Tag Archives: Prayers

Please Rain

Text:

Que llueva, que llueva

La Virgen de la Cueva

Los pajaritos cantan, 

Las nubes se levantan. 

¡Que sí, que no,

que caiga un chaparrón!

Context:

The participant has known this saying/song since he was a young boy. Growing up in a small town in Spain, he recounts how almost everyone in his town, including his own family, has livestock and/or fields of land where they produce their own agriculture. During dry seasons, he explains that this was sung in efforts to induce rain to come and water their crops. 

Analysis:

This saying is somewhat similar to a prayer and is used as one in a sense. Usually young kids are told to call out to the Patron Saint, in hopes to promote rain that will allow the birds to sing, for the clouds to rise, and for the rain to fall. I am also part Spanish, and remember also being taught this saying in order to command rain from Mother nature. Looking back I was convinced as a child that the saying worked, as it had succeeded a few times with a light drizzle following. I now realize that it was more of a juvenile​ trick to promote optimism in my prayers, as my elders would tell me to sing it during times when they knew chances of rain were high. This saying helps instill the relation between children and beliefs in their religion, prayers, and saints.

Jewish After-meal Prayer Alterations

Main Piece:

I talked to two informants who attended the same Jewish summer camp at two different times. 

How did you alter aspects of prayers at camp?

Informant 1: “We change the words of Birkat Ha’Mazon [the after-meal prayer].”

Informant 2: “Though it’s different from when I was at camp before you.”

 חֲבֵרַי נְבָרֵךְ Chaveirai n’vareich (Let us thank God)

  • Informant 1: N/A
  • Informant 2: Rubber tires never break

יְהִי שֵׁם יְיָ מְבֹרָךְ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹל Y’hi sheim Adonai m’vorach mei-atah v’ad olam.  (Blessed is the name of God now and forever)

  • Informant 1: N/A
  • Informant 2: Naked swimming is illegal in the state of Idaho 

בִּרְשׁוּת הַחֶבְרָה Birshut chaveirai (With Your permission)

  • Informant 1: Your shoes have arrived
  • Informant 2: Bear shit in your eye

לימשיכו Limshicho (The anointed one)

  • Informant 1: Cream Cheese Balls
  • Informant 2: N/A

Context: 

Informant 1 is my twin sister. She attended this camp during the 2010s. Informant 2 is my mother. She attended this camp during the 70s. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.

Analysis: 

In general, Jewish youth assign humorous English phrases to Hebrew ones to try and break up the monotonous prayers they are forced participate in throughout the day. At this camp, Birkat Ha’Mazon is said after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and saying it three times a day gets very old, very fast. Having silly jokes within the prayer makes it a lot more bearable to complete. When comparing the prayer alterations from Informant 1 to Informant 2, Informant 2’s alterations are far more inappropriate and cruder. This reflects the agenda of the camp administration to crack down on these alterations and make them more appropriate. Their biggest issue with these alterations is that they disrespect concepts involving God. If the administration would have it their way, there would be no alterations at all, but for now, they have settled for “Your shoes have arrived” because it is far better than “Bear shit in your eye.”

The Parking Prayer

Background:

This short prayer was passed to my informant from her godmother’s great grandmother, who lived in long beach California, and was of western European descent. She claims that it has worked “98% of the time,” which is why she loves it.

Context:

The informant takes this prayer very seriously, hardly ever sharing it with anyone because “if everybody said it, the parking god wouldn’t listen anymore.” When this prayer is being used, it’s extremely important that it be stated before you get to your destination and see that parking is an issue. Additionally, it may only be used in extreme cases (i.e. a late flight, life or death situation, etc…).

Main piece

“Lord for us make radiant room.”

Analysis:

The thing that I find most interesting about this prayer is that my informant is not religious whatsoever. While I assume that she doesn’t actually believe in a parking god either, she genuinely believes in the sanctity and sacredness of the prayer. In this way, I believe–whether consciously or not–she is practicing the concept of chaos magick. Chaos magick is a practice that does not adhere to any religion or a specific set of spells or rituals. Instead, chaos magick relies on the idea that simply willing or believing something to be true can cause it to be. Thus, in saying this parking prayer, the user wills a parking spot to be emptied for their use.

Main Piece: Shabbat

Background: Growing up, the informant celebrated Shabbat every Friday night. The custom was very reformed. Her dad would lead a five-minute ‘service’ that consisted of prayer, drinking some wine, and the breaking of Challah. The whole family would have a meal together. It was less of a religious experience for the informant than it was an opportunity for her family to be together and connect at the end of the week. 

Context: When the informant moved out of her house for college, she did not continue the folk ritual of having Shabbat on Friday nights. It wasn’t until she left home that she realized what the experience meant as a folk tradition. She explained to me: 

“Shabbat was unnegotiable in my house. Even on Friday nights when I wanted to go out with my friends in high school, I first had to have dinner with my family. My dad would say the prayers from memory- literally speaking so fast in Hebrew, it was remarkable-, we would pour the wine, and have homemade challah. My mom made it fresh every week and she would often spice it up with, like, a theme of sorts. Sometimes sweet, savory, but always so good. Nothing compares. I really did not have a choice in the matter when it came to Friday night dinner, but I did not know otherwise it was something that was so routine that it never phased me to rebel against the system. And I also didn’t look at it as something ultra Jewish- like I knew my friends weren’t doing this every week, but it felt more like a family tradition rather than a religious obligation. I did not appreciate those nights until they were gone, let me tell ya. I just never realized how special that time was. My dad worked and traveled a lot and my mom had three kids to deal with plus all of the non-profit stuff she did, so that time, even if I ran out of the house to meet my boyfriend directly afterward, that time was so important to my family.  It was one of the only times we all were together and there was no way to get out of it. I miss it. I never thought I would miss it, but on Friday nights, I don’t always want to be at a bar with my friends or finishing up work, I want to be with my dad blessing our food and my mom making sure the candles are burning just right. They always say you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, and I know that if I facetime my parents on a Friday night, they will be right there at the table just enjoying each other’s company. My kids will have some sort of tradition very similar to this implemented into their lives because it kept us together.” 

Thoughts: The celebration of Shabbat is a religious custom that is practiced in many Jewish households across the world. What I find interesting about my informant’s story is that the ritual carries a different meaning to her because of the way that her family practiced this tradition. They did not emphasize the praying as much as they did the conversations at dinner where each family member got to share the stories of their week and laugh over Challah. The Challah is part of the folk ritual that is an emblem of love and connection. Both the wine and the Challah are foodways that facilitate the bringing together of the family and serve as reminders of the informant’s roots when she encounters them in different contexts. 

Camp Merrie Woode Table Prayers

Main Piece: 

Informant- Here are the breakfast, lunch, and dinner prayers. Each is sung in a large group and before eating. 

Breakfast prayer- “ god has created a new day, silver and green and gold, live that the sunset may find us, worthy his gift to hold” 

Lunch prayer- “for health and strength and daily food we give ye thanks o lord”

Dinner- “evening has come the board is spread thanks be to god who gives us bread”

Interviewer- Do you sing the prayer songs outside of camp?

Informant- I usually only say the prayers with other Merrie Woode girls. But when I come home from camp though, I find myself saying those prayers for a while. They are stuck in my head and are a habit. I hold on to what it means beyond just the prayer. It connects me to god but also connects me and my Merrie Woode family as a whole. It reminds me of being in the dining hall with everyone. 

Background: The informant is 18, a counselor at Camp Merrie Woode. She began attending Camp Merrie Woode at age 7 as a camper and returned every summer. Camp Merrie Woode is a catholic all-girls Summer camp. The Merrie Woode community is extremely important to her and represents a family. The prayers are an important connection for her to be thankful for her Merrie Woode family and to God. The prayers hold a religious aspect but also reflect the larger group of loving people that the camp. 

Context: This prayer is sung by a large group of people at mealtime at Camp Merrie Woode. The dining hall is a large room that seats over 200 people. The campers range from 6-13 and counselors are usually young adults. The groups sing the songs together in unison. The camp is in session only during the summer months. The camp is located on a lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

Thoughts: The oral tradition of dinner prayers allows for multiplicity and variation. This version of the dinner prayer is used in the specific Camp Merrie Woode community and creates a unity during the sacred time of prayer. The repetition of these phrases is important because it creates a community that sings and prays in unison. The large group of people participating in the prayer creates a powerful experience with loud voices echoing through the dining hall. This experience is an important aspect of singing prayer. The importance and meaning of the prayer represent the camp community. Even while not at camp, people sing this prayer and are reminded of the strong bond they share with the Camp Merrie Wood community.