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A Different Approach to Deity

Neopagan, Indigenous, and Earth-based Spiritual Practice

By Rachael Watcher

So much of what we think of as “prayer” comes out of a social experience that is informed by the Abrahamic religions, that we often forget about how our indigenous brothers and sisters approach their conversations with the Creator. For most of my younger life I was taught that prayer was something used to open important ceremonies or said in church or temple. A public prayer would generally take a few minutes of time standing or sitting with head bowed, hands clasped together in my lap, sometimes speaking the words along with everyone, sometimes having someone speak for us as we contemplated the words and their meaning.

In the Abrahamic traditions, words – in prayers, psalms, meditations, zikrs, and chants – are a critical component, a primary means of access to Deity. Neopagan, Indigenous, and related Earth-based traditions, are utterly different in their approach to Deity. Until I became deeply engaged in interfaith dialogue I did not even think to approach what we do from the standpoint of “prayer,” for at least three reasons.

– We do not refer to our spiritual practice as prayer.

– In ritual we do not equate sitting still and allowing someone to talk for us or with us with connection with deity. Our connection, while a shared, active experience, is often very personal and varies in form for each person in the ritual.

– When we enter into ritual the entire process is the “prayer.” There is no distinction between the ritual that we are performing and our communication with Deity. From here on, I’ll be talking about ritual rather than prayer.

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