At Cnoc nan Angeal Or Sitheon Mor: Lift Your Heart Into The Wind

20180219 AT CNOC NANA ANGEAL OR SITHEON MOR FOUR MONTHS ONIt is difficult to believe that it was four months ago that I was on the Isle of Iona, the Isle of Druids, an island frequented by Columcille, also known as St Columba, over a millennia and a half ago.

With a longing to go back there, I set foot on Iona after a long gap of many years, and it felt like a home-coming. The desire to go there, was not a superficial visit to mark it as one more item ticked off my ‘bucket list’, but I believe the response to a deeply-ingrained inner longing etched onto the fabric of my soul. Have you been so called?

And on, or about this day four months ago I was walking around a grassy mound near Iona’s south-westerly beach.

This mound probably some fifty feet across and thirty feet high, is easy to overlook. And yet, it is so significant. It is known as Cnoc nan Angeal or The Hill of Angels, and to some it is also known as Sitheon Mor or the Hill of the Fae (the Fairy Hill).

However we view it, whatever we call it, it is a place of deep connection, another ‘thin place’ on an island that is itself a ‘thin place’.

I walked around the base of this mound, for no other reason than to ensure that, having entered the paddock by climbing a small fence, that I wasn’t sharing the field with a hefty Angus bull that might become angry at my intrusion. I was safe. There was no bull.  And knowing that, I climbed the small hill, paused and could then go ‘deep’ into matters spiritual and inhabit the place. What a privilege we all share.

‘…a ‘thin place’, the palpable presence of the Other in this place, time or event’

Columcille, it is said, often climbed this small hill to commune with angels. Others before him stood on that very hill-top, where my feet now pressed, and spoke with elementals, the fae and others. It is a place of energy and light, a place where the unexpected can occur, and if a place can exude peace and love, then Cnoc nan Angeal or Sitheon Mor can.

But, why was I standing there?

A Calling! A longing to do so, an echo from some distant land that I used to know, and to which I will return. We will return. Within each of us there is a longing etched into our very souls, woven into the very warp and weft of our being. A longing of self-discovery and transformation, a longing to know our true identity, a longing to ‘find’ our task in life, a deep longing to ‘be’.

‘We are homesick most for the places we have never known.’ Carson McCullers

This longing is there in all of us. Maybe it is buried under the weight of many years of material living and busyness. It’s time to revisit that longing. Such longing may be long-forgotten, bedazzled by the ‘bright lights’ of self-imposed habits that now seem to be ‘creaking’ or collapsing. The longing is still there. Can you hear longing, deep within you, calling out to you?

As I stood, four months ago, on that hill top where Columcille stood, I heard the wind and the birds, the nearby sea pound coastal rocks. I felt the wind, and rain and sea-spray, and then there was nothing. No-thing. And yet, everything! Without the need for dictionary or translator, as I stood there, windswept, alone (or was I?), and I was immersed in the song of the ages, and my soul sang back!

Perhaps, communing with angels or the fae or others, at that location (and indeed everywhere else), isn’t about hearing an audible voice or receiving a memorable instruction, but maybe it’s about being true to that calling, and true to ones innermost self?

‘You were created to be free; within you there is deep freedom.’ John O’Donohue

Four months ago I stood atop that hill, but not without some effort. Could it be that we need to ‘work’ at spirituality. Not in the sense of doing this or that to earn ‘points’, but in the sense of opening ourselves up to the moment, to surrender (and that’s not a word that many like), and to have a certain intentionality to enter into that moment. At other times it may take trauma or calamity to ‘open the eyes of our heart’. Other times, it may be purposely drawing aside. Then, we step out of our daily, materialistic, mechanical routine, and in doing so, we, at least for a while, enter into sacred time/space, and ‘be’, and encounter our longing, and recognise it as a dear friend.

‘Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.’

(David Whyte, The House of Belonging)

On that mound, I ‘returned’ to the beginning, and in the cold and the rain, the wind and salt-spray, the notion that I had been here (you have been ‘there’) all the time embraced me like a warm hug. It felt like a palpable hug. An angel? An elemental? A fae? I didn’t need to know. I didn’t want to know. To be there was sufficient. I can live contentedly with mystery knowing that, even if I am unaware, it is unfolding. That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves has our best interest at heart.

As I sit here typing now in hindsight of what happened all those months ago, and as you sit there reading this, are we all not ‘already there’? Isn’t longing knocking, still? And yet, there is ‘room’ to take hold of it, embrace it, dwell fully in the longing that longs to be known? Be aware.

‘Longing is a constant companion…It often comes in a dream. It may call from the trees outside. It often quickens at the hearth within our homes, and beckons us to come closer.’ Frank MacEowan

Oh, it was easy to scale that small hill, tick the box of ‘seen it, done it, and go onward….’, but isn’t there a wonderful need for all of us to pause and let the longing in us to be recognised, develop and come to fruition? Just ‘be.

Pause. Relax, and let that which is deep within ‘speak’ to you. The words may not be audible, and you may come in the form of a dream or an impression, a memory-flash, an indescribable yearning for that which is Other; and it may be immediate or it may ‘unpack’ itself over a number of days; or it may even be an inclination that becomes more noticeable over time as you look back.

‘If you think you’re hearing something
And you can’t think what it is
If you feel a quiet longing
Lift your heart into the wind.’

(Cyndi Lauper, Kindred Spirits)

 

Mysteriously It Flows: A River Poem In The Style Of A Cyrch A Cywta

20180215 MYSTERIOUSLY IT FLOWS

I love poetry, and as you may know those ancient Celts and Druids, and others had a respect, fascination and deep reverence for nature that is often missing today. Though there are many latter-day Celts and Druids and others, that are keeping this deep appreciation for nature alive, in a myriad of wonderful ways.

One such way to do this is though poetry.  And, yes, I’m back in London and only just 200 yards from the mighty River Thames, and so here is my poem of profound respect to that wonderful river, the life-blood of London, and its metaphoric relationship to us.

Mysteriously it flows,
through the great city it knows.
Freshwater to sea, it goes.
The river, meand’ring, prose,
resembles the soul, God knows.
Yet the soul often forgoes
the delight of just being
the light it overshadows.

Poems, depending on their rhyme etc are known by various names – who can forget the iambic pentameter? And the abovementioned style of poem, in Wales, is called a Cyrch a cywta (pronounced kirch-a-choo-tah).

Essentially, the Cyrch a cywta is a awesome poem consisting of a stanza of eight and with each containing seven-syllable in that line. The first six lines and the eighth sharing the same rhyme, and yes, you’ve noticed the seventh line (still with seven syllables) doesn’t have to rhyme like the others.

But, ofcourse, I can’t end this article here, and so would suggest two things: Firstly, to commend you to be aware of nature around you – even in the city – and to cherish it and give thanks for it in some way; and secondly, why not write you own Cyrch a cywta style of poem as an act of gratitude for something, or as a challenging exercise or just for fun (or for all three)? And, should you have a river nearby, you could even use this particular poem as part of your liturgy of thanks, occasionally.

 

The Cailleach And You. A Cautionary Celtic Tale For Today

20180214 THE CAILLEACH AND YOU A CELTIC CAUTIONARY TALE FOR TODAYYes, I’m awake so very early in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. On those few occassions this happens I know it’s time to observe something, to be aware of something, to know that there is something to learn and to make time for the experience. And so I headed to the garden.

As I sat there, in the distance I could see the green-grey colour mountains near Capel Curig, north Wales, mainly of slate and usually grass-covered or moss covered, with the latter prevailing at this time of the year. Indistict white clouds, that became mist hung low over the mountains, and the cotton-candy-like mist ‘rolled’ down the mountains’ side onto the low land, part of which, though some few miles distant from those mountains, formed the end of my garden. Mist enncroached. The feeling was quite delightful, very ethereal, other-worldly, and sound was muted. Liminal space.

Sound was muted that is, except in some high gorse bushes about forty feet away. There a noise could be heard, and with the wind now picking up and changing direction, it sounded like someone moving about in the gorse and occassionally letting out a low moan.

‘Only the wind’, or ‘Nothing untoward’ my grandmother would say to me when I was a wee lad.

As I sat there, with the sun just about to rise, but masked by thick cloud, looking at the gorse expectectantly. I remembered how my grandmother would tell me the story of the Gwrach y Rhibyn (pronounced ‘goo-rach ee ribb-in’. But the ‘ch’ in that second syllable is sounded like the ‘ch’ in loch, that is, a back-of-the-throat phlegm-clearing sound). See here for details.

However, this morning as I sat there, pondering how wonderful nature is, and what (or who) might be ambling around in the gorse bushes, another of my late grandmother’s stories sprang to mind.

She would tell the story of the Cailleach (pronounced ‘kie-lich’. But, again. the ‘ch’ in that second syllable is sounded like the ‘ch’ in loch, that is, a back-of-the-throat phlegm-clearing sound ) from Scottish and Irish mythology. And like the Gwrach y Rhibyn, the Cailleach was always described as an ugly old hag. Story-tellers of yesteryear didn’t mince their words. To those that are only partially acquainted with these type of stories, she was usually someone you would want to avoid, or so they would say. My grandmother, however, knew better, and though she always advised caution, she would always says such visitations can be a blessing, and the Cailleach (or Gwrach y Rhibyn as she’s known in Wales) should always be treated with respect.

Here’s the story my grandmother used to tell of the Cailleach:

The was a time when Niall Noigiallach and his brothers were travelling all together. Some time had elapsed, and they were thirsty. The began to search for water, and happenstanced upon a cottage with an ancient spring well in its garden. It was guarded by a hideous hag – the Cailleach. Her only demand for water from the well from these men was…a kiss.

Fergus and Ailil, repelled by the hideous look of the old women refused to kiss her. They returned from the well empty-handed, and still very thirsty.

Fiachra, another of Niall’s brothers, visited the well, and also saw the Cailleach guarding it. A kiss was demanded by her, and slyly Fiachra gave the old crone a mere peck on the cheek of a kiss. Did it suffice? No, the Cailleach wasn’t impressed, declared that that wasn’t a proper kiss, and with a frown sent him away empty-handed.

Niall went last, visiting the well and met the ugly hag. She demanded a kiss, and Niall gave her a kiss…..and a kiss that she wouldn’t ever forget.

While his brothers were thirsty and cold, Niall had his thirst quench with the most delightfully cool and pure spring water, and was warmed after accepting a invitation to the hearth of the ugly hag’s cottage for the night. In the morning the Cailleach  woke Niall, and before his very eyes she slowly transformed into a beautiful maiden. She gave Niall more water and told him that, because of his noble action he would also have the kingship of Ireland.

An old tale, but one that embodies great truth and wisdom. My grandmother was telling me to never despise anyone because of their differences, and to be hospitable to all. We might say, ‘never judge a book by its covers’ or ‘do not judge by appearances; a rich heart may be under a poor coat’, as they say in Scotland. Or, ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13.2 The Book). The ancient Celts, Druids and others of old (and, still today) extended hospitality to all, and in that there is much love, wisdom and truth. Orthopraxis.

And so, I sat there for some time gazing at the high, thick, dense gorse bushes. Was it an animal scurrying about or the Cailleach? Who knows?

I couldn’t help but stand as a mark of respect, move half way to the gorse bushes, stand, bow my head momentarily, and (because no one else was about and would think me mad, because no one else would even know about this experience….well, apart from you, dear friend, and I trust you) I quietly said, ‘Whoever you are, you are most dearly welcome here’. I waited, the scurrying stopped, and then I turned back and walked slowly to the house.

Now inside, I peered at the gorse bushes through the window and wondered. ‘Was it the Cailleach?’ I don’t know, but whoever I meet today I will welcome them as though they were the Cailleach in diguise and who might give a blessing to me today, and I would commend the same to you. Wherever you are, you might encounter the Cailleach in disguise, and if you treat her (or him) well, you, too, might receive a blessing.

 

Everything You Wanted To Know About (The) Gean Cánach

20180209 EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE GEAN CANACHI’m back in north Wales, and it’s twilight, that time of the day between daytime and night-time, a liminal time, a state when unusual things can happen and can be witnessed by those who are aware.

Sitting in the garden, mesmerised by the play of sunlight on distant mountains, watching them grow ever darker from the base upwards, as the light fades, it’s easy to enter that blissful, relaxing, ‘magical’ waking-dream state.

In the distance a combination of bird and other animal sounds can be heard, coupled with the sound of the babbling brook nearby, and the intermittent sound of the wind as it changes direction. It howls and almost sounds like music, and with crows cawwing it does seem like the occasional intelligible word can be heard as if spoken by someone unseen.

‘Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.’ Rumi

I’m sitting in the garden, and it’s now quite dark, the wind continues to gust from different directions, it’s getting colder and those music-like, word-like sounds, just below the intelligible level continue, too.

There is an ancient story (originally from Ireland and Scotland but one that has been taken to heart in this part of Wales) about the Gancanagh or Gean Cánach (an ancient Irish term pronounced gann kanna). As this music-like, word-like sound, carried on the wind, draws me into it, it does seem as though it might be the Gean Cánach.

There are two ways of perceiving the Gean Cánach.

To some the Gean Cánach is an elemental, one to wary of. As I sit here, the Gean Cánach, should one be close, is nothing to be feared, at least not by me. In ancient story the Gean Cánach is said to frequent mountains, hills lakes and lonely glens and use his wit, charm and ‘magic’ on women and rob them of their innocence. He was (or should it be, is) the original smooth-talker, and indeed Gean Cánach means ‘love-talker’. This elemental’s exploits have been written about over the centuries….but we move swiftly on. Ofcourse, some exaggeration may have crept into this myth over the years, and so do keep an open mind.

‘Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.’

Mary Oliver

As I sit here, in a dream-like, blissful state, I dwell on another use of the word Gean Cánach. Today, most of us would know what we mean if we described someone as genius. It is ofcourse a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, or excellent creative productivity. That ofcourse is a modern, albeit ‘lighter’ understanding of the word. Go back several thousand years and to be a genius was to be ‘inhabited’ (in a nice way) by a guiding spirit or a (minor) deity who was sharing their knowledge, wisdom or creativity with that person. So, there are two ways of perceiving the word genius.

There is another way, perhaps more acceptable to some, and much more ‘usable’ of perceiving the Gean Cánach.

In this modern sense the Gean Cánach is ‘love-taking’, praise poetry (or other words) that we might use in gratitude of others, or indeed of nature, or life itself. This interpretation I like very much and it is usable on a daily basis, giving us the foundation of a good spiritual practice.

Frank MacEowan in his book ‘The Celtic Way Of Seeing’ writes about this. It is a deep and thoughtful process, a meditation practice of reciting simple ‘love-talking’ or gratitude poetry, and to make it so ‘real’ that we become part of it. We become the poem.

‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’

Psalm 8.2a The Book

And, as I sit here, and it is darker, still, but I can just make out the mountains in the distance, trees nearby, the rustling of animals, birds in trees, and hear the wind howling and see low clouds moving rapidly across the sky overhead, I use that form of ‘love-talking’ or gratitude poetry, an example used in Frank MacEowan’s book (and formulated by Tom Cowan).

‘Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.’
Mary Oliver

You might like to use that kind of ‘love-talking’, praise poetry. It’s simple, profound, and is a spiritual exercise to increase our awareness of nature around us (and which can be used in urban as well as rural environments) and of giving thanks. You don’t have to be an accomplished poet. Just speak from the heart. There is no right or wrong way to do this (because you are speaking from the heart, and you are the poem, too). One formula is to recite:

Beautiful is…beautiful too,….

So, an example of this might be:

Beautiful is the howling wind; beautiful too, are the racing clouds
Beautiful is the babbling book; beautiful too, are the nearby foxes
Beautiful is the mighty oak tree; beautiful too, is the green, lush grass

And so the ‘love-talking’, praise poem goes on, sometimes for many minutes as you and I might add more lines to the proceeding one, using the formula above, in describing what we see around us and give thanks for it.

Beautiful is the city park; beautiful too, are the bright red buses
Beautiful are the trees in the street; beautiful too, are the pigeons and sparrows
Beautiful is the mall music; beautiful too, are the people shopping

I heartily recommend this form of spiritual poetry, this deep poetic meditation, your words (as you perceive more around you) of gratitude to Nature, Life, The Source Of All. It is another ‘tool’ in your spiritual toolkit. Do try it, and let me know how it goes for you.

It’s now late. The weather has turned and it’s beginning to rain. I do love the rain and love walking in it, or even sitting as it falls on me, but, maybe, not tonight.

Beautiful is the soft, refreshing rain; beautiful too, is the roaring hearth fire.

 

Home, The Land, Energy & Us: Home As Sacred Space

20180105 HOME THE LAND ENERGY AND US HOME AS SACRED SPACE

‘The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.’ Blaise Pascal

In France there is a delightful word, terroir (pronounced tair-rwah) and it is the sum of all landscape features such as soil composition, valley or mountain terrain, crop growth habits and farming practices, that affect crops for wine growing. And, so landscape affects the taste and ‘body’ of each bottle of wine (though terroir can be applied to coffee, tobacco, chocolate, chili peppers, hops, tomatoes, heritage wheat, maple syrup, and tea). Minor landscape changes do, it seems, affect that crops outcome.

But, this isn’t an article about wine or tea etc, but about the way the land affects us, and how we affect the landscape or close environment, energetically. There is an interconnectedness, that we sometimes miss because we take it for granted or because it is ubiquitous. The landscape, or land affects us and we affect the landscape – whether we’re thinking about rural areas, urban areas or our homes.

‘The connection to place, to the land, the wind, the sun, stars, the moon… it sounds romantic, but it’s true – the visceral experience of motion, of moving through time on some amazing machine…’ Antoine Predock

In ‘A Celtic Way Of Seeing’, a wonderful book by Frank MacEowen, he talks of the eastern quadrant of the Irish Spirit Wheel, and how the energy of the hearth-keeper, the householder is evident there in a house. It is the perception of Celts, Druids, ancient tribes and those aware of the Sacred Earth.

But, if energy within a house is blocked then those in the house may suffer as they take on no energy or absorb negative energy. Haven’t we all been in places, homes or old or external places that ‘feel’ gloomy or lifeless, or places where ‘you could cut the air with a knife’?

Similarly, those who have some negativity in their psyche or ‘core’ may affect the environment or the house. Haven’t we all ‘felt’ places that seem abandoned because of negativity, a loss of interest, or an imbalance that devalues nature, the environment or a particular premises?

‘Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel…’

‘The Windmills Of Your Mind’, (Song). Written by Alan Bergman & Michel Jean Legrand.

There is an energetic circularity where an individual (or group) can affect the local environment, and in turn, the local environment (locale, premises, house) can affect an individual – either negatively or positively.

How we define or perceive that energy or power will depend on our viewpoint, but I would suggest that we, at least, think of ‘it’ as more than just an electric force-field, but as part of the loving fabric of the Universe, The Source of All, That Which Is Bigger Than Us, as having personality and more.

‘…Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ Luke 8.46b The Book

It can be a ‘downward’ spiral of energy, or an ‘upward’ of positive energy. It’s the later that I would encourage.

So for instance, how do we encourage positive energy within our homes?
How about an ‘Abundance Altar’ or space: and include a candle that you can light periodically and gaze at or perform a ritual at, and don’t forget to include representational items like a photo of some good friends (if you’re seeking more friends or deeper friendships), a small coin (for fiscal wealth), a bag of grain (for a good harvest) etc. Or use this space, when thinking of someone else’s wealth or use it to give gratitude for abundance.

‘An altar is like an airport where spirits take off and land.’ Steven Chuks Nwaokeke

A Healing altar or space for yourself or another for healing (or to give thanks for healing) might ‘lift’ your home. That space might include a candle (and yes, I do like candles so they’ll be frequent ‘tools’, and also the lighting and extinguishing of them is also good to denote entering and leaving sacred space-time). But, such spaces might include, also, the photo of a loved-one if healing because of bereavement is needed (and my encouragement even then, if you can,  is to be as positive as you can in affirming and giving thanks for that person’s earthly life), a small green plant to denote life and growth, or a band-aid to represent ‘repair’, or anything that means something deep to you.

And a…person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave… Numbers 19.18 The Book

One more? How about a Purification altar or space? This could include…yes, a candle. But, maybe a small hyssop twig (a symbol of purification), or indeed any twig, that can be dipped in a small bowl of water, and used to ‘flick’ sacred water, or burn an incense stick or a sage-stick or smudge-stuck (bundle), or place a feather on the table etc. For more ideas do see Denise Linn’s book: Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines Into Your Everyday Life.

Ofcourse these are just a few ideas – we’ll return to this idea over the next few weeks. How you use these altars or sacred spaces will depend on your background and requirements – they can be used as places to have there to energise the house, or as places to gaze or meditate upon, as places to go ‘inward’, or as places where you can perform a small ritual. There is power and potential here, so often neglected in our daily lives.

And, ofcourse, because of that connectedness, that circularity, our attitude and wellbeing also affects it – and so there is encouragement to you (and that includes me) to meditate on positive things, to read good books and poetry, and to look for the good, to give gratitude in all things. And, to remember, never to neglect the day of small things.

Our homes are an expression and an extension of our minds and hearts. Inner clutter and discord is expressed as clutter and discord in our homes.’ Frank MacEowen. De-clutter as a spiritual practice and opportunity.

 

Full Moon, Spring And Ribin Bhride

20180129 FULL MOON SPRING AND RIBIN BHRIDE

‘Blue moon you saw me standing alone.’ (Billie Holiday)

It’s Spring…..well nearly.

I know different parts of (even) the northern hemisphere may experience Spring in a number of weeks rather than in the next few days – such is the UK’s mild climate compared to other places – but there’s things are never exact, and traditionally on the wheel of the year the season’s change is celebrated as Imbolc or Brigid’s Day. So, whatever the weather, it’s time to celebrate Spring (in the northern hemisphere).

What follows is in two parts. Firstly there’s some awesome information about the upcoming full Moon – a ‘triple whammy!’ and a first since 1866, and secondly, there’s some wonderful ideas and words to assist you to celebrate Spring, Imbolc, Candlemas or Brigid’s Day on the 1 or 2 February.

Ephemera: The Triple Lunar Experience

In the small hours of 31 January, the moon will do something that it hasn’t since 1866. It will be super Moon, a blue moon and lunar eclipse – and all three will coincide for a rare and spectacular astronomical feast. And what a way to celebrate Imbolc, Spring, and Brigid’s Day, albeit a couple of days early – but who’s counting.

moon 18341965_1686669498015885_2704673373144549450_nOn January 31 the Moon will be a super Moon – meaning that, because its orbit around the Earth is not completely circular, but an ellipse, this time around it will be slightly closer to the Earth. If visible from your location, the Moon will appear about 15% bigger (and because of illusion, it will appear bigger still, if it’s low on the horizon) and about 30% brighter. That’s a super Moon.

In addition, this full Moon will be the second one in January, and will therefore as it’s the second full Moon in a month, it’s known as a Blue Moon – but it won’t look blue.

And, if all that wasn’t enough this full Moon will experience a lunar eclipse: those in western US, Australia and much of Canada, Russia and Asia will be able to see a total eclipse, whilst a partial eclipse will be see by those across the eastern part of the US, India, eastern Europe and Scandinavia. The Moon may look red during the eclipse.

A ‘triple lunar experience’, lies in wait for you – a great treat, the likes of which has not been experienced since 1866. More details and timings about this wonderful event can be viewed here.

Celebration Time
Celebrate good times, come on! (Let’s celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on! (Let’s celebrate)
It’s time to come together
It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure
Everyone around the world
Come on!

(Kool & The Gang)

Celebrating Spring, Imbolc, Candlemas & Brigid’s Day

So, having outlined one way to celebrate Imbolc, Spring, or Brigid’s Day in an earlier article (see here), below is a practical suggestion to do, and an outline liturgy that you might like to use in part in your celebration (ritual), and adapt as required.

ribbons img_7932-mediumRibín Bhríde: How about participating in Ribín Bhríde (the ribbons of Brigid)?
Brigid was/is renowned as a healer, and this can be used as an enacted prayer. If you need healing or know someone who does, then cut up brightly coloured material (about half inch wide and about six to eight inches long) and tie a few ribbons onto small branches in the evening whilst thinking of the person who needs healing. Left there, the ribbons will catch the morning dew, and can then be lovingly removed over the next day or two.

And/Or…

Because Spring is the season that celebrates the sun climbing higher into the sky, and winter receding, it’s fitting to celebrate with the use of light and candles (hence, Candlemas for some). And so, at various points when using the material, below, you might like to lights a candle at the beginning, during or end of the following (or several candles if you use several of the pieces below).

Blessed be you, Light of Life,
Source of the sacred flame within each of us,
light which the darkness cannot put out.
I rise up with you this day/I rest with you this night.

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year, Tessa Ward)

And/or…

….because we’re moving into the season of Spring (and the symbol of that is wind or air, and the dominant direction is east) you might like to use:

Still the Breath Divine does move, and the breath Divine is Love.

(William Blake)

And/or…

The secret life of Me breathes in the wind
and holds all things together soulfully.

(Hildegard of Bingen)

And/or…

Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
which fans your face on a sultry day,
the air which you breathe deeply, rhythmically,
which impart to you energy. consciousness, life.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.

(Celtic prayer)

And/or…

The soul rides on the feathers of the wind.

(Meister Eckhart)

And/or…

Blessings of wind be upon me.
May my sails billow wide,
May I breathe deeply the gift of inspiration,
May I be carried to the place of my resurrection,
May I be fully free.

(Christine Valters Paintner)

And/or…

Turner of the seasons,
Energy of the first flaring forth,
Source of newness and creativity,
Hidden activity in the darkness,
Align us with your budding presence
In this season of Spring.

Heartbeat Of The Seasons: Earth Rituals For The Celtic Year by Kathleen Glennon

Blessings of this season to you and yours, Tadhg.

[Many thanks to Pennie Ley for the use of the moon photo. Coprighted]

20180129 FULL MOON SPRING AND RIBIN BHRIDE

Time To Celebrate Spring: Imbolc, Brigid’s Day, Candlemas

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMASYes, it’s that time again. The circle, the wheel of the Earth continues to turn, and nature’s cycle ushers us, once again, into spring. It’s time to celebrate. Here’s some ideas of how to celebrate the event with a meal, ritual and words (liturgy). Really celebrate!

Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Spring Flowers, St Brigid’s Cross, Candles
Colours: White, Orange, Red

Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came out from their winter dens may, it is said by some, be a forerunner of the North American idea of Groundhog Day.

For others, this time of the year is known as Brigid’s Day (a healer, whose example to us today is one of unbridled hospitability), or Candlemas, a time of rededication and purity, and the lighting of candles. Nevertheless, however you regard it, it is the first day of spring, and time to celebrate.

Meal
And because it’s a celebration, what follows are a few ideas of things you can incorporate into you main meal of the day (or other meals, as you feel appropriate).

You might like to do the whole meal as an Imbolc or Spring celebration, or just one part of it. I’d suggest the latter, especially if this is the first time you specifically celebrate the event, and in any case, it’s usually the small things that are most significant. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, expensive spread, after all it’s intentionality that is important.

pixabay imbolc bread 232On a number of occasions I’ve had a normal meal, and ‘focused’ on part of the meal to celebrate the event, and bought a special bread for after the meal. A remembrance of bread being a staple food, the Bread of life.

So, try something different, experiment by adding something to your main meal, say, that you may not usually buy.

Meal Preparation
Whether it’s a meal for yourself or a few others, too, preparation can be fun, meaningful and easy to accomplish. If you’re not usually into formality or table lay-out I’d suggest having just one or two additional elements.

Candles! I love candles, and I’d suggest the simpler the candle setting, the better. One candle, lit, on a table looks great. Go for ‘minimalist’ approach if you wish – it can, in many circumstances, make it even more meaningful.

pixabay candle ereeBecause the sun would still be low in the sky and light in the evening would be dim, and because early Romans believed candlelight would scare away evil, and because Jesus is the light of the world, candles were specifically used (for all or some of those reasons) at this time – hence in many churches they celebrate this time as Candlemas.

Later, as you gaze upon that lit candle, remember, the sun rising higher in the sky and Spring returning, new life, a ‘chasing away’ of the dark and light dawning, and ponder on growth, good things, and hope. Give thanks to the Source of All.

Nature on display! I really like those displays that contain berries and fir cones etc and they look great as a table display. Or, hwo about a small bunch of inexpensive spring flowers! Both can look great, and act as a great reminder of gratitude to the earth, to nature.

For this event, celebrate with foods that honour the earth, hearth and home, such as milk products vegetables, bread etc, and these are incorporated in the suggestions below.

pixabay man sun 4544Breakfast: Imbolc is about milk – think of baby ewes being born and their mother’s milk flowing to nurture them. It’s a time of fertility, new life. So, why not try something different, milk-wise to pour over your breakfast cereal

Whether you eat this meal focussing on Imbolc, or Candlemas, or with Brigid in mind, whether you eat it by yourself or with others, it’s a great way of remembering the bounty of the earth, all those that have been involved in bringing it to your table, and ofcourse it’s a great time of expressing gratitude to the Giver of All. Take time to ponder.

Words & Ritual
Throughout the meal, maybe between courses, or at the beginning and at the end, it’s good to pause, to give thanks. As you light the candle or gaze upon the lit candle, some may like to recite a poem or prayer at certain times. Here’s some words that you might like to use or ponder upon:

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

Or,

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 The Book

Or,

Praise to you, Oh Caring one,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
feisty, pure and natural
with your white singular unbroken focus,
Maid-Mother to us all,
praise to you.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

Finally
Do plan a great event, enjoy it, and take your time. We all rush around far too much, and here’s an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the simple, natural things in life as we yet again mark the season’s change, and give thanks.

Wishing you and yours blessings at this time of Imbolc, Spring, Brigid’s Day and Candlemas. Tadhg

 

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMAS

 

 

Reflections On A Puddle: A Quiet Teacher At Drws I Fyd Arall

20180125 REFLECTION ON A PUDDLE A QUIET TEACHER AT DRWS I FYD ARALLI am back in Capel Curig in north Wales for a while. I’m outside, and have walked the relatively short walk from my little cottage, Tŷ Gwyn (pronounced ‘tee gwin’, meaning White Cottage or White House), to an area that, for years, has been known to me as Drws i fyd arall. It’s raining hard – the ‘gift’ of storm Georgina that is sweeping across the United Kingdom.

Soaked, I sit on a felled log. It’s still about half an hour before sunrise.

‘Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down…’ Isaiah 45;8a, The Book

And I feel wonderful, expectant, in awe at the two, old, trees in front of me. I sat there looking at these two trees, so different to the others around them, as these two trees had grown in a way that they bowed towards each other to form an arch. As children we noticed this, and I and my friends had called these two arched trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world’. Such was the imagination of us children that we played endless games by jumping through the arched trees, and in our minds eye believed that we found  ourselves in strange new worlds. Star Gate, the tv series, was still many years in the future. We got their first!

For more about Drws I fyd arall in previous articles, see here, and here.

And, now I’m sitting in the middle of this delightful forest, in suitably rain-proofed attire, and though its cold and there’s a great wind – I’m protected from that wind by the high trees around me – but not so from the rain. It’s raining even harder, and I love it.

By my feet, raindrops converge into puddles, multiple puddles and some of them quite deep, and as the puddles fill up with rain some of them join together to form even large puddles around me; and for a moment I am mesmerised by the sight of the rain splashing on the forest floor and into puddles, and by the soothing, continuous, hypnotic patter of fresh, cold, wonderful rain.

‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ Loren Eiseley

As I gaze at the large puddle in front of me, joining with another, and then being  ‘syphoned off’ into a larger deep depression on the ground inches to one side, I spied that water takes on the shape of that which it fills, and reshapes itself umpteen times, yet it still remains water.

‘I find inspiration in the movement of water. Sometimes I think about the journey the water has travelled, reconnecting me to the larger cycles of nature.’ Janet Echelman

How we could learn from water. If you’re like me, it is oh-so-easy to take on board the opinions of others sometimes; to be caught off guard and to be affected by their bad words and actions, and perhaps want to metaphorically strike back; or be adversely affected by ‘bad’ situations. Water is not changed by what it fills. It changes shape, but remains faithful to its nature. It loses nothing. How we could learn from water.

‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue

Mark Nepo talks of this sort of awareness of nature. He calls them ‘quiet teachers’, for that is what they are: nature opening itself up to human awareness for the connection, which surely already exists, to be made understandable (at least in part) to us, in a quiet, authentic manner

And so this puddle, this ‘quiet teacher’, a puddle at Drws i fyd arall taught me that water adapts to fill the ‘shape’ of its surroundings, but remains faithful to itself.

And, in a ‘flash’ as I sat on that felled tree, I realised that, as humans, we are should (or perhaps, are encouraged, is a better way of putting it, to) adapt to situations in our daily life, albeit some tough events, or situations brought on by ‘difficult’ people, and yet remain faithful to our ‘humanness’, our core. It is possible to adapt and not take on board the negative ‘stuff’ around us.

And then, I experienced another ‘flash’ as if lightning had filled the sky: it dawned on me – our body and soul may be seemingly affected, but the lesson of this ‘quiet teacher’ was that that need not be the case, but it came to me that our soul, our being, our very essence is never affected by it at all – we just think it is. There is something in us that ‘higher’, still. And from ‘that place’, a place of Love, we can have compassion on others, and bear tough situations come what may.

I had to sit on the felled log for some time to ‘unpack’ those two ‘flashes’ of thought(s) from Beyond.

‘…the work of compassion: to embrace everything clearly without imposing who we are and without losing who we are.’ Mark Nepouiet

The Curious Incident Of Brigid And The Bathwater: A Profound Story For Today

20180122 THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF ST BRIGID AND THE BATHWATER...The circle continues to turn. Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day, or Candlemas, as some call it, comes ever closer. Spring is in the air.

‘O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?’. Percy Bysshe Shelley

If we’re still in the season of winter, and we are (and, it started on 31 October, marked by the festival of Samhain, also called All Saint’s Eve by some, and progressed to its ‘height’ with the winter soltice, we’re now coming to the end of that season). Imbolc, 2 February (or a day earlier than that to some), marks the end of winter, and is the first day of spring.

‘There is a delightful phrase in Gealic, ‘Ag borradh’, meaning that there is a quivering life about to break forth.’ John O’Donohue

And, if today is anything to go by – it was so relatively mild, weatherwise – spring is here, or is ‘just around the corner’. I could detect a slight ambient temperature increase today, a change in the prominent wind direction, you could almost smell it in the air. Something had changed.  The circle continues to turn and this season is coming to an end.

And with 2 February in mind, our thoughts turn to Brigid of Kildare. Brigid is viewed in differing ways, by different people. To some Brigid is an ancient Celtic goddess. The goddess of fire. Indeed, a sacred fire burned in Kildare in ancient time, as was kept burning by priestesses. In this way it was thought herds would be protected and harvests would be plentiful. To others, Brigid is a saint, and at the time of Candlemass, candles are blessed (and lit by some), and Brigid is remembered as one who symbolises motherhood, new birth, the springing forth of seeds and, in the recent past, some would bless (even) agricultural tools on that day. It’s spring (or nearly, so), after all.

‘I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen’. Anne Lamott

Yes, you know I like stories, and here’s another about Brigid.

Brigid was known for her hospitality. For the weary traveller no expense was spared by her.

On one occasion, going about her day, she came across some very tired, hungry and thirsty lepers. The plight of those dear people had already touched Brigid’s heart, and she made them as comfortable as she could. She ensured that they had had some food, but were thirsty.

One of those near to Brigid came to her and broke the bad news news: there was no beer for those thirsty lepers.

Brigid was deeply concerned, and it is said, immediately sprung into action. At the back of some nearby buildings she found an old bath, full of dirty bath water. She put her hand into the bathwater and blessed it. As the attendant drew off pints from that bath they found that it had changed! No longer dirty bath water, but the finest, freshest and coolest beer you could ever imagine, which was served to all.

The lepers and others were delighted, and had more than enough to drink, and there was plenty of beer left over.

You will have to forgive me – flippant only for a moment or two – but isn’t Brigid the kind of person you would like at all your parties?

I know sceptics may ridicule the bathwater-into-beer story, but there are some deep and profound truths ‘buried’ in it, if we take time to discover them. The need to be hospitable, and the joy in being so. The fact that we live in a world of abundance. The ‘power’ that one good person has. The Universe (God, the Elements, The Source of All) is friendly. The power in a blessing etc. All wonderful truths that are ‘unpacked’ in this unusual and delightful story about dear Brigid.

‘Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems’. Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring is close. However, you view Brigid, it may be good to give thanks for her example, for this season of rest, to look forward to the coming season of spring and the springing forth of plants etc, for growth, and perhaps to light a candle. Fire, however, you view dear Brigid, is a worthy symbol of her, and the lighting of a candle on her day a notable action to do.

 

Brigid’s Cloak: A Profound Story For Today

20180118 BRIGIDS CLOAK A PROFOUND STORY FOR TODAYIt’s late. I’m still in London, but now things have settled down somewhat I’m able to slow down (even more). Earlier today, in a huge supermarket nearby I spied jars of Horlicks lined up at eye level, just calling to me, almost. I had never noticed them before. Horlicks, if you’ve never had it, is a delightful malt drink, usually in powder form and was something that many children grew up drinking. So far as I know it’s extremely healthy.

It’s even later, and I’m on an oh-so comfortable sofa, and having added hot milk to that Horlick’s powdered malt drink, it now resides in a cup just a couple of feet from me. Lights are low. And as I sip it, in my mind’s eye I am immediately transported back – memorywise – to my early childhood days. Amazing how a simple taste can remind us of past things and pleasant events.

I’m reminded of a time, about this time of year, but many years ago. I was sitting in my grandparents’ cottage in Wales. I must have been about seven years old. It was late in the evening, then, and I had positioned myself, comfortably, near the hearth. The main living area of the cottage was partially lit and the fire’s orange glow bathed everything in a warm, restful, flickering, other-worldly light.

My grandpa had just given me a hot cup of Horlicks, as my grandmother started to tell another of her wonderful stories.

As I sip from a cup of Horlicks now, I’m reminded of that story from yesteryear – and it’s all the more poingnant as it was then coming up to St Brigid’s Day, and so it will be again in about two weeks from no. Some (myself included) call it Imbolc (pronounced various ways, but I quite like ‘ih-mulk’), and many call it (now) Candlemas.

As I sat there all those years ago, my grandmother told a story about Brigid of Kildare (in Ireland). The story went something like this:

Dear Brigid approached the King of Leinster with a request for some land on which to build her monastery. She thought deeply about the location, and felt led to build it in Kildare. There, it would be near a lake where water was available, and in a forest where firewood would be plentiful, and also near a large, lush area just right for the growing of crops. Self-sufficiency.

However, the King refused her request.

Brigid wasn’t deterred by his refusal. Rather, she thought about it, prayed about it, and made her request again to him, but this time she added, ‘I would respectfully ask the King to grant me as much land as my cloak will cover.’

Seeing her small cloak, the king laughed out loud, and then granted her request.

Brigid then removed the cloak that was on her back, and gave instructions to her four helpers each to take a corner of the cloak and walk in opposite directions – north, south, east and west. They did this. And, as they did this the cloak began to grow, and grow, and grow. It was soon the size of a large table cloth. And, they carried on walking. And soon it was the size of a living room carpet. And, they carried on walking. And, soon dear Brigid’s cloak had spread across many, many acres of land. She now had sufficient land to build her monastery.

The King was greatly dismayed, but also amazed at this seeming miracle. The King realised that this woman was truly blessed, and had great power. The King was impressed and supported Brigid’s work with money, food and gifts.

My grandmother ended the story, summing up that Brigid was indeed a clever woman, one in touch with great power from the Source of All (that which some call God), and that the story tells us that we do, indeed, live in a world of abundance, but sometimes we need to ‘see’ things differently, and trust in the timely provision of what we need.

That story of dear Brigid (St Brigid to some) made a big impression on me then and throughout the years: I believed then and still believe that we do live in a world of natural abundance and blessing, and Brigid and this story about her is one that we can take to heart and draw strength from.