Two weeks ago, I finished giving away most of my belongings, packed some bins for storage, and I left the country with a suitcase, two backpacks, and a carry-on. I am living on another continent in a country where freedom of speech, religious expression, and a multitude of other things that Americans generally take for granted are not only not my right, they are things that I know not to expect. This has changed my religious practice a lot, and I’m not back on my feet yet. Days that are on my calendar for religious observance come, and I am aware of them and feel not only guilty but also at a loss in how to observe them. One thing that I do know, however, is that the gods know where I am.
I used to keep 12 “permanent” shrines in my home. All of my statues are currently living on top of the dining room hutch at my mother’s house where they will be kept safe for me but not used in any kind of religious worship. Many of the bits and pieces of the shrines that I kept have gone to live with other devotees of those gods or gone with people that I trust to be burned for me. Where I live now, I have no statues. I cannot burn offerings even as simple as incense or a candle. The walls are thin, and I’m concerned that my boss who lives next door can hear me praying in the morning. When I first arrived, I wondered how I could let the gods know where to find me without being loud, without a flame. Thankfully, I have a relationship with one god that is so strong that a tug on my end of a heartstring is all that I need to know that He’s on the other side. Through Him, I’m confident that the other gods can find me as well. I don’t, though, feel like I’m doing the best for them. My offerings are lacking, and my shrines are nonexistent.
I was going to include a picture of my current shrine for Apollon to illustrate my point, but uploading one picture proved to be too much for my current Internet connection. Suffice it say, it consists of a prayer card, a tin of solid perfume, three tiny glass animals (a dolphin, a mouse, and a swan), and a symbol of warding. With me, I was able to bring my collection of prayer cards and some tiny trinkets from other shrines. I would like to decorate a bulletin board with all of the prayer cards and make one shrine at least, but so far I have been unable to locate a store that sells bulletin boards… I did find a tiny shot glass shaped like a tripod, so that is ready for libations, but I feel so very weird about not being able to light a flame with the offering.
I’ve also been covering my head for a number of years. It has been a part-time practice for me, covering only on the days of religious observances. However, my job has a very strict dress code, and I already get stared at plenty when I go outside. I did some divination, and I got a very unexpected response regarding my covering. They say that it’s ok for me to stop covering, that it will make it easier for me to meet people and live a life here if I stop. They didn’t say that I had to stop or that I had to continue. The practice has always been my choice though it has been accepted and encouraged by several gods. Stopping covering cold turkey has actually turned out to be quite difficult! It feels so wrong to me deep inside to go out uncovered on days that I would have covered in the past. I’m continuing to cover on the weekends, and I get comments and looks from my other foreign co-workers (we all live in the same building), but I don’t think anyone outside stares at me any more than they usually do.
I suppose all this is just to illustrate that even through extreme change, the gods remain, and if we want to worship Them, we’ll eventually find our way. I’m still working on finding my way here, but I’m sure I will. These aren’t relationships that I’m willing to let go of.