What customs are associates with home and family in your tradition?
Some of the customs seem a little odd to people who visit me. I always strive to do my best to be hospitable to my guests. Among the things that I do, I always offer them food and drink. Some people think this is merely being a good hostess but it goes deeper then that. When the weather is inclement, I am prepared to give my guests what I have accessible in my home to provide them with warmth, shelter, and respite from the elements. When my guests are distraught or experiencing difficulty, I feel honor bound to give them what aid I can. This is not simply a case of being compassionate but rather, it is a duty that comes with my being mistress of my home.
I always work to make sure that there is at least one additional portion left from any meal that I prepare so that I can provide for any who come through my door. I feel duty bound to render aid to any who are struggling on the property that I live upon, when it is within my means to do so. As the lady of the house, I am bound to be gracious, helpful, and hospitable to any who come to my door, even people whom I despise. This is because hospitality is sacred. It forges and reinforces the bonds that keep society functioning.
I strive to keep my home tidy for more reasons then the fact that it is hygienic and practical. In maintaining a home that is at the very least orderly, I drive away malevolent influences that would take up residence in the chaos. It is for this reason that I keep a broom at my door. It drives away unwelcome visitors upon many different levels. I also keep a weapon at the door (an ash stave that is seasoned and a poplar stave that is not yet seasoned). I feel that I am the first line of defense of my home and that I am the doorwarder, in addition to the mistress of the house.
I keep a shrine for the beloved dead and regularly give offerings to them. It is placed in a prominent spot in my home to keep their presence with us. I make a point of using items that have been passed down through the family to keep those links to the past alive. This is because I feel that I am responsible for making sure that the line does not die out in memory, for the genetics part was looking dicey for a little while there. I keep up family traditions in the effort to pass on the wisdom of my ancestors to my children and to keep them alive in my actions. This is why I share old family jokes and keep little 'superstitions' going.
When did it dawn on you that the gods are real?
Honestly, it has never entered my mind that the gods were not real. Even when I found myself in a position where I was seriously challenging my beliefs, I have always known that the gods existed. It was very confusing to be a polytheist in a community of monotheists and I found it difficult to carry on conversations about faith with my peers when I was young. But, I have felt the influence of the gods in my life for as long as I have had the capacity to be aware of them, which started at a very young age.
Most 4 year olds don't think about the big questions of religion. It never occurred to me to question the validity of my experiences until I was older, but even then I questioned my ability to perceive the true nature of the situation rather then the cause of it. It was humbling and mildly disturbing when I learned that other people didn't have the experiences of the gods that I did. To learn that most people can not hear when the gods speak or that they didn't have moments when their awareness was flooded with something so completely different from what they were presently immersed in, it jarred me. That was when I started to question my perception.
It has taken me years to recover from that experience but there are times, like when I am severely depressed, that I question myself terribly. I struggle with accepting that the gods accept me as I am. I also struggle with the idea that the people around me do so as well. I have some major self confidence issues that I am still working on resolving (both at the direction of the gods and at the urging of my mental health providers).