Hestia’s Rule: Simplicity of Posessions

Continuing on with the Twelve Principles from our Pagan Monasticism project, but first I wanted to mention that each of these is dedicated to (or you could say inspired by) a different deity. I’ll talk about each of them later. It is an eclectic assortment of gods, but we are an eclectic group. (Most of us actually focus strongly on one particular culture or pantheon or one specific god, in our personal practices, but when we come together, we all honor whoever is being honored by whoever is running the ritual.)

2. I will maintain simplicity in my possessions. Avoid rampant consumerism. Buy what you need and keep it simple. If you buy something new when your old one is still perfectly serviceable, find a good home for the old one. Recycle. If you buy for pleasure, make sure that it is something that will continue to give you pleasure for a long time.

looking-out-the-window-1547910This is one that has always come easily to me. I’m naturally extremely frugal. The path I’ve chosen in life isn’t one that leaves me with much disposable income, and that is okay. But stuff seems to accumulate anyway.

Growing up, this was never a problem. My mother didn’t like living in one place for more than a couple years, and every time we moved was a time to reassess each item you own to see what will come with us to the next house. Mom would say, “Here is your toy box. You can keep what fits in the box.” You don’t buy a lot of stuff when you live like that.

It was a hard adjustment for me, moving in with Raven. Living in one place, even for just a decade, you tend to accumulate a lot more stuff. (And Raven and Bella both like stuff.) They don’t actually buy much, but stuff just shows up, mostly gifts or barter. (“I don’t have much money, because my husband ran off with another woman last month. Do you want his circular saw? He left it behind.”)

Our house is sort of a retirement home for other people’s stuff. It is where stuff goes to live out its last few years before it goes to its final resting place, or to seek out some last hope of possibly being useful. Much of the stuff has already lived a hard life. Most of it is in too rough shape for a charity shop to take it. Some of it was of marginal value to begin with.

I’ll repair whatever I can, but there is a lot I can’t repair, and with modern manufacturing, paying for skilled repair is generally substantially more than the replacement cost of nearly anything I can afford. I love the idea of “Buy quality goods that will last a lifetime.” but the few goods still made to last a lifetime are generally laughably out of my price range. Besides, accidents happen. A few years ago, I bought a nice quality durable pair of pants, for the first time in my adult life. They cost almost ten times more than any other pair of (thrift store) pants I owned, meaning something like $60. I told myself they were a good investment. The second time I wore them I knelt down to see what had spilled under the washing machine and realized I was kneeling in bleach. I haven’t bought another pair since. Perhaps it is because a decade of owning things that were only two steps away from the trash heap has made me exceptionally careless with my things, but I’m at a point where quality goods seem like a foolish and risky investment.

I found that as my budget got tighter, it was harder and harder not to accumulate stuff, because I couldn’t let go of stuff as easily. “What if I need it?” became a much more serious question when replacing it was no longer a trivial option. Not long ago, we were given a secondhand blender. Our old blender (despite being chewed by the dog) still works, but I don’t know anyone who wants my dog-chewed stick blender. I can’t bring myself to throw away a fully functional blender. Eventually this blender will break, so why not keep the old one as a spare?

Anyway, I’m about to enter an exciting reevaluation of my personal possessions. I am moving into my VERY OWN ROOM next month, right after I put down flooring. When we were planning the extension on our house, I desperately wanted a room entirely of my own, and the only space available was a tiny little slice of attic. Wide enough for a bed at one end, a closet at the other, and a sloped ceiling that is only full height in the area right between the door and window. I can squeeze in some shelves, and maybe a little desk or something, but I’m going to have to be very selective about what I keep. (My computer and office stuff can go down into the new office downstairs, and my musical instruments can go with all the other instruments.) I’m excited about the new room, but I’m also excited about the challenge of making such a tiny space work for me, the discipline of cutting down to what is really essential.


Iduna’s Rule: Purity of Body

I will maintain purity of body. Take care to maintain the heath of the body. Give it what it needs and avoid what harms it. Listen to your body. Make as much of a effort as you can, given your means, to keep from ingesting the pollutants of modern industry and agribusiness.

ugly-70-s-fitted-kitchen-1474092That is Raven’s description from the Pagan Book of Hours site. Personally, I’m not exceptionally concerned with the health effects of agribusiness; my concerns with it are primarily environmental. (“Purity” shows up in a few of these Principles, and it is an odd choice of words, given that they are explicitly not about strictly defining certain things as “pure”/”holy” and other things as “impure”/”sinful”. But I’ll talk about that later.)

Maintaining and improving the health of my body has been a primary focus of mine for the past few months. Part of the motivation is that I had mononucleosis about a year and a half ago, and recovery has been a very slow process. It was a year before I was even diagnosed, and my doctor said that two years is not an uncommon time frame for full recovery.

So, for the past year and a half, I’ve been feeling pretty lousy. Not disablingly ill, but dragging through daily life, needing a huge effort to do even simple things. I’d been really busy with work, but I’d promised myself that over the winter, I would spend time taking care of myself. And I have been steadily working on that since November.


For me, the three big things are eating a reasonably healthy diet, getting decent sleep, and getting physical exercise. I get all neurotic about them – especially about food – but really I know that it is pretty simple.

It isn’t about losing weight – I’m skinny. It is about honoring my body. It is about giving my body what it needs to thrive. It is about experiencing the full joy of embodied existence.


I need to be eating primarily “food that is made entirely of food”. My partner is on a super restrictive diet to deal with his intermittently life-threatening chronic illnesses, and I am blessed with a body that responds pretty well to pretty much any food. I’ve got to take it easy with the sugar and caffeine, or I get kind of crazed, but aside from that, there is no reason for me to have a restrictive diet.

Right now I am just trying to get in the habit of eating a decent quantity of meat and veggies. Left to my own devices, I’d pretty much live on nuts, grains, and dairy. Mac & Cheese. PBJ and milk. Maybe the occasional eggs or tuna. No veggies. Not much meat. And if unsupervised – sugar, sugar, sugar, caffeine, and sugar. I actually really enjoy meat, veggies, and all sorts of food, when someone sticks them in front of me. I just never tended to bother.


Sleep is more problematic. I know my body wants to get up with the sun. My life does not. My longstanding habits do not. My lazy ass does not. My internet-procrastinating mind does not. But my body and soul want to get up with the sun. So I get into this pattern of staying up far later than I need to, and getting up far earlier, and being exhausted all day. Or laying awake for in bed hours. I’ve got a bunch of reasonably effective strategies to deal with it. It is just about having the discipline to implement it, especially when my partner often works until 2 or 4am.


Physical exercise is such a weird one for me. It is incredibly satisfying, but I procrastinate terribly on it. I’ve been doing yoga for years. I started doing kettlebell workouts recently. I go for short runs with the dog. None of these are loathsome activities. I’ve done some loathsome workouts in the past. These ones are pretty easy and and enjoyable. The yoga makes my body feel good, and the kettlebells are putting some muscle on my scrawny frame. I’m reasonably good at them too. Not great, but not at all discouragingly bad. And I see real progress when I put the time and effort in. Yet it is still so hard for me to do. I keep turning it around in my mind, like, “Why am I so resistant to doing this? Why do I drag my feet about it?” I don’t quite know why. It seems like all the other things that I’ve faced with similar reluctance are actively unpleasant, or scary, or discouraging, or overwhelming. The degree of reluctance just seems way out of proportion with the actual experience. It frustrates me, because I think of myself as a pretty self-aware person, but I really don’t get it. I keep feeling like, “If only I could get into a routine, this would be so easy.” So I’ve been trying on that, but life gets in the way and I don’t have the discipline to hold it.


So that is how I work towards Purity of Body. Oddly enough, my primary source of support and encouragement in this has been the online community at NerdFitness.com. And while my root motivations for this are solidly grounded in my spirituality, and I continually think about it in those terms, I am more interested in connecting with people whose fitness interests are similar to mine. I don’t have much desire, in general, to talk about the spirituality of it. I just want to talk about kettlebell stuff, and post recipes, and do enough handstands and pushups to help my Sith teammates crush the Jedi.

Q6. What does it feel like when one receives inspiration from the divinities?

So much depends on what you consider “inspiration”… Disclaimer – I am not a mystic. I am pretty practical, sensible person. “Inspiration” doesn’t seem like a big part of my life, or my spiritual practice.

To interpret it in the creative sense, there have been only three times when I have felt personally moved to express my emotions about a deity in poetry or song. What did this feel like? Awkward. Vulnerable. Self conscious and insecure. Despite knowing that I lacked the gift to do my emotion and experience justice, the experience or sentiment was so desperate to coalesce into some tangible, shareable form that it churned around in me and would not leave me until I had put it down on paper with as much skill as I could muster. I am proud of all three, not for their merits as poetry, but for my bravery and willingness to share them. They were an act of trust, both in the gods and in my community, that I could take a naked and vulnerable part of myself – the intimacy which is one’s experience of deity – and display it to others in the purest form available to me. Those were products of inspiration received by me from deity, transmuted within my limited capabilities, and offered back to them and to my community.

There have maybe half a dozen times when I have been persuaded by people into scraping together some type of poetry-like prayer to a deity that is important to me, but it is not something that comes easily or with what I’d call “inspiration” from any divinities. I wrote them because I was asked to do so and I had something I felt was worth expressing. They were like any other thing I might be called on to craft for the gods. If the ritual calls for a small wood/paper boat we can set on fire, I’m going to be getting out my popsicle sticks  and oaktag and glue. Not because I feel inspired to craft the thing, or as a celebration of my fine skill and craftsmanship, but because a boat was needed and I can make a passable boat, so I am obligated to do so. Don’t mistake me on that word “obligated” –  it is a joyous obligation, and my religious devotion most naturally expresses itself through labor and service. But the motivation for me to make a paper boat for Njord came of someone else’s desire that Njord should have a paper boat and my combination of willingness and ability to facilitate that. It was not my desire to craft a paper boat for Njord, or Njord’s desire to specifically have a paper boat made by me, or me having a little paper boat burgeoning within my soul seeking material expression. It was not creative inspiration, either arising within me or granted to me by Njord. It was not a piece of my soul made manifest.

So is this handful of instances, spread over more than ten years, the entirety of the “inspiration” I receive? What I realize, writing this, is that the “inspiration” I most often receive from the gods is nothing exceptionally mystic or creative. It is not drinking fire, as Galina puts it. It is “inspiration” in the much more ordinary sense – of being inspired to take action, to be a better person, to live more fully committed to my ideals. That is the inspiration I get nearly daily. I am, perhaps, a lazy and apathetic person. I am prone to justifying nearly anything I choose to do as permissible given the circumstances. So to have a personal relationship with gods who care deeply about certain things motivates me to do better than I otherwise would. For instance, I know that certain ecological and environmental choices are in keeping with my values, but I can easily decide they are too expensive or impractical or that my resources are better spent elsewhere. But my love for Frey inspires me to make inconvenient and at times “impractical” choices which are in keeping with those values which I believe Frey is strongly in favor of. Sometimes I feel a bit of guilt there, but it isn’t the guilt of feeling inadequate to meet some kind of impossibly high divine standard, and it is certainly not fear of repercussions. It is the (to my mind) beneficial guilt of knowing that, really, I am capable of doing better than I have been, mixed at times with a nervous uncertainty of exactly what goals I should be striving for in this particular instance. The first one motivates me to do better, and the second leads me to productive discussions within my community and valuable self-examination.