Here in Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala, where I lived for most of 2007 and where am staying for the month of February 2012, Valentine’s Day is called El Dia de los Cariños–The Day of the Tendernesses, or Caresses, or Love. And it is not reserved exclusively for grownup couples (or those who wish they were, or feel bad that they’re not), but is a holiday for one and all, especially children, who make tarjetitas out of colored paper and magazine cutouts and paint and glitter and glue and give them to the people they care about.
And so, as this Dia de los Cariños was approaching, I was thinking a lot about children who are important to me. Some are my blood, most are not, but each has her or his own special nook or cranny, decorated in just the way that child might most like, inside the chambers of my heart.
As a way of honoring and feeding the lifeblood of my connections with these children, I decided to do a simple, strong prayer ceremony for all of them. You can do this, too, if you feel so called.
PRAYER CEREMONY FOR THE CHILDREN OF YOUR HEART
1. Make a list of the children who hold a special place in your heart. Keep it private; prayers are more potent when you hold the energy close, rather than dissipating it (by, for example, blabbing about what you’re doing, which after all only serves your ego).
2. Set aside time when you can do your ceremony unrushed and undisturbed. If you have any special objects you might like to use to create your sacred space–incense or a sage bundle, a special rattle or drum, a crystal, a significant toy, anything at all–pack it in a pouch and bring it with you.
3. Go to a place in nature where there is some water, a lake or a stream or a sea. Water is regarded as our Holy Mother, our primordial Source, in so many cultures–from Ganga Ma in India to Mami Wata in parts of Africa to Yemonja in Brazil, and so many, many more. Take a walk in this place. Breathe deeply. Feel your feet on the ground, the moist air on your skin. As you walk, look for stones or shells, flowers or leaves to pick up and take with you–one for each child you are honoring.
4. After a while, you’ll come to a quiet spot that calls for you to stop. You will know. (If there is another human around, make yourself invisible and wait with patience. He or she will eventually leave. When I found my special spot alongside el lago, a local boatman who arrived there at the same moment rustled around for a while as I kept a respectful distance, then took up his cayuko and paddled away.)
5. Make an altarcito, a little altar, out of the objects you’ve gathered and any you brought with you. Make this with tenderness and beauty. The spirits will love you all the more.
6. If you have a way you like to use for calling in the spirits, do so. I like to make an offering of sacred tobacco or sage smoke as I call in the guardians of the East, West, North, and South, the As Above and the So Below, and the sacred Void, the center from which all comes and to which all returns. But do anything that feels like a good way to open your sacred space for prayer. (And don’t be afraid to be silly. The spirits love to laugh.)
7. Look at the sacred objects you’ve gathered. Hold one up to your heart as you make a sincere prayer for the first child’s specific needs. You know what these are. Imagine your heart imbuing this object with energy. Then toss the object into the water. Give away your prayer.
8. Repeat until you have made an individual prayer for each child.
9. Close the ceremony by making an offering to the spirits: your words, a chant, a great rattling or drumming, tobacco, flowers, sacred smoke, your silence–whatever feels right and true. Ask them to carry your prayers to Source.
9. Walk back the way you came, holding good intent in your heart for these special children. Take your sweet, loving time.Photos of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, are © 2012 by Diana Rico and may be reprinted noncommercially under a Creative Commons license.