Here Be Dragons: Encountering Nature In The City & Looking Beyond The Veil

20180715 HERE BE DRAGONS ENCOUNTERING NATURE IN THE CITY

It is no secret that I like ritual. Ritual, if the intention is there, takes us out of ordinary time and into sacred time, away from only an awareness of mundane space and into sacred space; and it opens up a doorway, a liminal threshold to the Other. We enter a place and time where things happen. Really happen. Even if we’re unaware of the sequence of events.

And, it doesn’t have to be formal ritual. There are many rituals, simple ones, too, that are useful to us as individuals, that we do daily, beneficial routines that open the path to the imaginal realm, that realm of power and potential. This can lead to an encounter that can be wholly other (as in the imaginal), wholly ‘here’ (as in the physical realm), but is usually witnessed as a somewhat confusing combination of the two.

Holy superimposition.

‘There are two worlds: the world we can measure with line and rule, and the world that we feel with our hearts and imagination.’ Leigh Hunt

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Bishop’s Park, London

Today was very much like that. One of my daily rituals when in London is to take some valuable time out at the beginning of the day and visit the Magic Café, when in Fulham, south-west, inner London. There, over a latte I pore over a good book for an hour, at least. It is a time of grounding, ‘earthing’, drawing energy into my being to prepare myself for the day ahead.

In many senses I am so absorbed by the book I’m reading, at those times, that events can happen around me and I’m totally unaware of them. I might have ate a croissant and looked up about half an hour later only to find the empty plate has gone from my table. In such circumstance I try to catch the baristas eye and thank him or her for clearing the table, as it might have appeared rude not to acknowledge their good work at the time. Totally absorbed, was I in that liminal realm. The baristas know me well.

Something similar happened again, today. Serendipity.

The weather in London and, indeed, the UK has been unusually hot. Usually after a few days of hot weather (say, 26 Celsius or hotter), here, the weather breaks, we have a thunderstorm and it goes back to being mild and changeable. It’s been hot, between 25 and 31 Celsius for about three weeks, and although some local areas have had very brief rainstorms, they’ve missed Fulham.

‘Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for.’ Glauco Ortolano

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Bishop’s Park, London

And, as it happened, all the outside tables and chairs at the café were all occupied by others when I arrived there this morning. It was clear, there was only one thing for it: order a take-away latte and take myself (and the good book I was carrying) off to a nearby (riverside) park. Bishop’s Park. Ironic, really, as the book I was reading was about encountering nature deeply (in both rural and urban settings), and so I walked the four minutes to the park, slowly (as it was hot) to put into practice what I was reading.

I found a wonderful shady spot near the lake (which, courtesy of the local council’s ‘bio-diversity’ and wildlife welfare policy, is amazingly overgrown at the edges). It is a beautiful area. The sun was hot, the sky blue and cloudless but I was in shade. The air was filled with the fragrance of a myriad of flowers, and birdsong. I sat on a bench to read my book and occasionally sipped the coffee.

I read for about half an hour but was disturbed by a few ducks that had arrived and stayed for several minutes, a couple of dragonflies who seemed to want to ‘buzz’ me, and a large water rat that ambled out of the undergrowth and came towards me at some speed, stopping about six feet (two metres) in front of me, sniffed in my direction in an exaggerated manner before shuffling off.

Ofcourse, these weren’t interruptions at all.

‘We live in a relative and contradictory world. We go to work, care for our family and friends, and manage ordinary details every day. And yet we are timeless. We are the rhythm of life’. Llyn Roberts

If the book I was reading was anything to go by, and it is a good book by Sandra Ingerman and Lllyn Roberts, then this was just the time to take up one of its suggestions to put the book to one side. I did.

I relaxed, adopted a meditative state, half-closed my eyes and revelled in nature that was all around me, and if you take into account the fragrances in the air, then nature was within me! And, there’s more. As I sat there, in the middle of London in a lovely park, and in an awesome, overgrown, lush area of the park, ‘disturbed’ only by nature,  I was in bliss. I wasn’t apart from nature looking on, but was part of it, part of that rhythm of life.

Liminality.

It was then that I saw, resting on undergrowth to my side, a wonderful dragonfly – well, actually a damselfly. Very similar to dragonflies, but they’re smaller. They are close ‘cousins’ to the dragonfly. Both are members of the odonata order. So-called by a Danish zoologist some two hundred years ago who, mistakenly, thought they had teeth. The lovely creature resting on a flower was a (UK) common blue damselfly. Magnificent.

In the world of the imagination, myth and magic, it is said that dragonflies and damselflies were the dragons of old: think scaly winged, fire-breathing creatures. Now, much smaller they are ‘disguised’ when they appear in this realm.

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Bishop’s Park, London

They are said by some to be one of nature’s shape-shifters because they inhabit two elemental realms: air and water. Some believe that to see them up close means that your life will never be the same. Others believe that such creatures break down ones illusions and expose truth, usher in winds of change, wisdom or enlightenment, and if one lands on you then good luck is sure to follow. Dragonflies carry messages that deal with deeper thought – and they ask that we pay attention to our deeper thoughts and desires.

‘It is one thing to read about dragons, and another to meet them.’ Ursula Le Guin

I’m told the Swedish name for them is trollslända, which means ‘hobgoblin fly, and comes from a time when dragonflies and damselflies were thought to be the ‘horses’ for elves, brownies and the fae, who would travel around on their backs.

Meanwhile, that wonderful common blue damselfly was still resting on that nearby plant, and then suddenly he or she flew off. Gone. Did its presence have a significant meaning?

At one level it’s clear that nature is flourishing in this place and I (and you, wherever you find yourself, and even in the city) are part of it: connected. At another level, there is the view of acceptance, that we are one with nature and nature is one with us: kin. And, at a still deeper level, maybe there was a ‘message’ today in that damselfly’s visit that was pertinent to me (just as at other times and places other events are pertinent and meaningful to you)? Awareness.

Mark Nepo calls such events ‘quiet teachers’: natural events that can speak volumes to us, if we but take time to rest and let natural wisdom ‘soak’ into our being so that we are ‘taught’ something special, and deep, and wholesome from that event. It’s what our ancestors, ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans, ancient Christians and others would have understood, almost without trying. Participation mystique, or mystical participation. Something that doesn’t come easy to us, but which can be experience with some intentionality.

Why, then the wise thing to do is ponder upon its meaning and apply it to ourselves. Or, perhaps, or in addition to all this, is the fact that each of us are blessed in living on a wild and ‘life-full’ planet (whether we live in a rural or urban setting), and are part of the web of life; and today, in one small way I spied another creature, a dragonfly/damselfly also attuned into, and part of the web of life, and in looking beyond the veil I understood it to be a gift from the Source of All to you and I, and others. Gratitude.

’Hic sunt dracones; here be dragons’.

 

20180715 HERE BE DRAGONS ENCOUNTERING NATURE IN THE CITY

 

 

The Caim 2: Caim Variations & Examples

20180712 THE CAIM 2 CAIM VARIATIONS AND EXAMPLESIf ever there was a need to focus our attention, to ‘be’, to be intentional in our locality and the world, to draw in or harvest positive energy and direct it to those who need it, it is now.

What we do is preceded by our thoughts, what happens externally through us was initiated in that interior realm, and any power we use comes to us from far beyond, and flows through us. It does so because That Which Is Bigger Than Us graces us with the status of ‘co-creators’.

There is a great need for the power of the Caim – that circling ritual or prayer.

A few weeks ago we looked at the Caim in outline. See here. There are various uses for the Caim. Traditionally, a ritual of individual protection, it can be adapted to suit the requirements of the hour.

‘The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small’. Mother Teresa

The main part of the Caim, I call ‘Standing in the Gap: Using the Caim’. After preparing the Caim, that is ‘drawing’ or casting the Circle, it is here, in this middle segment, that the actual energetic part of the ritual takes place. And as regards that, here are a few journal ‘fragments’ of previous Caim ritual to encourage you to consider using it.

Ofcourse, you can take parts of what follows and ‘mix and match’, and so you don’t only have to use an activity highlighted by me in, say, the healing section, there only. But, you can adapt it and use it elsewhere, as appropriate.

Do experiment. It may not feel as though it ‘works’ the first time but you can try activities, altering them slightly as you go along. In essence, you cannot make a mistake, and can always do an event over and over again until you’re satisfied. The Universe understands, and it is your intentionality that is important here. So:

For Individuals For Healing

As I stood, alone, in the middle of the circle, with only candle-light flickering in the corners of the room, I closed my eyes. I had brought a photo of someone that had a dangerous kidney complaint and who was in need of urgent healing, and now held that photograph close to my heart. I started to imagine them. I faced, roughly, the direction of where that person lived, and said out loud what was on my heart, and sought the One to heal them.

‘We need to surrender the outcome…we must co-operate with change rather than resist it.’ Sandra Ingerman

At times like this, I think it is important not to be (too) prescriptive as to the outcome and how it is to be achieved, but to leave that to the One. However, I do believe it is right to visualise that person as they would be when back to full health.

And so, I raised one hand, upwards, metaphorically heavenward, and closed my fingers rapidly as if grasping something quickly. In my mind’s eye I visualised grasping ‘solidified healing’ from above (okay, that may stretch the imagination too much, but to me at that time I visualised sparkling, golden, radiant, healing, heavenly fog! For those that have come across the word, think: shekinah). This visualisation is a metaphor, but it’s powerful and effective as it is intentionality that is all-important, and so I ‘threw’ (or, more accurately it was an open-palmed ‘push’, of) what I had gasped toward the person in need and healing, and uttered the words, Be healed’.

Although in poetic form, you might like to enact and/or adapt the following actions:

Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:
‘As above, so below,
there are things you should know.’

‘Human words are powerful, they are a door,
your actions are effective, they are pure metaphor.’

‘And so I speak of humanity’s cosmic task,
to be revealed, evidenced, enjoyed, without any mask.’

‘And so, don’t just sit, but take heed and do,
these are worded-actions-prayers for many, and for you.’

‘And so, again I say, as above, so below,
remember these things; they are things you should know.’

‘Through prayer, does that which is unseen, unmanifest,
reveal itself and take form in the blessed.’

‘And so, I mention,
with your hands at your side, walk humbly,
take seven half-steps forward, its 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.’

More of the poem can be read here.

It is my belief that, in this case, all people, everywhere with the same complaint would benefit in some way. That Which Is Bigger That Us is so, so generous.

For Individuals For Beneficial Group/Local/Tribal/Global Outcomes

Alone, and in that circle, I was moved to pray for a part of the world where tribal divisions had erupted, innocent people were being harmed. There was a great need for negativity to be transformed into positivity, hate changed into love, anger into peace. At other times I’ve prayed for ecological disasters to be abated and/or transformed.

‘You breathe in the pain of a specific person or animal that you wish to help. You breathe out…spaciousness or kindness…’ Pema Chödrön

This time I had brought a globe (of the world, but a print-out or rough drawing of the countries’ outline would suffice) into the circle, and placed my hand, open-palmed over the area in need. As I imagined that area which was in need, I breathed in.

  • As I breathed in, I imagined breathing in all the negativity, pain and hatred of that region.
  • As I breathed out, I imagined the love and peace of the Universe flowing through me (and others) to people in that region.

I did this several times: breathing in negativity, breathing out love and positivity. Some may recognise this as a form of tonglen, a deep and effective technique used by Buddhists and others. Breath has been used as a powerful metaphor for healing and blessing from ancient times: Think: John 20:22, The Book.

At then at the end, as a variation on tonglen, and if you’re concerned about inhaling at that negativity, although the The Source of All can effectively deal with it without any detriment to you, you could try the following: With the idea of one deep exhalation and inhalation in mind, arch you head back so your face is heavenward. And then as you imagine negativity, exhale! Imagine it all leaving your body.  And then, as you visualise light from above flooding you, inhale deeply. There, it’s done. If ever there was a need for cleansing from formerly inhaling negativity, the situation is reversed and you’re cleansed.

For Group Liturgical Caim(s)

Whereas the abovementioned was very much centred on an individual conducting a Caim on behalf of another or a local or global area, sometimes the Caim can be included within a larger ritual or even be a larger, formal ritual itself, and might be used in various ways.

For ceremonies or services to do with ecology the Caim could be used for land healing, global healing, for seeking to redress a specific disaster or wrong and sending energy out.

It might be used as a blessing circle. The service or ceremony leader might invite, one by one, all those who would like a blessing, a change of ‘luck’, inner cleansing, or a new start, or healing. Or, for the start of a new company or project.

It could be used as part of an animal blessing day (perhaps on the feast day of St Francis) and pet-owners, along with their pets, could be invited into the circle.

How formal or informal you make this part of the ceremony is up to you, but in all cases it is best if a few minister to a group of say a couple of dozen or more. I’ve led a number of formal, liturgical Caims, and they are very moving, indeed.

You might include drama, enacted/active metaphors, poetry, or words that the congregation can join in, periodically.

In such cases as a handfasting, appropriate attire was expected.

If it helps others to think or meditate deeply, to be drawn, positively, into what is going on (liminal encounters) then appropriate attire is an asset. Ofcourse, what you wear as leader depends on what is expected of you and how Durham Albcomfortable you feel.

And so, on this occasion, a handfasting ceremony, I wore a hooded robe (but please don’t think ‘cosplay) in white, or if outside in woodlands then I would have worn a brown one (think Franciscan).

Around the waist I tied a white cincture (think: belt or, better still, think white rope). Image result for silver celtic four dragons pendant tain

I hung a chain around my neck, with a symbol on it. On this occasion the chain held a circular pendant depicting four Welsh/Celtic dragons representing the four elements, or the four persons of the Trinity (and if you find that confusing or heretical, do ask me.) On other occasions I’ve hung a Celtic cross, or similar, on the chain.

And then, I wore a stole – a white one with the symbolic fishes (representing the Christ) – Trinity Fish Stole (070)think: long scarf, similar to what one of the Dr Who characters wore. I’ve got several stoles: white, black, red, green etc, some simple and others with symbols stitched on them, and wear them depending on the ceremony type, or season.

What you wear, and usually the less formal the better (unless it’s a formal handfasting or large ceremony to usher in the seasons etc) doesn’t have to be flamboyant. Something simple can be worn as a token symbol – it doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can be just as meaningful.

Why bother with all this? Well, you don’t have too.

But wearing different clothing may help you, it may assist others to recognise that something altogether different is happening and that all have entered sacred-space, and have been ushered into the liminal realm. It is there, where significant and mysterious things and power can positively be encountered by all. Think of the way surgeons might sterilise their hands and wear operation-green clothes as they prepare to undertake an operation. It shows that some different is about to happen, and that ‘they mean business’.  It is the same here, though its not essential, it might be worthwhile and beneficial to you and others, to set aside certain clothes and/or pendants etc for ceremonial or ritual use. Think of religious leaders and clergy, ancient and current-day Celts, Druids, Pagans and others. Apparel can be important to them, and to you.

Finally…

The Caim is adaptable, and how you use it will be determined by you and the requirements you and others have. Do experiment and do enjoy the experience. And, if you would like to refresh your memory of the essential Caim, details can be found here.

Have a happy and blessed time using the Caim.

 

20180712 THE CAIM 2 CAIM VARIATIONS AND EXAMPLES

 

 

Let Your Light Shine: An Encouragement

20180704 LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE AN ENCOURAGEMENT NHS

‘Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.’ Og Mandino

She lit the candle, she sang a song, and then she went quiet. She gently touched the back of one of my hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to me. After several minutes she said she had concluded her prayer for me. Would the prayer ‘work’, would I be healed? Right there and then, what moved me to tears, was that she cared enough to go out on a limb, to make herself vulnerable, and be intentional for my sake. Right there and then, it was enough.

There is an old quote that I like: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes.

It translates as, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. It is said that Bernard of Chartres, some 800 years ago, used to compare us, metaphorically, to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we can see much more and much farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. Because of them.

It isn’t often that I write about a government institution, but Thursday, 5 July 2018 sees the UK’s National Service (NHS) reaching the age of seventy years. I’m never sure about the politics of other countries, when it comes to medicine, but I can only say the NHS is a Godsend, much-loved by millions in the UK, and has saved countless lives, including mine.

Happy 70th Birthday, dear NHS

On 5 July, 1948, a nervous, and very ill girl, Sylvia Beckingham, then aged 13 years, was admitted to Park Hospital in Manchester with a potentially fatal liver condition. Until then patients, apart from the few that were fortunate to gain access to the few free hospital, would have to pay. Not so, little Sylvia. She was the first ever patient to be treated on the NHS.

‘He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” The Book, Luke 10:25-37

It’s not often that I laud a politician, but Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health in 1948 is to be praised for his foresight and vision, and passion to found the NHS despite opposition by some at the time. I am so pleased he overcome that opposition.

Aneurin Bevan was born on 15 November 1897 in Tredegar in Wales. His father was a miner and the family were poor and working class, and Aneurin (or Nye) grew up in a setting that gave him first-hand experience of the problems of poverty and disease.

In his early fifties, Aneurin Bevan, on 5 July 1948, true to his ‘calling’ ensured that the government of that day took over responsibility for all medical services and there was free diagnosis and treatment for all. The NHS was born that day, because of him.

Angels walk amongst us, and they can usually be found in hospitals wearing tabards with the word ‘volunteer’ on the back or chest, or wearing white, or blue, or green.

It’s not often that I talk about my medical history, but sometimes it’s right to mention it. Oh, there was that eleven days in hospital a few months ago, which turned out to be pneumonia. Then about seven years ago it was necessary for me to undergo a thyroidectomy. And about eleven years ago I was admitted to hospital as I had oesophageal cancer. That necessitated umpteen appointments, endoscopies, CT scans, three cycles of chemo, a massive operation, and several weeks of radio-therapy. Following that were umpteen check-ups, and even voice ‘lessons’ (as part of the oesophagostomy operation meant going in through the side of my neck to ‘tie things up, and it bruised by vocal chords).

No one at any time sat me down to talk about money and payment, because the NHS was, and is, free at the point of need. I had the best service from a myriad of caring professionals, and all that was discussed were operation procedures, recuperation, follow-up and the like, with much encouragement. Four and a half years later, I received the ‘all clear’.

If it were not for others, I wouldn’t be here. I suspect that that is the same for you. If not healing via a hospital, you are here because of others, nevertheless.

It might be fairly easy to ‘look back’ and imagine ourselves as part of a family tree, the web of life, and wonder. The next step, I would suggest is to ‘look forward’, to imagine future generations, as that tree grows, and what they might look like and do, because of us; and to imagine how they might be grateful to us as they look back at us.

‘Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.’ Tim Gunn

Yes, we are here because of others, and others in the future will be here and/or affected by us because of our actions and the legacy we carve out, in our words now, our thoughts, our rituals and prayers for healing and guidance etc. Because of you. You cared, you prayed, you lit incense, you performed a liturgy, and That Which Is Larger Than Us heard, and responded.

And so for a very dear friend, I lit the candle, sang a song, and then went quiet as I meditated, visualised an ‘inner caim’. I gently touched the back of one of their hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to to the person next to me. After several minutes I said that I had concluded my prayer for them. Would the prayer ‘work’, would they be healed? Right there and then, what moved them, I believe, was that I cared enough to go out on a limb, to make myself vulnerable, and be intentional for their sake. Right there and then, I believe it was enough.

What is true for me, I believe is true for you. Follow your passion. Don’t hold back.

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ Marianne Williamson

 

Full Moon: Moon Of Horses: Celtic Ephemera [27/28 June 2018]

20180627 EPHEMERA FULL MOON 27 OR 28 JUNE 2018

There is a full moon coming up.

I love full moons, and this one will light up the sky splendidly on Wednesday and Thursday of 27 June 27 and 28 June 2018. This is because this full moon occurs at 0453 GMT/UTC, so depending on which time zone you live in, the full moon will be at its best late on Wednesday (June 27) or in the small hours of Thursday (June 28) in the northern hemisphere. Actually either/both nights will show a wonderful full moon.

‘The moon is the reflection of your heart and moonlight is the twinkle of your love.’ Debasish Mridha

It will be in the constellation of Sagittarius the archer, and the ringed-planet Saturn will be close by (about a distance of seven moon-widths from the moon, as you look at it).

Moon name: To some, this full moon was the Dyan Moon to those of medieval England, and today it is known as the Dyad Moon to some, the Planting Moon or Strawberry Moon, or Rose Moon to others, and the Moon of Horses to ancient and latter-day Celts, Druids and myself.

‘The full moon – the mandala of the sky.’ Tom Robbins

Moonfact: Although kept a secret at the time, on 20 July 1969, at the time of the first ever moon-landing, Aldrin took out a small container of wine and some bread that he had brought to the moon from Webster Presbyterian church near Houston, where he was an elder.

Aldrin then radioed to Nasa and said, ‘I would like to request a few moments of silence … and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.’

He then ate and drank the elements of bread and wine: communion. The surreal ceremony is described in an article by Aldrin in a 1970 copy of Guideposts magazine: ‘I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.’

He also read a section of the gospel of John. During it all, Armstrong is said to have watched respectfully but without making any comment. This information was gleaned by me from the internet, and one has to be careful about the veracity of some claims made on the internet, but Snopes has it down as an accurate fact.

‘The moon stays beautiful with its craters, so why then are you afraid of your scars?’ Zubair Ahsan

Celebration: I know celebrating the full moon with communion elements may not be ‘everybody’s cup of tea’, but I would encourage you to celebrate this full moon in some meaningful way. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Something simple, intentional and moving (to you) is of great value.

As regards the universe, John Wheeler said, ’We are participators in bringing into being not only near and here, but far away and long ago.’

John Wheeler, an American physicist who is known for having coined the term ‘black hole’ said that each of us is intimately involved with the universe. From that, we can deduce that what we do does make a difference. He called it the ‘participatory anthropic principle. So, do celebrate this full moon in some way and make a difference: an intentional walk in moonlight, or a silent gazing at the full moon, a glass of wine ‘toast’ to the moon, or perhaps buy a moon chart to mark its progress and changes throughout the year, or a word of gratitude to the moon and/or the One Behind It All, or perhaps something else.

Oh Universal Presence,
bless us with the gentle light of your signs and wonders,
as we gaze heavenward to Earth’s companion, the Moon.

Gazing up we see a serene face looking back,
etched into grey-white rock.
May we see all humanity contained in that face,
and look in awe at all humankind, too.

May we see light and love in this radiant light from the full moon falling to the Earth, and covering all.
May we see we see the life of the universe in everything.
May we look upon the Moon’s face, to the One Behind It All
and be grateful.

Dwelling On The Earth: Twenty-First Century Living

20180627 DWELLING ON THE EARTH

As you know I jaunt between the wilds of Capel Curig in north Wales, that place of rugged grey-green mountains and valleys, and the urban sprawl that is London. And, I love both in equal measure but for different reasons.

There is a school of thought that the land chooses us. Not just those wilderness areas where some might live or we might visit sometimes or holiday there, or plan to visit, but wherever we find ourselves, and right now I have the city in mind, as that is where I am. Carl Jung called this notion of the land choosing us, as the spiritus loci.

’The soil of every country holds…mystery. We have an unconscious reflection of this in the psyche.’ Carl Jung

We affect the land just by being there, as well as changing it, physically, in various ways; the land affects us in a myriad of ways, and some of those are inner changes, whether we’re aware of them or not. There is a natural symbiosis, connectedness that ancient tribes and celts, druids and others knew.

Spiritus loci is ‘felt’ when we know a place well or are ‘at home’ there. Sometimes we might feel ‘not at home’ in a place or it might take some ‘work’ to settle, and in these cases the spirit loci is at work – the energy and connectedness of the land reaching out to us to include us even today, if we’re aware.

There is an old story of an Irish saint, called Gobnait who lived in the sixth century and was aware of the energy and power of the land, the earth.

When she was a young lady she fled her family, who lived in County Clare, because of a feud, and sought out refuge in Inis Óirr. She spent some time there, deep in her thoughts, and realised she had an inner disquiet about the place. Shortly after this an angel appeared to her and told her to leave that place because it was ‘not the place of her resurrection’.

The angel instructed Gobnait to look for a place where she would see nine white deer grazing, and that would be her ‘place of resurrection’. Gobnait travelled about Ireland. At one place she saw only three deer grazing and so moved on. Then she came across six white deer grazing, but remembered the angel’s words and moved on. It was only when she came to Ballyvourney that she saw nine white deer grazing, and knew that that was her special  ‘place of resurrection’. And, there she stayed and became a beekeeper. In ancient times the soul was thought to be able to leave the body as an insect, either a bee or a butterfly.

Bees have long been important in Ireland and were part of the ancient laws called the Bech Bretha or Bee Judgements.

Many accounts exist of how St Gobnait prevented raiders from carrying off cattle, as on their approach she would let loose the bees from her hives, and they would attack the raiders, forcing them to flee.

St Gobnait is, to this day, the patron saint of beekeepers, and there is a statue of her near the site of the community she founded at Ballyvourney, showing her in nun’s habit standing on a skep, a beehive surrounded by bees.

For Gobnait to see an angel and to be instructed to find her ‘place of resurrection’ fits in with her theology, but it is interesting to look beyond outward appearances and dig deeper. Angels can be one person’s interpretation for divine or cosmic forces at work and revealing themselves, and you and I in those circumstances might have seen something completely different. And, the ‘place of resurrection’ might be the place where you and I ‘come alive’ and feel ‘at home’, feel at one with the land?

Wes Jackson, an American writer called it ‘becoming native, and Martin Heidegger said rootlessness is responsible for much of the anxiety that many suffer from, and that what is needed is for people to learn to ‘dwell’ on this earth again. Maybe that was Gobnait’s idea of her ‘place of resurrection’, and ‘dwelling’ on this earth is a word that many more would use?

‘We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.’ E M Forster

Our ‘place of resurrection’ or ‘dwelling’ place might be exactly where we are now, and if it doesn’t feel like it, then perhaps we are being called to discover the spiritus loci or the genii loci and to work in conjunction with them to ‘grow’ into the place.

 

An Encounter With Vulpes Vulpes In London: Nature In An Urban Environment

20180619 AN ENCOUNTER WITH VULPES VULPES

Last night was one of those evenings where it occurred to me that I had been sedentary for far to long.

It was approaching midnight, and I had emailed a few urgent emails, completed a liturgy for an upcoming handfasting of two wonderful people, had watched the football on tv, and had just picked up a book to read. Sedentary, that the thought that occurred to me. It was if my whole body was experiencing restless leg syndrome and not just my legs, and it yearned for movement.

The best option seemed to be to go for a walk, and that’s what I did.

I’m back in the city, in my small ground floor maisonette in a central London borough, which nestles very close to the River Thames. I am surrounded by city parks, an abundance of wonderful cafes, and densely packed housing, And so, with the thought of movement in mind, I strode manfully out of the door at midnight.

’Solvitur ambulando.’ A Latin phrase meaning, ‘It is solved by walking.’

The streets, well at least the side streets, here, and not the main road in the distance, were deserted, empty of people and devoid of moving cars. It felt great to be in the city and yet have space to myself. Surrounded by thousands of people and yet no one in sight. Oh the people were there. Inside their houses, curtains drawn, and in some the light from the tv flickering away was perceptible, but only just, as I walked by.

I thought I might walk towards Parsons Green, and to get there I’d have to walk down a long, well-lit side street. It had now just gone midnight, and I was half way along that street, and it felt, unnervingly, as if I was being watched. I purposely stopped, looked around, expecting to see a stalker or some ne’er-do-well, but saw nothing. No one.

’Being a nocturnal creature myself, I often find myself in dark alleys or strange places late at night. If there were werewolves around, I’d be likely to run into them, being the night owl that I am.’ Dean Ambrose

I continued walking, and still the feeling of being watched persisted. I carried on walking and the line of cars parked either side of the road ended. I was passing by a school and the road marking prohibited parking at that point. I walked on about thirty paces further on, giving enough time for my stalker to be denied the shelter of parked cars, and I stopped, turned around in the most untimid manner I could muster, and faced my stalker. And, there he was.

Vulpes Vulpes.

Yes, my stalker, my ‘watcher in the night’, was a rather splendid, well-fed red fox. Fulham has many urban foxes on its street, and most can be heard, or seen, or smelled when they move about at night.

My companion was about twenty (human) paces behind me, and he too, stopped, and just looked at me. I didn’t move a muscle. Not afraid, but I didn’t want to scare this little chap away. I stopped for some time. He remained still.
Looking at me, his little head cocked to one side as if trying to solve a mystery of what I was doing. I felt the urge to do the same, but resisted it.

It is thought that there are about 150,000 foxes in the England. Here in London they scavenge their food from litter bins and so their food is usually an unhealthy diet of human food scraps, consisting of curry, chips, fish fingers and bacon butties, and as were near the Thames, maybe the odd water rat or two. Considered by man to be a nuisance, I have to admit that I am in awe of nature as it pushes back to reclaim, in part, the domain that was once solely its world. And, the fox is a particular favourite. I admit crows come a close second and they can be seen early morning and throughout the day in Fulham, but I love foxes, especially city foxes. And, this particular fox was still looking at me, and had sat down.

Did you know: The red fox is the most common type of fox, but there are about 47 different subspecies of red fox; Foxes belong to the dog family and use similar facial expressions and body postures to pet dogs, such as wagging their tails when greeting family members; Foxes have strong family ties. Young foxes often stay with their parents for a few years and help raise future cubs.

Having watched this wonderful beast for sometime I turned away and carried on walking. But only for a few paces. I stopped and deliberately turned. He had moved, about the same distance I had covered and had stopped when I had stopped, and was still twenty paces behind me. I laughed, and walked on and stopped. I turned and there he was. Twenty paces behind. I was nearing Parsons Green, and so stopped one last time, turned, and…he was gone. I felt a little loneliness creep in, having lost my companion and that feeling of being watched.

There are some who say that when humankind was in its infancy and we lived in peace with all animals, that communication between humans and animals, and vice versa, was possible. Others say that in that world of blurred boundaries, even shape-shifting was possible. Are these ideas true, or metaphorical or romantic? That’s a rhetorical question, as I don’t need an answer as I love mystery, and however we interpret those ancient-world notions, there is always something to learn.

There are some others who believe that animals that appear ‘out of nowhere’ and come unusually close to us are attracted by our inner being, our soul. Have you ever been somewhere and an animal or insect has come close, perhaps too close, and unexpectedly so, to surprise you?

Or, perhaps, they say, the animal companion (for a while) is a manifestation of our soul.

In Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy ‘His Dark Material’, Lyra Belacqua has an (external) animal representation of her (inner) soul which manifests itself as a red moth when she’s a child, but as a red-gold pine marten when she’s an adult.

Or perhaps an unexpected animal, the red fox in this case, is a messenger from That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves (and who cannot but remember those old Sunday School stories of Balaam’s donkey and its urgent spoken message?).

’We need another and wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals…We patronise them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form far below ourselves. And therein we err, and err greatly. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost…living by voices we shall never hear.’ Henry Beston

Being a man in this age, ofcourse I wanted to know. And so, I researched something about the red fox, and sadly discovered that they are generally hated as a terrible nuisance on city streets. Okay, I accept in January, or thereabouts, the cry of the vixen, can sound like a baby’s cry, and can be somewhat unnerving or alarming on city streets, and the result of all those curries they eat does make a mess on the pavement – and what an awful smell! But, they are wonderful creatures.

They have lost much of their habitat to humankind (and if truth be known it is us who are a nuisance to them, as they were her first), are they are sorely misunderstood, and present no real danger. I like the idea of nature ‘pushing back’ in the city, as if to say, ‘I’m still here, and I don’t mind sharing, but just share with me, too, please’.

Understanding wild creatures is one thing, but there’s more. There is a point where we can so draw near to them that we can sense them – and I do believe that being ’watched’ feeling I had, or the surprise you might have had when an animal or inset came unusually close to you, is part of an intuitive sensing and connectedness with that animal that we might experience in short bursts, but our ancient ancestors, druids, celts and others would have experienced it much more or perhaps all the time. Lucien Levy-Bruhl, a French philosopher, calls this ‘participation mystique’ (mystical participation) and it occurs beyond our logical, rational thought processes. It is like a ‘sense’ that we have but seldom use now , but it can be increased by usage, like a muscle, if we choose to exercise it.

Foxes, I believe, are a gift from the Universe, from That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and are a reminder that nature is abundant and beneficent, ubiquitous (even in the city) and to be enjoyed, and can be understood at a cerebral and knowledge-level, but also by that ‘sensing’, by taking hold of that mystical participation of deep connectedness at a soul level that our ancestors possessed.

And so, I’m almost back home, having completed my walk. I’ve walked for almost an hour, my fox-companion is nowhere to be seen, the streets are still deserted, but I am left wondering: just a chance encounter, a shape-shifter, an outward reflection of my inner soul, or a guardian of some kind who kept me safe from an otherwise dangerous event, or a messenger from Beyond? Thank God for Vulpes Vulpes.

What was the meaning of that encounter? No, don’t answer it. I want to revel in the mystery of not knowing cerebrally, as it brings me (and us) closer to the Mystery.

 

 

The Tree Called Coeden Niwl: A Different Perspective

2018012 A TREE CALLED COEDEN NIWL A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVEMy grandmother used to love to name things. Usually it was the trees at the far end of the garden or nearby this cottage (near Capel Curig, north Wales). Sometimes it was large rocks, the boundary rivulet, but always things that would last the test of time.

There are some large trees at the end of the garden, here, interspersed with moderately sized trees, but the one that catches your eye, if you were here with me know looking at it, is a majestic one, larger and older than all the others. Its trunk is wide, and gnarled through age, and its many branches reach out and are twisted like a ballerina’s arms when ‘warming up’, and doing exercises to loosen taut muscles. The seem to dart out an odd angles, but are strong and unmoving, unyielding.

Some may see just trees and a larger one, here, standing above all the rest, but I see more. That tree, a huge alder is full of meaning to me, especially but not only when I was a wee lad.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.’ William Blake

This wonderfully large, old, noble tree was called by my grandmother, ‘Coeden niwl’, and to this day, and as I look at it now, that is the name I know it by.

As a wee lad I would play in that garden, and with the far end somewhat wild and where these larger trees grew, I was in a world of my own. Just like now. Frequently, mist would roll down from the mountains, tumble across the field and waft, effortlessly into the garden, or heavy, thick, grey clouds would descend without notice, and I loved it. Then, all but the tallest trees and nearby shrubbery would disappear, sounds would be muted and then I was alone, or was I?

Ah, the trees were here, and they’re alive.  And, the large alder tree, the one called Coeden niwl by my grandmother was here. Never alone. When I was a small boy, should I ever get lost, my grandmother always told me to look for Coeden niwl. Coeden niwl (pronounced ‘koh-ih-dun noo-ul’, meaning ‘mist-tree’ or ‘fog-tree’). Whether my grandmother called it that name because even in the mist and fog that tree is visible and is a good landmark, or whether the tree, itself, ‘invites’ the mist or fog, I don’t know. But, I loved that name for this tree, and still do.

‘Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning.’ Bob Dylan, song.

Why name a tree, why give it a personal name?

In ancient cultures someone’s name marked them out as special, and in very ancient cultures, a name was thought to confer power (or power over someone) and so it was usual for there to be a public name that everyone was to use (and that name might be declared by the baby’s father), and the baby also would have a real and deeply meaningful name (and that name would probably be whispered into the baby’s ear by his or her mother). Names confer meaning, respect and power, and allow relationship. And, this tree deserves it.

’No naming is causally performed in this old country. Names hold power, and memory; names tell stories of people and their relationship with the land.’ Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life

I believe my grandmother gave this tree the name Coeden niwl so that it would be remembered, and it has, and to build up a relationship with it. It would be difficult for me to fell the tree, without knowing that it has a name. It is not just a tree, an anonymous lump of wood, or an incumbrance. It is Coeden niwl, and the tree is alive, and I value trees (especially the ones with personal names). And, yes, I admit it….when no one is around I speak to Coeden niwl. How about that for relationship?

It is alive, after all.

’The tree and I are having a conversation. Yes, without words. In fact, I’ve learned that trees don’t use words…The tree, located in a favourite park that is a visiting place of mine, is 300 years old. Now, I have discovered the trees have their own lives, quite separate from ours. Yet the tree and I are mysteriously close friends. We share a lot of feelings. We don’t exactly share a sense of humour, but genuine friendship stirs between us.’ Malcolm Boyd, author, gay elder and civil rights pioneer, Episcopal priest.

Coeden niwl, as an alder tree is sociable. Not just to me. The alder tree (Alnus glutinosa) is noted for its important symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni. This bacterium is found in the root nodules of alder trees, and it absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. The alder, then, in turn, provides the bacterium with much-needed sugars, which it produces through photosynthesis. Amazing. And, the alder trees catkins provide an early source of nectar and pollen for many under-threat bees. Relationship.

The sap, leaves and bark of the alder were all used to make dyes; green from the leaves, red from the sap and brown from the bark. Wood of the alder is flexible and resistant to the rotting effects of water, and was much used in ancient house building.  Relationship.

But, there’s more about these wonderful trees. In Irish mythology the first human man was made from the alder tree, and it is also considered a tree of the fae (fairies), protected by the water fairy-folk but also representing fire and earth. In various parts of old Ireland it was said to a crime to cut down an alder tree because it would offend the tree spirit.

We’re losing trees at an alarming rate. What better way, well, one way at least, to take more of an interest in trees than by naming one local large tree or more than one? Whether you live in a rural area, or an urban area (with a park nearby) I would encourage you to name a tree, take an interest in it, maybe one that you can sit near or under, perhaps; and build a relationship with it.

Whether or not you believe in elemental spirits inhabiting or frequenting trees, it cannot be denied that that view, in ancient times, meant that ancient Celtcs, Druids and others saved so many trees and they cultivated a greater respect for trees and the natural order  (and which is sorely missing today).

It was reported that In 1999 the upgrading of the National route from Limerick to Galway was delayed, rerouted and eventually opened nearly ten years after it was supposed to have started, because part of their contract stipulated that they had protect the fairy tree, and that ‘access is not permitted within a minimum 5m radius and a protective fence has been erected around it.’. Newspaper report.

And now as I stand in front of Coeden niwl a fine mist is drifting down from the mountains and starting to blanket this and other trees with an other-worldly veil. Slowly, the landscape is drained of its colour, sound is muted, and everything seems to take on a ‘flat’, two-dimensional look. The mist moving slowly, holding water, leaves minute drops of cold water on my hair and skin, and I can feel the fresh wetness bathe me, almost. I can only stand and watch, and be in awe at nature and this tree in particular, as the mist gets thicker and thicker, and the landscape takes on an even more mysterious look.

’But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.’ Genesis 2:6, The Book

Things happen at such times, such liminal times as these, and perhaps Coeden niwl, the fog tree or mist-tree, does actually attract the mist and usher in liminal sacred-space/time events. What happened next is the subject of another article.

 

The Caim 1: Personal Experience

20180608 THE CAIM 1 PERSONAL EXPERIENCEMany times in the (distant) past my time of prayer or ritual-liturgy time more resembled a shopping list of wants with the word ‘Amen’ or ‘So be it’ tacked onto the end of it. I really wanted something more, something deeper, something more meaningful. I wanted to spend more time with the Source Of All, to ‘see’ afresh, in my mind’s eye.

CAIM 11

The caim was one answer.

This evening I went into the study, closed the door and ensured I wouldn’t be disturbed. I made a space in the middle of the room and marked out a circle of about 5-6ft diameter, with pebbles. and lit a candle.

Tonight I was to use the caim to send healing-power to a friend in need, and what follows is a personal account of one use of the caim, among many.

With no other light the candle-light is soft and soothing, and so encourages a meditative state. By lighting the candle I marked this time as different, special, and the beginning of something new. Sacred-space time.

The caim is a profound ‘circling’ prayer or ritual-liturgy

It was used by Celts of old, and by others. It is still used in various forms by latter-day Celts, some Churches who value its benefits, and by some wiccans, pagans, light-workers, mystics and fellow-druids friends known to me. Individuals as well as groups. Yes, it can be used by anyone who knows the value of prayer or ritual-liturgy.

As I stand in a candle-lit the room, I quieten my mind, and relax.

After a few minutes, I point to the floor.

I have already marked out a circle with small pebbles, and, as I point (and sometimes use a staff), I slowly turn my body, revolving 360 degrees. I like to start by facing east usually, but the choice is yours.

I start off facing east and end up facing east. I also like to turn deosil, clockwise, to begin the caim.

The word caim is gaelic, and it has to do with ‘protection’ or ‘sanctuary’; it is derived from the root word meaning ‘circle’, to bend, or turn, and this becomes apparent when you start forming the caim.

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

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

My eyes are closed now, and in my mind’s eye I’m imagining that inner journeying to a comfortable and safe place, a place that is full of power and potential. I slow my breathing, quieten my mind, and over the next few minutes enter a state of ‘rest’. I’m journeying toward the Source of All.

Sometimes I like to visualise that I’m in a wonderful forest and enter a clearing that is well-lit. A kataphatic approach. Other times I try not to visualise at all, and that is an apophatic approach. The caim is adaptable.

That inner space that I entered is liminal space. For me, I call it the imaginal realm, as in our culture, when one talks of ‘the imagination’ it is perceived as a place of pure fantasy and unreal. However, the imaginal realm is real. It is a place of peace, power, and potential.

CAIM 12

It is an intermediary space, the gap between the physical realm (which we can all relate to and understand – it is the place of the body) and the ouranic realm (the place of the spirit, where all that is good and holy originates).

I feel safe, I feel ‘cocooned’ from all that is happening in the world about me. I am at peace within this circle.

Tonight I am using creative visualisation – mind pictures and symbolic action instead of words.

If we accept that there is place of Bliss which is, symbolically, a higher plane, then we could all usefully use some of that power.

And so, I raise both my hands above my head for about a minute, and visualise the blossom of golden trees in that higher realm, and the pollen of golden plants blowing in the gentle wind and falling on me. It is power from on high. Not my power, but power belonging to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Source Of All who gladly shares it with us.

By raising my hands I seek empowerment from beyond, from the Universe, from The Source Of All.

Whilst in that circle, the caim, each of us in that place are intercessors.

Empowered, I now lower my hands now. And wait for a minute or two.

I then change position.

Now, I hold my hands, gently, in front of me, as though I’m holding something. In that imaginal realm I am holding something – a invisible power-blessing of healing. I move my hands and mould it, and shape it, and imagine it to be the size of a football.

We can even use the caim to send a power-blessing to world event that has happened that has caused a major upset, or it could be a prayer or ritual-liturgy for a future event, the locality, a sad event somewhere else on the planet, or it could be an ecological need. Whatever the need is, the caim is a good spiritual ‘tool’.

And then, having moulded and shaped that power-blessing, I ‘push’ that power-blessing, symbolically, in the direction I’ve imagined that that person or event to be. In this case I am visualising a friend in need of healing who is in Singapore.

You don’t have to be geographically accurate in your aim of the power-blessing – it’s the intention that’s important. And, it is the Source Of All who delivers.

I use my body to sway back and forth, gently shifting my weight on one leg and then the other – rocking backward and forward just a little, and with my hands in front of me I move them as though I’m gently pushing something. No physical effort is really required in this pushing movement. It’s symbolic.

I do this for a minute or two, thinking of the person in question and their need, knowing that the Source Of All will work through this caim.

If it helps, you might even like to vocalise who, or for what, the power-blessing is for, and the desired outcome. ‘Help [name],’ or ‘Heal [name] etc.

And, as I stand there I sense the power-blessing leaving me and journeying to the person in need….and it arrives immediately. There is no time delay.

You might imagine the desired effect already taking place, even though it may take some time in the physical realm to come about in actuality. You might have in mind what a solution for that person is and you might be specific in visualising it; or, you might not want to be specific as to what a solution might look like and leave it to the Source Of All to work out.

And now, I lower my hands. And relax. The power-blessing has gone out. I give gratitude in my heart to the Parent of Lights, for enabling me to be a conduit of healing energy.

But, there’s more.

As I stand, and continue to face the direction that that power-blessing was sent. I wait for a minute or so. With my arms out, at shoulder height, I wait. I breathe deeply several times in anticipation, believing that what was sent out, comes back now, energetically – although it may work its way out in my life in a different way to that original power-blessing, and over time. But, I do believe it comes back as a ‘gift’ so that we also benefit.

What we send out, comes back in one form or another.

I inhale to, metaphorically, and with my arms open wide, embrace and accept the return energy-blessing. It’s here.

I give thanks to the Source Of All for the power-blessing that has gone out and which is effective, and now returned without any diminishment.

Now it’s time to return to physical reality – the realm of the senses.

As I stand there, I allow my breathing to return to normal, slowly open my eyes, perhaps not focussing on anything in particular, but just ease myself back to that former state.

With my eyes open, I point to that circle of pebbles. Slowly I turn my body through 360 degrees. I like to face east, and so face east once I’ve gone full circle. But, I move in the opposite direction this time – anti-clockwise (or widdershins) – to close the caim.

And then I wait for another minute, and leave the circle.

I extinguish the candle and collect up the pebbles.

The caim is a spiritual ‘tool’ for you to use – one amongst many – and not a magical formula that won’t work unless you get it absolutely right. It is intentionality that is all important. Adapt it, and use it to best serve you needs, and that of others.

That’s it. Well almost.

CAIM 13

Having sent out a power-blessing, there is always some work to be done, to joyfully work towards making the prayer, that ritual-liturgy come about in the physical realm. It needs to be ‘earthed’.

For instance, if you’ve prayed for someone to get though their exams, the action now needed might be that you give them some verbal encouragement, rather than, say, feeling as though you need to spend days teaching them to make the energy-prayer come about. The Source of All will deal with the latter; our part is to ‘earth’ the caim in this physical realm with a symbolic, associated act.

Having prayed for that person’s health, I’ve just emailed them and arranged to meet them socially and in that way I might cheer them’.

If someone is not well, we don’t need to feel responsible for their healing as the Source of All (working through medical practitioners etc) will have that in hand, but maybe a get-well card from us could be sent to them to buoy them up, and encourage them. That’s ‘earthing’, and the action doesn’t have to be something that the person in question knows about!

Or, if we’ve used the caim, say, for someone to grow spiritually, we might plant a seed in our garden; if we’ve used the caim to send someone a blessing, then we might blow a kiss in their direction. It’s a symbolic action, and it’s usually best done in secret.

The caim, then, is versatile, and several times over the next two weeks we’ll return to it, and look at how it can be used for ecological purposes, for healing, giving blessings to people and/or animals, or projects, for protection etc, and how it can be adapted for group settings and more formal settings.

Meanwhile, do try the caim, and let me know your experience, please.

20180608 THE CAIM 1 PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Cantre’r Gwaelod, The Welsh Atlantis?: Stories From The Heart(h)

island CANTRER GWAELOD THE WELSH ATLANTIS STORIES FROM THE HEARThWe live in a mysterious universe, and on an even more mysterious planet. That mystery opens up and yields its treasure to those who are fortunate to have eyes that see and ears that hear, as it says in ancient sacred text. Mystery is ‘shy’ and only the respectful may gaze upon her.

Hy Braesil, as mentioned recently in an article, is a mysterious island that appears and disappears, allegedly, off the coast of north-west Scotland. Rather like an oceanic Brigadoon – a Scottish village that is supposed to appear for one day per century in Scotland, and which was the theme of a 1947 musical and a movie some seven years later – it is an elusive place and is yet another mystery to encourage you to visit these ancient Celtic kingdoms.

And so, as I sit here in London, in my small ‘town garden’ (a backyard?) with a glass of cold mineral water in my hand (I really like the effervescent kind), and with my eyes half closing, I begin to relax even more.

My mind ‘circles’ around the idea of water, and my imagination starts to ‘dance’, and it’s as though I’m transported back in time to grandmother Rhianwen’s cottage. There, as a wee lad,  I would sit beside the hearth in the evening, and she would tell another story. She was a seanchie, a Celtic story-teller, and a good one at that. I loved hearing her timeless, mysterious and deep stories. Stories full of meaning. And, the memory of them, even today, is pure gold.

‘There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.’ G K Chesterton

‘There was a time’, my grandmother said, ‘when there was a great city off the western coast of Wales, an island-city, but it had sunk beneath the waves some time ago’. Perhaps seeing my alarm at this she added, that it all took place in the seventh century, and so allayed my fears.  Something like that, she assured me, wouldn’t happen to Capel Curig as we’re inland, and the sea is some twenty-eight miles away. That relieved my childhood concerns, and she continued.

Her rocking chair creaked as she gently rocked back and forth, the fire in the hearth was ‘baking’ one side of my face, and so I moved from the side of the rocking chair to face her. ‘The great city’s name was Cantre’r Gwaelod’, she said. ‘It was a good mile off the mainland coast, and could be reached on foot at low tide. Then it’s gates would open, only to close as high tide approached’.

O dan y môr â’i donnau
Mae llawer dinas dlôs

Beneath the sea and its waves
Are many cities fair

But, on that particular evening one of the watchmen, whose task it was to close one of the sluice gates as the tide came up, got careless’, she said. ‘His name was Seithennin. He was madly in love with the King’s daughter, and when she got married to someone else he couldn’t bear the thought, and spent too much time in a tavern, got even more careless, and got drunk.’

‘A storm arose that night, the sea crept higher and higher, and lapped at the city wall of Cantre’r Gwaelod, but Seithennin was unaware. All the other city sluice gates had been closed, except for one – the one that Seithinnin was in charge of. He was in a deep, drunken stupor in the tavern.’

‘He was awoken abruptly by screams, and staggering out into the street, he could see water rushing toward him at great force. Sadly, Seithinnin lost his life that night. Some of the city people made it to the mainland, but the city was flooded and sank beneath the waves.’

Aeth clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ô’r golwg dan y dwr.

The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Vanished beneath the water.

My grandmother could obviously see that such an unhappy ending was perhaps too much for me, and added, ‘But, the city of Cantre’r Gwaelod was, and is, a special place. And some say a magical place. Even now, especially when a storm arises off the western coast, there are some who say they have heard music and singing, much merriment, and churchbell sounds coming from Cantre’r Gwaelod, miles out to sea.

A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn canu dan y dwr.

And the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ringing beneath the water.

It seems’, she said and smiled, ‘that life goes on there and is eternal now, even though many on the mainland can’t see it or hear it. But some can! Yes, Cantre’r Gwaelod is a place of mystery, and some would say magic.’

Hyd fedd mi gofia’r tywod
Ar lawer nos ddi-stwr,
A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn canu dan y dwr.

On sand till the grave I’ll remember
Many a peaceful night
And the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ringing beneath the water.

Did Cantre’r Gwaelod actually exist? Was it a myth full of meaning? Does it matter if was a tangible place or is a spiritual place only? Sometimes, isn’t it enough to just accept mystery?

There is no solid, reliable evidence of the physical kind of this Welsh Atlantis ever having existed. But, we’re talking about Wales, and the whole of that realm is liminal, a place of mystery where anything can happen to those who look gently upon the landscape. Sometimes, the most we can hope for are imaginal-prompts, peripheral fleeting glances  or spiritual ‘glimpses’.

In 1770, a Welsh antiquarian scholar William Owen Pughe said that he witnessed sunken dwelling places about four miles off the coast of Ceredigion. And in 1846 The Topographical Dictionary of Wales described a feature of stone walls and causeways beneath the shallow waters off Cardigan Bay. Even today there are those who will tell you that they have heard the sound of many conversations on the wind that blows from that part of the sea, or have heard the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod.

Years later, as I sit here, now, in my little garden on a balmy London evening, with my eyes now wide open and with a now empty glass in my hand, that story heartens me. It tells us that that life goes on, seen or unseen, it goes on in another realm – a place of eternal peace. Okay, Seithennin was distraught and got careless in that story, and perhaps one moral from it is that we should not neglect the day of small things (tasks), as it says in ancient sacred text, for such tasks may have the biggest effects.

‘Sin is behovely’. The Lady Julian of Norwich

But the story also assures us that we are altogether very human and that’s not a bad thing, and as humans we will sometimes make mistakes, but through them the Universe, the Source of All is able to turn them around to the benefit of all, and they become blessings.

Yes, the voice of grandmother Rhianwen, who ‘borrowed’ the words of Julian of Norwich on many occasions and reiterated them in a north Welsh accent, continues to echo in my mind, even now, and even here in London: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’.

 

[The poem extracts in Welsh with an English translation, above, are from Clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod (The Bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod), a poem by John James Williams (1869-1954) who was a pastor and a poet. J. J. is his bardic name.

That Place Of Peace: A Personal, Celtic Perspective On Death, Mourning And After

20180604 THAT PLACE OF PEACE DEATH MOURNING AND AFTERWith white roses and lilac-coloured flowers in hand I strode across the busy, noisy, bustling road, full of cars and people, and entered the cemetery. Passing the huge wrought-iron gates the world changed. Crossing that threshold, I left the world of busy-ness and noise behind. All was now at peace.

It was one of those sunny hot, June days – yes, even in London they get good weather occasionally, and that’s where I am for a while. London.

This, then, is a personal view, and some of my exploratory thoughts about death, mourning and what follows. Hopefully uplifting. My thoughts may be different to your views, but they are shared in the spirit of love and openness, and should you want to share your views and I hope you do, please do so by emailing me, directly. I am always happy to receive emails, and by so doing ‘iron sharpens iron’, indeed, and we learn and grow.

So, walking slowly through the cemetery there is, even in the middle of London, an air or peace, quietness and seeming solitude. Today, 2 June, is the birthday of my late dad, who passed on, just over a year ago, and the flowers are for his grave – a grave shared by my late mum, and nestling alongside those of my two grandmothers.

It’s an old cemetery, and I can’t but help notice that much of it is overgrown and sorely in need of mowing and some tender loving care – Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council please take note. I remind myself to contact them. Moving through the cemetery to the newer part I walk towards one of the few wooden bench seats around.

As I got nearer, and eventually sat on the bench seat, I spied my favourite tree, a dear and familiar friend, just a few feet away, that many years ago I named ‘Y llygad’ (pronounced ‘e hl-gad), and Welsh for ‘the eye’ (see header photograph). It feels like I’m being watched. I do believe am! I’m comfortable with that, and happy.

Resting there for a few minutes, thoughts come and go.

In Celtic Irish custom, and it moved throughout some of Welsh culture, too, there is a thought that when someone is about to pass on, the ban sidhe (pronounced ‘ban she’), a ghostly figure, would wail loudly. Many would say they have heard her cries in the distance, and many fear her for obvious reasons. She does get bad press. Perhaps rather than a ghoulish figure, the harbinger of death, maybe she is (as many would affirm) a fairy woman, a spirit who laments the loss-to-come to relatives, and who guides the way for the deceased, through the veil that separates this world from the next.

’…the Celtic…tradition recognises that the eternal and the transient world are woven in and through each other. Very often at death, the inhabitants of the eternal world come out towards the visible world.’ John O’Donohue.

More thoughts arise. At my grandmother’s death (and before the funeral) several women spent sometime keening. Keening being an old Celtic action involving deeply moving spiritual singing by older women – not quite wailing, then, but more uplifting, and with the benefit of drawing alongside grieving relatives. Nothing negative at all. Those keening women cared.

As I sat on that cemetery bench even more thoughts arose. Around me are dear people buried, who, like me, breathed, loved, knew ill-health, life’s ‘ups and downs’, and lived life to the full, and have now passed on. Passed where?

’ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi

In the peace and tranquillity of that place, lofty questions arose. As I looked at some very old gravestones, some so old that that much of the writing had been worn away, it seemed to me that the Book of Nature (and science) showed that nothing is lost, that cycles exist and continued, and transformation takes place. Some believe that those who have passed on are even more alive in Eden, or heaven, to others they are in the Summerlands, and to others they are in Hy Braesil. I suspect these are different names for the same place, the final destination of humankind.

’Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.’ Rossiter W Raymond

Hy Braesil is one of my favourite terms, as it is wrapped in mystery and ‘magic’. Thought by some to be the place of life here-after, it is also said by some to be a mystical (physical) land far off the coast of north-west or western Scotland, and known to Celtic Welsh people, Scots and Irish people of old. Some say it only appears every six or seven years. Hy-Braesil, an island, was first drawn on maps in 1325AD by Angelino Dulcert, an Italian cartographer. It continued to be shown on maps until the 1860s.

Having rested there on that bench for a while, I moved off to the short distance to the family graves. Once there, I pulled the dead flowers out the flower-pots, cut the new flowers, save for one, and put the flowers in the flower-pots: one-third for my parents’ gravestone, and one-third each for my two grandmother’s gravestone flower-pots.

Wiping the gravestones, I then wait. On this occasion I have no prayer to say, only silent gratitude. It is enough, I believe. Gratitude to my late parents, my passed-on family, my ancestors and others. After several minutes I walk away, but not before a momentary head-bow.

Picking up the single rose, I walk in a certain direction – it differs each time. And then, on a gravestone, a different one each time, that is so weathered that no names can be read, or perhaps a gravestone that looks unkempt, I leave that single flower, as a mark of respect to that person, to acknowledge that they have not been forgotten.

But, for now they sleep. Or do they? From our perspective maybe they do, but in reality, maybe they are all more alive than ever, in a place where they no longer age, where there is no want and no sickness. Perhaps our perspective is wrong and needs to change? Maybe they are alive and it is we who sleep?

‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:’

William Wordsworth

Walking towards the large iron cemetery gates there are many profound, unanswered questions on my mind. Perhaps, there are somethings we will not know until we are ‘there’, and then those questions will evaporate as we will then know even as we are known. But, for the time being we revel in mystery and I am content with that.

‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?’, Dr Who.

Now, back in that busy street, cars speeding and people rushing about doing their shopping, it is easy to forget that we are more than just flesh and blood, as we unknowingly match the dizzying speed of a hectic world. But there is a distant echo, the voice of the Source, the bat khol, maybe the voice of our ancestors, or even an angel or elemental that whispers to each one of us that we are ‘Much more’. Be heartened.