Contemplation: Prayer

You concern with a truth beside truth
an image close but beyond.
And you who, cloaked and starry, fell
river into river
to birth a shining form without form –
you are beside a liar.

We clawed at your cloaks
with smile and smirk you laid
so we were forgotten and far and gone.

to glitter! to glamor!
falsehood and fakery
deceptions weaved so elegantly
in mirrors upon mirrors upon mirror
til we held ourselves

O false

and knew truth beside truth
that form beyond form
glamor we had strove to won. [1]

***

When I sat myself down to pray the other night, I found myself without words. At least none that felt right. It was a deeper trouble than that though. I realized I had no idea how to pray.

In truth, I wasn’t completely lost, but it certainly felt that way. How did other people pray, how did they know they were getting it right, how would I know if the gods even accepted my prayers? Prayer has been called a ‘conversation with the gods’, but how would I know if they could hear me when I still had such trouble hearing them? My journeys in trance and Faery let me speak to them, yes, but that hardly felt like religion – what I was experiencing in the Faerylands reminded me too strongly of self-help psychobabble than religion.

I felt a (true) fool – seven years of reading about (Pagan) religion and I was having a crisis over how to pray? As I sat before my altar I couldn’t believe how lost I felt.

I took the feeling and redid my altar – with quite a lot of, ‘Well, I don’t know why I need a candle but most altars have a light source and I have a good feeling so it’s staying,’ and such. And, rather than trying to compose eloquent prayers to make the gods themselves shudder in amazement (and I am certainly no poet), I wrote the clearest, blandest, most-to-the-point prayer I could. Because I didn’t have words, but I needed words, and I need to tell the gods what they meant to me. Restraining myself because my words failed to meet a nebulous, unknown standard of ‘good prayer’ was not a good reason anymore.

I shoved my doubt away and remembered what I had learned about prayer, specifically polytheistic prayer. It is necessary to speak aloud, as the gods are not inside our heads, and epithets and names are common. An image was important too, a symbol or image of the gods being prayed to so that they may see and receive the offerings.

With that began a new project: drawing out images of the Four Gods of the [Other People]. I wanted the images to be as well done as I could manage, which meant they wouldn’t  be finished by that night. And my itch, my frustration, needed to be soothed that night. Rather than using uncompleted images (which did not sit right with my sensibilities), I created symbols rather than full pieces of art to use.

the Dierne, as the Star-Wind

It is my hope that I will be able to delineate clearer between what is from my own self and creation rather than gifted through the gods; as such, these images were purely my own thinking, influenced by the myths I have written for these gods. I would not call them ‘god-given’.

the Ophelia, as the Bluebird

It is likely that I was shaking a bit as I sat down that night to pray. The feeling of frustration and failure would not leave. I laid the images out and began, voice wavering, feeling very much a fool:

“I pray to the Four Gods of Western Faery,
the gods of the [Other People],
that I may bring you honor with my word and deed.
I offer my words and my voice to you,
please (please!) accept my prayers.”

After that, I began a litany, repeating their names over and over til my words slurred and my eyelids fell heavy and I had to crawl into bed.

the Laetha, or known as the Firebird

I repeated the prayer in the morning with the same chant of names. Again that night, and again the next morning. This was a part of my push on myself to be religious. My journeys to the Faerylands are interesting, vital to me as I carve this mythology and get to know these gods, but they will not a religion make. No, for religion I need prayer, routine, and keeping the lessons they teach in daily life. That is religion. No amount of journeying and being broken in the otherworlds will be of use unless I treat it as a part of my religion. The goal, for the [Other People], is not to play in the Faerylands (though that too is fun) – it is to honor the Gods. To do their work, bring them honor, speak their name and walk in such a way others may too praise these gods.

the Clarene, in the Orchard

Offerings are a consistent part of my practice. Every morning I give to the house faeries to keep in right relationship with them, and they have treated me well. (Keeping me from falling and splitting my head open at least twice, gifting us with mushrooms, keeping our plants well, keeping our food well, bringing us joy in our home.) Tonight, I placed candies into the offering bowl of the Four Gods. For each of the gods, but especially [the Dierne] – He who has me now in the Faerylands but is also connected to Halloween. [the Dierne] is a god of indulgence and joy, so a holiday of sweets is well fit for him, and as he also rules over deceptions, lies, and glamoury, a holiday of costumes is even better fit.

Throughout my life I have been overcome with a need to pray, to have words, yet those words eluded me. That feeling came to me many times today (whether for a ‘thinning veil’ or because I am focused so much on my religion as of late, it does not matter to me) – but I did not become choked. I knelt (practically collapsed) at my altar and spoke very, very simple words. I apologized for my simple words, but I needed to speak them as well. I needed to speak to these gods. I was overcome with emotion for them – perhaps because I was touched by them, perhaps because my brain simply decided to be so.

It felt good to say the words that I had rather than grappling for words that scattered at my search. And if I am any judge, it seems the Four Gods were pleased with what I did, simple as it was.

It is my hope that I continue to learn more about belief, prayer, and all that, as well as how to do this strange thing called religion.

***

[1]O false was written after reading a bit of psychobabble about how we must defeat the false ego to become our true selves. As the Dierne is concerned so much with falsehood and deception, as well as seeing through those things, I decided to write a prayer for him in his role as Deceiver.

[from a 2012 contemplation; presented to show the history of the faith]


Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

One thought on “Contemplation: Prayer

  1. Pingback: Prayer [Series]

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