Ignition – Introductions
This piece is going to be very different from much of our previous output.
Most of the time, when we put out material through Arya Akasha, it’s pretty high-minded and somewhat theoretical stuff. In-depth etymology and theological inquiry that’s fascinating – and, for those outside a certain sphere of interest, perhaps seemingly fascinatingly useless.
Still, it has had an impact, an effect. We have had a steady stream of people contacting us (and others) to say that the efforts of those writing about and otherwise publicizing Indo-European Religion, have had a considerable impact in getting these people to become much more aware that this is an actual, real thing. You know, not just an idle, academic set of curios in books somewhere – but a vital, viable, real-world religion with real Gods, real heritage being reconnected with, real faith.
They’ve therefore felt – as we have – a drawing in, deep down … a calling to start learning a bit more – and importantly, to start *actively participating* in same.
Now this can seem a bit of a daunting prospect. Where does one even begin with such an endeavour, such a quest? If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already got *some* idea of where you want to go. Future articles may attempt to provide more pointedly specific guidance when it comes to finding a devotional pathway and a trajectory, a tradition that’s rite for you. But whether you’re just starting out along this journey, or you’ve been around for many years now, we *strongly* recommend that you seek out, reach out to somebody who Knows What They Are Doing.
But let’s bring it back to that key wording from the above – “Active Participation”. This is what separates a devotee, a religious person from somebody who is ‘merely’ knowledgeable about a faith. It’s what transforms those ‘motionless’ mythological texts upon your bookshelf, into the open portals towards the core and the cornerstones of your religious practice.
It is, in short, what *you* want to do. Not just *reading* about practices and beliefs – *doing* them, *believing* (in) them; and *being* an adherent of the faith(s) of your forefathers.
The simplest and most straightforward way to go about this, is to find an already-existing religious body in your area, replete with Pandit/Priest/Gothi and an extant body of ritual, calendar of observances, and appropriate forms passed down since time immemorial. Find that, ask the Expert(s) there what you should be doing, and you’re away laughing, rite?
It’s a nice theory; but one thing we’ve observed from a lot of the correspondence we’ve had from various people asking about this sort of stuff … is that apparently, it’s surprisngly hard to put into practice for many people. Maybe there’s just simply no Mandir in their area; perhaps there’s no Nordic religious assembly, and they don’t feel up to working through another tradition even if it leads to the same Deities. Perhaps you’re still working up the courage to actually seek out a physical, real-world religious community. Or maybe you’re busy, working odd hours, and you just don’t have the time for regularly scheduled conventional activities of devotion with other people.
Whatever the reasoning, in the absence of direct guidance upon the matter, nor a group of fellow-believers to engage in religious ceremony, pious, worshipful observance with … it’s lead to an escalating frequency of people asking one very simple, very *key* question: “How do I pray?”
Now, like I said at the outset, this piece is going to be quite different from many of our previous offerings. We aren’t going to engage in a whole lot of high-minded comparative-mythography/etymological-linguistic analysis of various different forms of prayer found in this or that Indo-European religion to attempt to divine some form of underlying Proto-Indo-European formula for actively-engaged and *performative* piety.
If you are interested in such things, then that is great – and we would thoroughly recommend you delve into various of our other works that are more closely aligned with such subjects. Should you wish to become a priest, or an academic, a theologian, then fostering and cultivating an aptitude, a curiosity in those areas will become absolutely key, vital – it shall be who you are, and what you (are to) do.
But not everybody possesses those baseline competencies nor interests – or for that matter the time and resources to get to grips with phrasing in millennia-old liturgical languages, and all of the rest of the things which are thusly entailed therein within them.
And you know what? That’s OK! Everybody has their own form of contribution to make – and the significant specialization in what others might feel difficult or boring, is in large measure why we have Priests to begin with. (This is also, as it happens, part of why you should be supporting those who *are* engaged in the serious, strenuous efforts of the First Function – because they’ll often have very little time or ability to actually do too terribly much else. But I digress)
Yet however one chooses to approach the issue, anybody seeking participation, belonging in a religious movement should have at least a certain level awareness of, or at the very least a degree of interest and an enthusiasm to learn about, relevant religious conceptry.
Particularly the portions which form arguably the sine qua non of religiosity, of piety – the proper mindsets of, as well as the actual application of piety in the form of prayer.
Anything else, to paraphrase me some Terry Pratchett, is running the whole thing basically just as a way to keep in touch with the neighbours. Or, in these trying modern times, to have a way to pretend to be interesting at parties and build an online persona and/or multi-level-marketing sc(he/a)m(e) around.
Form And Content – Altar And Flame
Now, there are two general perspectives we shall briefly consider upon the metaphysics of prayer – that is to say, How It Works.
These are the ‘Formulaic’, and the ‘Pious/Communicative’.
I stress that we’re doing these really, really briefly; and that in practice, these are non-exclusive positions – *both* can in fact simultaneously be true, and feed into one another, as we shall soon see.
The first of these, which I’ve shorthanded as ‘Formulaic’, holds that prayer works because certain elements in what is done ‘resonate’ with the universe. In much the same way, perhaps, as paying your phone bill causes you to be able to use your phone on into the future – whether or not you’re dealing with a human at any step of that process, or if it’s automated machinery and computer programs [and/or hold-music] all the way down.
Now, it might be suggested that this position has no place within an authentic Indo-European world view. And it’s not inaccurate to feel that it is, at best, a severely incomplete approach to (myth)understanding the universe, from our religious perspective.
We believe, after all, in The Gods as actual, real, beings Who possess and exert real Agency. This Agency can often seem to approach the fundamental and underlying laws of the Universe as more akin to ‘guidelines’ – although in many of the major mythological instances of such a phenomenon that I can think of offhand, I say “seemingly”, because there tends to be either a ‘counterbalance’ going on to ‘bring things back into order’ … and/or the Deity in question is actually running on a deep-a conception of Divine Order than it might otherwise first appear.
This differs considerably from you or I, for whom the attempt to ‘bend’ reality by bashing one’s head into it repeatedly, is likely to, at best, result in a bit of a headache. Or, worse, finding out that while reality *can* become somewhat ‘elastic’ … it only tends to be stretchable *so far* in any given and particular direction, before it snaps back, and hits you in the face.
In any case, my underlying point is that while it is true to state that, say, the laws of physics are – broadly speaking – a thing; and that the laws of metaphysics are so, likewise … an attempt to predict with iron-clad sureity that a *mere* [in both PIE senses of the term] ‘formulaic’ approach to interfacing with the Divine, will actually *work*, is unlikely to be an especially good idea when speaking about Beings For Whom said Laws of (Meta)Physics are at least somewhat something of an afterthought. Or, at the very least, something that doesn’t really *apply* in the same rigorous way to a God. Something that happens to other people.
Yet this does *not* mean that there’s no proper position for “formula” and “formulaic” elements in Indo-European prayer. Quite the contrary, in fact, as we shall soon see.
But for the moment, suffice to say that in both of the mythoreligious complexes we tend to deal most with – the Nordic, and the Hindu – there are solid examples of formulaic components having tangible and vitally important use even when not attempting to petition a Deity.
In the case of the Nordic, this is supplied by the physical forms of the Runes. They are carved, and they gain their empowerment, through their representation of patterns fundamental and immanent to reality. This does not mean that they are a supreme force within the universe, nor that the utilization of runes can ever truly, properly, appropriately, take the place of more *actual* and Deific-oriented Piety. Yet it is nevertheless something to be considered.
The Sanskrit equivalent example, meanwhile, is exactly that – Sanskrit. Properly said, these words form a Language of Creation, once again immanent and fundamental to the fabric of the universe itself [which, per some cosmogonical viewpoints, is made up of Words, Itself] – and are therefore capable of affecting and altering it and its contents simply via their enunciation. Although while this does partially explicate the how and why of a mantra being intoned by a yoga practitioner somewhere in the Anglosphere helping to provide a general sense of calm and wellbeing, say [at the lower order of the spectrum of impacts] … it is important to note that actual proper *comprehension* of the deeper underlying meanings of the sacred syllabry in question is necessary in order to do particularly much with it. Hence why you find the mythological tales of what I semi-jokingly refer to as “Ancient Aryan Nuclear Weapons”, wherein the empowerment mantras for these can only be provided, much less spoken aloud, by those who either have spent their lives in incredibly engaged meditation upon the mysteries of same, or been initiated by the former into some level of understanding of the phraseology in question. There is also the matter of the appropriate *gestures* to be undertaken when performing many of these more ancient elements … and thence, the further fact that many of these are actually also Asking Very Nicely for Divine Intercession, as well … and, on top of *that*, the existence of the Goddess of Speech, Lady Vak, all up … but, again I temporarily digress.
The point is: you *can* get a certain distance by adopting a perhaps rather crude “formulaic” approach, that may seek to skip out the *proper* elements of piety, of prayer, in favour of something that you think is much more closely and entirely under your own control and auspices. Hence, no doubt, why its plausible outcomes are so much more inveterately limited.
But why would you?
Now, the *second* of these rather broad [and, I stress again, *non-exclusive*] perspectives – is that “Pious/Communicative” one. Here, instead of treating the universe as some form of puzzle-box, or electronic circuit which you can build yourself [albeit with the ever-attendant risk of electric shock due to your own malfeasance/incompetence .. rather than Lighting Bolts from On High … insofar as there might be a difference, from the point of view of the somewhat scorched mortal on the other end of proceedings] – the idea, the objective, the *purpose* of your prayerful efforts is to *petition* a Power for aid and availment. Or, perhaps, dependent upon just what form of prayer we’re talking about … for the wrathful and destructive attentions of the Deity or other being(s) in question to be directed instead over yonder *thataway* at somebody else. Rather important distinction, that – and one that is often forgotten in this modern age wherein almost every has some level of vague Judeo-Christian subconscious underpinning to their theological approach.
The point is, that whereas that former, “Formulaic” approach emphasized getting the right [outer] “shape” for what one is attempting to do – in Sanskrit metaphysics [and yes, I know I said I was going to try avoiding using words in millennia-old liturgical languages], we would say that this was “Purusha” … “matter” – in this case of “Pious/Communicative” effort, it is the “essence”, which should rightfully be the “inner core” of the ‘message’, which is emphasized – “Prakriti” in Sanskrit.
The Principle of Prayer – Respect
Now this is where things get really interesting, and where we begin get to the crux of what I initially wished to address in the course of this piece. Namely, the Principles which should govern both the ‘form’ and the ‘essence’ via which you craft and offer your Prayer.
The first and most absolutely fundamental, grund-norm element to Prayer, is Respect. It should hardly need to be said nor emphasized, but in these curious times, it seems surprisingly often to be forgotten. In fact, if not in theory.
For example, while a devotee may not consciously, overtly intend *disrespect* with their conduct … attempting to treat a God in a manner that’s basically suggestive of a “Cosmic Vending Machine” [or, for that matter, a Mandir as a McDonalds Drive-Thru Window], wherein you go up, put in a small degree of expendable coinage, and press the button for your selection, which is then delivered as and when you like it, on a regular, recurrent basis that has hardly any thought, any feeling, any genuine *reverence* to it … well, it is not hard to see how that is, in very real terms, “disrespectful”.
You would not treat your own parents like that [past a certain age]; it would seem not just unjust, but perhaps even *terminally* unwise to attempt to do so to, let us remember, (A) GOD(S)!
And speaking briefly upon that “terminally unwise” point … a cursory examination of Indo-European mythologies and scriptural corpuses should clearly show you that it is not always a good idea to have nor attract the attention of a God. Particularly *particular* Gods, and *especially* if it’s for not a good reason (or, for that matter, not for a good reason).
If the Deity in question is often known as “The Terrifying”, “Death”, “The Destroyer of the Universe”, “The Bale-Worker”, “The Really, Really Angry One”, “Has A Potentially Rather Lethal Sense Of Humour”, “Finds Weakness To His Immortal Disliking”, “Responds To What He Finds Offensive Swiftly … And With An Axe”, “God of Nobility”, “God Who Brings Strife Among Ye”, etc. etc. etc. …
… well, while there are *some* circumstances and some means via which prayer in that direction shall be appropriate, you would generally be advised to think a bit, and consult somebody wiser and more learned than yourself, to ensure that you are doing the correct thing, and in the correct manner.
For is it not written:
“He who lives in the eye of the storm is a mote in the eye of an angry god.”
In any case, the detailing of how one works out just Whom one should be offering prayer *to*, is a bit beyond the originally intended scope of this piece. And is a matter that is best considered not in general, but rather specific terms – both in terms of the ‘situational’ (points conditioning your position relative to the Deity – such as what your pressing need is, Whose portfolio it may fall into … and in some cases, Whom you may have family ties in the direction of, etc..), and also the more broadly ‘theological’ (e.g. things that may not be directly to do with you, but rather are significant at a much more macroscopic level – like how a particular Deity may differ in important ways between this or that Indo-European mythoreligious corpus in how They relate to the people, or what the appropriateness or otherewise is of particular forms of sacrifice etc. to go with the entreaty, etc.).
So, if in doubt – once again, consult somebody who Knows What They Are Doing; do your research; and find a pathway that’s *appropriate* for your tradition and purposeful understanding.
But nevertheless – all of these relevant considerations are, fundamentally, those of Respect. When we seek to address a prayer to a Deity about a matter in Their portfolio, rather than Another’s, we are demonstrating both the respect of properly directing our attempted correspondence, and the respect of actually having sought to do the appropriate due diligence to find out Who it is that that portfolio is presided over by. In situations wherein we do *not* do these things – and attempt to gain the boon of help from a Deity who may be entirely unconcerned with the area in question, or an active rival of the Deity who *is* … we not only demonstrate a certain *lack* of respect (your local understanding of how much tolerance and forgiveness-value there is for “ignorance”, may vary considerably), but we may invite either *inaction* on our behalf – or “Unintended Consequences”, which might be quite *impressively* “amusing” in nature. And a Divine sense of humour is not always something to be laughed at, except from a safe distance – and preferably laughed *with*, so to speak.
Now, in terms of *what* is asked for, and therefore also *how*, there are various opinions about this. One particularly wise one [appropriately enough] comes to us from the Havamal; it is a maxim which one of my comrades is especially fond of citing, for guidance on both scores:
“Dost know how to write, dost know how to read,
dost know how to paint, dost know how to prove,
dost know how to ask, dost know how to offer,
dost know how to send, dost know how to spend?
Better ask for too little than offer too much,
like the gift should be the boon;
better not to send than to overspend.”
The messages within it are clear. First, that there are an array of elements which may form a viable portion of a devotional act. Second, that the art of working out just what to give as a part of this is not anything as crude as a ‘negotiation’, yet is nevertheless not strictly subject to fixed tariffs, either [although local custom will, of course, vary] – but rather fluctuates, in particular with the scale of that which is asked for. Third, that it is better to err on the side of Respect, by asking for a lower boon, than to spend beyond one’s means – and potentially put one’s self in *further* dire straits as a result of the considerable scale and scope of one’s [over-]investment relative to potential immediately-plausible return.
There is a similar maxim attributed to the Spartan Lycurgus – “Another asked him why he allowed of such mean and trivial sacrifices to the gods. He replied, “That we may always have something to offer to them.” We have some similar such customs within Hinduism for many devotees – of giving in donation what one can afford, which may not be very much, in an absolute sense, dependent upon the devotee’s circumstance. There are tales of even immensely powerful Deities being significantly pleased by what would otherwise seem to be trifling gifts, if they were sincerely offered and appropriately garnered and presented. Although woe betide the man who attempts to cheat the Gods out of Their duly apportioned share – this, to briefly dip back into the Greek corpus, was the *actual* sin of Prometheus … that of Impiety, in attempting to hide the parts of an offering designated for the Gods, amidst offal so as to be consumed by others later. Bringing it back to Hinduism – the requirements for this or that ritual are much more defined, but in terms of the Dakshina (the offering made also to the Pandit and the institution such as a Mandir [Temple] acting upon your behalf) it is forbidden by custom for the Brahmin to actually name a figure, the donation in question being one that is supposed to be made of one’s own free will. The whole institution works as a rather literal “honour system” – both on the part of the Brahmins (who, in older times and even today, may have little or no other source of income or even means of material support), and on the part of the supplicants who would make use of their services and knowledge. It is, in a word, a principle of “Respect” – and one that many would do both well and wisely to remember as not *only* applying to the Gods in such situations; but also to any other figure who has played a worthy role in helping your devotional proceedings to come about.
Another interesting element from Lycurgus’ societal reforms which is likely of far broader Indo-European saliency, concerns the mandated redistribution of a portion of that which a Spartan man should offer in sacrifice, to the communal mess-hall. This is often explained as a further interior buttressing of the communal spirit amidst his people which Lycurgus had sought to foster – although I suspect rather strongly that it is something a bit deeper and more ‘resonant’ than that. In Hinduism, we have various customs around some of our rites – wherein the offerings of fruit and sweets, after they have been partaken of by the Deity or Deities in question, are then redistributed out to the humans in attendance. Dependent upon the rite, the Priests may be required to take first share or of particular parts of the offering; but the general point is that the benefit of the sanctified consumables is passed out to everybody in attendance – the Prasad, is partaken of, and literally eaten [rather than, in most cases involving Murtis [Living Statues of the Gods], ‘symbolically’ eaten] by the mortal Devotees. A similar principle can be observed in the carrying out of an Aarti – in which all present can participate and through both song, and physical propinquity to sacred, blessed flame, often making small offerings themselves during its course. In both cases, the concept is clear – that even beyond the ‘trinity’ of participants that is the donor, the priest(s), and the Gods, the ritual is often a ‘communal’ affair. Everyone who eats of the Prasad or acquires the blessings of the Aarti flame can thus share in the benefit of the act of piety that has ensued. And that, in its own way, comes back to the fact that, for the most part, an Indo-European man is only rarely to be considered in the singular. That it is “men” rather than “man” who inhabit Indo-European societies – “people”, “a people”, in preference to a mere [this time, only in one PIE sense of the similar sounding word] “person”. Something which also comes across most strongly in the directly mandated role of *families* in rites – and even, in some cases, the exclusion of ‘outsiders’ (whether those beyond the immediate kin-group, the appropriate caste(s), nationality/ethnic-grouping, dependent upon tradition), from participation or even simply being potentially able to oversee or to overhear proceedings.
But to return to that excellent Havamal excerpt, what it has also implied to me is the vital importance of *how* one performs the prayer – these are the “formulaic” elements of which I spoke, earlier. And while it has ever been my position that if you are *not* one of those who “knows how to” write, read, paint, prove, ask, offer, send, spend … then you should probably be seeking out somebody who *does* possess these capabilities, this knowledge, in order to garner instruction and guidance as to how to do things properly, this is apparently not an easy option for many people, judging by how frequently others seem to have significant difficulty in finding such knowledge and its bearers, in whatever mythoreligious corpus they are operating within. I do not seek to encourage nor condone people operating beyond their competencies and “doing it yourself” with Prayer, any more so than I would endeavour to encourage people to perform the main-line electrical wiring of their own homes. And would further suggest that, properly construed, the very acts of seeking out the properly skilled, especially if it entails significant effort and journeying and mental exertion upon your own part, would form part of the offering, the prayerful process in the first place. As well as being an admirable exercise in devotional contemplation, and getting one’s self into the *proper* mindset that religious, mythical elements are not “toys”, nor “theme park” amusements or post-boxes – and are rather to be regarded with their appropriate and due reverence as ‘intersectionals’, ‘hitching-posts’, jutting between the more mundane mundus of our ordinary world, and the World of the Divine. Which is not to make the case for a fundamentally ‘dualist’ cosmology, of course – but nevertheless, as the old saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt”. And therefore, that which is *too* easily attained, *too* readily available, or *too* commonly approached … ceases to command the proper Respect, the eminently apt emotion of Awe, which can be the only correct perspective when regarding the Divine. That, and Terror – which it may often be said to rather closely, and rather more than partially resemble.
Conduits And Communicative Means
This leads us on to the next key element to consider – the means for communication, itself.
Which come in at least two general varieties:
First, ‘Conduits’ which are created or situated, often with a physical ‘anchor’ such as a particular holy-site (such as a holy well or spring, a rock formation or mountain, religiously significant tree etc.), or a sacred post [whether a Vedic Sthamba or Yupa or Lingam … or an Irmin, or potentially a Herm], or the Sacred Fire which has been duly constructed and rendered ‘alive’ via the proper and appropriate opening rites/mantras for the purpose.
The importance of the “Conduit” is difficult to overstate. The analogy I was given by a wise Pandit back when I was being taught the proper ways to carry out relatively simple Pujas [Prayer/Ritual] at Mandir, was that of utilizing a radio for the means of communication. It was noted that the outward ‘forms’ of the Puja-attempt in question mattered, in much the same way that tuning a radio to find the appropriate frequency for ease of comms did. I have since somewhat extended this metaphor, when I am seeking to elucidate further depth and detail upon how it is we do things, to be rather more directly akin to that of the situation of inter-vessel communications on a 20th century battleship. That is to say, while it *is* possible to communicate to another ship by shouting across the gulf between you, or even by frantically waving one’s arms or engaging in other such visual signifiers in order to overcome the intersubjectivity of the roaring ocean and necessary distance between you … you’re going to have a *far* easier and more efficacious time of it via the application of somewhat more ‘involved’ means. Which may entail something as comparatively simple as a mirror reflecting pulses of sunlight with which to transmit Morse Code, or on a more complex level, the perhaps underappreciated art of semaphore if one has the flags for it and the appropriate knowledge on the part of both sender and intended recipient. Although that latter, in particular, lacks a certain subtlety as it is effectively ‘open’ to anyone with a telescope to pick up upon (subject to ‘decoding’), and is also contingent upon not only actually possessing the flags with which to do it, but the limiting effect that these can have upon what you are trying to say – consider Nelson’s famed “England Expects…” message being altered in exactly this manner. Hence the importance of the “Conduit” represented by the ship’s radio-room – via which a much more reliable (for the most part – there are, of course, exceptions, atmospherics, jamming, EMP, and so on and so forth …) and *direct* point-to-point faculty for the transmission of communication from supplicant to receiver. Albeit, something that only really works if i) the requisite transmission hardware, an antenna for example [there’s that Column/Pillar metaphor again] remains in place and unbroken, and ii) if one actually knows how to operate the technology, find the frequency, even something as simple as turn the power on on those old, archaic devices, in the first place … which, in the latter score, is *exactly* why it is so important to have a dedicated Priest Caste, whose business it is to know such things, and how to set up a transmission array as and where and when needed. I suppose, with Sacrificial Pyre firmly in mind, even in the absence of *proper* illuminated and awakened fire that has been empowered to function as a metaphysical “Conduit” through the efforts of one’s Priests … that one could perhaps still attempt to send ‘Smoke Signals’.
In fact, come to think of it, the Priest Himself is *also* in this manner, something of a “Conduit”, even notwithstanding the additional accouterments of ‘technology’ such as an altar, offerings, temple, pillar, and other such things. Which is not, necessarily, to get involved in the ongoing debate I’ve seen in various places around the concept of “every man in his own home is his own priest” – a maxim that I consider, personally, to be something of a “Cultural Protestantism”, despite the not entirely unsound notion upon which it has initially been built. Outside of ‘desperate times’, and dependent upon tradition, such daily or otherwise regular ‘household rites’ or acts of especially *intra*familial piety as may be required, I am not sure that an ordinary person has much business attempting to carry out more complex or involved rituals nor prayers; and would much more favour the view of, in such situations as concerns the household itself, something like the Hindu concept of a Purohit – a ‘Household Priest’ [often a Priest who will provide his services to several households in the area, in a manner perhaps like a family doctor, and in a way for much the same reason] – as being the preferable approach.
And second, there is the ‘medium of communication’ itself – which, to be sure, is not always easily distinguished in whole or in part from the physical situation mentioned above. In the case of the Living Flame of the Vedic Fire Altars aforementioned, the Fire is *also* the medium, *as well as* the conduit, hence the salient importance of pouring the offering-libation [itself a medium, as well] thereinto. But in the main, what I seek to address here is something potentially more pervasive as a medium of communication – that is to say, *language itself*, and what we do with it, how we choose to hone and craft the ‘offerings’ and ‘entreaties’ which we render unto the Gods. How we choose, in sort, to Speak to Them, and make representations to the High.
Because there, too, there is a fundamental ‘risk element’ for the incautious, the irreverent, and the unwary. For you see, the fact that the Gods may appear in human-seeming form, and possess those most immediately familiar Human attributes of Thought, Speech, and Hearing … can lead to a fundamental subconscious [or, indeed, actively-conscious and therefore impious] misapprehension on the part of those seeking to petition the Divine. Namely, that simply because the Gods can seem somewhat human-like in some small ways, and be communicated with via not entirely dissimilar manners than how we might speak to our neighbour or a family member … that this therefore axiomatically means that They are somehow ‘just’ like us, but on a somewhat grander scale. And to be sure, this is adjacent to an observation that is not entirely incorrect – the Indo-European Gods *are*, in many instances and in many ways, ‘relatable’ to us, indeed, in some cases we are related to Them. Which, if anything, should perhaps render one *more* terrified of the prospects of annoying – or, worse, *somehow infuriating* the Divine – the annals of human history are not exactly short on cautionary tales of What Happened When The Commoner Seemingly Deliberately Disrespected The King/Don/Warlord … and that is *before* we factor in the demonstrable penchant for ‘contrapasso’ and other forms of (meta-)narrativistic Creativity to be found amidst the imaginations of the key narrative agonists of pretty much *every* Indo-European mythoreligious collection of lit.
[That phrasing “key narrative agonists” of the legendariums in question is quite deliberate – it serves as a reminder of your appropriate role and place within the Cosmos. You may be a hero of your own story … indeed, some among us are the shining, radiant and saga(s)-starring, or at least cameo/crossover-featuring-in heroes of the stories of *many* people, even “peoples” as a whole. Yet to a God? Our own personal stories, although potentially individually and/or occasionally interesting, when judged upon their own merits … and at their great intersectionals, an intriguing battlefield-terrain of sorts for the great games of influence played out above the lower-sky … are nevertheless largely pretty threadbare by comparison to Theirs. And therefore, one should always be aware-y that a potentially rather minor fictional character seeking to attract the attention of the Author(s) or Editors of the anthology in which he or she appears … is *fundamentally* at the mercy, even in terms of one’s very existence, of the mightily supernal Hand That Doth Wield The Pen – and which also takes The Long View, the Broad Perspective, the Deep Discernment unto potentially the very cores of your being and your fate.
If you have, for some reason, forgotten the eminently appropriate sensations of Majesty if not outright Mind-Scything Terror which the term “God” ought axiomatically entail …. perhaps that perspective-refresher shall remind ye.]
So clearly, from our “Respect” point of view, the appropriate “forms” of the communication that is to take place matter – and can matter quite significantly.
Saecula Saeculorum – On The Sacredness of the Sacred Speech
This brings us nicely on to a rather vital point for the practical modern person. For while, if you hunt hard enough, and scour sagaciously with superhuman sufficiency, you’re more than likely to find that there *is* in fact a proper and appropriate rite or prayer for your circumstances, written in the correct flavour of archaic Indo-European tongue, and with a handy level of detail for the eloquent performativity thereof in your own home or local environs thereof … this takes time and competencies not possessed of by most would-be devotees. Which is, again, a large part of Why We Have A Priest Caste (this is my generalized soul-ution to just about everything, as you may have noticed).
So while in an ideal world, you *should* be deferring to those materials and those such intermediaries in order to Do Things Proper, the approximate frequency with which we have seen discussions and high-minded debates over that recurrent question “Is It Possible To Pray In English”, would appear to suggest – for a whole host of reasons – that this is not, in fact, the best of all possible worlds which we are currently domiciled within. The struggle between ‘vernacular’ and ‘liturgical language’ is hardly a modern one, and even beyond the most frequently cited instances of the Catholic Church for most of the last millennium or so, it seems to be a contratemps endemic to just about *any* religion with a history and a heritage longer in spanning scope than the few decades or centuries it may take for the habitual language of its adherents to change with sufficient significancy to render it no longer clearly interchangeable with that utilized for ecclesiastical purposes by the faith’s founding fathers.
In the case of Indo-European religions, there are a number of complicating factors which render a single and unilaterary answer as to whether English is “appropriate” for such purposes, difficult to state with confidence. However, while I am almost always going to express a vocal enthusiasm for utilizing Sacred Language for Sacred Purposes … and am fundamentally disquieted by the notion that English is, in any easy way a “Sacred Language” (rather than, perhaps, in the mouth and hands of the skilled and pious practitioner, an imperfect vessel which may nevertheless be usefully employed to communicate some portion of the Sacred) … I appreciate that this is not the ‘full story’; and that there are other considerations inherent in what we seek to do and how we seek to do it, that may in fact render, for example, an eloquently expressed entreaty in English, the superior means for prayer as composed to a poorly chosen, poorly pronounced, and poorly misunderstood phrasing in the otherwise eminently more “appropriate” liturgical language.
I’m also aware that, for whatever reason (including, for example, the notion that as English is a Germanic language, it ought be fine for petitioning Germanic Gods with), some people are never going to be able, nor perhaps even *willing* to more fully step beyond their localized comfort zones and desist with using English in whole or in part for their prayerful efforts – in which case, the least we can do is attempt to guide their conduct so that it’s less potentially egregious than it might otherwise be. I should also, lest I be accused of an unwarranted elitism, confess myself to be somewhat of this number. My facility with Sanskrit is … not exactly ideal; and while I have made prominent and strongly successful utilization of Mantras, Hymnals and other devotional elements in the language in question, even to the point of being able to develop some of the above myself … were I called upon, upon the spur of the moment, to express my thoughts and pious passions, within a pressurized religious context where I had not the luxury of time to prepare something well afore the time it was required – I would almost certainly *at the very least* be augmenting the aforementioned Sanskrit structures with a capacious quotient of English expressionism.
But let us turn to the actual application of those conceptual frameworks and Principles which we have earlier discussed; so that readers may perhaps make up their own minds as to the potential viability or otherwise of our guidance upon the matter to their own devotional practice. Guidance, I might add, which is not intended to substitute for the actual and authentic *direct* authoritative statements of your own religious tradition upon the matter. But rather to endeavour to augment and expand upon it, especially considering the … lack of all-encompassing-ness to the otherwise excellent canon of bronze/iron-age solutions in this day of modern problems.
The first thing which must be said, is that when it comes to the duality of Form and Function, the ‘Formulaic’ versus the ‘Communicative’ considerations outlined way above …. the matter of Language is, fundamentally, *both*. Language is a mode, a medium, and a means of communication – but it is *also* a set of forms, itself.
This matters, and not merely due to the enhanced efficacy as a point of general principle which phrasing things [or writing/inscribing things] in forms immanent to the fabric of reality is likely to engender or impart.
Even if we were to accept the proposition that, as derivative languages to their greater forebears, our modern vernacular languages therefore carry and contain within them some ‘residual’ efficacy borne from the emanated simulacra of the shapes of their illustriously resonant ancestors … the example that I would use is one of attempting to communicate utilizing a written script. Which, of course, in some senses, Runes themselves are.
Not only are more recent English fonts and other forms of writing likely to be *much* less, or even non- or *counter* effective at some things as compared to Runes [including, both literally as well as figuratively, an “inscribing” process – chiseling into hard surfaces, or for that matter, the meta-hard ‘surfaces’ of reality on an implied, metaphysical level about you] due to their fundamentally differing shape and intended purpose or (sound) values … but were one writing a letter, with the intent of being taken seriously by a figure with power over a situation, what is going to look better and make something closer to the desired effect: Times New Roman? Or Comic Sans.
Because that, it really can be argued, is something at least somewhat equivalent to the degree of difference between utilizing a more proper, formal, and perhaps even *ornate* or ostentatious form of communication, versus how one might casually chat with a buddy across the bar. And this is before we factor in that, in the case of Runes versus Modern English Script, we are literally dealing with a different, and not always particularly coterminous mode of written communication.
It is therefore not simply a matter of attempting to argue, as I have seen some do from time to time, that Gods, as, well, Gods, *must* be able to understand conversational modern English, and so therefore what’s the point of jumping through all the additional hoops required to construct something that’s *not* fundamentally ‘just’ a sentence of that contemporaneous tongue. Perhaps, one day in the far-distant future, we shall indeed see people attempting to entreaty the Heavens via using terms like “Yeet”, “Cancelled”, the comparatively venerable ‘1337’, and replacing directly scripturally drawn references to the Roaring Laughter of a particular Deity with some form of semi-phonetically pronounced acronym such as “lol” or “rofl”. Because that way, ultimately, is the unutterable [somewhat literally] direction in which the over-emphasis upon the Vernacular and the Temporal at the expense of the Sacral and the Supernal, shall take you. If “Mleccha” was coined to refer to a jabbering, indistinct speech of those unable to talk properly within the bounds of a religiously constituted society and public nor ritualine sphere [and, in a somewhat different way, “Barbarian”, “Barbaras”, as well, or so I am told – the “Bah”ing sounds of ‘uncivilized’ speech to both Sanskritized as well as Grecophone ears], I can only wonder what our ancestors (mortal or more-so) might have made of that which our generation and the ones to come immediately after us have come to consider fairly mundane and ordinary forms of speech. Once they’d gotten over Tumblr, of course. And let alone were any of the above deployed deliberately in an attempted sacral context. But I digress.
The proper and appropriate principle to be deployed here is, once again, that of Respect. And that, as we have seen and shall see, is a mater of *both* Intent (on the part of the petitioner), as well as Form (which is another mechanism via which intent is ultimately to be displayed). Either one, by themselves, is not necessarily a bad start – but for *proper* piety, one should ideally be striving to have *both* present, in radiant panoply and gallant, zealous exertion. But, then, I’m a religious fundamentalist zealot.
This is also why it is often so important to actually pay careful attention to various scriptural sources that contain within them details of how to pray, what formulas should be used, and related matters. Because in many cases, and the two which spring instantly to mind are anything attested as Word of Odin or of Brihaspati [but, then, I repeat myself] in the Eddic & Vedic corpuses respectively, what you are in fact reading is a God deigning to *tell you* how They would prefer it for you to make efforts at prayer. In other cases, these compendious volumes will instead bear material that has been arrived at via more mortal hands and mouths and minds – the results, often quite explicitly, of perhaps even centuries of in-depth contemplation, refinement, and ‘testing’ and evaluation. Either sort “reduces the problem to a previously solved one”, when it comes to the crafting of a prayer and the selection of wording and other elements of ‘form’ to use in the actionizing of the intent underlying it. But those instances of the former – Word of God, so to speak – should be considered especially prized, from this perspective, as what can be higher as a form of respect and piety than *actually doing what you’ve been Divinely instructed to*.
The Priority of Priests – The Dominion of Doctrine
This also handily segues back into another element around the role of Priests, which I briefly touched upon above in the “Conduit” section. Now, as I said there, there is this ongoing effort to debate just what sort of role (proper) priests in general (or a specialized caste thereof) versus ordinary but enthusiastic people should have in .. various religions, Indo-European and otherwise. It is particularly prominent amidst and around various European ‘revivalist’ efforts, for reasons ranging from the understandable and at least somewhat evidentially based … through to the knee-jerk reactionary “we want to be different!” anti-Christian, anti-Institution, pseudo-anarchic sentiment that has no real place within a serious religious movement. Indeed, is actively defined precisely *by* its opposition to even the implicit concept of *being* a serious religious movement, it would seem. Yet I digress.
The point is, in various traditional accounts, the ‘Word of God(s)’ upon the situation is that one *should* be, or indeed *must*, engage the services of a properly qualified Priest for the purposes of particular forms of prayer. It therefore goes beyond the simple underpinnings of general efficacy to seek out such a figure, and on into the direct realms of proper, pious conduct itself.
But to briefly turn back to the “efficacy” style of argument, to quote Tristan upon the matter – ”
“Theology requires education and understanding, its a very complex academic subject, and when you let the common man at the thing without giving him those things first, they come up with all manner of absurd conclusions and horrendous heresies.
Just look at the history of Christianity, there is a reason that the bible was kept in Latin, and when it was translated to the vernacular, within a century or two we had dozens of major heretical offshoots.”
It is not at all hard to see how this applies to this particular field most directly under immediate discussion – both in terms of the *direct* risks of somebody carrying out the actions in question in a sub-par manner, as well as the potentially rather greater risk entailed in a man seeking out guidance in these matters and finding himself unwittingly mislead as a result. I say “potentially rather greater”, on grounds that somebody who knows they’re unsure of their way is usually unlikely to go *half* as far astray as somebody who places full trust in somebody who *thinks* they’re heading in the right direction … and really, really isn’t.
The Priority of Priests II – The Direct Line Upstairs
But let’s leave all of that aside for the moment, and continue with the “efficacy” argument.
Even if you’re for whatever reason pretty iffy about the general concept of an ordained clergy, the notion of something intending to be a religion actually possessing a semi-defined ‘dogma’, or are steadfastly obstinate in your insistence that Gods *should* be able to understand English and so therefore you *should* be able to pray in that language as and when you feel like …
… I rather strongly suspect that most of us are *also* going to accept that not everybody is in actuality ‘equal’ in terms of their degree and depth of connection with the Divine.
Now, there are any number of reasons, based upon your individual point of view and the specific metaphysics slash meta-narrative-istics which your branch of the Indo-European mytho-religion may be running.
Maybe it’s his karma, something attained via an extensive series of meritorious deeds and strongly pious living over the course of this or many other lifetimes. He might have performed such a series of heroic and pleasing deeds as to be “owed favour” in recognition, restitution, and recompense for injuries otherwise sustained and sacrifices duly made in their course. He could even, if he (or, to be sure, she) were seriously shining in storyhood, be viewed fondly as something even approaching a “friend”.
Perhaps he’s in possession of such qualities of the soul (potentially up to and including “a good sense of humour”; and in many cases, a rather readily apparent skill at arms, or tongues, or preferably *all of the above* and an acute awareness that the Tongue is Also a (Stabbing, Slashing, Potent(i-ally) All-Devouring) Blade) that he is paid more attention by the Upplanders … which might have lead to a rather “interesting” life, and occasionally some quite maddening misfortune upon his behalf. Like I said – living under the Eye of the Gods (and others) does not have to equate to living life luxuriantly, easily, or “well” according to various definitions which we might find modernly appropriate.
Maybe he is actually *related* to one or more of the Gods in question, and rather less remotely (relatively speaking) than many others who might otherwise claim to be [and here, I mean anyone who’s cottoned on to the idea that “Mankind” in fact means “Kin(d) of Man(n)u(s)”, with a “Son of Surya”, or other equivalent Divine parentage for Manu then also ‘grandfathered’ into their own remote-distant ancestry] – and it is ever the nature of beings to bend their ears more readily to Their kinsfolk.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, it is a situation wherein actually living properly, doing your bit and playing your part, paying attention to “how things ought to be done” and propending piety in its praiseworthily stipulated forms … actually marks you out as somebody more worth listening *to*, because you have already done the foundation and foremost thing of *listening* first to your greaters and betters. Which is, all up, rather what we *expect* a Priest to be living like, anyway, but I somewhat digress.
The point is – however it might be explicated as having occurred, and no doubt there are numerous other explanations which might be conceivably, feasibly advanced for such phenomena as the Man or Woman Who Seems To Have The Direct Line To The Divine – that as there are such people out there, it therefore makes clear sense to seek them out when in significant need, and to enlist their aid in ensuring that your own prayerful entreaties get some measure of due consideration Upstairs.
It makes sense, in other words, to go petition first a man who is favourably received by the Heavens for an audience, and then have him as advocate and counsel in such a regard. Rather than standing outside in the metaphorical, metaphysical street, say, shouting in what’s potentially a bit of a foreign language or a mongrel cant, and demanding to be taken seriously therefrom.
I know that I have earlier eschewed and disavowed reading *too far in* to this or that analogy which seeks to cast Divinities in altogether “human” terms; yet it nevertheless seems that the most succinct way to illustrate this may be via recourse to some more tangible and real-world relatable examples.
Considered thus, whether we are approaching this from the angle that to gain the attention of a Feudal Lord, a Mafia Baron-Don [inasmuch as there might be thought to be a difference, if we are speaking more favourably of the latter], or a Politician … rarely, is it the case that one will march up to their dwellinghaus, office, castle, keep, or situation in the street [should they even *be* approachable within the spear-thicket of their retinue abounding] and *demand* by shouting, that one be given aid.
Now, this is not to suggest that such a thing *cannot* happen, and would, if attempted, *never* result in any semblance of a chance of success. And it is also – perish the thought! – not to seek to imply that a man in immediate peril who raises his lips and his hopes to the heavens in beseeching of Those Who Dwell There, ought be liable to have his prayerful enjoinment slapped down simply and only because he didn’t attempt to make his way through the pseudocratic “red tape” approach first.
But it most definitely *is* to suggest that, outside of those more *immediately* dire life-and/or-death situations, that the “Rite” way is inestimably more likely to take you rather further than the “Rite-less” approach, generally speaking. And, further, to add to our “shouting at your local lord in the street” metaphor, that in cases wherein this may perhaps be myth-interpreted as being the habituated conduct of one lacking in the proper respect … well … especially where it is *blatantly untrue*, seeking to point out that the Emperor in question is modelling an exciting new fashion-trend in nudist a’apparell, is liable to lend you an extensive term in penury for the serious offence of lese-majesty .. but I digress.
“Better Call a Lawyer” – Devotee Phone Homa
Perhaps the better metaphor for what I am seeking to illustrate here, is the situation of finding one’s self in court – likely as a defendant, although perhaps also as the aggrieved party. Mayhap even both simultaneously, dependent upon the nature of the situation and the ‘offence’, or other such predicament.
I am a man of many associates, and some of them have from time to time had cause to rather-less-than-voluntarily find themselves in just such a position. Namely, that of staring in trepidation down the barrel of the gavel held aloft by His Honour. [As a point of *brief* Indo-European Mytho-political Trivia, the Club, Mace, Gada, Hammer (and occasionally, Axe or Sword) of the Thunderer/Striker has often come to represent an instrument of Law and its Upholding and Protection – even in political and legislative contexts that have otherwise all but forgotten their Indo-European Roots. Consider the large golden Mace carried by the Serjeant-At-Arms of a Westminster-style Parliament, for instance, and representing the power of the Legislature through its Speaker.]
One thing they’ve pretty much *all* said, to a (wo)man, if asked for advice to a younger person who so might find themselves amidst similar circumstances (other than, of course, the obvious-yet-important “Don’t Get Caught”) … was “GET A LAWYER”.
To paraphrase further: “I know you think you’re pretty sharp – and, in all honesty, you kinda are … the circumstances via which you’ve found yourself here, evidently notwithstanding – but not only will a proper lawyer know *far more* than you do about how to do things properly, and with the maximal chance of securing, whether via argument, direct-intercession, or still yet other means, the longed-for, desired outcome …. but they are *also* *far and away* *less* likely to offend the Judge while they’re at it.”
Which is not simply a matter of perhaps not knowing the ‘magic’ Latin phrases to stand up and spout in interjection, when so called for .. nor even how to *avoid* finding yourself running up into the perilous shoals of Contempt of Court should you be attempting interjection when *not* so called for, and getting upon His Honour’s nerves due to frank incompetence, from time to time, in what would otherwise be the most basic of matters for a more properly trained legal or amicus curiae.
[And yes, yes this *is* a rather apt part of the metaphor as well – it is a risky business, at least some of the time, drawing the Eye [singular, especially] of the Divine … for some Gods are great in Their most magnanimus [this is not a typo] mercy – and others are Great in their Terrific Attributes, by which I mean (also that) They Can Most Easily Beget TERROR].
But also, the simple overall propriety of the thing.
I had it explained to me at the time, that a Judge, having been a young lawyer once, and having put in rather a lot of time, effort, energy, and proper conduct to get where he or she is, will generally look a bit in askance at some foolhardy interloper who just turns up and attempts to leapfrog all of that in pursuit of a ‘quickie’ outcome – it’s almost as if you aren’t taking the thing seriously, in their perspective and potential perception. [although for obvious reasons … with some notable exceptions, this doesn’t tend to be a part of my metaphor that’s of a huge degree of direct coterminity with Indo-European devagenesis … except when it is]
All things considered, then, if you would not seek to try and barge your way up to your elected national representative (or even, more aptly, Cabinet Minister or local functional equivalent), in whichever alleged-democracy you may happen to currently domicile within, and potentially attempt to gain their attention with a shouty “WTF LOL” in the hopes of garnering their inestimable favour , heedless of the prospect of being thence immediately thrown out by their (body)guards, and potentially even trespassed from the premises forthwith (perhaps even, if you are something of a runctious repeat offender, for a period pushing up upon ‘Perpetuity’) …
I do not at all see why you would attempt to conduct yourself in much the same manner as applies beings of far *grander* majesty and *true power* than the average, ordinary, common(s)-or-garden elected politician. Not if you’re smart, humble, pious, and wise, at any rate.
Sometimes, it is most certainly true, that extreme acts and extreme ways shall be necessary in order to draw the attention of Those Who Stand Above The World.
It is true, also, that in times of desperation, protocol and propriety going out the window may be somewhat overlooked, especially if the cause is just.
But I do not think, in situations wherein there is the scope and capacity to do things ‘properly’, that it is wise to abjure from the realms of “proper intent”, the polite formalism of one’s endeavours at interaction. Which, to be sure, encompasses a whole range of things – including, as I have attempted to emphasized through the course of this piece, not just the “Rite” language, but also often simply the “Right” language … at least enough to show one is making the appropriate degree and scalar of effort. And with it also being important to remember that these elements of formalism, have a significance for the scope of your efforts running *far* beyond ‘mere’ intent alone – indeed, which can at the very least be viewed as augments capaciously ‘enhancing’ “intent” through the vehicularization, the operationalization of it.
If one is to be seeking otherwise-exceptional outcomes [up to and including, the ‘bending’ or even outright abrogation of the more *usual* laws of physics and non-narrative [ok, well, non-*Narrative*] causality] – then it only makes sense that one put in the requisite exceptional efforts in order to ask for their aid in delivery.
To make the proper effort, and if possible, do the ‘exceptional’ [at least in the sense of ‘it stands out’, catches the Eye(s) and therefore more easily/readily invites Favour] is to more properly propitiate the Deity or other spirit in question.
To fall short in their execution is, perhaps, one thing; yet to never have even endeavoured to *try* to carry out an undertaking worthy of note in pursuit of said worthily remarkable outcome, simply suggests that one is neither worthy, nor remarkable, nor taking the whole thing seriously enough to actually be in sufficient need of supplying aid and availment to in the first place.
And that is, indeed, at least part of the justification for why kings and emperors might put *incredibly* elaborate swathes of resources and other signifers of effort into the rituals whose success or failure shall have immanent impacts upon their kingdom.
Yet to return down to the street-and-household level perspective of the more usually Crownless: yes, it is true that a “wing and a prayer” will get you so far. The “Wing” is the Formal Elements earlier discussed, and here, the “Prayer” stands for Intent and direct voicing thereof.
And both of these (*together*) will almost *certainly* fly you further than a mental equivalent of a millennial’s emoji-ridden text-message – particularly one that may not even be sent due to a lack of insight into how the phone works, let alone to the right number [the spectrum and degree of Divine connectivity for the purposes of this mobile-powered metaphor ranging on a scale down through ‘personal phone numbers’, ‘business phone numbers’, and ‘front-desk receptionists’, along with ‘looking up *entirely* the wrong phone-book’ … although with it being important to note that even, perhaps especially where one gets the correct number, one nevertheless does somewhat run the risk of the eternal aching trepidation: “Nu Fone Hu Dis” in response to a particular request, if you catch my meaning], and not least because you may be standing out in an area of very little to no reception, with no actual credit upon your phone-account with which to txt, anyway.
To continue with the phone-et(h)ics …. well, “Old is Gold”, and in situations of a serious nature, few could argue that an actual physical letter or face-to-face meeting, or even a polite phone-call (or, in a pinch, a proper text message) may get you far further than attempting to pxt a meme. Or whatever it is the kids do these days on SnapChat, etc.
[As a point of perhaps interest, or at least some level of explication – my own mobile phone is presently in its second decade of operation [i.e. … it’s old, doesn’t do internet, or even pxt .. but *does* have eminently sensible battery-life, and can probably be used in a jiffy as some sort of Thunder-Club with which to smite a serpent-demon-dragon which might rear its head in an altogether too literal equivalency ot the game of Snake … by *throwing the phone at it* ]; which may perhaps explain some of my afore-inferred degree of cynicism about more recent communicative technological advancements and innovations.
However, the notion of an “older phone” which lacks some of the inbuit capabilities of the newer and more “swipe-right” capable models is nevertheless somewhat useful for what I’m getting at here. If the “phone” in question that is supposed to be doing the receiving, is one that’s deliberately some generations older than the one that you’re utilizing with which to *send* [and I say “deliberately”, because they’re often much more *reliable*, you know?] , then it only makes sense to cater to this particular set of communicative constraints – rather than throwing up your hands and pouting that they’re yet to make more frequent, fulsome use of a newer model.]
But enough about phones.
In The August Presence of the Gods – Know Your Place; Strive To Be Worthy Of It
One of the most useful ways to conceive of many forms of more properly formalized Indo-European prayer, is the following. It is sourced from an academic text [Catherine Bell – “Ritual – Perspectives & Dimensions”], and is detailing in this instance a specifically Hindu approach – yet the general precepts and perspectives are nevertheless remarkably common to prayerful, devotional conduct across the Indo-European mytho-religious world.
“Hindu devotional worship known as puja is a good example of a system of simple offerings that appears to have no purpose other than to please the deity. These offerings can range from the simple and private to the elaborate and public. Sometimes they are visualized rather than performed. Whether presented to the image of a deity in the home, at a temple, or at a religious festival, puja rites evoke the ceremonies of hospitality traditionally shown to honored guests, particularly in ancient court life. Indeed, it is fair to say that in the home or at a festival, such rites cast the deity as a lofty but temporary guest, while in a temple setting they acknowledge the deity as ensconced in the equivalent of his or her own palace.”
It is a relatable perspective, it is a useful perspective, it is an understandable perspective – and most important of all, it is a *respectful* perspective. Both in terms of the clear and overt manifestations of treating the Deity in your presence as an honoured guest, a visiting lord – and, for that matter, treating the situation of being in a Deity’s Presence as that of yourself standing in the court of the most august possible ruler, emperor, lord. But also because the above is not simply something that was done because it “felt right” and therefore became something that “felt rite”. But rather, because we have direct Shruti [‘Heard’ – in this instance, a category of scripture that’s something reasonably close to, and often directly coterminous with the notion of “Word of God” in terms of infallibility in its initial encountering and Inception/Inspiration] statements that this is how something *ought* to be done. I was running through and partially re-translating a RigVedic Hymnal the other night for our Ganesh Chaturthi post, and indeed the first two lines were *directly* this. Hailing the Deity, Praising Him, and then asking Him to be seated in the position of honour at the sacrificial rite that was about to take place amongst us. [Of course, as a brief aside, when reading some *other* Vedic hymnals, particularly to certain forms of a Deity Who would often generally fall within the ambit of Terrifying, Impressively Lethal, Incredibly Angry, etc. as outlined much further up in this piece, I was reminded of a quote from Terry Pratchett – “The prayers of most religions generally praise and thank the gods involved, either out of general piety or in the hope that he or she will take the hint and start acting responsibly.”]
The would-be petitioner who approaches the Power with properly appropriate deference and reverence-in-respect, and who may perhaps make interesting conversation (as one of our #NAS comrades wisely observed), is *far* more likely to be heard than one who does the opposite … who is rarely to be seen, and seemingly has only turned up in an impudent bid to make declaratory (if not outright defamatory) demands.
“Know Your Place”, indeed.
Now it is also prudent to state that even when one *does* carry out the proper forms and pleasing approaches of appropriately potent piety, this is not a surefire guarantee of success in your Asking. There can be any number of reasons for this, some of which may be less your fault (or even anything hugely much to do with you *directly*) than others.
And some of which comes down to pondering if you’re sure you’re Asking in the right way – via the right conduits or medium, with the right words, and through the right intermediary, to the right patron (or matron, as the case may be). Hast thou Done Enough to Deserve Victory? (It may even indeed be something that you are supposed to do “yourself”)
A lack of success in such endeavours may also be due to the nature of wyrd, of narrative causality. In which case, the point is to do the righteous thing anyway, if not “regardless”, then at the veer-y least *because* it is the *right thing*, even in such instances as it might not be of tangible, direct benefit to you, personally.
And if you’re not interested in doing that if it doesn’t lead to you, personally, having some on-demand wish-fulfillment, then I am not sure how you can properly call yourself “religious”. Or, for that matter, community-minded – in fact, in a certain sense, anything other than a solipsist.
This has been … a pretty lengthy article, even without the weightyness of much of our more usual sorts of subject-matter. Much of it could unquestionably have been foreshortened down to a few eminently more readable paragraphs – bullet-points of synopsis, even.
Yet what I have often observed, is that in those instances wherein we do such a thing … people may have an easier time physically reading what’s been written, but at some degree of cost to the actual “understanding” – and here, I do not mean simple linguistic comprehension, but actual, genuine “Ohh! So THAT’S why!” , the moments of revelatory insight and thence immanentization into the reader’s thought, praxis-form, mindset, perspective, and being.
A not entirely dissimilar effect, albeit going the other way somewhat, can be observed with some of our more *usual* sorts of content. Many readers may ‘get’ at least *some* of what we’re on about, but don’t quite register an array of the rest – and thence, don’t necessarily “integrate” the rather important parts, at least partially because it still sounds “Foreign”, “Esoteric”, “Unnecessary”, or simply downright “Arcane”.
And you know what? That’s largely if not entirely my fault. My writing’s not usually especially accessible even *before* we factor in all the terms in millennia-old liturgical languages, semi-explained references to potentially somewhat obscure materials, Deities, elements or concepts, and the ongoing complexities of the cumulonimbus of quixotic in-text footnotes/expansions/digressions I keep inserting all over the place.
So instead of … most of that (we’ve still got the footnotes, inter alia), I thought we’d try something different.
As was said in the introductory paragraphs, over the past few months we’ve encountered an ever-increasing number of people who are taking steps in these religious spheres, and who have written in asking us for some degree of guidance on *how* to actually pray, engage in proper, pious conduct and living, and other such matters.
That formed one part of the initial impetus for this piece. The other being our ongoing encountering of an array of fallacies, poorly thought out positions, and other such errancies in these affairs from people who may *think* they’re doing things correctly – or may simply have not really given it much thought at all, in favour of relying largely if not entirely upon the self-assurance of an over-inflated ego.
Now, in neither case is an in-depth and academic-grade discursion actually the ideal implement with which to meaningfully engage with and change behavior. The “form” might be there and difficult to argue with, if there’s several hundred or several thousand words replete with full scriptural citations and excerpts on “how” to do something …. but the “essence”, well, it might struggle somewhat to make itself apparent and thence leap itself into the mind of the reader.
Adding to the complexity and difficulty of trying to do something like the above, is the challenge of producing something that’s (once again, not a full-scale academic-grade cross-comparative analysis of the sort that could and often *literally* is a book and a PhD thesis) going to be useful, useable, and able to speak relevantly across an array of Indo-European mytho-religious traditions.
Instead, the goal here was to set down a few basic principles, here and there, that would be of use and relevancy to just about anyone endeavouring to follow an Indo-European faith. While also seeking to counter some of those aforementioned questionable canards we seem to keep running into for some reason.
Especially in the case of the latter, it has generally been my experience that one doesn’t get too far by simply shooting out straight facts, scriptural enjoinments, or other such things. But rather, by *showing* how things can work, in a manner that can take a reader with the line of reasoning, if possible from ‘start to finish’, and preferably also in ways that make the content thus brooched more immediately relevant and intuitive to them. Hence my hefty reliance upon several analogous examples in various parts of this text.
In any case, the overarching point of this piece has been one thing: attempting to make it easier for us to get into the appropriate, requisite mindset for petitioning and for praising the Gods of our Ancestors. It continually bemuses me the manner in which quite a number of people who otherwise profess to have an enthusiasm for this or that historical Indo-European people and their ways and beliefs … haven’t quite realized that The Past itself is something of an undiscovered country, not simply inhabited by (psychologically, psychosocially) ‘modern’ humans who just happen to be dressed differently and speaking another language.
Partially in relation to and outgrowth from that, and partially as a standalone complex of Modernity, many people also seem to have some degree of difficulty with accustoming themselves to a proper and appropriate religious (let alone ‘sacral’) headspace. This is often because one has spent many years in a different kind of religious and metaphysical framework than those that tend to characterize the Indo-European architectures of belief, and therefore either doesn’t re-evaluate these when migrating over here; or, worse, consciously and conspicuously defines themselves against them in some sort of puerile act of rebellion. I say “worse”, because what it tends to mean in practice is seeing “ABRAHAMISM” anywhere and everywhere and *most especially*, apparently, in actual, proper, appropriate, well-attested, thousand(s) of years old tradition.
But I digress.
The point is – piety is much like a muscle, or other faculty of our senses and our thoughts. When fostered properly and appropriately, it is likely to flourish and grow; and be capable of accomplishing eminently more than when one started out, or in the absence of such fostering, training, and care. You’re also liable to “pull the muscle”, the hamstring, the tendon, potentially even dislocate something or otherwise seriously hurt yourself if you attempt to try to “lift” too much and/or too quickly.
If it feels at all unfamiliar or uncomfortable to you to exercise it, then that is partially because for so long in your life, you have likely not had much cause to use it. Indeed, it has semi-actively been suppressed, repressed! Or, perhaps, you are used to utilizing it significantly differently than to the shapes and the immediate-forms to which you are now endeavouring to bend it. It may also be the case that you need to “stretch” first, and make other, broader alterations within your lifestyle [and, perhaps appropriately enough given the metaphor, “diet” can be quite a significant one here] – including most especially, the seeking out of a coach, a mentor, a gym. And not *necessarily* taking everything one sees in every self-proclaimed “expert”‘s youtube videos or “buy my book!”‘s entirely at face value or perhaps even seriously.
So there’s something to get you started. Or to help you to re-start, or get back to the basics if you’ve gone a bit awry or astray at some point along the way.
If you’ve made it this far – and even if you haven’t!
You’ve taken your first steps into a larger world.
“Krinvanto Vishvam Aryam”, indeed.
Jai Vak, Jai Brihaspati. Jai Agni.
One thought on ““What’s The Magic Word?” – A Brief Primer On Practical Indo-European Prayer”
Really good stuff here Curwenji.
Applied popular access level theology stressing the ‘rite’ points of a revential mind set and appropriately formed petitions to the correct diety, or manifestation of the diety, as guided by a qualified preist or pujari who has correct understanding of the thousands of years of tradition and revealation that inform the form and content of our prayers.
I confess that I do not pray often except to pray to serve, which I do very often both very formally in the temple offering my prostration as surrender to the Gods and Goddesses and very informally, sometimes formally, in the mind as it dwells on a deity as I walk the streets, ride a train, or drive a car.
God, to use a simple term, is always providing us everything that we need, even frequently things which we can do without, to pray for more than he sees fit to give strikes me as vulgar although I didn’t always see it that way and can recall constructing successful spells, a type of prayer totally reliant on correct form, for money or sexual partners when I was less mature in my understanding.
Thank you for your work, which is excellent. I sincerely hope it touches the lives of many.