Ritual: Body Prayer: Getting Started

20190522 RITUAL BODY PRAYER GETTING STARTED

I am, as you know, fascinated by liturgy and ritual. I use ritual a lot, value it, and would encourage you to try it, too. Experiment. Adapt. Be playful.

Ritual is, for me, a powerful and physical action, an enacted metaphor that can aid us. Here’s an outline of what ritual or right action can do, an account of an intriguing event in Capel Curig in north Wales some time ago, and some examples of body-physical movements you might like to try in your ritual, prayer-times, meditation etc. Here’s an opportunity to add deep meaning to what we do.

There is power in words. With a word all that is visible and invisible was made by the Maker Unmade. With our words we can encourage someone to new heights, and yes, with an unkind word we can destroy.

There is, indeed power in words. But what of actions? The common maxim is: actions speak louder than words. This is true, too!

Orthopraxy is one of my favourite words. Orthopraxy is all about how someone acts. Right action as opposed to right belief. And, its actions, particularly regarding ritual action that I believe is most beneficial to us.

Orthopraxy in ritual actions can physically demonstrate our passion and intentionality to ourselves, to others, to the Source of All. Our actions can denote a request, a blessing, an intention, or declare adoration. They inform, invite or dismiss, and maybe reinforce our words.

I saw a photograph in the newspaper of a president. There was no caption. A caption was unnecessary. The picture showed that is was pouring with rain – the kind that would soak anyone within seconds. And, there was the president with his wife in a rainstorm. He carried the umbrella and ensured his wife was the one to remain dry. He got soaked. No caption or words were needed. The picture exuded love. Right action.

Perhaps, it’s right action at the right time. What is appropriate one moment, maybe not be so the next moment. Awareness is needed.

Sometime ago I wrote: A warm feeling enveloped me. Palpable. And not only an external feeling, but internal too, pervading my whole being. And then, as has happened albeit infrequently in this place in the past, I heard the Voice once again. Some will say that it’s only imagination, but I can only say, to me, it was and is, more, oh much more.

From an interrupted, shallow sleep I awoke early, and walked into the night, as if called by a Voice deep within. An elemental? The Awen, An ancestor? The Deity, An angel? The Bat kohl, my imagination?

There is a story in an ancient text of a major battle, the battle of Rephidim. It is a short account of an unprovoked attack against Moses’ people. Fighting ensued and lasted all day. While Moses raised both his arms aloft, perhaps to encourage his people or perhaps in supplication, it was noticed that his people got the advantage over their enemy. When his hands dropped, the opposition gained the upper hand in the battle. Moses raised his arms, and once again his people prevailed. But, what about when tiredness got the better of him? No one can hold their arms aloft for any great length of time, and before long Moses’ arms began to feel the strain. As his arms became tired and started to drop Hur and Aaron placed themselves either side of him, and gave his arms the support they needed. No other words needed. Right action.

Perhaps, in ritual, our right actions are akin to charged physical metaphors that have a far greater effect behind the Veil that we can yet imagine? Metaphors always relate to something other (or Other).

One night, about three years ago, I woke up from a shallow sleep and went for a walk to this place, and this is what I wrote:

The air was cold and damp, the darkness seemed to envelope me, the trees ‘closed in’, and all was quiet. Nothing stirred. Nothing at all. And with some trepidation, into a forest clearing I slowly strode. A fallen tree provided a seat, and I sat, and waited.

The air felt ‘electric’ as though something would happen, like a ‘silent storm’ approaching. And I waited. And shivered. Waited. And got damp. Waited. And then from within, or without, almost undetectable, a quiet, loving, voice was heard. The Voice.

Rituals remove us from the ordinary flow of life and place us in sacred space. It’s for that reason that some might, say, light a candle at the beginning of a service or at home, or at the beginning of a prayer or time of meditation. Right action. This is a significant action for it declares our moving out of the realm of ordinary space and time and into sacred space and time. Action within rituals create their ‘magic’ and have their power through the mysterious and mystical vocabulary of symbolic re-enactment. Symbolic action either ‘allows’ things to happen or puts us in the right frame of mind to ‘see’ them and appreciate them. At the end of the service, mediation or individual prayer-time the candle flame is usually extinguished and we return to physical space (although the astute will know there is no real dualistic division). Right action.

Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:

“As above, so below,
there are things you should know.”

And so, I mention,
with your hands at your side, walk humbly,
take seven half-steps forward, it’s a journey of intention.”

“And now, raise your hands in simple ‘surrender’,
and point both to Heaven, that domain of awesome splendour.”

“Widen your arms, and so scoop, and harvest
pure energy, pure ‘gold’, and be prepared to be feel blessed.”

“Draw in that power, by folding your arms like an ‘x’ on your chest,
and feel its benefits, its warmth; you’re at peace, at one, ‘at home’, at rest.”

“Then stretch forth your arms, and mould with your hands
as if a ball, that ‘globe-like’ power-blessing from the ouranic meadowlands.”

“With one foot leading, and with knees part bent,
sway back and forth, in preparation for that ‘goodness’ to be sent.”

“In your mind, name the loved-one, the recipient, the friend,
and in your heart, see them, imagine them, to that end.”

“‘Push’ with your hands, that power-blessing from you to them,
and sigh the sound of the ages, the ‘so be it’, the ‘amen’.”

“And then, your hands drop to your side,
power has gone out; but there is no lack,
for the power-blessing that went forth, also comes back,
in another way and at another time, and so you, too, are blessed.”

Having done everything as directed, I stood there in awe. The air was cold and yet I felt warm, the night so dark but in my mind’s eye it seemed to glow. The Voice had gone. The Voice? An elemental? The Awen, An ancestor? The Deity, An angel? The Bat kohl, my imagination?

Ofcourse, there is no right or wrong way to use ritualistic action. It’s intentionality that counts.

But, I would encourage you to incorporate and/or adapt physical action into any ritual you do. This can involve the whole body, as above, or part. It’s also enjoyable and may make the ritual, prayer or special time even more meaningful.

The following is an outline – consider it like a dictionary or vocabulary of hand-signs for ritual – to encourage you to use them, adapt them or to form your own. Here’s three:

Acceptance: In the early stage of any group or solo event I need to ‘open up’, to accept power from Beyond. And so, with one hand I form an ‘acceptance’ hand: My elbow is bent at right-angles and one hand is in front of my chest, maybe about 9 inches away from my chest. The palm of my hand is upright, and fingers and thumb gently parted. I ready to catch ‘it’. Accompanied by a few words asking for energy and power from Beyond, out loud and prayerfully, I move my hand towards my chest, so that the palm of my hand ends up against my chest. Power sought by that open hand, symbolically, then accepted, and then indwelling.

Aid someone: With a person’s name in mind, an area in need, or a request for the Source of All to aid a part of the world in need, I bring that hand away from my chest, but only just. I ensure the palm is, again, upright. My other hand forms a fist and lays on that open-palmed hand so that the fist-hand  lays on it (so that the veiny back on the hand is facing up). Then, saying out loud the request, I move both hands, still together, away from my body about a foot. It’s as though a gift is on a plate and both move towards the one needing aid. The prayer request is symbolically ‘delivered’.

Thankfulness: It seems right to give gratitude to the Great Giver. With your fingers together, touch your chin with the fingertips (of perhaps the longest finger or two) of one hand. Let them remain there for a second or two (or three), and then bring your hand down, slowly, to naturally arc through the air, to stop in front of your chest so that your arm is at right-angles. That’s being thankful.

The abovementioned is the start of a ‘ritual vocabulary’. These three are from the Dictionary of British Sign Language. But, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make your own. Please let me know how it works for you.

 

Ephemera: The Bright Moon: Full Moon

20190516 EPHEMERA THE BRIGHT MOON 18 MAY 2019

There’s a full moon soon, and you know how I love full moon’s, and use these events for some kind of ritual and/or celebration.

The next full moon is this Saturday, 18 May 2019, rising around sunset from a UK vantage point, above the head of the constellation of Scorpio.

To some this full Moon is known as the Milk Moon or Planting Moon. To those of Medieval England and Wicca it was/is known as the Hare Moon. Whilst Celts and many Druids Of yesterday and today know it as the Bright Moon.

The Moon is most happy
When it is full.
[Hafiz]

And, as we head towards a full moon, here’s an opportunity to look at the physical moon in awe from a scientific point of view; to marvel at it from a deeply spiritual point of view, too; and to think about how to celebrate this wonderful event.

The Physical Moon
Did you know: The Moon is shrinking! Yes, as its interior cools, a new NASA study suggests that the change is shrinking, and as it does it triggers moonquakes.

Nasa said only a few days ago that the Moon is about 150 feet (50 meters) smaller than it was – though this shrinking has taken place over the the last several hundred million years or so. So, you won’t see it shrink, but its enough for any brittle fissures on the Moon to collapse and cause the Moon’s surface to rumble.

The ‘Magical’ Moon
But, the Moon is more than just a rocky satellite to the Earth. As you gaze up at the full Moon, and see that eternal face smiling down, the Moon does hold a certain romantic charm, some would say ‘magic’.

The moon is the reflection of your heart
and moonlight is the twinkle of your love.
[Debasish Mridha]

Whenever I can I like to celebrate the time of the full Moon. Sometimes it’s just a case of going for a silent walk, even in the city, to ‘bathe’ in its light. Sometimes it’s just lifting up a nice glass of red or white and drinking to its glory, or meditating on the Moon-Giver.

Full Moon ‘Releasing’ Ritual
Sometimes, there is a ‘releasing’ ritual I like to do at this time – to release me from all that is holding me back. Full Moon’s are a great time to start new projects and rekindle intentionality. You might like to try the following, too.

The moon looks upon many night flowers;
the night flowers see but one moon.
[Jean Ingelow]

As with any ritual, it is an outward sign and activity of an inward occurrence. It can be done outdoors on the night of the full moon, but equally, it can be done indoors, and it can be adjusted to make it even more meaningful to you.

So, find a quiet place, and:

1. Light a candle (to denote entering into sacred space/sacred time). If you want, you can place crystals, power-rocks and other positive-tools around you. On occasions I’ve opened the Bible to the place where it mentions the Moon and Sun. Opening a book, sacred to yourself is one way of making this a special occasion, and declaring that you’ve entered sacred space and sacred time.

2. De-clutter your mind of thoughts, clear your energy. This can be done by imagination, and so why not close your eyes, and visualise that you are standing under a silver waterfall that cascades down from the Moon. As you so do, in your mind’s eye, imagine that all negativity being washed away.

3. Take a few deep breaths to ‘center’ yourself, to move deeply within your being, and then ‘ask’ what it is that you wish to be released from. What is it that is holding you back? What is your limiting belief? What no longer serves a positive purpose in your life. In your mind’s eye, write it on a piece of paper. Wait for a short while.

4. As you breathe in, think of that piece of paper with that limiting belief written on it, and as you breathe out, imagine that that piece of paper moves into the candle and is burnt up. It no longer exists. Do this several times. [Remember, this is all taking place in your imagination, so please don’t use that physical candle and actually set fire to anything you have with you!].

This type of breathing in/out with visualisation is like tonglen, in reverse.

5. After a short while open your eyes, fully enter this ‘realm’ by gazing gently at the candle for a few minutes. There is no rush. And then, to denote a closing of that sacred space/sacred time, blow the candle out and/or close any sacred book. Wait for a few minutes. Doing things slowly, here, is good. To ‘ground’ yourself completely you might like to walk around just for a few seconds.

6. Ofcourse, this is a ritual, an outward sign or action of an inward occurrence, and you will still need to ‘do’ the necessary things in the physical realm to bring about a releasing of what is/was holding you back, to ‘earth it’, and to work towards a positive outcome.

7. You might like to keep a journal of your experiences in that ritual, what you ‘released’ and what you intend to do to ‘earth it’ and work towards releasing negativity, and what you’ll do in working towards positivity, detailing actions and how you felt at the time. It’s always good to look back, weeks, months or even years later.

Poem
Sometime ago I wrote a poem about Arianrhod, the personification of the Moon. You might use it as a mediation as you gaze at the upcoming new Moon, or as part of a more formal liturgy or ritual you might perform in honour of the Moon and/or the Moon giver.

To read the poem ‘Arianrhod in all her splendour ‘, please click [here].

And finally…
At this time of the full Moon, much light and love to you and those whom you love, Tadhg.

‘I arise today through the strength of heaven, light of sun, Radiance of moon, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.’
[John O’Donohue,]

 

[The header photo for this article is copyright protected, 2019 by Pennie Ley, and is used with permission. Kind regards to Pennie]

 

 

Indra, Hafiz & The Magic Café: Interconnectedness & Interbeing

20190514 INDRA HAFIZ AND THE MAGIC CAFE THOUGHTS ON INTERCONNECTEDNESS AND INTERBEING

Today, I was in one of my favourite locations when in London: the Magic Café in Fulham. And, as usual there was a latte not far from my hand on the table, my head was down and my nose was close to a book and I was in my element, reading a deep and intriguing book. I have to admit that I can be so absorbed in a book, so engrossed in it that I do believe that if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse galloped by I wouldn’t notice.

There is a game we should play,
And it goes like this:

Nothing distracts me when I’m transfixed by a book, well, almost nothing. Having been reading for some time, I noticed a slight but distinct temperature drop in the café, and it caused me to look up, momentarily. My grandmother, if she were physically present, would say an angel had entered the room.

It was if the café had suddenly been filled, instantly, with six people sitting at two or three tables. Ofcourse, they had been there for some time, but I had been oblivious to their coming and going.

I do like ‘people watching’, and so changing glasses (I wear varifocal but do like reading-only glasses for serious reading) I sat back in the chair, sipped my coffee, and slowly (but hopefully, not to obviously) looked around.

We hold hands and look into each other’s eyes
And scan each other’s faces.

Trying to be ‘invisible’, I noticed the people around me. Ah, there was the journal woman, so-called (be me) as she is constantly writing in her note pad. Perhaps, she’s  writing about the peculiar man in the corner who always seems to be reading and making notes in his books (and, that would be me). Someone, a younger person, was at the counter, ordering a take-away coffee but indulging in general chit-chat at a rather loud volume. Wearing dusty overalls it was likely he was redecorating or rebuilding one of the large, expensive houses in the area. And, there were two others I had seen on only a few occasions. My mind wondered as to who they were, what their occupation might be, and how they found this delightful café? And two others, older women, seated very close to me, were obviously old friends, reminiscing about the good old days.

And, then I say,
“Now tell me a difference you see between us.”

I picked up the coffee cup again, leaned back even more, and continued to look around. Compared to when I came into the café, I marvelled at the people now here, the differences in age, gender, look, accents, and even languages. Truly I am blessed to be living in a ‘kaleidoscope country’, as John Bercow the Speaker of the House of Commons described it some years ago. So many people, so many differences, and yet paradoxically we have that in common.

And you might respond,
“Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine”.
Then I would say,
“Yes, my dear, almost ten times”.

So, what is the difference between us? In all the variations of humanity, a small microscopic proportion represented here in this café, what is the difference between us? Do we have the same chemical composition? The same energy? The same aspirations? Oh, yes!

And, what about the coffee cup I’m holding? It, too, is composed of atoms, and at a deeper level quanta material that is similar to out elemental make-up. In one sense little difference there? You would expect me to say that as an animist. Oh, yes!

But let’s keep playing.
Let’s go deeper.
Go deeper still.
For if we do,
Our spirits will embrace
And interweave.

There is a story I was told many years ago, when I was a wee lad, about Indra’s web or Indra’s net. It is a much-loved story, a metaphorical one, about interconnectedness and interbeing all of things.

The story says that in the realm of the god Indra there is a vast net that stretches infinitely in all directions. At each intersection of the net or web (think of a spider’s web) there is a single brilliant, perfect jewel. And, each of these jewels on the web also reflects every other jewel, infinite in number. And, each of the reflected images of the jewels bears the image of all the other jewels — infinity to infinity. Whatever affects one jewel effects them all.

The metaphorical story illustrates the interpenetration of all phenomena. Everything contains everything else. And yet, each individual thing is not hindered by or confused with all the other individual things. Harmonious interconnectedness. A wonderful story.

Our union will be so glorious
That [maybe] even God
Will not be able to tell us apart.

We are more alike to our neighbour than different, more alike to everything around us, than different or separate. We’re connected. In another story-metaphor told by the Christ we’re told that, ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Ah. Connectedness.

Suddenly, respect for others, even those who ‘violently’ disagree with me, seems easier. We’re connected, we’re the same. Appreciation for nature all around me – whether in rural or urban environments – seems altogether more necessary because of that real and energetic connectedness. We’re the same. It was for that reason many years ago that Brother Francis could sing to Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

Connectedness. Interbeing. Something which those ancient cultures of Hebrews, Christians, Pagans, Druids and others of yesteryear took for granted, and from which we can learn.

There is a wonderful game
We should play with everyone
And it goes like this…

And, so having finished the latte there is only one thing to do. To order another coffee, to find my place in that book and resume reading, and, before I do that, to look around at the wonderful people around me and nature that abounds both outside and inside the café, and to wonder. In that respect, won’t you join me in this ancient game?

[The indented paragraphs above come from one of the poems of Hafiz, Persian mystic, AD1315-1390]

 

[Any] Power [You Have Comes To You From Far beyond]

20190507 ANY POWER YOU HAVE COMES TO YOU FROM FAR BEYOND

There was a time, when I was a wee lad, when I would go to Llyn Tegid (also known in English as Bala Lake, in north Wales) and just spend the whole day in the area: walk around part of its shores, climb a little ( as much as a child dare climb) and swim in its icy cold waters, or just sit and be mesmerised by the light shimmering on the water’s surface, and then, later, walk back to my grandmother’s cottage.

And, so on that occasion, and this is some years ago at the age of seven years, I squatted along the shore of Llyn Tegid and prodded a small rock pool, which had formed – cut off from the rest of the lake, prodding it with a twig. Although a lake, rock pools often formed at its edge, especially when the wind gusted down the valley from the mountains in one direction, and waves had a chance to build up and lap at its shoreline.

As I poked various parts of the rock pool, I could see the huge amount of pond-like life it contained, insects and plants in abundance. And, the messier and slimier the twig became the more I, as a small child, revelled in the fun I was having.

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.  Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

The words of my grandmother echoed the ‘short distance’ from the evening before, of how life is all around us, even when we couldn’t see it. As a young boy, it sparked my interest in nature and then, as I prodded parts of the rock pool, it excited my interest in insects and anything crawling in that microcosm of the world.

Other Elder words replayed in my mind: that everything contains energy, and, is energy. As a small child my understanding of that was limited, but as I scraped the earth by the side of the rock pool and the lake, and gouged out a trough for the lake’s ‘fresh’ water to gradually enter the rock pool, energy flowed via the water, where moments it did not. As a young boy I could understand that, especially as ripples of water entered the hitherto rather stagnant water of the rock pool.

Ofcourse, my attention span was limited, then (but, it has improved since), and I soon took to wandering around the lake, keeping a wary eye out for ‘Teggie’. In Scotland, Loch Ness has ‘Nessie’, the Loch Ness Monster, but here in north Wales – and it must be true as it was also one of my grandmother’s stories – we had’ Teggie, the Llyn Tegid monster, who it was said was able to eat a sheep in just one gulp.

That was then.

And, I’m in that place once again.

Now, sitting by another small rock formation on the shore of Llyn Tegid, many years later and somewhat older – can you believe, some fifty five years later – I’m gazing into a rock pool not unlike the one I prodded as a wee lad.

Gazing into it, it still fascinates me. Life, and life in abundance, what I can see and what I take by faith as much of it is invisible to me. The whole of Wales – and, indeed, the entire planet, cries out ‘life, life, life!’.

And what of energy?

Yes, even as an adult, now, I couldn’t resist finding a twig, gouging a trough in the earth to let the lake’s water enter this newly-found somewhat stagnant rock pool. Ripples, energy, minute ‘waves’ poured into the once-still rockpool, and it flowed.

‘I define subtle energies as movements in a sea of life and consciousness.’ David Spangler, ‘Working With Subtle Energies’

And, the words of my grandmother echoed the ‘longer distance’, from over the many years and took on a deeper meaning. Energy should flow.

Just as it flowed in this rock pool I am now gazing at, so it should flow in our lives, body, mind, spirit, our life’s events, local communities and beyond. Energy becomes stagnant when it doesn’t flow, but positive things happen when it does flow.

Now, taking hold of my grandmother’s words I could understand more so;  that when energy is stagnant within our bodies an imbalance occurs, and the result is unhealthy, When our mind’s are stuck in old habits and unhealthy thinking and we can’t, or won’t move on, then negative thoughts take hold. We see the outcome of that in the way many treat the Earth. And, who cannot but ‘see’ the un-healthiness in our politics as politicians cling to ‘yesterdays’ formulas and don’t move on.  Energy that is stagnant causes problems at various ‘levels’; energy that flows produces beneficial results.

‘If it’s not flowing out of you, it’s probably because you’re not allowing it to flow toward you. Love can flow toward you in every moment: through a flower, in a grain of sand, in a wisp of cloud, in any one person whom you allow to delight you. You might be experiencing this flow of love when you find yourself smiling at things for no apparent reason.’ Richard Rohr

Ofcourse, some may disagree with my understanding about energy, and some may see all this merely as an analogy or metaphor only – but it seems to ‘work’, and as science advances my grandmother’s words seem more ‘orthodox’ and scientific as time passes. Energy to be useful, beneficial, wholesome and productive, is like the water now entering the rock pool I’m looking at, but it needs to move.

When it flows out, other energy replaces it. When we bless, a loving form of energy, we receive energy and are similarly blessed; and many believe that we receive even more energy and blessing. Give that energy away to others (in what we do for them in acts of helps, in words of encouragement, in what we think, pray for them, and in bless them), and to nature, too, and we obtain even more.

Hoarding that energy, as if we want to jealously guard what we have, just in case replenishment ceases, leads to a stagnancy. But, as we give that energy away, it is always (more than) replenished, others benefit, nature benefits, and we benefit too. A win-win situation.

“If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.” John O’Donohue, ‘Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom’

Energy, my grandmother said to me all those years ago, must flow.

Now, back in my cottage at Capel Curig , years later, I ponder on her words. Ah, the Caim – that wonderful (en)circling ritual of power and blessing that we’ve mentioned in the past. How does this flowing energy ‘sit’ with the Caim. In the ritual of the Caim we ‘stand’ and invoke energy from Above, and gladly direct it to people and places in need. Yes, energy flows when we invoke the Source of All when using the Caim and others and/or nature are blessed, and so are we. What we give out, comes back.

“Who touched Me?” Jesus asked. But they all denied it. “Master,” said Peter, “the people are crowding and pressing against You.” But Jesus declared, “Someone touched Me, for I know that power has gone out from Me.”. Luke 8.45-46, The Book.

‘Mae mwy’, as my grandmother used to say – there is more! How can we use that energy, deal with stagnancy, get it moving, invoke power from Above, bless others and nature, how can we empower ourselves and mature (more so), and what is our energetic mission on Earth? And, what is energy? Is it just bland electrons or a spiritual equivalent? Something that can be reduced to an equation and codified? Or, is it alive? Food for thought there, and those words just beg to be ‘unpacked’ over the weeks ahead.

 

Beltane: Fire And ‘An Geadh-Glas’, The Wild Goose: Some Thoughts

20190427 FIRE AND AN GEADH-GLAS THE WILD GOOSE

Beltane, that most wonderful time of the year and awesome festival, is almost upon us.

At Beltane, we open ourselves to the Source of All, and give thanks for youth, vitality, new life, fecundity and empowerment. Summer is here.

We too are remnants of the First Fire that ever since lights the heavens as well as the tiny fires that warm our brief lives. Our planet remembers this original heat deep within its core, as we do in our fashion.’ Peter London in ‘Drawing Closer To Nature.

It is the time of new beginnings. However old we are, this time of the year makes us feel young again, and at Beltane many will jump over the fires of vitality and youth and allow that life-force to enliven and heal them. Others. May, symbolically, use a candle, but nonetheless take part in that joyful celebration in groups and by themselves.

Commonly held on 1 May (or the closest Saturday or Sunday), it’s called ‘Calen Mai’ in Wales, that us, the ‘first day of May’.

Beltane is a fire festival.

And, for some, it is an opportunity to rekindle the Beltane bonfire ritual. This ritual goes back to early Ireland when the community would light a giant bonfire during the event and share burning logs with which to light their home. Similarly in Germany, during Beltane, German Pagans and others celebrate Walpurgisnacht, when a giant bonfire is lit, and celebrations take place much like May Day: dancing, ritual, bonfires, maypole dancing, drinking mead. Beltane is a good time for hand-fasting.

‘The day will come when after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for…. [the Source of All]… the energies of love. Then for the second time in history of the world [humankind[ will have discovered fire’. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I like to link Beltane with Pentecost Sunday (or Whitsunday), 9 June 2019. The New beginnings, empowerment, new hope, and fire of Beltane naturally lead onto my love of Pentecost Sunday.

There, some two thousand years ago a small group of rather insecure and confused men and women met in secret. Huddled together, afraid for their lives, this timid, disparate group would have all but disappeared into obscurity, except for an outpouring.

Suddenly the room, where that group had assembled, was ablaze with light and the noise of a mighty wind filled the place. Fire descended from heaven, we are told, and alighted on each person. To many, this was the birth of the early church is all its innocence and simplicity. It was certainly the start, a new beginning, a time of new hope and empowerment for this group and what followed, and the fiery metaphor could not be missed.

Yes, Pentecost Sunday is the Church’s very own fire festival.

It’s a time when we open ourselves to the Source of All, and give thanks for new life and new hope, for vitality, fecundity and empowerment. Whatever is the animating force of the universe – present in us and every living creature, and in water, wind, earth/rock and fire – this Living force was made manifest on that first Pentecost Sunday and continues to pervade all, today.

Abba (Father) Lot came to Abba Joseph (two desert monks) and said, ‘Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation, and contemplative silence, and according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what should I so?

The elder [monk]  rose up early and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said, ‘Why not become fire?’

The Church refers to this Force as the Holy Spirit. One other occasion this Spirit was said to descend like and dove, and literalist artists over the centuries have pained it as an actual dove. But, it’s a metaphor. Why, to the ancient Christian Celts the Spirit, this Personal, animating Force was known as ‘an geadh-glas’, the wild goose (or grey goose).

I once heard a sermon that had me ‘curling up’ with fremdschämen. [Fremdschämen is German term which describes the process of being vicariously embarrassed by someone else, especially when that other person is unaware that they have just embarrassed themselves]. I was embarrassed for the minister as he declared that those simple Celts had no awareness of a dove but knew all about wild geese in those windswept northern islands of Britain. Oh, how he had missed the point, I thought. It’s easy for us all to do that – as we gaze back at historical events wearing  ‘twenty-first spectacles’ it’s easy to assume and ‘get the wrong end of the stick’.

My feeling of fremdschämen sprung from the fact that those ancient Celts knew about doves, and knew about wild geese, and wanted to change the metaphor to something they could see daily in their environment, something they could relate to, and be reminded of as they went about their business. ‘An geadh-glas’, the wild goose, to them was a wonderful metaphor for this animating Personal Life force – wild, flying wherever it wanted, strong and powerful, and full of surprises. A wild goose ‘fitted the bill’ wonderfully in that environment. These ancients knew much more than we give them credit for.

Stole NEW IMG_3202

The Wild Goose Stole

And so, in some Churches, at this time, you will see walls and tables festooned with the colour red (red for fire, a fire festival), bedecked with dove symbolism, and in some, yes, in a few you will see ‘an geadh-glas’, the wild goose (animating Life-Force). And, it’s at this time – and you know I love ritual and symbolism – that I will enjoy wearing the red, ‘an geadh-glas’, the wild goose stole at some rituals and services at this time. Though it’s quite versatile and can be worn at other events and festivals. [As regards the stole, think of it as a (clerical) scarf where the two ends drape at the front of your body].

Wearing the wild goose stole, then, is an opportunity to remind people, graphically, metaphorically, as they look on (and a reminder to me, too), that this is a fire festival, and the wild goose is a metaphor for the embodiment of new life, new hope and new beginning, of Life itself.

And, this, very neatly brings us back to Beltane, that wonderful fire festival of empowerment.

May you and those whom you love have a wonderfully rich Beltane and/or Pentecost Sunday fire festival and celebration, and be blessed with new starts, new beginnings and empowered by the Fire-Giver, the Source of All, Tadhg.

20190427 FIRE AND AN GEADH-GLAS THE WILD GOOSE

In The Busy-ness Of Life

20190421 IN THE BUSYNESS OF LIFE POEM PRAYER BLESSING

It’s Eastertide, and for some it’s a long weekend holiday, a time to ‘recharge’ those ‘batteries’, to relax and enjoy the first blooms of Spring, as temperatures rise.

Here’s a poem, a prayer, a blessing just for you – because I care, and welcome you as you faithfully read my blog. And so, the following words are penned  so that you and yours might enjoy this Spring season, this time of new life, hope and renewal

In the busy-ness of life,
may you find the quiet repose of the Source of All,
and be blessed.

May the love of Life itself
fill your soul
with the energy of a thousand flowing streams.

May the love of Mary, the archetypal Mother,
pervade every gentle activity
of yours today.

May the Sun’s smile
reside in your heart, the hearth of your being
to seal you as one of His own.

And, may the wings of countless angels
brush gently across your cheeks
as you sleep safely tonight.

Beltane 2019: FireFall (Start Here)

20190412 BELTANE 2019 FIREFALL START HERE 1

May is fast approaching. And with it comes Beltane, which officially marks the beginning of summer. It’s one of my favourite festivals – full of joy, thanksgiving, expectation, laughter and more – and it is an ancient Druidic ‘fire festival’, though many others will be celebrating something similar in different ways around this time. What follows is an outline of the festival and a few words that you might like to ponder upon or use as you celebrate the event.

Deep peace of the running waves to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.

Celtic blessing.

Beltane is celebrated on Wednesday, 1 May 2019 (though some might note that the day, if we follow the lead of ancient cultures, starts the evening before), but many will be celebrating it the previous or following weekend. It’s a time of joy and thankfulness at nature’s growth, fecundity and bounty, so do enjoy it, whenever you celebrate it.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ James 1:17, The Book

Beltane comes from the Celtic word/s ‘belo-tenia’ which means ‘bright fire’ or ‘lucky fire’, and as it is held on 1 May, it is known in Wales as Calan Mai (literally, ‘the first day of May’). There, on Nos Galan Mai or May Eve, many would gather hawthorn branches and flowers which they would then use to decorate the outside of their houses, celebrating new growth and fertility.

‘Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.’ Kahlil Gibran

There is a myth that if you wash your face in the morning dew before sunrise on Beltane that you will have a flawless complexion throughout the year. And if you are eager to ty this, then remember in the northern part of the UK on that day, say Inverness, the sun rises at 5.27am, but in the south, say, London, it rises at 5.33am. And, not forgetting the moon: there’s a new moon on 4 May 2019.

Blessed be you Source of All.
In your greenly greeting you return to the earth.
(To say upon waking) Your beauty cheers and renews as I rise up this morning
(To say at the end of the day) Your beauty cheers as I lie down to rest at this days end.

Tess, Ward. The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

Beltane festivities generally involved fire as this was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. Cattle were often passed between two fires and the properties of the flame and the smoke were seen to ensure the fertility of the herd.

Fire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalise. For instance, people, would leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year, and some would say a prayer as they did. It’s a wonderful time for handfasting, too!

Ofcourse, this time of year and such celebration are for Druids, Pagans, Wicans and others. Some areas still have the May Queen to represent the personification of Spring, and some have a straw man following, sometimes covered in greenery called Jack-in-the-Green to represent the Green Man. Some also dance around May Poles, and others look on in awe as Morris Dancers dance around in their inimitable style.

Blessed be you, O Living One.
The world is shot through with your radiance,
Reviving the earth, changing lives.
May I/we be aware that this day/night is charged with the splendour of heaven.

Tess, Ward. The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

But, others share this wonderful time of the year, as the Church, too, celebrates a ‘fire festival’, with the coming of Pentecost or Whitsun. It commemorates the time when the followers of the Christ, some two thousand yeas ago, were all together in one place and the Holy Spirit appeared to them as tongues of fire, hovering over them, to signify the outpouring of the Spirit onto all humankind.

More will follow regarding Beltane, but if you’re thinking of celebrating at home, now is the time to think about buying candles, small plants and other items to signify natures growth and abundance.

Divine Essence Ablaze…

20190404 DIVINE ESSENCE ABLAZE
I’m in London. You know I love to walk, and like nothing better than to hike in the great outdoors and go there regularly to re-charge my ‘batteries’, and to ‘escape’ the city. I love to explore, to go new places, and love the wilderness, especially.

But, I am the first to admit that, wherever we are, rural or urban landscape included, we can be energised and commune with nature, encounter the Source of All, and learn some invaluable lessons wherever we are. True, there may be some reasons to take a break from our routine and head to the countryside once in a while, but today wasn’t one of them for me.

I’m in London, and still liking to walk, sauntering whenever I can, and I had time to go for a gentle walk along Bishops Park, and then to Parson’s Green, and then along the river Thames.

Oh, the weather, you ask? The weather was changeable from one hour to the next – rain, cold, then dry and sunny and warm, then cloudy and windy. But, this is Britain.  Today, however, I revelled in nature around me, and within, and listened. And share this with you, for what happens here in this city, happens wherever you are, albeit in different ways, of that I’m sure.

From its winter’s sleep, Spring has finally arrived and new life is here. In everything.

The creative act was not consigned just to Genesis, but it happens each year – which is why as a Christo-Druid or Druidic-Christian I love to look deeper into nature, and the seasons and the calendar that marks out the seasons, and liturgy and ritual that accompany them, not in a religious, ‘fuddy-duddy’ way, not by a rote way of commemorating them, but in a lively, appreciative, life-affirming, joyous way – it’s the promise of seasons from the Life-Giver that is so affirming that encourages me to mark the time. It happens ever year, indeed in different ways it can happen everyday day and every moment, in nature, in nature in the city, and in you and I, depending on what we’re focussing on.

‘I, the highest and fiery power, have kindled every spark of life…I, the fiery life of divine essence, blaze in the beauty of the fields…’

Yes, spring is in the air. The local council, here in Fulham, London (UK) have ‘secretly’ and wonderfully planted fifty-two thousand daffodil bulbs around the borough – in local parks, commons, green areas along some streets – and they are blooming. [See the header photograph: Part of Parson’s Green, Fulham]

Many parts of this inner city borough are now awash with the green and yellow of daffodils standing to attention, and swaying gently in the wind. And, it’s marvellous to behold. In my mind I skipped through the ones on Parson’s Green as I saw them – but you’ll be pleased to know that, physically, I restrained myself just to gaze and be ‘mesmerised’ by them (but it’s intentionality that is most important!), but it was a lovely thought. It was an awesome sight.

The sun shone unhindered by clouds today, well at least for a couple of hours, but this is Britain. Nevertheless, when the sun shone, its brilliance hit the surface of water of the River Thames and a million stars twinkled back, winking on the water’s surface.

We take it for granted. Water. Perhaps there is a river near where you live that you can visit and just gaze at? Where there is water, there is life. It is suspected that there is water on Mars, and maybe there is life there – microbial, perhaps, they think?

Water means life. And, Hildegard of Bingen (one of my favourite mystics, a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, and visionary, AD1098 – 1179), reminds us that it is not just earthly life that is found in the water, but Life itself.

Yes,  the Source of All is ‘reflected’ in the waters. Not just the water of a river, but water itself, the very same water that flows through your home’s faucet/tap, that you drink or bathe in.

…'[I] am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars. With every breeze, as with invisible life that contains everything, I awaken everything to life. The air lives by turning green and being in bloom. The waters flow as if they were alive….’

That Which Is Bigger Than Us is ubiquitous. My walk took me across Wandsworth Bridge. I like baseball caps and in the summer they keep the sun off my ‘thinning’ pate, but today discovered a drawback. The centre of the bridge, ‘open’ to the breeze that blows along the River Thames, means that it can get quite windy and catch the ‘bill’ of the cap and had the potential to lift it off. And so, with cap in hand I had to laugh. The wind gusted at times and quite took my breath away. Invigorating wasn’t the word. Ah, the Source of All is in fire, water, rock beneath me and, I detected, in the air, in the wind, today, also.

‘I am also Reason, having the wind of the sounding Word by which all things were created, and I breathe in them all…’

The Life-Giver’s breath flows through everything. If you want to know if a person is alive, check for breath. Isn’t that what we’re told? But, that relates to earthly life.

On my walk today, Hldegards words whispered in my mind. None die (that is none are annihilated) her words reverberated deep within me, as she echoed words given to her. Imbued with life, we, as is everything else, cannot die. Many think that the opposite to life is death. There is no death. Change yes, but we do not die. Eckhart Tolle said, ‘Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.’

‘…so that none may die…’

I’m now in my London place, its now raining and the temperature is dropping a little, again, and I’m thankful for central heating. Yes, I’m still in London, have had my batteries ‘re-charged’, have encountered nature (even) in the city, listened deeply and learned a thing or two on my walk, and would encourage you to be open to Life itself, wherever you are.

‘…because I am Life…’ [This, and all indented quotes above are the words of Hildegard of Bingen, speaking about the Life-Giver].

 

In Memoriam: Thoughts On Death And Life

20190330 IM MEMORIUM THOUGHTS ON DEATH AND LIFE

As a Druidic- Christian or Christo-Druid, I love to honour the ancestors, and make it a joy to do so. This Sunday it’s Mother’s Day in the UK, and I’ll be buying a huge bunch of flowers.

It’s now been over five years – time flies – since the sweetest and most wonderful lady ‘went home’. A few days later and it will be two years since the gentlest and ‘toughest’ man I ever knew also ‘passed on’. Oh, what child doesn’t miss their parents, following a bereavement?

‘Honour your father and mother…’ Ephesians 6.2a. The Book

It is something many, especially in our culture, don’t like to talk about: death. It can seem such an ugly word. And yet, in balance, I do believe it is healthy to dwell upon it for an appropriate amount of time. Talking about it can be cathartic. However, this article is my opinion and belief (and I accept the following may not be appropriate for the recently bereaved, and won’t be offended should such people stop reading now. If this applies to you, rest assured, you are still in my thoughts and prayers, and even more so).

Death can seem such an ugly word. And regrets? Regret is seemingly just as bad. From ‘our side’, I am sure there will always be a few stray thoughts that ‘bounce’ about. Should I have said this? Should I have done that? Those thoughts are natural, but in many ways they are mentally and emotionally tortuous, and draining, but, once worked through the healing process begins, and death and our ‘departed’ loved-one can be seen in a different way. Healing begins.

‘A deathbed is not a dead place; it can be a place of intense energy’. John O’Donohue

It was a privileged to be there, at the bedside of my mother when she died, and then a few years later at my dad’s beside when he died. There was no ‘additional’ atmospheric phenomena, no rush of wind in the room, no ethereal light seen bathing them, no angelic music that I could detect – such is the substance of tv programs like the Ghost Whisperer, (though perhaps shallow of me, it would have been comforting – but upon reflection who knows what was happening invisibly and inaudibly to me? I now have wonderful thoughts now of just that: light, love, music, angels at every persons ‘departure’. Now, that’s comforting, and the seeming lack of it is only a limitation of current perception).

Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”
“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all.

Part of a poem regarding a ‘heavenly’ sailing boat: carrying a loved-one, entitled ‘I am standing upon the seashore’ by Henry Van Dyke

In each case, however, there was a body with breath one minute, and a body without breath the next. They were present one minute and gone the next, and it was that that was comforting. An absence. A real Presence that was there in each case one moment, but had then gone, had ‘moved on’, and that ‘inner’ feeling of soulish movement and Presence departing was almost palpable.

To see death as loss is to look at it in only one way. There is another way. There is more or ‘Mae mwy’ as my grandmother would say. Something more profound is happening beyond the veil. In essence, many of the events surrounding the journey of death, from our viewpoint, take place in the imagination, but that makes it no less real and no less comforting.

Regardless of the physical circumstances of anyone’s death, they close their eyes one moment and open them, immediately, as a being of Light that they already were. I do believe that no one dies alone. If we were not physically present (or even if we were) those in that invisible-to-us realm are present leading them to Bliss. There is told an old story, a parable, of a poor man who suffered much during his earthly life. When he died, the Master said, ‘the angels carried him to Abraham’s side (a poetic way of describing Bliss. (Luke 16:22b The Book). Whatever our ‘theology’ companions, ‘lights’ will guide us ‘home’.

And, who is to say that the distance between us and a ‘departing’ loved one is a hindrance to them, anyway? I don’t believe it is. Geo-physics doesn’t apply now. [And, additionally, there is a view that the soul remains close until the third day, anyway]. We can feel so guilty, so regretful, and in most (if not all) there is no need – and no desire from our loved ones for us to heap ‘coals of fire’ upon ourselves.

Annihilation? No, I don’t believe that. As a Druidic-Christian I take to heart innumerable promises of the continuance of life and the personality in ancient text, and see the continuing life-death-life cycle in nature around me.

Isn’t it pleasant, at this time of year to witness trees that have been dormant for months coming to life (oh, they were never dead, just sleeping). And in Fulham, London the local council, here, ‘secretly’ buried thousands of daffodil bulbs some months ago that are now busting through their earthly vault, and local parks and commons are wonderfully awash with green and yellow flowers, and much more.

Life goes on. Not just ‘down here’, though it should: those who have ‘gone ahead’ would certainly want us to do our best and enjoy ourselves here. But, it does go on ‘up there’.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

Part of the poem: ‘I am standing upon the seashore’ by Henry Van Dyke

It is only my opinion, but life ‘there’ will be totally different to life ‘here’. No more ailments, no more aging, no more death, everything is new and perfect, and peace abounds. All will be light and love. And our loved-ones, our ancestors, the ‘ascended ones’ those inhabitants of Bliss, now beings of Light will prosper in all ways, having come into their ‘fullness’ (though I have a feeling that that change is already happening in each of us, unawares. In that respect it is us who have a perception ‘challenge).

And so, tomorrow, I’ll be putting flowers on the grave that marks the physical resting place of my dear mum and dad, and my feelings will be mixed. Yes, I’m only human and I do miss them; but there’s more! And so, as I honour my mother and father, the ancestors, I know in my heart of hearts that life goes on in a myriad of ways,  much of which we cannot possibly comprehend (yet), and I will give thanks, and look forward to each day in a welcoming and positive way.

Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.

Rumi

 

Header photo: Photo taken by me in October 2017 having lit a candle in memory of my parents and the ancestors at St Oran’s Chapel (built during the 12th century), Isle of Iona, Scotland. Do click here for that journal/article entry.

 

 

Our Primal Calling & Status: City Park Thoughts

20190326 OUR PROMAL CALLING AND STATUS

There is a place I go, when in London, a place in the midst of eight million people; it is a place of relative solitude. Situated at the far end of a pond in Bishop’s Park, part surrounded by mature trees and thick undergrowth you could imagine that you were miles away from the hubbub of a busy city. Tree, bushes, dryads, elementals, and if ancient text is to be believed then angels are sometimes found under mature trees such as these.

I was in that place today. And, I just sat there and ‘basked’ in nature.

It was a delight to ‘switch off’ from the challenges of listening to the politics from across the pond, and politics of the self-inflicted wound this country has caused itself. The question on everyone’s tongue is: why?

But, it got me thinking.

Is our life, the reason we were inculcated with the Divine ‘spark or crawled out of the primeval swamp a billion years ago, depending on your viewpoint, just to be a consumer or worried with ‘things’, possessions, attachments? Why? Are we just saving up for that moment when we can buy this and that?

I don’t believe so. We are more.

Ofcourse, we do consume things (but hopefully, we do so responsibly, whenever we can), we can get concerned with things and possessions (but hopefully, such things do not become the master of us), and we may have attachments (but hopefully, work towards ‘zero’ attachments or at least ‘seeing’ them for what they are. Perhaps, it’s all to do with priorities?

It’s bliss in this place. Trees and bushes, sensing spring, are pushing through leaves, flying insects are starting to buzz, and an assortment of birds fly overheard or resting near the pond, with others swimming in the pond.

And of all the creatures about this place, me, humankind is the only one that can obsess about inconsequentials. And, yet for a short while I was able to ‘switch off’ and merge with nature, to be one with everything around me as though there was  no division (and there isn’t), and any concerns about politics etc were lifted off my shoulders. It was bliss.

The rose is without why,
it blooms because it blooms,
It pays no attention to itself,
asks not whether it is seen.

(Poem, ‘Without why’ from ‘The Cherubinic Wanderer’, by Angelus Silesius (1624-1677), a mystical poet)

In this simple and profound state the rose is, just is. It doesn’t fret about its function or the processes of being a rose. Infact the notion of what and why and how doesn’t enter into the picture. Using the analogy of the rose it is an encouragement for us to exert our original identity, to realise our wonderful status, and revel in the freedom of being ourselves.

We are more than just consumers, voters, workers etc. In one sense, we do not need to strive. Want to be one with nature? We already are! Though I accept that sometimes our actions seem to ‘distance’ us and there is a need to act in accordance with our being. Want to be one with the Divine? We are already at the feast, though we might not realise it, nor act accordingly. Want to step along that path of the journey of your life? You’re already on it, so enjoy it. You’re already there!

Though we need a roof over our heads and we work and buy and sell, I do believe we miss out when we forget the primal calling which each of us responded to, as ‘chosen people’, by virtue of the fact that we are here!

As I sat in that park, today, thoughts ran through my mind: What really matters is what money cannot by. What really lasts in what cannot be quantified? What makes a difference is what is invisible.

We need to develop to look beyond, with eyes beyond eyes.

Once I asked my Master, “What is the difference between you and me?” And he replied, “Hafiz, only this.

If a herd of wild buffalo broke into our house and knocked over our empty begging bowls not a drop would spill from yours.

But there is Something Invisible that the Divine has placed in mine. If that spilled from my bowl, it could drown this whole world.’

(Hafiz)

In that park, in that place of solitude it was clear: we think our life is empty or it is so because we try to fill it with things that don’t really matter, and the bowl is metaphorically empty. However, if our priorities are correct and we’re aware of our primal calling and status, then when the bowl of our life, our being, is spilled, then we understand it contains invisible contents, and  something wonderful spills over.

Now, were those thoughts mine, as they occurred in the park, or prompted by someone else, an angel, a fae, an elemental, a subtle being? Who knows? Ask that question, and we’re back to square one. Ask that and we’ve jumped out of the mystery and into rational thought. When we were infact dealing with the ‘arational’ (above the rational, not irrational). Perhaps the question isn’t important, nor one we should really  be asking. Perhaps, just accepting the thoughts from any origin, dwelling on them, mulling them over is what is most important. It is, surely, important to exert our original identity, to realise our wonderful status, and revel in the freedom of being ourselves.

Now, the park as I sit on this park bench seems even more alive, more wonderful, more mysterious than I had formerly imagined. It is the case, with eyes to see beyond, the same where you are, too!

And so, I leave the park. Those concerns I had, and our need for work and shelter etc still persist, but for a short time, the benefits of that time in the park have put those things into perspective. And, it’s bliss.