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: Part One

Good day, dear friends, and welcome to January 2018!

Today, and for the next few entries, I want to talk about the practice of prayer. Prayer is something of which I’ve noticed many of my Pagan friends and colleagues are suspicious. It smacks of Abrahamic religions (especially Christian traditions) by which they have been rooted, or seems somehow antithetical to our own practices of magic. 

On the contrary, for me, prayer is an essential part of my practice. It is fundamental.

So what is this thing I’m calling prayer, and what is the background that informs my understanding of it?

I am a former Catholic who struggles

mightily with that religion and tradition,

both loving it and rejecting it.

…am a co-founder of a Pagan religious

tradition called Stone Circle Wicca.

…am, according to one teacher, constantly

trying to look into the “kaleidoscope face of

the Divine.”

…have a Masters of Divinity and was

ordained by a Unitarian Universalist

congregation in the spring of 2015.

…am an agnostic. I know that we don’t

really know anything much about any of

this.

…am nonetheless a mystic:  I know the benevolent powers of Love and

the force that is the tissue of the Universe,

and I trust those powers living within me as

my deepest, wisest self.

So what is my definition of prayer, and how is a relevant to someone who is a committed Pagan and Unitarian Universalist?

I’ve often heard prayer described as “talking to God.” (Sometimes the caveat, “and meditation is listening to God,” is added to that description.)

Neither of those descriptions really do it for me. 

For my money, prayer is not so much about communication, per se, as it is about communion. About putting myself into a state of awareness of Divine Love.. 

Prayer is paying attention. Prayer is a practice of gratitude, of sharing “through the open door of my heart,” as the Sufis say, what is with me and what I am struggling with. Prayer is a way of connecting with my own deepest, wisest self. 

Most of my prayer is about simply allowing myself to rest in the Presence and Embrace of Divine Love. It is simply quieting myself to receive what is given in that moment. And perhaps what is most important, prayer is about allowing myself to be steadily changed over time. 

Intellectually, I recognize that I don’t ultimately know the makeup of to What or to Whom I am praying. But in practice—a presence bolstered by transrational belief and affection—I bring myself into the lap of the Goddess, to the feet of Her Altars, and just allow myself to Be. 

What I know in my bones is that when I pray, when I sit before my own altars—to Aphrodite, Brigid, or the great Mystery of deep wisdom—and bring myself to awareness, my life is improved. I am more joyful, wise, and fruitful. I don’t know all the mechanisms of how prayer works, but I know it changes me in the ways I long to be changed. 

And after all, “…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.” 

Next time, more on that last phrase from the Charge of the Star Goddess and its relationship to my prayer life. 

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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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