My daily practice: Morning ritual, by John H. Halstead
I want to share what my daily practice is. Basically, it involves four short prayers in the morning to the air, Sun, water, and earth. Then I have a prayer over meals. And finally I have a ritual at night with candles. The prayers are all taken from different sources, words that I have come across over the years that have moved me, most of them not Pagan.
When I first wake up, I say to the Goddess:
When I breathe in, you breathe out; when you breathe out, I breathe in.
I then breathe in deeply and out three times, imagining this. It helps me feel connected to the world.
I heard these words recently on an ADF Podcast. I don’t know the MC’s name. This prayer helped me round out my morning practice. Breath is very important to my experiencing the world intensely.
Next I go into my bathroom where there is a small octogonal window that faces east. If the sun is rising, then I address the sun. If not, I light a candle. I then say these words:
Scaling heaven, splendor encompasses you. Chariot-borne, sun-bright, and truly potent, you pour forth, bursting the clouds, giving life to Sun and Dawn.
These words are from the Rig Veda, which relates how Indra rose up and threw down Vritra, the flood-encompassing darkness. The Sun is so important to my sense of well-being. I have to deal with “seasonal affective disorder” every winter, and I am very conscious of the length of the days.
Then I get in the shower, turn on the water, and recite these words:
Eager for their course, forth flow the life-fostering rivers. Along steep slopes their course tumbles, inundating the deserts. The torrent makes a roaring sound like rushing rivers. The fairest courser of them all, you drive on the flood. And the mountains tremble at the birth of your effulgence.
These words are also from the same part of the Rig Veda. I like this prayer because it evokes more than one of the senses: sight, touch, and sound. It may seem strange to say a prayer to the the water coming from the shower head, but water is such a primal element, and we are so dependent on it. What’s more, water is an essential part of my coming alive to the world each day. I am one of those people who doesn’t feel right if I haven’t showered in the morning, even if I showered the night before.
Last, when I leave the house, I make sure to squat down in a secluded spot next to my house and touch the ground, making sure to get my fingers down to the dirt. I recite these words:
The god of earth came up to me many times and said, “Now” … and “Now” … and “Now”. And never once mentioned forever.
This is from a Mary Oliver poem, and it helps me quickly get grounded and be present.
That’s it. In all, it probably doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes, but I have found it really helps orient me. I didn’t set out to construct a ritual around the four Empedoclean elements. I actually just started with the Sun and water rituals. And then I felt a strong need to sometimes go outside and just touch the ground. So I decided to incorporate that practice. And then finally, I heard the ADP podcast mentioned above, and the fourth element just fit right in.
Experiencing the real world
I would emphasize that these are not abstract elements to me though. They are not Watchtowers corresponding to the cardinal directions.
They are the actual elements that I experience as I move into the world: the air I breathe, the Sun I feel on my face (or an effigy in the form of a candle if it is overcast), the water flowing out of my shower head, and the earth I walk on outside.
John H. Halstead is a former Mormon, now eclectic Neopagan with an interest in ritual as an art form, ecopsychology, theopoetics, Jungian theory, and the idea of death as an act of creation. He maintains the website American Neopaganism and the newly-minted blog The Allergic Pagan.
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