I know the subject of this post is full of Ds, and this is D week in the Pagan Blog Project, but this isn’t my official D post. I want to stick to the biweekly prompts rather than use posts I would have written anyway, because the prompts help me crack open subjects that might not otherwise occur to me. So, devotionals today, and another D post on Friday!
One thing that really works about Judaism and Buddhism, and is often unemphasized or absent in Witchcraft, is a daily devotional practice. I know plenty of Pagans have daily practices–John Beckett prays four times a day and T. Thorn Coyle wrote a book on it–but overall I haven’t seen many templates or ideas for crafting morning and evening devotionals. So, I took some Jewish and Buddhist ideas and tech and used them to form my own prayer practice.
I found that my spontaneous prayers could be roughly divided into five broad categories: praise to the Goddess in the form of the Sh’ma (the Jewish declaration of faith), praise to named deities, praise to the natural world, lovingkindness meditation, and silent mindfulness meditation. Once I made those divisions, I realized that my prayers could be mapped onto a pentacle. I experimented with assigning each prayer to an element and came up with the following basic structure. Like my invocations, it looks long when it’s written out, but takes only a few minutes to recite. (The parts in bold aren’t included in the prayers.)
Earth: the body of the Goddess
Sh’ma Yisrael, Shekhina Eloteinu, Shekhina Achat.
Hear, O my people, we are the body of the Goddess, the many are one.*
I will do your work, O Goddess, throughout the cycles of the day; I will mark you on my mind and on my hands; I will teach you to my children; I will remember you in my home and on my journeys.
Air: the invisible but present deities; humankind’s creative partnership with the Divine
Hail Inanna, queen of Heaven; Hail Isis, lady of the thousand names and mistress of magic; Hail Cernunnos, ancient antlered God, lord of death and rebirth; Hail Odin, who gave us the runes. (I add deities depending on whom I’m drawn to or working with that day. In ritual, it feels offensive to mix different pantheons together and I’ll probably never do it, but in a personal devotional, it feels okay.)
Fire: an explosion of love for the natural world
Hail earth and sea and sky! Hail moon and stars and sun! Hail trees and grass and desert and animals and birds and fish and insects! (I add anything that calls to me that day–a flock of birds flying by, the bacteria in my gut, some kids walking to school.)
Water: dissolving anger and hate; nurturing compassion
May my loved ones be happy; may my loved ones be well; may my loved ones be free from harm.
May my adversaries be happy; may my adversaries be well; may my adversaries be free from harm.
May I be happy; may I be well; may I be free from harm.
May all beings be happy; may all beings be well; may all beings be free from harm.
Silent mindfulness meditation. I focus my attention on the sensations of being within my body: my breath, my pulse, the feel of my clothes against my skin. Or, I focus on my environment: the feeling of being in my garden, the sound of my husband and daughter’s voices downstairs. In any case, I clear my mind of words as best I can and focus solely on experience. When my attention wanders, I gently bring it back. I do this for three to ten breaths.
According to the Kohenet Siddur, Jewish daily prayers can be thought of as a labyrinth, with the deepest part of the prayer in the center. I really liked that idea and decided that, since the Spirit portion is the deepest part of my prayers, I’d recite them in the above order in the morning, and the reverse order at night. That way, I live my day in the center of the labyrinth.
As with every practice, it’s a work in progress. I hardly ever recite my prayers exactly as they’re written above; in the mornings they’re usually shorter. I also find that I sometimes want to switch the elements around and assign them to different prayers. But I like the order of my prayers, and I like my prayers to go deosil and widdershins around the cardinal directions, so that’s the way they’re structured for now.
It took me a long time to figure out why, although I was telling the Goddess I’d do her work twice a day, I was constantly forgetting myself and getting caught up in anger, anxiety, or the lure of the computer screen. It finally hit me just the other day: for all that I talked about her “work,” I never actually articulated what that work was! So I rewrote the Sh’ma as follows:
Sh’ma Yisrael, Shekhina Eloteinu, Shekhina Achat.
Hear, O my people, we are the body of the Goddess, the many are one.
Hear, O Goddess, I will do these things: I will serve the Earth your body; I will practice mindfulness and compassion; I will adore you through acts of love and pleasure. I will sharpen you in my heart throughout the cycles of the day; I will mark you in my mind and on my hands; I will teach you to my children; I will remember you in my home and on my journeys.
It’s a bit long, and still a work in progress. Syncretizing practice is one thing; syncretizing ethics is another. It’s hard to avoid feeling like you’re skimming off the top.
If you’re interested in crafting your own daily practice, I’d suggest the following: lay out a schema that you like–the pentacle, the witch’s pyramid, the hero’s journey, prayer beads, whatever–and see how each part speaks to you. See if you can map prayers you’re already doing onto the schema. I find that a clear structure not only prevents me from forgetting a prayer, but adds layers of meaning that make my prayers more powerful.
As Ruby Sara would say, pray without ceasing!
* I yoinked this wording from Marcia Falks’ Book of Blessings.