Retooling Rosaries For Pagan Rituals

By Kimberly Winston
Religion News Service
Saturday, May 5, 2007

Picking up her Catholic rosary, Meg Williams, a 24-year-old from Maine, begins her prayers like this:

"Hail Persephone, full of strength and beauty. . . . Blessed are you and blessed is the cycle of your life. Holy Persephone, queen of life and death, pray for your children now, and in the hour of our need. Blessed be."

Williams calls herself a Christo-Pagan, a blender of traditional Christianity and pagan goddess worship. For her, adapting the Catholic rosary brings a peace that adhering only to the Christianity of her youth did not.

"It makes me feel very connected to God," said Williams, who didn't want her city named because she -- like many pagans who aren't open to their families -- still lives in what some call the "broom closet."

"Going through this cycle of prayer, it switches your brain into recognizing that something holy is happening and God is with you," she said.

Her prayer is one example of how some neo-pagans (followers of Wicca, Druidry, Asatru and other forms of ancient goddess or nature worship) are retooling the centuries-old rosary and other prayer beads for worshipping Celtic, Norse, Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.

No one knows how many neo-pagans use prayer beads. But there are now a sprinkling of pagan-oriented rosary Web sites, including http://www.sacredgrove.com and http://www.paganrosary.com, where people can find prayers for a "runic rosary" and a "Celtic goddess rosary," among others.

Yahoo has a "Mystic Rosary Group" where neo-pagans and others exchange information, prayers and support.

The "pagan prayer beads" typically feature multicolored strands of beads with charms of a goddess figure, a tree, a pentagram, bones or other non-Christian symbols.

Praying with beads is a spiritual practice with a long history in most of the world's religions, one that neo-pagans are now rediscovering, scholars and practitioners say.

"It has been very common for contemporary pagans to regard Mary in some of her manifestations as a goddess," said Chas Clifton, a professor at Colorado State University and author of "Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and paganism in America." "Language and ritual have been transferred around from goddess to goddess in the pagan point of view, and the idea of having beads on a string is cross-cultural."

Christopher Penczak, a witch who teaches how to construct "witches' ladders" -- a knotted rope that he likens to a rosary used to count spells -- said: "It is about ritual. Pagans in general, when they find something that works in a ritual, they are very apt to borrow it."


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