Retooling the Rosary

Retooling the Rosary May 6, 2010

I miss the rosary. I’ve been Heathen for close to fifteen years. I’m a priest, shaman, godatheow and utterly devoted to Odin and the other Gods. But I was raised Catholic and while I have no connection with that religion anymore, I miss some aspects of devotional regalia used to good effect within this religion. Perhaps it is simply that I remember my grandmother, whom I loved dearly, praying the rosary (she had quite a devotion to the Virgin Mary); or perhaps it is that we are patterned by where we’ve been, where we’ve walked, and those practices that first opened us to the Gods, even if these things are longer part of our spiritual practice. I learned to pray at my grandmother’s knee and though I’m owned by a completely different family of Gods than she was, that early training has been immensely useful.

It wasn’t until recently, when speaking with a couple of colleagues, also Heathen, that I realized I wasn’t alone in missing the rosary, prayer cards, and certain aspects of ritual. There is something very compelling about a certain type of prayer, particularly a prayer that at any given time is being said all over the world, and has been said regularly all over the world since the fourteenth century. There is something equally compelling about having a tool that speaks to the physical senses as a mnemonic, engaging us with heart and hands in remembrance and prayer of our Gods.  I can’t do anything about prayer cards – I’m no artist, but I know a little something about constructing and deconstructing prayers. I believe that there is merit in examining the religious practices with which we were raised and repurposing that which is helpful. A tool is a tool after all, whether it’s used by a Christian, Pagan, Heathen, Muslim, or any other religious person—and why should they have all the fun!

We can never escape where we’ve been, and that’s ok. We can, however, make our early exposure to various religious practices work for us. My adopted mom was the first one to open my eyes to this. I have used prayer beads for years, but never anything approximating a rosary and I remain surprised at how much I miss the five sets of ten. There’s something about that pattern, a familiarity that feels right. I have half a dozen sets of prayer beads that I use regularly and it was only recently that I thought about reworking the rosary (after finding a set in the deepest, prettiest shade of Wodinic blue…). My mom was the inspiration for this work. When I was writing “Feeding the Flame,” she gave me a prayer, which I will share with you below. It was a very moving prayer to Loki and Sigyn, the Gods to whom she is dedicated. She said that while she personally is no fan of Christianity, she often found herself missing the “Our Father” prayer. So, being a woman devoted to a mystic, almost monastic path, she sat down and meditated on what exactly she was missing, because it certainly wasn’t the Christian God. She realized, through her discernment, that she missed the message of the prayer and so she wrote her own, that encompassed what she felt that prayer could say to her own Gods. I have followed suit.

So for those Heathens and Pagans like me, who love prayer beads and find them immensely nourishing spiritually, who love their Gods and Goddesses, who have absolutely no desire to go back to their birth religions, but who feel that maybe, the monotheists oughtn’t to corner the market on beautiful prayer tools, I offer this reworked rosary below. Call it what you want. I know that for me, it restores a practice that I have long missed.

Reworking the Rosary: The Prayers

One of the things that I find fascinating about rosaries, is that there are so many lovely variations on them. You could make your own, or purchase one. For me, this became in part, a means of also honoring my grandmother, because I was able to use her rosary for my own prayers, which I found especially nice.

Most rosaries begin with a cross.  I suggest respectfully removing the cross, and any other Christian religious medals (there is often a center medallion to the Virgin Mary). I encourage respect because I don’t believe it wise to show disrespect for any Deity. Remove the cross and medal (if there is one, mine had a large bead there) and give it to a Christian friend. I took mine to a Church and left it there. It may seem a silly precaution but as I said, it’s never a bad thing to be respectful, even if the Deity in question isn’t yours.

After you have removed the cross (and medal) affix a religious pendant of your own choice, a pentacle, hammer, or other Pagan or Heathen symbol. If your rosary also had a central medallion, replace that with a bead or metal ring, or whatever you feel will work for you. I want to reiterate again that this is not to be done out of disrespect for the Christian Gods. I remove these things out of respect for both my Gods and theirs.

The original order of prayers for the Catholic rosary is as follows:

  1. Apostles Creed
  2. Our Father
  3. hail mary
  4. hail mary
  5. hail mary
  6. Glory Be
  7. Our Father
  8. One Hail Mary per each bead in the sets of ten.
  9. One Our Father on the spacers between the sets of ten.
  10. Hail Holy Queen prayer to conclude.

Obviously, we’re not going to use those prayers. Once you’ve made the rosary your own, I offer the following prayers:

  1. Begin with the religious pendant. On mine, I use a Prayer of Service from Raven Kaldera’s book “Dark Moon Rising” and I give that here, but if this isn’t your proverbial cup of tea, feel free to write your own.

Prayer of Service

(from “Dark Moon Rising” by Raven Kaldera)

I offer myself to Your will,

To better serve Your needs.

I offer myself as Your tool,

For my path is one of usefulness.

I offer myself to be used,

For to be used is to be valued.

I offer myself to be honed

To give a finer edge.

I offer myself to be changed,

That I may become a vessel,

A manifestation of Your will.

  1. “Teach me, oh my Gods, to have correct knowledge and understanding, for Your blessing is all that I desire. Speak Your words in my ear, oh Makers of all Things, and set Your wisdom in my heart. (This prayer has  been adapted by my friend Sophie Reicher from an Enochian prayer).
  2. I bind myself today to the Holy Powers:

Their hands to guide me,

Their wisdom to teach me,

Their ears to hear me,

Their words to give me speech,

Their will to use me,

My heart, always, ever always, to love Them.

(Repeat for 4 and 5).

6.  Sigdrifa’s Prayer.

7. Lord and Lady Prayer (given below)

8. In the sets of ten, in place of the Hail Mary say:

Hail to the Gods and Goddesses.

Your grace illumines all things.

Your gifts shine forth,

Making fruitful nine mighty worlds.

Blessed are those that serve You.

Blessed are those that seek You out.

Holy Powers, Makers of all things,

Bless and protect us in Your mercy.

Lead us along the twisting pathways of our wyrd

And when it is time, guide us safely along the Hel-road.

9. On each of the spaces between sets of ten, in place of the “Our Father” say:

My Lord and My Lady, my Beloved Ones,

May those you call always hear Your voice.

May I always love You beyond trust and mistrust.

May my surrender be complete and voluntary.

Give me this day the grace of Your presence.

When I fail You of Your kindness,

Permit me to make amends.

Use me and teach me according to Your will,

And deliver me from all complacency.

This prayer was written by Fuensanta Arismendi. She would insert the names of Loki and Sigyn, but since not everyone is dedicated to these Gods, I recommend, after the words ‘My Lord and My Lady,” inserting the names of the Gods that you do most often honor and most deeply love.

10. Once you have gone through all five sets of ten, you will arrive again at the spacer bead tying everything together. Repeat Sigdrifa’s prayer to conclude.

For those of you reading this who may use prayer beads in your own practice, I would love to know what people are doing. Please feel free to share in the comments or via email Krasskova at gmail.com.

Useful links:

  1. Wikipedia entry on the rosary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary
  2. History of the Rosary: http://www.rosaryworkshop.com/HistoriesIndex.htm
  3. Gorgeous rosaries for sale: http://magnificatrosaries.com/_wsn/page11.html
  4. Pagan Prayer Beads: http://www.pagan-prayerbeads.com/
  5. Unpacking the Pagan Prayer Beads: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2344

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yes, I miss my Rosary too! I was shocked to find your blog entry in my search of revising the rosary. I just finished blogging about it when I found your entry saying things that were very similar to my own experience. Even down to, removing the cross off the end of my rosary! I love that you respectfully left yours at church. I put mine in a box . . . I might walk it over to the cathedral, light a candle in front of Mary and leave it there too.

    The one difference is that I see Mary as the Goddess . . . so I’ve maintained those prayers to Her but I’m learning how to rework them.

    I’ve found your blog very late in the night. I’m going to read it more closely tomorrow. Please feel free to visit mine http://www.citywiccan.blogspot.com

  • Hi City Wiccan,
    (my apologies if this posts twice. I’m having some computer issues tonight==the joys of mercury in retrograde!).

    I am both surprised and gratified by the number of people who contacted me after I initially posted this article and who also share our feelings of missing the rosary. I guess that’s why such spiritual tools have been around for so long: they speak to us on a very deep level and they’re useful!

    Re. Mary: I have nothing against Her. I keep a statue of Her on my altar as several of my ancestors were devoted to Her; it’s just that She’s not one of the Gods I personally honor.

    anyway, i shall go check out your blog now.
    G