Table Talk: One Day In November. [Elementals/Angels, Life, Quantum Physics, Dogs’ Souls & More

20181114 TABLE TALK ONE DAY IN NOVEMBER

Have you ever thought about ritual and the need to go to certain locations, ever wondered about quantum physics, whether dogs have souls and other gnawing questions? Seven people did!

It had been a couple of months, but a few of us met earlier today in a local café, and as we ate croissants or pain au chocolat, and imbibed various types of coffee with seasonal syrups we sat back and talked about those lofty themes. We all aired our views, asked our question, all learned something from each other, and laughed a lot. It was a great time of deep and meaningful fellowship.

‘Learning life’s lessons is not about making your life perfect, but about seeing life as it was meant to be’. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

There was no set agenda, and what follows is a record of our ‘table talk’, albeit a brief outline of what followed.

Someone asked: So, is it important to go to specific places to perform a ritual?

Tadhg replied: Ah, the answer is no and yes. But I don’t think you would be happy with me if I left the answer just there.

In one sense, it isn’t important to go to a specific place to perform a ritual, because you could perform it, as a group or by yourself, anywhere, even in your house.

On many occasions I’ve used the caim and other ritual, and used visualisation with it, using my imagination to imagine being at that place in my mind. If intentionality is important, and it is, then a ritual in a substitute place, will suffice and be effective. So, if sending light and love to an area in need or of concern to you, to say, Chengdu in China, or to California, USA, or Jaipur in India, one doesn’t need to visit. A ritual, time set aside, somewhere else,  with time to visualise and imagine deeply is just as effective.

‘Ritual is able to hold the long-discarded shards of our stories and make them whole again. It has the strength and elasticity to contain what we cannot contain on our own, what we cannot face in solitude.’ Francis Weller

Having said that, there are times when it may be good to go to specific places, physically. For instances, I’ve been invited to a wedding, and to support the bride and groom I will attend, physically. And, it would be bad banners to stay away.  Other Druidic and Christian, and other faith celebrations do sometimes mean physical attendance is needed to show support, to give ‘out’ to others, and to ‘receive’ from them. For the benefit of others.

I went to Maen Lli in Wales to perform an Earth-Healing ritual, and in that case, I felt it necessary to actually go there to do that ritual, in part because it would mean something even deeper to me (or to others looking on). It was a kind of pilgrimage. So, it was mainly for my benefit in that case. But, being there, on that occasion, meant so much more.

Someone asked: So, what then are the important ‘ingredients’ to ritual, at the essential and deepest level?

Tadhg replied: Two major ‘ingredients’ are intentionality and sincerity, and those attributes I do believe, can change things.

In the strange, infinitesimally-small world of quantum physics/mechanics it is scientifically accepted that matter, at its deepest level, acts differently when it is observed by humans compared to when unobserved. The Universe changes the outcome depending on human input. Also, Carl Jung talked about the collective unconscious and the way it affects humankind, and perhaps in some way we are adding or changing this in some way by ritual at the deepest level.

‘If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.’ Attributed to Richard Feynman

I think it is not too great a step to imagine a changed outcome when ritual (done with intentionality and sincerity) is employed. Ofcourse, the outcome may be subtle, it may be delayed or work its way out in a way that we cannot perceive, but I do believe ritual (prayer etc) changes things.

Someone asked: Each of us sitting around this believe different things – some minor difference and some major. How do you reconcile this?

Tadhg replied: It could be that we’re closer to a unity of belief than we thought. For instance, which one of us holds the same kind of belief that we held, say, ten years ago?

I hope there has been some change because that denotes growth and a maturing. Anything else means no growth! So, our commonality is that we’re all on a journey the same journey, experienced in different ways. And, maybe we’re all at differing stages of development? And, that’s the area for fundamental comparison. It’s good to discuss with others their belief and ours, as in part, that’s how we grow together, if done in love – but if we discuss our individual changes and growth then we understand each other and the Universe a bit more than we would otherwise have done. Then, our task could be to build each other up, further, along our chosen paths.

’In essentials, unity; in differences, liberty; in all things, charity.’ Philipp Melanchthon

Also, where we have differences maybe they could be because of different words used, or seen as different metaphors of the same thing? You might see an angel, I might see an elemental, others might see a ghost? Who is to say what is more accurate?

What we can say is that each of us saw something awesome, unusual and other-worldly.

I might talk of the soul, others might use the term psyche, and yet others might use the word ‘atman’. A Jewish person talking of God’s bounty might refer to the miracle of manna and quail in the desert, whereas a Christian might refer to the first miracle at Cana – the changing of water into wine by Jesus. Others might tell the story of Brighid changing bathwater to beer to quench the thirst of weary travellers. All declare the provision of the Source of All.

‘The longer we listen to one another – with real attention – the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.’ Barbara Deming

We have more in common, and a closer affinity to each when we understand our fundamental beliefs, than we can at first imagine.

Someone asked: Do animals have souls?

Tadhg replied: That’s an interesting question. You will find a huge amount of research on this. Many mainline Christian denominations and many Jewish groups, and others, are adamant that only humankind have souls.

Rabbi Moses Cordovero,  a leading mystic in 16th-century, recognised that animals do have some kind of spiritual energy, which he calls nefesh heyuni, but his view was that it was not a soul in the conventional sense. Once the animal dies, nothing survives.

‘A Druid is likely, then, to acknowledge a tree, river or stone to have spirit, or soul, or consciousness. This consciousness is as different from human consciousness as a stone’s nature is different from human nature.’ Druid Network

However, Plato on the other hand believed that animals and plants possess souls, and he’s quite convincing, as were some of the saints of old.

It’s noteworthy that St Francis Paola called his pet animals by their names even after their earthly lives had ended. He apparently believed they continued to exist after their deaths. And let’s not forget St Francis of Assisi who preached to animals and creation for a reason. Why preach to them if they have no soul?

‘That is why such a person never ceases to pray also for the animals… that they may be preserved and purified’. St Isaac.

I am convinced that all animals, plants, indeed all of creation possess a soul and continue on – they live, they die or change and continue on, made new; and that’s part of my Druidic Christian (or Christo-Druid) belief.  I have no misgivings in blessing animals or any part of nature, or organising a ritual for animals’ healing etc, and have done so in the past, and infact I consider it a joy to do so.

‘And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Revelation 21.5a, The Book.

Someone asked: Earlier you mentioned ritual, and visualisation, but what about actions, what about action or work. Aren’t they necessary.

Tadhg replied: Another good question. Once you’ve experienced a ritual, or visualised or made a prayer request, there is usually a need to ‘do’ something allied to the ritual, visualisation or prayer.

If for instance I am concerned about the plight of those caught in the California fires and who need shelter, after a ritual, visualisation or prayer for them I might be led to ‘do’ something. Now that could be something connected with that situation and might involve sending money to the American Red Cross, but it could be something loosely connected with it, such as planting a tree (or sending money to a tree-growing charity) so that each time you look at, or think of, that tree you’ll remember those caught in the California fires.

‘You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons… When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.’ Kahlil Gibran

So, action or work may be needed, but it need only be loosely connected with what the ritual, visualisation or prayer was about, and it can be a token action and something achieved within minutes. Don’t ever feel you need do so much that is becomes a burden and troublesome. You may not be called or able to resolve the issue. Small efforts can reap huge benefits.

Conclusion: Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends in that café. Do stay in touch, do sign up to receive notifications of future articles. Also, the thought occurred to me to have ‘open’ or limited-number café events in London so that you might be able to savour the experience of ‘table talk’ if in/near to London?

Would you believe this is the 500th article I’ve written. Thank you for reading this, and for being loyal and reading my previous articles. Do stay in touch, even if it’s to say ‘hello’.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

The Work Of Re-Membering In An Age Of Forgetfulness

20181112THE WORK OF RE-MEMBERING

There are many stories that I can recall and will tell over the months ahead, as I have been doing, tales from my childhood of some meaning, stories told to me by my grandmother, stories that you might like to hear, but there are some stories I cannot tell.

Will you remember me
like the circled stones,
like the secret hills,
where you walk alone,
where the wind can speak ,
my other names,
like the air you breathe.
Will you remember me?

Roseanne Cash (Singer, and eldest daughter of the late, great, country musician Johnny Cash)

It’s not that I want to keep them to myself, but those are the stories where I only have a partial recollection. If I told them it would be like telling a joke to a friend but forgetting the punchline. Then, the reason for telling that joke, or for me telling that story to you will fail miserably because of insufficient data.

‘Apathy takes root when I refuse to remember that which I can ill-afford to forget.’ Craig D Lounsbrough

My memory, then, for those stories is faulty. I can only think of bits and pieces. Fragmentary. I cannot remember them in total.

The opposite to remember or re-member isn’t to forget, it is to ‘dis-member’. Those fragmentary pieces of story-data mean the story is dis-membered, and it’s in pieces, and cannot fulfil what it was originally designed to do.

Yes, the opposite to re-member is dis-member.

To dwell initially on the word ‘dismember’ is an interesting place to start. We all have an inkling of a dismembered relationship: the relationship that, in many ways, is in tatters between humankind and nature, between nation states, within nation states, between family and friends, and even within our own psyche. It is, some would say, sadly, ‘the human condition’. This is not to be overly negative, but it is what it is to be human (and being human is good), and it isn’t always the over-riding way things are.

‘I remember you-ooh
You’re the one who made my dreams come true,
A few kisses ago.

Frank Ifield (released in 1963, and I can remember it!)

If we forget our stewardship to nature, nature will be torn apart (or dismembered). If we forget our duty to one another we will disrespect others (and see them as ‘less’ than us). And, if we forget who we are, we will have a low opinion of ourselves and trouble may ensue as regards what we think, say about, and do to ourselves. Doesn’t much of advertising dwell on this today – you’re better if you buy our product, ‘this is the best a man can get’ etc. All examples of dis-membering.

But, the opposite to dis-member is to re-member.

To re-member, is to ‘repair’ that which is torn apart, broken, or dismembered. It is a putting back together again, to make whole. Remembering needs to take place, and taken to heart.

About two weeks ago I was in a wooded area of Plymouth attending a wonderful Samhain ritual. It was a time of remembering. In an age where many have forgotten about those that have ‘gone ahead’, our ancestors; when many have forgotten about the bounty of nature and the changing seasons; and when many have forgotten about That Which Is Bigger Than Us, a group of passionate and caring people, held a ceremony to re-member! Effectively they stood in a fragmented society, and in liminal space, a ‘thin place’, lived up to their calling of the work of re-membering that which was dis-membered.

‘The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living’. Marcus Tullius Cicero

Today (11 November 2018) is Rembrance Day in the UK and in Commonwealth nations, when many remember the time of the end of the Great War and all those that gave their lives in that, and subsequent conflicts. Some know it as Armistice Day. This article isn’t about those who sacrificed their lives in the defence of freedom, laudable though it is, and it is interesting to note that at his speech today the French President warned of the rise in nationalism and its dire consequences if we don’t remember, as a self-declared nationalist, who had forgotten the horrors of nationalism sat within earshot. If we don’t re-member the past, we will dis-member the present.

‘Man is a messenger who forgot the message’. Abraham Joshua Heschel

Today, we re-membered.

This evening, I was at a small church, that had a deeply-moving communion service. At one point Scripture was recited. It was that part I especially like – the anamnesis, a kind of -reliving the moment as if transported ‘there’ – when the words, ‘Remember this…’ were spoken. Though we are many, we are essentially one, though seemingly dis-membered, in that act of receiving bread and wine together, and taking it to heart, in a deeply spiritual and effective way, we were re-membered. Re-joined. Made whole.

A couple of years back I had a ‘stall’ at the London area Festival Of Mind, Body and Spirit, and so too the year before, when I had met Samantha who was visiting and was/is a very spiritual author, and a good one at that. I saw her last year and as she came up to the ‘stall’, I greeted her by name. ‘Hello, Samantha, it’s really is good to see you again’, I said. ‘Ah, you remembered me!’, she said and smiled.

Re-membering is required, and when we do remember people great things happen. Friendships start. Parts of a relationship are put back together. The member parts become one!

If we forget about nature, we dismember it, and one of the consequences of that is global warming. If we re-member nature, good things can and do take place. If we forget about people we effectively dis-member them or any relationship we had. But, if we re-member people then the potential is there for a thriving relationship. If we forget about ourselves and who we really are, then we dis-member ourselves and don’t function as we should. But if we re-member who we are – remember our Source-given status and calling – then we function as we should.

‘For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost’. Frederick Buechner

One of the reasons I am a self-declared Christo-Druid or is it a Druidic-Christian is that both ‘camps’ remember, or, when they take it to heart, they re-member’.

In any religion or belief system it is easy to operate at the surface-level, and doesn’t the world like that? It might be Winter Solstice or Christmas Day, but if I only go for the ‘externals’ then I miss the true meaning of it. Much better to go for the externals (so I’m not against giving gifts) and take to heart the deep and real meaning, or re-member it. Not just remember it, but re-member it: put the whole thing together as one and not just consider the parts of the festival I might like.

And, it is for that reason that I like it when people join small groups, groves, thriving churches and other groups, and are passionate about what they believe, because in a fragmented society they will  have a positive effect, because they are doing the valuable work of re-membering. That’s their calling, its our calling, isn’t it?

‘Remember your connection with the cosmos. Remember your connection with the infinity and that remembrance will give you the freedom.’  Amit Ray,

All About Holly: Now The Holly Bears A Berry…

20181109 ALL ABOUT HOLLY

There was a specific time of the year when, much younger than I am now, I would wistfully sit at a window in my grandmothers’ cottage, perhaps kneeling on a chair so that I could comfortably look out, and I would wait. At the time of the year when night came early, I would gaze, for hours, looking at the trees and nearby bushes shrouded in white, in a seeming coating of cotton wool because of the first snowfall. I wait to be told that I could go outside. Yes, I would wistfully look out of the window at that wonder, landscape-changing snow, and for a reason.

My grandmother was a patient woman, and as a wee lad of six years of age, I was anything but patient, but I waited, because I wanted my first encounter, that year, with December snow to be extra special.

And then, having wrapped herself in layers, and I had donned an outdoor coat, and wellington boots, and a woolly hat, she would lead the way, and hand in hand we ventured forth.

As she opened the outside door, the warmth of the kitchen gave way to an icy, cold, and very refreshing breath of fresh air. It took my breath away. We had stepped over the threshold and, as our feet made a ‘scrunching’ sound as we compressed snow underfoot, it was as though we had entered another, liminal realm.

It was an annual event: to collect holly for indoor decoration at first snowfall in December, and it was something that I liked to do, even at that young age. My grandmother was the one to wield the secateurs, and my mission was to collect the holly branches and twigs that she gave me, and to carefully transport them back to the cottage.

And the first tree in the greenwood
it was the holly.
Holly! Holly!
And the first tree in the greenwood
it was the holly!

At the farthest end of the long garden, near a brook that marked the boundary, there was usually a huge amount of holly to be had. My grandmother would take her time, inspect the holly as I waited beside her, and I admit I would be rather impatient by then. But, it was a though she was lost in thought for a time.

Could it be that my grandmother was saying a prayer before cutting off holly twigs?

Was she asking permission?

Was she thinking of which bit would best suit her need for decoration?

There are some today, and certainly in ages gone by, who would say a prayer before lopping off part of a tree. And, why not? We live in an age when loggers can fell many trees in an hour, but there is something precious in taking time in giving thanks to the Great Provider for what we harvest from nature, and that includes holly. To take time, to pause, to extend gratitude is vital.

There are some who believe that each part of creation has its own soul, and some who believe only humankind possesses a soul. But isn’t there something special in taking time to acknowledge that life exists in many forms, and though it might be necessary to take from nature, it is also right to consider, and ask? Soul or no soul, such a practice would guard against the thoughtless use and misuse of nature and her resources.

Ofcourse, my grandmother could have just been thinking which holly twig was best for the purpose of indoor decoration.

That tradition of holly cutting persisted for many years, and even as a teenager I would want to be involved. And, as time went by, I asked her what she was doing, each time she was about to cut some holly?

It seems my grandmother was doing all those things: giving thanks to the Source of All, seeking permission to cut holly and so ensuring that each piece of holly was considered from nature’s perspective, and also thinking about how best to usefully use that holly. It was a three-fold practice that was instilled in me from a certain age, and for which I give thanks.

And so, she cut the holly and I would carefully carry it back to the cottage. That evening she would further cut the holly, and she and I would fashion it and make holly wreaths, or place the holly over or around the hearth, and make ‘holly triangles’ to stand on tables, bookshelves and shelves, or near beds to ensure good dreams and/or a good nights sleep, or for wisdom.

From my grandmother’s stories at that time of year (about December) I heard about the Holly King and the vying for supremacy (ie the struggle between light and dark, the Oak King and the Holly King, and how summer gives way to winter, only for winter to give way to summer). The Holly King was ‘born’ each year but his role was that of a sacrificial king. He would live for a while, many would benefit, and then die, only to be born once more. A very liminal time, indeed.

Now the holly bears a berry
as red as the blood

Holly wreaths were also used during the ancient festival of Saturnalia, celebrated by the Romans on 17 December but, later changed to 23 December to coincide with winter solstice. At such times there would be much feasting, revelry, and gift-giving. Sounds familiar? Saturn was the Roman god akin to the ancient Celtic Holly King, and subsumed by some into Christmas Day celebrations and the awesome the story behind it: A child born to die (and wasn’t that the significance of the myrrh – an embalming oil, the symbol of death?). As well as being called the holly, its is also known as the hulm tree, the holy tree, and (with Easter in mind) Christ’s thorn.

Now the holly bears a berry
as black as the coal

Whichever account, myth or story you subscribe to, something awesome happened in ancient times, and it continues, even today! It is a great event that spans time and space, and even different cultures, religions and belief systems, albeit told in different ways; and it is one that enjoins the use of the holly in an annual ritual and celebration as the darker days of the year approach. Holly is that important as a reminder and more!

Now the holly bears a berry
as white as the milk

It is also said that carrying holly can rekindle desires, and hung over a bedpost it will rise the marital ‘life force’. Ofcourse, many would regard this as superstition, and yet still seek a kiss by raising a piece of mistletoe aloft! Ofcourse, it’s just for fun. Or, is it only fun? Is there something more?

Holly was, and is used by some, to seek protection. Brought into the house, the house and family would be protected. The same protection would be afforded by placing a holly wreath on the front door of the house. Oh, the things we do today even without realising it. But, don’t stop! It’s that time of the year.

And so, at that young age of six, I had enjoyed my first snow fall of that year, had been productively engaged in collecting holly (and later on, cutting – yes, there was an age I reached when I would be trusted to use the secateurs) and fashioning it into various ‘tools’ of protection etc and wonderful seasonal decorations to celebrate that time of the year (however I interpreted it then, and now).

Holly has many uses and many meanings, and though each person reading this may have his/her own view, it is without a doubt a versatile and ‘deep’, thought-provoking shrub, and full of ‘magic’, and at this time of the year it is a timely reminder of darker days ahead in winter, and that the circle turns.

 

Deep Calls To Deep: When The Caim Becomes Kything

20181107 WHEN THE CAIM BECOMES KYTHING

And so, they called to the Quarters. In a forested area, about thirty people, firstly, faced and addressed the east, then turned to face the south, then the west and then, finally, the north. Through ritual, through intentionality, a circle of power had been formed. A type of caim now existed.

’I live my life in growing orbits which move out over this wondrous world. I am circling around God, around ancient towers and I have been circling for a thousand years. And I still don’t know if I am an eagle or a storm or a great song.’ Rainer Maria Rilke

The circle is important. Within the circle of the caim there is power and potential: things happen. Sometimes the caim can be a physical circle in which a practical ritual takes place, usually for a group. On many occasions the caim can be used by just one person, and then the caim starts with a physical circle and then as one mediates one goes on an ‘inward’ voyage.

The caim has many uses, and have been the theme of previous articles. See here for one example.

And so, on this occasion of a solo event, I wanted to go ‘inward’ to bless someone in a special way. The way of blessing is many and varied, and usually there is no need for elaborate ritual, but on this occasion the decision the person in mind, a dear friend, was to make was so important to them that I felt I wanted to do a little more.

And so, the caim sprang to mind.

The caim can be a simple but powerful, and effective ‘circle’ ritual that moves one ‘inwardly’ to that inner sacred place, that place of communion, le pointe vierge – the virgin point, that which is at the centre of our being at a point of ‘nothingness’, untouched by illusion.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field, I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi

Many, today, for sole event caims, use a minimalist three-stage approach to the caim at least in the beginning of their caim practice. This is:

  •  making a caim and
  • using a prepared ‘set’ prayer, or liturgy, or creative visualisation, and
  • closing the caim and an act of ‘earthing’ it.

Once in that ‘inward’ meditative state, in my mind’s eye I visualised a protective ‘bubble’ around me, in a ‘sea’ of stars, unseen to others. The caim is a circle, but in three dimensions it can be viewed as a sphere, a ‘bubble’.

‘When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.’ Matthew 6:6, The Book

In that secret place I imagined this friend as outside the caim ‘bubble’ I was in, and a short distance away. And then, as I looked in that direction, to my surprise, I imagined them to be in a similar ‘bubble’. Astounding. Could it be that at times when we intend to use the caim for others, that our spirit can communicate with their spirit, and at such times their spirit (unknown to them) is also embraced with a caim, a bubble, a ‘shield’ of power and potential for them (even if they are physically unawares)?

Not wishing to be distracted from sending power, light and love to assist this friend in their impending I wondered briefly. Usually, I wouldn’t let any other thoughts distract me at a time like that, but on this one occasion I did allow thoughts to flow.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the second world war. Seeing the horrors around him, he was sustained by the loving connection he felt between his wife and himself. Though physically separated by thousands of miles, he felt a close, spiritual connection. In that concentration camp he wrote:

‘As my friend and I stumbled on for mile, slipping on icy sports, supporting each other time and time again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise’. Viktor Frankl

In that caim I saw my dear friend though many miles away, in that imaginal realm, which some may believe to be real, whilst others may believe it is unreal. I believe the former. And, my friend, too, inhabited a caim, a circle. Viktor Frankl’s experience was indeed a spirit-to-spirit presence, and I do believe that the caim can, in some cases, also be used in such a way – for spirit-to spirit encounters of the imaginal kind.

Have you ever been in someone’s company and come away knowing more about them than what they have just spoken about?

Have you felt that you have got close to someone, closer that just words have permitted, but at a soulish or spiritual level?

And, have you had the experience where you may have met someone for the first time, or perhaps have known them for some time, and just knew that words were not needed, and just basked in a knowing silence?

These are examples of the kind of encounter I’m referring to. A spirit-to-spirit, deep calls to deep, encounter. Kything?

Roger Gerard calls this kything. Kything, then, is like spiritual intuition involving another person. It is a going beyond being present to their body, emotions, mind, to something altogether deeper, more mysterious and fundamental. When you kythe you are in touch with the spirit or soul of another. Some may say this encounter is very real, others would say it is metaphorical. I believe the former. But in any case, if it is metaphorical and viewed as not real in substance , and we view the encounter as a prayer or well-wishes etc, isn’t intentionality the all-important factor here? If so, in either case is it is acceptable, and still worthwhile, and remains a powerful strategy.

Later, I continued with the caim and sent energy, light, love, power, and prayer to that person in need, seeing them in my imagination, and in a new and vital way because of this caim event.

But after coming back to physical space (but do we ever leave that sacred space/time?) and ‘grounding’ myself, and opening my eyes, I couldn’t but help think further about kything and its benefits to you and I, and will write on it further, soon.

‘With kything, you may also work through forgiveness for a past offence even I that person is no longer physically accessible, either because of…distance…or refusal to meet.’ Louis M Savary and Patricia H Berne

Surrounded By A Great Cloud Of Witnesses…Thoughts About Samhain 2018

20181102 GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES THOUGHTS ABOUT SAMHAIM 2018

I’m back at Capel Curig in north Wales just for two or three days. The weather is changing, and the mornings and evenings are particularly cold, and I love it.

At this time of year, mist rolls off the mountains in the distance and as you walk about so water droplets cling to the skin and clothes almost unawares. It’s a wonderfully refreshing experience: in essence I’m walking in a cloud of a myriad water particles.

Near the end of my garden is an old gnarled elder tree. It lives up to its name. It must be the oldest tree around here by far, it is an Elder elder. Underneath its branches there’s a bench seat, and that is where I am now, with the sun about to rise, sitting, embraced by a cloud, somewhat cold but enjoying it, pondering the last few days.

‘For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone….Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life’. Herman Hesse

The sacred elder tree is, by some, thought to be the home of the Elder Mother, and as guardian of the tree she is a type of genius loci, the spirit of the place. In Germany the elder tree is also sacred and associated with Frau Holda, who, it is said, brings the souls of unborn babies from that place where they initially reside, to soon-to-be-pregnant mothers, and looks over and protects both. I like that idea. Each one of us still has the Elder Mother or Frau Holda looking out for us, or perhaps she is known by another name to some? Our guadian angel, perhaps?

Yes, the elder tree is a gateway, a prompt, between realms and is about life.

It is said that sleeping beneath the elder tree might result in access to the other realm(s) in dreams, though in Ireland caution was employed as it was said that, sometimes, one could be physically transported by the fae – yes, bodily ‘away with the faeries’!

But, I’m not sleeping, just meditating deeply, day-dreaming about the last few days, and the happy memories I have. I’m content.

With my eyes half closed, and now quite warm (layers, always wear layers when it’s cold), and being quite comfortable on a well-worn bench seat, with the tree trunk forming a back rest, I go even deeper into my thoughts, and the physical world seems, momentarily, less of a priority.

Ah, wonderful thoughts bubble up, and my heart really does leap for joy.

Samhain is the end and the beginning, and the last year has been wonderful. That’s not to say it has been one long peak experience for me, for family and friends I know. It has been a challenge in part. Some of you will know that what I joking called ‘man flu’ last March turned out to be pneumonia, which resulted in eleven days in hospital. A tough, painful time, but joy, real joy. Our joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances but on our response. True, I’d rather not repeat that experience of pneumonia but I learned from it, and was introduced to the wonderful UK NHS ‘free at the point of need’ health care service, and the ‘angels’ who staff it. A cause for joy!

‘Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day’. Henri Nouwen

Looking back, a time of reflection can be very cathartic, but Samhain is also about looking ahead. The year ahead will, no doubt have its ups and down for you and me, but my prayer is that we seek out the good and learn in all things, and respond with joy.

Deeper thoughts bubble up as I sit here. Samhain is that time when we think of the ancestors, that time when the veil is unusually thin and the Other Realm is palpable. In days of old, and as a great story-telling time around the village or camp fire, many would be told of spirits crossing over, and it’s from there that we get children (and adults), at Halloween, dressing as Frankenstein, zombies or ghouls. Yes, Hollywood has a lot to answer for, but its fun. But, at this time my mind wanders to the ancestors.

‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ Rumi

In my imaginal state I think of all my ancestors. To call it the family tree is apt, because that is what is must look like – and if we form branches, then those that went before form thicker branches, and the trunk and even the roots. We’re here because of them. Co-incidentally (if such a concept exists) the elder tree behind me groaned as a sudden gust of wind caught its high branches. And, then my thoughts turn to my late parents – my dear mum and dad, and Colin my brother who died at birth, and grandparents and others who have ‘passed on’, and I am flooded with gratitude for them all. I am comforted knowing that they, and others, are in the Summerlands, in Jannah, in Valhalla or Fólkvangr, Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress), or heaven.

Ofcourse, from my understanding of theology the ancestors are always with us – but ceremonies and times such as Samhain are useful reminders.

And, still my mind wanders. Ah, Samhain celebrations.

A week ago I was in the Portsmouth area for a meeting, and it was my privilege and joy to witness a Samhain celebration, there. One always hopes that in going somewhere new, in passing through, one is always included in a ritual, and that certainly was the case there.

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight…’ Hebrews 12.1a, The Book

I was greeted by a wonderful group of people at Hilsea Lines, was encouraged to fully participate (as much as I wanted), and witnessed an awesome, moving and great, relevant celebration, with people who were passionate about what they were doing – and when one or two needed prompting, others were supportive and loving, and a little bit of laughter ensued, but, ’laughing with’ and not ‘laughing at’. In my mind, as I recollect that rather cold day, last Sunday, I experienced warmth and love, inclusion and acceptance. And, yes, one could feel the ancestors there, looking on, joining in. It was a wonderful, deep, thought-provoking celebration.

Just as we are connected to our ancestors, so we are connected to each other.

‘When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.’ John Muir

And so, with the sun peeking above the horizon, I open my eyes, and walk back to Ty Gwin, my little cottage, for breakfast. As I do, so that cloud of water droplets collects in my hair, on my skin, and on my clothes, so much so, that by the time I enter the boot room of the cottage, ‘I’m fair soaked’. Surrounded by invisible droplets of water in that cloud that I walked though I got wet. As we go through life, and Samhain is a good reminder, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, the ancestors. We are all connected in space and time, and in ‘realmic’ ways we can only now imagine.

Wonderful Samhain, All Souls/All Saints Day.

Tadhg,On The Road To Portsmouth: Samhain, Land-Healing & More

20181025 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO PORTSMOUTH

I am a man on a mission. I’m now in Portsmouth (in England), and despite a need, earlier, to call the car break down service, and whoever thought that the immobiliser on the car would immobilise without a care, delay the journey by ninety minutes, and be rectified by a step that, with the appropriate computer ‘strapped’ to the car engine was as simple as ‘turning it off and turning it on), my view about this weekend began to change, but I’m here.

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air (Elvish translation). Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it…. The Lord Of The Rings 

The mission?

This weekend I aim to conduct yet another small ritual regarding the healing of the land, but also will meet some rather interesting people and witness their Samhain event this Sunday.

I have now conducted two rituals, spoken the same words twice, and buried a small rock of rainforest Jasper in two locations. This weekend the ritual, the words, that action with a small rock of rainforest jasper will take place in Portsmouth, and it is both, indeed, exciting and necessary.

Is it necessary to travel to special or sacred places, is it a ‘must’? 

I don’t believe it is necessary. The good work of healing the land can be done by anyone reading this, wherever they are. Intentionality, is important. But sometimes, when an effort to travel isn’t made, sometimes we forget to do that event. Too easy, and the needs of daily living crowd in  and drown out our good, proposed works. Perhaps, that’s one reason why travelling to special  places – such as Portsmouth, for me – can be beneficial. There are none of the usual daily interruptions.

In conducting this ritual my mind is unsettled  because there is a genuine and real need to heal this land (of the United Kingdom, but isn’t it the same elsewhere?). It is not only the physical land that is sick (and made worse by fracking and a general disdain for all that is green in the pursuit of corporate greed), but there is a sickness in our institutions.

Doesn’t it feel like things have changed? That does seem to be my perception. Oh, they always have been changing, little by little, but now it seems more so, or that we’ve crossed some invisible ‘line’ and have lost something. The world is changed.

People are worried. People are seeking. People are asking questions. What do you think?

This ritual will encompass the thought that healing is needed in the land of elements, and healing is needed in the realm of human affairs and activity. This isn’t a rant about Brexit (which is actually something I am most worried about, and desire the least), but about admitting that there is a need for something to change and it has to start with us. 

‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.’ Mahatma Gandhi

Our rituals, sacred words and actions, our prayers, positive energy, light and love, our visualisation and imaginal times, are the best place to start, can reap wondrous effects, and can (and some might say,  should) lead to (physical) action in the world to promote peace in its widest and fullest sense.

‘Where there is no vision, the people perish….‘ Proverbs 29.18a, The Book

For many Druids and others Samhain (pronounced soh-uhh) marks the death of one year and the beginning of the new year. If so, what is your vision for the new year?

Whatever good things you have committed to do in your life, in large ways and small, in healing the land, Samhain is a good time to (re-)start. Your ritual, sacred words, imaginal visualisations, your prayers and positive-energy sending, may seem odd, unfamiliar or seem even small, but it is a start, and we have more power at our disposal than we can ever imaginal. And, then action – the need to put our thought into action – is imperative.

I am sitting in the bedroom of a person who, a few hours earlier, I didn’t know (and thank you Airbnb), having been ‘rescued’ earlier by two car breakdown staff, and will this weekend meet some fine people and witness a Samhain event with them,  and cannot but wonder: the working today for a common, good, goal, the serving of each other in love, and being there for each other, the working out of something new has already started.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now…[and] even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption… Romans 8.22-23 (part), The Book.

Change is in the air, we can feel it. But, just as a new life rises from the embers of the burnt Phoenix, as the Paschal Triduum shows us that that darkest Friday was eclipsed by Easter Sunday, just as a woman enduring a painful labour will give birth to new life, so we be can be part, no actually we are, part of something wonderful, already. Sometimes to get a better view of what is happening we need not use our eyes.

Ofcourse, this is not to minimise the stresses we find in the land, in human institutions and in our daily, individual lives,  but a reminder that sometimes it is often darkest before the dawn. In many cases we just need a different perception.

Samhain is that time, ‘borrorwed’ by some who will dress up and trick or treat for Hallow’een, when we think of the ancestors. Who they are, where they are will change from one persons view to another. Perhaps, sometimes we are all in need of a change of perception. Even then, in thinking of the ancestors, I try to imagine a tree and look back at all the ancestors I know, realising that someone in a hundred years time may do the same and then I’ll be included in their family tree as they look back, and so, in my mind’s eye I turn to look to the future and imagine them. I know that may seem crazy to some, but I enjoy that exercise, and do believe the way forward is in a change our perception in our daily lives, our land and land use, and in our human institutions.

[Humans] ‘look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then, we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well: and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time…it would not look like a lot of separate things dotted about. It would look like one single growing thing- rather like a very complicated tree’. C S Lewis

 

 

Power & Practice: Blessing 101: When? Now? Are You Sure?

20181021 BLESSING 101 WHEN NOW ARE YOU SURE

Here are three accounts from my journal about blessing and awakening, which I believe may have parallels with your life, albeit the working-out may be different for all of us as individual Celts, Pagans, Christians, Druids etc. But, as regards the theme and nature of blessings, its timing, power and efficacy, do read on.

‘A blessing is the very soulfire made manifest’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Un/1
There was a time, many years ago, when I was, as they say, ‘wet behind the ears’. At the age of eighteen years and during the summer breaks between college terms I would assist in the church office. The church was a sleepy, little church, where nothing much seemed to happen, and if the telephone rang I was told it would probably be a utility company chasing an unpaid bill, in which case I was to make a note and pass it to the treasurer when I saw her next. It seemed like a good thing assisting in the office as it gave me something to occupy myself and meant I’d have some work experience, and it was a worthwhile summer endeavour.

At that time, my assistance was administrative only, that is until I found myself alone in the church office, and the telephone rang, and it wasn’t a utility company.

Caller: Hello, this is Charing Cross Hospital. May I speak to the Pastor, please?

Me: I’m sorry, he’s away on a church conference for the week. Is it something I can deal with?

Caller: Are the Church elders available?

Me: They are normally here at this time, but I’m afraid both are out of the office right now leading a service at a school at the moment. Could I be of assistance?

Caller: We have a male patient who is in a critical condition and is asking for someone to visit for prayer. Could you come quickly, please?

It was one of those ‘jarring’ moments when time seemed to stand still. I knew I had very little religious knowledge, certainly didn’t have any official church credentials, and yet here was a call, as it were, from out of the ether, a cry, a call for help by an unknown person who, I was told, was in a critical condition. Within the space of one second my mind seemed to come up with every possible disqualification not to attend that I could imagine, and yet I found myself saying, ‘I can be there in twenty minutes. Can you give me the details, please?’

Who can bless?

There were at least a dozen reasons for me not to go, but the only one that mattered was that someone’s life here on earth was about to expire, they had got the hospital to call on their behalf and fate, the universe, or God had ensured that that call had come through to me, and I didn’t want that person to die alone.

I got to the hospital, saw the middle-aged man in need in the critical care unit, introduced myself, took his hand, listened to him, prayed and blessed him. Ofcourse, there was more than that, as I left the ward sometime later I felt both concerned for that patient and yet quietly assured that I had responded appropriately.

Who can give a blessing? Well, as I was (then) part of an organised hierarchical group the leaders could and do bless. It’s true that they sometimes delegated on an ad hoc basis, but what was one to do in an emergency when they weren’t around? The answer in my mind is: any action based on love is acceptable, and indeed, necessary.

At that young age I was thrust into the heady world of life and death, hospitals and ensuring unhindered access in that time of emergency. Doors opened, and it was as if I had a companion beside me to empower me and guide me. I do believe the universe, my guardian angel, my favourite elemental, my coimimeadh, or God was with me that day. It was one instance of being nudged into awareness.

There is an account in the Book where Peter miraculously escapes from prison and goes to the house of Mary the mother of John. He knocks and Rhoda goes to answer the door. It’s almost comical in that she is so surprised, she leaves Peter outside.

It says: Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his [spirit, though some say, angel].” Acts 12: 13-15, The Book

Oh, you may have noticed the word coimimeadh? To ancient (Irish) Celts and Druids this is a mysterious being, an ‘other-us’. The coimimeadh (pronounced koym-imah) according to the Reverend Robert Kirk (writing in the seventeenth century) is our ‘co-traveller’. He thought that it is part of us (our soul), who walks beside us, generally, but sometimes can even go walk-about (in which case you, too, can be bi-locational).

We are guided into awareness and action by That Which Is Unseen, and this belief is global and spans may tribes, belief systems and cultures.

‘All blessings come from a single source: the soulfire of an intelligent love and compassion willing to give itself’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Who can bless? You and I can bless.

Dau/2
There was a time when, many years ago, when, at the age of nineteen I found myself clearing away things that had been used in the church service. The service had ended half an hour earlier, and there was no one was about, just me, or at least so I thought. It was late, a December evening, and it was pitch black outside and only minimal lights were now on in the worship area of this old, rustic, heavily stone-clad, somewhat dusty building. Dark shadows abounded within the building.

As I stepped onto the dais, the platform, there was a polite, somewhat high-pitched cough from the far row pews, and as I looked I could see the outline of a young lady in the shadows. Without wanting to act surprised, I slowly made my way to the back and politely asked if I could assist.

Person: I need a blessing.

Immediately I thought, how should one bless?

Me: Ah, I’m the only one here now. The Church leaders have now left but you could contact them tomorrow if you need. I can give you details.

Person: I need a blessing now. What’s to stop you blessing me?

Me: Nothing. Nothing at all.

For the next ten minutes this young woman spoke about a recent family tragedy of heart-rending proportions. All I could do was but listen as she unburdened herself. She took my hand and asked me to bless her. As I said the words, ‘Bless this young lady…’. She cried out, wailed loudly, rocked as she sat on that pew, and sobbed like a small child as her grief tumbled  out like a breach in a dam.

It was one of the moments that one just knew that what was needed was already being accomplished in the life of that young lady, even without (more) words. Who knows what was happening in the spiritual realm? More minutes passed by.

Person: I feel a little better, I have to go.

Me: I’m pleased I was able to help, but do ‘phone the Pastor tomorrow, please.

With that, she left.

‘Every time you create safety and reassurance where before there was fear…love where there is loneliness, comfort and encouragement where there was despair and depression, you are being a blessing.’ Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

How does one bless? It seems in many cases we are guided as we surrender to the moment, and sometimes just being there for someone, listening to them, is all that may be required.

Tair/3
Ofcourse, since that tender age the learning experiences of awakening have continued over the years. We never stop learning. We never stop experiencing, if we are open to new experiences.

There was a time, just a year ago, at the age of sixty-two years of age (yes, I am as ‘old as dust’), when I was sitting in a café in Clapham Junction, London, reading a great, deeply spiritual book, and as I sat at a high bench table that faced the huge pane of glass that allowed me to look out onto the busy high street, I had that feeling of being watched. I carried on reading the book and ‘endured’ the strange feeling for a few more minutes, then looked up and there, outside, looking at the cover of the book I was reading (it had a butterfly on in denoting new life) stood a middle-aged woman. I smiled, she smiled. At that was it, or so I thought.

My glancing up was only fleeting, and my eyes were soon buried back into that fascinating book. Except, that that feeling of being watch manifested itself, again. I looked up and looked out at the busy high street, but the woman had gone. Except, the feeling was still there. Yes,  she was now behind me.

Woman: I just had to come in because I was intrigued by the cover of the book you’re reading.

Me: Ah, It is a fascinating book.

Woman: What’s it about?

It was at this point that I was conscious of the fact that a few other people in the café had noticed the peculiar event and were also listening intently. Not one for being shy I explained as best as I could – without understating or overstating the book, trying to use everyday words so as not to seem from another planet, and yet try to convey the awesome spiritual nature of the book to the woman.

However, events overtook all this, and within a few minutes we were chatting, back and forth, sipping coffee and talking as though we had known each other for years. We must have chatted for about half an hour and then she left. She seemed to enjoy the conversation and got something from it, but it was as she left that I realised that I, too, had been greatly blessed by her and her uplifting and stimulating conversation.

What is a blessing?

A blessing is not meant to ‘impress but to touch and to connect. It could take whatever form would make that connection’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Who can bless? You can. How should one bless? In any appropriate way, being open to being guided by That Which Is Bigger Than Us. What is a blessing? It is whatever makes that soulfire connection manifest.

 

Ephemera: Harvest Full Moon: 24 October 2018: Meaning, Myth & More

20181017 EPHEMERA FULL MOON 24 OCTOBER 2018

There’s a full moon comping up.

We live in a remarkable universe. The solar system we inhabit sits on the outer spiral arm of the Milk Way galaxy, and the sun is an even-tempered star. We are on a planet that is within the ‘goldilocks zone’, that is, not too close to the sun to bake, and not too far away to freeze and make known life impossible. Ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others of old could only look up and gaze in wonder.

And yet the wisdom they possessed can teach us so much.

The planet tilts throughout the year, just enough to distribute temperature and ensure seasons; and we have a moon that, in astronomical terms, is very large compared to the planet (and because of that, some call it a companion planet, or a binary planetary system), and which harmonises with the Earth and ensures tides and weather systems. A wonderful stellar symbiosis.

It’s that moon, or rather the impending full moon on 24 October 2018 that we look at.

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?’ Unknown

The next full moon is on 24 October, and is known by some as the Hunter’s moon, or the Blood moon. To many Celts, Druids and others, myself included, it is known as the Harvest moon. It rises above the horizon (from a UK viewpoint) at about 6.20pm in the east on that evening, and climbs to its highest point at about midnight (and will be south-south-east by then).

This awesome Harvest moon will appear on the cusp of the constellation of Aries the Ram, and close to it (but maybe too small to be seen unless you’re using a telescope) is the planet Uranus which is about nineteen astronomical units away from us – one astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun – so it is nineteen times further away from us that we are from the Sun. Amazing.

‘The white light of the moon is infinitely gentle with the dark. It insists on no awakening or disturbance of colour except for the occasional illumination of the breaking wave…the rhythm of the tides…the red rhythm of the blood’. John O’Donohue

There is an ancient story about Arianrhod (pronounced ah-ree-ahn-rhohd), which is Welsh for ‘silver wheel’ or ‘silver disc’ and Arianrhod was, to those ancient Welsh tribes, a goddess, the personification of the moon.

One of many stories about Arianrhod, and perhaps not a noble one, forms part of the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Welsh myths, some dating as far back as the Iron Age.

This story tells of the goddess Arianrhod, daughter of a goddess, and niece to the Math the King of Gwynedd. She is forced to step over a magician’s rod to prove her virginity, and as she does so, she immediately gives birth to two sons; one called Dylan, the other who is eventually named Lleu.

Arianrhod is enraged at the humiliating virginity test that she had to endure and directs the anger she has for the men-folk towards one of her sons.

She places three curses over Lleu during his life: He shall have no name except the one she gives him. He shall bear no weapons except ones she gives him. He shall have no wife of the race that is now on the earth.

Her brother cleverly manages to trick her each time, dispelling all of her curses placed upon Lleu. Arianrhod then retreats to her castle Caer Arianrhod, and was later drowned when the sea reclaimed the land.

The sunken ruins of the island on which she is said to have lived, Caer Arianrhod, can be found off the coast of Dinas Dinelle, in North Wales. On a low spring tide this ancient relic can sometimes be viewed from the shore.

Many of you will know that I am an amateur astronomer, and so the moon especially is dear to me. But, I think I’m also a romantic and like to look beyond ‘the veil’, and about a year ago I wrote the following poem about Arianrhod.

Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
She befriends.

Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
A blessing.

Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.

And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.

So, this full moon my suggestion is for us to pause and gaze in awe at the moon, to revel in the thought that without it life on Earth would be very different and the planet might not have been inhabitable, and to ponder upon the One Who Flung Stars Into Space and give thanks. For me, as is my custom I will do the aforementioned, and ‘toast’ the moon and show gratitude to the One Behind It All with a sip (or three) of some really nice wine (and maybe pour some out as a libation).

Those ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others can teach us so much, and perhaps at this full moon we can pause and appreciate nature in its fullness, and be connected to those that have gone before us. Wisdom.

 

[The moon and star facts and header photo above are cited/used only because of my astronomical interest, a sky-map to locate the moon and planets relative to the constellations and using astronomical, scientific symbolism.]

With Samhain In Mind: Words of Power & Might

20181012 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND WORDS OF POWER AND MIGHT

With Samhain coming ever closer, that time when we, whether Christian (thinking of All Souls’ Night), or Druid, or Celtic etc, think of the ancestors and those who have ‘gone ahead’, and which also marks the beginning of winter, the echo from another age of tradition beckons us to pause, draw aside and to ponder deeply.

Here is another article, the second of a few in preparation for Samhain and winter, and this one includes relevant and lively liturgy that you might like to use in your own Samhain (group or solo) celebration, and it includes a song especially suited to the season.

‘Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.’ Hamza Yusuf

Samhain is a time to look backwards with gratitude, as we remember all those that have gone before us, and it’s a time to give thanks, and look forward.

Life, seemingly ‘defeated’, becomes alive once more (or undergoes a transformation, which appears to us as ‘death’). Nevertheless, the Circle turns, and what was (seemingly) dead is resurrected. It can be a tough time for some, so do be encouraging and supportive of them, but in essence it can be a time of great positivity, as we become (more) aware of the closeness of that other realm, and of the triumph of Life.

‘Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.’ Eckhart Tolle

With that in mind, you might like to consider using/adapting the following liturgy/prayers:

Early/Awaking Prayer:

Oh Hallowed Three In One,
as Autumn turns to winter,
may we see you more clearly in nature,
love your son-light more dearly today,
and follow you more nearly in all circumstances,
as the Circle turns.

Or

Ancestors’ prayer:

Maker of time and space,
who is in all things and yet ‘above’,
be with all souls this evening.
Be with those who have lived on earth and are now ‘at home’ in Bliss.
Blessings be to my/our ancestors.
Be with those who live on earth now and journey onward in differing circumstances.
Blessings be to them and me.
Be with those yet to come, who, also, are part of the great family of humankind.
Bless them, too.
Maker of all time and space,
in gratitude do all souls, past , present and future, praise you,
and bless you this night.

Or

Evening/Night-Shielding Prayer:

Hallowed Spirit come with compassion this night,
and look upon all souls.
Darkness falls at your behest,
and winter closes in,
and yet the Circle turns.
In the darkness the Everlasting light still shines
in our hearts.
A beacon of hope to all.

And then, there’s more!

However good your singing voice is, you might like to sing the following song (or use it as a poem or liturgy for your celebration). Remember, you don’t have to sing like the late, great Pavarotti or Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Don’t disqualify yourself. You can do it.

‘I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better’.  Maya Angelou

It is intentionality that is all important, and the Source of All smiles at our efforts and values them. So, deep breath, and dance as though no one can see you, and sing as though no one can hear you, and enjoy the ‘connectedness’ of the season.

Song: The Circle is turning

Verse:
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

Chorus:
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
I’m listening to the winter’s sacred rest.

Verse:
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The hope of spring, ye-et to come.

Chorus
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

The tune is ‘borrowed’ from a great and well-known traditional Irish Gaelic folk tune, Fear a’ Bhàta (The Boatman), see here for a link to the tune. It ‘fits’ the words quite well, but to give you a helpful prompt, for each verse and chorus above, the tune  starts at 10 seconds into the video and ends at 55 secs, with each verse/chorus, above, being a repetition of that.

‘No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.’ John Keating

Don’t worry about tune repetition, as many traditional Gaelic ballads were composed of simple, repetitive, but wonderful tunes.

And, finally…

If you want to (re-)read the first article in this Samhain preparation series and perhaps use that poetry in your own celebration, do check here: With Samhain In Mind: Winter Haiku.

Meanwhile, over the next two weeks there’ll be one or two more articles for Samhain and the start of the winter season to prepare you for an awesome celebration.

Much light and love to you and yours at this time, Tadhg

A Walk In The Woods: Liminality And Its Benefits. Three Stories

20181010 A WALK IN THE WOODS LIMINALITY AND ITS BENEFITS

The imagination of the Ancients taught them wisdom that is lost to many today. Ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans and others knew more than we can guess, and yet many of the practices they observed are open to us today. They were ‘connected’ in a way that is only just being (re-)discovered, and the benefits, especially as regards liminality are enormous.

It was evening and the sun was sinking behind Cadair Idris, that wonderful mountain at the southern end of Snowdonia in Wales, that I frequented a lot as a teenager. Cadair Idris means the ‘Chair of Idris’ and was the giant warrior poet of Welsh renown. But, it was the setting sun that caught my attention.

The air temperature was dropping considerably as I stood on the mountain side, and long shadows ‘overwhelmed’ me, as the setting sun took my breath away. As I gazed in its direction the sun changed colour, diminished in brightness, but it was awe that embraced me, and that was so overpowering.

‘I have a thing for doors. I always think of them as a threshold to something new’. Jada Pinkett Smith

Yes, it was a liminal moment, a threshold event, a peak experience, a door to something or somewhere else as some might describel it.

Many shy away from the word surrender, but witnessing that awesome event, with no real thought prevalent in my mind, I basked in silence, motionless at the experience. I was in awe, connected to the universe and all that is. I had surrendered to the event, the handiwork of the Source of All, and the Source of All was palpable to me in some strange, unexplainable way. And, it was good.

Indeed, a liminal experience. Just then, the thought of capturing the moment occurred and I reached for the camera hanging around my neck, lifted it, took aim and photographed that amazing sunset. At I gazed through the camera’s viewfinder my eyes welled up, as I realised that I had left that liminal moment behind. In trying to preserve that wonderful moment of connectedness, I had lost it. Gone.

It was a group event, a workshop, and the first exercise was for the group to close there eyes, and having mentioned centering, beforehand, each member of the group was asked to imagine a walk in an imaginal forest, a walk in the woods, that started in the corner of the room they were in. The forest had a defined path, it was evening and quite dark, but in the distance there was a light, and each group member was asked to, imaginally, walk towards it. The path led to a clearing, and there each member was encouraged to imagine themselves sitting on a bench in the middle of the clearing and just ‘be’. After ten minutes I asked them to journey back on the path, out of the clearing and back into the room.

‘There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception’. Aldous Huxley

This was the first exercise of the day and was an essential step to cover the wonderful themes on the days curriculum, but in sharing their imaginal journey, it was clear that this was, indeed, the first step of many. Some shared and described the wonderful forest they were in and related as to how, as they sat in that imaginal forest, it took them back to their childhood. Another, related how a bird’s song sounded like a mobile ‘phone and they they really must ‘phone an old friend. Another, recounted how they felt cold and a small wind was rustling leaves and wondered if the central heating was on at home, and so it went on.

The first exercise of that workshop (as it was meant to) showed how easy it is to fill our minds with thoughts – the monkey mind – when meditating or when on an imaginal journey, as that exercise was, and what could be a liminal event of ‘being’, can so easily turn into a non-liminal event of thinking or ‘doing’. We then ‘step out’ of that liminal time and so miss out, or worse, we fool ourselves into thinking that we have had a liminal event when it was only a liminoid event (a near miss, but not the real thing).

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

I was about nine years old, and my grandmother, having finished one of her amazing stories, looked at me and said, ‘It’s time for something a bit deeper, dear one. Time for an encounter’. The grandfather clocked had just chimed 7.30pm. ‘Good,’ she said, ‘No interruptions’.

She asked me to sit up, breathe regularly, close my eyes, and I did. She mentioned a few preparatory things to do, and then talked about a forest in the corner of the room, a walk in the woods, and asked me to imagine it, and to imagine that I was walking along a path. It was fun, and very easy for me to do – my childhood imagination worked ‘overtime’ at the best of times (and, still does!).

With my eyes closed, she asked me to imagine that I was walking towards a clearing, where there was a bench in the middle, upon which I was to sit, and do nothing else. I did as she asked, and in my mind’s eye saw an old stone bench in the middle of a large gap, a clearing in the trees. I approached it, and sat on it, and waited.

‘I looked for someone among them who would…stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…but I found no one’ Ezekiel 22.30 (part), The Book

A few thoughts arose, and a stirring in the undergrowth at the edge of the clearing caught my attention, but I knew that I wasn’t to hold onto these thoughts, but just let them go. I sat. Little or no grasping thoughts arose, and it seemed to get easier, and I waited patiently.

As I sat there, in that imaginal clearing, even the trees and the edge of the clearing seemed to dissolve and to become unimportant. Was I sitting or standing? No thought arose, as whatever I was, was (just) there. There was silence. There was darkness, or was it light? There was nothing.

Just then, I heard my grandmother’s pleasant and melodic voice call out to me. ‘Tadhg, it’s time to come back’, and she guided me to that path I had taken earlier. In my mind’s eye I was walking along that path and back to the room, and sat down’. You can open your eyes now, but do it slowly, little one’. She also ensured that I was ‘grounded’, and then told me to relax. I did.

She asked about my experience, but all I could say was that, during the few minutes of the exercise, nothing had happened. ‘Aha, then you encountered for sure’, she beamed.

‘Encountered what? And, why did it last only a few minutes?, I pleaded as if I had been short-changed by the experience.

‘The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough’. Rabindranath Tagore

‘Ah, those are good questions. Some believe they encounter elementals or their guardian spirit, others say that they encounter angels in silence and invisibly, and others say they encounter the Source of All. So, you did encounter Tadhg. You did’, she said. She was so pleased.

‘So, it’s like being in the company of a friend that you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t speak to, and can’t hear’, I said somewhat sarcastically, and looking a bit puzzled I think. ‘Exactly’, she replied, and laughed. ‘Exactly, so!’.

‘Then how do I know I encountered?’, I asked.

‘Well, you’ll know, you’ll just know, but usually always after the event’, she said in her lyrical Welsh accent. ‘The One you wanted to encounter is more eager to encounter you, so whether you know it or not, an encounter takes place,’ she continued.

‘What you seek is seeking you’. Rumi

Just then, the grandfather clocked chimed. It was 8pm. My grandmother gave me a knowing look! And smiled. She knew!

Even at that young age I was struck by the fact that that imaginal journey seemed to take less than five minutes, but it had, infact, lasted thirty minutes. I knew I had encountered. I knew I had experienced the liminal. Such thresholds are indescribable, take one’s breath away, affect us at a soul or spiritual level, and skew time, my grandmother later explained.

’But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.’ 2 Peter 3.8, The Book

As I look back, bearing in mind there have been numerous encounters, and I’m a regular traveller of imaginal journeys and meditation even today – I lead individuals in such imaginal journeys; both kataphatic and apophatic, but more of that soon – I often wonder, when time goes by so quickly in those sessions, what is actually happening? And at what level? Physical? Soulish? Spiritual? But, it doesn’t really matter. An encounter is an encounter, and it is beyond reason. It isn’t irrational, but ‘arational’. It is above and beyond, and it is good.

The benefits of such encounters, of which the accounts above are but one type, and there are many, are transformational. I would encourage you to undertake such imaginal journeys to encounter, and to be alone with the Alone.