Saturday, March 9, 2013

Prayer


Do you own any sentimental object (wedding ring or family heirloom) - objects that value more than an identical duplicate?  That is magical thinking.  Do you feel that what goes around comes around?  That's magical thinking.  Do you yell at your laptop when it erases your files?  That's magical thinking.  Do you hope to leave a legacy after you die?  Magical thinking.  Do you believe that certain events were meant to happen?  Magical thinking.  Do you shout out 'Oh God' when you're stuck in traffic?  Magical thinking.
Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with a deity, an object of worship or a spiritual entity through deliberate communication. Prayer can be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words, movement, objects, photos or song.

Some Christians bow their heads and fold their hands. Some Native Americans regard dancing as a form of prayer. Some Sufis whirl. Wiccan prayers can include meditation, rituals and/or incantations.  Hindus chant mantras. Jewish prayer may involve swaying back and forth and bowing.  Quakers keep silent.  Some pray according to standardized rituals, while others prefer impromptu prayers and spells. 

Our ancestors prayed to their Gods. Their pleas and offerings are documented in the hieroglyphs that adorn the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, in the carvings and inscriptions left for us to read by the philosophers and teachers of ancient Greece and Rome. Later on, as Christianity moved in and replaced many of the old Pagan cultures, Irish monks wrote down stories, illuminating their manuscripts with vivid and colorful artwork.   The Old Norse people didn't seem to use prayer beads but many Modern Neopagans enjoy using them.

You can pray to anyone you like. You can pray to a God, a Goddess, your Ancestors or the Grand High Poobah of the Toaster Oven. Pray to whoever -- or whatever -- is most likely to take an interest in your dilemma or thanks. If you're working on protection of your home, for example, you may wish to call upon Vesta or Brighid, both guardians of the Earth. If you're about to enter into a nasty conflict, perhaps Mars, the god of war, would be willing to step in for a bit of fun.  Some people pray simply to spirits -- spirits of the Earth, of the sky, of the sea, etc.  Erik Wikstrom recommends that we pay attention to the form of prayer rather than the content – focus on the how rather than to whom.
Prayer beads is one tool that can be used.  Prayer Beads are used by members of various religious traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Anglicanism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Wiccan and Baha'i Faith to count the repetitions of prayers, meditation, chants, magical focus or devotions, such as the rosary in Christianity, worry beads in Greek and dhikr (remembrance of God) in Islam. 

The first beads were grooved pebbles, bones and teeth -- made over 40,000 years ago -- and had talismanic and symbolic connotations from the beginning. Beads are among the earliest human ornaments and ostrich shell beads in Africa date to 10,000 BC. Over the centuries various cultures have made beads from a variety of materials from stone and shells to clay.  Beads have always had a spiritual significance to Native Americans; neck medallions as early as A.D. 800 served as talismans against threat.  The English word bead derives from the Old English noun bede which means a prayer. The exact origins of prayer beads remain uncertain, but their earliest use probably traces to Hindu prayers in India. 

The number of beads also vary depending on the different religions, Islamic prayer beads Tesbih usually have either ninety nine or thirty three beads, Buddhists and Hindu use Japa Mala usually consisting 27 bead malas. Sikhs use a Mala with 108 beads. Greek komboloi has an odd number of beads usually one more than a multiple of four. Roman Catholics use the Rosary with 54 beads whereas Eastern Orthodox Christians use rosary with 100 knots, although prayer ropes with 50 or 33 knots can also be used.

While the diversity of pagan religions is too great to accept any one style of prayer, spell and ritual work, there is several resources and general guidelines to help you start.  They can be based on the Sabbats, Triple Goddess, Witches' Ladder, Elements, Ancestors Rope or other magical themes.  Sacred numbers (3, 7, 9, 13) are incorporated in the design as well as circles and spirals (signifying wholeness, community, the universe, creation and cyclic change).  Gemstones have attracted people with their colors and charming gloss since ancient times. Since then, each stone has a special meaning. 
For example: The moon cycle prayer beads are based on the days of the naturally occurring moon's cycle. They are configured of 4 sets of 7 beads signifying each quarter, 1 marker bead for the full or new moon, to complete the 29 day cycle.  The bead representing the full moon is larger than the others, and is white, moonstone or pearl.  The white bead represent the moon when it is full or nearly full, silver beads represent the moon at about half phase, and black beads represent the crescent or new moon.   Quick and easy to twist together with silver wire under the full moon. 

You can make up your own meditation on the moon beads but a simple mantra might be:

               Oh, silver moon, fill me with your sparkling light.
               Teach me to sail serenely through the dark and the storm.

Repeat the two sentences on each bead, while picturing the moon going through its phases, and trying to capture the calmness of a moonlit night. 

A similar design can be used for the Sun, use morning, noon, afternoon and evening in place of the four phases of the moon.  The largest stone would be red, sunstone or volcanic rock.  And just keep building out from there or use other themes that speak to you.
Ultimately, a prayer or a spell is a very personal thing.  If one form doesn't work, try another.  It is a practice that may take some research, experiment and time.  You can do it out loud or silently, in a church or backyard or forest or at a kitchen table. Pray when you need to and say what you wish to say (help, thank you, guidance, hello).  Chances are good that someone is listening.

 

                “Eagle Poem”

To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to Earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon, within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

 

 


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