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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hear my prayer...

There's a saying in neopaganism "ask three pagans a question and you'll get five answers", well I think if you ask three neopagans about prayer you may get seven answers. It always surprises me that something that seems so essential to me can cause so much controversy in the larger neopagan community; after all prayer can be found (as far as I know) in every culture and religion around the world. Yet there are some people who are very firm in their opinions that prayer has no place in neopaganism. The same is true in Recon. although I've seen it more in heathenry than CR. There just seems to be something about prayer - especially daily or devotional prayer - that really puts some people off. Now don't get me wrong I'm all in favor of personal practice being unique and I don't think what works for me should be required for anyone else; I may pray daily and someone else may never pray outside of ritual, or at all, and that's fine. What I don't understand is people who are totally against the concept altogether.
   There seems to be some idea that prayer, daily or devotional prayer that is, is a "Christian thing", despite the fact that it is seen in many other cultures.  I am not as open about this as I used to be because when I talk about it I almost inevitably am accused of having Christian baggage - hilarious since I wasn't raised Christian and only studied Christianity as an adult long after my habit of daily prayer was begun. But the whole "Christian baggage" thing is a common accusation in some pagan and Recon debates, tossed out without any supporting argument, and used as if it were the final word. The equivalent of saying "No one should listen to you because you think like one of them". Like a child shouting "you have cooties!"
   Personally I love prayer; I pray in the mornings and I pray at night because I find it helps me feel both connected to Powers beyond myself - be they my ancestors, the daione sidhe, or the Gods - and that I get a feeling of peace and centered-ness from prayer. I pray because I want to pray and because I enjoy praying. Prayer is a little way, on a regular basis, to strengthen and reaffirm my relationship with those Powers. I may accompany my prayers with little offerings - incense, candles, herbs, actions - or I may only offer my own energy. I tend to follow the Celtic practice of singing my prayers, making little chants and songs out of traditional material I have reworked or writing my own. I may pray to ask for things like protection for my home and family or blessings, or I may just pray to honor whoever I am praying to. I try to have fun with it; I once made a prayer to Odin in limerick form, even. I feel like I am giving my energy and focus to those Powers for that time and I also feel like I am getting something out of it because it does help me feel better and more connected to them.
   There is a lot of beauty in prayer that I wish more people were open to, even if they don't choose to do it.


  1. I too believe in prayer. I was, however, raised in a Catholic home so it was a natural transition from viewing the Virgin Mary to that of a goddess figure. I also do personal daily devotionals and daily honoring of my ancestors. As you've stated, it creates a connection to the divine that supports one's beliefs and comforts one in ways that only FAITH can... and FAITH is not something owned ONLY by the Judeo-Christian-Muslim culture. It is something for all to use in celebration of their beliefs.

  2. I so agree and have been frustrated by this as well. I do think part of the response is the knee-jerk anti-Christian thing that is so common, especially if someone felt forced or, at least, pressured in their youth to pray. I think we do carry over from our experiences. As I knew few Catholics who used the Rosary as a devotion, as opposed to repentance, I never really felt drawn to any other sort of prayer beads myself, although I don't feel a need to be hostile about others using them.

    I think for some there is also some turn off for some, I think, in that prayer often becomes associated primarily with asking for things rather than devotion. There are, after all, people who do just ask, or even demand, almost endlessly, with no giving...same with some spell work and why some Reconstructionist types seem hostile to any magic work. I think that there are times and reasons to ask for things, and we see this in the Irish literature (Tulchaine asking An Morrígan to steal Dil's cattle so she'd come out of the Sídhe and marry him English, Irish for example), but I think some are so focused on what they want that for some others the idea of prayer is a turn off. If they have had no other examples (because this is certainly something many in our "birth religions" do as well as Pagans) then I think they just can't seem to get that there is a devotional place for prayer as well.

    Thank you for bringing this up.

  3. worth considering too, that not all prayer is "sitting on santa's lap asking for stuff" There's lots of differnet types of prayer, from intecessory to thanksgiving, to communing with spirit

    and, given that it's been proven to have positive effects on health, you'd think more pagans would be claiming it for themselves