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On Prayer

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been seeing a growing noise on Facebook and other social media platforms that is staunchly anti-prayer. Generally, this occurs most strongly after some horror or disaster wherein people will post “my prayers are with you.” Immediately the social justice crowd pushes back, questioning both the relevance and efficacy of this sentiment. Let’s be honest; most people post such platitudes because they are moved, they care, but are (or feel) otherwise helpless to impact the situation. It is an expression of care, goodwill, and perhaps even solidarity. Take that for what it’s worth; I personally, don’t see anything wrong with it. I see a great wrong with dismissing prayer, however, and of course, those dismissals never stop with the aforementioned social situations but ever and always leech into our communities, which already struggle with understanding, prioritizing, or practicing devotion well (It’s not, after all, as though we are surrounded in our everyday lives and communities with good devotional models. I think we all struggle with this at times one way or another).

To dismiss prayer as a powerful and effective practice is to cripple our devotional lives and our relationship with our Gods. Over the years, I’ve seen many Pagans and even Polytheists dismiss prayer as something Christian. Well, it’s not. The earliest recorded prayers date from Sumer, written to the God Nanna and the Goddess Inanna. We have surviving prayers from Greece, Rome, Egypt, to name but a few polytheistic cultures. Polytheists prayed. It’s one of the fundamentals of practical religion.

Why are we so eager to render ourselves mute before our Gods?

To hold someone in prayer does not mean that one does nothing else. If there is more that one is able to do on a practical level, then it goes without saying that one should do that. I’m reminded of the Benedictine motto: ora et labora (pray and work). It’s not an either/or situation.

Furthermore, having a consistent prayer practice to the Gods and ancestors is one of the best ways to maintain devotional clarity, to keep the lines of communication open, to strengthen those devotional relationships, and to grow in faith, devotion, and grace. Cultivating hostility or contempt toward what is in fact one of the most powerful tools we have in maintaining our spiritual worlds is short sighted and frankly stupid. To pray is to open a line of ongoing communication with our Gods. It is to approach Them as petitioners, it is to give thanks, it is to express our love and adoration and a thousand other things. It provides Them with an opportunity to act in our lives and in our world. It provides us with an opportunity to accept, again and again, Their grace.

What we are instead tasked with is learning how to pray effectively. While set, formulaic prayers can be enormously powerful, it’s not enough to just say any words. Proper prayer is a matter of preparing our minds and hearts. Our hearts need to be receptive to our Gods. Our minds need to be committed and focused on this process. It’s one of the key devotional disciplines that no one seems to talk about anymore.

Ironically, as we pray, we learn how to pray and to do so more effectively. It is not in the capacity of any human being to compel the Gods. But we can reach out to Them, we can ask, and most of all we can trust that we have been heard. Prayer is powerful in part because it allows us to stand in perfect, active alignment with our Holy Powers. The more we do that consciously, the more we are changed and perhaps even elevated by the process.

Because it allows us to stand consciously in that alignment, it is a potent protection against all that is inimical to our Gods and Their ways. It reminds us, purifies us, re-aligns us again and again into our devotion. Every time we pray, we recommit ourselves to our traditions and our Gods and to living in ways that cultivate piety.

Remove purification, sacrifice, devotion, and prayer and what do you have? Certainly, not a religion.

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On Prayer

I was thinking about prayer last night and I had a couple of epiphanies. I’m in the middle of a rather intense ancestral elevation. This is a healing rite that takes nine days of regular prayers, offerings, and a very special, temporary ancestor shrine for a specific ancestor. It can be exhausting and there is a strict protocol (at least as an ancestor worker. I’m required to follow an ever-tightening noose of protocols and I’ve found it tends to be the same for anyone who works seriously, professionally with the dead). I generally balk and I’m very resistant to the protocols. Someone tells me ‘you must do this,’ and my general response is ‘fuck you’ and then the protocols grate and I get rather pissy about the whole thing. Needless to say, accommodating myself to those protocols has been an uphill battle. I think something changed for me though with that last night.

I had prepped everything, had gone through the opening protocols and prayers and I realized that once I pushed past that initial resistance, it wasn’t too bad. The energy of the thing carried me along pretty well. It’s more than that though. As I was sitting on the floor praying (the shrine for an elevation is laid on the floor purposely), I started chanting the Oration of Aristides in Greek, praying to Dionysos to help untangle the ancestral damage that I was hoping to address with this elevation. For about twenty minutes I changed the oration while silently praying to Dionysos and I felt something within myself shift and settle. I, who am so resistant to set prayer, found it difficult to stop saying the Oration and I realized something that I should have known all along. It hit me like an explosion in the brain. Submitting to the regular discipline of prayer is like pouring water into parched earth. It nourishes in a very crucial, foundational way. It’s important.

I think there’s something about regular prayers, including set prayers, that gentle the spirit, tame it, and bring it to the point of receptivity to the Gods. It hallows us inside and out, clears away the dreck and opens the way for Their Presence like nothing else. I think prayer may be most necessary when we are most resistant.

I get reminded of this again and again in my own practice, this time by Dionysos. Prayer is such a precious gift that we’ve been given. It is what builds and sustains not just the lines of communication to the Holy Powers, but our own hearts and minds in those relationships. It keeps us clean and ready and attentive. It works necessary spiritual muscles (and it’s something you can do even if you have nothing else to offer. In fact, I think it should be the long term, consistent ground on which offerings lie).

It’s important to take that time, to make that time to sit down with our Gods and pray. I don’t mean simply talking to Them, though that can be part of it too at its base. My mother once said that if the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ then that is enough.  But more than conversation, which too often in our pop culture influenced world reduces the Gods to our level in our minds, (and sometimes that’s necessary I suppose), there are prayers of adoration and respect, of gratitude and acknowledgement that raise us up and make our souls fertile ground for devotion to flourish. Like anything else, it’s important to take the time, even when we don’t want to do so. It’s especially important then.

Submission to Loki Agon

To Loki
by Amanda Forrester

My head is on fire.
I can see it all –
The threads of destiny, of wyrd, coming together,
I see the ghastly fate of my sons,
I feel the bindings tying me to the boulder
I see the red, weeping eyes of my loyal wife
Holding the bowl above me.
And I see all the worlds consumed in fire and ice
When I (at last!) make my escape.

My head is on fire.
I can feel the venom even now.
Still, I do not try to avoid that future, but do what must be done.
And so a dart of mistletoe seals my fate
As surely as it did Balder’s.

My head is on fire.
I saw it all, knew it’s coming,
But also that it must be done.
I told my blood-brother so.

My lips were sewn shut not because I lie,
But because I tell the truth,
(at least, when it matters)
And even the Gods cannot bear to hear it.

Commissioned Prayer: To Hypnos

I’ve been getting quite a few commissions for prayers. The latest was one to the God Hypnos. (If you’re interested in commissioning a piece, please check this page for information). 

Prayer to Hypnos
By G. Krasskova
(Written for S.)

Sweet Hypnos,
most benevolent and gracious God,
please hear my prayer.

Grant me the sweetness of sleep
when I seek my rest.
Help me to still my mind,
my racing thoughts,
to put the tensions
and stress of my body aside.
May Your children:
especially Morpheus,
the Oneiroi, and
Phantasmos
bless my slumber.
May my dreams be fruitful.
May I wake refreshed,
even on those occasions
when Your Son Phobetor visits.

Oh God of poppies,
of pleasure and relaxation,
please grant me Your healing touch.
Smile upon me,
place Your gentle hand upon my brow,
and grant me release from my cares
through the grace of sleep,
which only You may bring.

Hail to You, Hypnos,
Husband of Pasiphae,
Daughter of Dionysos,
Who Himself relieves care,
Hail to You, Beautiful God.

hypnos painting2x4

(Hypnos by Grace Palmer. The prayer card is available here.)

*************

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Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy

My academia.edu page

My amazon author page.

Walking the Worlds Journal

My art blog at Krasskova Creations

My blog about all things strange, weird and medieval.

And if you like what you see, consider becoming a sponsor at Patreon.

A Prayer to Odin

These two prayers were recently commissioned by my Patreon supporters: 

To Odin, for Dreams
(written for T.)
By Galina Krasskova

Ravenous for knowledge,
hungry for wisdom,
You drove Yourself
through the worlds,
upon the Tree,
to the gates of Hel
and back.
You sought out seers,
mighty women
prophets seething
with fateful fire
caught by mind,
held on the tongue
spat forth at Your command.
You unraveled and deciphered
the dreams of Your omen-marked Son
bound spirits, and raged through worlds
to undo His terrible fate.
You Who know the magic
of the Vanir, for Whom dreams
are as open books,
worlds waiting for reason’s plunder,
I ask now this boon,
knowing it will come with a price,
a price that I shall pay:
Send me dreams, Raven Father,
clear omens to guide my way.
Make my dreams my grimoire,
that I too may grow in wisdom.
This I pray as i pour out this offering.
Hail to You, Odin.

(make an offering of beer or whiskey, etc.)

 

To Hera
(for A.)
by Galina Krasskova

To the Queen of Olympus
let homage ever be paid.
To She Who renders right judgment,
let offerings be laid out.
To the Goddess Who brings glory,
may libations be poured.
Hail to Hera,
Who grants no quarter,
and yet, is merciful.

She is the Maker of heroes,
glorious and fierce.
She hones them,
tempers them,
renders them worthy of the blood
from which they are sprung.
Herakles, Achilles, even Dionysos:
She brought Them into Their power.
She taught Them what it meant,
to bear the blood of Gods.

Hera, ever mighty, orders the world,
watches over its mysteries.
She is Beloved of the Thunderer.
She is Queen of all the heavens.

To Argive Hera, I blow my head.
You teach us that power must earned.
You, Great One, at Whose hands all
is brought into order,
may my words and prayers
be pleasing to You.

Hail to You, Glorious Hera.

(if you are in a place where you can do so, light some incense for Her).

 

(I’m generally always willing to write prayers on commission: $15/prayer. These were done for free as a gift to my Patreon supporters with the caveat that I would share them here.

There are some other caveats to my commission work: a) there are certain Deities with Whom I have no relationship and if i’m not able to catch a sense of Them, I won’t be able to write a good prayer and also, b) there are Deities that I am tabooed from approaching. But so long as you’re willing for me to say ‘sorry, can’t do that one,’ if you’d like a prayer written, shoot me an email at krasskova at gmail.com).

When Pollution Finds You

The topic this week has been miasma and pollution and how to deal with it. I’ve a longer piece in progress that I was hoping to get done today but that didn’t happen so it’ll probably have to wait until next weekend now. Instead, I find myself thinking a lot about a slightly different aspect of miasma. Most of us within our various traditions (hopefully) have our standard regimens of cleansing before rituals, before approaching our shrines, or after encountering something that carries miasma. What do you do though, when you suddenly and unexpectedly bumble into pollution or realize – oh shit—you’re surrounded by it?

I’ve had this happen a lot because of my work and I started really paying attention to it over the past couple of months. I’ve noticed, both in myself and others, that it can have an immediate (spiritual, emotional, mental, and sometimes physical) effect. What do you do when you read something or see something or engage in some way (either in person or online), or walk into an area that carries or causes unexpected miasma? What do you do when you are, or instance, engaged in a debate and you realize that you’re dealing with a massive amount of pollution? Often it’s not tenable or even possible to withdraw and cleanse. What do you do when you are stuck?

I’m still working this out for myself. I mean, obviously, I have regular cleansing regimens, and then the tradition specific stuff that I do before rituals or tending shrines and for a long time that was enough. I almost think though, that the more we work to be clean, the more this is a priority, the cleaner we become, the more sensitive we get to that which is not clean. Things that perhaps were not a problem a year ago, might become problematic after that intervene time focusing on cleansing. So what do you do?

Right now – and I’m still working on this—I have a two fold approach. First, I have a very specific prayer that I wrote that I use when I find myself stuck or surprised by miasmic things. Secondly, I carry holy water and spritz the fuck out of myself at times. Right now that’s about it, but I hope to develop this type of troubleshooting further. I’d love to hear people’s ideas.

Here’s the prayer that I use. When I asked to which God I should offer the prayer, (I venerate the Norse Gods and the Greco-Roman Ones), I was told Apollo. I wasn’t thrilled with sharing it but I did divination and was told that it would be best to do so, so here it is.

Purification Prayer to Apollo

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl away from every evil thing.*

Bright Apollo, far shooting God of healers and prophets,
I offer this prayer to You today.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl away from every evil thing.

Most Holy Apollo,
Klarios, Oulios, Alexikakus,
Who averts all harm,
protect me, oh my God.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl away from every evil thing.

In Your Presence, oh my God,
nothing impure may stand.
In Your Presence, oh my God,
nothing impious may find purchase.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl away from every evil thing.

Shining Horios,
keep my boundaries strong,
that no pollution may affect my mind,
my heart, my soul, my work.
Boedromios, preserve me,
as I wade into this filth.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl away from every evil thing.

I lay my petition before You, Shining God,
that I may stand in the light of Your protection.
To You, Lord Apollo,
I pray.

 

(*this line is every so slightly adaped from the song “Sparrow Falls” by David Eugene Edwards)

A Prayer to Loki

In the blistering furnace of our hearts,
may You be hailed.
In the fierce rantings of mind and memory,
may You be hailed.
In the tumultuous storm of our senses,
may we gasp, and chant, and sing Your praises.
May our lips burn with whispered adorations to You.
May our bodies shake in the onslaught of Your presence.
Where You are honored, there be in all of Your glory.
Where You are reviled, there also be,
and work Your cunning wiles.
May You ever be the unquiet thought,
the unruly impulse, the unwary stirring
of holy cravings, the longing for internal revolution,
the descant-mad, dervish-driven
prophetic-spewing roar that drives us
ever and always, unceasingly, unmercifully
into the arms of our own liberation.
Hail Loki, Liberator,
cunning, wild, and wise.
May You ever be hailed.

A Prayer to the Goddess Fulla

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36 Adorations to Fulla

I adore You, Fulla.
I adore You, Bountiful Goddess.
I adore You, Sister of Frigga.
I adore You, Her most trusted retainer.
I adore You, Keeper of the All-Mother’s secrets.
I adore You, Keeper of treasure.
I adore You, cunning and wise.
I adore You, Friend of Nanna.
I adore You, Friend of Baldr.
I adore You, most honored One.
I adore You, Keeper of secrets.
I adore You, friend of Sunna.
I adore You, Singer of charms.
I adore You, of the Gold circlet.
I adore You, of the unbound hair.
I adore You, Shining One.
I adore You, Who misses nothing.
I adore You, Golden Goddess.
I adore You, Bringer of Fullness.
I adore You, Goddess of plenty.
I adore You, well-versed in intrigue.
I adore You, Deluder of Geirrod.
I adore You, Who works Frigga’s will.
I adore You, Who bestows Frigga’s blessings.
I adore You, warder of Frigga’s treasure-box.
I adore You, Keeper of Frigga’s shoes.
I adore You, Keeper of mysteries.
I adore You, protector of resources.
I adore You, Pale One.
I adore You, Bountiful One.
I adore You, Consiglieri of Frigga.
I adore You, skilled in trickery.
I adore You, Goddess of the well-stocked larder.
I adore You, Who brings prosperity.
I adore You, Noble One.
I adore You, Fulla.

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.

More for the Equinox

31 Adorations to Hreðe

I adore You, Victorious One.
I adore You, Famous One.
I adore You, Goddess of the lion winds of March.
I adore You, Herald of Spring.
I adore You, Untamed.
I adore You, Proud.
I adore You, never forgotten.
I adore You, friend of Eostre.
I adore You, Who will not be bound.
I adore You, Who can never be captured.
I adore You, friend of the winds.
I adore You, Racer.
I adore You, Dancer.
I adore You, Laughing Whirlwind.
I adore You, Fierce One.
I adore You, Irresistible One.
I adore You, Warrior
I adore You, Friend of children.
I adore You, Friend of farmers.
I adore You, Who steals away the chill of the land.
I adore You, Who delights in wild places.
I adore You, Patron of those born in the sign of Aries.
I adore You, Who opens the way.
I adore You, Far-sighted One.
I adore You, Implacable One.
I adore You, Never Still.
I adore You, Goddess of gaiety.
I adore You, Goddess of raw, chilly places.
I adore You, Who delights in Her solitude.
I adore You, Who delights in freedom.
I adore You, Who delights in the seasons
and never-ending inevitability of change.

Hail to You, Hreðe. Hail Goddess of the whirlwind. Hail Goddess of March, Who prepares the way for Ostara’s blessings.