Roadblocks to Devotional Work
I am not very good at freestyling my life. I need structure, I need routine, I need an instructional manual for just about everything. Okay, I don’t need it, I am known for some decently creative feats, but I don’t like to waste my time figuring out what has already been figured out. “Why fix something that isn’t broken?” is my motto. I like efficiency in everything I do. I am perfectly capable of figuring out some gadget without reading the manual, but why waste precious time when someone already figured it out for me?
This applies to my spiritual life as well. Yes, I realize that this is a strange place to apply such thinking, since spirituality these days is all about individuality. But I am what I am. I joined ADF because it provided me with the instruction-manual I needed to get started with my devotional work. However, I am not one to simply follow the instructions blindly. I also require logic. Yes, logic, even in the ostensibly illogical field of spirituality. I really, really want to just follow a devotional script from the ADF website and get on with my day. I want to honor my Gods and Ancestors, but I don’t want to spend all day figuring out how to do it. My time is short and valuable.
For the most part, I have been able to easily substitute logical alternatives to parts of ADF-style rituals that do not make sense to me. But sometimes, I come across a roadblock that holds me up longer than necessary. And I really mean that it holds me up. I will skip my devotionals for as long as I am stressing over some nit-picky aspect of my script that doesn’t suit me quite right. At the moment, I am held up by the whole Gatekeeper part of the ADF ritual.
For my earliest devotionals, I called on Hama (Heimdall) as my Gatekeeper. But it didn’t feel right. At first I thought maybe He wasn’t pleased with my offerings, then I considered that maybe He didn’t like being called on for such a trivial pursuit as my solitary devotionals. Not necessarily because he only cares about large group ritual, although this could be as well, but because he wasn’t one of my personal pantheon outside of my desire to call on him as Gatekeeper. So I decided instead to select a Gatekeeper with whom I already had a close relationship. Thunor was the obvious choice, being the God who has been with me the longest and has an interest in my life.
Thunor is, as far as my experience with him, friendly and very approachable. He doesn’t seem to mind that I call on him as Gatekeeper for every one of my devotionals, but I have started to feel like I am taking advantage of his generosity. He might be friendly, but he is still a God and I need to treat him with the respect he deserves as one.
Therefore, I have been considering my alternatives. I have considered that perhaps He leaves enough residual energy from his presence to hold me over for opening the Gates on my own until it is the day that he is patron of my devotional (which also happens to be the same day that I do a full COoR for all three Kindreds). I also considered that, according to ADF, we don’t absolutely need to open the Gates to be heard by the Kindreds, but communication is more effective if we do. The example provided on the ADF website compares calling out for help in an emergency with a ritual. The Kindreds can hear us clearly in the former, but “the connection to the [Them] is not always clear, strong, or efficient,” in the latter case. Besides this very black and white example, ADF is not particularly clear about when we can expect the spirit world to hear us and when it is best to open the Gates.
Some long-time druids reserve opening the Gates for full COoR rites, but don’t open them for daily devotionals. Does this mean we can assume the patron of a daily devotional can hear us clearly without the Gates? Perhaps the logic here is that, once one has built up a relationship with a deity, the channel of communication becomes strong enough to forego the Gates. If this is the case, then calling on a Gatekeeper would be needed for all daily devotionals until such relationships are built.
Well, alright then, I have more or less built up a relationship with my personal pantheon, so the above concern is moot. But the Gatekeeper’s only function isn’t only to open the Gates, it is also to act as guardian. This is indeed one of the other reasons I selected Thunor as my Gatekeeper. Now I am trying to figure out when I should need a guardian and when not. If I am not formally opening Gates for a devotional, do I need protection? What does it mean to communicate with a single deity and not open the Gates before hand? Is it a secure line of communication in this case? I am tentatively of the mind to believe that it is.
Problem almost solved. If I accept that my matrons and patrons can hear me without the Gates, then I only need a Gatekeeper for my full Kindreds devotional. But what if I don’t accept this? I’ve tossed around the idea of calling on an animal spirit as Gatekeeper instead of a deity. To be sure I am not waisting the time of a spirit who has much other work to do unrelated to me, I thought calling on my own totem animal would be appropriate rather than, say, the squirrel messenger that scurries up and down Eormensyll (Norse: Yggdrasil). Since Owl is also well known as a traveler between realms, this seemed like the perfect option at first. Then the details crept in to pester me. What would I offer to Owl in return for gatekeeping duties? Owls in nature only feast on fresh prey. It would be silly to offer Owl the same things I offer to the Gods. Perhaps a scented candle? ritual oil? Would my journeys with Owl during meditation count as a sort of offering? And does Owl really travel between all realms, or just between Earth and the Underworld? Barn Owls are primarily associated with contacting the dead. But my Owl is a Barred Owl. Does this make a difference? If I decide that the only simple devotional I might want extra protection for is the one I do for Hela, then Owl is a perfect choice. Even moreso since I don’t know that Thunor is the best choice for underworld communication.
So many questions to sort out, it causes me much stress! I just want to do my devotionals and be confident about them.