After realizing that the article on how to do daily observances for the Orishas on Zindoki.com may be a bit complicated, I decided to write a more concise set of instructions and options. Assuming that you’ve read and acted on the suggestions in the Witchcraft 101 articles thusfar, you are now ready to start walking the path in earnest.
A bare minimum observance only takes a few minutes, but it is an important few minutes. You may do it in the morning or the evening. You may do it when you put the kids down for a nap. You can take five minutes of your lunch break. You can do it anytime, but do it.
The first thing you will need is a bit of privacy and alone time. Though some may disagree, I personally do not enjoy interruptions or splitting my attention during observances unless someone else is actually participating in the ritual. You can do this as a couple or as a family, but remember my admonitions about “phoning it in”. Others who do participate should be happy to do so. Also, if you have a family with multiple pantheons that haven’t combined, each person’s deities should be addressed during the ceremony.
Second, you will need some sort of offering. What this is depends on your traditions. Some give incense, some perfume or a spray, and some give a small food offering. Whatever is reasonable that your deities like is all good. I usually burn incense most days, but on Fridays, the auspicious day of my head Orisha, I get a little fancier with sprays, evaporations, splashes, or pourings. If you have workings in progress, or will be doing divination that day, it is a good idea to bring a little more for those causes and related deities as well.
Third, you should have a notebook. I’ve recently understood how important this is, since age and related health issues have reminded me that mental energy is not an unlimited resource. I formed a bad habit of skipping the book of shadows thing in my youth when I was in the broom closet and couldn’t leave a paper trail or evidence of my activities on penalty of sure beatings and possible death. Since I got to safe place, I should have gotten over that, but I didn’t for a long time. I learned my lesson though, and now keep a book…multiple books actually.
In your notebook, you should write down your plan for daily rituals. You may adjust them, but at first at least write what you would like to be your ideal daily ritual in detail. Write down your greetings to your Gatekeeper and Ancestors as well as other main deities you want to be in conscious awareness of. “All of them” is not a good idea if you have a very large pantheon. Also, it is impossible to tiptoe through life trying not to leave any footprints of any kind in Nature, and still be useful. To keep peace with one aspect of Nature, including human Nature, you may offend another. I’m not saying you should run roughshod through this Earth uncaringly, just prioritize.
…and don’t forget that the deities witches need to address daily are deities of witchcraft. For some, that’s Orisha Oko and the Aje, for others Isis, for others Hecate, and for others “Grandma Whodidhoodoo”. Aside of our Gatekeepers, they are our teachers in this path.
Before you approach your altar, brush your teeth so your word is true. Wash your hands so your touch is true. Once you’ve got all your things together, get to your altar and just do the thing.
- Greet your Gatekeeper, and light the incense. Wait for that nudge that tells you to proceed…it usually tingles the back of the base of your skull or back of the neck.
- Greet your Ancestors, at least three by name.
- Greet your main deities or deified Ancestors/heroes.
- Pray for your, your loved ones’, and your clients if you have any’s needs.
- Thank the spirits for their presence.
- Close the ritual by excusing yourself.
…and that’s all there is to it. If that is all the time you have, this is what you should do. If you have more time, and as you gain more awareness though, you will want to step it up a bit.
Beyond the Bare Minimum
As I mentioned before, if you have workings in progress or consistent concerns, you will want to bring these issues up during your daily observances. You may also want to give special attention to different deities or bring up different things at different times of the week or month or year.
In west African and diaspora systems, we have auspicious days of the week for various Orishas and categories of deities and spirit allies based on the solar and more traditional lunar calendar. Some Hindu sects have auspicious fasts for various deities on different days of the week. Research your pantheon to find out your deities’ auspicious days, holidays, fasts, and feasts. If your pantheon is your Ancestors, then you can base it on their favorite times of the week.
The cycles of the Moon and Sun may also be something you want to take into account, as well as the seasons in your region. Part of the point of doing daily observances is to help you stay aligned with the deities of Nature.
Generally, this is a good plan to start with. Just remember to start with your Gatekeeper no matter the day.
The obvious Sun and ethereal type deities and spirits. This is a good day to dedicate your observance mainly to deities and their emissaries who may have taken on incarnations here and there, but whose true be-ing is so unfathomable that we can’t possibly wrap our mortal brains around them.
The obvious moon, Gatekeepers, and regulatory deities. Since this is the first day of the standard work week for many, it’s a good day to give special honor to deities and spirits who help us keep things organized and stable.
The obvious Nordic Tyr or similar deities of war and/or law. This might be the day you want to be extra spiffy when you go to your altar or shrine. On this day, it’s good to remember deities who help us keep our heads together, especially during crises, warrior and particularly honorable Ancestors, and departed heroes we respect. It is also a good day, if you are a warrior, to maintain your weapons and gear.
The obvious Woden or similar deities and exalted Ancestors who brought us unapologetic wisdom. Because of this, some may also want to add deities of health and healing.
The obvious Thor and related deities. Some also revisit the etherials on this day to give special attention to their emissaries and incarnations who have walked this Earth.
The obvious Frigg or Freya, depending what you believe or prefer, and others related. Some also see Friday as the fire element day since the evening is the start of the weekend. To bless their efforts in finding a mate or hot relations with their mate(s), many like to give special honors to their male and/or particularly randy Ancestors.
The obvious Saturn and related deities. Some also like to give this day to water element because the previous day was fire. Some like to honor their female Ancestors this day, thank them for a successful night, or if desired, pray for a successful pregnancy.
You can adjust yours how ever you like or feel led. This was just a suggestion based on what fits most people I know.
One’s altar is a highly personal thing, and I am loathe to post universalized instructions for this. How you should set it up or where you should do your normal ritual depends on your belief system, your head or patron deities or spirits, and so many other things. For the sake of clearing the air a bit though, I will say that not everyone casts a circle, and not everyone sticks to Empedocles’s four elements or just the four main directions.
You probably do not need to go out and buy a bunch of specialized, expensive gear for your altar. Though some things are pretty, and it’s good to do special things for your spirits, your altar is not a shrine to capitalism unless your head or patron deity is about that…and frankly, some are. Again, back to the fact that it is highly personal, some people are actually required to have fancy altars or else their witchcraft won’t quite be right because their guiding deity likes fancy. Most people though, should not be imitating them just because they tend to set the trends.
Some people shouldn’t really have an altar per se, but an outdoor shrine. Some shouldn’t be bound to any particular physical location. Because of my head, I move my altar from place to place in my home. When I tried to stabilize it, fortune forced me to have to keep moving it back and forth.
It is a good idea though, if you have a home altar, to make it somewhat representative of either your cosmology or a kind of council of deities and allies. This is a reasonable plan for most people.
Coping With Ebbs and Flows
In some traditions, it is bad to approach a sacred space or items when one has certain kinds of illness. For those in west African and diaspora systems, we are not to go near any sacred items when we are having any sort of uncontrolled expulsions of body fluids/secretions. So during those times, we take a break from daily observances unless it goes on so long that it is problematic. Then we find alternatives.
For many reasons that I’ve already gone into in the Witchcraft 101 series, you may be dealing with fatigue, depression, and a host of other issues that make it difficult just to get up, much less do observances. This happens, and I certainly do not judge anyone for this. Just do the best you can. Your Gatekeeper knows you and helped to build you, so he/she/xe will help you get through it if you just stay aware and do the best you can. It helps to try to get into a place of gratitude. If all you can do is light some incense and cry, be thankful for opposable thumbs or the technology of EZ Grabbers or the patience of your caregiver.
Be thankful for witchcraft. Be thankful that you were born with or developed a mind that can think outside the box of mainstream spirituality or conventional science. Start there, and the gratitude will grow into action.
Also, understand that this is not a sprint. It’s a marathon that you will be running all your life. You don’t have to do everything you’d like to do in a day. You can plan ahead for years, break those plans to try new things, and innovate. You can be creative and figure out how to do things more beautifully or more efficiently or elegantly.
This is your daily time with the deities. It’s yours and theirs, so it’s between you and them…but do feel free to share and let us know how things are going for you. Posting photos and your thoughts along this journey may help and inspire others.
Blessings and Ase!
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