Deep to on High: Traveling the Way of the River

A Wiccan priestess/UU minister transplanted from Central Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon, helping those who seek intimacy with the One Who is Many—Male, Female, Both, and Neither—through ritual, seasonal observance, mythology, divination, and examination of current events.

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A Witch's Practice of Prayer: It's within You (part 2)

When last we met, I quoted the last line from a version of the Charge of the Star Goddess:  “…if that which you seek, you do not find within yourself, you shall surely never find it without. For behold, I have been with you since the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.” 

I find this last sentence so compelling because it reminds us of Who we are. Some people say we are spiritual beings having a human experience. I’m not sure I subscribe entirely to that position, given that I believe in a theology of immanence, that the Holy is here and now in this place and this time, wherever one is, and that the human experience is holy of itself, and doesn’t need a separate category of spiritual-ness to make it sacred…but that’s for a separate time.

I routinely pray the Charge as I might have prayed the Hail Mary, growing up. I can still recite those familiar words, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…” and could probably do so while sleepwalking. As my theology has shifted over time to be more Pagan, though still what I call Christian-adjacent, the Charges have become more and more important.

My friend and working partner, Dr. Jonathan White, has written new versions of the Charges, and they continue to evolve as times goes on. Here is one version of the Charge of the Star Goddess:

“I who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the desire of the human heart, call out to you.  Arise, and come unto me.  I will come also unto you, for in Me all that exists is made sacred.  For I am the font of secrets, and I am the spiral path that the universe dances.  Let My worship be within the rejoicing heart, for all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.  Seek Me in the light that is in the darkness, and seek Me in the dark itself.  But know that your seeking and yearning will not avail you unless you know the mystery—that if you do not find what you seek within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

That last bit haunts me in my prayer life, because it demands a mysterious understanding. Throughout the Charge, we hear things like, “Arise, and come unto Me” and “Seek Me,” and yet the admonition at the end of the Charge is that She/They/The Goddess is found “within yourself.”

All this seeking and yearning leads us where? Back to the place we started, back home, as T.S. Eliot would say, and perhaps finding it for the first time. We come back to ourselves, like the prodigal son in the Abrahamic Hebrew Scriptures. We come back to our own innermost being, and find the Goddess there within us all along.

A spiritual director/accompanist of mine from many years ago, a Roman Catholic sister, said that she knew her discernment was getting to a powerful place when she could not tell the Spirit of God from the whisperings of her own heart. When they seemed entirely consonant with one another. She was a powerful pray-er, and her meditations were relentless in their consistency and openness.

If the Goddess is within us—if that which we seek is within us and She is what we seek—then what responsibilities do we have?

How, then, does our prayer and ritual life demand that we live?

How do we honor the fact that we have been together with the Goddess, one with Her, from the beginning of time, that the hydrogen atoms making up the water of our blood have been here since the beginning of matter and this universe? That in some real ways, we are eternal even in our matter and energy, not only in some soul-consciousness way? Our matter continues as long as the universe endures.

I believe that one way we do this honoring, one way we find our own, personal and communal responsibilities, is through prayers of discernment. That we go offering, not begging, as Thorn Coyle says. That we offer ourselves to Earth and its inhabitants, to human beings individually and collectively, to Love’s strange and mysterious impulses to insist on our own rights and those of others…ultimately, that we offer ourselves to be changed, to be reformed into awareness of the Divine realty we already own and for which we are already responsible.

It is prayer, Communion with that which is both deepest within me and furthest and most transcendent, that helps me achieve that awareness of Love.

Again, let me say as I did last time that I may not know fully to Whom or to What I am praying—from the neck up, I confess I am somewhat agnostic on the matter. But I know that when I pray, I am made better in my own perception, more loving, more fruitful, and more joyous.

That is to say, neither my practice nor my deeply felt beliefs may not always jive with my intellectual process. The transrational—neither rational nor irrational—governs my spiritual and religious practice, and prayer is an essential part of that transrational experience.

 

Next up, resistance to prayer, where it comes from and how we might respond to it, if we care to. 

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I am an initiated priestess in the tradition of Stone Circle Wicca, and began my Pagan studies in 1990. I have led rituals for thousands of people, in ceremonies as large as 400 in a Circle of Standing Stones under dozens of branching oaks and tulip poplars, and in rituals as small as a couple of folks in a living room. I am an affiliated UU minister with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, GA. I also provide spiritual direction—what I call spiritual accompaniment or sacred conversation—and have for over 15 years. Over that time, I have been with individual people of many faiths and none as they explored, encountered, and shared their relationships with the Divine. You are welcome to my spiritual accompaniment page for a fuller invitation.  

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