Mothering with a Pagan Perspective
the prayer of the mothers
If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling, hands folded to a private sign. We recognize it. If there is a mother kneeling, hands a tent, she is praying or she is crying or crying and praying at the same time. Although it is recognized, the signals of it, it is private and no one knows, perhaps not even she, the content of the prayer, and perhaps its object. If there is a mother praying, she is on her knees over some object, as one does not often pray in the middle of the room. One prays at the window or over the bed, the head bent slightly up or down, the eyes open or closed. This is a prayer for prayers, you know, a wanting something equal to a prayer, even though I am not a mother.
--Disciplines by Dawn Lundy Martin
Before I had a child, when I had the luxury to spend my time deconstructing and analyzing theology, I worked through and digested the baggage around prayer acquired from my Catholic upbringing. The very word sat badly with me at first, reminding me of churchgoers begging forgiveness for sinfulness or making endless petitions. At worst, these kinds of prayers felt transactional, something I wish to avoid within my own sacred relationships. As a childfree pagan going through a reactionary phase, while I would do formal magick on my own behalf, I made a bit of a point of only doing prayers of devotion when outside of a Circle.
Now, as a mother, I pray constantly. Despite my personal opinion that the the collective host of non-corporeal/energetic Powers are beings with whom we enter into relationship, and thus should not be called on the psychic phone only when we need something, I find myself making petitions. It's my constant refrain, reflexive, in any moment when I feel particularly aware of how precious and ephemeral I find my daughter: let her be safe and well. This deepest wish of my heart has been a practice, has been part of my Ancestor relationship, and has been consistent since I discovered my pregnancy. Even when the offering bowls are dry, the candles are dusty, and the hymns unsung, I pray for her safety and wellbeing.
This isn't the way I wish to conduct my Alliances but with a toddler underfoot the only thing I can manage most days is the intention and the thought. Please, I pray, and then, thank you. I often feel bad about this, like I should be doing more, like I'm not holding up my end of my sacred relationships.
I think I need to give myself a break around this point. The Buddha walked away from his son after naming him “fetter." It’s true: children present a challenge to living a spiritual life with formal practices. It requires a robust gratitude habit to counterbalance the intense aggravation of caring for a small child (who has the innate knack to push all of my buttons), the patience to start where I am -- however lacking I find it -- and the willingness to accept my frailties and failures, every day. That's a significant set of practices, and being dissatisfied that they are weighed more towards the inward rather than the outward discounts their importance.
For me, prayer is a form of connection. Whether that connection is to deity, to the cosmos, or to something else doesn't really matter...Prayer is a pause. A re-centering. Prayer is a remembrance that I am not alone and that my life is supported by a web of existence.
--The Practice of Prayer, by Thorn Coyle.
It helps when I keep Thorn's words in mind. Praying for my daughter connects me to her and to all mothers. Wishing for my child's safety and happiness reminds me that life is fleeting and grounds me in the present moment. Even if the Powers turned Their faces from me while I'm absent and distracted (and would they, really? My corporeal friends understand the demands of parenthood; would the Powers to do less?) my higher self, She Who Listens and acts in accordance with my best intentions, recieves my prayers.
Most of my actions carry my intention to help my daughter, nourish her, encourage her, and shelter her: blessings over her clothes; herbs in her pockets; stories that keep the magick of the world alive; time in nature to allow her to form her own alliances; healthy food; a tidy environment; loving touch and snuggles; and as much of my focused attention as I can manage. These things are my practice. There will be time for more later, when she's older. For the rest of my life I imagine that I will silently sing the constant refrain of the mother: protect her, let her thrive. It is the mothers who pray, in every breath.
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