I attend a Shamanic Drumming / Visioning circle once a month. For the month of December, the facilitator, Lynne Carol Austin (awesome woman), proposed that we do a gift blanket as a part of our time together. Our task was to bring something that had been important to us, but that we wanted to let go of, as a gift for someone in the circle.
From the moment she suggested it, I knew what I wanted to do – make a prayer book. I was raised Catholic, and over the course of the past ten years, I’ve moved away from religion and toward spirituality. But once you’re raised Catholic, a part of that stays with you for life, I think. And I’m finally in a place where I can enjoy all the bits that I’ve kept, and honor and treasure them as a valuable part of who I grew to be, and let the rest go.
I rewrote the Hail Mary this summer (inspired by Dale Allen’s revision of the Our Father). I wanted to recast some of the language that I had felt alienated by into something that better reflected my feelings about Divinity and about the Mary that I felt I knew.
There are no accidents – despite my small quakes of trepidation about making this book for this gathering, the perfect person received it, saying that though she’d been raised Pagan, there was always a part of her that was strongly attracted to Mary, and that she’d been seeking her but not finding the Mary that she felt she knew. I hope that having the book does for her what making it did for me.
Enjoy the show.
I made the covers for the book using the back cardboard cover from a regular notebook. I snipped it away from the spiral binding, and then cut it into four 4×5” rectangles. I wanted the covers to have some heft to them, so I glued two of the rectangles together using ZipDry Paper Glue (sticks hard and fast). Then, I ripped pages out of one of my ‘scrap’ books, and affixed it to the cover using gel medium (not crunchy). I wanted the book to look aged, so I shaded the book pages with brown ink, allowing it to naturally collect on the ripples and bumps in the page, the way a real book cover might age. Then, I took a piece of thin light brown tissue paper and ModPodged it over the entire thing.
The front cover was finished using Staz-on Timber brown ink for the stamping. I chose this image (by Susan Seddon Boulet, whose work I love) because I felt that it bridged the gap between the Mary I grew up knowing and the Mary that I felt was a part of something far more ancient than Christ – the goddess part of the divine. I had the hardest time deciding what to ‘title’ the book, and in the end decided to simply call it what it was – a blessing.
I wanted to create a palette for the book, and I love browns – the richness they possess and the age they suggest. I chose a postulant, because sometimes we petition the divine standing firm with arms wide open, but we’ve all been on our knees.
I stamped the wings behind the image of Mary using a two step process: first, I stamp them using Staz-on Timber Brown ink, and then I wipe the stamp and re-ink it with Colorbox Copper ink, and stamp right on top of the first image.
I wanted to make a connection to the universality of the feminine divine, and to bring in the symbolism of creation and growth. Water / libation and eggs.
And this picture has always spoken to me, because if I’m praying – or delighting in feeling connected to the divine – you’ll probably find me like this, rather than in a more conventional pose.
I shaded the sides and corners of this page with ink, but I also just ran the ink pad over certain parts of it to create a deeper coloring. I like the kind of grungy, peeling paint kind of look, and this is sort of reminiscent of that. I recolored the image I selected – the original was bright blues and greens and golds, and would have looked garish.
There is something iconic about this image, and something that I think it is important to remember and think about in conjunction with any thought about Mary or female divinity – they do create physically, not just metaphorically. And we are a part of that creation, and get to have a taste of it as women.
Many of these pages are simple. Especially when compared to some of the elaborate and beautiful things that I’ve seen folks doing out there on the Internet. I love seeing all the possibilities for creating. Sometimes simple is best, though, and I’ve noticed over time that I tend to trend toward that.
I loved this picture. I don’t know these people, but we’ve all been a part of this scene, or a scene like this. We’ve all had some sort of connection to a mother, or someone who stood in place of our mothers. Taking that relationship bigger, and letting it connect us to the divine, is something that has always touched me.
This line could also be “pray for your sons” or “pray for your children,” but that wasn’t my focus when I rewrote the prayer. I was more interested in women feeling a connectedness to the divine – something that many of us have had issues with. And there is a quality to daughterhood that creates a specific bond.
The original prayer says: “now and at the moment of our deaths.” I never liked that line. It puts too much focus on where you end up and not enough focus on where you are right now. I’d rather pray that the divine was with me for each and every step and breath of my life, rather than just ask for them to be there for the finish. I’ve used this picture before – I love this woman’s face, and the way her hands are reaching out and upward, to receive the blessing she’s requesting.
I constructed the back cover using the same technique as the first. I also (which I forgot to mention for the first cover) used Colorbox copper ink to create a luminosity on the picture (which is so subtle that it doesn’t show up well in the scan) and to create a kind of halo around the picture. I use a stiffer-bristled small brush and swipe it across the ink pad to pick up color and kind of swirl and work it into the paper around the image. It actually ends up looking pretty awesome (which is why it’s so annoying that it doesn’t really show up in the scan).
To finish it all off, I create an accordion-style paper binding. I glue each page into its place one at a time using ZipDry Paper Glue – I want it to come together quickly and this is the best way to keep things in place and to keep them from slipping around as you affix the next page.
I punch holes through each level of the accordion and take a few bits of DMC floss and push it through the holes I’ve made with a needle (try this without a needle and you’re begging for a headache). I realized once the book was complete that I totally forgot a line of the prayer I wrote – but since there are no accidents, that was supposed to happen, I guess! I’m planning on making myself one of these, too, and when I do I’ll put the whole thing in there!
For your edification, the original prayer and my reworded version are below.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our deaths. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
You art within me.
Blessed are you and all women.
All creation is the fruit of thy womb, sacred.
Holy Mary, mother of all,
Pray for your daughters,
Now and in each moment of our lives.
Feel free to use the one I altered, feel free to keep using the one you grew up with. Whatever road you travel to get there is the one that’s best for you.