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The Druid's Prayer I: Start Here...

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 03:16
by Alferian
Hello everyone!

Just thought up a fun topic. The Druid's Prayer (which exists in several slightly different wordings) is something central to OBOD's ritual practice but it isn't really a secret part of the gwersi, so we can talk about it here in the common rooms. The prayer originated ( in print anyway) with Iolo Morganwyg, I believe (please correct me if I'm wrong). So, it is something that a lot of traditional British Druid orders use, but something deemed insufficiently "authentic" for folks of the Reformed Druid bent, such as ADF. However, I have found it a fascinating prayer and one that is not at all easy to interpret. We've discussed it here on the message board in the past but I thought it would be interesting to take it sort of section by section, devoting a different topic to each. I'm sure this neat plan will fall to tatters as soon as we actually get talking, but that's the way it goes.

Here's the whole prayer, for those of you who don't know it:

Grant O God thy protection
And in protection, strength,
And in strength, understanding,
And in understanding, knowledge,
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice,
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it
And in the love of it, the love of all existences,
And in the love of all existences,
The love of God and all Goodness.

Now, in OBOD, the word "God" is left open for individual preferences for naming the supreme Being. Goddess, Great Spirit, etc. may be substituted for those who feel them to be more appropriate. God, however, really works best with the rhythm of the thing (although, I think Goddess works better in the first line, God works better in the last line. It probably only scans in Welsh.)

To start out this topic thread, I would like to suggest we take just the first line and explicate it (that is, explore its possible meanings and reflections). Then, anyone can start a new topic thread on the next line when they wish, until we've worked through the whole thing. Does that sound like fun? I knew you would think so! :wink:

So, here goes:

"Grant O God thy protection"

What does that mean? Well, the name "God" is the immediate tricky bit for many of us. Is this supposed to be the old Sky Father YHVH of Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradiition? Allah, as the Muslims say? Well, probably not, but in a way yes, because the Druid revival on the whole accepts the idea of One Spirit that unites all things and represents the ineffable infinity of absolute Being. We don't tend to refer to this Entity as "the Allmighty" or with gendered language as "God the Father." Hence, OBOD's suggestion that one chose a name by which one feels most comfortable addressing Divinity. Nevertheless, what is being addressed is a kind of spiritual Monism, like the Neoplatonic One. And the Greek philosophers (beginning with Pythagoras at least) were really the sourse of this philosophical fascination with absolute underlying Unity. This is really where the Jews and Christians picked it up and adapted the older tribal sky god (whose priests had done away with the worship of His consort, Ashteroth) to this new idea of an ineffable supreme being. One sees it quite clearly in Jewish Kabbalah: the concept of Ayin, which means Limitless, and which implies the ground of all being that we cannot possibly comprehend because it contains every possible attrebute and is, well, limitless. This concept of the Limitless Light behiind all things -- manifest and unmanifest -- is, I suspect, what the Druids of the revival period were getting at. Whether this also reflects ancient Druid lore of the pre-Roman period is arguable.

For diehard polytheists, the monist language might pose a problem, but it seems to me that one can also bracket the whole question of whether there is a point to personifying Absolute Unknowable Being, and instead insert the name of your patron or patroness. I find it easier to pray to less infinite gods. Personification is all well and good, but it works better if the person has some personality. YHVH, after all, has always seemed rather vague, and even the more human Messiah or Jesus is a little too abstracted. Nice guy. Great to invite to a party, especially if you might run out of wine, but not the sort of real character we run into in the old Irish and Welsh stories. The Dagda with his big club and his huge cauldron and even larger appetite. Lugh with his vast number of talents and bi-racial ancestry. Nuada with his Silver hand. Taranis, the storm god. Or Greek Olympians, or the Norse pantheon -- these are great personifications with personality. You know who you are talking to and can picture them.

For example, let's try: " Grant O Arianrhod, thy protection..." Or Dagda, or Lugh, or Nuada, or Morrigan, etc. etc. You could also say, "Grant O Mighty Ones thy protection..." or "Grant O Spirits..." to be more inclusive and call on everyone and their mother at once. Some might like to call upon Mars, Ares, or Teutates as their tribal and personal protectors.

Does this change the essential meaning of the prayer? I don't know. What do you think?

The first word is "grant" so this is about asking for a boon, a gift. And the root gift from which everything else flows in this prayer is Protection. Why? Well, I'll tell you. I think it is because protection from attack, disease, misfortune -- whatever -- is the foundation of all spiritual work. It's a bit like when we give peace to the four directions in OBOD ceremonies. "Without peace can no work be." We might feel under direct and imminent threat, or we might be speaking more generally: that the protection of a higher spiritual being allows the other gifts to flow into us.

What follows then, is a series of "one thing leads to another." The seed of protection opens and blossoms into... strength (which we'll take up in the next thread). Each subsequent gift flows from the one before, like a series of water bowls positioned one above the other so that the one above pours into and fills the next below and so on. Or perhaps we could think of them as concentric ripples on the water's surface: Protection at the centerpoint, the others flowing outward, each still partaking of Protection, but each gift like a different crest of that pattern of waves...

But what else could that call for divine Protection mean? Tell me what I'm missing.

Blessings of Protection,


Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 03:54
by CopperLion
Great topic Alferian!

I personally don't have a problem with the monistic implications of the 1st line because I've always had a leaning towards the Hindu/Vedic concept of divinity. Hinduism has one of the largest pantheons of Deities ever known to mankind, at the same time they embrace the belief in a Supreme Spirit that is the origin of everything including the Gods and Goddesses that all mankind relates and prays to. "The Superintendent of the Highest Heaven" who may or may not be concerned with the daily events and progress of the universe and creation (nobody really knows) as the is stated in "The Hymn of Creation" from the 10th mandala of the Rig Veda. This concept is also reflected in the Bhagavad Gita in the persona of Krishna, the Divine Lord, who in that story embodies Itself as the chariot driver for the warlord Arjuna (who represents humankind).

It makes sense that the 1st petition we make to the Divine is for protection. This seems to the first and foremost concern of humans when they seek Divine help, regardless of what culture or religion we're talking about.

CopperLion /|\

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 04:00
by Spanish Moss
Alferian, such a splendid idea...

Yes, I do think it originally meant the Christian concept of God but I think that the intergrity of the intent can be maintained even by personifying it.

I take wording and grammar deeply into consideration when trying to understand the intent of something.
I also found it rather interesting that this was not worded in such a manner as to be requesting or asking for protection. The protection is expected borderlined demanded. The statement is not trying IMO to demand things of divine but more of knowing that it will be there. So to me this is almost an affirmation that 'I trusting in divine knowing that I will be given protection'.

"The first word is "grant" so this is about asking for a boon, a gift."-Alferian

IMO the use of the word grant indicates that though this protection is expected it is still recognized as being a gift of divine.

What of this protection though that the entire line is centered around?

" I think it is because protection from attack, disease, misfortune -- whatever -- is the foundation of all spiritual work."-Alferian

Yes, this is how I see it. If you take a futher look at the prayer you will see this is indicated by the flow of the prayer and by this being the begining focus. You must have security in your foundation. It is thru this protection that manifests the potential for spiritual growth.

That is how I see it anyways...


Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 05:20
by Prairie_Kestrel

Okay Alferian, I'm going to mess things up here......but since you brought up the topic of the Druids prayer, I want to post something that it reminds me of....

In Ojibwe tradition (I believe, I'm no expert) they have "The Seven Grandfathers". They go like this:

"To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom,
To know Love is to know peace,
To honour all of creation is to have Respect,
Bravery is to face the foe with integrity,
Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave,
Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of the creation,
Truth is to know all of these things."

While this isn't in the form of a prayer or invocation, the spirit of these teachings seems to me to be very similar to the Druids prayer. Hmmmm....I don't really have a point here, I just wanted to share that becuase I thought it was kind of interesting.

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 06:17
by Mey
Interesting topic but I have to think about this for a while.

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 09:19
by Pangerwolf
I have altered the first line to this:
Grant Oh Gods, Goddess' and kind spirits, thy protection

In order to be inclusive to all who just might be listening to my plea at the time.

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 09:32
by Cradlehag

I say:

Grant Oh Great Spirits - meaning, trees, plants, animals, elements - well everything I guess!

Ali x

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 09:35
by Unikorn
I use 'great spirit' in the same way as Cradlehag has mentioned - its my attempt at words for the un-namable - the all, the cosmos.....

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 11:58
by Beadmouse
Grant O Goddess thy protection ...

...The love of God and all Goodness.

Is the way I begin and end my prayer. For me this is a way of acknowledging my belief in one God/Great Spirit and at the same time acknowledging my personal need to relate to the female aspect of Deity. Brought up as a convent educated Roman Catholic, I was blind for many years to the rather obvious fact that my relationship was with 'Mary' and that all my conversations and prayers were with her, it was to her that I turned in time of conflict, for comfort and sometimes simply just to be. The official God of my supposed religion did not get a look in. It was on that realisation that I began my search for the right path for me.

On a rational level, I do not believe that 'God' is gendered. Or that there are more than one. I do believe that the Deity has many aspects and many names and that we seek the face that we need or can relate to. So I begin by acknowledging The Great Mother and finish by acknowledging that she is both male and female and in a way by acknowledging both, acknowledge that She is neither.

When I seek her protection it is that it is already there. In a way I am reminding myself that it is there and that the strength and love of the cosmos are available to me. Lest I forget. Which I often do.

Not sure all that made sense..laughs

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 12:19
by Spanish Moss
"When I seek her protection it is that it is already there. In a way I am reminding myself that it is there and that the strength and love of the cosmos are available to me. Lest I forget. Which I often do."-Beadmouse

So it is an affirmation. No? In a way it is similar to the purification or exorcism of the salt in Wiccan ritual. Salt is already a purifying substance yet the salt is still charged to be pure and perfect representation.


Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 12:27
by Beadmouse
yes, Spanish Moss, an affirmation. That is a good way of describing what I mean. I have thought my thoughts so long alone that it is not easy (or always comfortable) to attempt to share them...laughs.

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 13:41
by Wolfwalker
I prefer using the choices in the current edition of the bardic gwers for initiation actually. They're genderless and inclusive without being actually exclusive. "Grant oh (God/ Goddess/ Spirit[s])... I prefer to use Spirits and then I'm sure I have all deities, ancient ones, elders and honoured powers covered, both named and un-named, known and unknown if I am in other places especially, whre local & locative specific spirits may be present. It's my preference, as I said, because it's the universal aspect between them and us, in either world, or any land, which is spirit.
It is for/ to me the 'touchstone' between humanity and the divine, and higher powers which we may interact with in or beyond this life. I would not want to offend others who have a differing ideology of deity, but will not deny or disavow my own either.
This is a really good topic Alferian, thank you.
blessings, Peter

Posted: 12 Apr 2005, 15:59
by Mey
Grant O God thy protection
I think I would change God into Lord. Lord is a naming I gave to the One who started all life in the first place. I use God (and Godess) for Deities (Morrighan etc.) and Spirits for earth, fire, etc and north and south, etc.

Posted: 13 Apr 2005, 06:43
by leaf
Grant, O Great Spirit Thy Protection...
And in the Love of All Existences,
The Love of You, Great Spirit, Mother-Father God, Source of All, and All Goodness.

My private version. When I think of "Great Spirit" I think of the Abwoon that Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus) adressed in his famous prayer:
Abwoon d'bwashamaya, translated (rather poorly actually) as: Our Father in Heaven

abwoon--Source of all Material and Spiritual Exisistence
d'bwashamay--which is Divine Resonance (or Vibration)

(btw, I am struck by the similarity as abwoon is actually aboon and awoon joined together and I hear a-oo-en in a-woon)

I also think of Great Spirit as both the Awen and the Nwyfre which in Jewish Theology would be the Ruakh HaKodesh (the Holy Breath/Spirit) and the Chai (Lifeforce of existence) that is to say the Ruach HaKodesh is the rarely felt and often sought after presence or awareness of the Divine and the Chai or Chayos is the everpresent presence.

I agree that in making the request: Grant protection, I am stating that I fully expect this to be given but it is a gift. In the Eastern Catholic and the Orthodox Rites at the end of the Divine Liturgy (the Mass) the people call out: Give the blessing Father. They are asking him for a gift which they fully expect to receive. He, of course gives the blessing and then closes the doors to the Sanctuary and the people leave. I rather feel it to be somewhat the same: Grant Your Protection and help me with all the other steps so that in the end I am more aware of You, Great Spirit, and not only You but all existences. Hopefully I will have better appreciation for everyone and everything around me, seen and unseen.

Posted: 13 Apr 2005, 13:55
by Merlyn
A printable version.

Posted: 13 Apr 2005, 13:59
by Spanish Moss
Thanks Merlyn...

Posted: 13 Apr 2005, 14:01
by White Dragonwolf
I use the God and Goddess at the beginning of mine, although I did start using Spirit when I first started saying it. But I prefer the God/dess it flows easy for me using it.

Thanks for starting the thread Alferian.

Posted: 13 Apr 2005, 15:41
by Merlyn
Personally during my own rites I use "Dagda and Anu" but during my seed group rites I use God and Goddess. The file above prints out nicely, and is hung above my dresser for my use each morning.
Cheers! :D

Posted: 13 Apr 2005, 15:49
by Seeker
I, too, use the reference to "God & Goddess" both at the beginning and at the end. But there are circumstances when I am either in a particular ritual or in meditation and prayer, where I substitute the name of a specific entity.

Example: If I am sending particular healing thoughts out and as part of those same thoughts, I invoke the Druid's Prayer in the same ritual, I will ask "Brighid" to grant her protection, etc. or if I am asking for guidance to a friend or family member who is crossing over, I will ask "Manannan" to grant his protection and greet them in the Otherworld.

I find comfort in a prayer that can convey such meaning to so many different gods/goddesses. (IMHO). Whomever is addressed will surely judge the intent in your heart over whatever words we use...

Posted: 13 Apr 2005, 16:52
by Aigeann
In our grove as well as in my own personal devotionals, I've been using "Powers" because I believe there are so many out there and our group it made up of widely varying paths so it help prevents someone's belief being left out or insulted.

But that's just me....

Blessings, Aigeann