Category Archives: prayer

Thank you.

The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses:
 who has not heard them?  
They have a silence that speaks for them
at night and when the clock counts.  

They say, We were young. 
We have died. Remember us.   

They say, We have done what we could 
but until it is finished it is not done.  
They say, We have given our lives
but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.  

They say, Our deaths are not ours:
they are yours: they will mean what you make them.  
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope
or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this. 

They say, We leave you our deaths: 
give them their meaning: give them an end to the war
and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war 
and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.

We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us. 

poem by Archibald MacLeish

Today is about the men and women that have died in service to their country, regardless of their race, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexuality, marital status and nationality.  It is about someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s father, someone’s aunt or uncle or cousin, someone’s grandfather or grandmother or however many great’s one might need to add, someone’s lover, someone’s partner, someone’s friend.

Today is not about a barbecue or camping trip.  It is not about a boat ride, or trip to the beach.  It is not about that furniture sale for snaging a new area rug or an ottoman.  Today is not about you and, even as a veteran, it is not about me–it is about the men and women that never got to come home and hang up their uniform and trade in their combat boots for sneakers or heels.  Today is about the men and women that didn’t get to see their children grow up, or graduate, or give them grandchildren to spoil.  I don’t think the men and women that chose to put themselves in harm’s way because they believed in the ideal of service and freedom would begrudge you any of those things…indeed, I think many of them, were they still with us, would be enjoying a cold one in the hand and hot one off the grill.  But.

A midst our weekend plans, it is our mission to remember that our barbecue or camping trip or visit to the zoo is made possible by the death of our brothers and sisters–of somebody’s mother, somebody’s son.

War is brutal, it is bloody, and it kills.  There is no glory in war, no glory in sending our mothers and fathers and sons and daughters to kill another’s mothers and fathers and sons and daughters.  It is a tragic and painful fact that every nation and every generation has seen conflict escalate to war–whether it be to combat a cruel leader seeking to oppress their people (or another’s people), or a hapless legislature sending their might abroad for spurious reasons.  Humanity will never be perfect, there will always be someone that is willing to kill in the most heinous of ways to achieve power, and there will always need to be someone willing to take up arms against them.  This means that the innocent will die alongside the not-so innocent, and that communities and entire countries will be ravaged, both the people and the land.  There may be no glory in war, but there can be honor in service.  There is honor in protecting our homes, our families, our land, and our ideals.  There is honor in standing up for the downtrodden, for seeking to bring justice where there was tyranny, and to try our damnedest to secure equality and freedom for a new generation.

There are many reasons that men and women choose to serve their country, and there are men and women that are unwillingly selected to serve their country and choose to fulfill that requirement out obligation.  Regardless of reason or length of service, they are all worthy of our respect.  They serve in times of war, in times of peace, as well as the in-between.  Many, if not most, of them come home, but none of them are unchanged by the experience.  And many of them, too many of them, do not return at all.

Let us remember the countless and often unknown women that have served their country from its conception and died in combat, despite prohibitions against such service.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember those that have served their country to protect rights they could only hope that they could one day claim as well, from the Colored Troops of the Civil War to the gay and lesbian troops still fighting for equal protection of the law and equal recognition of their families.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember those of the Pagan community that have given their life in service to their country, despite often being an unrespected minority in both environments.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember those that have died in service, whether that be in the moment of battle, or months or years after they have returned to a home-that-is-no-longer-home, unable to find their way.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember all of those that have died fulfilling their Oath of Enlistment–to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, bearing true faith and allegiance to the same, and doing their job, so that others within our populace do not have to.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember the still missing, far from home, whose bodies have never been recovered and returned.  May their families one day find solace and closure.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us celebrate their lives, however short they may have been cut. Let us thank their families and extend them our sympathies, for the anguish of loss that has allowed us to stay home, or to come home safely if we have served. Let us remember, and let us find a way to give their lives and their deaths meaning.

Hail the honored dead!

Let their deaths be a solemn reminder on this day, and every day, to treat one another with compassion, to honor and respect our differences as well as our similarities, and to live our lives in a manner that kindles the spirit of peace a little bit stronger and a little bit longer, pushing back the darkness of war for as long as we are able.

 

**Note**
The Hubby and I have been working on a family ritual for Memorial Day for some time.  As veterans, both of us have lost friends–family really, to our current wars.  Both of our families have had somewhat of a tradition of service, and between the two of us, we have had family serve in all four branches of the military and in all of this country’s major wars.  We choose, on this day (or sometimes on the Monday), to pay our respects to the sacrifice of the 1.3-1.7 million Americans that have died (numbers vary a bit) in service to their country, and to their countrymen.   We combine the Pagan traditions of the dumb supper, or of leaving and offering for the gods or one’s ancestors, with the military’s tradition of “the little white table” that features so hauntingly in chow halls and shipboard mess decks to honor the missing and the prisoners of war that cannot be with us, by adding a place at the table as a memorial, a tribute, and an invitation.  Tomorrow (while I’m at work), The Hubby is going to try his first solo craft with the kidlets, making poppies using paper plates and peanut butter cup wrappers, in an adaptation of these instructions.   This year, we’ve decided to add the playing of The Last Post and Taps (The Last Post is a British tradition, but was the original “taps” call for us as well until the writing of Taps during our Civil War) at the beginning and the end of our moment of silence (at this point, about all a 6 and 4 year old can manage), before reading the above (which has been cobbled together and adapted from the past few Memorial Day posts I’ve written), and following it up with a prayer from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s “Bless All Who Serve”.  Over time, as their capacity to understand grows, we would like to include them more and to add some other readings, as well as a roll call of sorts of the number of casualties for each war…and extend the moment of silence for the entire meal–I’d also like to work on creating a special meal, though I haven’t had the chance to work on that yet.


Sunday Musings

I'm distracting myself from current events by organizing my pictures...this is from when Chickadee went to work with me!

I’m distracting myself from current events by organizing my pictures…this is from when Chickadee went to work with me!

In the simmer pot:  Thalassa’s Yule Blend

*Half an orange, sliced (or one small orange)
*A handful of cranberries
*One cinnamon stick, crushed
*The peel of one apple
*A bit of grated ginger root
*Two handfuls of white pine needles, chopped and bruised

In my tea cup: Thalassa’s Yule Blend, plus honey

Like most parents, I was shocked and saddened to hear what happened in Connecticut.  My first reaction was to get my kids and squish them until they’d had enough of that and rebelled.  My second reaction was to put it away and stop thinking about it–how can any of us even begin to fathom what it would be like to lose a child like this?  I’ve lost a child, and I can’t even begin to wrap my head around losing a child like this.  …Finally, after I actually got to squish my kids (because by then, The Hubby and I had gotten to discuss it in the car, and we’d picked up the kids), and I was on the computer, my third reaction was to turn my damn computer off (since we don’t have cable, the internet is my news).  The only thing that I’ve read that made any sense (and didn’t piss me off) was this:

Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed
people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Morgan Freeman

I only have one thing to say about about this incident, beyond remembering these children, their teachers and other school staff whose lives were taken, their families and friends, and their community–I don’t care what your religious opinion or your political bent is, your position on the lack of accessible mental health care, or your stance on gun control, etc. Keep it to yourself, your ego has no room in their tragedy. Let them grieve, have some empathy for their families, and grow some compassion in your own life.  I get that it is natural to feel anger about something that we fear, and fear something that we have no power over, and to seek to control whatever it is that we can control to cope with events like this.  If you need to, be angry tomorrow.  Right now, remember these families and go home and play with your children or call your parents, visit with your neighbors and friends…and maybe by reaching out (not just today, but every day), we can bring the world in, and make it something better, gentler.

Moment of Zen: Light a Candle

In times of sorrow, of worry, of despair, a candle is a symbol of hope.  In an oppressive darkness, one tiny flame flickering in the distance is a beacon of love and warmth and peace.  The Kalahari Bushmen once believed that the stars in the sky were the campfires of distant peoples, just as a campfire in the distance on the plains of Africa were a sign of Kin nearby.  Though less of us experience the near total darkness of the endless sky (and the billions of stars that serve as the reminder that we are not truly alone) than in previous generations because of proximity to cities and towns and light pollution, we can all imagine the power of a light in the darkness–it is one of the strongest images in the Human psyche.  Light a candle to bring warmth and hope to your home and to your heart.  Let that light shine into you and through you into the world.

Yule is the Season of Hope, the Season of Turning from Despair, the Season that teaches us that Life Goes On.  Whether one celebrates the return of the Sun, the birth of a holy child, or the miracle of light to anoint a desecrated temple is immaterial.  It doesn’t matter if you think that “Reason is the reason for the season” or that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas” or that we need to put the “Sol in Solstice”–what is important is that dawn will break on a new day, after the Longest Night, and give us yet another chance to move forward with love and compassion.  Another chance to live on and Remember, and to give Meaning to what we have lost.

Herb of the Week: Rosemary for Rememberance

“There’s rosemary; that’s for remembrance.
Pray, love, remember.”
~Shakespeare, Hamlet

Rosemary has long been the symbol of remembrance.  Its name comes from the Latin for dew (ros) of the sea (marinus)…and as an herb of the Sea, and of Water, it makes perfect sense that it would be the herb that represents the memory and promise of love between friends and family.  Rosemary is a perennial woody evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean that will happily grow in a window-box garden.  Rosemary can be used in rituals of remembrance, among other things.

Yuletide Afterschooling:  Our vocabulary words for the week are solstice, equinox, equator, hemisphere, tilt, axis, and orbit.  We’ve mostly been talking about winter solstice traditions around the world, and the science of the seasons (more on this in another post!).   But we’ve also been talking about Hope, and about Myth, and about living with kindness and intention.

In other news…I’m working on some personal projects behind the scenes that I would *like* to see manifest themselves enough to share.  So…I’m keeping the fingers crossed and candles lit on this!

I’ve also been working on some of my other blogs (the ones I keep separately so I don’t bog this one down with *too* much off topic stuff)…so if you are interested in learning more about finding your way around Navy ships or learning about mole crabs, check them out!  I’m also hoping to get another Yule post or two out on here, as well as one on how our mental and emotional baggage can manifest mundanely and psychically and how it can be dealt with in meditation and ritual.

A Prayer for Today:

These woods are dark
this path is shadowed
walk with me
and hold me fast in your grace
that I might banish my fears
that I might overcome what lies ahead
with your blessing
I will emerge from this darkness
and breathe free again
So mote it be

(Diane Sylvan)

And a Hope for Tomorrow:

In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway, And so it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it put off enjoying those things for which we were presumably designed in the first place…the opportunity to do good work, to fall in love, to enjoy friends, to hit a ball, to bounce a baby…

Alistair Clark, One Man’s America


…just a myth

I think you are wrong.

I expect you think I am wrong too. And guess what? That is perfectly okay.

Really. I am not offended by the idea that you think I am wrong. I’m not offended by the idea that thinking I am wrong means that you think you are right. I’m not offended by the idea that you have a radically different world view than mine.

Don’t get all exited by my lack of offense though…I am offended by some things.

I’m offended when you use your beliefs to dictate the legality of others actions. I’m offended when you misrepresent other beliefs out of ignorance or asshattery (or both). I’m offended when you make criticisms of other beliefs while refusing to put yours to the same scrutiny.

I think you are wrong.

Because if I didn’t, I’d be in your church praying to your god.

~as said by me, in conversation with two very nice young Mormon boys that came a-knocking on my door (we always invite them in for cookies, lemonade and good-natured discussion and debate) about a year or so ago

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

A week or so ago, Star Foster posted a rejection of Jesus on her blog (I might often disagree with her, but there’s also interesting stuff there), as did another blogger that I follow, and in response, a third blogger I follow responded with some humor (and perhaps a wee bit of snark).  All of this was in response to a rather presumptuous and fairly obnoxious ill-informed post by a Catholic blogger over at Patheos, which garnered quite a reaction (I think this one was the best).

Normally I would simply have left my commentary on the matter in the comments of their respective blogs if I felt so inclined, but a few days ago one of my favorite bloggers left me a comment that made me think of that long-ago conversation.  It also made me think about handling the most fundamental disagreement that comes from two opposing world views; when two people think they are right, they automatically think the other person is wrong.  Since being “wrong” is usually seen as a bad thing, we are pretty much conditioned to have a negative reaction to being told (explicitly or implicitly) that we are wrong.

For all that I write about having manners when discussing religion,  I don’t think that having manners means leaving disagreement behind.  In all actuality, I think that part of having manners is being respectfully honest.  The honest truth about religion is that the only thing that determines “right” is belief.  It goes without saying that I believe I’m right (or at least more right than the next guy), or else I’d have different beliefs. It also goes without saying that people with diametrically different and even opposed beliefs believe that they are right as well.  So, we can’t all be right (unless there are multiple dimensions of reality or some other wacky string theory idea); nor can we independently and objectively verify who might possibly be right (there’s no way to dip out the measuring spoon for god).

Unlike Star and John, I’ve never felt the need to “divorce” Jesus or reject Christianity.  I’ve said it before–I was raised in a liberal Christian tradition, leaving Christianity was based in a disagreement with the basic claim of Christian theology, the need for salvation.  Because I’ve never believed in a need for salvation, a literal belief in Jesus has never been a necessity for me, and because I was raised in an environment free from the mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical abuse that sometime accompanies stricter Christianities, I’ve been free to look at the story of Jesus in a different and ultimately liberating way…as just a myth.

I’ll admit, there is small part of me that loves calling it “just a myth” in the same tone as those who call evolution “just a theory”.  Of course, that same (bitchy) part of me also enjoys agreeing that evolution is indeed “a theory”…and pointing out that even more, it is a scientific theory, and there is no “just” about it .  But really, “just a myth” is only an insult if you don’t understand what a myth actually is, or the importance of myth.

Myths are traditional stories that explain a culture’s historical beliefs on the origins of the world and mankind, the relationship of mankind with the gods, the place of gods and man in the world, the values of the culture and the desired behaviors of members of that cultre (usually by demonstrating what happens when one doesn’t fulfill them).  More importantly, myth is the collective search of humanity for truth, meaning and significance in the experience of life, so that it resonates beyond the merely physical (and short) time that we are alive into something more.  While myths can be rooted in factual events or completely made up (but often believed to be true), they embody a truth that deeper and more meaningful that a literal truth could be, because it is not merely a literal truth (and even when one knows they are not).   Myths are the collective ideas that define us–our values and what we value (which are not always the same thing), and how we view and interact with the universe and with each other.

Religions don’t need their stories to be literally true, it is people that need to believe their mythology as literal truth.  Perhaps because we have been programmed to think that we have to be “right”, and if we are “right”, then everyone else must be “wrong”.  Or maybe its because we have been conditioned to think that only the literal truth matters.  But a story doesn’t need to be literally true to be important and it doesn’t need need historical accuracy for it to have meaning.  I don’t need my religious beliefs to be “right” to be true, and I don’t need them to be literally true to be right for me.  Nor do I need to formally reject the ideas that I think are wrong for me…its enough for me that I just don’t believe in them or follow them.  The mythology of the Bible and the Abrahamic faiths is just as legitimate (and no more) as the mythology of the Celts, the Greeks, the Norse, the Egyptians, etc.  They are all just as legitimate, and still, just a myth.


Writing (Pagan) Prayers III

If you haven’t read them already, you might want to catch up with Part I and Part II!

Common Mistakes and Other Advice:

  • Don’t make your prayer too long (particularly if other people have to listen to it)
  • Don’t use exclusive language (I mentioned language in the 1st part of this, but its worth looking at again)
  • If your prayer is part of a larger service or ritual, make sure it fits the theme!  Nothing worse than writing a prayer about the wrong thing…unless its reading it to a couple dozen people
  • Use simple language that evokes a particular image
  • Stick with a single extended metaphor and make you wording fit that narrative
  • Some repetition is good, too much is annoying
  • Keep it simple, and remember who its written for (prayers are after all for gods, before they are for people)
  • Read it aloud to yourself, written prayers should sound good too!
  • If you get stuck, go prayer or poem hunting online for inspiration on your topic

Why DIY?

So…when we have all sorts of historical prayers, why bother to write your own?

Because prayer is a conversation with the divine, and conversation from a couple thousand years ago isn’t always relevant to the problems of today. Sometimes they are, and in those cases, use them! There is a power in repeating words that have bridged from antiquity and survived the trials of time. But sometimes, they aren’t applicable–in their entirety…so adapt them! In fact, sometimes modern prayers from other religions might be perfectly applicable in terms of what they are praying for, just not who they are praying to…they can be adapted too. An example of both is my Prayer for Clean Air, which uses a historical phrase and heavily adapts parts from an originally Christian prayer.

Or…why not just go free-form and improvisational?

Because prayer is a conversation with the divine, we should want to make it as powerful as it can be, and IMO, we should share powerful words for those that share a powerful vision. The word that is repeated is believed, and the word that is believed is lived–the more people that repeat words of power, the more people that are living them. The more people that share that power, more more likely we are to manifest it. Free-form and improvisational prayers are awesome and they can be very powerful–but they are powerful in the short term and they are limited to the people that are there. A written prayer travels better, and longer, and can be visited in a way that a poem that arises in the moment cannot (unless maybe its recorded and put on youtube…but even then, improv prayers are constructs of the moment).

Why should anyone go to all this work, if prayer is just a conversation with the divine?

Because its a conversation with the divine!  Would you mom rather have a phone call or a card on Mother’s Day? Don’t you wear nice clothes to a job interview? Take a housewarming gift to a housewarming party for your best friend? If you are speaking with the divine for a formal purpose, shouldn’t it be with your best words?  When you want to talk about something important, writing it down is generally a helpful thing to do.  And…if its a public conversation as part of a ritual with others, shouldn’t it be in a way that moves your audience as well?


Writing (Pagan) Prayers II

Continued from Part I…

Writing Prayers:

So, when it comes to writing a prayer as a Pagan, particularly if it is going to be used for a group, or shared with the intent that others might find it useful, the first place to start is with the intent.  And since I’ve already been playing with paint for this post…

…that was so much easier then trying to write that in a way that made sense!!  Although, it leaves some things out before the “get writing” stage (I ran out of room, lol).

In addition to the intent of the prayer, which determines the type of prayer to use, and the deity that it will be directed at, the next thing to consider is the theme.  A prayer with an overall image or overarching metaphor to project can be quite powerful.  Similarly to spell crafting, this is where knowing correspondences can come in handy (for example, water makes for a good imagery for prayers dealing with emotion or earth for growth, etc).  It can also be beneficial to know what deities might be most appropriate to direct it to (while water might have an association with childbirth, Poseidon isn’t necessarily the best deity to direct that particular prayer to), although being a devotee of a particular deity might override whether or not something is their specialty.  Another thing to keep in mind while writing the prayer is choosing the right sort of language for your audience (the link is to a Christian blog which shares some good advice).

Prayer Structures:

This layout, in the Christian tradition is called the “collect form” prayer, and is the basic structure for petitioning and thanksgiving prayers:

  1. Invocation–the naming of the god(s) we are asking to come to our aid, etc, and the invitation for them to hear our prayer
  2. Relative Clause–the recognition of their titles/traits and they ways in which they are important
  3. Petition/Thanksgiving–the request for assistance, blessing, etc OR  statements of adoration and thanksgiving
  4. Statement of Purpose–I’d call this one “the trade-off”, if I were in charge of the naming conventions…but its basically your promise/commitment of worship or homage to the god(s)
  5. Conclusion–the closing statement (Amen equivalents–blessed be, etc)
If you look at a historical Pagan prayer, it even follows the same lay out, though (if you checked out the link and read the Christian examples) there is a different emphasis in many ancient Pagan prayers than there is in modern Christian ones.  As an example, I’ve included the Orphic hymn to Athena, which has a quite lengthy relative clause, compared to the petitionary section, and there isn’t all that much of the so-called statement of purpose (probably deemed unnecessary because all of the relative clause buttering up…and the offering of incense).

To Athena, with an incense of aromatic herbs.
Pallas, you only-begotten One, born of mighty Zeus, awesome you are, and divine:
Goddess so blessed, lifting high the turmoil of the fray,
Mighty One unspeakable yet so well spoken of!
Great-named One at home in a vault of stone,
Caught up in haughty hills and wandering the shaded mountain’s ridge,
You who put a dance in the heart and glory in embattlements,
You can put the sting of mania into a mortal soul!
Athletic Maiden with a heart sublime,
Slayer of the Gorgon, fugitive of the bridal bed,
Mother of Art in all your abundance, catalyst of progress!
You bring folly to the corrupt and a sense of purpose to the pure!
Indeed, you are male and female in one,
Patron of war and wisdom,
You are fluid of form, a dragon,
Infused with inspiration of the Gods!
Rightly-honored One, who brought Phlegran giants down to defeat,
You driver of steeds, Tritogeneia, save us from evil, bearing Victory in your arms!
Day and night, eternally, in even the loneliest hours,
Hear my prayer, and grant us an abundant peace, fulfillment, good health.
Make prosperous the hour, gray-eyed One, inventor of Art,
The object of the people’s ceaseless prayers–
My Queen!

to be continued…


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