11th century prayer to one’s guardian angel

From a prayer book belonging to an Abbot Aelfwine.  Translation in progress.

Oratio ad angelum custodem

Credo quod sis angelus sanctus, a Deo omnipotente ad custodiam mei deputatus. Propterea peto, et per illum qui te ad hoc ordinavit, humiliter imploro, ut me miseram fragilem atque indignam semper et ubique in hac vita custodias, protegas a malis omnibus atque defendas, et cum Deus hinc animam meam migrare iusserit, nullam in eam potestatem daemonibus habere permittas, sed tu eam leniter a corpore suscipias, et in sinu Habrae suaviter usque perducas iubente ac iuvante creatore ac salvatore Deo nostro, qui est benedictus in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Prayer to the Guardian Angel

I believe that you are the holy angel, appointed to watch over me by almight God.  So I beg you, through him who ordained you to this duty, and I implore you humbly, that you will always and everywhere guard me, wretched, weak, and unworthy, in this life, and when God commands my soul to leave this world, do not permit the devil to have power over it, but rather softly take it up from my body and into the bosom of Abraham gently lead it, with the bidding and aid of our savior and creator God who is blessed for the age of ages (ie, for eternity). Amen.

Reprinted in Andre Wilmart, Auteurs spirituel et textes devotes du moyen age latin (Paris, 1971, repr. of 1932 ed.)

A photo of a fully-armored St. Michael statue in Salisbury that I took in summer of 2010 (not public domain – image is my property and you may not reuse it without my permission).

medieval prayer to St. Michael; on petitioning saints; books of hours

I’ve translated a prayer to St. Michael from a mid-15th century Book of Hours, and I thought I’d share it in between typing light setting reports.

Books of Hours were very popular in medieval Europe.  While few laypeople would be able to own, never mind read, a Bible for much of the Middle Ages in much of Europe, a lot of people owned Books of Hours (comparatively speaking).  They are so named because they are built around the hours of the day – not the 24 hour setup we know, but the monastic and ecclesiastical hours that the day of a monk or nun or priest was divided into.  These “hours” (sometimes called “offices” today) are Matins (basically the first chunk of prayers, at rising or dawn or however you have your day sorted), Lauds or Prime (about 6 am), Terce (about 9 am), Sext (noon), Nones (about 3 pm), Vespers (evening, about 6 pm or at sunset, depending), and Compline (night, about 9 pm or before retiring).  Some monasteries had a midnight office (if it has a name, it is escaping me right now), and there were variations depending on where you were and where in the liturgical calendar you were in terms of season/time of year.  The prayers would vary, as well, depending on the larger church calendar, the day of the week, etc.

When laypeople began performing these monastic prayers themselves around the 13th century, Books of Hours were introduced as an abbreviated form of the prayer collection called a breviary that was used in monasteries.  So this is less a system by which one tells time, basically, or expects everyone else to be in sync with; rather, it’s a way of ordering your day around prayer-times according to the liturgical hours of the day.

calendar pages from Hours of Catherine of Cleve

 

This kind of prayer I have reproduced below is technically called a “suffrage,” and can be seen in its original context here.  A suffrage is a short intercessory prayer  – ie, a prayer said to seek the intercession of a saint.  In case you’re not familiar with the concept, orthodox Catholics do not actually worship saints or petition them directly for favors, exactly; you don’t actually pray for St. Expedite to do something like bring you enough rent money by Friday (not if you’re an orthodox Catholic).  Technically, what you do when you petition a saint is ask for that saint’s intercession, i.e. ask that the saint to intercede with God for you, to communicate on your behalf to God.  It is God who answers prayers, not saints, and God in and through whom all things are possible.

So you might honor a saint, but when you are thanking a saint, you’re thanking them for their intercession, not for their direct action.  For example, if you get the rent money by Friday, God has granted your prayer through the intercession of St. Expedite, who also prayed for you, and who by his superior grace and holiness and proximity to God made your own prayers more effective.  Thus it does not mean that without the saint, God would not know about your prayers, nor does it mean technically that the saint carries your prayers to God. It’s more like the saint sort of adds some oomph to your own prayers by virtue of his or her own personal holy qualities and residence in heaven.

 

The Council of Trent in the mid 16th century articulated the parameters of this practice and the belief system it implies: saints in heaven pray for us, the living, just as we the living pray for the souls of those in purgatory.  We, too, can be intercessors, in other words, and there are active, continuing relationships between and among saints, angels, living, dead in purgatory, God, the Virgin Mary, and Christ.  (The practice and the belief system that supports this predated Trent by ages, though – Thomas Aquinas had discussed it in the 13th century, and Jerome had written about it in the 4th-5th centuries.)

So when we invoke or petition a saint, we are (supposed to be) asking that saint to pray to God on our behalf, to throw in their lot with us and help us make our prayers more effective by lending us some of the power of their sanctity. Basically, not to put too fine a point on it, God loves everybody, but he likes some people more than others.  And some people, living or dead, have more prayer mojo than others, in essence.

Now, in the regular day to day scheme of things, even clerics and monks and such would probably not always observe this sort of fine distinction in the Middle Ages, especially not when it came to the wording of ex tempore prayers, or to the acquisition of and desire for relics of saints. The common hoodoo practice of doing something to a statue or image of a saint in order to elicit a response from the saint is very, very old.  People today will sometimes take the baby Jesus out of  St. Anthony’s arms until he grants their petition, usually involving the return of a lost item — if they have a statue with a detachable baby figure, that is. (You can get those and that is what they are for. In fact, you might even be able to find one with a drawer in the base to hold the baby Jesus statue when it’s out of Anthony’s arms. And that’s exactly what it’s for.)

Some people who do not come from this kind of background are shocked about all this and express their certainty that such practices are debased, degraded superstition that dishonors the saint by trying to coerce him and stuff like that.  But this is a very old practice with very deep roots.  These medieval monks who ordered their days around the liturgical hours? They lived with the saints, like neighbors or even roommates, and today’s folk Catholics do the same. A saint with whom you have a relationship is like a member of the family; they have an altar in your home, you talk to them all the time, you give them flowers.  You ask St. Christopher’s blessings on your way out the door, and St. Anthony responds to your prayers when you can’t find your car keys.  These are not distant, dusty figures whom one approaches groveling; they were fallible, living human beings and even in sanctified death, they are still human and have personalities.

It was even more the case in medieval Europe – belief in the intercession of the saints was very real, and belief that the beloved departed were in purgatory and could be helped by prayers and masses was also.  You asked St. Foy’s help like you might ask for your neighbor’s, and the saints had responsibilities to the living, in the community – if the monastery’s patron saint fell down on the job and the monks had no harvest to get through winter, that was bad news and the saint was slacking.  Monks might take a statue off its niche or shelf and set it on the floor in displeasure, telling the saint that he was staying there until the rain came and the fennel grew again. Nuns might bury a medal of St. Joseph on land they needed help in obtaining.

And the saints responded in visible, sometimes tangible, ways.  A knight might petition St. James for healing of his arm, and promise to make a pilgrimage to the saint’s “home,” the property at which his relics resided, as thanks when the arm was mended.  When the knight failed to keep his word, St. James intervened to see to it that his other arm was broken. [*]  These so-called “punitive miracles” were frequent occurrences – saints got involved in all kinds of matters, from mundane farm troubles to rivalries between monasteries to inheritance of property and succession of kings.

So it’s important to understand the worldview in which saints are a part of everyday life, more like members of the family than distant, cold oracles or spirits.  This is a world in which flogging a saint’s statue, or turning a saint’s photo upside down, is not some horrible, sacrilegious thing that clergy would be appalled at – clergy often participated.  It is a worldview which someone from a Protestant Christian background is unlikely to really “get” at first, so that is why I go to the lengths I go to in order to explain some of this stuff.

Was there a council declaring that a saint could be flogged if the monastery suffered bad weather? Of course not.  Strictly speaking, if scholastics and theologians had weighed in on such a thing, it’s easy to imagine them disapproving.  But your average local parish priest was no Thomas Aquinas, and while Aquinas was concerned with the nature of the Trinity and the relationship of soul to matter and body, a local priest had more mundane and pressing matters to consider, and frankly just a different mission in life and vocation.  Same with an abbot or abbess in charge of the religious community and order.  They worried about God and their souls and purgatory, but they also worried about carrots and milking cows and firewood, and they shared their lay neighbors’ concerns about local politics and land disputes.

So these finer points of theology and doctrine regarding the precise nature of the intercession of the saints, among other things, have not always been of the utmost concern to the faithful, a thousand years ago or today.  And the potential for abuse or idolatry in the day to day practices of Catholics and in the system outlined by the Council of Trent is one of the major bugs that Protestant reformers got up their bums; they didn’t like the whole praying to saints thing much more than they liked the idea and system of indulgences (which is another hugely misunderstood system which I will also have to write about one day).

And a great many people who are Christian are of the Protestant stripe informed by such thinking (and this category includes the majority of rootworkers, by the way), so there is often misunderstanding and even mistrust of the whole “working with saints” thing.  A lot of my clients don’t really “get” the saints or are very unsure about how to proceed in working with them.

In itself, there is nothing wrong with not knowing and with starting somewhere – I have found that the saints don’t really care whether or not you are strictly in conformance to every decree from Vatican City, and in fact don’t always care if you’re Christian (it depends on the saint).  You are probably not going to piss them off unless you’re an ass with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

But what happens not infrequently, a lot of newcomers to saints’ work, their very first approach to a saint, their very first saint, is buying a bottle of oil and imperiously demanding something from the saint. This is akin to barging up to a total stranger and demanding a favor.  When they don’t get it, they quit working with that saint or with saints altogether (or the really idiotic ones write me emails saying “your saints oil had no energy in it”).

So that’s why I keep beating the “relationships are important” horse so that folks can understand how all of this works.  Work with the saints is *fabulous.*  But it’s work, in the sense that maintaining a relationship is work.  Saints are not vending machines.

 

Anyway.  Back to Books of Hours and the intercessory prayers they contain.  (One of these days, I am going to make my own Book of Hours.  I have to learn to write properly with a quill on vellum, first, though – so maybe I”ll cheat in the meantime and make an improper and informal Book of Hours that I’ve cherrypicked my favorite prayers for.  I wish I could earn a living making custom Books of Hours for people; I think I would really enjoy doing that work.  For a while, anyway – I might change my tune after I did a few!)

Here is the St. Michael prayer transcribed. I’ve expanded abbreviations in the manuscript, or tried to, and I may have made some errors, so if you have medieval Latin feel free to correct me:

Laudemus dominum quem laudant angeli quem cherubim et seraphim sanctus sanctus sanctus proclamant.

V.  In conspectu* angelorum psallam tibi deus meus.

R. Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum et confitebor nomini tuo.

[I don’t know/can’t read the word in red, but it has to mean that everybody prays as a group now.]

Deus qui miro ordine angelorum ministeria hominumque dispensas, concede propicius ut a quibus tibi ministrantibus in caelo semper
adsistitur ab his in terra uita nostra muniatur.  Per Christum [?].

Let us praise the Lord whom the angels praise, to whom the Cherubim and Seraphim cry holy, holy, holy.

V: In the sight of the angels I will sing to you, my God.
R: I will worship in your holy temple and confess your name.

God, who in miraculous order arranged the ministry of angels and men, grant, merciful, that by those ministering eternally to you in heaven,
our life may be attended and defended by these on earth.  Through Christ [etc].

The above is fairly literal and so a bit clunky, as I need to make sure I’m reflecting the grammar in the initial translation even where it doesn’t make for pretty English (so if you read medieval Latin and you see where I’ve made an error, let me know? I mangled the ut clause, I think.)

[*This doesn’t look like conspectu to me, but maybe the smudge is hiding a symbol for abbreviation that accounts for the p I can’t see to save the life of me. No other word makes sense here.]

Now all that was a big windup for a teeny little prayer!  I have a stack of reports to type still, and I don’t even want to think about my inbox (I”m not kidding about getting in 70 or more emails every single freakin’ day) so I need to get back to them, but I have a ton more prayers to Michael and some other angels I will post eventually.  In the meantime, here’s a picture I took last summer of a tapestry-stitch and needlepoint piece of St. Michael.  It was stitched in 1955 and is on display in the tower portion of St. Michael’s church in Oxford, England, which has lots of lovely images and statues.

 


NB: unless noted as mine, like the photograph above, all images are public domain.

[*] Sumption, Jonathan. Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1975. 240.


questions you’ve asked – on item instructions in general and saints candles in particular

Q: Why won’t you tell me what day of the week to light my saint candle on? [Implied: it’s a simple question, and I feel that the purchase of a $15 custom item from your store that it took you an hour to make, custom, just for me, creates an obligation for you to answer any question I have about how to use it even though you don’t know me or my situation from Adam’s housecat.]

A: So many tears would be prevented if folks read the FAQ before purchasing; the FAQ clearly states that this is simply an impossible thing for anyone to expect of me, which if you put yourself in my shoes for a few minutes and imagined that I get twenty emails just like yours every day, there is no way that I would have time to make these custom items.  The FAQ states:

Do your items come with instructions?

Not unless the listing states that they do; there is more than one way to use my products depending on the spell you are using. If you need guidance on general principles of spellcraft, or on using hoodoo oils, powders, etc in general, visit my blog for tips, tricks, and links to reliable, educational internet resources. If you require specific guidance or feedback and want my personal attention on your use of my products or on the spell you are casting, you can purchase a consultation session at my website. It is not humanly possible for me to answer every email I receive asking for free spell advice and for instructions on how to do X,Y, or Z with my products. If you need a spell, your single best resource is probably luckymojo.com – they have hundreds if not thousands of hoodoo spells listed.

If you’re going to order a candle or oil and then get mad at me when I can’t answer questions about the specific spell you’re using with it, then I wish you wouldn’t order from me. I don’t advertise that service and don’t offer it; I do not offer free spell consultations. There are *hundreds* of spells out there. If you need one-on-one guidance, you might consider hiring a rootworker if you don’t know where to begin in doing your own research.

In part this is a problem of time. I spent at least 20 hours a week just answering emails (this does not include typing up light setting reports and consultations; this is essentially work I am not being directly paid for). It is not humanly possible for me to give free, custom advice to everybody who buys an item from my store. I would be out of business in no time because my power would be cut off and I would be starved to death.

But there’s an even bigger underlying issue here. The author of the email containing this type of question presumes that there is one simple answer to the question, “What day should I light my saint candle on?”

In fact, there is NOT one simple answer, and you can’t really blame your rootworker or product supplier if you bought an item without a spell in mind and then find yourself not knowing how to use it. There are a thousand spells and not all are equally suited to your situation; it requires an assessment of your case in order for your worker to advise you, and such assessments take time, and they are not automatically included in the purchase price of a $15, custom-finished, custom-painted, and custom-fixed candle.

Would you go into Lowe’s, buy a few pressure-treated cypress boards, and then bring them back to the cashier and say “Should I build my deck with the steps facing north or west?” I sure hope you wouldn’t. And if you did, I sure hope you wouldn’t get mad at the employee who said, “Actually, had you asked first, that isn’t the material I would have recommended given that you don’t know what you’re doing yet.”

An offer to customize according to client preferences does not automatically equal unlimited post-purchase support and troubleshooting.

But let me illustrate why this is not a question of me being stingy and withholding a simple answer (leaving aside for the moment that if it were simple, you could have found it in five minutes with Google). Let’s say, for instance, that the client purchased a fixed St. Gerard vigil candle. Client then writes and asks, “What day of the week should I light it on?” Here are (some of) the problems embedded in the question that make it NOT something with a simple answer (AND all of this is leaving aside the fact that I only have so many characters allowed by ebay in my response to your message sent on ebay, so i couldn’t type all of this even if I wanted to – and I don’t want to).

First of all, not everybody treats a vigil light for a saint like a vigil light for a hoodoo condition. Some folks will set a love light on Friday, because somebody told them to, or they read it somewhere, or it’s customary where they come from to do love work on Friday, or because Friday is associated with Venus through a long chain of complicated etymological, linguistic, and historical reasons [1] and Venus is the goddess of love.

Note First Huge Problem: this reasoning does not fly with somebody working that candle in an orthodox Roman Catholic tradition. Goddess of love? Surely you jest?!

If you work with St. Gerard as a Roman Catholic, doing a novena, you would light it whenever. If you were my great-grandmother, you would light it on Sunday, because she started all her novenas on Sunday with only a few exceptions.

If you work with St. Gerard as an image or aspect of the lwa Baron Samedi, then you would light it on Saturday.  I do not know what religion you are when you order this candle; I can’t tell you “the right answer.”

Let’s just say the for the sake of illustration that a petition to a saint would be set according to the same principles as a non-denominational love-drawing or other type of “condition” candle (NOT a wise assumption, but let’s just follow the thinking for the sake of argument). The answer obviously depends in part on what you are petitioning the saint for.

If you decided to use hoodoo guidelines to work your vigil or novena, and you were setting the light for the purpose of having a child, and you needed an eager, cooperative, loving husband and a couple in synch with each other, you might set it on Friday, since it’s the day for love but also the day for general attraction work. OR maybe you’d set it on Monday, since in some traditions it’s associated with the moon, which in some traditions governs fertility. Or on Sunday, since that is the traditional day of blessings in some religions/paths. Or on Tuesday if you wanted to focus on your husband’s virility, as Tuesday is the day of Tir or Tiw, the Germanic counterpart of Mars and known in Scandinavian traditions for strength, victory, battle, and other “virile” attributes [2]. OR you might set it on Wednesday, named for Odin, in turn associated with Mercury, because Mercury days are when you’d work to remove obstacles. Or on Thursday because it’s associated with Jupiter who you tap for any kind of abundance or success work.

I hope you get my point.

You want to get hung up on a day? Fine. Light in on October the 8th.

But it’s March, you say, and you want to do the novena now. Ok, no problem. Then LIGHT THE DAMN CANDLE NOW. If there is ONE DAY associated with a saint, it’s generally the saint’s death day, which generally becomes the feast day. So if you are hung up on certain days, then you are going to be waiting for one chance a year to light that candle.

Another problem inherent in the question is that not everybody uses days of the week to determine when they will set a light, regardless of the type of light. In general, I do not, unless the need for the light is not pressing but is something like a pre-booked set of lights over the course of a few months to improve communication between two people. In a case like that, I might set it on a certain day of the week – but I might not. It depends on a number of different factors. Some folks are more concerned about the planetary hour of the day, or the phase of the moon, or whether or not Mercury is retrograde, or what the sun and moon signs of the targets are. It’s complex. However, that does NOT mean you have to be all complicated in your approach in order to get results. If you purchase a fixed light, it’s fixed – I did everything that MUST be done short of lighting it. Anything else you choose to do is up to you and the framework you are working within.

Bottom line: There IS NO ANSWER to the question “on what day do I set the St. Gerard light” other than “that is up to you and the spell or framework you’ve chosen to work within.” Instead of presuming your rootworker is being mean or stingy, take a sec to listen to what they are saying and chill out with the getting peeved because you didn’t get the answer you wanted. Maybe you didn’t ask the right question.

Other bottom line: if I were independently wealthy and had all the time in the world, I would LOVE to just talk to folks about conjure and religion and spirituality and folk magic all day long. I would LOVE to. But I have to pay my bills just like you do, and I just plain cannot answer questions about individual specific situations and spells for free. If there is something that MUST be done in order for your product or object or item to work, I will let you know, I promise. If you MUST feed it with oil, I will tell you so.

But if it gets into the realm of preference or religious background or worldview or framework, then we are out of the realm of “must” and into the realm of “do your own research or book a consultation, or go ask those super-friendly, super-knowledgeable folks I’ve linked to for help.” I swear on my great-grandmother’s Bible than I do not insist on this to be a bitch – I insist on it because I get 100 emails a day and I have to pay my bills and feed my ever-hungry teenager and fill orders and do consultations for paying clients. If you think about it for a minute, what I’m saying here is not unreasonable – and I promise I charge a whole lot less than your lawyer does for a consultation.

Finally, again, if the shoe does not fit, do not wear it! If you are reading this, then you are the type that reads and probably finds the instructions and FAQs, and so this probably does not apply to you at all. I’ve written it up for the sake of new customers who might not understand my position here, and also by way of illustrating just how complex the choice of some aspects of conjure work can be – and how personal. When I say “one size does not fit all,” that does not mean it’s a free-for-all and that anything goes. Changes and tweaks and additions and modifications are done according to a certain logic that makes theoretical sense according to the conjure practitioner who has internalized this theory or logic. Changes and choices are made for a reason.

But that does not mean that all adaptations or changes will be the same in every case, and it furthermore does not mean every worker will do it the same way. I come from a Catholic background, but a worker who comes from a Protestant or non-Christian background may be making choices according to a different set of considerations than the ones I’m using. All changes and choices are logical and coherent within the operative framework; not every aspect of every worker’s framework is the same, though.

NOW, having said all that and it being nearly 3 am and me still needing to type up a couple of light setting reports and contracts before I can sign off for good for the coming week-and-change, HAPPY HOODOOING! I love y’all, and thanks for reading, and thanks for shopping with me, trusting me with your spiritual supplies needs, and giving me the honor of helping you achieve your goals with rootwork and/or advice. Don’t forget to “like” my business page on facebook!

As a reward for those of you who do read, and who have stuck with this post to the end even though you knew all this already, here’s an easter egg for you: at the Spring equinox (aka feast day of St. Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, aka 2nd Sunday in Lent, aka a Fire Festival, aka just-after-the-full-moon, aka the 20th of March), I will select randomly from among those who have left a comment in response to this post, here on livejournal.  [Ed.: this post was originally posted on livejournal; entries have been imported into WordPress but not comments.] I will send the winner a free bottle of extra-special, only-made-once-a-year spiritual oil. I won’t say what it is yet, and in fact I don’t have a name for it yet, but I promise it will be awesome, and I promise it will be rare, and I promise it will be multi-purpose and in the general range of blessing/abundance/prosperity, and I promise it will be hand-made by me with all the attention that all of my spiritual oils, powders, etc get. Just leave  a comment on this post right here to enter.

I do allow anonymous comments, but in order to be able to win something, you have to put either a unique username or a first name and last initial in the comment so that you would recognize your unique name/nickname if I were to announce it.  If you are John S., there is probably somebody else out there with your first name and last initial, so give me something else, like a nickname or city/state, ok?

Have a great March and thanks for stopping by!


[1] In the language of the Anglo-Saxons, Friday was Frigedæg, named for the Germanic goddess Frig. This came about because the language of the learned in Europe at this time was Latin, and so all correspondence, records, prayerbooks etc used when the Germanic settlers were converted to Christianity were initially in Latin. Thus what we now call Friday was then called “dies Veneris,” or “the day of Venus,” as this is how the imperial calendars in the Roman empire worked – all days of the week were named after planets (which in their turn were named after the gods). English-speaking clerics translated this into the vernacular as “the day of Frig,” as they mapped the Roman deities onto Germanic deities in cases of translation like this. So if I were working within some sort of British and/or folk tradition, I might make my choices based on the fact that this is currently Hrepmonað, named for the goddess Hreðe (not that we actually know much about her, as her name was preserved by a Christian monk who was happy to see the worship of the pagan gods pass), and/or that today is Quiquagesima Sunday, when the homilies focus on when Christ was said to have healed a blind man, and/or that the full moon is coming up on the 19th and the moon is currently waxing, and/or that the Equinox is coming up, etc.

If I were coming from a more typical Protestant background in my conjure work, I would probably not be working with St. Gerard at all.  He’s not a household name in non-Catholic circles like St. Expedite is, and it might be more common to call on the angel Gabriel for fertility stuff in some circles, given his role in the Annunciation.

See, working with the saints is not actually shot through-and-through traditional Southern-style rootwork. I grew up petitioning the saints and dressing the Infant of Prague in fancy robes and putting the baby Jesus statue in the arms of the Joseph statue and putting a crown of woven flowers on the Virgin Mary statue in May. But I grew up in a rare family – a deep-South Catholic family. Outside of those areas like Louisiana where Catholicism was everywhere, there actually aren’t all that many Catholic rootworkers, and of the thousands and thousands of saints that the Catholic church recognizes or has recognized, only a small handful are widely known in hoodoo. That’s why it’s pretty easy to find out what day folks might set a light for love drawing in general, but not so easy to find out what day folks might set a light to a Catholic saint that hasn’t quite made it into the “mainstream” like St. Expedite has. It’s hard to find “the rules” on days to set saints’ lights in conjure because there are no rules.  You will find differences in how novenas to even popular saints like St. Expedite are handled, some folks saying Wednesday, some Sunday, etc, some a red candle, some a blue candle, etc.

[2] The word “virile” itself comes from the Latin word meaning “man,” so when I say courage/battle/strength are “masculine” attributes, I’m being etymological here, not sexist.

working with Maria Dolorosa, cont.

Ref. terminology, I’ll say this, though you all probably know it.

Maria Dolorosa — lit. Sorrowful Mary
Mater Dolorosa — lit. Sorrowful Mother
Virgen de Dolores — lit. Virgin of Sorrows
… and then there’s the English Our Lady of Sorrows etc.

The image frequently encountered for Our Lady Maria Dolorosa is the one in my icon – you can see the Mexican Catholic influence if you look carefully; she’s surrounded by milagros and that sword is really Spanish-looking.

If you’re Catholic, you’ll pray the Hail Mary, which I’ll reproduce for non-Catholic readers.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

And there are plenty of prayers to choose from in the Catholic tradition, some specific to Our Lady of Sorrows. There’s even a special rosary, which looks different than a regular five-decade rosary, for counting a set of prayers that deal specifically with Mary’s Seven Sorrows (technically a chaplet and not a rosary, but anyway). (I ought to make one of those one of these days.)

If you’re working with her, like many do in folk practice, for healing from sorrow and disappointment, especially in love, or maybe for drawing a healthy love into your life, or for nourishing broken dreams, then you will probably want to focus on the Sorrowful angle rather than a straight-up Hail Mary by its lonesome. 

If I were calling on her for help with keen disappointment, for example, I might say a prayer like this one:

Pray for us, O most Sorrowful Virgin, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen. Lord Jesus, we now implore, both for the present and for the hour of our death, the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, whose holy soul was pierced at the time of your Passion by a sword of grief. Grant us this favor, O Savior of the world, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

In any case I would "talk to her," adding something about my own situation and petition.  The possibilities are nearly endless, and there are some very good Catholic resources out there in internet land.

I have no idea if anybody cares about medieval flower symbolism for Our Lady, so I’ll save it 🙂