So if I didn’t go to an Imbolc ritual, how did I spend the holiday weekend?
At the local Chinese New Year celebrations? No, that’s for later in the weekend. Instead I spent a good portion of the afternoon in something that is a very personal religious act for me.
I helped a friend move.
You’re forgiven if you think that’s an odd choice of religious practice; I know it’s not exactly a widespread form of devotion. Yet in my mind it makes perfect sense. Mara acts as a hearth goddess, and also as a goddess of the lucky offer of surprise. Because of those things, and the value I place on the virtue of hospitality, I always offer to help people move – friends, coworkers, or even neighbors I don’t know. Anyone who seems to be carrying themselves from one home to another, I’m offering to help.
It’s a way in which I feel like I’m acting as Mara’s hands for someone who needs that help, the same as when I give offerings to buskers downtown or donations on the internet. In this particular case, I also felt a certain push from Loki, that it was something he appreciated me doing as well. “Through their followers” is an entirely valid way for any god to interact with the world, and I consider myself one of Mara’s hands.
It was also an interesting FlameKeeping-type lesson in self-care and listening to myself. It may surprise you to learn that I am very bad at pacing myself. (I know! Shocking!) I woke up this morning with my hip out, barely able to limp out of bed. I managed to get it in, and though it never quite stopped hurting, by pacing myself, listening to my joints, and taking care to respect my knees, I was able to help move all of the things that required two people to move them. It was nowhere near as much help as I’d have liked to give, and my instinct is always to grit my teeth and ignore the pain until my body rebels. I knew, though, that that would be unhelpful.
For every big, obvious act of religious devotion, there are dozens of smaller, unremarkable opportunities. I’d like to find more of those moments and those actions, and figure out how to make the most of them.