Chapter 6 The Mechanics of Ritual

Human lives are not the same from season to season, year to year, and decade to decade. The stars and planets trace out their many orbits. We change jobs. We marry. We achieve some things and fail at others. We die.

Everywhere around us, we see rhythms — personal, regional, global, celestial. In Proclus’ Timaeus commentary, the philosopher points at the divine presence within things as seemingly intangible as time durations and motions of the heavens, and he names them Gods:

There is, of course, a parallel with the sacred tradition which worships the former invisible [numbers] that are the causes of these [visible ones] by naming Night and Day as gods, as well as by delivering those things that commend one to the month and the year, the invocations and self-manifestations. These things are considered not as things to be totted up on one’s fingers, but rather as among the things that have divine subsistence — things which the sacred laws of those who serve as priests command us to worship and honour by means of statues and sacrifices. The oracles of Apollo also confirm this, as the stories say, and when these things were honoured, the benefits that result from the periods belonged to human beings, both the benefits of the seasons and those of other [periods] similarly. However, when these things were neglected a condition contrary to nature was the result for everything around the Earth. Not only that, but Plato himself in the Laws (X 899b2) positively shouts out that all these things are gods: seasons, months and years — just like the stars and the Sun. We are introducing no sort of innovation when we say that it is worthwhile to conceive of the invisible powers that are prior to these visible things [as gods]. So much for these matters.

Proclus, Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, Book 4 (volume 5), 89.15-37, trans. Baltzly et al.

Within our human lifetimes, there are times when we all pray for things we need or want in our lives: success at work, a new job, the satisfactory resolution of difficult interpersonal interactions, a better apartment, the ability to get to a flight on time. Whether we pray by venting about an issue and then asking for the best and most appropriate resolution possible (praying for what is good) or actually asking for something, it’s something every spiritual person does at some point or other.

We also pray according to seasons: when new herbs we are growing from seed first send up their shoots, when the ice and snow come and recede, for a gentle landfall of the hurricanes pummeling our shores during hurricane season. We pray for good harvests, happy new years, and abundant gift-giving seasons.

This chapter is about the mechanics of devotional activity. It provides guidance on how you can build on the spiritual habits that you have already been engaging in from earlier chapters to set yourself up for long-term success. We will begin discussing the lunar and solar cycles, then get into specific types of cycles that happen in our lifetime — age milestones, deaths, and the inevitabilities of our lives. First, though, let’s do a framing exercise.

6.1 Do What Is Achievable

Throughout this chapter, you may have ideas. These could be about the way you want to honor sacred temporal rhythms, be it through decorating your home, cooking special foods, or simply specific types of rituals you want to do.

Some things to keep in mind while reading are:

  1. Are other members of my household or roommate situation going to participate? Do I have anyone locally who does similar things and with whom I could collaborate on lunar holidays?
  2. How much time do I have? The civic calendar does not give us these days off. We spent much of Chapter 3 designing our plans for success even in adverse situations, and the same thing applies here.
  3. How am I going to keep track of when to get things ready? If you want to have flowers at the solstices or switch out wreaths, factor in shipping times when you set up your reminder system. I use Google Keep for reminders because the notifications on my phone contain useful information without too many irrelevant elements, and my solstice reminders are set for November 30 and May 31 (about three weeks in advance). You can also set reminders in a system like Google Keep for your grocery list with a prompt to check whether any special days are coming up while you are planning your shopping.
  4. Which God(s) do I want to worship? There are many deities who are related to the Sun, Moon, and seasonal cycles. The same “selecting deities” criteria apply here that applied to picking your first Gods to worship back in Chapter 2.
  5. What is my “special occasions” religious budget? We all have different life situations, so (a) be realistic about what you can afford and (b) it’s better to have less for special occasions, but have it come from a more ethical source, than to buy a large quantity of things from a less ethical one. The Gods do not care how much is in our paycheck or how many assets we have. The Gods need nothing. What matters is the symbolism and how it emphasizes our awareness of and connection to the Gods.

You can react to these questions in a notebook, a note on your phone, or something in your audio memo app. Practical work like this may seem like I am dragging sublime, transcendent activities through deep mud, but plans make all of the difference when you are having a hectic week at work, a bad few nights’ sleep, &c. Speaking from personal experience, having a plan means the difference between decision paralysis (when we often end up doing nothing and feel disappointed in ourselves) and actually meeting the demands of our messy lives (when we feel relieved that we know ourselves well enough to have cut ourselves some slack).

With your own life context now in mind, keep your note-taking tool handy and think of what makes sense for you.

➡️ This is also a perfect time to revisit the time-blocking activity you did in Chapter 1 (or start it if you haven’t done it). Is it still working out for you? After reading this chapter, are there things you want to shift? ⬅️

6.2 Following the Sun and Moon

The quotation from Proclus describes how the Gods are in everything around us. The most striking rhythms we see in our daily and monthly lives are the changes in the sky — the path of the moon and the sun’s journey. Across cultures, the sun and moon are often crucial elements of a spiritual practice.

This section will provide some ideas for venerating them. It is not a comprehensive survey of solar or lunar worship, and I encourage you to make note of what sparks your curiosity. One noteworthy omission is the astrological rhythms of the sun, moon, and planets — some people who worship Gods focus on when the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies (sometimes even constellations) are in different astrological positions. Astrology is not my background, nor is ceremonial magic, so we will not focus on that here.

6.2.1 Venerating the Moon

There are four main types of lunar veneration: the rhythms of waxing and waning, moonrise, moonset, and eclipses. It is a rare person who venerates the moon in all of these ways — people who have that kind of time are, generally speaking, devoted to spiritual lives to an extent beyond what is attainable for most working adults. I do not follow moonrise and moonset, for example, nor do I follow the eclipses unless they happen when I am awake.

In many places, the moon is seen as a feminine symbol related to fertility and the process of generation. Writers have long pointed out the relationship between its cycle’s length and the length of menstrual cycles. The waxing, full, waning, and new phases have often been mapped onto the luteal, ovulation, follicular, and menstrual parts, although the mappings vary. In other cultures, the moon and its local presiding God have been seen as masculine — hence the “man in the moon” motif common in Anglosphere cultures, the God Mani of the Nordic tradition, the God Suen of Harran, and so on.

In Platonism, everything below the moon’s orbit is called the “sublunary realm,” and the deities who preside over the moon are usually Goddesses, but not always. Above the sublunary realm is the more perfect region of the cosmos — the realm of the wanderers (the planets) and fixed stars, beyond which are the realms that are not physical at all (although I’m not sure it is responsible to write “beyond” about the placeless). In 2022, we no longer profess a geocentric worldview, yet we can take what was once seen as a physical description of the universe as a symbol with a meaning similar to what Carl Sagan says when discussing the “pale blue dot” — only a slim sliver of atmosphere separates us from the void beyond, and every pleasure and pain within our lives happens on this world. The moon is our closest companion, responsible for tides and an assistant to animals from afar. Achieving union with the One and ascending into the place beyond generation are goals within Platonism, but only a few (I’m thinking of Plotinus) are on the record as shying away from lunar ceremonies. Marinus, in the Life of Proclus, communicates how the divine successor of Plato, on arriving at the Platonic school in Athens, honored the moon on seeing her in the sky. This action convinced the school’s leaders of Proclus’ piety when they had previously not known what to make of the newcomer.

Within the lunar cycle, the definitions I am about to use are slightly different from what you will see when you look at a wall calendar. In many calendars form the ancient world, including the one I have used for most of my activities, and in the modern-day Islamic calendar, the ritual month begins the day after the lightless moon when the crescent is visible. That first slim sliver is called the new moon. On your wall calendar, or with whichever moon phase extension you’ve added to Google Calendar or Outlook, the calendar will refer to the dark/lightless moon as the new moon, following modern astronomy’s conventions. Twenty years ago, most Earth-based spirituality books I read in my teens also equated the dark and new moon, usually to refer to the lightless/dark moon. The dark moon, new moon, and full moon are the major times at which someone will worship lunar deities.

The dark moon is a perfect time to pray to one’s ancestors. If you are living near where your family is buried, visiting the gravesite to offer flowers and clean up the graves would be a lovely gesture. It is also a time to pray to apotropaic Goddesses. Hekate, for example, is both the Goddess who rules the baneful spirits of the material world and the salvation from them; Eris, who is most associated with the apple incident that started the Trojan War, is both a Goddess of discord as well as a Goddess who disrupts difficult situations so they can come to a useful resolution. You may also pray to underworld deities at this time. The dark moon, or in fact any time within the final few days of a lunar cycle, is a great time to clean one’s home and donate those boxes you’ve been meaning to take care of.

The new moon is a time of beginnings. Its first sliver is a day to mark as a special occasion for your household Gods, the lunar deities, and any special Gods of affinity you may have. Dust the shrine, give an offering slightly fancier than usual, and cook something nice for yourself (and your family). If you make a dessert, offer some to the Gods. Debrief, via freewriting, how last month went and what you can do in the month to come. Talk to the Gods about your plans and pray that you can take the lessons of last month forward in the best way possible.

Specific traditions may mark the new lunar month (either on the dark or new moon) with special rituals for specific Gods. If you seek out training and guidance in any of these traditions, expect that your lunar observances may change.

The full moon, depending on one’s tradition, may or may not be emphasized. Many current and historical holidays for Gods will fall in the days leading up to or just after the full moon — but then again, there are often holidays at other times, too. As with the other two times of the month, consider how you want to honor the lunar rhythm.

If I have time, I give offerings to lunar deities, do a star/celestial grounding and centering practice, and drink water that has symbolically been imbued with moonlight. If I am pressed for time, I give an offering, pray, and chant for a few minutes. Someone I know (who is spiritual but not interested in praying to deities) once hosted monthly full moon circles with floor cushions, soft music, tea, and the recitation of creative works at one of the local Unitarian Societies.

Moonrise and moonset are not often emphasized outside of niche ceremonial practices. Usually, you will need to know these times for determining when the moon is in the sky during your rituals. For example, I know that if I do a full moon ritual past 8:30 PM or so, it will not be visible through my east-facing window when I pray. I also know that, despite the beautiful ambience of candles at night, that the new moon rises and sets with the sun. The Time and Date website is the best tool to use for this. When I notice the moon in the sky, day or night, I often take a brief pause and say hi.

If a lunar or solar eclipse is visible in your area, it will happen on the full moon (the lunar eclipse) or the dark moon (the solar eclipse). The swallowing of the sun and darkening of the moon are natural effects of the dynamics of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. While I try to see eclipses when they’re visible, I don’t incorporate them into my rituals. Some religious traditions encourage fasting and purification activities during eclipses.

6.2.2 Venerating the Sun

Both the sun and moon have Gods and Goddesses, but masculine solar deities are more well-known to people — Gods like Helios, the Unconquerable Sun, Surya, or Ra. However, many cultures have had (or still do honor) a solar Goddess — Belesama, Sul, Sunna, Amaterasu, and others. In my estimation, whether a culture adopts a solar Goddess or God is correlated (with some exceptions) with latitude on Earth. The closer to the equator, or the more blisteringly dry an area’s summers, the harsher the sunlight; the farther from it, the more marked its softer impact is on fertility and fecundity. If we think back to what was written in Chapter 2’s section “An Important Caveat About Gods’ Functional Roles,” these distinctions likely evolved on the cultural level because the opening for that specific deity to express a relationship in solar terms was available locally.

We will focus on three types of veneration: the solstices and equinoxes, sunrise, and sunset. We already discussed eclipses when treating the moon.

The solstices only happen twice every calendar year. If you are looking for a replacement for other joyous, complicated holidays, our planet’s orbit has gifted us with two important days six months apart. The time of greatest darkness and the time of greatest light have different kinds of cultural associations. One of them welcomes in the season of winter, and the other welcomes summer. The beginning of winter is the start of a season of rest and incubation, prefacing the abundant outburst of spring. The beginning of summer starts off the heat and its calamities, but also prefaces the upcoming harvest season. Praying to the sun at dawn or sunset on these days — or having a complicated meal with your family — is also accessible to diverse and complicated families with a variety of spiritual beliefs.

For the solstices, consider rotating out any wreaths, dried floral decor, reed diffuser sticks, and other ambient things you have around the home. Going into the solstice with a clean, refreshed home is a beautiful thing. I dedicate a new laurel wreath to Apollon and hang it near my entryway on the winter solstice. Seasonal decorations can be taken out of storage and hung to celebrate. Many Americans are used to doing this in December, but less accustomed to it in June; it may take some time for you to acclimate to celebrating it.

The winter solstice is an excellent time to pray to a solar deity, your patrons, and household Gods for good fortune in the season to come. If you can, keep a light-vigil (but be mindful of fire safety if you’re using a flame) on the darkest night of the year and welcome the new sun as it rises, heralding the season of renewal. In many traditions, this is a time of gift-giving. Some people mark the return of light with special prayers that occur over a week, nine nights, or twelve nights.

On the summer solstice, pray to the solar deity, your patrons, and household Gods. Summer-solstice prayers can be more apotropaic (meaning, averting ill fortune and calamity). The height of the sun’s energy heralds the beginning, or increase, of stormy seasons, as there is a delay between heating and environmental effects. You can also start a gift-giving tradition on the summer solstice if you like.

The equinoxes in the spring and autumn are dedicated to the renewal of life and harvest/dying season respectively. In the spring, you can pray to your household and patron deities for success on your new projects; in autumn, you give gratitude for what the world has brought, be it fruit or life lessons. Of course, there are some exceptions to the “death and the autumnal equinox” thing. Some cultures celebrate the dead during the dog days of Summer or in the latter part of winter. For those of us in the United States, Halloween and All Soul’s Day happen just over a month after the autumnal equinox.

Sunrise is most famous for being the time when Pythagoreans greeted the Sun and did their prayers in antiquity. It is an auspicious time for prayer in other traditions, too. During fall and winter, sunrise happens at a time when I’m awake, so I take a few moments to pause and breathe with my eyes closed while facing it once I notice that it has cleared the building across the street, at least on days when the sky is clear. Even this brief pause makes me feel connected to the solar Gods. Sunrise is a good time for reciting chants, giving simple libations, or contemplating a passage from a myth, philosophical text, or poem.

Sunset is trickier. For many of us, it happens during our commute. Evening prayers may be easier, especially as a final act before going to bed. This is a time that has traditionally been used for journaling and freewriting, so it’s useful for contemplative activities and other restful devotional actions that prepare you for sleep.

6.3 Life Milestones

At least in the United States, the “milestones” by which we measure adulthood’s seasons have changed dramatically over the past three generations. Rather than progressing from childhood to school to marriage to parenthood to retirement, the length of educational training and the prevailing circumstances’ impact on our lives mean that we might miss, or need to reinterpret, many adult milestones that were once certainties.

Achieving a work or career milestone. Celebrate with an offering to your professional God(s). Do something special that expresses gratitude for your success. You can also pray to the Gods when you finalize your job goals for the next year.

Bringing new family into your home. If you have given birth or have adopted a child, or if you have a young relative who needs you to be their guardian, taking a few moments to introduce them to the Gods at the household shrine can be a meaningful way of instilling a feeling of belonging. This can include a purificatory aspect, as per the last chapter, to invite good luck and ward off harm.

Bringing in a new pet. While I consider my cat to be my fur baby, pets are not the same as caring for a developing young human being. You can pray to the household Gods and to your patron deity or you can incorporate any deities who have historically had a role in animal husbandry.

Naming ceremonies. If you have named a child, or if someone in your family has taken a new name for any reason, a naming ceremony where Gods and ancestors are invited to give their blessings is a great way to formally mark the occasion. For name changes, it also provides closure.

Management of acute and chronic illnesses. Whether you are sick for a few weeks or have a long-term illness with flare-ups, marking the times when you get better with a special ritual can be a great “welcome back” event. I came down with the flu (the B strain of that year was awful) in February 2020 and, after being in bed for 10 days, the first day I was able to light candles at my shrine and pray felt so meaningful. It didn’t matter that I had to sit down to gather my strength halfway through. I was there, and I had made it.

Weddings and commitment ceremonies. Most people making commitments to a life partner do so in the context of marriage, but that is not the only option — many do commitment ceremonies instead because marriage comes with negative financial impacts in the form of welfare cliffs and poorly-designed benefits infrastructure, at least in the United States. Introducing your partner to the household Gods, sharing food with them, and purifying your living space can be incorporated into the ceremony, privately or as part of the larger ritual event.

Pregnancy and childbirth. You can pray for those who are pregnant or giving birth. If you are pregnant, you may consider altering your prayer ritual to incorporate offerings for the health and wellness of the future human you are growing in your lower abdomen. If you are actively trying to become pregnant or impregnate someone, incorporate fertility prayers and vent to the Gods about any hopes and fears.

Funerals. The purpose of a funeral is to give the body the rites that properly “send off” the deceased. They are an opportunity to show respect and care — and they should always be done according to the belief system that the person had in life, not what we wish it would have been. I grew up in a conservative area where it was not uncommon for funerals to include a spontaneous plea for religious conversion to the “correct” sect of the prevailing faith, or ones held by people who wanted to bring the deceased back into their faith after apostasy. The deceased was not placed at the center of the ritual. Likewise, when visiting burial plots, stick to making offerings of food, drinks, and flowers that the deceased may have enjoyed.

Death. Unlike funerals, honoring a death can be done alone. When one of my coworkers died unexpectedly in late 2021, I lit a candle for her the evening I heard and said a few words. As someone who cries easily, I was too afraid of not holding it together to say anything at her vigil, but privately, with a candle burning and my words directed at her, the tears were not as disruptive. I included her in the names of the deceased when I performed an annual ritual for the Chthonic Gods that February, about two months after her death. Anyone can be honored in this way.

Days of the week. In English, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are related to specific Gods. In the Romance languages, the days of the week are also named after Gods. Honoring the God associated with the etymology is a great way to tune into the rhythms of the year.

Celestial clockwork. Stars rise, reach their highest point, and set. Planets do, too — and they appear to go through a specific lineup of constellations along the ecliptic, the Sun’s apparent path. Some are fond of tracing the motions of a specific constellation.

It is important to approach prayer as a way of imbuing everything we do with what is sacred — of being active agents in our experience of spirituality and completing the chain that begins with the Gods and emanates into matter. All things pray except the First, as Proclus wrote; we are all praying in some capacity continuously, and continuous with our actions. What matters is becoming mindfully aware and using our rational faculties to steer our own ships under the guidance of the Gods.

6.4 The Mechanics of a Prayer

In previous chapters, we focused more on getting you started with prayer than on the mechanics. This chapter has opened the floodgates of possibility, linking that private practice in your home with everything from the rhythms of your life to the cycles of the sun and moon above.

If you feel overwhelmed, that is OK: the world is full of Gods, and every moment is teeming with deities, too. It is easy to get carried away, so let’s take a step back.

Prayer is a rhythmic practice through which we connect to the Gods. That active connection and engagement with them is both ordinary and transcendent. If we try to force an “end goal” instead of focusing on the rhythm of our actions and words for the God, we can quickly get in our own way and create stress and friction within the body, mind, and soul. Sometimes, people communicate excitedly about dreams filled with divine potency, guided meditations that lead to new and meaningful information, or Gods experienced, but their experiences are not the everyday. Life involves an awful lot of lines and waiting rooms. We can also let our expectations get out of hand.

A prayer includes five basic elements:

  1. An invocation. You greet the God by their name, adding any epithets or titles.
  2. An offering. Offerings anchor the prayer in the world around us, opening space for connection to the God.
  3. Say some words, chant, read a hymn, or behold sacred images and stories about the God.
  4. Be silent with the God. Focus on your breathing for a few moments, and allow that to ground you into an open space. Then, focus on the God.
  5. Thank the God.

These elements are like the grammatical components of a sentence. A sentence may be simple or complex depending on the language. Within one language, sentences vary in length, and every language has unspoken elements that are meant for the hearer to infer. If I am pressed for time, for example, I may offer a very compressed prayer: I could say hello to Apollon, pour out some tea from a to-go cup, repeat a short chant three times, close my eyes and take a few breaths, and say thank you. That third step (here, the chanting) could even be compressed together with the fourth step (the silent pause).

When a sacred day comes up, a few minutes can be added onto your daily ritual if you judge you have time. I recommend placing it right after the invocation of the hearth Goddess and before you pray to any patron deities.

For more complex celebrations, we can build out from this prayer template to encompass other types of activities. For instance, if you are seeking blessings in spring for the herb garden that you are about to spend hours of care on, consider processing through your growing area after the offering or bringing your seedlings to the shrine to seek blessings. Perhaps you decide to honor the God at a meal for the summer solstice. You make sacred space at the park where you do your cookout, offer the God a portion of the meal, perform the remainder of the ritual, and eat in the God’s presence when you’re done. This is limited only by your imagination, common sense, and decency — always be respectful of the Gods in a ritual space, don’t do anything wildly dangerous, and embrace the time you have to consciously focus on your connection to the sacred.

6.4.1 Praying for What Is Possible

The best time to start praying for something is at the beginning — weeks before you have that exam or performance evaluation when you start to feel the pressure. There is a fable from Aesop called “The Shipwrecked Man and Athene” in which a shipwrecked sailor prays to Athene (his city’s patron Goddess) to be saved from the ocean. Another man, swimming by, says, “Pray to the Goddess for success, but move your arms!” — the Gods can open up pathways for us, but we need to commit effort.

Prayers at the last moment may sometimes be answered, but there is nothing strange about needing to put in work to get what we want — as souls who inhabit material bodies, and who are under the care of the Gods, it is in our nature to be able to act in the material world with these bodies. That is why we descend into generation.

One way to make this part of your life is to say a short prayer to major Gods you already pray to whenever you’re about to start planning a project or writing a complex, multi-part to-do list. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just a few words — and at the project’s completion, thank the Gods you prayed to with an offering that is slightly fancier than usual. It’s up to you how to interpret fancy.

6.4.2 Praying for What Is Inevitable

Our sun, now a main sequence star, continues to eat her fuel, leaving just a little bit less to use an instant from now. Eventually, she will puff up as a red giant star and swallow many (or all) of her inner planets before her death as a nova billions of years from now. Earth may only be habitable for another billion years maximum — the sun’s heat increases with its age, and Earth’s core will one day no longer produce the magnetic field that protects Earth’s surface from the impact of the solar wind. Any day now for the next 100,000 years, the star Betelgeuse in Orion could go supernova, and the explosion could be as bright as the half-moon, lasting for several months before fading.

Our incarnations a billion years from now will be on strange planets orbiting suns just blossoming into the caretakers of living beings. The universe is teeming with life.

When I was in my early twenties, I prayed to Hermes in his role as the God who conveys souls to the afterlife to ease my maternal grandfather’s suffering as he passed. He had fallen, the doctor botched the anesthesia, and he was aspirating food into his lungs. He couldn’t speak and clearly did not want any of us to see him in the state he was in. It was decided by the doctors, my mother, and my uncle that according to their father’s wishes, given his prognosis, it was time to start palliative care. They removed the feeding tube. It could have taken him weeks to die; I imagined him starving to death and on medication to ease the pain. It sounded like torture. I prayed for a swift death, and he was gone within two days.

At some point in our lives, we will all need palliative care. The sun will rise, for us and others, until it, too, dies.

6.5 Sample Ritual Outlines

These are rituals that I do for the new and full moons, so they are personalized to Gods I worship and my own situation — which is slightly eclectic, albeit in a systematized way.

There isn’t information here about what is offered, but I do a brief purification and light the hearth candle at the beginning with a prayer to the hearth Goddesses. Typically, I offer a nice incense to the lunar deities during the first moon prayer. I give a libation of milk to the stars (yes, I am not above inserting humor about the Milky Way) and a libation of water to the lunar deities.

When I do full moon rituals with my mother (admittedly sporadically), who is Wiccan, we do something slightly different — in her initiatory tradition, sacred space is set up through marking out a circle and visualizing a separation between the ritual space and the exterior world in the form of a sphere. Then, the elements are honored, and finally, the lunar deities are honored. She is a devotee of Hekate, who is associated with the moon and the sublunary world, so Hekate is a part of that ritual.

Note that the line breaks may lead one to believe this is poetry. While I did approach the ritual liturgy in a poetic style, it is usually not quite poetry. I find that adding line breaks also helps for reading during ritual, at least until I’ve memorized something.

6.5.1 New Moon

6.5.1.1 Opening: Ground and Center

Imagine yourself growing branches into the Earth, and feel the energy that you gather from her and the way your leaves are tied to her seasons and cycles. Imagine the sky up ahead — the sun, the vault of stars, the inky blackness, the planets, the arms of our galaxy, the cosmic web — and imagine that you are growing roots to nourish yourself on the blessings from above. Feel the energy from the Earth and sky combine within you, connecting you to the cosmos above and below.

(Note: I learned the basics of this approach in Stellar Magic: A Practical Guide to the Rites of the Moon, Planets, Stars and Constellations by Payam Nabarz and adapted it because I am very into cosmology — I include more types of celestial bodies, and the above roots up instead of down because I’ve read too much Proclus. Nabarz has written a useful book for anyone interested in doing devotions for celestial bodies. Because I’m not interested in magic, I ignore the magical workings in that book or reframe them around sacred activities.)

6.5.1.2 Prayer to the Moon

I pray to the luminous new moon,
beginning of new growth,
auspicious and divine,
male and female, feminine and masculine,
God of the soothing northern moon,
Goddess of the healing southern moon,
God of the east-rising moon,
Goddess of the west-setting moon.
May you, Gods of the Moon, accept this offering:
Mani, Sirona, Selene, Luna, whichever Gods are
enthroned, exalted, upon the Moon’s holy body.
May you, O Moon, and the Gods seated upon you
bless and protect us, guiding us to our Good.

6.5.1.4 Moon Salutations

If one knows moon salutations in yoga, this is an opportunity to mindfully do two. Chant Selene, Mani, Ueronadā, Sironā, Luna, each time a salutation is begun.

Follow this with Chandra Bhedana, a closure of the right nostril for 20 inhalations while thinking of clear white light coming in and out, purifying. Afterward, come into stillness and imagine being connected to the whole of generation, humming with the Gods, while firmly situated at one’s center. This meditation can last as long as one likes.

6.5.1.5 Gratitude Prayer

We thank the Gods for witnessing this new moon ritual:
Goddesses of the hearth, first and last,
esteemed and gentle Mani,
God of the northern moon,
keeping day and night in solemn compassion;
beloved Sirona, adorned with stars,
Goddess of the night and the holy moon;
lush-braided Selene, luminous and enchanting,
Goddess who smiles down on the changeable world.
Apollon Noumenios, holy God of the new month,
accompanied by serpents, marking the boundary
between old and new, adorned with laurel.

6.5.1.6 Closing Prayer

Thank you, O Gods.
May you protect my family and my girlfriend’s family.
May you be our ever-present companions, O holy ones.
May you drive back sickness, evil, and despair,
and may you bring us what is good and best.
The ritual is concluded.

6.5.2 Full Moon: Aspirational

6.5.2.1 Opening: Ground and Center

6.5.2.3 Prayer to the Moon

I pray to the luminous full moon,
swelling with abundance,
auspicious and divine,
male and female, feminine and masculine,
God of the soothing northern moon,
Goddess of the healing southern moon,
God of the east-rising moon,
Goddess of the west-setting moon.

I pray to you, luminous Moon, seat of many Gods,
Mani, Sirona, Selene, and many others call you theirs.
At the fullness of your beauty, shining upon all,
reflecting the luminous sun, sublunary ruler,
give my soul sustenance from your holy light.
Do not let me become entranced by illusion,
but guide me to the luminousness of Intellect
seated beyond the spheres, beyond the subjective,
vehicled in noetic and noeric fire, resplendent.

May you, O Moon, accept this offering.
May you, O Moon, and the Gods seated upon you
bless and protect those of us in embodiment,
guiding us to our Good, guiding us home.

6.5.2.4 Lunar Envesselment

Ideally, hold the bowl of water in a way that puts it line-of-sight with the moon outside. If this is not possible, close your eyes and envision moonlight filling the bowl. Chant Aiglê, Pasiphae, Eileithyia, Selene, Mani, Ueronadā, Sironā, Luna in a musical way. Pour out some of the water for Selene and the Stars, then drink the rest while envisioning the power of the celestial vault and the moon filling you.

Follow this with Chandra Bhedana, a closure of the right nostril for 20 inhalations while thinking of clear white light coming in and out, purifying. Afterward, come into stillness and imagine being connected to the whole of generation, humming with the Gods, while firmly situated at one’s center. This meditation can last as long as one likes.

6.5.2.5 Gratitude Prayer

We thank the Gods for witnessing this full moon ritual:
Goddesses of the hearth, first and last,
the stars who circle in the night sky above,
boundless and bounded, far and yet so near,
to Selene of lush braids,
she who waxes and wanes,
who counts out the month in her dance
around our Earth as the sunlight shimmers upon her surface;
to esteemed and gentle Mani,
God of the northern moon,
keeping day and night in solemn compassion;
to beloved Sirona, adorned with stars,
Goddess of the night and the holy moon.

6.5.2.6 Closing Prayer

Thank you, O Gods.
May you protect my family and my girlfriend’s family.
May you be our ever-present companions, O holy ones.
May you drive back sickness, evil, and despair,
and may you bring us what is good and best.
The ritual is concluded.

6.5.3 Full Moon: When It’s Been a Long Day

6.5.3.1 Opening: Ground and Center

6.5.3.2 Prayer to the Moon

I pray to the luminous full moon,
swelling with abundance,
auspicious and divine,
male and female, feminine and masculine,
God of the soothing northern moon,
Goddess of the healing southern moon,
God of the east-rising moon,
Goddess of the west-setting moon.

I pray to you, luminous Moon, seat of many Gods,
Mani, Sirona, Selene, and many others call you theirs.
At the fullness of your beauty, shining upon all,
reflecting the luminous sun, sublunary ruler,
give my soul sustenance from your holy light.
Do not let me become entranced by illusion,
but guide me to the luminousness of Intellect
seated beyond the spheres, beyond the subjective,
vehicled in noetic and noeric fire, resplendent.

May you, O Moon, accept this offering.
May you, O Moon, and the Gods seated upon you
bless and protect those of us in embodiment,
guiding us to our Good, guiding us home.

6.5.3.3 Chant

I go to the window if the Moon is visible and chant the verses from Mike Oldfield’s Incantations Part One, but may vary the deity names according to the melody of that album. It’s very meaningful because my mom played this album frequently when I was a young child, and she would also sometimes sing this chant to the moon. Sometimes, I do this part before the actual ritual because I see the moon rise from my apartment window, which always takes my breath away.

6.5.3.4 Gratitude Prayer

We thank the Gods for witnessing this full moon ritual:
Goddesses of the hearth, first and last,
the stars who circle in the night sky above,
boundless and bounded, far and yet so near,
to Selene of lush braids,
she who waxes and wanes,
who counts out the month in her dance
around our Earth as the sunlight shimmers upon her surface;
to esteemed and gentle Mani,
God of the northern moon,
keeping day and night in solemn compassion;
to beloved Sirona, adorned with stars,
Goddess of the night and the holy moon.

6.5.3.5 Closing Prayer

Thank you, O Gods.
May you protect my family and my girlfriend’s family.
May you be our ever-present companions, O holy ones.
May you drive back sickness, evil, and despair,
and may you bring us what is good and best.
The ritual is concluded.

6.5.4 Ancestor Ritual

When I pray to the ancestors, I give an offering of Nippon Kodo Cafe Time incense (five-minute cones) and sake or mead, and I do this offering at night during the final days of the lunar cycle before the new moon. After the prayers, I may give the ancestors life updates.

6.5.4.2 Prayer to the Disir

I pray to the holy Disir,
protectors of your descendants,
Goddesses, spirits, and esteemed female dead,
I come to you in gratitude.
Thank you for your guidance and protection.
May you protect the women of my family.
May you bless the women of my family.
May you instruct the women of my family.
May you be present to us in our daily lives.
We welcome you, trusted divinities.
We welcome you, our great elders.

6.5.4.3 Prayer to Ancestors of Intellect

For my intellectual lineage,
bright minds who illumine the soul,
who train it ever upward —
I make this offering to you, O illustrious ones,
pure souls shining in the words I read.
Please accept this prayer of gratitude.
You guide me through the pages.
You walk me along the upward path
even though the brambles sting and my mind tires,
so I may know the gifts of true beauty
hidden in passages strung like ivy and laurel,
uncovered by those known and unknown to me,
men and women of steady minds,
of hearts so filled with the love of the Gods
and the spaciousness beyond being that is no space,
intellectuals, philosophers, true theologians,
poets and creators of the most beautiful agalmata
holding the keys to the Gods who rule all things.

6.5.4.4 Closing

Thank you, ancestors, for your blessings. Accept this offering, O predecessors.

6.6 Exercise: Do a Special Ritual

At the beginning of this chapter, I encouraged you to jot down some notes with ideas you have about honoring the sacred. Choose one thing coming up after your next payday (or grocery shopping haul). Is it the full or new moon? Are you starting or ending a project? Have you just adopted a cat? Is it the start of exam period?

Using the information here and your budding experience with prayer, create a ritual outline. After consulting your budget, add anything you need for that ritual to your grocery/supplies list. Hold time on your calendar and do what you need to do.

Why wait until your next pay period? Many of us base our activities around our pay cycles. If you have room in your current cycle’s budget for something special, it’s fine to adjust. I get paid monthly and set aside a certain amount of money for incidental expenses. Usually, by the time the fourth week of the month rolls around, between coworkers fundraising for their children’s creative enrichment programs, impulse book purchases, and realizing all of my socks (somehow) once again have holes in them, I’m at the point where I am thinking carefully to avoid going overbudget — and I’m sure many people experience similar ebbs and flows. While offerings are factored into my monthly spending and I plan ahead for higher-cost holidays like the solstices, they are probably not budget categories for you yet. In any case, over the next few months, track what you spend on offerings and other spiritual wellness items, and the average of that is what you should put down as your habitual spending.

If you don’t have a pay period, remember to do what you can with what you have. Flowers gathered in a natural area, nicely-steeped tea, or a small portion of what you have on hand can all make lovely offerings.