Many of us, if not most of us, have troubles envisioning what it would be like to be homeless. Not only does the idea conjure up visions of bag ladies and broken-down alcoholic or drug-addicted bums, but people do not like to think of THEMSELVES in the position of not having a stable place to live. In a society which is predominantly Christian, the homeless NON-Christian is at a distinct disadvantage in being able to maintain their religious practices – especially if they follow a non-Abrahamic religion such as Traditional Wicca, Asatru/Heathenry or Hellenismos. I cannot speak for homeless Jews or Muslims in this regard as those religions are well represented enough in our society that there are actually resources specifically available to them in a packet of information I have been given by the homeless shelters I have been having to deal with. Though these shelters CLAIM to be “interfaith”, the faith basis behind them is still solidly Christian in its orientation.
Please do not think of this as a diatribe against what social safety nets that DO exist in this era of political haymaking at the expense of the invisible section of the homeless population that do not ‘fit’ the stereotype we have of “the homeless”. It is not. What it IS however, is what little bit of insight on ways that even the homeless Pagan can honor the Gods they worship while living in a shelter situation.
The first shelter that my family and I were in was actually in some ways harder to adapt to than the second – possibly because after the first, we had already somewhat adapted to what many people would see as a life of hardship. In its own way, it has been remarkably freeing because it has caused me to have to actually look at how one can do daily “offerings” to the Gods when you can’t have something like candles or incense in the shelter. In my case, it was even more difficult as I had also gotten used to having a daily drink offering to the Gods as part of my worship – a practice that I intend to return to when I do have stable housing again.
No matter how little we have when living in a shelter situation, there are always those who have less than we do. Because of this, the first of my daily offerings is a simple prayer of thankfulness for the blessings I do enjoy.
When I have the physical opportunity to do so, a simple sharing of chips or coffee with someone who has none is a way to remind myself of the community of humanity that I am part of. In some of the ancient stories, acts like this were not symbolically gifts to the Gods, but were actual gifts to Them as they would appear to humanity in disguise. A similar story appears in the Abrahamic texts as well in the account of the three strangers that appeared to Abraham.
Becoming MORE INVOLVED in political activity (time permitting) is another thing that comes to mind as a possibility to me. Why? Simply put, when one sees injustices from the viewpoint of the people who tend to be both the ones blamed for their situation as well as victimized by the institutionalized impressions of the more well off in our society, the urge to work towards change becomes much stronger.
If you have the money available to purchase incense or drink offerings to the Gods from time to time, those gifts are appropriate as well. The one caution I would place on this is to be aware fully of what other uses the money could be put towards and what you would have to do to GET it. When I was somewhat regularly ‘donating’ plasma and getting paid ‘for my time’, I would feel much more comfortable in the purchasing of material offerings than I became after the plasma center deferred me due to a change in the tape they used afterwards which I was allergic to. The money I now had was made less by this and therefore the amount for physical offerings was much lower.
Because of this, and because most shelters don’t allow for physical offerings like candles and incense to begin with (even for Christians), daily meditations on the Gods DOES become an offering that can be done regardless of any other factor. Our time, if not offered as a rote thing, is probably the most valuable offering that a Homeless Pagan can make. And ultimately, even when I am no longer homeless, this is probably the most valuable lesson to take away.