The Pagan Blog Project: L is for Lantern

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really have a good feel for deities.  The ones I’ve connected with the most are those in heathen traditions.  Today I want to talk about imagery used for deities in my experience.

I’ve used two main image sources for altars: actual physical statues/picture representations and symbolic imagery.  Statues and pictures are nice if you find something (or better yet are able to create something) that speaks to you as authentic in your mind.  I’ve seen people commission artists for portraits to adorn their altars and shrines which can often be much more personalized than ordering one of maybe four designs of a deity’s statue online.  Depending on the deity, you may have more options or much, much fewer.

For me, I find hard images to be helpful if I don’t have a great grasp on the deity.  The face is helpful.  There is of course the drawback though that being fed an image created by someone else, you are going to basically imprint with that specific image in mind.  Still, if the image works for you, use it.  And remember, it doesn’t always have to specifically be a statue or portrait of that deity.  This may go a little into the realm of symbolic imagery, but if you have an image of a character that makes you think of that deity or an unrelated design that just strikes you as perfect, those are perfectly acceptable as well.

I usually enjoy symbolic imagery better for a few reasons.  First of all, I don’t feel as if I’m drawing impressions off of someone else’s idea.  But possibly more important for those who have to keep their pagan life sort of secret, you can be a lot sneakier with symbolic imagery.  And by sneaky I mean you could possibly create a shrine in the middle of your living room without guests or family ever batting an eye at it in suspicion.

The title of this post is “Lantern” because that is one of my main symbolic images.  The first deity I was very drawn to and to this day continue to go back to when I’m lost is Heimdall.  After awhile, I wanted some kind of image of him, but was not satisfied at all with the sculptures available (which are sadly few and far between).  I thought about a Gjallarhorn representation, or something Bifrost-like.  While the horn didn’t really work out, I did end up making a multi-colored tile incense burner for his shrine.  But it was more for him and not for me to use as a way to reach him.

I ended up choosing a lantern because to me a lantern represents vigilance as well as self-knowledge and path-finding.  All three of these things are aspects I see in Heimdall or that he has helped me with.  I like this even more because the lantern I found (pictured above) has a tealight holder in it, so lighting a tealight is sort of like training my mind to get into a different mode.

Each person should really use whatever speaks the best to them.  While I’ve noticed that my symbolic images tend to resonate with me more than the statues or portraits, I know many people really enjoy the more traditional route and get a lot out of it.  But I am also glad that I found something that worked for me.  The lantern has provided a lot of comfort at very dark times.



The Importance of the Unimportant

“You’re no good to me broken.”

This is the clearest message I’ve ever gotten in my attempts to work with deities and spirits.  And it came about very recently.

For about the past year now I’ve spent most of my free time studying paganism and religion, going through devotions, participating in online pagan communities, branching out into local communities, and trying on different pantheons and deities like a bride-to-be desperately trying to find that perfect wedding dress.  Before this year, my life focus was on work, responsibility, and basically being a good grown-up.  It was like completely cutting ties to young, idealistic, creative me for this paper cut-out who is functional-ish in the world be reaching for something she no longer understands.

And somehow it was hard for me to understand why I had been in a recurring depressive state over the past five years.

I have a tendency to feel guilty taking time to read a book for pleasure or “wasting” a weekend on a video game.  Don’t even get me started on my anxieties over starting a television series, or even taking a few hours for a movie.  Sometimes I feel so guilty about these things that I won’t do them for weeks on end, because whenever I try to take that time I feel a really tense ball of anxiety in my chest like I should be doing something else.  You know, something important.

Over the past few weeks I have said screw it to that tendency, set my studies aside, and started a journey self-rediscovery.  This sounds very fancy and complicated, but it isn’t.  It’s very literally letting myself remember the things that make me happy and telling myself it’s okay to find happiness in those things.  As a result I’ve been reading, I’ve been crafting, I even learned how to crochet randomly because hey why not.  I’ve played video games when I felt like it, and occasionally spend time watching a movie.  Most surprisingly, I started writing again, specifically fanfiction after a 10-year hiatus.

And that me from ten or more years ago that had been getting buried under the rubble of every-day life is suddenly breathing again.  She’s happy and pointing me in places I haven’t looked for years even though they used to be my favorite haunts.

The other night I had a dream that my entire house caved in on itself, but in the dream my reaction was one of relief, not fear.  When I woke up I felt light.  I hadn’t given offerings for awhile, I hadn’t even really prayed or thought about the deities which seem so distant all the time, but I felt energy for the first time in a very long time and it was as if something was telling me I was finally going in the right direction.

For those of us who lack the ability (or even interest) to work in the astral or communicate directly with our deities, stifling your natural joy and creativity is one of the worst things you can do.  You are blocking an entire mode of communication when you do that, and you will inevitably hurt yourself as a result.  I know this because I lived it, and while I know everyone’s experience won’t be exactly the same as mine, I don’t want to see someone else hurt in the same way when it is avoidable.

I do believe study and discipline is important, but I also believe that sacrificing your creativity and enjoyment in life for them is completely pointless.  We are here to live our lives.  Yes, some people live lives that involve a great deal of service to their deities, but tying yourself up so completely in them will eventually kill that spirit that is uniquely you.  Some people may be able to live with that, but I certainly can’t.  If I lose myself, I don’t have anything else to offer.