Darkly Devotions

Lyric prose meditations that play with elements from evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, yoga, reiki, Tarot and “weird voodoo shit.”

~by Cindy Clem


Opening exercise: Build-a-Ritual

Create for yourself a morning ritual. Use at least three elements from each list below in any combination or order that you like. At the end, say, “That was a ritual. By the power vested in me, I performed a ritual.”


Turn clockwise (and/or counterclockwise)
Open and close your eyes rapidly
Raise your arms to the ceiling
Tap your third eye
Pour something from one container into
Stir something
Write your initials in the air

Salt (or salt-free seasoning)
Paint swatches
Crystals or rocks
Beaded necklace
Flower petals
Eye of newt
Tail of cat

Today’s passages:

“Once you have committed to your energy exchange with the Divine, set aside a full day for the experience of the attunement. You will want to take your aura-cleansing bath with a pinch of sea salt and dress appropriately for the ceremonial occasion. […] create an altar for the occasion as well. Place a white candle honoring the Divine and Mikao Usui on the altar. You may want to add flowers to your altar, pictures of saints, drawings of angels, or other touches to note the significance of this occasion.” ~Brett Bevell, Reiki for Spiritual Healing

“Place your cards in plastic bag (to protect them), put rock salt in the bottom of the shoebox, and place the deck on top. Pour the remainder of the salt over the deck. Put the lid back on the shoebox and tape it shut. Place the shoebox in another plastic bag and seal it. Place the whole package where it can get as much direct sunlight as possible. Say the following prayer, then wait three days and the deck will be ‘reset,’ or pure. You can then throw away the salt, bags, and box.” ~Joseph Ernest Martin, The Compass Guide to the Quest Tarot

See also: ritual and

Accessing the divine
Cultivation of patience
Focused play
Setting the mood
Trappings of

I grew up as a low-church Protestant. We didn’t do ritual. Ritual was a throwback to the Old Testament system of sacrifice and law, and Christ came to fulfill the law. Those Catholics and Episcopalians were trapped by their rules. We were the Evangelical Free Church. The closest we came to formal ritual was in passing around grape juice in the same plastic communion cups, rattling in the same metal container, every month. The body of Christ might be broken matzo crackers one month, day-old chunks of bread the next. After church my sisters and their friends would run to eat the communion leftovers. I wanted to join them (bread!), but it seemed somehow punishable, an abrupt switch from the sacred to the profane I found tempting but unsettling. I wanted rules. I wanted ritual, both for its mystery and for the boundaries it set. This is the beginning. This is the end. This is the part where you feel something.

Yet as I’ve finally begun to explore spiritual practices that engage ritual, I’ve found it irksome. At its best, ritual allows you relish the moment[1]. But too often ritual devolves into a set of rules. I want to flow with Reiki. I want to play with Tarot. I don’t want to bother with salt baths and altars and ceremonial dress and shoeboxes and flowers and sunlight. But it’s hard to say no, I’ll do it my way. As much as I rebel against rules, I feel lost without them. What if my way isn’t right? What if my way is too lazy or sloppy or impatient? What sacrifice does the divine demand before it reveals itself?

Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Closing ritual: Write your desire on unlined paper. Fold the paper three times, set it on the floor, and weigh it down with a double terminated crystal. Walk around it three times while repeating the following chant: “All I have to do is ask. All I have to do is ask. All I have to do is ask.” Walk around it backward three times, saying, “Ask is do to have I all. Ask is do to have I all. Ask is do to have I all.” Take three deep breaths, shake salt on your head, and see what happens.



[1] “Albert took two napkins from his lunchbox. He tucked one napkin under his chin, he spread the other one on his desk like a tablecloth, and he arranged his lunch neatly on the napkin. With his spoon he cracked the shell of the hard-boiled egg. He peeled away the shell and the bit off the end of the egg. He sprinkled salt on the yolk and set the egg down again. He unscrewed his thermos bottle cup and filled it with milk. Then he was ready to eat his lunch. He took a bite of sandwich, a bite of pickle, a bite of hard-boiled egg and a drink of milk. Then he sprinkled more salt on the egg and went around again. Albert made the sandwich and the pickle, the egg and the milk come out even.” ~from Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban



Cindy Clem received her MFA in poetry in 2005 and has been writing non-fiction ever since. Her poems and essays have appeared (magically!) in Mid-American Review, The Normal School, Prairie Schooner, Memoir (and), Superstition Review, The Interrobang, Spittoon, and Michigan Quarterly Review (forthcoming).