Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Cyclic offerings and reverence
I'm not a cleaner. Don't get me wrong, I clean...but I'm definitely not one of those people who feels the need for everything to be spotless all the time. I'm actually sort of at odds when it comes to cleaning, because I have some things I am very particular about. I hate sticky! I dislike when I touch things and they feel dirty. I don't like dust on things...but I can live with dust until I have to touch it (or it makes me start sneezing).
Which is good, because with three cats, things are dusty pretty much as soon as I stop cleaning. I aim for cleaning twice a week...but I can skip one if need be without feeling filthy. Regular cleaning includes vacuuming, sweeping and of course dusting. But with a duster. I don't remove everything off of every shelf, wipe down all the objects, wipe down the shelf and then return everything. I use a duster, get all the big areas, and then whenever I notice that specific items still look dusty, I'll go in for a more in depth cleaning.
You might be asking yourself what all this has to do with offerings and reverence. Well, the picture at the top is my computer desk altar. I like stuff, and I have quite a lot of it! I like little items, and my sacred spaces are often quite busy.
I always feel a little guilty when I notice dust on the altar (even when I JUST dusted...literally I can go put the duster away, look back and there will be dust!) Sometimes I think that if I were 'really' devotional, I would keep my altars tidy and clean...always. Then I remember I live in the real world, and while I do think that keeping my sacred spaces clean is a sign of reverence, I don't feel like any of the beings I work with expect me to do nothing but clean.
My spirituality is a living one. I am not a paid priestess in the sense that my main job in this life isn't to tend a temple or attend a particular deity. I think that idea is super cool, and romantically wonderful, and if I were to find a job that let me do that as a job, yeah, totally sign me up for that! My spirituality is a part of my regular life, woven in and out with family and personal activities.
And I'll be brutally honest: if I wait to do a full clean on my sacred spaces (as I described earlier, taking everything down, wiping/washing each item, wiping the surface and then putting everything back)...well it rarely gets done. I have the best intentions, but it's one of those things that just builds up in small, tolerable bits, until one day you look up and it's no longer tolerable.
Also, I am not a one-deity gal. I have my primary God and Goddess that I work with, but I also work with, and have items in my sacred space, for many more. When I think about altar maintenance and care, I think of honoring the deities involved. If I had an altar devoted to a single deity, it would be an act of worship to clean and care for that altar. My current desk altar has close to 20 different beings represented. Trying to take proper time to honor them all, at one time, would not only be chaotic, but also spiritually exhausting. I think I would feel, before I got to the end, that I wasn't giving my proper attention to each one, which is not my intention.
So, I've found a way to work around all of this, in a way that works for me. Since I clean twice a week, I have two opportunities a week to tune into my sacred space, to pick one part of it, one statue or one being, and to give them a good cleanse and devotion.
How this works, practically speaking, is that I take from one to a few things off my altar, and give them a proper cleanse. If it's something that can be washed, it gets washed. If it's something that can't be gotten wet, I'll give it a good dry brushing with an old toothbrush (seriously, you need these to clean, they are super handy!). So, I have a couple of things on my altar that belong to Odin, and would focus on him, cleaning his sections and items, and taking time to tune in, to say prayers and offer my reverence and gratitude up. Then, next time I clean, I might cleanse the Buddha statue, and rub his belly for luck and abundance.
Over time, everything gets cleaned, and probably more often than it used to, when I tried to do it all at once. But each part gets focused on, in exclusion. It's like spending one on one time with each of your friends, instead of trying to maintain the friendships only by meeting with all your friends at once.
I do think that spiritual work should sometimes include work. I don't seek to avoid effort or time, but I do seek to find ways to make things work for me, so that I can really give each action my proper attention. I don't want to be skimming through or just going through the motions when it comes to spiritual work (now when it comes to vacuuming, yes, I can tune out and just get through it!)
The beauty of breaking things into small actions is it removes most of the obstacles. I may legitimately not have time or energy to do a full cleaning of my sacred spaces (yes spaces, I have multiples!), but I can take a few minutes to clean one thing, to speak to one being, to offer up one prayer. And the next time, I can do it again, to a different deity, spirit or ancestor. And one by one, everyone gets time and attention. One, small step at a time.