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Yet More on Piety


In a comment to my previous article, Anne Niven wrote: 

"But anytime we start getting into defining "piety" I start to twitch. I believe that there's absolutely no "right" way to serve the gods. Why? Because I believe that only personal gnosis can impart that information. And personal gnosis is just that -- personal. Which is to say, what's pious for you is, indeed, pious -- for you. But it might not be pious for me. In fact, what's pious for you might very well be *impious* in my relationship to the very same deity."

I'm really glad that she brought this up and I wanted to tease that out because I think this is very important and absolutely true. I've seen it with spiritworkers wherein what is taboo for one is absolute obligation for another. This is why I have avoided and will always avoid dictating any particular actions as necessary for one to be pious. The expression of one's piety is between each individual devotee and his or her Gods. I'm arguing for piety as a spiritual virtue that ought to exist, and that it be viewed as something essential, worthy, and necessary of cultivation. How people express it is not the topic of my articles (though I will say this: you know it when you see it and having once seen it, it's glaringly obvious when it's absent….rather like pornography for a supreme court judge I suspect). 

As i've said, ad nauseum, it's not about any particular act. It's about one's relationship to one's Gods and about attitude and mindfulness. That state of being will naturally impact one's external actions, the way one behaves, how one orders and lives one's life but all of that is between a devotee and his or her Gods and ancestors. As Sarenth Odinsson said to me in private correspondence (and yes i got his permission to quote him here):  "each and every one of the responses we receive from the Gods is holy, even if it is silence. Silence is holy, and the Work is worthy. The point of it all is not the response, but that the Work needs to be done---whether that is prayer, ritual, sacrifice, career, childraising, or a million other things. "

In nothing that I've written have i disputed that. what I have said, I'll say again: piety is important. It's a matter of attitude, of being respectful and mindful before the Powers. Who defines piety? The Gods do. We learn as we go by our interactions and our devotions. The problem, as I see it in the communities in which I move, is that neither devotions or interactions are much encouraged. 

Think if i say this enough times, people will actually hear it? I could do it in Latin. what about ancient Greek. Should I try for a few Romance languages? Maybe i should link to Websters? The idea of piety, the word itself has inevitably been colored and corrupted by monotheism but it didn't start out that way. It was one of the highest of polytheistic virtues for a very long time before the world ever fell prey to the filter. I think it's time we reclaimed it. 

My own take on this and on how to do that can be summed up pretty easily: give the Gods more. More time. more attention. More offerings. More devotions. More of yourself. MORE. 

So, i want to open this up. I'm going to ask a question and then open myself up to questions. 

My question is this: what does piety mean to you? Tell me what it means and, if applicable, how you most often express it.  

In return, feel free to ask any questions about my own practices or approaches to piety here as well. I only ask that you put them by themselves in the comments section. Don't add anything else to that particular post, just throw your question out there (I want to make sure that I don't miss any if folks take the time to ask, so it's easiest if questions are their own posts). 

Knowing my community, I do reserve the right to refuse to answer anything that is terribly invasive or rude (it takes a lot for me to get to that point though). So….go. 

Last modified on

 Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, author, and Northern Tradition shaman. She holds a Masters degree in Religious Studies and is currently working toward a PhD in Classics. Galina is the author of several books including “Essays in Modern Heathenry” and “Skalded Apples: A Devotional Anthology to Idunna and Bragi.”
(Photo by Hudson Valley photographer Mary Ann Glass.)


  • Liza
    Liza Friday, 03 May 2013

    Questions first, then answers:
    For the newbie, youn'in, seeker without a physical community to led them, how do you suggest they start? (Though I suspect I know this answer in part, I think it bears repeating)

    what do you do, in your daily life (not in prep for holidays, events, seminars etc-though I realize you have so many, you may never have a "normal" day...) do?

    What do you suggest, or do you do, when you see a fracture that needs to be corrected? To try to reestablish a right relationship?

    What piety means for me, and how I most often express it is to give myself over, and let Them lead. Rather like a dance with a really good partner. I lean in, and follow. Nothing more nothing less. What that means in practice, however is that I actually FOLLOW, which means I need to be wholly present, and I need to listen more and talk less. It takes time, first and foremost. Sometimes there is direction or answers given, and sometimes not. I follow the understanding I have for what I need to be doing, until I understand differently. I start and end my day listening. Usually there is a good deal of doing in the midst of the day, but I make sure that my day begins and ends with Them... even if, or perhaps especially if I am tired, sick, busy, or otherwise inclined. They get me, all of me. I don't get to hide and give Them only my happy face. They get all of my faces. If I could give more, I would, but for now, They get me.

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 04 May 2013

    Liza, if you take a look at my most recent post, I answered all your questions there. they were good questions. :)

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 04 May 2013

    Hi Liza,
    I'm going to answer your questions tonight (or maybe tomorrow)...i didn't want you to think I was ignoring them. They're good questions and I want to think about them a bit. :)

  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger Friday, 03 May 2013

    Piety to me is a manifestation of love and respect intertwined. It is a reflection in my heart, in my being, of the desire to give back to the Dieties involved. It is a response to the knowledge that my life is interwined with theirs and that my service to them brings me joy and satisfaction and is necessary. When I wake I first prepare myself with some Reiki, triple alignment and some sound healing. I wash my hands and prepare for morning offerings before their altars. I call them and invite them in before I make the formal offerings. This is the foundation of my day. After some caffeine and a little social business I do some yoga, dedicating the practice to a Diety. Then I do the LBR at a minimum, sometimes adding the IAO and the middle pillar. Then I dedicate the merit. When I get into my car to drive the 25 miles to work, I have prayers that I do as well as invoking a particular Diety to take charge of the travel; during the course of the drive I do long distance Reiki to self, pets and a number of Dieties. I run that energy until I get to work. When I am leaving work I leave an offering for my Travelling God Companion. During the evening I meditate as an offering.
    Before I sleep I use a crystal and do self Reiki and reflect on the day.
    Sometimes during the work day I will walk the ley lines that are here near work and "talk" to the Gods, or pray, or give thanks for the beauty that surrounds me.

  • Laura P
    Laura P Saturday, 04 May 2013

    Thank you again for writing about piety, a subject all too often overlooked in modern paganism. To me piety means respect, love and devotion, means doing what is right and needed even when it takes effort and is difficult. It is about prioritizing the sacred and engaging with it in an active manner. For the life of me, I do not know why discussions about piety seem to be so triggering in some circles or why some equate devotion or standing up for treating the Holy with respect with some sort of demand for orthodoxy. Perhaps it is a reflection on our society's devaluation of service.
    There are many forms of praxis and you rightly point out that we need to engage and be open to the particular forms of praxis our Gods ask of us. But the foundation of any engaged spirituality is piety...piety drives praxis. It gets us up on the days where we don't feel like making offerings or praying, drives us to do our Work anyways.
    Thank you for another thought provoking article and for focusing attention on this very crucial area that is too often forgotten.

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 04 May 2013

    Thank you, Laura. I think you may be on to something with the way our society devalues service. In Heathenry, part of it is also this obsession with rugged individualism, though i would warrant our ancestors were deeply interconnected and interdependent....we haven't quite got that part down yet. *sarcasm*.

    Christine, thank you for sharing part of what you do. I really appreciated that read. When i read accounts like yours, I get all fired up again, with renewed excitement about my own praxis. :)

  • Tannim Wolfkin
    Tannim Wolfkin Sunday, 05 May 2013

    Just finished writing a paper on hubris for my English class and came across this post. Wish I had read it before finishing the dang thing you gave me more food for thought. Not to mention things I could have used in the paper. Ah well such is life.

    Again you have hit the nail on the head and said it far better then I can/would.

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