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Pagan Litany

Unknown gods we drove away, we invoke you.
You who are not named, but are not nameless,
Pardon our arrogance. Return to us.
Let the myriad altars we destroyed surge up again,
Ocean of gods, and lave the world with generous prayer,
Restore, we beseech you, your manifold blessings.

Let no one be called infidel unless
He seeks to harm another.
Let the curse of idolater be reserved
Only for the self-righteous,
Whose tyrannous faith brings war,
And permits any cruelty
In the service of its self-deity.
Let the charge of blasphemy fall
Only on the self-anointed,
Ventriloquists of divinities.
Once again, let no god be abominated,
Declared a devil by another’s partisans,
Let none be despised, but all honored.

Terminus, god of border markers, return from Rome,
Teach us again our limits. Mark off the finite from the infinite,
Let no man claim the deaths he causes are the will of God,
That the bodies at his feet are the butcheries of angels.
Show the women their own deaths in the tortures they inflict—
Their children will tremble at the sight of them,
And drown on their own mothers’ milk.
Abattur, come with your scales from Persia;
We need your judgment.
Anat of Canaan, goddess of war, wear your ostrich feather crown;
You alone knew the purpose of war, not to destroy other creatures,
Each born as it is, already in its shroud—
But to fight death.
Pattini, Lady born of a heavenly mango, share with the starving
Your miraculous rice, protect us from epidemics,
Both those we endure, and those we devise.

O Ptah, who created us in Egypt on a potter’s wheel,
Make us serviceable and lovely.
Nu-gua, who made us in China of yellow clay,
Do not shatter us.
Huracan, who made us in America of cornmeal,
You who live simultaneously in eternity and time,
Watch over us in heaven,
Watch over us on earth,
Watch over us in hell.
Quat, who made us on his island out of boredom,
Inspire us to give our stories better endings.
Imrat, who fashioned us in India of butter,
And in the richness of divinity made other gods,
Remind us that it is not our limitations that are sacred.
Lowalangi, great guardian from Indonesia,
You speak of us tenderly as your pigs,
And teach us we are incapable of worship,
Until we see ourselves a thousand ways.
Nanse, Our Lady of Sumeria, Queen of Divination,
Tell us the awful truth—that this world is a faithful record
And clear interpretation of our dreams.
Ometeotl, glorious Aztec, born of your own thought,
Keep us unfinished ones ever-thinking,
Revealed always by what we have caused to exist.

Patrons and Givers of Gifts, we summon you.
Juturna of the springs and wells,
Quench our thirst.
Egres, who first gave turnips to the Finns,
If we scorn your gift,
We repudiate the world.
Dua, god of daily grooming,
Reviver of mankind,
Patron of perfume and the sacred bath,
It is your vocation also to wake the dead,
Your therapy through which they remember
How to use their limbs. Remind us of the
Resurrections hidden in our days,
Celestial incarnate in quotidian.
Cao Guo-jiu, Patron of actors,
Of all that is both true and false,
Sustain us in belief,
Protect us with doubt.
Hintubuhet, Androgyne,
Maker of Marriage,
Butterfly of both sexes,
Bless those who seek devoted love.
Tenenit, refresh us with the golden beer
Brewed first in your sky-blue lapis vat.
Marunogere, Maker of genitals,
Thank you.
Arhats, enlightened ones,
Lend us your heavenly eyes,
So we might glimpse other worlds,
Read other scriptures, so those who
Know nothing of the earth they inhabit
Will not dare again to speak to us of heaven.
Return to us, Pantheon,
Abundant in divinity,
Without you, we cannot be human.

Winged Nari, from the heaven of dead children,
We petition you: have mercy on us.
Ran of Scandinavia, goddess of the drowned,
Lift the breathless gently in your nets,
Pray for us.
Freya, weep for us your golden tears.
Mayan Ixtab, Goddess of Suicides,
Show those in torment your inhuman mercy;
With compassion beyond blessing,
Receive them in your Paradise.
Greek Eirene,
Whose liturgies were never stained with blood,
Grant us peace.

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