“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.
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!