If you never heard the original episode at the beginning of this podcast about my Mother Mary prayer bowl ritual, I’m sharing that back story as well as an update on some of the miracles I continue to observe.
This experience is very hard to justify within the concept of spiritual atheism. I am struggling to find the right box for it.
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I call myself a spiritual atheist — I dabble in atheism, trying it on and seeing if I can walk in it, like platform shows — yet I pray to Mother Mary, make requests of her and consistently receive powerful results.
How is that even possible? Is there a being outside me, outside of us, outside this physical reality, who responds to these prayers and requests? Is there any entity that does?
And why would she listen to me of all people?
Am I accessing something inside myself?
Is it all powerful delusion and synchronicity?
Is it a collective intelligence everyone has access to?
Is it all better left to mystery?
I operate within the surrender to mystery. It works, things happen, so I keep doing it.
Two and a half years ago this podcast started with a story about my Mother Mary prayer ritual. Thirteen years ago, this blog was started because I had a sighting of Mary in my house sixteen years ago…
…and I’ve always known this podcast will end with that story.
I’m still not ready to tell it.
I’m not even sure how to think about her. I suppose she is an ascended master to me. No offense to anyone who believes she is the mother of their messiah. I certainly was not raised Catholic. I wasn’t raised to be a Christian. I was raised surrounded by Christianity, but I do not identify as a Christian.
I do believe in magic and miracles and spirits. I consider myself something of a witch. I’m known to be a psychic. I’m an eclectic, spiritual but not religious, as I imagine you probably are as well.
For those of you who may not have heard the story before, I want to tell you about some grandmother magic. One of the Magical Ritual Prayer Spells that I practice. It involves a glass bowl that belonged to my maternal grandmother and a painting of the Virgin Mary given to me by one of my readers, one of my first clients. Now, this glass bowl is actually an ashtray. It’s a beautiful, heavy, amber-colored glass ashtray with this pattern of rays in raised ridges on the bottom. It’s kind of a mid-century modern sunburst. It could be an antique from as far back as the 1930s to the 1960s. I was born in 1969 and this belonged to my grandmother who died in 1971. My maternal grandmother, Victoria, who was called by her middle name, as I am, her full name was actually Queen Victoria, she kept this ashtray as a prize knickknack on her coffee table for years, maybe decades. My aunt Vera assured me that no one was ever allowed to ash in it though.
Now, a little bit about Vera. She’s the oldest of 11 kids. She’s my mother’s sister. The first book I ever published was actually my aunt Vera’s autobiography. My mother edited the book and I formatted and published it. It’s called “Stop Over in Wilder”. It starts with this beautiful opening passage about the first time Vera saw a plane flying over her hometown as a little girl in the 1920s. Wilder, Tennessee was one of those little towns that literally disappeared. It doesn’t exist anymore. It makes me think of a few other films and books like “A Trip to Bountiful”, which started out as a play. And then, of course, “Fried Green Tomatoes” at the Whistle Stop Café, Fannie Flagg novel, that was also turned into a movie. Both of those works are kind of about this phenomenon of towns that, from, you know, the early 19th century, that, by the end of the 19th century just aren’t there anymore.
Before Vera passed, she gave this ashtray to me. And, for the record, I’ve never ashed in it either. Now the painting – it came to me from a woman named Debra Estep, who friends and family call “Debs”. Debra, several years ago my mom was undergoing a major surgery and I had posted about it online. Debs saw it and she sent my mom this little angel coin. This medallion for her to keep with her as a protection. So Debs is this really sweet soul. She’s a military mom, she – to be someone I’ve never met before, she has been very generous to me over the past decade. And to my mom, who she also doesn’t know, she’s just a really kind soul and a really cool person. And actually she told me that this painting is called a mezzotint, or metzotint. I’m not even sure how to pronounce it. She told me to Google it and, actually now that I’m here recording this I realize that I forgot to Google it. Some of you might want to look that up and see exactly what it means. I’m just looking at it, so that works for me.
But back in 1985, Debra was working part-time as a receptionist for an attorney. And the attorney’s secretary asked her to proofread an advertisement he was going to run in the paper. He was looking for a part-time person to be a companion for his elderly mother. Debs thought about it that night and the next day, she went into the attorney’s office and she pitched him the idea of hiring her for the position. She told him, you know, he could find anybody to answer the phones, but he was going to have a hard time finding someone he could really trust to care for his mother. She said he had a dry personality and he just kinda nodded and said, “Okay. I’ll think about it and let you know.”
Leaving the office, Debra thought, “Oh well, he seemed less than positive about that idea.” She was 27 years old at the time and she thought he probably wanted someone a little bit older. But the next day, he approached her when she arrived for work and he was very enthusiastic and friendly in a way that she’d never seen him be before. And he told her he wanted her to start working with his mom the very next week.
So Mrs. Mays was 86 years old at the time. She was sharp as a tack as they say. A brilliant woman. She’d graduated from college in 1918 with a degree in Pharmacology. And over the five years that Debra was her caretaker, there was no subject that they didn’t discuss. Mrs. Mays kept up with current issues and world news. With all that had happened in the century she’d lived through, listening to her was like a lesson in history. And Debra would often bring her young children to visit. Mrs. Mays adored them and they came to call her “Grandma Mays”.
After she passed in 1990, her family invited Debra to her apartment and generously offered her any of the woman’s possessions she wanted as mementos. So, the mezzotint of the Virgin Mary with Child was one of those three items Debra kept to remember her time with Mrs. Mays. 25 years later, Debra was reading my blog ‘Shift Your Spirits’ and I had written about this connection I have to Mother Mary, and she said she had the impulse to send the mezzotint to me. And as she was boxing it up, she sensed that Mrs. Mays was with her and wholeheartedly approved of giving it to me. So, needless to say, I was touched once again by Debra’s generosity towards me. It was a really sweet gesture. And it was also charged with so much history and sentiment, and, you know, that alone makes the image extremely powerful regardless of what the image is of. I had just purchased my first home and it was a first image I hung on the walls in the house. And I saw that as a blessing from Mary herself.
So I sent Debs a picture of the picture in my still-empty new house. So the glass ashtray, the magic prayer bowl, it sits on a low chest in my bedroom now with the mezzotint of Mother Mary hanging just above it. And so this ritual, or the rules of this ritual that I do, I’m not sure if it’s religious. It could be sacrilegious. To me, in my mind, it feels like a little old catholic lady meets a granny woman witch kind of ritual. So the thing about the request that I put in the prayer bowl – some of the kind of rules I have around this is that it’s gotta be something big. It can’t be petty stuff, it can’t be selfish or materialistic. It’s gotta be about someone other than just me. And more than anything, it has to be something that I can’t affect or control any further on my own. Usually it’s something I’ve already tried to affect or impact and I feel like it’s finally come to the point where it’s outside of my power. And at that point I’ve gotta surrender it. I’ve gotta let it go and give it to Mary. I actually say that a lot, “I’m gonna give this to Mary.”
And so the requests are written down on little pieces of paper and they’re also left open in the bowl while the request is, sort of, active. And if, in some way, the prayer gets answered, or the problem gets solved, or taken care of, or resolved in any way, when they’re done, so to speak, I fold them up and close them but I leave them inside the bowl.
Everything that I give to Mary in this way is taken care of. It’s really kind of miraculous and I don’t take it lightly and I don’t throw a lot of things in there because I don’t want to mess with this perfection that I’ve got going. So there’s a lot of reverence about where I draw the lines and what goes in there. But the stuff that goes in there – it gets taken care of. Some of the, you know, kinds of things that I put in there: I have some friends, for the past few years who have been trying to adopt a child and, that went into the bowl.
My own brother and sister-in-law were pregnant last year with the first and only grandbaby in our family. Their little son named Hayden, who was born on Christmas Eve. And obviously I did an ongoing kind of prayer bowl request. It started out with a little piece of paper just sort of announcing that they were pregnant and it just had their names and baby on it. And then when they had their gender reveal party and we found out that it was going to be a boy, there was this blue, tiny clothespin that you wore on your collar, on your shirt or whatever, at the party, to indicate the sex that you were predicting that the baby was going to be. So everyone had a little blue clothespin or a pink clothespin. I had a blue one because I correctly predicted that it was going to be a boy.
So when I got back from the gender reveal party, I added the little blue clothespin to the piece of paper that said “Parrish & Heather’s baby”. And then, later on, when they chose a name for him, I wrote his name, Hayden, on there as well. So I imagine that Hayden’s prayer request and his little slip of paper with the blue clothespin on it is likely to reside in this bowl the rest of my life. That’s one that I don’t see ever being closed up or put away.
There’ve been other things that I’ve put in there. You know, whenever someone comes to me with something really serious and heavy going on in their world, especially if they know about this prayer bowl thing, which now I’m probably going to get even more requests, but if someone makes a really specific request to me, or I see it as something that I can do on behalf of them, it often involves other people’s loved ones, I will put their name on a paper and put it in there. And, like I said, it always gets taken care of.
There’s only one time that it didn’t work. And that was with one of my pets - a cat named Cinco, and I’ll tell you that in just a second. First, I wanted to go back and mention that – I don’t know how this happened or it emerged or evolved, but there seems to be some significance to the color of ink that I write these prayer requests down in. So, red ink - I use Sharpies, by the way in case you’re wondering - red ink is usually for something that’s kind of a short-term, emergency situation, like maybe a health crisis or someone’s, you know, going in for surgery. Something that is immediate and going to have a resolution fairly soon. I tend to write those in red. Things that are long-term or ongoing, such as my nephew, Hayden, his request is written in black and most of my general requests are written in black ink.
So, there’s this one time that the prayer bowl did not work, and that was with this cat, Cinco, that I was talking about. He was a feral cat that I spent over a year, kind of feeding and luring, closer and closer, to trusting and to being able to come inside during the winter and stay in the garage where it was a little warmer. It took months and months of putting out food and inching him closer and closer, to get him to a point where he would come into the garage during the winter and huddle near a heater.
At one point, he was badly hurt and he had something stuck in his eye. I was horrified. I knew he was going to die this really slow, agonizing death, or if be - he did survive, it would be after a lot of suffering and he was going to be impaired for the rest of his life. So I was able to trap him with a raccoon trap and took him to the vet and they were able to save him and save his eye. They fixed him, you know, neutered him, and I brought him home and returned him back out into the woods and he disappeared for several days. But he eventually started coming back again and, this was a really wild animal. He was the most timid animal that I’ve ever encountered and I don’t know that he ever would have been a pet. He was just to the point where he would let me, sort of, quickly brush my hand along his back, you know, when he walked around my feet, but that was as close as he got to being a pet.
He was a really, really, gentle, pretty, sweet little animal. He was solid grey and he was very hard to see in the woods. He looked like a shadow. So, long story short – I didn’t know this was going to be a story about Cinco, but maybe I need to eulogize him a little bit – he was attacked and killed by a coyote in broad daylight. And we heard it and it was really horrifying. And we didn’t know for sure if what we heard was him. It was more of a, kind of, suspect noise in the woods, but he didn’t show up to eat his appointed time that evening.
Spent weeks looking for him in the woods, looking for some sign of him. Hoping that maybe he had run away because of the coyotes that were back there and that, you know, maybe he might come back again. And there’s something, kind of, nothing worse than something disappearing, and not knowing what happened. And so…
I was so caught up in all the practical ways of looking for him that I didn’t really think to give it to Mary. And by the time that I did, you know, it was probably a week had gone by from when we assumed he had been snatched by the coyote. And I wrote his name on a piece of paper. And I really didn’t do it in a sense of empowerment. I didn’t do it as something that I felt like, “I’m giving this to Mary to solve”. It felt like an afterthought, and I don’t know why, but at the time I couldn’t locate the green – I couldn’t locate the black sharpie or the red sharpie. I grabbed the green Sharpie and I thought, “Well, green is kind of like the color of life, so it’ll be fine.” So I wrote his name down in green piece of paper and I put it in the prayer bowl.
I’ve never written anything in green ever again.
The thing about the way I believe that these spells and these rituals work—maybe — this is a THEORY — is they are a kind of programming for our own brains, you know, and, to me now, the color of that green ink is - it’s kind of poisoned, and so I have this really strong association and sense of hope and manifesting positive things when it comes to the black and the red, so I’ve become very superstitious about the green and I won’t be writing anything in green ever again. Unless I evolve some new kind of programming where it makes better sense. But right now, those are kind of the rules of this ritual that I do.
HERE’S WHY I’m updating this story.
The miracles keep happening.
One of my friends survived cancer — even after years of it looking like he was in serious trouble. The request remained open and … the promise was kept.
One of my friend was out of work for almost a year — and this is someone who is not especially mystical — who nevertheless knows about this prayer bowl and humbly called and finally just ASKED me to put him in there.
What he didn’t know … I already had. Months ago.
But within a two weeks of HIS asking, his intention, the job offers suddenly came. Whatever had been damming up his abundance just broke free and it all began to flow.
There are so many examples I can’t share because they are either too personal or too private.
I’ve found myself going back on my atheism.
She’s not even mad at me about it.
I still find myself talking to her and apologizing for doubting and engaging simultaneously.
I have a LOT of simple arguments for why I do not believe in the Judeo-Christian concept of God. Or any other religion with a similar template.
But I cannot explain the presence of spirits, angel communication, guidance … I certainly can’t explain who Mary is to me and WHY I persist.
I think it’s all a muddled inaccurate mashup.
Some of what other people believe makes me want to scream…
And some of what I believe leaves me scratching my own head.
I am conflicted.
But you know … I’m okay with being conflicted.
I’m okay with not making sense.
The only problem I have is staking a claim and then having to die on that hill.
I don’t believe in God. But I believe in wonder, and the unimaginable complexity of the universe, and the vastness of the internal mind.
All sorts of higher powers …
And I believe in cherry picking my own damn vibes on any given day.
Whenever I tell this story to somebody about the Mary bowl, the Virgin Mary ashtray, I get requests from people. And they’re essentially prayer requests. So if you have something like that, and you follow me on social media, and you want to contact me and tell me about it. If it’s something you genuinely feel like fits the criteria, by all means, let me know. But the reason why I wanted to record this and tell you about it is because, explaining all this would be a little hard to write down. But more than anything, I’m telling you this because, you know, you can make your own magical prayer bowl, or prayer bottle or prayer jar or, anything like this. It takes something that you feel has some emotional significance, and maybe some spiritual symbolism, something that you identify with as being a conduit between you and the divine.
Whatever that is, I encourage you to make one. You can borrow my rules to get started and you can adapt them however you think they best work for you.
…there’s an Oracle message at the end of the audio episode…