Multi-faith service for Ukraine held at the U.N. church center

Global Prayers for Ukraine – Church Center for the United Nations -#73 – Image credit: Isaac Humphrie

NEW YORK – Thursday afternoon, hundreds of faith leaders participated in Global Prayers for Ukraine: a Multi-faith Service for Peace and Freedom in a Hurting World, a hybrid event held in person at the United Nations and live-streamed across numerous platforms.

The service affirmed global support for Ukraine as the country continues to be attacked by Russian forces. Participants included a voice from the Witchcraft community and drew from numerous religions. The gathering offered prayers for peace and a collective call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his bombardment of the Eastern European nation.

“Our presence is important, especially to Pagans in Ukraine and the Balkan states who are increasingly at risk,” said Wiccan Priestess Phyllis Curott in a statement she issued Tuesday about the crisis. She represented the Pagan community at the confab, which was co-sponsored by the Parliament of World’s Religions and The Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations.

Program Chair of last year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions and the author of several best-selling books, Curott has long advocated for the inclusion of Witches and Pagans on the global religious scene. Curott offered prayers to the Slavic Mother Goddess Mokosh at the event.

“She’s very much a patron goddess of Kyiv,” Curott explained via email. “A statue of Mokosh was erected around 1,000 CE by Vladimir the Great at a sanctuary in Kyiv. She’s still a very potent presence, openly worshipped in the 19th century, and still, a potent acknowledged giver of life.

“She’s one of the ancient ones, the spinner of the threads of life, so she also has a connection to death when she cuts the thread. But she is the life force, embodied by the land. She’s also the protector of women, especially during childbirth.”

Mokosh holds immediate relevance as Russian troops continue their advance into Ukraine and a humanitarian crisis both inside the country and on its borders increases by the hour. The Russian military’s movement can be slowed or stopped by adverse conditions, and the goddess’s name is directly tied to those elemental forces.

“The root of her name seems to be wet, wetness – not rain but the moist, rain-softened Earth of spring in particular,” Curott explained. “I have been honoring Mokosh and beseeching her to unleash her powers – to soften herself, the Earth, with water, to become mud and more mud to trap the caravans, the tanks, the trucks and to make them unable to move their wheels and gears, keeping them bogged in mud. For fog to fall her cape across the land and shield the cities, the towns, the people. so that bombs cannot be sent nor hit their targets. For the rains to fall and the rivers to flood and bridges to fall. For her cloak to shelter her children from terror and death.”

Reports estimate hundreds dead in recent blitzes on Ukrainian urban centers. The number of Ukrainian refugees is estimated at 1 million, with those tolls continuing to grow. Negotiations continued between Russian and Ukrainian officials earlier this week, reaching an agreement on a humanitarian corridor.

Despite this, French President Macron spoke to Russian President Putin and warned thereafter “the worst is yet to come,” highlighting the urgency for the multi-faith gathering and peace efforts. With civilian homes being bombed and no breakthrough for a general ceasefire, the plight of the people of Ukraine remains on the minds of many.

“They are brave, brave, brave,” Curott said. “And so the other work is to send them courage, and strength, and as much safety around them as we can.”

Undeterred in her activism, Curott believes that a gathering of so many religious leaders can be a model for efforts to stop the conflict. That dedication to intergroup relations and understanding, when combined with humanitarian advocacy and spiritual authority, has helped her blaze a trail in building bridges between the magical community and dozens of faiths worldwide.

Phyllis Curott at Global Prayers for Ukraine – #48 – Image credit: Isaac Humphrie

“My prayer followed the reading of the statement of Pope Francis by Father Bob Flannery,” Curott said. “Parliament of the World’s Religions trustee and a very wonderful and gracious man who was quite composed about being followed by a Wiccan priestess offering prayers to the Great Mother Goddess of Ukraine for her people. So, in the midst of chaos and devastation, we see that human beings who once were antagonists make peace.”

In the meantime, violence continues around Ukraine, including a near-devastating fire at a nuclear facility last night. Fears persist on the streets as people find shelter in subway stations and apartment building basements. Despite the Russian military being stalled in several places, they have reportedly seized several key cities in the last day after indiscriminate shelling and the loss of civilian lives, power and water in numerous locations.

“It’s a nightmare to watch the slaughter of women and children, the brutality and cruelty being rained down on the Ukrainian people by a psychopath and feel helpless,” Currott said in her statement. “What can we do? Donations to humanitarian efforts are important. Magic to protect and to sustain the brave Ukrainian people, magic to battle the forces driving these atrocities.”

All pictures taken by Isaac Humphrie during and after the service can be viewed online.