(A day in my life, in devotion to the deities...)
Others have gone before me, describing what their day details in devotion to the deities—Galina Krasskova and Sannion come to mind. I figured since they showed me theirs, I might as well show mine.
In an average day, like today, I wake up and I fetch my notebook to write down what dreams I’ve had in the night and morning. I’ve practiced dream recall and interpretation for about twenty-four years, and dreaming is an important practice in Canaanite religion. Lately, out of curiosity, I challenged myself to remember dreams for as many consecutive nights as I could and right now I’m up to twenty-four days in a row.
After jotting down quick notes about my dreams, I will wash up—face and hands, or just hands—and put on a plain hand-sewn linen shift (needle and thread, no machine), and a long plain scarf over my head. I stand outside the entrance to the temple I set up for the Canaanite gods; the temple is located in my home. I turn on the light in the temple room, and I use the sacred oil I prepared ahead of time to cleanse myself outside the temple. The oil is comprised of olive oil, drops of myrrh essential oil or pinches of powdered myrrh resin; sometimes I’ll add another essential oil or two such as cedar, marjoram, or cistus/labdanum. I anoint my forehead in a crescent and disk or an eight pointed star, or just make a sweeping motion across my brow with my ring and pinky fingers of the right hand, and I anoint my hands.
I anoint a clean incense holder before I take it into the temple. I have quality incense sitting near the temple entrance—this is important because cheaper incenses have dung in them. I choose the incense that I believe is appropriate for the day—usually it’s myrrh incense. Myrrh was a very important healing and offering substance to the ancient Canaanites. I will daub a little of the oil on the incense stick as well to purify it before it goes into the temple.
I pause for a moment outside the temple, then enter the temple with my right foot. I have a lighter set up on a small table that separates the inner sanctuary from the outer sanctuary, and I light the incense there. I step into the outer sanctuary and I pause for a moment. Then I take a step with the right foot into the inner sanctuary. I approach the altar and I softly ring a brass bell on the altar, then I knock on the cabinet which serves as the niche that holds the deity images. (The bell dispels any evil spirits, and the knocking is for politeness.) I open the cabinet and bow before the deities with the incense. I bless them and ask that my offering will bring them shalamu (peace/wellbeing), na’amu (pleasantness/charm/grace/beauty), and that it may strengthen them. I put the incense in a holder on the altar, and then I kneel and place my forehead to the floor. If the occasion calls for it, sometimes I will do this seven times. I stand, leave the cabinet open, and back out with my right foot staying in front. I back out before the deities because it is rude to turn a back to them.
After I leave the temple, I change into a robe or a tunic and a different scarf for my head and go check my email. I try to avoid actually replying to my email before I’ve been awake a little bit longer. I’m not a morning person. Sometimes I will make a little breakfast and some coffee (sometimes I postpone breakfast until I’ve made a second trip to the temple). I listen to music, but I try to be conscious that the music can sometimes filter into the temple room, so I do not leave the radio on commercials. I have a shrine to the deities and the ancestors in the living room, and before I eat breakfast, I put some incense there at the shrine and I bob my knees then bow deeply before presenting the incense.
After I’m pretty certain the incense has run low in the temple, I will clean myself up and put back on my linen shift and scarf, cleanse again with the oil, and reenter the temple. I kneel and put my forehead to the floor before them, rise, ring the bell softly, then close the cabinet. I will then take the incense holder with ash out as I leave the temple.
I spend the rest of the day in various activities from correspondence, to writing, to researching, to language learning, to deep meditation. I am becoming more conscious of adding in exercise in the day, as well. At lunch, again I will go to the shrine (not the temple) and give incense to the deities and the ancestors. If I’m eating and I’m in the room, I like to give them something to “eat.” I do the same at dinner. In the evening, I return to the temple room to bow outside the temple and turn off the light for the night. Before I go to bed, I will revisit my dream notes and write down the dream as I recall it in a dream journal, if I hadn’t already written the entry earlier.
As I go to bed, I will spend several minutes in prayer before I go to bed, and sometimes I will ask a question before falling asleep which I hope to have answered in my dreams. Then I wake up in the morning and do it all again.
There are some days where I can’t go inside the temple for issues of ritual purity, so I turn on the light in the temple room and leave an incense offering at the entrance of the temple, then go about my day as usual.
This kind of devotional activity is not for the layperson, so before you get worried and think “Oh, Tess, there is no way I can do all that!” remember that I am a priest at a temple, caring for the deities in this way so that a layperson, a regular, average, everyday devotee of the deities, isn’t obligated to do so. This is how it was in ancient times: most people had small devotional corners or shrines in their homes where they would leave what offerings they could and honor as they could. The priests at the temple would make offerings on behalf of the city for the community’s collective good. Taxes used to support the offerings and the care and attention the priests gave at the temple, and to pay the priests for their time and expertise. Currently, I’m doing this on my own dime and I do what I can. (Visitors to the temple are expected to make a gift, donation, or work exchange to myself and to the temple.)
2 [Gapnu], Shanatu 85
It is the second day since the new moon. It has been 85 years since the rediscovery of the Canaanite city of Ugarit. Our next holiday begins on the evening before summer solstice (all our holidays begin on the evening before the holiday's day). The next holiday is 'Ashuru Zabri (the Festival of Pruning), also called 'Ashuru Qazhu (the Summer Festival).
This is my own photo of the altar in my temple *before* it was consecrated and *before* the deity images were placed in the niche (cabinet). Now that the temple is consecrated and the deity images are there, I do not allow for photography in the temple.