De Profundis…

My Christian aunt puts me to shame. It’s one of those things where we were talking recently and as she talked about her own prayer practice I felt like my own Gods were smacking me upside the head with the proverbial 2×4, as in “ahem. Why aren’t you doing more of this too?” It’s odd and almost surreal when that happens, particularly when the example is so far afield from my own tradition.

My aunt prays [and joyfully too, fervently, fiercely] at least four hours a day: two in the morning and two in the evening. Out of curiosity I asked her what exactly she does and she showed me her prayer book, and talked about the set prayers she does and how she uses them as jumping off points for her own extempore prayers. She told me about all the people she prays for and I could see that this is a major way in which she engages with her religious community and also her way of powerfully contributing to it. I just sat there listening to her thinking, “damn.”

I pray, of course, but since my adopted mom died it’s been a real battle sometimes to hit the points of connection and communication that I am aiming for, a painful thing to open myself to the Gods when in the midst of so much grief (and anger). Eventually of course it all becomes an excuse and one must shut up, put up, and just pick up the reins of one’s practice again or risk withering away spiritually but oh it hurts. It hurts to realize that in some respects, I’ve forgotten how I used to pray.

I was watching something on television the other night and one of the characters had to translate something from the Latin. I read Latin so I realized what it was right away, a prayer: “de profundis clamo ad te, domine:” out of the depths I cry to you, oh Lord. I thought, “well, that’s apt.” Having taken up the reins of mindful practice again after balking at them for so long, I’ve noticed over the past few months how hard it is to reestablish the daily discipline. I always do something for my Gods and dead pretty much daily but not enough, not nearly enough. I crave the prayer to reset the connection but resent the inconvenience of the discipline…and perhaps fear not doing well what I must. I am at times in awe of my hubris. God damn.

So I look at my aunt’s prayer practice and hold that up right now as a goal to maintain daily. What a beautiful way to structure my day again – as I used to do for so many years when first I started down the road of devotion—prayer to open it and prayer to send it off to bed. It forces me to make choices with how I’m going to use my time, how I’m going to order my day, what takes precedence.

I realize that like anything else in one’s devotional life it’s about learning to make the right choices consistently, cultivating a proper venerative spirit. Maybe that’s why the word for engaging in ongoing venerative practices to a Deity in Latin, as well as the word for the body of practices containing the mysteries of a deity (cultus) both come from the word colo, colui, cultum: to cultivate, tend, care for. One could almost say ‘nourish’ but that nourishment works both ways. It’s not about the words, though the words provide purchase, it’s about opening ourselves up to direct experience with the Gods. The daily discipline readies and prepares the soul.

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Posted on October 14, 2016, in devotional work, Lived Polytheism, prayers, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Mmmm. This. This so much so.
    Prayer and meditation are a much needed pause in my mundane life and one that in the past when I was grieving I too put off. I find, however, I am happiest, calmest, most open to my life when I pray and meditate.
    I think its ironic that you talk about cultivation and nourishing. Nourish is my word for this year. I latched onto that word and my head spun with the connections between nourishment, prayer, devotion. I recently had a meditation on the rune Berkana that was similar in vibe.
    Thank you so much for sharing this – it is inspiring.
    I first though, there’s no way I have time to pray for four hours in a day. I then stepped back and asked why this was my gut reaction. What on earth could be more important in my day than my devotion? I could easily pray when nursing my son and during his three naps of the day and after he goes to sleep of a night. The reason – I have made other things more important. The reason behind my priorities is definitely something to think about if I want to consider myself devoted to my Gods.
    Many blessings and thanks again

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  2. Oh yes.I’ve been shamed many times by people you’d least expect. I’m a nurse and currently work in a prison. If you want to know why Islam is growing so fast there? Just watch the Muslims at prayer five times a day, or especially during Ramadan – no food OR drink during daylight hours, in the hottest part of the summer. Most of them do it, too – and that’s impressive. People are impressed by devotional acts, and convert readily.

    Some of the most impressive home altars I’ve seen where when I worked as a home health nurse, and visited (mostly legal) immigrant farm worker’s homes. Especially when mom dies, she gets almost a whole room to herself filled with flowers, photos and candles that burn constantly – for at least a year, I was told. A wonderful way to handle grief.

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  3. I do that. It comes as natural as breathing. I hitch my devotions to walking or getting ready in the morning. So it becomes automatic. Of course, I have my lists of the Gods of the Month and Gods of the Day. That is a part of my devotion – setting the month and day up. But with so many Roman Gods….. it is the only way, I can keep prayers for Them all.

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  4. Thank you, Galina, for sharing this.

    I find myself praying and singing to the Lordly Ones and Holy Ones when I walk the dog. I hail Earth Mother over Whom I tred; I hail Sky Father and His House as I walk in Their Sight; I hail the Four Winds as I breath; I pour a libation to the Lady of the Lake and the Creek Maidens as we walk the strip of land between them.

    There are slivers of Time between the tasks of a mundane day when the God Who has sway over the next task (driving, cooking, spinning, etc.) waits on the threshold. We can hail Them as we pass from task to task.

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  5. Excellent post, Galina. I don’t pray as often as I should. I pray when I go to bed, but sometimes I either fall asleep while praying or my mind wanders. I have also fallen off of the meditation horse again.

    Prayer beads are good for setting up a prayer practice. I have a set of prayer bead for the Greek Gods. I would like to use them again.

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