Devotions are not something occasional or just for special events, but part of my everyday life. Waking … dressing … visiting the shrine. For special events I do special things. But each day I go to the shrine to maintain it, make offerings, speak a few words, stand quietly for a time. So it has become part of the rhythm of days, weeks, months through the years.
I offer blessings and feel blessed as the patterns of devotion integrate themselves into the patterns of daily activity, common experience and of passing time. These things reinforce the presence of deity – near and far, but always there because I nurture that presence not just in visions, evocations, creative work, but also in the small everyday things which make up my life.
(following the last post’s thoughts on silent prayer while away in an unfamiliar place and how this applies in more familiar surroundings)
In a place new-visited it is most appropriate to seek an experience of the place openly, without expectation, allowing the numen to express itself, to make itself manifest; to adopt a state of suspended animation, a quiet assumption of being at one with and attuned to all that the place as itself has to offer, and to listen attentively to what the spirit(s) of the place may wish to express in the quietness and the stillness that you bring.
In a familiar place it is more appropriate to greet the spirits that are there, to acknowledge those things that the place has already communicated and to offer whatever is fitting according to what you know of the place. Then is the time for silent reflection and so at-oneness with the place that can enclose you and take you to deeper levels of experience. A simple devotional attitude can enrich both the place itself and the worshipper who is immersed in its its ethos.
In a place set-up, or set aside, for a goddess, a god, or as a sacred precinct for the worship of multiple deities, a more active role for the worshipper is required. Words, deeds, work to be done, all bring offerings to the gods and to the place set aside for them. This is the basis of ritual, though my own preference these days is for simplicity: words and offerings that frame or introduce a period of silent reflection, brief or extended, which is characteristically concluded with a shiver of recognition and acknowledgement that what is brought is accepted.
These propositions concern prayerful devotions rather than visionary experiences, path working, guided meditations and other exploratory activities which may bring the gods into focus and take us to the places they inhabit. These are valuable and rewarding activities, though I find myself both less inclined to perform them and less in need of them as I have grown older and my devotional regime builds on visions and spirit journeys from my younger days. I am, nevertheless, always prepared to be surprised and new revelations do emerge, though as gradual epiphanies rather than sudden visions. Increasingly my emphasis is on the quiet extension of sacramental space – and so a place for otherness – within the white noise of the world as everyday life goes on around me.
Then there is silent prayer. How can this be? Silence does not ask for anything, nor apparently make any offering. It is, rather, a waiting upon what is there, outside the self and not constructed by the self. It attempts to resist the human imposition of meaning on what is experienced: to let what is be itself and for the worshipper to be aware without directly influencing the experience of awareness. It may be that this is not fully achievable. But in silent waiting such awareness may endeavor to come.
So, standing on Marazion Marsh, not very far from the coastal path where I had been walking and taking in the views of sea and cliff with others passing by and the restless ocean rushing in towards us, all was now, by contrast, very still. I watched a white egret in the pools, then a grey heron gliding over the reed beds to land farther off. To be still here was the only appropriate response to the place. To be outwardly silent was not difficult, but turning off the inner commentary on what I was experiencing, suppressing the impulse to interpret, to project and to shape what I was seeing into a narrative, was not so easy. But it was necessary.
This place, and the spirits that are here, can only be fully experienced in the stillness of silent worship. So this is what I brought: not so much my presence as my absence, to allow the presence of the place to fill it. The water birds moved through the marsh. I did not move. At least not while I remained in that condition of silent worship. Time stood still. But it was running out. I caught the movement of some rabbits on the drier ground to one side of me. Some walkers coming along the narrow track from the coastal path on the other side. The prayer ended. Not abruptly or with and real sense of disturbance. It seemed quite naturally to come to its proper end. I moved off quietly, but now contemplating the experience of not contemplating, the human mind active once again. Busy with its busyness of moving on from stillness, of making sense of it, which was not a prayer because the prayer did not try to do that.
This is the first rose of the summer to bloom in my garden so I offer it to Rhiannon.
It is in water from the fountain of Mererid flowing through the cup of Rosmerta which is placed in that fountain. All this is part of my regular devotional activity: to ask a blessing of Mererid as Guardian of the Shrine and to offer back many blessings more. To pour from the cup of Rosmerta and then to dedicate all my devotional focus to Rhiannon for whom the shrine was made, which I affirm as make my dedications.
Today this rose is special because it is the first to bloom and so given to Rhiannon. There will be many more.
In the month of May the land becomes enchanted. The apple tree which was bare, then leaved with fresh green, then adorned with bright blossom, now casts a shade below which a bower of shadow reaches far into the deeps of the world. These deeps are everywhere in this enchanted time between Calan Mai and Midsummer and the long days which continue beyond. I can only respond to this prayerfully : not with a pre-learnt set of words or a pre-defined response, but from the heart, spontaneously reaching out to the gods in the deep places of the world and following the paths they open through a pathless realm. This is one way to pray, directly and instinctively, with or without words as they come to the heart, to the mind or to the tongue as the worshipper responds to a god’s prompting.
But there are other ways to pray. I have written things in advance which are in themselves offerings, anticipating and preparing for a special occasion or purpose. Words produced on these occasions have a particular form in my experience which is, I suppose, determined as much by my researches into prayerful assertions from ancient times as it is to my need to acknowledge the gods in our own time. Typically, as with the recently posted words for Rhiannon, they go with actions : “I will do this …”, I do this …”, I speak to you for this purpose … and for this reason …”. Why do I have to tell a goddess what I am doing when I am doing it? I don’t know. But it does seem to reinforce the actions I take in a positive way and to set up a line of communication that is more effective than the actions alone. It also helps to define what I do and, at least potentially, share it with others.
This is another function of prayer. Even those who work alone rather than in organised groups need to observe the social conventions of communication. We are creatures of words and the words of prayers, even unspoken ones, need to be articulated whether directly or indirectly to the gods. But also to other devotees who might be inspired by them, supported by them, or simply validated in what they also do however different that might be.
So I will continue to pray spontaneously, wordlessly and instinctively as well as to shape prayers into forms of words that reflect our relationships with the gods and also with each other. But I do this whether anyone is listening or not, for the gods are audience enough.
I have written a number of prayers addressed to RIGANTONA for sharing with others in the project of Brythonic Reconstruction. I have also used these prayers myself in my devotional practice. But I first knew her by the more recent form of her name : RHIANNON. This is the name by which I most intimately know her, and the name I usually use when addressing her devotionally in my personal practice.
There is a prayer I wrote to welcome her from the Otherworld in May. Rose petals – and later fresh roses – were used to reflect the ancient practice of placing rose garlands on altars within stables for EPONA.The formal version of this is addressed to RIGANTONA and can be found on the Dun Brython Website => . I find it most appropriate to write something fresh, even if based on previous versions, for special occasions. So here is a more personal variant of it which I used this year. Even this is not exactly as it was spoken. There were some extra bits, some repeated phrases, and some words in Welsh which I like to add. There were also pauses at a few points for emphasis and reflection. But this is the template:
RHIANNON, these rose petals I bring:
I strew them here, and now there
For your coming from your domain
And for your being with us here.
Spring grows to Summer all about us;
Flowers open for your coming
As you ride across the land
Which is enchanted by your riding.
I greet you now at the shrine
That I have created here for you
Where I have waited for the blossom
On hawthorn boughs to welcome you,
As I do now with these petals
Scattered before your altar
For the lifting of the veil
To brighten green boughs with glamour.
RHIANNON, these rose petals I cast
For your coming to your domain,
I strew them here, and now there
Until fresh roses bloom again.
This horse is part of the shrine for Rhiannon in my garden. Each year I wait for the new moon in May to clean off any mould or other accretions that have accumulated over the winter. Then I give the horse a fresh coat of white paint. In the Mabinogi tale Rhiannon comes riding on a pale white horse from out of the Otherworld. So I like to make the horse in her shrine gleaming white so I can welcome her with the coming of may blossom to the hawthorn tree next to the shrine. There is also a rose bush which I have planted for her which is partially visible in the picture. But I will offer her dried rose petals until the bush comes into flower when I will also bring her roses from other parts of the garden. The hawthorn blossoms here are visibly in bud but not yet open though I expect them to open very soon. When they do I will post here with the words I use after I have spoken them to her.
As a footnote to this post, I was spurred on to do something further after seeing the slim crescent Moon next to Venus brightly shining in the west after sunset. This morning when I went out to the shrine the may blossom on the hawthorn was still in bud though it is out elsewhere in my area. So I will still wait, but I did some more work on the horse, putting on a protective shine with some beeswax. Rhiannon, you will come at your own pace elusive as that may be for us to perceive. Already your radiance casts a veil of enchantment across your land.