We live in a country in which many are deeply religious, yet so few actually know about religion. According to a recent survey, not only do Americans know very little about people of other faiths and what they believe, they also know precious little about their own religions!
That’s why I am glad for this new project, called Faithbook:
PBS (the Public Broadcast System, a TV station that is supported by donations (rather than advertising), for those readers outside the US) is hosting a new feature on their website, called Faithbook. Subtitled “God in America” it certainly is full of assumptions, but I will assume good intent.
The project is documenting how Americans actually feel about religion and spirituality in their own words, and you can browse what others believe, too. They ask a series of guided questions and people create their own profiles to answer them, so we get to see the diverse mosaic that is US culture. I have started my Faithbook page, and am answering the questions slowly.
I encourage all of you out there reading this to create a Faithbook page and answer the questions. If not for anyone else, certainly for yourself!
Most religious witches that I know and respect have a sitting practice as well as a prayer practice.
Many newbies to witchcraft are surprised by this, thinking that sitting (meditation) is a Buddhist practice and prayer belongs to the Judeo-Christians. I have heard a ridiculous amount of times on the internet that “witchcraft is a craft, not a religion”, which is a generalization that only applies to a percentage of all the witchcraft traditions out there. So please folks, stop saying that- it is not true across the board!
People have been praying and meditating across the globe long before the “Big 5*” religions came to be. Indigenous/pagan cultures have been praying and meditating for quite some time.
When I first started studying Feri, breathing and sitting were the first concepts introduced by my first teacher, T. Thorn Coyle. Her beginning Feri classes (which lasted a little over two years) emphasized self-discipline and mastery of the Self, with the ultimate desired result being a strong powerful witch. For that framework, I am truly grateful. She emphasized the goal of becoming self-possessed, which she described then as “being familiar with all our parts and not letting them control us”.
Most religious traditions worth their salt have this as a goal- self gnosis leading to interactions with the world(s) in a much more powerful and respectful way. Iron** (the work of self alchemy) leads to Pearl** (the work of building beyond yourself, connection).
Thorn’s way of sitting, which she called “GodSoul listening”, was similar to Buddhist Vipassana practice. You notice things as they arise, and do not judge yourself for having thoughts. Often the things that arise, particularly if they are non-verbal are messages from GodSoul*** or Fetch***. I took to writing down what I experienced and still find them helpful in hindsight.
At first, I found sitting daily for 20-30 minutes unbearable. Now I find it unbearable if I do not do it for a while. I get cranky and quick to flare with emotions before I am even aware that they are happening. Sitting makes me a much more aware person (and therefore easier to deal with!).
Prayer is equally important, and the most common prayers in Feri are to one’s own GodSoul. There are so many of these, the Ha prayer, the Flower Prayer, but one of my favorites is from Cora Anderson, whose Christian upbringing (which she folded into her Feri practice) and Appalachian common sense shines through in this work:
I believe that we are three souls in one body
And that you are the highest, best, and most perfect part of me
Give me what I need each day
Keep me from evil, though it be the very thing I pray for
And bring me to the good even though from ignorance I don’t know enough to ask for it.
Gods, I miss Cora. Seeing her every week really was a way to ground myself in Feri teachings and care for a beloved elder at the same time.
Orion Foxwood, founder of the Faery Seership Tradition (which I find to have eerily similar theology to Feri, plus a charming sexy man leading the way to boot!) said in a workshop I attended once, “A good witch listens (sits) and talks (prays) every day.”
Of course, we also offer devotions to Gods we work with as well- but often my devotions to them are wordless- such as altar offerings or art. But many pagans I know pray to their patrons and Gods that they work with as well.