// Updated 1-11-11

Ceremonies & Prayers

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My humble opinions are in RED type.

This is a glossary for many religions.

If you would like to see a term added, please email Rev. Su!!

Theology Concepts,
Vocabulary & Definitions
from Many Religions




The forgiveness of sin by a priest of any rank to those who have performed penance or are sufficiently penitent. This still requires satisfaction of the affront through reparation or restitution in order to avoid punishment in purgatory or another spiritual place of cleansing or penance.

Catholic doctrine is that only one in the ordained ministry can absolve a sin.

In Paganism, absolution can only be offered by the wronged party.

There is a TV movie called "Undercover Christmas" starring Jami Gertz and Tyne Daly. Daly's character said, "I don't think forgiveness is earned; it is given...out of generosity. You need that more than you need to be right....Tell him you're sorry. You don't have to mean it; that doesn't matter. It's the words that count."

This stance is much different than the dictionary definitions given above. The concept of forgiving someone who may not be deserving, in other words, who has repented, is supposed to be essential to Christianity and other world religions. And yet over time forgiveness has become so dear - no, so worthless - that it must be purchased with actions. This requires more thought.

Affusion (see baptism)


A ceremonial way to indicate something is sacred and to infuse the with divine grace.

Apostasy, The Lapsi

Aspersion (see baptism)

Atonement, Expiation


Baptism (compare to initiation, contrast with infant baptism)

Baptism is a sacrament of the Christian church, and has analogs in many other religions as well. It is a once-in-a-lifetime blessing of a person with water that marks them as a member of a faith community. Many Pagans call it "saining" (blessing) or "wiccaning". To be "baptized by fire" is an idiom that means to become part of a community through th experience of and victory over a crisis.

There are many forms of baptism, and each sect, tradition and denomination has its preference.

Affusion is the most common in Western churches. It is the pouring of water over the head of the individual, regardless of age.

Aspersion is very rare. This is where water is sprinkled with an asperger.

Immersion is sometimes performed in the Catholic Churches. A part of the body is submerged and the remaining body parts are affused.

Submersion is common in Baptist Churches.

Infant Baptism (pedobaptism) has been part of Christianity since the 200's CE. It was expected after the 4th century.

The NT mentions entire households being baptized together, but since children were viewed differently in NT Jewish society, there is no evidence that the children were included. Since the 1500's, it has been rejected by Anabaptist denominations, and within a hundred years, Baptists also rejected it as not warranted by Scripture.

There is a great deal of controversy over the practice, since an infant cannot willingly join a faith community, and often the parents are not devout believers either. In NT times, a new Christian would be baptized, take first Communion or Eucharist, and be confirmed as a member of the Church all in one ritual. Many Christian denominations are willing to defer baptism until the person reaches an age of understanding and consent.

Bead, Bede, "To Bid a Bead", "Telling Beads"

A bead is a prayer, and soon became the word for the spherical bodies of a rosary or necklace used for counting, or "telling", the beads/prayers.

To "bid" or ask a bead is to offer a prayer.

The Bidding Prayer is a certain Anglican prayer said before the sermon to pray for grace on behalf of the Church and the State. Before the Protestant Reformation, the same prayer was said after the sermon, or after the Gospel reading.

Beating of the Bounds

A medieval English practice taken directly froma Pagan ritual. The original ceremony was a four day holiday called Robigalia, where the people would process through the cornfields and pray for protection against mildew, an agricultural villain.

In the Middle Ages, the priest would lead a procession around the church property, beating the boundaries (and sometimes young boys!) with willow branches.

At Rogationtide today, generally late April or early May, or whenever determined by the local congregation, parishioners fast and pray for the needs of humankind, the "fruits of the earth, and the work of men's hands". The older forms of Rogationtide are being revived in some areas of England.


A bell is a common part of rituals in many world religions, including Buddhism, Christianity and Paganism. It generally signals the beginning, end or a transition. There are various traditions of how many times the bell is to be struck, depending on its purpose.

The angelus is a bell used in the Western Catholic Church in conjunction with a series of daily devotions (three Hail Marys/versicles and a collect). These prayers were said at early morning, noon, and evening as a memorial of the Incarnation of God in Jesus. Three bell strikes signals each Hail Mary, and the collect is signalled by nine rings.

In Pagan traditions, the numbers three and nine are considered to be highly powerful. In Christianity, the number three likely is a reference to the Christian concept of Trinity.


A betrothal is a promise to marry. This practice was common in Jewish, Christian and Pagan communities.

In Judaism, there are two parts to a marriage ceremony; one is private and the other is public. In Christianity, couples used to become formally betrothed before witnesses, although this has fallen into disuse.

In Paganism, especially traditions derived from Celtic and English customs, the concept of handfasting is a trial marriage wherein the couple lives and is treated as a married couple, but measures are taken to prevent pregnancy. After a year and a day, the couple evaluates their relationship and decides to either go their separate ways with a handparting ceremony, or become married with a marriage ceremony.


The excessive veneration of the literal text of the Scriptures. It is part of some Protestant forms of Christianity.

Taken in its literal sense, the adoration of a book, it can be applied to the Fundamentalist branch of nearly any religious tradition.

There are always those that can't see the forest for the trees.

Black Mass

Banns of Marriage

This is a religious custom within the Anglican Communion. The names of the couple-to-be are published for the three preceding Sundays during the regular Church service, and a request is made during the marriage ceremony itself for any objections to the marriage. The intent is to prevent consanguinity.

The legality regarding genetics is nowadays determined by the place who issues the marriage license, and there are laws prohibiting the marriage of certain degrees of relation. These laws can be remarkably liberal!

I still include it in the weddings I perform because it is another chance for the couple to change their mind. An awkward moment is well worth if it saves one or both parties froma lifetime of unhappiness. Also, since I am acting as an officer of the State, and only the couple was present when obtaining the marriage license, this gives an opportunity for legitimate prior claims to be announced.


Catachesis, Catechism, Catechist, Catechumen

In the RC church, the bishop lightly slaps the newly confirmed person. I have no idea what the significance of this is, but I would love to find out!


A short spoken chant or rhyme that is intended to have a specific effect.  Sometimes the charm is used to charge a physical object, hence the common term for a small pendant that has meaning, as in "charm bracelet."  (Also see talisman)


To circle means to gather for ritual. As a place, it is where people gather for ritual.

In many Neo pagan religious traditions (or "trads") the concept of gathering in a circle is the equivalent of a Jew or Christian sitting in pews. Shakers (a Christian denomination) also worshipped in the round. Open circles are generally considered to be open to the Pagan-friendly public, rather than a closed circle, also known as a coven, wherein members must be personally invited or petition for membership.

A circle of protection is also used during Ceremonial Magic and other magical systems such as Wicca and shamanism. The idea that a religious or magical circle can be "open" or "soft", or "closed" or "hard", depends on whether or not the witch or priest/ess-in-charge decides if and how people can enter/depart once the circle has been cast. To avoid confusion, the terms "soft" and "hard" are more often used to describe the nature of the protective boundary of a religous or magical circle.

Comprecation (compare to intercession)

A concept that may be foreign to any, comprecation means either asking a saint to ask God to do something, or asking God to ask a saint to do something for you. Either way, the petitioner is not directly asking the entity they really want the help from.

Paganism and early Christianity both emphasize a close relationship between human and Deity which eliminates the need for this spiritual telephone game.


Contemplation (contrast with meditation)

The act of thinking about a single topic in a logical way. It can be a spiritual topic or not. Either way, it is not a casual thought, rather it is deep thought.

The word comes from the Latin meaning "to prepare for temple augury".



Dulia (contrast with iatria)

Veneration of created beings of a sacred character, i.e., RC saints.

Eucharist, Berakah


Excommunication (compare with anathema)

Exclusion from worship and sacraments. The essential belonging to the faith community is retained.


This is the very important process of interpreting a text to explain either what the author meant, or to apply the author’s meaning to a contemporary situation. This, of course, is sometimes open to wide differences of opinion depending on the interpreter’s upbringing, experience and goals.

The word origin means ‘to lead or guide out’ with the connotation that one leads or guides by drawing something out (of the text).  Interestingly enough, the PIE root means ‘to seek out’ which is a personal act toward comprehension, not the received wisdom of others that it often means today.





Human Act

A moral theology term. A free, voluntary, knowledgeable and aware action of a human. Only a human act can be morally judged as worthy of praise or blame.

IMHO I think this is the basis of the American legal system.

Iatria (contrast with dulia)

Adoration of Deity through sacrifice, prayer, and praise.

It is also the name of a chain of day spas. Can you believe it?

Immersion (see baptism)


Infant Baptism (see baptism)


Intercession, Intercede (compare to comprecation)

This is the process of praying on behalf of other people. When someone is "added to the prayer list", those who pray are interceding for that person.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, a priest intercedes for the congregation. In Protestant traditions, the congregation prays aloud together, generally from a prayer book. Customs are diffusing in modern times.


Meditation (contrast with contemplation)

Meditation is mental prayer which rambles from spiritual subject to spiritual subject in order to deepen spiritual insight and stimulate a change in a person's intentions and feelings through devout reflection on a single chosen theme.

Meditation produces an altered state of consciousness that is measurable.

Zen Buddhist transcendental meditation attempts to clear the mind of all thought and simply exist.by repeating a verbal chant or mantra, you know, "OHM...OHM..." If done often, the hope is that with the body relaxed, the mind can transcend the body and reach the state of enlightenment called Nirvana, the union of Atman (soul) and the Brahma (creative & sustaining principle, Deity) and an end to the cycle of personal reincarnation.


The ability to jump into another body for the purpose of extending life, or preventing death. Hindu yogis are reputed to be able to accomplish this.


Ordination (contrast with lay)




A prayer is a specially worded form of communication with Deity or another venerated entity for the purpose of requesting something for oneself (petition) or on behalf of someone else (intercession), to indicate adoration of or supplication to Deity/entity, or to give thanks. Some prayers are formulaic, such as children's bedtime prayers, the Holy Rosary prayer, or the Lord's Prayer. Other prayers are more free-form and emotionally based, but generally still use a form of speech that is only used for prayer.

Affective prayer is a more advanced kind of prayer, where prayer is less an intellectual exercise and more an imaginative one. The soul-self is using directed will to unite with Deity.

Prayer is the verbal component of magical spell work.

SPECIAL NOTE: Prayer was suggested by Jesus to be said alone in private. He eschewed public, demonstrative, verbose prayer.





The act of making material amends for damage done to another, it is an attempt to "repair" the damage. Restitution is a similar concept but is generally restricted to the restoration of rights to a wronged party, whether societal or property rights.

These concepts are part of moral theology.


This is way more than saying you're sorry. To repent is more than a simple action; it is a process.

First you must recognize your act as evil, condemn it and hate it in your heart. Then comes the sorrow for both your action itself, and its effects. You must confess your wrongdoing to someone else. Finally, you must intend and try to make amends through reparation or restitution. To repent, you do not need to make perfect amends.


A period of days spent in silence, meditation and religious activity. They were recognized in as a formally recognized R.C.C. form of religious devotion.


The words of a liturgy. More commonly, the word "ritual" is used as a synonym for the whole liturgy, both wrods and actions.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, "ritual" was often used as a derogatory term by non-RCs. Even today, there is a slight negative connotation to the word "ritual" that gives it a sense of superstition rather that serious intent or worship.

Rosary Prayer (Roman Catholic)

As a process, the Roman Catholic Rosary, or "saying the Rosary", is a devotional or meditational tool. It is the recitation of "the Twenty Mysteries". Each Mystery is a series of prayers. One recites the following set of prayers five times, once for each Mystery you will be saying. It is okay to perform five decades a day, or all twenty.

Pope John Paul II recommended that certain sets of Mysteries be said on specific days of the week, and I see direct correlations with the traditional patrons and auspicious acts of each day.

Pope's Recommended Day
Day's Patron
Joyful Blessed Virgin Mary Mondays, plus Sundays from Advent to Lent The Moon is the symbol of the feminine divine.
Luminous Acts with water or cloud Thursdays Thor/Jupiter was protector of the world, and ruler of rain (water) and clouds
Sorrowful Jesus' torture and crucifixion, endured for love of humanity Tuesdays and Fridays, plus daily during Lent Tyr/Mars and Freya/Venus are the patrons of war and love
Glorious Messengers and Prophecies Wednesdays, plus Sundays from Easter to Advent Mercury/Gabriel is the messenger between the gods and humanity

Saturday is not included unless "daily" is recommended. It seems that this then is the spiritual sabbath, not Sunday. Here, too, is a correlation to the day's patron, Saturn, the patron of endings and homes.

Devotions are not prescribed for Sunday, the day of the Sun/Son, during the season of Lent because the Sun/Son was hidden while Satan tempted him with food (he had been fasting for nearly two months) and rulership of the world, and, according to the great film The Last Temptation of Christ, a normal mortal life.

To keep track of where you are in the series, simply move your fingers to the next bead. Click here to download a large diagram of the rosary beads.

  Lord's Prayer
  O My Jesus
  Hail Mary (Ave Maria)
  Gloria Patri (Glory to God)

Before beginning the decades, it is customary to say the Apostle's Creed, the verbalize the mystery of the BVM by saying a Hail Mary for each of the virtues Faith, Hope and Charity, and add any personal prayers you have to offer. Then say a Gloria Patri and an O My Jesus. The Creed is spoken 'on' the Crucifix. There are beads for each Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary. The Gloria Patri and the O My Jesus are spoken in the spaces before and after the Lord's Prayer bead.

During the decades, one allows the repetitive prayers to create an altered state where one verbally announces then meditates on the sequence of twenty events in Our Lord and Our Lady's lives. (No, I didn't add the "Our Lord and Our Lady"! That's what Catholics call Jesus and Mary - honest!)

The Joyful Mysteries 1st Decade The Annuncation (when Gabriel told Mary she carried a divine child)
  2nd The Visitation (when the pregnant Mary visted Elizabeth, the menopausal mother of John the Baptist)
  3rd The Nativity (Mary gives birth to Jesus)
  4th The Presentation in the Temple (Jesus' "time of purification")
  5th The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (when Jesus walked off from his parents and started questioning and debating with the rabbis)
The Luminous Mysteries 6th Christ's Baptism in the Jordan (the Spirit/Powers of God descended on Jesus)
7th The Miracle at Cana (Jesus turns water to wine)
Rev. Su has an opinion about this event.
  8th Jesus Proclaims the Kingdom (it's here and now, so be good for goodness' sake!)
  9th The Transfiguration (Peter and the Zebedees woke up to see Jesus glowing and talking to Moses and Elijah)
  10th The First Eucharist (the seder before his crucifixion)
The Sorrowful Mysteries 11th The Agony in the Garden (Judas points out Jesus to the Roman police)
  12th The Scouring at the Pillar (Jesus was whipped 39 times)
  13th The Crowning with Thorns (um...)
  14th The Carrying of the Cross (Jesus carried the 6-foot crossbar and staggered the half-mile to Golgatha on winding streets filled with aggressive bystanders with the help of Simon of Cyrene.)
  15th The Crucifixion (Jesus is stripped, then tied and nailed to the post and crossbar and left to suffocate)
The Glorious Mysteries 16th The Resurrection (The tomb is empty)
  17th The Ascension (After 40 days of living and teaching, Jesus is lifted up on a cloud) I would interpret this as Jesus leaving the planet in a space ship to go live on Nibiru.
  18th The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Jesus asked the roughly one hundred twenty disciples to witness to the world. This is NOT the Pentacost)
  19th The Assumption (A pregnant woman in a flying boat is defended by Michael and other angels from a dragon seeking to kill the boy she bears, who is the prognitor of a nation of Christians) I don't get how this is Mary... I would interpret this as the planet Nibiru destorying Tiamat durihortly after the formation of the Sol system.
  20th The Coronation of the BVM (the pregnant woman was wearing a crown of twelve stars) I would interpret this as being one of the Nibiru surrogate mothers of humanity, the kinswomen of Eve/Anu.


After completing the decades, reciting one of the following prayers is customary:

O God, Whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech You, that, meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin May, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

"Hail, Holy Queen"
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee we do send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in the valley of tears. Turn then, O most gracious advocate, thine mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement! O loving! O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

It is interesting to note that this last prayer has a Gnostic tinge to it in the phrase "this our exile".

It is also interesting to note that among the Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who Recite the Rosary is the promise that devotion to the rosary is a great sign of predestination. Predestination? That sounds pretty Calvinist to me!

Rosary Prayer (Neopagan)


This is the rosary prayer I wrote as a starter to those in the Pagan community who would like to pray with beads. Being the individualists Pagans tend to be, it has of course been rewritten many times, and will continue to be, I am sure ;-)


This is the giving of a gift to Deity, usually a living gift. Throughout history, gifts of animals to Deity were common, especially for divination, or at certain holidays. They were slaughtered either on the altar, or on holy ground. A sacrificial gift is also usually valuable, the "fattest calf".

Modern interpretations of a sacrifice are of praise and thanksgiving in prayer and song, and of conscious obedience to Deity's will.

Sacrifice in the form of abstinence is also part of the Christian season of Lent, and often is reflected in the tradition of making a New Year's Resolution.

Spell (compare with sacrament)

A ritual of varying length that incorporates visualization of desire, a focus of will, and a method of transmission to the physical universe and/or Deity. 

The inherent power, timing and duration of a spell can be supplemented by various correspondences to seasons, days, planets, elements, Zodiac signs, and through the use of relics or tools.

Submersion (see baptism)



A sacramental rite or mystery which allows the performance of miracles with supernatural assistance


Veneration is the act of seeking goodwill from someone or something in order to get what you desire. The word is directly relatd to Venus, the goddess of love, friendship and desire.

Synonyms are worship, exalt and hallow.

As early as 5500 BCE, the Chinese were venerating their ancestors through including useful grave goods, erecting a home altar for 49 days, then keeping a commeorative tablet in a family shrine. It is still common in areas that were not heavily affected by Mao's crackdowns on religion, such as in rural areas of China, and in Taiwan.

The Wiccan Rede - (Full Version attributed to Doreen Valiente)

Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.
Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.

For tread the Circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out.
To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be said in rhyme.

Light of eye and soft of touch, speak you little, listen much.
Honor the Old Ones in deed and name, let love and light be our guides again.

Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the joyful tune.
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane, and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane

When the Lady's moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two.
When the moon rides at Her peak then your heart's desire seek.

Heed the North wind's mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.
When the Wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.

When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss you on the mouth.
When the wind whispers from the West, all hearts will find peace and rest.

Nine woods in the Cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.

Oak in the forest towers with might, in the fire it brings the God's insight. 
Rowan is a tree of power causing life and magick to flower.

Willows at the waterside stand ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify and to draw faerie to your eye.

Hazel-the tree of wisdom and learning adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of Apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.

Grapes grow upon the vine giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen to represent immortality seen.

Elder is the Lady's tree burn it not or cursed you'll be.
Four times the Major Sabbats mark in the light and in the dark.

As the old year starts to wane the new begins, it's now Samhain.
When the time for Imbolc shows watch for flowers through the snows.

When the wheel begins to turn soon the Beltane fires will burn.
As the wheel turns to Lamas night power is brought to magick rite.

Four times the Minor Sabbats fall use the Sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned to Yule light the log the Horned One rules.

In the spring, when night equals day time for Ostara to come our way.
When the Sun has reached it's height time for Oak and Holly to fight.

Harvesting comes to one and all when the Autumn Equinox does fall.
Heed the flower, bush, and tree by the Lady blessed you'll be.

Where the rippling waters go cast a stone, the truth you'll know.
When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.

With a fool no season spend or be counted as his friend.
Merry Meet and Merry Part bright the cheeks and warm the heart.

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow.

Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you.
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"



Sources: Religious Tolerance.org, www.angelfire.com/folk/greenwitch/sacred.html, Dictionary.com, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Catholic Prayers in Latin, Edward F. Markquart's Sermons from Seattle, Domestic Church, Ken Palmer's Life of Christ, Religion Facts, The Wiccan Rede