But what happens when you desire a strong relationship with a god who is both historically steeped in mystery and hotly debated by their modern-day followers? Well, that's been my process over the past few years.
For many years I heard the call of Hecate giving me gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudges to come to her worship. Coming from a Wiccan background, I went the way most Witches today tend to go and looked up everything I could on her from deity dictionaries, books on goddess-spirituality, and online. Those sources are friendly and generally easy to follow. They don't require me to pour through volumes of 2,000 page historical reference material. They don't require me to have a working knowledge of Greek or even the way its translators interpenetrate things. I guess some might call this the lazy way to research the gods. But for me, for a long time, it worked. I started praying and held small monthly devotionals on each full moon and for awhile it was enough.
Then around a year ago something happened. I started to feel that nudge again. I started to have dreams of Hecate coming to me in the night, looking nothing at all like the wrinkly old crone from the books I had read. Her head wasn't wrapped in a shawl and she didn't speak with a cracked and aged voice. She came as a beautiful adult woman cloathed in golden silk, flowers in her hair. Her skin seemed rustic but pale, like she spent a long afternoon gardening in the sun. The voice she spoke with was commanding and compassionate, although not at all "aged" in the physical sense. It was the age of something that's been around longer than is possibly imaginable, but still perfectly relevant in our "modern world." She told me she wanted more from me. I was to build her an altar all of her own and learn about the old ways in which she was revered. In return, our connection would grow and I'd be gifted with some things that would become known when the right times presented themselves.
So I started reading more about Hellenic culture to get a frame of reference. I also looked at places in the middle east where her worship spread, especially the area of modern day Turkey where the the ruins of her temple can still be found. To be honest, everything I read was either dry and too boring to bare, or it was astronomically over my head on an intellectual level. I can't absorb and understand boring information. My brain just isn't wired that way.
Then last month when I when to Pagan Spirit Gathering I spent a great deal of time with my friend Cara, one of the only Hellenic polytheists I know. This is someone who is incredibly intelligent about this subject matter, yet also explains things in a way that doesn't make me feel completely inept. She told me about what we think her role was to the people of the time and how people might give cultus to her today in ways that make sense. So I went home and started pouring wine libations directly on the bare soil outside. I also stopped making full moon treks to the crossroads, but that's another story. I maintained an altar to her and recited hymns from the primary-source works that my friend recommended I become familiar with.
The result? Hecate started talking again. In meditation I felt guided to offer more specific offerings, some typical (wine, bread, incense, etc.) and some I found to be rather unusual, like freshly cut fruit with salt. She also put me in the path of a statue of her I had been eying, yet previously couldn't track down in any physical store. It also happened to be on sale the very day it presented itself to me. I started to ask for feedback on my offerings. Do I need to go back to the primary sources? Do I need to follow my own inner voice more? Well, that answer hasn't yet come so I think I'm on the right track.
The point of writing this is to say that although the gods may ask different things at different times, this experience has shown me that they have the full ability to speak with both authority and grace. They will not ask things of you that are impossible or unreasonable. They want you to try your best and make a good effort (and maybe even take some risks), but they won't set you up for failure either. Now for you that may be different. For you gods like Hecate or whomever might never ask a single specific thing in terms of their honoring. Or they might ask you for a lengthy commitment of time and energy. Above all, be open and hear them out. Trust. Listen to friends who know more than you. Listen to your own self. Mix it all together and you get a nice syncretic feel of what "the right way to pray" might be for you. To me this is reverence; a deep abiding respect combined with active veneration of that respect.
The gods are not dead. The still talk and they still want us to listen. They want us to talk back to them and talk about them. They want to be remembered and actualized again in whatever ways we can make it happen. Whether the worship of the old gods will remain synretic and eclectic for a long period of time is up for debate. But from my own experience, I now know to pay attention when they come knocking and to answer the call when its made.