As I’ve encouraged others to do so before, I have a little ancestor shrine of my own. Because of my training and experience as a spiritist (specifically in the Afro-Cuban and heavily Congo-flavored brand of espiritismo rather than the “scientific spiritism” of Alan Kardec proper), I maintain what I call a bóveda, literally a “vault” (as in either the vault of a church or the vault of a tomb—either sense is appropriate), which is a table covered in a white tablecloth, a number of glasses of water (one larger than the rest at the center), a candle, and photos of my ancestors or images and trinkets for my spirit guides and other assisting spirits of the dead in my life. I keep it clean, I refill the glasses every so often with filtered water, I clean the glasses once a month (or once a season if I get lazy), I buy fresh flowers for it every time I go to the grocery store, and the like. Every morning when I wrap up my usual daily prayers over at my Hermetic shrine and after I do anything else in my temple room for the morning, I’ll always greet my bóveda and salute all the spirits of the dead in my life, familial or otherwise, and offer a short prayer for our communal and universal ascension, enlightenment, and empowerment.
The opening and closing of this short little daily chat (more like a check-in, I suppose) I have with them is basically a small back-and-forth. To open up:
Me: “May the peace, mercy, blessing, grace, light and power of God be with you all.”
Them: “And with you.”
And to close:
Me: “May the peace, mercy, blessing, grace, light and power of God be with us all.”
Them: “Forever and ever.”
Me: “World without end.”
It’s a simple way for my dead and I to pray together. After all, while much of my other practice has me offering prayers to a deity or enshrined spirit, with the dead at my bóveda, it’s a little different; it’s less me praying to them, and more us praying together. To that end, while some of the prayers I recite are just me reciting it for their benefit, other prayers are ones where there’s a sort of cycle and flow between me and them, as if we’re reciting things in unison or alternating lines of a prayer.
In addition to my daily and monthly/seasonal stuff I do with them, I’ll also sit down once a week (usually Sunday or Monday evenings) and have an actual “liturgy” with them, so to speak, where I’ll light several candles, give them incense, and recite a litany of prayers while also having a good in-depth conversation about whatever it is I need to know or whatever it is I need them to know, to do work, to plan ahead, and the like. It’s here that I’ll expand on the prayers that get recited, some of which are just me reciting them and taking the lead on the prayers, but there are also points at which I’ll let them pray, which can take one of two forms. Sometimes it’s just sitting at the bóveda and listening to them in silent contemplation, but other times it’ll be a specific spirit who stands up and leads a prayer which I’ll tune in more closely and verbalize physically, following their lead. Not only do I find this a good way to practice “mediumship-lite” or “mini-channeling” skills, but it also helps me bring myself closer into attunement and intimacy with these spirits while also facilitating the prayers they themselves wish to have said in the exact ways they say them.
It was one such prayer that one of my dead recited a few days ago, and the language and sentiments expressed were…well, it’s not something I would come up with or which I’d contemplate, but it moved me to a few tears. While I can’t get the language right after the fact (think of how difficult it is to capture the beauty of an extemporaneous, ejaculatory prayer made on the spot fright from the heart after you’ve said it), I would like to capture some of what was said to share with others.
O God, look upon us, your children,
as all human creatures are your children, and so are we—
but, behold! siblings of each other as we are,
we are but orphans, lost in this world,
huddled around a single candle in a darkened church
shivering from cold, holding onto each other for warmth.
And yet, in this dark and cold church, even should none else gaze upon us,
we huddle around this single flame and draw the warmth of life from it,
we hold onto each other and draw the hope for life from one another.
Yea, though we are but orphans, we are yet your children,
and this whole world is still your church,
and even should we march out of this place—and we shall, and we will, according to your design—
still we would yet find you, and be found by you.
Even should none else look upon us, we implore you—and you do, and you will, according to your mercy—
to look with favor upon us, to offer us succor of the heart and the soul,
that we might always have nourishment for ourselves, sharing it with each other.
O God, look upon us, your children, all siblings we,
and though orphaned in the world, that we may return to you as our home.
Prayers like this don’t go on for particularly long; between my other obligations and stamina for long durations of channeling, my spirits have the good sense and grace to make their prayers punctually and sharply and then yield the time back to me so we can move on with what we need to do. Even if something like this were to go on longer, I’m not sure how much I’d be able to meaningfully keep up with, much less recount after the fact. And yet, parts of this prayer, the imagery involved in it—I mean, while I can’t really prove it, I claim that this is evidence that this isn’t stuff coming from me, but from them. And they, in their many years of both life and death, have plenty of experience to draw on, not only from older liturgical and prayer traditions but also from their own lives and scenes that they beheld or, indeed, lived through.
And here, in this prayer that one of my spirits recited (one of my spirit guides, I should note, not one of my ancestors), we see this beautiful but heart-breaking notion: this world is hard, and all we have at the end of the day is each other and God. Sure, to borrow a line from George R. R. Martin, “the night is long and full of terrors”, but so is the day. The same plant that might offer fruit might also offer thorns; the same animal that might give milk and fur might also give hooves and horns. This world is, for better or worse, a world apart from us, and despite whatever we might do to make it more hospitable to us, it is under no obligation to do so. On top of that, there are always other people in the world who wouldn’t treat us as kindly as we might treat them, who wouldn’t help us as we might try to help them. The world is hard, and it’s easy to become lost, to feel lost, to feel forsaken, as if the suffering we go through is all that we have to look forward to.
And that’s just not true, because no matter how hard things might be, there are people looking out for us—each other—and even if we might feel lost in this world, we still have Divinity to orient ourselves by and to head towards. Even if a single candleflame can only give off but so much heat, it helps us all the same, does it not? It reminds us that, even in the darkness, there can still be light, and even in the cold, there can still be warmth. And it’s not like this is something limited to “this dark and cold church”; after all, such a church is still part of the wider world, and such a church is also a symbol for the whole world. Whether we leave the cold, dark church of our inward despair to rejoin with the warm, bright world of the comfort and ease that others can provide us, or whether we leave the cold, dark world of humanity to rejoin in the warm, bright heaven of God, either way, we must always remind ourselves to keep on, to not give up our light and our life, to hold onto each other as we hold onto hope itself. After all, no matter how alone we might feel in the world, so long as we have each other and God, then we’ve got all we need to get by. “No man is an island”, after all, and it’s not like Divinity is closed off to anyone, either.
I had originally planned to put out this post on Monday or Tuesday, but life got in the way and I ended up putting this off a few days longer than I wanted. Because I said that I wanted to share the prayer that my spirit guide shared with me, they said that it’d be okay, so long as I did so; I hadn’t yet (before now), and they kept reminding me. If I had gotten this out sooner, I might have recalled more of the language used or the meaning that it held in that moment, but I hope that this suffices for at least a few of us who might benefit from such a thing. I don’t share this as some sort of formal prayer to recite or implement as part of a prayer routine, but rather, as a prayer and contemplation for all to remind us that—as the days get shorter and nights get longer, as the temperatures drop and the clouds come for those of us in the northern hemisphere—there’s never truly darkness if we hold onto even the barest glimmer of Light.