On Prayer and Privilege: Pantheacon 2014 #1

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“Holy Mother, in whom we live, move, and have our being, from you all things emerge and unto you all things return…

Open our hearts this blessed day, touch our bodies and our minds. Walk with us through the gates of power: in shadow and starlight, in fire meeting earth, in the wind on the ocean, and the sweet kiss of life. Blessed be our journey.”*

I began the Pagans and Privilege panel with that prayer, as I begin everything I do, including the start of each day. I roll out of bed, light a candle, align my soul, and pray. Every podcast begins with that prayer. Every class. Each ritual. It is a reminder to me that I am part of something larger than myself, in order to better create and learn and serve from a place of connection with all things.

As I say in Kissing the Limitless:

“Connection exists. There is immanence and transcendence, and everything beyond and in between. My tradition calls this connection God Herself.”

At this panel, before starting with my usual prayer I almost said, “I would like to start us with a prayer from my tradition and invite you all to meditate or pray to whomever you feel called.” Almost. I failed to follow the impulse and just went on ahead.

After a lively panel – recorded for Elemental Castings** – I spoke with several people and then ConOps had to clear the room. As I and many others waded toward the exit, a woman fell in beside me and started saying something to me about “When you pray…” mentioning that there might be Buddhists or atheists or polytheists or animists who had different experiences of that prayer. Frankly, things were very loud and confused in that moment and it took me a minute to figure out what she was trying to tell me. Ah. Some people might feel alienated, offended, or shut out. Once I got it, ConOps was telling me they needed to talk with me, and then we were out the doors and other people were approaching me, wanting to talk. I said something to this woman, not sure what, but didn’t pause to give her the attention she deserved.

So I tracked down her email to apologize for perhaps seeming to brush her off, and to thank her for the feedback.

Why am I writing about this? A prayer that is dear to me may have alienated some of the people packed into the ballroom. 

Why am I writing about this? I didn’t follow my intuition and make the prayer more inclusive.

Why am I writing about this? In that moment, as moderator of a panel I had convened, I was in a temporary position of power.

This wasn’t one of my classes or rituals. This was a more “public” coming together. Most people, in those moments, choose not to pray. That is a valid option. However, for me, at a convention like Pantheacon, to not pray is to secularize. We are at the convention for sacred purposes. In the coming and going, in the rush from thing to thing, it can be easy to forget.

I choose to ask us to pause. To breathe. To center. I also choose to pray.

What I want to think about in future, however, is how inclusive that prayer is.

For me, as a non-dualist and a polytheist, that prayer includes the cosmos. It includes every human, tree, and star. It includes myriad Gods and Goddesses. It includes the wights and fey beings. It includes the ancestors and descendants.***

It may not sound that way to everyone.

What will I do in the future? I’m not yet sure. I want to ponder the gift this woman offered me: a chance to re-think. A chance to not assume. A chance to reach out, to touch Mystery. A chance to fail. A chance to try again.Weaving

What does the Holy Mother prayer say to me? What other words might I give to that sacred prayer? I might utter the following:

“I call to the fabric of love that wraps us in its cloak. I call upon every thread – thin, smooth, rough, and wide. I call to every color in that weave. I call upon connection: may we remember we are bound now, to each other. May we honor every thread, including our own. May our sense of this connection walk with us through every moment. May we remember how to love. May we weave this love together.” 

 

May we continue to learn. I’ll keep trying.

 

 

*Up to the ellipses is written by Victor Anderson and holds resonances from Aristotle and St. Paul and many others. The remainder is written by me.

**Available mid-March on my podcast page and iTunes.

***For a few months now, I’ve been meaning to write on what it means to be a non-dualist and a polytheist. I’ve been meaning to write on the conflation and confusion of monism with monotheism. I’ve written and spoken on these topics before, but haven’t put them altogether in one place, short form, easy reference. Stay tuned, I guess!

61 Responses to “On Prayer and Privilege: Pantheacon 2014 #1”

  1. Keechy

    I like the new prayer a lot but i like the old one too. Looking at it from the point of view of your podcasts and when you have guests do their own prayer at the beginnings and ends if they want, I think it is interesting to hear how different traditions make their connections. They don’t always ring true for my path, but they are edifying, and who knows when one will catch the attention of someone who is seeking a new direction and for whom it rings perfectly? :) But, can see the need for something more open when convening a large group of mixed pagans and think the new one sounds perfect!

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Thanks, Keechy. I always ask my podcast guests if they want to offer a prayer. Some do, and some don’t. I agree that they are always edifying. I love to learn from other’s traditions.

      Reply
      • Keechy

        Me too! I am still singing the ayah! song and can’t even remember who sang it on one of your podcasts (apologies to that person, I loved listening to you but i have Lyme disease and my memory is shot), but it stuck for me immediately, and I just add my own deities to it, whoever comes to my mind that day. I sing it while doing household chores to remind myself that this too is sacred work. I love it!

        Reply
  2. Ember

    On the one hand, I’m a fairly hard polytheist, and so in some ways I’m included in the group that doesn’t adhere to the form of prayer you use.

    On the other hand, as long as it’s clear that you’re offering this as YOUR prayer, that this is how you pray, what you have to offer, and you’d like to share it with us, I appreciate it. You are offering the hospitality you have to offer, and I am happy to accept it.

    What is a problem is to say, “Because my beliefs address everything in the Universe, it’s covered, and if your beliefs about how the Universe works differ, that’s not a problem, because I already included you in my prayer.

    Yes, you included ME. But you didn’t leave room for my beliefs. There’s a difference between asking me to respect that you have your beliefs, and asking me to share your beliefs.

    However, I know you actually do know all this, and I have a sense for what your intentions are, so I, personally, didn’t have a problem with you offering up that prayer. I know, though, that some of my fellow hard polytheists were a bit uncomfortable with it, given the whole point of the setting.

    –Ember–

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Ember,

      thanks for writing in with your thoughts. I’d love further discussion on how to be more inclusive in our prayers and offerings at things like panel discussions at Pantheacon.

      It is my intention to keep pondering.

      Reply
      • Ember

        I actually think trying to be inclusive, in the sense of offering a prayer that covers all the options, is not a practical thing. Some of our various beliefs are actually mutually exclusive, and that’s really okay.

        I have come to understand that a model of hospitality shared is a better model than a model of common ground. Common ground implies we actually have to have some amount of sameness in order to respect each other, and I don’t believe that’s true.

        There may be some folks who, even if you make your offering in the spirit of sharing what you have, will be offended that what you have doesn’t match what they have. If that is the case, perhaps simply requesting a moment of silence for each person to contemplate or pray in the manner of their personal practice is best, in certain settings.

        I started with a thought that, if there is a moment of space for people to call OUT their own ways, that might do well – but that just presents the problem of someone invoking a deity someone else is triggered by, and the ball of yarn gets more tangled that way, not less.

        Perhaps an intermediate step of having each of the *panelists* offer a bit of prayer or contemplation according to their personal practice, so at least a diversity of practice is acknowledged.

        But overall, I’d say there’s no single right answer to this, so we have to let it go on some level. We can either make room for each person to be unique in their own personal space, or offer what is we personally have to offer to the room, overtly acknowledging that there are other ways to be, this is ours to offer, in the spirit of hospitality, since we are hosting, and when we are guests, we respect the host. As long as a diversity of people are welcome to host, it seems fine to me.

        –Ember–

        Reply
        • David Dashifen Kees

          Ember, can you expand a bit on what you mean when you say a “model of hospitality?” To me, hospitality is best summarized by acting to meet the needs of others based on their expectations and not on your own. In other words, it requires an exploration of the person to whom you’re offering the hospitality rather than relying on an assumption of their need. Does this line up with your thinking as well?

          Reply
          • Ember

            Wow, that’s not a small question to unpack, actually, but it’s fair. Let me see if I can do this succinctly…

            I picked this up from Dr. Philip “Boo” Riley when I was working on my BA in Religious Studies at Santa Clara University (credit where due). It basically says that in an Interfaith context, rather than everybody striving to find what they have in common, which works when it’s an all Abrahamic context, but not so well when it’s truly inclusive of all world religions, the point is for each group to offer what they have, what they do, as they do it, with an acknowledgement that it doesn’t match what anyone else does, but it’s what’s theirs to offer. They are responsible for respecting the limitations of their guests, and guests are responsible for respecting the limitations of the hosts. People who aren’t baptized can’t be offered the Eucharist, for example, but they’re welcome in the church itself. People who have to keep Kosher aren’t going to partake of my Pork offerings to the Vanir, but everyone may share a sip of the Mead.

            It’s basically a model of being who you are, and not forcing anyone else to be other than they are, but actively welcoming them into your space anyway, to the extent that your respective limitations allow it.

            Hospitality models differ from culture to culture, tradition to tradition, but pretty well every culture and religious tradition does HAVE a model for Hospitality. Follow the one you have to the best of your ability. Be honest what that means. Don’t require of your guests that they conform to your traditions beyond their ability to do so. Don’t require of your hosts such either.

            What this looks like in some context other than interfaith, I’d have to explore differently, but that’s what I’m on about here just now.
            -E-

            Reply
          • Ember

            To answer the other half of your question – yes, of course if you know, or have a chance to find out, what your guests limitations are, and your own limitations don’t prevent you from accommodating them, that would be great. But these models of hospitality include contexts where there’s no time for that. The stranger is at your door unannounced. You don’t stop them at the gate to question them before letting them sit by the fire, you just bring them in, let them sit, bring them something hot to eat, something cool to drink, and THEN let them choose what they can accept from there. Once the immediate need is accounted for, sure, a conversation begins about the details – do you need anything I can give you but haven’t yet?

            But there IS just as much responsibility on the guests to be good guests as there are on the hosts to be good hosts. You’re not obliged to go against your limitations, but you are obliged to be polite about the limitations you have, and to accept theirs.

            -E-

            Reply
            • David Dashifen Kees

              Great!! Interestingly, I think I would ask the Stranger first what e needed before simply assuming that it was food, shelter, and warmth. E might just need a cell phone to make a call, for example, and all offers of food/shelter/warmth would actually aggravate em rather than satisfy a need. I think, frankly, that I’m rather tentative when it comes to others because I have a rough time reading the social cues of others so there’s probably a lot of personal stuff wrapped up in everyone’s response, too. Thank you for your thoughts!

              Reply
              • Ember

                Well, that description is talking about the history behind such traditions. I’m Heathen, so such history includes “it’s snowing outside, and there’s no such thing as cell phones”.

                In practice today, I’m not going to demand someone come into my house and let me close the door behind them before they tell me why they came.

                Obviously context matters.
                -E-

                Reply
          • Ember

            “To me, hospitality is best summarized by acting to meet the needs of others based on their expectations and not on your own.”

            So… I’d say no. It’s based neither on your expectations, nor theirs, but on their actual needs and your *ability* to meet them. What is important is not to confuse your willingness with your ability, or rather, not to confuse unwillingness with inability.
            -M-

            Reply
            • David Dashifen Kees

              How would you classify the difference between my expectation of my needs and my actual needs? I’m not sure I see a difference. Honestly, this is likely a conversation better had elsewhere, but now I’m even more deeply curious :)

              Reply
              • Ember

                Want and Need are different, yes.

                But also, Expectations and Needs are very different. Anticipated Needs may not turn out to be needed after all, and I still think it’s fair if the anticipation was honest, but just because something is expected, doesn’t mean it’s needed.

                -E-

                Reply
              • Ember

                I love having Thorn in the conversation, but should I move this to my own blog out of respect for her space?

                I’m so used to forums…
                -E-

                Reply
                • Thorn

                  Ember, it feels like a useful part of the larger conversation, despite it being tangential. I’m happy with it remaining here.

                  Reply
  3. Todd Covert

    Thanks for this. As someone for whom the phrase “Holy Mother” falls somewhere between meaningless and off-putting (strictly as regards my personal path), I have to say I was among those who had a reaction to your prayer at the panel. My reaction was not one of offense, though–really more a mix of sadness and bemusement that, after all the talk of consciousness raising about inclusivity in liturgical language, the session was closed with a prayer before a multi-traditional audience that contained language certain to be off-putting to many of them. Certainly underscored the main point of the discussion, of course–the difficulty of recognizing these sorts of potential negative signals while operating from a place of personal spiritual integrity. I think, really, just a simple preface for context that you were going to offer a prayer drawn from your personal practice would have been adequate…and I like your new prayer above quite a lot as well. Thanks again for sharing this.

    Reply
  4. s.e.

    I think that what you had thought to say but didn’t would have been a step in the right direction. Ember’s later comment about a shared hospitality model rather than trying for inclusion of all is a really important direction to consider and rings really true for me.

    Reply
  5. Stifyn Emrys

    This is an interesting topic and, in my opinion, one where balance is required. I’m personally a non-theistic Pagan (like Charlie on the panel), but it never once occurred to me to be offended or marginalized by your prayer. I took it as your prayer from your tradition. I agree that it would have helped if you had stated as much, but I don’t think that’s necessary. It might also have been helpful if you had included “I” statements, rather than “we” statements. However, that’s tricky, too, because it could give the impression that you are excluding others.

    Because I self-identify as Pagan, your prayer seemed perfectly appropriate to me, possibly because I felt as though I were in a “safe place” where diversity was celebrated. Had someone spoken an overtly Christian prayer at a public meeting, I’m sure my reaction would have been different. Another contrast, you didn’t mention any specific god or goddess in your prayer, and it did not seem to be an exercise in evangelism.

    Here’s what concerns me, and where I feel balance is needed. I applaud your desire for inclusion, but it’s simply impossible to be all things to all people. While I believe presenters have an added responsibility to set a tone for inclusiveness, because of their high-visibility role in the discussion, I also believe those in the audience have a responsibility to listen without prejudice to the voice of the moderator and panelists. They key, to me, is not the prayer in some isolated sense, but in the overall tone of the event and the discussion. There’s no question in my mind that this tone was one of inclusion and diversity. That, to me, set the standard for acceptance of individual remarks, both by the panelists and the audience, within that context and created the “safe space” to which I referred.

    If too many different comments were to purposely and egregiously cross the line into an area of exclusion and dismissiveness, that would certainly threaten the safety felt in the meeting room. From my perspective, nothing approaching that happened. I think it’s great you’re examining the effects of your words; that’s never a bad thing. But I also personally found nothing offensive in your prayer, though you and I walk different paths.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Thank you Stifn. I appreciate your words a lot.

      No one can be all things to all people, that is certain. But we can attempt to be considerate of one another. I may have only needed to say “I’d like to start with a prayer from my tradition.” I’m not yet sure what the best course is. I’m still listening.

      Reply
    • Patrick

      I agree completely. In any community or relationship, even one as transitory as a conference session, there is an obligation not to needlessly offend, but there is a corresponding obligation not to needlessly take offence.,

      Reply
      • Thorn

        Patrick, I commented to someone on Facebook that I wish in the midst of differences or disagreements we assumed “good faith” from one another. There is often a rush to assume “bad faith”, it is true.

        I’m not sure what was happening in this case, as I haven’t heard from everyone who felt offended! :grin:

        I’ve a feeling they were a minority, but that isn’t a reason for me to just brush them off, either. So I might ask you (and Karen Krebser) in treating one another as adults, how do we thread the needle of respect?

        Reply
        • Patrick

          Thorn: If I could concoct an adequate answer to that question, I’d bottle it and make it freely available (after thoroughly dosing myself first).

          While there are certain contexts and speakers that warrant suspicion, the practice I strive toward is to be strict in my speech and gracious in my hearing. Seems to me they should go together. “Be kind, everyone you know is fighting a hard battle” is particularly applicable when we don’t like something someone is saying.

          Now, I want to apply this to the woman in the situation you describe as well, which made me think about why the situation you described bugged me. I think it’s that it wasn’t that she took offence, but “some people might take offence if….” I don’t really pray, but like Stifyn to whom I replied, it would have never occurred to me to take offense at your words. Really, I’d prefer others not speak for me if they imagine I might perhaps take offence at something. If she had said “I felt excluded by your words because…,” you have something and someone to work with. But how do you respond to these some people that might take offence? Perhaps it’s designed to silence.

          Reply
          • Shannon

            From the very different domain of network protocol design, we get Postel’s Prescription:

            “Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.”

            Actually, given that networking protocols are really just human communication compressed to its bare minimum essentials, (due to a bandwidth that is, even in the fastest channels, many orders of magnitude smaller than even a simple conversation between two people,) this principle generalizes to a very useful rule of thumb for interacting with humans, especially in groups of unknown receivers.

            –Shannon

            Reply
  6. Anna Korn

    When you say you are a non-dualist, what do you mean? I can imagine a lot off meanings, bit I don’t want to assume…

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Anna, thanks for asking. What I mean is that there is no subject and no object. That everything is a manifestation of the same substance. All things are interconnected. I experience that in my most mystical states and it carries over in a return to more “ordinary” reality in which I can view polarities as ways to better learn about cycles and experience. I always view things as interconnected, even when my emotions or thought processes may want to separate things out. Even in distinction there is connection.

      Reply
  7. katsmeow

    If anyone has read much of any of your work they would know you go right up to the max to be inclusive. I don’t see anyway you could have included all things for everyone in a prayer. This runs right there with the fact that we are all solitary when we leave the circle again.
    You would have had to talk all night to include all of the perspectives in that room.
    Having sat at the panel talk at FPG at Beltane a few years back I have to say you handle things much better than I ever would have.
    It is one thing to be aware of things but I feel you will have to at some point be content with the best you can do and let others deal with any shadows this might trigger for themselves.
    I know you are good at reading people, but no one can sort an entire room and make them happy with your words. At some point it is their responsibility to own their reactions and decide how to act on that notion.
    Fiat Lux

    Reply
  8. William C

    I wasn’t at Pantheacon, yet I feel the need to chime in. I attended one of your workshops ‘turning on your psychic light’ I believe it was called, here in Austin held at Mir’s place You might remember me, i was the nervous, kinda stand-offish and not feeling well person. The most powerful part of that workshop, for me, was that prayer. I had never heard it before, and it sent chills up my spine, and still does to this day. It’s the only piece of liturgy/prayer that I use now. I can understand to a point some people being put off by it, yet at the same time I don’t understand. I think perhaps what might have thrown people off was a prayer that wasn’t dualistic -God/Goddess in nature. Part of me thinks that if you had done one of that sort, even unannounced, there wouldn’t have been much, if any, problems. IDK.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Blessings to you, William. I know many people who resonate strongly with the prayer. For some, it is the only thing that stays with them through times hard and easy.

      Reply
      • William C

        And blessings to you and all. I just re-read what I wrote, and that last bit didn’t come off as I thought it had. I hope that you didn’t take it as finger pointing, which is what it sounds like. It’s intention was to be humorous. :D

        Yes, that prayer, along with the reality of God Herself speaks to me. Ive been involved in the pagan community, mostly along the edges, for many a year and this is the first time something felt *right*, i feel it sovery deep into the heart, in my light and in my shadow.

        Reply
  9. Michelle

    I was not at your panel discussion, I saw this posted on fb and well, your words sing to my heart. I was trying to contact you more personally but was unable to locate a contact email. I am asking permission to use your wonderful words. Both of your prayers connect to my heart, permission is being asked for the use of both of them if possible. thank you

    Reply
      • Anna Korn

        I like the prayer, I didi not take offence, although I heard others, mainly polytheists, who felt it was too “Wiccan.”
        I feel I can’t fault people who are sharing their own traditions from an open heart ( as opposed to evangelizing,) We can only come truthfully from our own experiences. Better that than projecting some assumption!

        The prayer is Thorn’s version or adaptation of an opening invocation used in the Feri trad. I believe it was written for use in Caradoc/ Gabriel’s Bloodrose classes…at least that was the first time I heard it used, and I never heard Victor or Gwydion use it. It is based on a similar invocation of Jesus in Acts 17:28, which is itself based on writings by Epimenides.
        Best wishes,
        Anna

        Reply
        • Thorn

          “We can only come truthfully from our own experiences.” yes. this.

          Thanks for the info, Anna. I always thought Victor wrote those first lines. And yes, the first part has reflections from both Ancient Greek and Christian liturgy.

          I mentioned in the footnote that everything from the elipsis on is mine.

          It’s funny that some would think the prayer too Wiccan. I’ve never been Wiccan. Had I called upon The Lord and The Lady I could see the confusion.

          Reply
  10. Apuleius Platonicus

    Ancient polytheists felt no inhibitions about using singular nouns for referring to the divine. Back then there was no danger of misunderstanding, because the idea of “one and only one god” was simply not taken seriously by the vast majority of people (to the extent that anyone gave it any thought at all). This is especially true when praying to some particular deity, when it is perfectly natural to refer specifically to that deity. And, besides, prayers are not the place for disclaimers, asterisks, and such. And on the specific subject of Buddhists, the vast majority of the world’s Buddhists believe in all sorts of divine beings, including but not limited to Goddesses and Gods.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Apuleius, that is very interesting! Thanks for the information. It is something I’ve noticed in reading some of the ancient Greeks, for example, but for a non-Greek speaker it can be hard to know what is just a matter of translation.

      Contemporarily, I’ve found great confusion about what monotheism is and how it works – the conflation of the non-dual with a specific “one God” is a big part of the problem. I wrote some about this at the start of Kissing the Limitless, but that essay I talk about still likely needs to happen.

      Reply
  11. maryannj

    It’s a beautiful prayer, one I start and end every day with. I have used it in rituals with people of a lot of different styles of belief present in the circle. I love that prayer, and I know non-pagans who also love it and feel included in it. I’m amazed that it was offensive to people. But we all hear things filtered throughout own experiences and baggage and who can tell how those words sounded in various ears? I know I am offended by prayers that end with “in Jesus’ name we pray” so I do know how that feels. I don’t think it’s possible to please everybody, because someone will always feel something was left out. This is not to trivialize what people are expressing about this, I just think that on a practical level, it’s the way the world works. Blessed be.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Maryann, thanks for writing in. This is the first time anyone has expressed dismay to me regarding this prayer. I use it in Pagan gatherings and interfaith work as well. But it is good for me to think outside my own box.

      Reply
  12. Karen Krebser

    I am looking forward with great interest to reading what you have to say in a potential future blog post about monism versus monotheism as well as all the other explanations of terms. I honestly have no idea what half of them mean, or, well, actually, what is meant _by_ them (I know the dictionary definition of non-dualism, for example, but I’m really interested in reading a further discussion of how it is applied in a spiritual/religious practical context and what it implies within that context).

    But my real reason for commenting on your post today is this: is it really necessary to always specify inclusionist intentions? Do people need to be told to pray according to their own beliefs, or that it’s ok for them to do so, whether a group prayer includes their god/gods/pantheon or not? The woman who approached you seems to have done so from a place of integrity, from what you’ve written, and a place of wanting to make sure that no one feels left out in the future. But therein lies the problem for me: have we become such a nation of dainty pray-ers that we are unable to reach out to our own expressions of Divinity in our own ways unless Teacher Says So? I understand that in a community which comprises so many people who elsewhere feel marginalized that it’s important to emphasize inclusion. But I also have an expectation of spiritual maturity that requires me to do my practice regardless of what others around me are doing. (At least I think/hope it’s “maturity” and not “pride” or “being a jerk.”) I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I appreciate the sensitivity, it’s ok to treat me as if I don’t need it.

    With much love and gratitude,
    Karen

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Karen,

      I wonder about this too. I have been a big opening festival rituals where “the God” was called in by a man and “the Goddess” was called in by a woman. That felt somewhat alienating to me – I am not Wiccan – but I also knew I hadn’t planned the ritual and therefore, I was a guest, so I participated anyway.

      My position of relative power is what makes me question this current round – and I later heard that others who were at the panel took their grievances about my prayer to another person’s talk. So it wasn’t just this one person.

      I do want to be as welcoming to others as possible. And most people do this by foregoing prayer. That doesn’t sit right with me. More time for pondering is needed, I think. And more of this sharing of opinions and ideas!

      (and I left a question for you in a comment to Patrick, if you’d care to check it out!)

      Reply
  13. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    It’s interesting that you wrote about this, Thorn, because it was a topic that ended up being discussed at the Wiccanate Privilege panel on Sunday afternoon in the Covenant of the Goddess/etc. suite, and caused quite a bit of contention there (mostly against my friend and colleague who mentioned it as being Wiccanate). The point he was making–and I’ll be writing more about this on my blog over the next week/when I have time to do a full report on it, is that he found it to be a good panel, but it was ironic to him that the prayer was of a more monistic (in his view) viewpoint, and fits in with the Wiccanate model more closely than a polytheist model, which is fine…except, at an event that is meant to be as inclusive as possible, without the caveats that you might have given, it didn’t end up “landing” that way with some hearers.

    Personally, when I hear your prayer, I think, “Well, not everything in there supports this view, but I hear this as speaking about Nyx,” who is a very specific individual goddess who isn’t quite the source-and-destination “Oneness,” but who can have that sense about her sometimes.

    In any case, I think it’s quite good that you have commented on this, because a lot of people were defending you and being somewhat uncharitable and not dropping the subject when it was raised at the panel the following day.

    Reply
  14. shadoedance

    I may be being a little pragmatic here, and perhaps a little un PC but what about freedom of religion and freedom of speech, freedom of expression? If I was at such an event and someone offered up a prayer ( be they Christian, Jewish, islamic) I would not feel tht that was wrong or in someway uninclusive, or that they were attempting to suggest the right way of doing things. I believe I would just think: well that was their way of doing that. Interesting. How nice that they shared something intimaye and meaningful with me. Perhaps the preyer resonates with me…. perhaps not. Either I learn something beautiful or I leave it alone as one person’s way of connecting with something… and I move on. This had to do with me setting personal bounderies I guess. I know where I end, and another person begins. If something doesn’t sit right with me, unless there is something harmful, deliberately disrespectful or prejudice being expressed, I just move on. Otherwise, How can we go to a multifaith panel and expect to learn from others if we don’t encourage them to freely express their beliefs. How can panelists speak thier truth without wooring about offending us? the beauty of multifaith is celebrating difference whilst finding similarities right? If we need to constantly watch our language, our expression and our thoughts in the name of inclusivity soon we’ll all be saying exactly the same ( out of fear of alienating people with our personal experiences) and the beauty of difference, alternative, variation will be lost.
    Anyone who knows anything about Thorn will know that her name stands for integrity. I could never imagine that she would deliberately intend to offend, alienate or exclude.

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  15. Chelidon

    While I agree that the introduction to the prayer that you had thought of and not used might have been helpful, and it is to your credit that you spent so much thought and energy on this, I personally have no problem with being exclusive, or being excluded. Not everything, even in the context of a public presentation or prayer, even in a multifaith context, needs to be all things to all people. If I go to an event, and someone is leading a prayer with which I do not identify, or which does not resonate with me for some reason, I can take in that information, and think, “how fascinating,” and either choose to analyze and work with it further, or just move on. That response is fully within my power and authority to make for myself.

    Frankly, I see issues in the other direction as well, diluting or altering something powerful and true in order to make it more accessible or palatable to all people. Now I am NOT supporting institutionalized discrimination or systematic exclusion in any way, but rather supporting the power of discernment and owning my own experience and reactions, and finding value in that experience, even if I do not feel fully included.

    Much of life is about boundaries, and being (or feeling) on the “wrong” side of a boundary is one valid part of the human experience, worthy of exploration. I suppose that’s a long-winded way of saying that there may be a balance to be found here.

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  16. Odelia

    “Warp” and “weft” are not used very much anymore and that’s a shame because they are a fitting analogy to the metaphor of fabric as unity and how it works. We are the warp held together by the weft and if it breaks or is weak, we fray and not only is the fabric is weaker for it, but our own individual thread in the warp are also weakened. The warp does not exist as effectually and as beautifully as it does adhering to the weft. A string on the floor can be beautiful, but when it is itself in the context of a whole, it does not lose its individual beauty, but magnifies it poetically and practically among the greater whole. You have chosen love as a cord in the weft and I find that lovely. It is very difficult to find a common bond, thread, weft around which all threads of people feel comfortable, but that you take up the challenge is courageous and generous. Cool.

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  17. Syrbal/Labrys

    I don’t believe any prayer can be absolutely inclusive. I am a skeptical soft-polytheist panentheist with Jungian aspects who feels that any gods “out there” do not need our worship and largely are self-motivated and self-involved Beings that do NOT respond often to human devotion and or entreaty. Therefore, I do not formally “pray” at all….so I don’t really care whether a prayer includes me, I take it in the spirit in which it is offered for the most part. I find myself outside “most” commonly perceived pagan groupings….I resist “homogenization” but that doesn’t mean I cannot discuss with others what they practice and believe with perfect composure. I do wish more folks could step outside their boundaries enough to acknowledge important commonalities like the socio-political need to address the ecology and the issue of BEING religious minorities. Thank you for what you do on both of those counts.

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  18. Epilogue…maybe? | The Cave of Oracle

    […] 1. T. Thorn Coyle started it off by discussing her opening prayer that she presented at a “Pagans and Privilege” discussion panel the aftermath of it. Personally, I love Thorn and I enjoy her posts which I see on Facebook. I also admire her listening skills. You can find her report here. […]

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  19. Sway

    hos·pi·tal·i·ty
    [hos-pi-tal-i-tee] Show IPA
    noun, plural hos·pi·tal·i·ties.
    1.
    the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
    2.
    the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

    You were trying to be considerate in caring in a way that you know. For that you should be thanked, it’s not your job to know how everyone perceives things. The prayer was beautiful your meaning got across. Why should anyone be offended? Simply because they’re aspect of how their path wasn’t involved, mentioned or taken into account? If you ask me that’s pretty childish and intolerant. Honestly they’re intolerance shouldn’t be persecuted on you. If you were a Buddhist monk, a Rabbi who made a prayer based upon their faith, would they get just as offended and harass them. Isn’t that the whole point of the conference, acceptance and tolerance.
    What wasn’t so easy to understand. Doesn’t mean you don’t adhere doesn’t mean you didn’t understand the prayer it just mean you weren’t willing to accept it. Which is what I’m basically hearing. Which is comming off pretty intolerant. I’m with shadoedance and Chelidon with this one.

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  20. Cathie Rayes

    Awww Thorn I just want to hug you! I’m sorry for the controversy and admire you for opening this conversation.

    Here’s what means the absolute most to me. I look up to you as someone highly experienced and skilled on the Path, someone who is way farther along than I am, someone who is totally in tune with her own intuition. So when you said that you had an impulse to introduce the prayer with an explanation, but you ignored it and just started praying, you made me feel so much better about the times when I ignore my impulses too and end up in similar situations where my good intentions ended up offending the very people I intended to reach out to with love. Oh my gosh, thank you for posting about that part of it and letting me know that I’m not alone! It can be really hard to walk this Pagan Path of mine, and I always worry about the mistakes I make along the way… but if you make this kind of mistake too–however occasionally–then I guess it’s just human of us, after all.

    Thanks for always being encouraging (even if it’s inadvertent!), and thanks for being willing to have the hard conversations. I appreciate the chance to read everyone’s thoughts.

    Brightest Blessings to you,
    Cath

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  21. Jade Dance

    Hello Thorn,
    First off, thank you for what you do. The eloquence and maturity that you bring are helpful, to me and to the community, and much appreciated.
    Comments and questions for you:
    Re the Holy Mother prayer- Though you are not Wiccan, the wording, the feel of it easily could be; in particular “Holy Mother” and the references to earth, air, fire, water. If someone was perturbed by its reference to a less specific Divine, its hard for me to see that as not being hypersensitive because, given the prior discussion, you clearly could not have called to anyone more specific. If anything, I’d’ve not even specified mother. My most common form of address is “You the Divine, Whose greatest name is Love”.
    Re The Weave Of Love prayer- That is lovely. I myself might say “interwoven” rather than “bound”, to me “bound” implies being tied against my volition; this is certainly subjective, some will see it this way, others will see it other ways.

    A question- Can you elaborate on something for me? You mention above feeling alienated when a man invoked the God and a woman invoked the Goddess. Can you please tell what was uncomfortable about this? I’m not familiar with your background, so I’m curious to know. If you’d rather not discuss it, that’s cool; i have no wish to discomfit you, only to understand.
    Thanks very much and have a great day.
    Whatever blessing you’d like to receive,
    Jade

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  22. Yvonne Aburrow

    I think it is great that you have reflected on how you could have set your prayer in context.

    The line “For in thee we live and move and have our being.” comes originally from Epimenides’ Cretica and was quoted by Paul in Acts 17:28.
    http://heartofflame.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/epimenedes-and-aratus.html

    I like the new prayer too.

    I wonder if it is ever possible to be totally inclusive whilst maintaining one’s own integrity in an interfaith context. I went to a remembrance service once where an Anglican vicar tried to be inclusive by praying to God the Father. So she actually excluded Muslims and Jews with that anyway, and certainly excluded me as a Pagan. But she was being true to her own tradition and trying to avoid offence by not praying to Jesus. Her predecessor always used to have a pause before starting the prayer so that all those who did not want to participate in the prayer could leave.

    I like the discussion of hospitality above. If someone came to my house for a meal and I was a vegetarian, I would not offer them meat, but if they had other dietary requirements, I would offer food that conformed to their dietary requirements. So as Ember said, the host offers what e can, and the guest accepts what e can.

    Not sure how that translates into the situation of a prayer. I am a great fan of “translating in my head” when someone says something that does not quite work for me, though.

    I think your suggestion of starting with “this is a thing from my tradition” goes a long way to resolving the issue. If you go for the “May we be blessed…” type of prayer, there’s always someone who will be offended that deities/divinity didn’t get a look in.

    There was once a comedian (Dave Allen) who always concluded with “may your God go with you” – most people liked this a lot, because it didn’t specify who your God was, or whether your God was the same as anyone else’s. Obviously we would need to change it to “your deity” to include all genders :)

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  23. Pagan prayer

    […] others, it can be difficult to express your theological viewpoint without excluding others.  One proposed solution is to say “this is a prayer from my tradition” and perhaps invite people to […]

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