The author Lucy Valunos does an excellent job introducing devotional practice — as well as nudging the reader to consider their “why” for starting devotional practice and the benefits of it. At no point do I feel like people who aren’t devotional with their deities are “lesser” polytheists for it, which is sometimes the case with writers on the subject of devotional polytheism.
Above all, this is a very short booklet that gives helpful suggestions on how to have a devotional routine in their polytheist life. Lucy Valunos does that splendidly and I recommend this to anyone who needs or wants ideas for a devotional practice.
The booklet starts with introducing Lucy Valunos: a devotee just trying to share what they have picked up from doing their own devotional practice for a while. And you know what? I’m okay with that. No where does Valunos claim to be an authority, and they admit their shortcomings where applicable in later chapters. This sets the tone of the booklet to be rather informal and almost conversational.
Next, Valunos describes the ways to use — and not to use — this booklet. They begin by saying how this is first and foremost a book of their opinions. Then, they emphasize that this book is not “The True Way” to be a polytheist. As I said above, they are merely offering suggestions and not doctrine. As Valunos writes, “There are many right ways.”
Lastly, they point out that while the book is brief (it is), there is a lot of information (there is.) So try one thing at a time.
Then we get to the first chapter, “The Roots of Devotion: Why”. This is probably one of the least informative chapter of the book, but with good reason. Valunos knows perfectly well that they can’t tell the reader why they chose to devote themselves to deities. So, instead, Valunos reminds the reader to ask themselves “Why?”
But next Valunos explains what devotion even is. Valunos writes, “The foundation of all devotion is relationship, and the lifeblood of relationship with the Divines is devotion. It goes without saying that if you never spend time with someone, or only check in with them once a month, you probably won’t have much of a relationship with that person. There is simply no substitute for time spent together. What I’m calling devotion in this booklet is that time spent together.”
I like this definition of “devotion”, mainly because it’s versatile. Spending time can look like so many different things when involving a deity. And indeed, Valunos’s whole booklet is exploring those different ways to spend time and offer time to deity.
The chapter continues with Valunos exploring more on the “why build a relationship?”, sharing their own reasons as well as admitting that different devotees will undoubtedly have their own reasons.
The next chapter is “Consecrating the Mundane: When”, where Valunos goes into when the reader might make time for their deity/deities. It has the standard advice of morning and evening prayers. Valunos gives an outline for how they do their prayers. They also give some examples of how to schedule different deities throughout the week or month so that the polytheist with a handful of deities can make time for all of them separately.
But what is really uplifting about this chapter is that Valunos reserves an entire section to discuss how what works for them might not work for the reader — especially if the reader has chronic illness. This section hit me hard, as I’ve been struggling to maintain my simple daily prayers for the past few months thanks to my chronic illness. It was really, really important to see this author put into print how all their advice looks easy on paper but can be really difficult for those who are low on spoons. Valunos writes some great reminders in this section about how this is just a framework to work off of, and that flexibility is key.
Something that Valunos writes that is particularly quote worth is this paragraph: “There will be days and there will be times when no matter what you do, your best-laid plans when it comes to honoring your Gods will go awry. But our Gods are not confined to pretty shrines or to appointed hours in our days. They are still there in the chaos, the sickness, and the catastrophes.”
And if all that wasn’t obvious enough, Valunos writes near the end of the chapter: “And you know what? That’s enough. You’re enough.”
Thank you Valunos for remembering us spoonies.
This takes us to the next chapter, “Growing Branches: How”. This chapter goes into explaining offerings, as Valunos explains that they view offerings as the best way to build relationships with one’s deities. They give plenty of ideas for types of offerings, too, that aren’t just food: acts of service, charity work, gifts of time, etc.
Valunos gives their reasoning for offerings, stating that it’s just their theory and there are others out there. This becomes a theme in these later chapters: Valunos gives an opinion but states there are more opinions out there. I wish that Valunos shared other opinions they might of heard of, but that’s a minor complaint.
Once again, Valunos takes time to mention limitations. This time, in regards to money. I truly appreciate how considerate Valunos is with their advice, making sure to point out that the Gods don’t want us devotees to go hungry or not afford rent because of an offering. As the author writes: “If that’s a glass of water, then a glass of water it is.” And then the author points out that non-monetary gifts are just as valuable as monetary gifts.
The section on how to give offerings is wisely begun by Valunos stating that the reader should differ to their tradition. However, Valunos still gives what they do as a guidepost for those who don’t have a specific tradition they’re working from.
Then there’s a whole section on what Valunos calls “Offering Candles” which is a very detailed offering idea. I won’t go into the details, but it was an interesting read.
Interestingly enough, the chapter ends with talking about how the Gods give the devotees gifts in return — or don’t. I have a minor complaint that the author seems to be saying that the deities always do what’s best no matter what. Which isn’t always the case, frankly. Sometimes deities mess up. Sometimes deities are jerks. Sometimes the deity isn’t reciprocating the offerings made because that deity wants nothing to do with that devotee. There is a lot of answers beyond trust their judgement.
We’re to the next chapter now, “In The Heart’s Temple: Where”, which is the chapter on shrines and altars. I laughed a bit while reading this chapter, as Valunos talks about downsizing a shrine if it gets too massive to be managed…Like I recently did. (Glad to know others may have that problem too!)
I appreciate again how considerate Valunos is in this section. They make mention to the reader that we should work with the space and money available to us. Things like temporary shrines are mentioned, for instance. I would go further and mention digital shrines (websites, blogs, etc) as other alternatives, but that’s because I’m familiar with the premise.
This chapter ends with talking about how devotees ourselves are in a way shrines to our deities. Valunos writes: “Your actions as a devotee of a particular God reflect on that God, much as the actions of a child reflect on the parent.” Valunos makes sure to state that making mistakes is okay and whatnot, but it’s the broader picture they’re referring to in that statement.
And then that brings us to the end of the book. Valunos gives a brief conclusion and then gives a few resources. My biggest complaint about this part of the book is that Valunos refers to divination constantly, but doesn’t link to any websites or books about divination. I with how vital divination is to all their suggestions in this booklet, I would have hoped there would have been resources on divination in some form. In fairness, “divination” is a broad topic, but even just some pointers on where to get started with divination would have been helpful.
Overall though? I really enjoyed this booklet. Though my review is probably 1/3 the length of the book (if not more)! I definitely recommend picking it up, as it is free at the time of this review. I do wish that there was a physical copy of this booklet I could print out and store in my library, but alas it is only digital for now.
But at any rate, if you are interested in devotional practices to deities, this book has a lot of suggestions and ideas. And it’s free! Can’t beat that price.