What does Pagan piety look like? How do you worship your Gods?
::heavy sigh:: The whole concept of piety and worship tends to come from a Westernized place. To me, questions like these are not that easy to answer because the person asking the question tends to have preconceived idea of what piety and worship are. So, to answer this, I’m going to resort to the online Merriam Webster dictionary to provide definitions as a starting point.
1: the quality or state of being pious: such as
a: fidelity to natural obligations (as to parents)
b: dutifulness in religion
2: an act inspired by piety
3: a conventional belief or standard
There are two sets of definitions here. One is a definition as a verb. The other is a definition as a noun.
1: to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power
2: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion : a celebrity worshipped by her fans
: to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship
1: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power : an act of expressing such reverence
2: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
3: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem : worship of the dollar
4: chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (such as magistrates and some mayors)
So, which to go with? In terms of piety, I’ll stick with the definitions of 1b and 3. For worship, I’ll remain with the definitions as showcased by the verb. Silly, isn’t it? Having to define a pair of terms that would seem to have such simple definitive aspects, right? I am doing this to provide solid definitive agreement on the terms before continuing. You’ll see how muddy these two concepts can get.
In terms of worship, there is rarely complete agreement on what this actually looks like. The definition provides a starting point, but the actions that tend to be made into the act of worship rarely tend to agree. For some, placing yourself prostrate before your God(s) is what worship is. You set yourself forward as an instrument of His/Their use. In doing so, you are worshipping His/Their presence, and acknowledging His/Their divinity, wisdom, and knowledge. For others, you gather on a specific day of the week to sing His/Their praises as a group, that merely doing so rejoices in His/Their divinity. Many others gather together in ritual (as many of us Pagans do) for a variety of reasons, calling Him/Her/Tham to join us in remembrance of the time of the year that we have entered into. However, when you talk openly about the worship of your God(s), it’s the concept of being prostrate before Him/Her/Them that tends to come to mind. Typically, this is from the formation of that thought process through television and movies depicting such acts. My thought process is a little different.
Piety is a little more difficult to manage and understand. Many people have placed piety in the realm of being the “true believer.” By this, I mean the individual that is completely ate-up in their faith. They pray every second possible. They pray before every meal. They ask for protection from the God(s) before they start on a long journey. A pious individual is made out to be what some might term as a fanatic, particularly if the individual passing judgment is not extremely religious. Again, I turn away from some of the standard pushes in this area as well.
My perspective is quite different on these terms. Worship comes in the form that works for the individual. Worship is a way for the individual to connect with their choices in God(s). For some people it comes in forms of regular church attendance. For others, it comes in the form of home altars that they have created and dedicated to that purpose. For me, its neither of those. It comes in the form of walks in the woods, the open fields, even just down my neighborhood street. Worship, for me, is existing. I’m fortunate to wake up every morning, I praise my Gods by living out loud. What I mean by this is that I do my very best to be kind and compassionate to others…even when I completely disagree with them. It might not seem like worship to others, and that’s perfectly fine. I can’t control the ability of others to think or believe what they might. Nor do I want that power or ability. I prefer that people connect with their own concept of the Divine in their own way. Life has more meaning when that happens, in my opinion.
Piety is much the same way. I refuse to get into pissing matches over whether someone is pious in their beliefs. That’s why I have always felt that the “Are You Pagan Enough” movement was such a pile of bullshit. I don’t get the right or the power to tell anyone that they are or aren’t enough of anything to be a part of Paganism. I am not and refuse to be a gate-keeper of any kind. If you say you’re a Pagan, but you don’t practice as I do…who put me (or anyone else for that matter) in charge of determining who is or isn’t Pagan based on some criteria developed by myself or any other? Maybe you’re not my type of Pagan (which is quite possible), but I don’t get to determine if you are or aren’t. You’re the only one that gets to do that for yourself.
There definitely will be people who will disagree with me on these perspectives. That’s perfectly fine. I’m not here to change minds or perspectives. This post is about living my life openly and out loud where these terms are concerned. My perspective is not about winning any argument or disagreement. My perspective is not about making my beliefs into a dominant strain. My perspective is about living my life, free of the shadows to hide myself in. Being able to state what I believe, what I see, what I experience out loud, in the open. I’m not on a Path to convert a single individual to what I believe. But I am also not going to live in the shadows, forever hiding myself because of a fear that I will be rejected by others. I will be rejected by others; I am quite sure of that. That doesn’t mean that my perspective is nullified. All it means is what I already know: not everyone is going to agree with me. The next steps are to figure out which of those individuals will disagree but are willing to accept me for who I am despite our differences. Those are the allies I seek in my life.
How pious are you? What does your worship look like? Those questions should be asked in a spirit of curious nature, not in judgment. Most people might be afraid to directly answer those questions in fear that they will be judged as “wrong” or “incorrect.” The real answer is that there is no “right” or “correct” answer. There’s your approach. That’s what matters. Its YOUR approach. #TwoQuid
One thought on “Howling Into the Wind: Piety and Worship (My Perspective)”
To me, worship is an awareness of and a deep appreciation for something or someone, often coupled with an emotional attachment or experience. It is a state of being. A frame of mind.
Piety, by contrast, is the practical “nuts and bolts” of worship. It’s what some people might call “faith in action”. It is how you relate and interact with others and with creation as a whole, in how you treat others and the things you’re responsible for.
Worship and piety can exist without the implication or requirement of deity and both are accessible to everyone, regardless of their faith of choice (or if their choice is no religious faith at all).
Great job as always, Tommy. Keep them coming.
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