Book Review: A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book by Ceisiwr Serith

I used to own A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith, so I was excited to receive a copy of his A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book to review from Weiser.

To begin with it’s a good size for a prayer book. Small enough to fit easily in a purse or bag with a cover that is wipeable. I like that. No flashy pictures or dust covers or fancy leather bindings. This book is designed to be used and to be used in actual ritual space. I haven’t tried to read it by candlelight but the print looks large enough and crisp enough to do that. Small things to be sure, but they are appreciated.

Now to the meat of the book: the prayers. There are a lot of them and I’ve honestly only read a fraction of them. They range from simple one sentence mantras or affirmations to lyric poems of several stanzas to be declaimed dramatically. I think there’s probably something in here for everyone, and for every need. There’s a great index in the back so if you need a specific focus or Deity you can flip to that pretty easily.

I like the fact that the prayers range from the very simple to the more complex and obscure. Prayers to Castor and Pollux, Marduk and Quirinus find their places next to prayers to the Sun, Moon and Dawn. Poems that can be used as call and response for formal ritual lay next to prayers that are perfect for heartfelt and intensely personal devotions. Some prayers are dead serious, some lighthearted, and some of the prayers to trickster Gods are actually pretty funny.

My one complaint is that some of the prayers are too simple, and could have been culled from the book. A one sentence prayer asking for a basic blessing seems to be filler space rather than a useful ritual or meditation text. That said, there’s enough depth and breadth otherwise to balance the book out.

I think what I like best about the book are the prayers to unusual concepts, like Democracy. They’re thought provoking and great jumping off points for meditations. This is the kind of book you want to keep in your bag and pull out in waiting rooms or on airplanes to invoke a bit of the sacred into the empty spaces of your day. I can see myself practicing a bit of bibliomancy with this book, letting the pages fall open to the wisdom I need. Maybe I won’t use it in ritual but I’ll likely keep it in my purse or on my nightstand for a little inspiration. At 336 pages, with several prayers per page, it’s a good investment for your library, and a resource you’ll likely reach for again and again.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided for the purpose of review and did not influence the review given.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://greattininess.wordpress.com/ Johnny Rapture

    All that’s great, Star, and I too appreciate a book that’s meant to be used, not just laid on a shelf — the best books are the most dog-eared, in my opinion!

    But, you haven’t addressed the aspect of a prayerbook that I think is most important: Are the prayers any GOOD? I mean from a literary, poetic standpoint. Are they evocative, euphonic, startling in their turn of phrase? Don’t get me wrong — I think any ole off-the-cuff prayer offered up in real honesty is no less worthy than a more poetic prayer. That said, if I’m going to invest in another person’s book of prayers, I’m looking for poetry.

    Frankly, I, too, used to own “A Book of Pagan Prayer,” and I wasn’t impressed with the poetry at all–in fact, some of it was awful. I don’t think I’ll be picking up a copy of the new work.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      It’s not e. e. cummings or Walt Whitman. The poetry is similar to the first volume.

      There are prayers that are “eh…”. They are too short and too simple. But some of the longer pieces are quite nice. They evoke real emotion and vivid images. The quality is uneven through the book, but it’s still a very useful volume for those who don’t write. Let’s face it, if you write poetry and liturgy you’re not likely to buy this book. You’ll write your own prayers.

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        Let’s face it, if you write poetry and liturgy you’re not likely to buy this book.

        I’ve written liturgy and other ritual texts for over a quarter of a century, and I’m still happy to steal anything worthwhile. What’s more, the more I read good examples, the better my writing gets. (Being an Anglican for the last decade has definitely improved my ear for liturgy.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          A friend of mine who runs a book store claim the only people who buy poetry are poets. :o)

  • http://greattininess.wordpress.com/ Johnny Rapture

    All that’s great, Star, and I too appreciate a book that’s meant to be used, not just laid on a shelf — the best books are the most dog-eared, in my opinion!

    But, you haven’t addressed the aspect of a prayerbook that I think is most important: Are the prayers any GOOD? I mean from a literary, poetic standpoint. Are they evocative, euphonic, startling in their turn of phrase? Don’t get me wrong — I think any ole off-the-cuff prayer offered up in real honesty is no less worthy than a more poetic prayer. That said, if I’m going to invest in another person’s book of prayers, I’m looking for poetry.

    Frankly, I, too, used to own “A Book of Pagan Prayer,” and I wasn’t impressed with the poetry at all–in fact, some of it was awful. I don’t think I’ll be picking up a copy of the new work.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      It’s not e. e. cummings or Walt Whitman. The poetry is similar to the first volume.

      There are prayers that are “eh…”. They are too short and too simple. But some of the longer pieces are quite nice. They evoke real emotion and vivid images. The quality is uneven through the book, but it’s still a very useful volume for those who don’t write. Let’s face it, if you write poetry and liturgy you’re not likely to buy this book. You’ll write your own prayers.

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        Let’s face it, if you write poetry and liturgy you’re not likely to buy this book.

        I’ve written liturgy and other ritual texts for over a quarter of a century, and I’m still happy to steal anything worthwhile. What’s more, the more I read good examples, the better my writing gets. (Being an Anglican for the last decade has definitely improved my ear for liturgy.)

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          A friend of mine who runs a book store claim the only people who buy poetry are poets. :o)

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    I don’t know how many years it has been since I’ve been excited about a new pagan book, but I am about this one.

    Several years back, I gave copies of A Book of Pagan Prayer to all of my covenmates. I still pull it down occasionally, and the coven’s reading at Lunasa is taken from this book. There has been a dearth of emphasis on prayer in modern pagan practice, and Serith offered both a polemic for reviving that ancient pagan practice, and a myriad of examples. (Some of them I find useful, some I don’t. And I’ll bet that some of the ones I don’t find useful, others love.)

    Granted, Serith’s language is not that of Thomas Cranmer in Book of Common Prayer, but it is sincere and straightforward. Compared to the overwrought language* of many pagan ritual sources (starting with Gardner), the simplicity comes as a relief to my ear. I hope he did at least as well in this volume.


    * And, of course, the many Capital Letters which show how Impressive the Mystic Secrets contained within truly are.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      It is simple, straightforward and heartfelt. If you liked the first you will like this one.

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    I don’t know how many years it has been since I’ve been excited about a new pagan book, but I am about this one.

    Several years back, I gave copies of A Book of Pagan Prayer to all of my covenmates. I still pull it down occasionally, and the coven’s reading at Lunasa is taken from this book. There has been a dearth of emphasis on prayer in modern pagan practice, and Serith offered both a polemic for reviving that ancient pagan practice, and a myriad of examples. (Some of them I find useful, some I don’t. And I’ll bet that some of the ones I don’t find useful, others love.)

    Granted, Serith’s language is not that of Thomas Cranmer in Book of Common Prayer, but it is sincere and straightforward. Compared to the overwrought language* of many pagan ritual sources (starting with Gardner), the simplicity comes as a relief to my ear. I hope he did at least as well in this volume.


    * And, of course, the many Capital Letters which show how Impressive the Mystic Secrets contained within truly are.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      It is simple, straightforward and heartfelt. If you liked the first you will like this one.


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