Message of the Kahinu to my Natib Qadish community: May the gods guard you and keep you well.*
I would like to bring mindfulness and attention on the practice of a daily devotional prayer practice. Take a few moments and assess your engagement with making a devotional prayer daily. Do you make a prayer daily to connect to the Iluma, our deities, or to a few particular deities of the Iluma, or to one deity? Making a daily prayer of devotion is a practice during which you make time to focus on a deity or deities. It is a prayer in which you set aside time and focus on Them. Daily devotional prayer helps lay a foundation for good relations between ourselves and our deities.
It is easy to fall out of touch with people we care about; and often we have the opportunity to come back into communication with them as well. This can also be true with the Iluma. If you have fallen out of communication with the deities, you have the opportunity to come back into communication with them through daily prayer. If you are new to honoring the deities and you would like to begin healing and building relations with Them, again daily devotional prayer can be helpful.
For establishing a daily devotional prayer discipline, I will put forward some guidelines. Keep in mind that these are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Also keep in mind that the practices of laity and clergy have different expectations and what follows here is for laity, and specifically for our religion of Natib Qadish, even if there are potentially useful items here for adherents of other beginners of polytheistic religions.
- Consider which deities you want to communicate with
- Consider what time of day you will pray, and the reason for doing so
- Consider what you will communicate
- Then pray, and repeat the next day, and the next, and the next.
Let’s look at these matters further:
1. Take a moment to consider the deity or deities you would like to communicate with. Is there Someone you know? Is there Someone you do not know? Is there Someone with whom you would like to improve relations? Is there someone you just want to say “hello” to? If not, you can indeed make a prayer to the Iluma. But sometimes it helps to have a specific Being or Beings you’re trying to communicate to.
2. In order to establish daily devotional prayer as a particular discipline, it is good to establish a particular time of day when you will regularly pray–and generally speaking you do not have to set a strict time by the clock to do this, unless you find that helpful. It is good to consider the deity to whom you are praying and what time of day is perhaps Their strongest–for instance, it makes sense typically to pray to Shachar, the god of dawn, at dawn. Yes, He can be prayed to at other times, but dawn is the God of Dawn’s special time.
Also remember that just because you make one devotional prayer one time a day, it doesn’t mean that you cannot pray again at other times of day. If you’ve said hello to Shachar at dawn, if you see a river you probably wouldn’t say “Oh, I’d tell Yammu-Naharu how beautiful His river is today if I hadn’t already made my prayer to Shachar! Darn it!” It’s not a “one and done” sort of thing. You can say hello more than once in the day to more than one Being in a day…just make sure that you try to make a prayer at least once a day.
3. Think about what you would like to say. In establishing this particular daily prayer practice, I would recommend a prayer of praise, of gratitude, of blessing, of a liver-felt wish for Their wellbeing, for guidance in growing in Their ways. This is Their time, and this is your time with Them. Ignore instant messaging, ignore your phone. Try to screen out 99% of all distractions. Granted if kiddo or kitty is hemorrhaging, use your discretion and common sense here, you can catch back up with prayer later, but remember to follow-up and follow through. If you make a promise to catch up later…keep your promises.
Otherwise, barring hemorrhages, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and focus your mind towards Them…not towards the “ten million other things” that you “have to do right now! Aaaaak!” When another random thought enters your head as you pray…and it will, especially when you’re just starting out…try to watch that thought float by as a cloud. Do not engage or get caught up with the thought, do not focus on the thought, do not try to problem-solve the thought, do not entertain the thought; let it go. Do not try to forcibly ignore the thought; just let…it…go… Don’t get mad at yourself for having other thoughts intrude because this will take your attention further away; let it go. Return your attention back to your prayer. Always keep returning your attention back to your prayer. Daily prayer practice can also be described as an exercise in mindfulness, and in focusing (and re-focusing) your time, your thought on Them.
In this particular daily devotional prayer practice I advise against making a basic “shopping list” of what you need or want. You can certainly make a prayer for those things, but running off that shopping list as a daily prayer-litany is not a good way to establish good relations. I don’t know of too many people who call their parents, teachers, best friends, co-workers, neighbors, then right-off start making demands or requests…and the ones who do often end up with their calls screened.
It’s ok to ask the deities for help, but that is a different thing which can be done as a separate practice to this daily devotional prayer practice. A daily devotional prayer practice that I am outlining here should be more about Them and less about you; that is where devotional prayer is different from how most people have come to understand prayer. Devotional prayer is a particular subcategory of prayer. If you need or want to, talk to Them about your stuff later (or earlier). I have earlier said this is a time when you can pray for guidance: this guidance is specific. If you ask for guidance here in this devotional prayer practice ask for guidance in growing in Their ways. That’s very different from asking for guidance about your career, your family relations, or your goldfish’s health. All these things are valid. But they are not a part of this daily devotional prayer practice, and they should be addressed at a different time.
Sometimes the best remedy to establishing a relationship, keeping a relationship vibrant, or healing a broken one, is just to spend time with the other, to appreciate the other, to do something for that other, or to express a desire for that other to be well. Just spend a little time devoted to Them. It can do wonders.
4. We have a saying among my people: “Wash, rinse, repeat.” When you make your prayer today, remember to do it again tomorrow, and again the next day, and again the next. The key to establishing a discipline of keeping in communication with the deities…is just to do it! If you end up getting out of doing this practice daily, just start it up again.
Do your best to make this daily practice while letting go of your expectations on the deities and whether or not They will answer or how. It’s up to them where, when, how, and if They wish to answer, and the goal of this daily prayer practice is not to expect answer. The goal of this prayer practice is to improve relations with our deities, and to make an act of devotion part of our daily routine, to spend a few moments devoted in thought towards Them. Pray, repeat, and let go. You exercise control over what you do; you do not get to control what They do.
This is your moment to let Them know that you are thinking of them, that you care about them if you do, or even that you love them if you do. (Love is optional. Yes, that sounds weird coming from a culture where we’re taught that religion = love. Religion does not have to mean or equal love. The pressure is off and you don’t have to feel love if you’re not feeling it, and it’s also totally fine if you do. Consider that you may or may not love your co-workers, that’s generally not a requirement for working with them. But, it is good to have good relations with your co-workers, and it’s good to care.)
This is Their moment to receive that gift of time and thought, and discipline from you. It is a gift. (“Discipline” here is a practice that one strives to keep, not a punishment, much like how one would describe learning many a skill or engaging in many a practice. Discipline here means that you make the effort daily to improve your relationships with Them.)
And also, maintaining a daily practice is more than a gift. If you want to have good relations, it is an obligation for you to do your part in keeping those relations good, thus daily devotional prayer helps in keeping that duty. I want to be clear here: daily prayer is not necessarily a duty in an of itself (for the laity), but if you want to keep good relations with the Iluma, doing your part to try to make those relations good is your duty. You cannot expect Them to have good relations with you if you don’t even bother to say hello every now and then. Good relations is a goal of this daily devotional prayer practice. Relations between us human beings and the deities have been ruptured and broken for a very long time; we did not start the breakage, but we must take responsibility to stop the breakage and to begin healing it, as best we can even falteringly with trembling hands and uncertain words.
The kind of devotional daily prayer practice I speak of here is an act of saying “You bring so much into my life every day, I wanted to thank you!” Think about what They do in a day, what they care for: plants, animals, rivers, the rains that fall from the sky, the fiery sun which rises in the sky and sets at night, the soft night sparkling like a glittering cloak above us, the lands which sustain the plant-people and the animal-people and the rock-people and the fungi, and even this odd marvelous thing we call language and the technologies which surround us…and so very much more than this. We live in a wondrous world filled with Holy Beings. Even when we’re going through our worst times, the sun still rises and sets, there is still a land that we are on, the sky is still above us (unless we’re doing a headstand…) there are still wondrous things that surround us even when we are too hurt to acknowledge them.
*If you look back above to my greeting on this post, although it sounds odd to modern ears this is the way that many a letter written on clay tablet in Ugaritic would start. If you are addressing a prayer to one of our deities, and you don’t know where to begin, or you would like a formal way of doing so, try this formula, based on a greeting in a letter intended from someone of lesser rank to someone of higher rank for, yes, the Holy Powers are greater, larger, more than we are. The phrase “seven times seven from afar do I fall” is a common Ugaritic phrase in letters, and by saying this you are reminding yourself that They are greater, larger, and more than we are. With this phrase you are letting Them know that you are trying to learn how to respect Them, and you are trying to learn your relationship to Them and with Them. Fill in the […] below with the appropriate names and relations:
“To [Deity Name], my [deity/goddess/god]: Message of [your name, your relationship to the deity]. At the feet of my [Master/Mistress/Great One(s)] seven times seven from afar I do fall. May it be well with you.” Afterwards, fill in with the content of your prayer, perhaps a praise of that deity, something you admire or cherish about that deity, or make a simple offering, or both.
Those are some basics in establishing a daily devotional prayer practice in our religion: think about Who you’re talking to, plan what time you will practice daily, think about what you want to say, avoid a list of demands. Put practice in motion and keep the practice daily. Remember that the goal of this practice is to devote time and thought towards the Iluma, and to set up, heal, and support good relations with the Them.
Today is 22 Gannu, Shanatu 91 by our calendar.
It is Rediscovery Day, a holiday which celebrates the Rediscovery of the city of Ugarit.