Learning prayer : Inspired by Praying with Body and Soul by Jane Vennard

How I Pray

When I think of the format of a pray, I think of how a ritual is created. First, I ground myself and clear my mind in order for my highest voice to emerge. Then, I acknowledge the sacred place and time. I invoke the energies I want to speak to such as the Goddess, Divine love, etc depending on my currents needs or temperament. Then, I simply speak from the heart, my most urgent desire or gratitude. However, prayer often comes to me without  planning or structure. There are times when I simply close eyes and  words pouring out as if I am a vessel. I often wonder if I am talking to the Divine or is  Divine talking to and through me. Mostly, prayer is my way of letting go of barriers and letting my natural wisdom flow through.

My Definition of Prayer

Prayer  is a creative expression of  one’s connection to their inner spirit, their world and the Divine.  I use prayer to get to know myself again.Prayer reminds where my passions are, where my fear lies and the places within me that are longing to be healed. Prayer helps me to come out of hiding to face my demons, wounds and seemingly hopeless dreams. There is a feeling that this is between me and “God” therefore I am free to be fully me. It was the descriptions of a nonjudgmental God in Praying with Body and Soul that challenges me to use prayer as a fearless gateway to self honesty. Jane Vennard states about her own practice that, “ Prayer has become for me the practice of bringing all of who I have been, all of who I am, and all of who I am becoming into relationship with God.” (2)  Her words removes the secrecy and shame from faith and allows prayer to finally be real. In this way, prayer becomes about true love. We, not only, give ourselves completely to the Divine, we also remove our masks  learn to love ourselves through that union.

Prayer can center us in a way that we developed the capacity to send our compassion out into the world. Through prayer we are reminded of the interdependence of life and  the blessings of  our world.  We remember that we are all God’s children or we are all the Goddess. It is through this realization that many of us develop a longing help ease the suffering of others and come into communion with our world. Vennard highlights interdependence of our world by recounting an praying exercise that challenged her group to say “ that is God” is every situation. That story reminds me of one of my favorite prayers from a the Wiccan book:  The Circle Within by Dianne Sylvan:

“Thou art Goddess

Thou art God

 I grant you from a place of love

 I will honor us both

We breath the same air,

we the same pains,

 do are best with what we know.

 It will honor us both.

Thou art Goddess.

Thou art God.

 As am I, As are we all.” (176)

Here prayer is use in a way that allows us to engage more deeply in the world with others. I see prayer now as a tool for courage. When I am able to see everything as Divine, everything with purpose and know that I have the Goddess within, then I am more readily able to face tough situations and people. Also, when I realize that Divinity of people and creatures through I am called to service. As  Jane Vennard asserts, “ Service becomes prayer when we serve our sisters and  brothers  with love and compassion that comes from God.” (108 ) What I appreciate most about Jane Vennard is that she believes that service is prayer. She believes that prayer is not simply speaking or being quiet but also action, moving and living. I completely agree that prayer should have no creative limits. After all, there are times when I express myself with dance, yoga, through crying, screaming and laughing. There are times when talking is not enough and words will not express my joy or pain.

            The area where Vennard and I may differ is on the definition of the Divine. While she uses prayer to bring herself “into relationship with God.” (2). I pray to bring myself into relationship with everything. I believe that people can define the Divine as they see fit. The Divine is whatever makes as feel whole, balanced and fully union in my mind, body, soul and in the world. The Divine can be God, Goddess, nature, music, dance,etc. The Divine is unlimited therefore prayer for me is an art that allows me express the endless possibilities of a human life and spirit. I also believe prayer can be about communicating with the within, the without or both. A person who does not believe in outside entities can still pray for their own natural healing or  pray to their own inner wisdom.  For example,  A Book of  Pagan prayer offers a simple pray to geese for healing:

“Wild Geese  flying overhead on journey south, bear  away with you on your thundering  wings the cares  that have made  my summer weary. Cry out my pain,passing over  the darkened land,until the air  ocean you sail  washes  it away.” (172) This prayer does not use any lofty supernatural beings. It suggests that we can find spirituality in the moment and in everything.  Prayer can be an avenue to embrace the wonders of everyday existence, and loving all that is around us and within us. In this way  prayer, no matter who it is addressed to, is about seeing and experiencing the Divine qualities of our own being.

Through out this process of praying and reading Vennard’s book, I have learned to accept my whole self. I have learned that my spiritual being includes more than my sweet side. My spiritual self is no longer separate from my anger, my activism or my silliness. I have learned that prayer is about unifying all the part of one self and offering your wholeness to your world and the Divine. Prayer is an art of courage that invites the universe to look into the deepest depths of our being. 

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On Defining my Magick

What is my magick? I used to do a lot of spells when I was younger. Spells for love and happiness and money. But the older I  would get, the less spells I would do. Magick become less about what I could attain. Magick became about my connection with nature. I wanted mystical relationships. Marriage to the sun and moon. An affair with the waters. A deep secret friendship with the air. The earth as a my protector. Old, grumpy and wise earth. I wanted to understand how everything worked. And how I was apart of it. I did not want to create magic, I wanted to discover that I was indeed magic.

Surprise. As I got older still, magic took on a new meaning. I wanted to heal. Not with spells. They seemed too easy and fleeting. I wanted to heal people.  Heal the inner pains with hard work. By helping them see into their own hearts and minds. Helping them to see their own wisdom. Help them see they are also magic.

I wanted to heal the human relationships. I wanted to heal our relationships with nature. With creation.  I wanted to teach that we all were married to each other. Interdependent. We were all the sun, moon, earth, water.  And then I grew older and came down to earth. I wanted to  experienced the true magic of family and friends. I wanted to heal my own wounds and disconnection from loved  ones. I wanted to feel not the sun or reach the stars. I wanted to dig through the earth, pull up the dirt and find the bones, the bodies, the skeletons of my ancestors. I wanted to discover my roots.  How could I know magic if I don’t know where I come from, and  who I am.? Magic is now honoring the past, the spirits and ancestors. Seeing and receiving their healing messages. Passing on what I learn.  So that many other people can take this journey into magic too.

Heteronormative In Wicca: Rethinking The God and Goddess

When people assume that Wicca  has to be heteronormative it is often because of the pairing of The Goddess/ The God. While, I will not argue that these terms can be problematic and I’m totally in favor of people making adjustments that fit them better. And perhaps, Wicca would be better off without those terms. Still, there are  many reasons why Wicca does Not have to be practiced in a heteronomative way.

Here are just some things to think about as far as heterosexism , Wicca and the God/Goddess combo:

1: The Goddess and God are not just lovers. The Goddess and God are portrayed as Mother and Son. There are also myths of two Gods.  Such as the Gods who highlight the dark and light halves of the year. The God and Goddess are not just some literal heterosexual couple.

2: Symbolism: Both the God, Goddess and their relationship often symbolize aspects of nature, seasons, human existence, spiritual journey, etc. Wiccans who have overly focus on there being some power in an hetero-union are sadly missing all the symbolism.Over focus on literalism is often an avenue to oppressive religious ideals

3: The Goddess represents everything including all gender, sexual and nonbinary expressions. The Goddess can be seen as ultimately all genders or genderless or both.

4: The God and Goddess represent all Gods and Goddesses including Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Gods.

5: There are Wiccans and Wiccan groups who do not use the ” God/Goddess language”. Some use just God or Goddess for example.

6: Sex and fertility rituals usually are symbolic or have a symbolic layer. But they can be alter, changed or left out . In Gay Witchcraft, Chris Penczak offers suggestions on exploring one’s sexuality and gender expression in ritual by taking on different parts in ritual such as a male being the Goddess.

7: There are LGTBQ Wiccan groups who created non-heteronomative covens, rituals and theology.

This is not to say Wiccan community does not have tons of problems as far as heterosexism and cissexism. More that, there are plenty of ways to look at the philosophy/theology and practice in a non-heteronormative/Cissexist way. Plenty of religions fight with oppressive ideas, Wicca is not any different or uniquely doomed.

Redefining: Paganism

As I have had this blog for awhile, I realize that there are few topics  where I have change my views or grown in understanding. Therefore, from to time to time, I will be updating and correcting  or adding to some of my older posts.

This is a update  of my original post defining  Pagan/Paganism.

First off, we should start by acknowledging that there is no agree upon definition of Pagan or Paganism.  Though many  might think this lack of clarity is unique to Pagans, disagreement on religious terms are quite common within traditions and the academic world. For instance, the definition of a Christian or ritual is still unclear in religious studies.

Being that there is tons of debates and infighting around the words Pagan and Paganism, some people  refuse to define them at all. Settling instead by describing Paganism simply as a ” Umbrella or blanket term for various religions.” While, this description can be useful in certain incidences, it is not much help as a formal definition for students, professors, writers and lecturers whose audiences may need more insight. My personal suggestion for defining Paganism especially in formal writing  is to do your own research, form your own opinion,  offer a definition that fits your topic, audience and  your understanding but  be ready to defend your findings. Also, be flexible as your definition may be different given the topic, your experience or setting. For instance, a general and most inclusive definition may work for a big tent Paganism event while a nature based one may be more suitable for a ecology paper or a feminist one for a Women’s group.

Below are some definitions of Paganism ( all of which are acceptable in some circles and rejected in others)

Paganism is or a Pagan is a follower of…

* A nature, earth, universe based religion

* A polytheistic religion

* A Non monotheistic religion

* A Non- Christian religion

* A Non- Abrahamic religion

* A folk or ethnic religion

* A historical ethnic religion

* A magic based religion

* Cyber Pagan tradition

* An umbrella term for religions who deem themselves Pagans

Original meanings of Pagan/paganism

* Citizen

* Poor, Rural folk

* Country dweller

* ” Of the land”

Use as Slur

( none of these things are inherently bad but the term was meant as a bad thing for these groups or as a means of  lumping groups together incorrectly)

* as a label for Non-Christian

* as a label for  those not saved or doomed

* as a term meaning Satan Worshiper

* as a label for Black/Brown/Indigenous religions

* as a label for Jewish people.

One this blog, Paganism will usually refer to nature based, folk and magical traditions. I do talk about Hinduism and Buddhism however I prefer the term Asian, Eastern or Karmic religions for those traditions ( though I feel those who follow these traditions can call themselves whatever they please). I do not use Paganism as a blank term for all non- Abrahamic religions as some still view Pagan as a slur. Also, many religions have their own and more appropriate designations.

I also think Pagan is a reclaimed word and not everyone should have access to it. It is usually a word for religions and people who are outsiders or marginalized and is used to reclaim their roots or power.

Samhain and Mourning ritual

What do I do for Samhain?

This year, I dedicated my Samhain time to honoring the recent passing of my Dad. I lacked the energy to a formal ritual and in my grieving state I was in no mood to celebrate.

So my partner and I decided to create an altar of mourning. I searched for inspiration online however most of the Samhain Wiccan altars I found were too  happy for my current mood. We decided to go off instinct. We had planned to let the creative process be our ritual. But after making the altar a more clear ritual emerged.

The Ritual:

1: We did grounding breaths

2: We walked through a doorway and tiny path ( we made a pathway out of recycle tires  –reborn symbol:) towards the altar.

3: We took a drink and then pour some for the deceased. ( similarly to pouring a beer on the ground for those who have passed)

4: We each tossed dirt onto a silver box and said” ashes to ashes…”

5: We each placed a penny into a bowel of water ( which had a makeshift boat inside).

6: We close by ringing a Bell.

* In the background we had on a Day of the Dead station

The ritual was spontaneous but manages to incorporate Wiccan, Norse, Christian spiritualities.

Pagan as Deep Ecology

I mentioned before that I define Pagan as a person practicing a nature based religion and who self identifies as Pagan. Nature based to me can be as simple as respect for nature and having some sort of ecology understanding and practice. Or it can be as heavy as nature as sacred or divine.

I am quite aware that not every self-identified Pagan reveres nature. Paganism is impossible to define and when you do someone gets mad.

But still, Pagan as follower of a nature, earth, indigenous  religion is the definition I continue to prefer  over the Non-Abrahamic  one.

It does not have to be yours but here is my reasoning…

Why should ecology be apart of Paganism .

Because to separate The Pagan from nature is highly problematic.

The etimology of Pagan is of the land, rural, country dweller. Pagan also can means citizen. Which is interesting when you think how citzenship has been linked to land ownership in the West. ( note: even the history of the word Pagan is debated)

But what is important here is that Pagan is not a neutral simple word.

Pagan as a word has been use through out history as an excuse for appropriation, violence, colonization, genocide and enslavement.

Pagan was used as a code word for “they deserve what they get” , “must be saved by any means.”

Pagan was not only used against White Europeans. It was also inflicted on Black and Brown cultures to dehumanize.

Why does this relate to nature, and land?

Because Pagans were not just simply sought out because they practice magick or were not Christians. Many pagans were ( and by the way still are) hunted specifically because of their land.

Pagans, historically, were driven off their land, had their lands stolen, and/or enslaved to tend to the land.

Often, labeling people as Pagans was just justification for robbing them of their home. From their piece of nature. Or to ensure free labor , forcing people away from their own land to tend the masters.

Black Muslims slaves would have still be considered were Pagans  like their counterparts because they had resources to steal.

Even when POC practiced Christianity is would not be considered real Christianity.

Colonization has alot to do with a lack of respect for nature. As land is something to be own or possess, to use to their own means.

Deep ecology , poltical ecology, Ecofeminism discusses the connection between all oppressions and environmentalism.

In other words, we view Women and POC and all marginalized groups in the same way we view nature. too be owned, used and abuse.

Also, from this point of view, we are ALL traumatized by our disconnection from nature.

Therefore, reclaiming the word Pagan as of the land has power to me as it implies uniting ourselves with our roots and having a practice that protects the earth and heals trauma.

It also seems wrong to me to remove The Pagan from land or nature, repeating the process symbolically now instead of physically.

Paganism as nature worshiper has a polticial, ecology, racial, feminist meaning.

Where Paganism as a open-ended thing lacks  meaning. And what is the point of reclaiming a word without using it to empower?

Praying as a Wiccan: Format and freedom

How to pray
When I think of the format of a pray, I think of how a ritual is created. First, I ground myself and clear my mind in order for my highest voice to emerge. Then, I acknowledge the sacred place and time. I invoke the energies I want to speak to such as the Goddess, Divine love, etc depending on my currents needs or temperament. Then, I simply speak from the heart my most urgent desire or gratitude. However, prayer often comes to me without planning or structure. There are times when I simply close eyes and words pouring out as if I am a vessel. I often wonder if I am talking to the Divine or is Divine talking to and through me. Mostly, prayer is my way of letting go of barriers and letting my natural wisdom flow through.

The power of  prayer
Prayer is a creative expression of one’s connection to their inner spirit, their world and the Divine. Prayer reminds where my passions are, where my fear lies and the places within me that are longing to be healed. Pray helps me to come out of hiding to face my demons, wounds and seemingly hopeless dreams. There is a feeling that this is between me and “God” therefore I am free to be fully me.  In prayer, we, not only, give ourselves completely to the Divine, we also remove our masks learn to love ourselves through that union.
Through pray we are reminded of the interdependence of life and my blessings of our world. We remember that we are all God’s children or we are all the Goddess. It is through this realization that many of us develop a longing  to help ease the suffering of others and come into communion with our world.

Prayer can be an avenue to embrace the wonders of everyday existence, and loving all that is around us and within us. In this way prayer, no matter who it is address to, is about seeing and experiencing the Divine qualities of our own being.

Prayer is an art of courage that invites the universe to look into the deepest depths of our being.