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Posts Tagged ‘types of prayers’

Students will develop new (or document existing) personal and/or family worship customs, such as morning devotions, meal offerings, or seasonal observances. Students will research worship customs of ADF and/or from a chosen Indo-European culture-whether historical or reconstructed and begin to implement these customs within the home setting (or other personal, rather than large group, context). These personal and/or household rituals or other observances may be either reconstructions of culturally specific practices, or based more upon modern ADF liturgical format, or a combination of the two. Household practices and rituals should include all interested members of the household, with options for the inclusion of children encouraged when applicable. Worship should be practiced weekly at a minimum, although daily practice is encouraged.

A specific aim of this course is to experiment and expand practice where possible: to that end, new practices and prayers should be a large part of the journal turned in for the final question.

NOTE: This course assumes the student is working with at least one hearth culture. In completing the Dedicant Path documentation, the student will have begun to explore this culture, including the reading of at least one book as the subject for a review. For students who may wish for further study—or who may wish to explore another cultural focus—the following books are possible resources to consult as needed.

The primary goal of this course is for students to develop and implement regular personal and/or family worship customs in the home setting.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will increase their knowledge of personal and/or family worship customs of ADF and/or from a chosen Indo-European culture and be able to compare these customs to those of public ritual.
  2. Students will demonstrate the implementation of new (or document existing) personal and/or family worship customs through regular journal entries documenting and describing this practice.

1.    What three factors (“subcategories”) does Bonewits identify as determining the impact of “familiarity” on the success of a ritual? Briefly discuss the ways in which personal or family-only ritual is aided or hindered by these factors when compared to public group ritual. (Minimum 100 words)

Bonewits identifies three subcategories for intra-group familiarity: knowledge, affection, and group identity (Bonewits 57). Knowledge is both knowing each other and knowing the material – if you know, for example, “how well the other members of your group can chant, or drum or visualize, you have a better idea how to blend your energies with theirs to create the group mind” (57). Affection is fairly obvious – bonds of genuine friendship or love within a group will enhance the ability to perform ritual, as the “psychic and psychological barriers that most people keep between themselves will be fewer and more easily set aside” (57). Group identity is most effective when it is most specific – Bonewits gives the example that “We are of the (Gardnerian) Wica” is more effective than just “We are all witches”.

Personal or family-only ritual is aided largely by the first two – in small group ritual, you typically know everyone (or get to know them) and that knowledge and working history creates the bonds of friendship that Bonewits calls ‘affection’ in this case. Both of these are largely lost in large group rituals, where things are most often open to the public and where complete strangers may show up. In some ways, this may actually work counter to the ideals of knowledge and affection, especially with members who are more shy or reticent around new individuals to a meeting. However, group identity, especially if it is well cultivated during the ‘creating the group mind’ step of the COOR, can be very strong within a large, even public group ritual. A well-orchestrated public ritual does its best work when everyone feels – at least for the moment – as though they are part of a community that is working together, and thus that is an obstacle that can be overcome in public group ritual.

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2.    What six methods of prayer does Ceisiwr Serith describe? Briefly suggest an example of how you might employ each in your personal worship practices. You may include worship with a group if applicable. (Minimum 200 words)

Praying through words

Perhaps the most obvious method of prayer for me is prayer through words. I have found, through my practice, that there is power in words spoken aloud that is not there in words spoken silently ‘in your head,’ though obviously in public places like at work this is often the only option. My prayer practice is largely done out loud, even if sometimes sotto voce, which doubles as practice for group prayer. As a Senior Druid, I do a lot of group prayer with my grove, and that is done intentionally through using my voice to create atmosphere and tone for the people who have joined us around the fire.

Praying through Posture

Serith mentions both kneeling and prostration as prayer postures familiar to a Western audience, but I find that I most often stand to pray, as my altar is on top of a small bookshelf that is about waist height. I do make use of the orans position quite frequently (which I was rather appalled to learn is restricted in some churches only to priests!), both in private prayer and especially in public prayer. I also try to use my hands in group practice as directive of where the prayer is “going” – whether up to the sky for the Sky Father, down to the earth for the Earth Mother, or into the Hallows.

Praying through Motion

Serith mentions circumambulation as one type of prayer through motion, which is a type of prayer that I use more often in group ritual. In my private practice, most of my praying is done at an altar that is butted up against a wall, so it’s hard to walk about. However, if I am doing a blessing or a cleansing, I use the motion of my body to mirror the motions of the prayer through the space.

Praying through Dance

Serith calls dance the “ultimate form of praying with motion” (24), and it is a prayer form that I almost never use in my own practice, public or private, which I think I might want to reconsider. The act of dance can be very sacred, and can also facilitate a trance state that is very helpful when directing energy in prayer. This is a form of praying that I’d like to explore more, though I often feel ‘funny’, for lack of a better term, when dancing alone in my apartment.

Praying through Music

Music can be either accompaniment to dance, or the sung or chanted prayers themselves. I particularly enjoy sung prayers and have memorized a number of songs and chants to use in core order rituals. My grove uses these extensively, led by our bard and his guitar, but they are equally powerful with just a voice or voices. Praying through song changes the pace of the ritual and can add great affect to both group and private ritual, and is something I do often.

Praying through Gestures

Gestures are “somewhere between postures and motions” and are “things done with the hands and arms” that have their own meaning (Serith 27). I especially like the description of prayer gestures as a “little dance” – a dance performed with only one part of your body (27). I use gestures in ritual frequently; identifying things, showing the motion or flow of energy, directing participants, and channeling offerings.

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3.    What arguments does Ceisiwr Serith make in support of set prayers (as opposed to spontaneous prayers)? Discuss how these arguments apply (or do not apply) to solitary Pagan prayer. (Minimum 200 words)

Serith makes the argument that set prayers involve “a relationship between the pray-er, the prayer, and the one prayed to,” where this relationship is “expressed through the words of a prayer” (66). He argues that while the words of a set prayer may be identical each time they are prayed, each prayer event is “no more identical to those before it than each performance of a particular piece of music is the same as another” (66).

He also argues that ancient Paganism had set prayers – some of which have survived until today – and particularly mentions the Rg Veda and Roman prayer books. As well, there are times when we want to pray, but we can’t find the words (66-7). At these times, such as at a funeral or other times of great personal distress, set prayers allow us to be comforted and to give up having to think about or try to find the right words.

Group prayer is also, by nature, set prayer – people “need to know what to say, so they can say it together” (67). This type of prayer serves both its function as a prayer and also as a way of bringing people together.

The most important rationale, according to Serith, for set prayers is a phenomenon that he calls ‘deepening.’ “The more often a prayer is said, the deeper it sinks into your consciousness. Eventually, it sinks into your unconscious mind” (67). At that point, you are no longer simply saying a prayer; it has become a part of who you are and how you think.

In my personal, private practice I have found that there are times for set prayers, and there are times for extemporaneous prayers, and it would do my practice a huge disservice to abandon one or the other. Serith’s own Cosmos Prayer is a huge part of my practice, and is a prayer that I hope is slowly ‘deepening’ into my consciousness. As well, my daily Earth Mother and Gatekeeper prayers are fairly set at this point. However, I also find that if I want to do a core order, I am less likely to stress less about what is being said if I have a prayer to start from, but don’t feel obligated to speak it identically every time. In my journal below I have included two full Core Order rituals that I use, but I rarely use one entirely from start to finish, despite having most of them memorized. I’ll feel inspired, or be in a hurry and need to hit the high points, etc.

For myself, then, I find Serith’s arguments for set prayers to be compelling, and use them in my practice frequently, but then, I come from a Catholic background (albeit having been born in an American Baptist family) so my love of set and memorized prayers is fairly unsurprising.

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4.    Keep and submit for review a journal documenting the development and observance of the personal/household worship customs described above covering a period of not less than four months, including one observance of a seasonal festival, such as one of the eight ADF High Days. Entries are to be not less than weekly. The text of individual prayers and longer devotional rituals should be provided as frequently as possible. Regular practices occurring less than weekly will be considered if they are documented as revivals or reconstructions of historically-attested observances occurring less than weekly.

All Liturgy Practicum 1 Journals are previously posted on this blog, in the category Liturgy Journal 1, and can be read there.

Works Consulted

Bonewits, Isaac. Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work. Minneapolis: Llewellyn Publications, 2007. Print.

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. Boston, MA: Weiser, 2002. Print.

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