior to unlearn for a perfectionist). Tailor your practices to your physical abilities but don’t cut yourself any unnecessary slack. Good devotional work is a habit, and habits take work. Being physically compromised doesn’t mean you can’t do that work, you just have to work with your body, gently but persistently and know that this is enough.

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

Posted on March 2, 2019, in devotional work, Lived Polytheism, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Those that suffer severe pain, even with pain medication, can find great comfort in the arms of the Gods/Goddesses. Keeping, as best you can, a daily prayer life keeps your love for them alive, growing despite how you feel.
    Love for the Gods/Goddesses keeps a heart from turning to stone, or being bitter about our limitations. They, in turn, can not resist prayers of praise & love given to them. In spite of our fragilities.
    Great article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      I also honor the plant spirits from which my meds are made (most that I take are derived from plants. hell, aspirin is from willow) and keep them on my Healing Gods shrine and thank Them for Their blessings when i medicate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With my brain injury, there are a lot of devotional activities that I can’t do. But there are ones that I do do such as my morning offering to the Lars or the lighting of the afternoon candle for ancestors. On bad brain days, I end up going through motions such as offerings since they are encoded in my body. I believe that people will set up restrictions if they are not interested or if they don’t have problem solving skills.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Keith McCormic

      That’s why I’m such a proponent of having baseline ritual routine. Sometimes the muscle memory can help bring the mind around, even just a little bit.


  3. “But the corollary to that is that when you are able to do more, do it fervently, with love and devotion and most of all gratitude.”

    This has been absolutely key for me. I have learned that – since I can’t always do what I want or even need to be doing for Them at any given time – that those times when I *can* do it, when I have no (or fewer) physical impediments, I need to jump at that chance, to never put it off or do less during those times, because I don’t know what kind of shape I’ll be in the next day, or the next. It does help me live in the moment, at least.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Normally I’m quite healthy, but recently a bout of sciatica laid me low. It is so blessed how meditation on the Gods keeps my mind off pain!


  5. A valuable reminder, thank you

    (Did my comment on the Othala post get spamtrapped or mod-hatted? It’s not a problem, I just want to know whether I should retype it and whether I did anything wrong.)


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