As Baring the Aegis is one month old, that also means I've been Hellenistic for about a month. Much has changed in my practice. When I started out, I lamented that I would like to have a steadier daily practice and a higher percentage of practical application of my faith. Over the course of a month, this has definitely happened; I now spend at least half an hour a day in ritual. Of course, this is a 'perfect world' scenario but I manage to get at least the basics in every day.
For those of you interested in my actual practice, I shall list my daily workings.
When I get up, I shower and dress in my ritual wear. I put my hair up and pour yesterday's khernips into a temporary bowl. Then I lay out what I will need;
- my khernibeionas with my basic water mixture
- my little bottle with ethanol I use to burn offerings
- a hand towel to dry my hands and face after washing with the khernips
- the emptied bowl for my khernips
- anything else I (might) need, including copies of the Orphic and Homeric hymns for quick reference
Next, I prepare the khernips, wash my hands and face and dry both. Then I sprinkle the room and shrine with the khernips and dry my hands again before setting both the towel and khernips away. Next, I offer barley on the shrine and in the bowl I use to burn offerings and recite Homeric Hymn 24 (to Hestia) before lighting Her candle and symbolically transferring Her flame from the electric candle I leave burning through the night to an actual candle.
Flamekeeping in honor of Hestia isn't a prerequisite for Hellenismos; it's enough to light a fire for Her during ritual. Yet, I have always been drawn to flamekeeping and I did it (although not through the night) for Brighid. Flamekeeping, in this context, is the process of keeping a flame (or fire) burning in honor of a Deity with the idea that, as long as the candle burns, the God or Goddess in question is welcomed at the altar or shrine. It's a beautiful practice which requires devotion and creativity as it's unwise to let an actual flame burn when away from home or asleep.
When Hestia's candle is lit, I add ethanol to the barley offering and use Hestia's flame to light the offering, adding Sandalwood incense to it while reciting Orphic Hymn 83 (to Hestia). I then offer some of my breakfast food to her and ask for Her aid and protection during the day. If it's a festival day, I will continue on with hymns and offerings to the Gods and Goddesses in charge of this month and then on to the actual festival, which usually means more hymns and offerings.
Next, I light some incense for one of my three other household shrines in rotation; the one to Apollon, Hekate and Hermes, the one to the ancestors and Agathós Daímōn, or the one to Zeus Ktesios. I place this incense on those shrines, not on the main shrine, but I light them with Hestia's candle. I always add prayer for the Deities and spirits of these shrines and sometimes I include hymns. This service done, I clean up everything around the shrine, dispose of yesterday's khernips in my garden, wash my hands and face to get the salt off and dress in my daily clothes to get on with the day. I leave the burt offerings in the bowl as fuel for the next ones.
Before lunch and dinner, I offer bits of my meal to Hestia. If I eat something really special or which I really enjoy outside of these meals, I will offer some to Her as well (or, sometimes, if it relates more to another God or Goddess, I will offer those snacks to Them). If I'm not home for these meals, I will save a bit of it and offer it to Her as soon as I can.
For these offerings, I wash my hands and take out my hand towel, some barley and the ethanol. I use the khernips I made in the morning to wash my hands and face and to cleanse the room and shrine. I add the barley to the offering bowl, add the food offering and ethanol and light it with fire taken from Hestia's flame while reciting Homeric Hymn 24 (to Hestia), which I very much know by heart now. Again, I clear everything away while leaving the left-over offerings in the bowl.
At night, after I brush my teeth and dress for bed, I return to my main shrine with the hand towel. I apply the khernips again to both hands and face, as well as the room and shrine. I clean out the offering bowl in the jar I use to gather all left-over offerings, used matches, burned charcoal blocks, etc. Any barley, salt or other ritual products that fall on the ground are added to this jar as well. Come Hekate's Deipnon, I will offer the contents of this jar to Her.
With the offering bowl clean, I recite Homeric Hymn 24 (to Hestia) again before symbolically transferring Hestia's flame from the candle to the electric light I use through the night. I use this time for prayer for a safe night and anything else I want to share with Hestia as well as any other God or or Goddess, unless it's a request for aid. I save those for the morning ritual. I place the electric flame in the offering bowl. Again, I clear everything away, wash my hands and face and then head to bed.
I do this every day and it gives me so much fulfillment and joy. It never feels like a burden and in all honestly, it only takes me an hour combined (and that includes a shower, teeth brushing, washing, etc.). If I have the time to stay at my shrine(s) longer, I will, but I am satisfied with the time I do get to spend.
I wonder if, when I read this back in a month or a year or ten years, I will grin at how much I didn't know back then and if I will still be doing anything like this. If that's the case, it means I have learned from my practice, that I haven't stopped studying and that I have created a daily practice which matches my life as will be, then. As I wrote the day before yesterday, religion is a process. With everything you learn, comes new inspiration and new practice. Right now, this is my practice and I enjoy it very, very much.