I feel privileged that the prayer I speak each morning can still send chills through my entire body. This morning, as I drove down Indianola, I felt goosebumps develop from head to toe, every hair on my body standing up in rapt attention to the words I spoke.
Many would call the prayer "rote" simply because it is memorized. There is a notion, particularly within Noe-Paganism, that memorization brings a "fake" quality to the words spoken, a "going through the motions" aspect to our religion that many reject. I tend to call this prayer not "rote," but "well-loved."
The prayer is spoken differently every morning: some days, the prayer gently passes my lips, hardly louder than my breath; other days, I speak it with loud passion in a voice that reaches deeply into my soul; still others, the words roll out strongly as I describe to an unseen audience the maiden on the rim of the world, and then hush as I describe that glimpse of her and what it does to me. Each day brings a new prayer with the same words, new feelings to the oft-quoted phrases.
As each phrase passes my lips, feelings well up, images appear and dissipate, and a noetic quality settles in. The prayer brings Usas into being, casting a reality upon her, which in turn draws her reality into the world and across the horizon. There is knowledge that without her there would be no prayer, and without the prayer, I would never see her and love her in the way that I do. Because of this, it is important for me to pray each morning. For those who have not read the words before, they are:
A maiden dancing, dancing
on the rim of the world.
I blush to see you rise from your bath
the colours of the morning drip from your bosom
as you open the ways for the sun.
Greetings, Usas, who opens the gates of heaven.
It was not written with meter in mind, or thoughts that I might still be doing this three years later (the prayer was first written Sept. 25, 2006), but it was written when I was very attentive to the dawn. That rapt attention is what made this prayer something deeper than a few lines, and what prevents it from ever becoming rote. I never dreamed that I would pray this prayer on the slopes Mt. Olympus, or in the Arizona desert, or in the cold-and-damp Brushwood spring. I never dreamed that it would keep the fires burning on my altar so reliably, or bring me in such close contact with the synthesis of prayer and flame. I never dreamed that it would bring me a reputation for piety, or force me to rearrange my social life (my sunset prayer to Ratri, equally as deep and wonderful, prevents me from viewing movies during certain times of the year since they often straddle sunset).
This prayer speaks to and for my soul every morning, even after all this time.