I’m not a perfect devotee. I’m not a great devotee, either. Hell, whether or not I’m even a good devotee might be up for debate.
This makes a sort of paradox for me, though: the desire to be “right” without being “correct”. That is, to be a natural polytheist without having to think too hard to get there. Our ancestors didn’t have to ask themselves most of the questions most of us find ourselves asking in order to adequately seat our minds and our habits in a framework of understanding.
I think my problem is that I am a creature of place more so than habit. I go into shock when I’m transplanted. I struggle to remember what day of the week it is, but I delight in being able to guess when it’s going to rain by reading how the clouds whisper along the mountains. I can feel spring in my bones when the miner’s lettuce erupts among the shaded folds of rocky canyons; I know summer is a breath away when the Jacarandas sacrifice their purple crowns. Money has the smell of something both meaningless and vaguely threatening. In the US, currency is dull and camouflaged, better suited to hunting; elsewhere, it flashes the bright colors of poisonous prey.
In many ways, I feel much more animal than human, even for all my intellectualizing. I simply have tools at my disposal and I’m using them the best way I know how.
I’ve been displaced for too long, now. Whether colonized in my own home by the bloated fist of Christianity, or driven out into a narrow wilderness by an endless column of marching business days, I’ve been adrift in a strange sea, oftentimes with neither the company of God nor mortal to help me orient myself to true north. Sometimes all I know is that the sun rises, the sun sets, and the space between them is long.
Like some instinct I’m occasionally moved to ritual. With Their icons in my flesh, I can read my own body for omens. (Is it really so farfetched to link atmospheric pressure to nosebleeds that clue me into the nearness of a storm God who desires autosacrifice? If it is, my apologies.)
How I move through a place deeply affects how I move through my spiritual landscape, and it makes or breaks me. I am often on the side of broken. Me, the animal, has never quite felt at ease in the built environment, the places organized by uniquely human logic. In fact, I’ve spent my whole life flirting with the edge of the cracks, never quite falling through. As a child, I dreamt of homelessness: living under overpasses, under tarps in the wilderness, under the glittering night sky. Even these I’ve felt the pull to pack a single bag and head for the hills, never to be seen again. Felt the pull to wave the world of Man the Designer goodbye, even if it meant death or something worse.
My husband anchors me to the world of the human, though, and I suppose it’s my lot to be like the fisherman’s wife, longing for elsewhere as she stands on the beach, unable to leave. Can’t go home, can’t stay here. You’re already dead.
There’s one thing I know about me for certain: if I have to think too hard about something, then I don’t habituate it. It has to fall out of me like sweat; my body has to know what to do. This is fortunate, because if I listen closely enough, I find that my body is quite smart. This may make me a bad devotee, being allergic to numbers, being stilted in my awkward attempts at mimicking other humans in their devotion.
I’m not sure I care anymore. My Gods, what few I have left, haven’t deserted me. Normally I’d spend a paragraph or three musing about why that is, but I don’t have the energy right now. Justifying myself to other polytheists, other people, no longer interests me. I state what is, or what my senses tell me is. Sometimes, I do what feels right; other times, I do what feels good. I eat when I’m hungry and I sleep when I’m tired. Sometimes, words fall out like sweat.