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Paganism, food and spirituality
Prayers in the Dark
What do we do in the darkness – either literal or metaphorical – when our bodies or souls convulse with pain, and our minds can’t stop spinning? This is when we need a spiritual practice. The habit of a achieving a quiet mind and sense of purpose is like any other habit or skill (which is not to say they are functionally different), it is one we must practice.
I’m not talking about monthly rituals here, I’m talking about some form of daily practice, which was once referred to as piety. Piety got itself a bad name when, in the context of Christianity, it became a reference to rigid behavior that justified abusive acts. My grandfather ran away from home (permanently) because he was getting beaten for not saying his catechism correctly. But piety is simply showing reverence for deity in a consistent manner. In other words, some form of daily prayer.
While we can just talk to our gods, and do not hesitate to do so, it is better to involve the body. Ritual does this spectacularly well, but not many of us have time to spend an hour or two everyday doing a full ritual. Practice is mini ritual. Done daily, these practices are like money in the bank. When the stuff hits the fan, we have the tools to calm ourselves immediately, and make a connection with the gods and ancestors when we really (really) need it.
Ideally, your practice should fit naturally into your daily routine. If one is lucky enough to live near a natural environment, regular meditative excursions are assuredly a common Pagan practice. But if you live in an environment that gets a great deal of snow, this isn’t always physically possible. The nature of a practice is that it needs to be something you can do every day without fail. Getting out in nature works great when you can make it out the door, but if seasonality, or other concerns, blocks your practice, you need another.
This is not to say that you cannot have more than one practice! The nature of a crisis is its unpredictability, so its good to have two or three ways that you consistently alter consciousness and connect.
I go for walks in three of the four seasons, but I also have some rituals that have been working for me. I hope you will share yours here as well. After breakfast, once my husband has left for work, I take a sage leaf, light it from the gas stove flame and give a quick smudge to the house. At first, I just said the words, but gradually my brain started to come along for the ride, and now just picking up the sage is enough to trigger a different state of mind. After I smudge, if I am going to be home, I light a candle to one of my deities and dedicate the day’s work to them. If I need to head out, I do the dedication without the candle.
Another practice that I treasure is working with prayer beads. My beads are a representation of Plato’s cosmology. and mirror the (mostly) monthly ritual I offer to my local community. I love the beads because I can do my practice without looking. Each bead represents an element, ancestors, guides or god(s), and each is different. I can tell easily by touch where I am in the sequence. This means I can do prayers as I fall asleep, which helps quiet my absurdly busy brain. As I touch each bead, I say the evocation and offer a feeling of respect and love. I start with the land spirits. This first bead came from a tree that saved our house during hurricane Sandy. Two other trees got firmly caught in its wide branches instead of falling on our house. That beautiful maple could not be saved when they came to take down the tangle, but having that bead is an ever-present reminder of the magic around me.
Then there is a bead for each element, a bead for ancestors of the blood, and a series of smaller beads for those of my blood line who have gone beyond the veil. Then a bead for the ancestors of the land; those that lived here before us. Next is a bead for ancestors of the spirit; those that cared for me but are not in my bloodline. Then a bead for the guides, one for the planets, one for angels and daemons, then beads for each of the gods with whom I work directly, and one last one for all the gods.
I don’t always make it through the whole strand before dosing off, but the beads are on a leatherette cord so it won’t break it if it floats around under my pillow. They go with me when I travel. So far I haven’t flown with them, but it seems unlikely the TSA would object.
What mini rituals nurture you, and build your connection to the unseen?
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