Michaelmas Present: Litany of the Holy Archangels

One of the reasons why the second half of September is always so chaotic for me is that, not only is it in the few weeks leading up to my birthday both in flesh and in Santería, but it’s also a cluster of feast days: Our Lady of Mercy and the Days of the Cyprians and the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus are definitely important, but today is yet another feast day I hold dear to my heart: Michaelmas, more properly called the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and All Angels.  Today is the day when we especially revere and honor the bodiless and immaterial Hosts of Heaven, with Saint Michael the Archangel, their divine commander and our divine protector, at the helm and forefront of both God’s armies and our own hearts.  And, of course, to honor the other archangels: Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Sealtiel, Jehudiel, and Barachiel (or whichever set of seven archangels you prefer to use).

I’d also like to share a new(ish) page with you all: a new prayer, the Litany of the Holy Archangels.  This is, for once, not something I wrote, nor could I have written something so beautiful.  Rather, it’s a prayer I’ve been using for years now, courteously and generously shared with me by good colleague and friend Michael Lux of Nigromantic Matters.  Originally written for Johannite Christian spiritual practice, Michael has generously let me share the prayer on my own website for all to use and refer to.  I find it incredibly devout, and can be used in both solitary practice as well as in a community.  I had intended on sharing this page more publicly earlier in the year when I was going to propose a new project and craft for myself, but said project never got off the ground due to logistical issues, so I never really announced the page.  However, today’s a perfect day for just that, so I hope you enjoy and find it a useful blessing in your own practices and prayers!

With that, I hope you all have a blessed end of September, with all the Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Virtues, Powers, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, and the seven commanders of all the hosts of Heaven blessing you and guiding you every moment of every day!

Blessed Angels, watch over us at all times during this perilous life.
Holy Archangels, be our guides on the way to Heaven.
Heavenly Principalities, govern us in soul and body.
Celestial Virtues, preserve us against the wiles of demons.
Mighty Powers, give us strength and courage in the battle of life.
Powerful Dominions, obtain for us domination over the rebellion of our flesh.
Sacred Thrones, grant us peace with God and Man.
Brilliant Cherubim, illuminate our minds with heavenly Knowledge.
Burning Seraphim, enkindle in our hearts the fire of Charity.

Seven angels around my head, guide us safely where we’re led.
Michael, defend us from all our foes; Raphael, heal us from all our woes.
Gabriel, give us peace on wings; Uriel, release us our attachments to worldly things.
Jehudiel, fill our mouths with praise to God; Sealtiel, open our hearts to prayer of God.
Barachiel, bless us in all our ways; Guardians, guide us through all our days.

Amen.

Litany of Saint Cyprian, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus

As you might be aware, dear reader, today is the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  As you also might be aware, I’m having a party later tonight in his honor, and besides getting a bunch of my friends and colleagues together to drink and have a good time, I also plan on honoring the good saint by having people who may not work with him a starting point for asking for his blessings by having a large public altar set up to him where people can write petitions out and the like.  Towards the end of the party (or, simply put, around midnight, depending on how late people want to stay and drink), I’ll lead a communal prayer for all of us to ask for the good saint’s blessings in our lives and formally give him all our petitions by burning them with a bit of his oil and some rum.  (Gotta have at least some flair for the dramatic in my parties, after all.)

Thinking about what I might do for the communal prayer, however, led me to inspect some of the prayers and rituals to Saint Cyprian that I’ve been collecting.  My Chaplet of Saint Cyprian of Antioch is nice, though the repetitions of the Glory Be and the like might not be to everyone’s taste.  However, I realize that the structure and wording of my chaplet is very similar to other Catholic prayers, notably the litany.  A litany is a series of successive supplications made to a saint or holy figure, and I’ve used several for the angels and archangels before in my work (especially the Litany of the Holy Archangels by Rev. Dn. Michael Strojan).  In that light, I rethought the use of my chaplet and decided to rewrite it and format it as a Catholic-style litany, complete with the usual prayers at the beginning and an oremus (“let us pray”) at the end.  However, I also decided to add on a bit to the prayer, since today is also technically the feast day of two other saints who are closely associated with Saint Cyprian of Antioch:

  • Saint Justina, the Christian girl whom Cyprian tried to get to fall in love with Aglaias.  She stood steadfast in the face of all of Cyprian’s magic, however, and warded off every attack from him, all his demons, and the Devil himself by making the sign of the Cross and through constant prayer and fasting.  Once she got word of Cyprian’s conversion, she rejoiced and made many charitable gifts across Antioch (which really needed it after Cyprian kinda blew it up), and eventually became a friend to Cyprian in Christ.  Once Cyprian became priest, he made her a deaconess; once he became bishop, he elevated her to an abbess in charge of a convent.  They were both tortured together, however, and eventually executed together by beheading.  Many Orthodox icons of Saint Cyprian also feature Saint Justina.
  • Saint Theocistus was a Roman, sometimes known as a soldier, who was present at the execution of Saint Cyprian and Saint Justina.  He saw how these two saints were being tortured even though they were innocent, and despite all the measures the Romans used against them, nothing actually hurt them save the beheading themselves by the grace of God.  At the beheading of the saints, Theocistus had a change of heart and proclaimed his faith in Christ, kissing the feet of the body of Cyprian.  However, he did this in the presence of the officials who had just executed Cyprian and Justina, and so also was condemned and executed on the spot for his conversion.

Saint Theocistus, of course, is a relatively minor figure compared to Saint Justina, and she’s a relatively minor figure compared to Saint Cyprian, and since Saint Cyprian isn’t really considered by the Catholic Church to be a saint anymore, none of these three make their rosters.  However, the Orthodox Church still venerates them all, and gives them all the same feast day (though they use October 2 instead of September 26).  I figured it was fitting to write a litany for Saint Cyprian that also included sections for Saint Justina and Saint Theocistus, so following the usual format of the litany, here’s what I wrote.  Yes, it’s basically a standard Christian prayer, so if you’re not on good terms with Christianity, you may not find it worthwhile, but then again, you probably wouldn’t be working with a Christian saint anyway.

First, before the litany proper, it’s usual to make a common supplication to God.  The litany is usually led by a priest; his parts are said in upright typeface, while the parts of the congregation are in italics.  When doing the litany alone, however, one prays all parts.  The beginning supplication:

God, come to my assistance.  Lord, make speed to save us.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Amen.

The litany proper:

Lord, have mercy on us.  Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.  Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.  Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.  Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.

Saint Cyprian, born to pagan parents, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, dedicated to the god Apollo as a child, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, taught sorcery in Olympos, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, taught illusion in Argos, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, taught witchcraft in Tauropolis, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, taught necromancy in Sparta, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, taught enchantment in Memphis, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, taught astrology in Chaldaea, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, master of all the occult arts, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, magus residing in Antioch, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, approached by Aglaias to seduce Justina, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, unleashing demons of lust upon Justina, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, unleashing demons of deception upon Justina, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, unleashing the Devil himself upon Justina, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, wringing disaster on Antioch against Justina, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, casting deadly illness upon Justina, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, all magic defeated by the prayers of Justina, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, seeing Truth and rebuking the Devil and his snares, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, burning his books in sacrifice to God, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, confessing repentantly for his sins before all Antioch, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, made priest within a year by his zeal for holiness, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, made bishop to lead all to divine virtue, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, condemned to death by the Romans, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, beheaded and departed into Heaven, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, entering into the communion of the holy saints, pray for us.
Saint Cyprian, preserving us from all evil arts and acts, pray for us.

Saint Justina, virtuous maiden, pray for us.
Saint Justina, chased after by the world, pray for us.
Saint Justina, pursued by demons, pray for us.
Saint Justina, defending herself by the sign of the Holy Cross, pray for us.
Saint Justina, celebrating at the conversion of Cyprian, pray for us.
Saint Justina, gracious friend to Cyprian, pray for us.
Saint Justina, made abbess by Cyprian, pray for us.
Saint Justina, slandered by the Romans with Cyprian, pray for us.
Saint Justina, becoming a martyr in Christ with Cyprian, pray for us.

Saint Theocistus, soldier of the Romans, pray for us.
Saint Theocistus, turning his heart to Christ, pray for us.
Saint Theocistus, witnessing the execution of Cyprian and Justina, pray for us.
Saint Theocistus, kissing the corpse of the martyrs Cyprian and Justina, pray for us.
Saint Theocistus, declaring his faith in Jesus Christ because of Cyprian and Justina, pray for us.
Saint Theocistus, executed for his forsaking of the world, pray for us.
Saint Theocistus, ennobled for his conversion to God, pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.  Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.  Christ, graciously hear us.

Pray for us, Saint Cyprian, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:
O God, who sent the Holy Spirit to preserve Saint Cyprian from darkness even while he dwelt within its midst, grant in your mercy that you enlighten us and inspire us.  May that the life and martyrdom of Saint Cyprian teach us to abandon wickedness, heal us to be free of sin, and bless us through Jesus Christ + to walk in the light of truth.  By the intercession of Saint Cyprian, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus, lead us to a true conversion of heart that we may use both our hands and all our power in service and sacrifice to Your Presence, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

May you all have a blessed Feast of Saint Cyprian, and may he with his saintly companions smile upon you and intercede for you in all your prayers!  Hail, holy Saint Cyprian of Antioch: mage, mystic, and martyr ; sorcerer, sage, and saint; theurge, thaumaturge, and theophoros!  Together with Saint Justina and Saint Theocistus, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Litany of How the World Sucks

I’ve recently been hooked on an artist called Janelle Monáe.  You may have heard of her: she’s a fantastic singer and dancer currently working on a four-part series of albums about her android character, Cindi Mayweather, being persecuted and then leading the androids of Metropolis to freedom.  It’s a pretty neat sci-fi theme, but is certainly rooted in real-world problems in black and other marginalized communities.  Anyway, one of her more fantastic music videos is the short film “Many Moons”.  It stars Cindi Mayweather as the prototype of the Alpha Platinum 9000 line of androids, auctioned off at a high-stakes high-class gathering of some of the bigger names in the Metropolitan community.  At 3:39, though, things go awry in her “programming”, and she sees what living in the world can really be like.

The fast-paced lyrics for this part of the song:

Civil rights, civil war
Hood rat, crack whore
Carefree, nightclub
Closet drunk, bathtub
Outcast, weirdo
Stepchild, freak show
Black girl, bad hair
Broad nose, cold stare

Tap shoes, Broadway
Tuxedo, holiday
Creative block, love song
Stupid words, erased song
Gun shots, orange house
Dead man walking with a dirty mouth
Spoiled milk, stale bread
Welfare, bubonic plague

Record deal, light bulb
Keep-back kid, now corporate thug
Breast cancer, common cold
HIV, lost hope
Overweight, self esteem
Misfit, broken dream
Fish tank, small bowl
Closed minded, dark hold

Cybergirl, droid control
Get away now they trying to steal your soul
Microphone, one stage
Tomboy, outrage
Street fight, bloody war
Instigators, third floor
Promiscuous child, broken heart
STD, quarantine

Heroin needle, coke head
Final chapter, death bed
Plastic sweat, metal skin
Metallic tears, mannequin
Carefree, night club
Closet drunk, bathtub
White House, Jim Crow
Dirty lies, my regards

In no time, in each line, Janelle Monáe describes whole scenes of day-to-day life for people in all walks of life, from the blissful and high-brow to the most vulgar and depraved.  Bringing up plights of the poor, the sick, the misguided, and the trapped, she drives home what is driving Cindi Mayweather onto freeing people from their own plights and leading them to a better world.  More often than not, it’s their own trappings that keep them trapped (“you’re free, but in your mind your freedom’s in a bind”), their own upbringing causing vicious cycles passed down onto the next generation, and the one after that, ad infinitum.

This is the crucial part of the song, I think, that really answers one of the central questions of the whole Archandroid project: why is she doing this?  Because the world sucks.  The world hurts, the world is unfair, and most importantly, the world is our creation.  The world is not the same as the Earth (the material realm we live in) or the Cosmos (the sum of all experiences, all places, all thoughts, all of which consist in the All).  The world, quoth Margaret Case in the comic series “Promethea”, is “our systems, our politics, our economies, our ideas of the world…it’s our flags and our banknotes and our border wars”.  The world is how we’ve decided to make use of the places we work in and the resources and people we work with.  And, frankly, we’re not doing a very good job of it.  When companies put profit of their CEOs before well-being of their clients, when countries fight in other countries instead of helping them build, when institutions degrade human beings based on superficial attributes like color or creed or orientation, when people fight or struggle against each other for anything but the common and shared good of themselves, we’re doing it wrong.  It leads to starvation, discrimination, murder, sorrow, grief, and despair.

We need to remember humanity, both that of ourselves and the others around us.  We need to remember that, no matter how much we may dislike someone, they have a mother who gave birth to them, dreams and aspirations that lead them, fears and worries that tie them down.  We need to remember our race, heritage, and value, and we need to reclaim these things.  That’s the entire goal, according to Plotinus, because once we do that we remember who we are, and we remember to work with each other instead of against each other.  Once we awaken to what the world outside our little bubbles can be like, once we get our freedom out of the bind we’ve put it in, only then can we really be free to start working in and on the world, making ours better, and thereby making the shared world we all have better.

I’m adopting that set of lyrics above as a personal litany, a reminder that the world is not perfect and this shows how.  This is a display of the symptoms, not the causes; it’s up to me to figure out what causes underlie why the world sucks and how I can fix the ones I can tackle.  That’s not just my job: that’s the role of any magician.  Hell, that’s the role of any human being.  This is our Job.

Get to Work.