I have been a Gaelic Polytheist for a little over 8 years now. Up until about a year ago, however, I didn’t really “practice” the religion. You could say I was non-denominational Gaelic Polytheist – I believed in the Gods, I worshipped them in theory, but there was no practice there. No prayer, maybe two offerings a year (on the holidays I accidentally remembered). No practice.
It’s my experience that many Gaelic Polytheists have a similar experience – and those of us who have developed an actual practice (like myself over the last year) find it extremely hard to keep up with. It is something we have to force ourselves to do, something that is always changing, and something we are more or less insecure about. This is something we are going to have to fix if we want our religion to stabilize past its current rocky foundation. It is my opinion that a religion’s stability and strength is measured not by the number of big name zealous dedicants, but the number of regular everyday practitioners.
Leitonellos Tarvogenos, a member of Toutâ Galation and readable at Tegoslougos Nemotarvi, recently described to me something that I am inclined to identify as our exact issue. He detailed an effort in Heathenry over the last few years to develop and promote the Hearth Cult – the everyday household worship of the Gods as practiced by everyday worshippers. It made me realize that, although certainly Heathenry shares many of its struggles with Gaelic Polytheism as a fellow modern day religious revival, I rarely see a Heathen complain about a lack of everyday practice without the community easily helping them solve the issue.
Meanwhile, I get at least one new Gaelic Polytheist a week who asks me how they can develop their everyday practice, and my response is usually “I’ll let you know when I figure it out myself.”
It’s clear to me that I have been approaching the issue the wrong way, as I think we all have. We have been approaching the issue of practice as multiple separate issues, such as “How do I do ritual” or “How do I pray”, for example. Instead, we should be approaching it as the most direct question possible: “What is our everyday practice?”
The answer to this is not different between European polytheist religions. The Hearth Cult is our everyday practice – plain and simple. Some of us have developed a Hearth Cult, but the vast majority of us have ignored it. It’s important that we begin holding ourselves to higher standards in this regard, and begin adopting Hearth Cultus in our everyday lives going forward. It will make things so much easier for us, dramatically reduce our insecurity, and increase our pride in our own religion and beliefs. It will make as actual religious practitioners, rather than purely academics.
Most importantly, it will make things easier for those newer worshippers who come after us, as they can look to us and easily be taught everyday Gaelic Polytheism. We need to remember that most people do not want to become a Priest, or a Priestess. Most people do not want to become a Bard, or a “Draoi”. Most people simply want to worship the Gods – and the fact that those of us like myself with higher aspirations have forgotten that very simple desire, that most pure and right of goals, is saddening and makes me ashamed of myself.
We have the numbers to make everyday practice very much a real thing very rapidly. This is not a hard problem for us to solve. All we have to do is practice what we preach and openly discuss the solution with others. My suggestion is that we start talking more about the Hearth Cult.