Category:Altar Work And Prayers
From Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers
Fundamentally an intersection or crossroads between the spirit world and this world, the spiritual worker's Altar is a place where many types of spiritual work may be conducted, from meditation to spell-casting.
Altar work is the term conjure doctors use for any kind of spiritual rite or ritual that we perform at an altar and during which we seek the intercession of spirit, by means of prayer. Altars come in many types, from the ornate and adorned altars in magnificent cathedrals to humble home altars set out upon a small table or even a nightstand by the bed.
Prayer is a manner of verbally addressing petitions and praise to God, to spiritual beings, to helper-spirits, to saints, or to Spirit, however we conceive of such. Prayers are directed toward the divine, and are deep expressions of reverence, intent, or supplication for specific purposes, generally on behalf of our clients. Prayers may be extemporaneous and unrehearsed, or they may include recitation of portions of scripture, such as The Book of Psalms.
Most hoodoo rootworkers, conjure doctors, Spiritualists, and hoodoo workers maintain an altar or altars at which they may worship and pray, hold candle services, and conduct spiritual work. Performing magical rituals or casting spiritual spells for clients on the altar is also a practice of many rootworkers, as it is a dedicated, sacred space.
If a candle worker is a church deacon, reverend, apostle, minister, or bishop, his or her practice of altar work and prayer on behalf of clients may also be called a Candle Ministry. A rootworker who maintains a candle ministry has at least one altar set aside as sacred or sanctified space where candles are lit or lights are set on behalf of clients. Many candle workers maintain multiple separate candle altars for different types of work.
Religious and Spiritual Altars
People who work with and petition ancestors, the dead, Catholic saints, or spirit guides such as Black Hawk or Marie Laveau may construct specialized altars to honor those entities. In Caribbean and South American countries, such an altar is often called a boveda, a word that literally means a vault, but generally refers to an altar space.
How a hoodoo rootworker creates and maintains an altar is a matter of family custom, training, and personal belief. In the homes and churches of some psychic readers and root doctors, statues and offerings to a group of spiritual beings may share space on one large altar; in the homes and churches of other conjurers you will see numerous small altars positioned around a larger working area, and each spiritual being will be accorded its own devotional space for statuary and offerings.
Some conjure workers prefer to maintain separate altars for the living and the dead, while others, especially Spiritualists, invite ancestral spirits and beloved dead to watch over, assist, and be present at the altar work that they perform on behalf of the living.
Altars for Varied Conditions
Many hoodoo practitioners and professional rootworkers who cast spells on a regular basis have personal altars constructed for various purposes, in addition to their regular working altars. These specially dedicated altars may include love altars, where the root doctor recites prayers and performs magic spells for love, romance, and harmony; money altars where prayers of abundance and wealth are offered on behalf of clients; and altars for health and physical well-being, where prayers are said and candles may be lit on behalf of clients in need of uncrossing, jinx-breaking, protection, healing, and release from pain. Hoodoo rootworkers who perform enemy work or cast crossing spells or curses on behalf of clients may also set aside an altar space for use in dark spells; it is quite common for a Southern-style conjure doctor to place such work in the bathroom on top of the toilet tank.
Working Candle Altars
Working Candle Altars are altars that are maintained specifically for the needs and desires of a rootworker's clients. If a spiritual practitioner agrees to set lights for you on a candle altar, you may be asked to provide a petition paper or photo to be placed under the candle or to purchase a candle dressed and blessed for your intentions and needs.
Prayer work involves the speaking of prayers for the client's needs. The prayers may consist of recitals of set texts, such as portions of scripture. They may also be free-form in nature and be spoken extemporaneously.
The intent of the rootworker's prayers will vary based on the case at hand; they may be supplicating, beseeching, imprecatory, wishful, or expressive of the needs of the client and will also reflect the rootworker's own preferred and accustomed style of performing spiritual work.
Prayerful Recital of Scriptures
Perhaps the most commonly recited portions of scripture are the Psalms of the Holy Bible. There is a long tradition of knowledge, going back to the ancient Jews, in which certain Psalms are prescribed for specific situations. Hoodoo workers well versed in scriptural prayer may also use other intercessory passages of the Bible that they deem most beneficial to the client's case.
Some spiritual doctors ask that their clients join them in recital of scripture. This can be done in person, either in unison or as call-and-response. When working long distance, spiritual workers may ask the client to read a certain passage of scripture daily, perhaps before bed, upon awakening, or at some other set time.
These are prayers that are spoken or sung from the heart, often with dramatic undertones and vocalizations. They are often improvisatory, although they may combine wording and other elements from traditional prayers and Psalms. Extemporaneous prayers are often spoken with a certain cadence and rhythm that is appropriate for the subject being prayed over. Extemporaneous prayer can be used for many types of work, including blessing work as well as cursing an enemy.
Affirmative prayer is a form of prayer or metaphysical technique that is focused on a positive outcome rather than a negative situation. For example, a person who is experiencing some form of illness would focus the prayer on the desired state of perfect health and affirm this desired intention "as if it already happened" rather than identifying the illness and then asking God for help to eliminate it. Certain Psalms take the form of affirmations, and are particularly popular for this reason.
Affirmative prayers can be improvised or recited from printed texts found in various religious traditions, such as The New Thought Movement. No matter what tradition they come from, the characteristic that all of these prayers have in common is that they are positive in nature and are used to affirm the client's work, choices, and path.
Affirmative prayer may be used by practitioners of hoodoo in conjunction with its opposite, which is called a prayer of removal. In this folk magic application of the technique, the prayer of removal may be said during a waning moon or at sunset or at ebb tide ("As the sun goes down, this disease is removed from my body") and the affirmative prayer may be said during a waxing moon, at dawn, or at high tide ("As the sun rises, this day brings me perfect health").
The logic behind this application of affirmative prayer is that God has ordained laws of natural inflow and outflow, and that by linking one's prayer to a natural condition that prevails at the time, the prayer is given the added power of God's planned natural event.
Intercessory Prayer is a form of prayer in which a spiritual practitioner, deacon, minister, bishop, or a group of people with a strong calling for the work take time to pray on your behalf, to intercede for you with God, and to mediate for you or present your case before the Throne of Spirit.
Although there are many texts in the New Testament that describe intercessory prayer, the role of a mediator in Christian prayer originated in Judaism, as seen in the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. In the New Testament, Jesus is shown to be the greatest intercessor, and Christians generally offer intercessory prayer to God through Jesus. Each practitioner's approach to intercessory prayer is different, but it is common for practitioners who take on this work as a regular practice to set aside a particular time each day to beseech God on behalf of those who seek such help. The work is generally done at an altar, with or without the use of anointed candles, vigil lights, or prayer lamps.
Intercessory prayer may be performed for anyone at any time, especially for those who, for one reason or another, find it difficult to pray on their own behalf. It is especially sought after by clients whose loved ones may have gone astray or who may be in current and present danger due to illness, accident, military service, or difficulties with the law, or who stand in need of deliverance from the depredations of alcohol and drugs.
A prayer group is an organization that coordinates intercessory petition-prayers that are made on behalf of those who request them. People who are "standing in the need of prayer" make their petitions known to the group, and volunteers will pray for them. The petitions, which are generally written on paper or in digital media, are commonly known as prayer requests. Prayer groups may be organized within a singe church, throughout a denomination, across denominations, or even across broad categories of religion.
Although many religions embrace the concept of intercessory prayer, the formal development of group prayer is characteristic of the Christian religion, where it is generally said to be founded on scriptural texts such as the Book of Acts 1: 13-14, "And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room ... [and] ... all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication..." Group prayer is not to be confused with a prayer meeting in which church members "tarry" together in prayer to receive the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49), for the group prayer meeting's mission is to pray on behalf of others. Because prayer groups do not rely on ecclesiastical hierarchy for their authority, they are more often found in Protestant Christianity than in Catholic or Orthodox denominations.
The nomenclature of prayer groups is fairly fluid, but a group's name may reveal something about the denominational or historical context in which the group originated.
For instance prayer groups may be referred to as Prayer Circles, due to the fact that in some churches, the members originally sat in a circle of chairs and prayed together (Matthew 18:20; Acts 1: 13-14). In the late 19th century, as communication services like the telegraph and telephone emerged, the concept of performing intercessory prayer on behalf of distant friends, church members, strangers, or whole classes of people, such as victims of a disaster, grew in popularity, and with it came the development of long distance prayer groups, but the older name remained, and these groups are still called Prayer Circles.
Prayer groups are often called Prayer Chains, with each prayerful member conceived as a link in the chain that unites the recipient of the prayer to the Body of Christ. Unlike Prayer Circles, prayer chains originally functioned much like chain letters or telephone chains, which each individual who heard a prayer request assuming responsibility for forwarding the request to a number of other prayerful volunteers. With the modern advent of distributed digital media, the single-link metaphor of the chain is less meaningful than it used to be, but the name remains.
The New Thought Movement of the late 19th century, developed both within formal church settings and also outside the context of physical churches, and as a result it combined the concept of its distinctive techniques of affirmative prayer (Mark 11:24) with the idea of silent or solitary intercessory prayer (Matthew 6:6). This led to the development of non-denomination or pan-denomination prayer groups like Silent Unity and The Crystal Silence League, in which members pray in private for the spiritual aid and uplift of anyone who sends in a prayer request.
In the mid twentieth century, the development of radio networks gave rise to a new metaphor for the prayer group -- the Prayer Network. Toward the end of the century, paralleling the increasing popularity of televised sports, another name arose -- the Prayer Team. As America found itself entering into global conflicts, some prayer groups adopted a quasi-military stance and referred to their members as Prayer Warriors.
No matter what a prayer group is called or how it arose, its function is to receive and act upon the prayer requests of those in need. Unlike psychic readings, rootwork spell casting, or candle services, for which clients generally pay a fee, prayer requests are usually answered for free, and if directed to a large prayer group, they may be prayed upon by hundreds of individuals.
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- Divination, Fortune Telling, and Oracles
- Hoodoo, Conjure, Witchcraft, and Rootwork
- Working with Spirits
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