I recently watched a program on the BBC called The Sacred Wonders of Britain. It was presented by Neil Oliver and had guests like my friend Ronald Hutton, all talking about aspects of Britain’s past, and the relationship to its sacred sites. The first episode looked into prehistory, exploring the Neolithic and Bronze Age, the second was about Iron Age Britain, and third was about the coming of Christianity. I loved them all, although I was a little disappointed that the Iron Age episode fell into the trap of saying that every site had something to do with sacrifice…ho hum.
The last episode focussed on an age of Christianity that fascinates me – that of Columba, Cuthbert, and the holy people of the islands of Iona and Lindisfarne. I’ve been to both islands and they have the most amazing atmosphere. There is certainly something special about them, and I can completely understand their attraction. Maybe it’s my Cornish roots, but the idea of being cut off from the mainland, and being surrounded by water, brings me a great feeling of peace. I’m sure the life was hard, but again that seems to have been part of the requirement of living the lifestyle of the hermit. Being cut off, out of touch, away from everything, is something I need in my life at least once a year.
One of the main parts of this monastic lifestyle was prayer. Much of the day was spent in communion with God. They never describe it as silent contemplation or meditation.
Those hours were spent in prayer.
I remember visiting St. Ninian’s cave on a beach in Dumfries and Galloway (incidentally it’s the cave and beach used in the film The Wicker Man when Rowan Morrison is revealed to Sgt. Howie, and the chase through the caves begin) and sitting in the confines of the rock. Here it is said that St Ninian felt that he could talk directly to God, and then hear his replies in the sound of the sea waves as they rolled onto the shore. I prayed there too, to Manawyddan, the Spirit of the Sea as I see it, and sure enough that echoed sound of rolling waves contains words and a voice I will always remember.
Prayer doesn’t seem to be spoken about very much in modern Paganism. I know that theologically we are all very diverse, but I still wonder why that might be. I know that some see Deity in the plants, trees, and animals of the natural world, and don’t see how they can pray to them. Others feel that Deity is more akin to the Jungian concert of the archetype. Some Pagans find the whole idea of prayer to be too Christian, too fluffy, whilst others see their relationship with the Old Gods to be on a very equal footing. All I know is that, when I have taken times of prayer, I have felt that connection and direct dialogue extremely moving. To me there is something more than just the I. This is probably not the post to explain my own theology, let’s just say that within my own beliefs there is certainly room for prayer.
Do you pray?
And if so, are you looking for an answer to those prayers, or a deeper connection, and conversation with the divine?