About Tadhg

I am a latter-day Celt, a Druidic-Christian, and an Anamcara. [Gaelic for 'soul friend'] living in Capel Curig in Wales, and London. I organise one-to-one sessions ('in person', or via Skype etc wherever you are) and workshops for: - archetypal mapping - kataphatic meditation - apophatic meditation - angelic encounters - imaginal realm maturation - caim/circle events As a qualified herbalist, I organise consultations and formulate herbal remedies etc for mind, body and spirit. It's holistic. I organise group events: I also an inclusive, independent priest (having graduated from the London School Of Theology) and a ceremonialist, leading events from baby-blessing and naming ceremonies to handfasting to unfastening to transition ceremonies for people and animals, and I organise group/open rituals and ceremonies for special events, seasons, feast days etc. I am fascinated by 'thin places', those intersections of time and space, places of power and potential, where The Other seems palpable. I love the great outdoors, am an amateur astronomer, an avid reader, a writer of poetry and prose; and as a sociable guy would really like to hear from you. Namaste.

Harvest Home: Alban Elfed / Autumn Equinox

20190911 HARVEST HOME CELEBRATING ALBAN ELFED AUTUMN EQUINOX

It seems as soon as September had arrived, the weather began to change, at least in the UK. Aside from a warm spell predicted in the next day or two, the temperature is dropping. As soon as September arrived so the morning and evening temperatures dropped. There was, and is a distinct chill in the air early in the mornings and late evenings.

Introduction

Autumn equinox is soon. Ancient Celts and Druids, ancient tribes, and ‘aware’ people today will be celebrating.

’Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.’ (J K Rowling)

What follows is an outline of that festival, the time of the second harvest, and some ideas about how to cherish the season, and ideas and liturgy to celebrate it as a group, with your family, or by yourself.photo of chocolate cupcake with berry toppings on white ceramic plate

Autumn equinox this year is on Monday, 23rd September.

Although it is on a Monday, in common with the ancients who started their day the evening before (us), many, I suspect many will be celebrating the event on the evening of Sunday, 22nd September (though there is nothing wrong in celebrating it on the Saturday or any other nearby date).

The days are becoming shorter and the days longer, and at autumn equinox (or Alban Elfed, the light of the water, as it is known in Wales) approaches. The nights and days are equal length, in perfect balance, but night will ‘win’ and increase as winter approaches. Darkness will prevail, at least for a time.

This is a time to celebrate the bounty of Mother Nature.

The arable crops like wheat, barley etc have all been collected, and now, as the circle bowl of fruitsturns, it is time to harvest the fruits of the vine – blackberries, apples, and grapes etc.  It’s a time of transition, a time of thankfulness to the Great Provider, the Source Of All, the One Behind It All.

‘Autumn is the season to find contentment at home by paying attention to what we already have.’ (Anon)

So, how might you practically, celebrate the event?

Ideas

Cherish the changing season of nature: Why not escape to the countryside if you can, or visit the local park or check those nature programs on tv to appreciate the changing colours of nature, to allow time to reflect and to give thanks. Why not take a flask of soup, a sandwich, and just gaze at the awesomeness of nature, something that we take for granted.

Hold your own Eisteddfod: In the Welsh tradition an Eisteddfod is a time to celebrate the three red cherriesbardic arts: poetry, music, song, dance, and so on.  Here’s an opportunity to appreciate those cooler evenings  before the winter sets in. Why not get some friends together, have people share their own stories of life or stories they have appreciated, stories and songs, and open the wine (or fruit juice) and serve up pizza. Just an idea. Or, if for one reason you’ll be alone at this season’s event, read some apt poetry to yourself, and have a special meal to celebrate the time. It’s time to celebrate, rejoice and reflect.

’Autumn… the year’s last, loveliest smile.’ (William Cullen Bryant)

Adopt an abandoned site: Why not consider adopting a site that has been neglected or that nobody else cares about. Restoring (or ‘wilding) such spaces abandoned and damaged is one of the things we can do as a spiritual and sustainable practice of work.  You could consider working alongside a local environmental group or maybe plant a tree by subscribing to one of those ‘plant a tree’ organisations, or something less grand but as profound, starting a window box?

Liturgy

Here’s an opportunity to have your own ritual to celebrate the festival. You might like toblueberries on white ceramic plate add the following to what you have planned, or use the following as you have a meal (ie between courses), perhaps accompanied with autumnal poetry.

Blessed be you, Balance-Holder,
unafraid of the dark from which all newness must begin,
giver of light that draws us on and out into fullness.

Help me/us to balance my/our need for outgoing and restoring this day

(or)

With thankfulness me my/our going out, restore to me/us my/our rest this night.

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year, Tess Ward. Adapted)

And,

In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows’ flight and moonlight rays

Response: We see the Creator’s hand.

 In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls frost’s first kiss

Response: We see the Creator’s hand.

(Faithandworship.com)

And,

At the autumn equinox
may we recognise and give thanks for
the blessings of the summer harvest
and the fruits of our gardens.

As we mark the equinox in either the northern or southern hemisphere
let us wonder at the Mystery that is Life
and open ourselves to the blessings
of both dark and light.

(Brigidine Sisters)

And, the (series of) Haiku, below, can be used in liturgy for that time or as poetry for the season.

Nature’s circle turns,
and night and day are balanced.
Time for heartfelt thanks.

Water, that gives life,
often taken for granted,
appreciated.

The earth’s provision
at this bless-ed harvest-time,
for all people, stored.

Easterly winds blow,
renew our spirit’s within.
Congruous lifestyle.

Warming sun of all,
now, in this season balanced.
Sun of righteousness.

Nature’s circle turns,
and with gratitude given.
Source of All be praised.

Wishing you and all those whom you love the bright blessings of Alban Elfed and the One Who Is Greater Than Us.

 

20190911 HARVEST HOME CELEBRATING ALBAN ELFED AUTUMN EQUINOX

The Elements: In Praise Of Fire

20190906 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF FIRE

Sitting by that hearth as a child I was mesmerised by the ‘ghostly’ flickers of orange, red and yellow as flames danced around the lumps of coal.

Occasionally a plume of blue or purple, ignited coal-gas, would prevail for few seconds and catch my attention. The coal would splutter, and shift, and settle as lumps of coal would disintegrate. The fire would hiss and crackle, and emit heat – so much so that, that, as I usually sat too close to the fire, one side of my face would be red for a while and hot, and the other seemingly cold. But, they were wonderful childhood memories of the hearth and of fire.

It is no wonder that the ancients and some today believe fire to be alive. The mythical and elemental salamander, often depicted as a typical salamander in shape, is elemental fire.

What follows, then, is research and words of liturgy (usually indented, below, that you might like to use and/or adapt) on the fascinating subject of the element of life-giving fire, that I hope with enthral you and inspire.

‘The most tangible of all visible mysteries – fire’. (Leigh Hunt)

Since the beginning of humankind fire has held many in awe, and much myth surrounding its ‘finding’ abound in many cultures. Remember Prometheus in Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gives it to humankind? Or the story of dragons, flying serpent-like creatures in many Celtic tales who gifted mankind with fire and with speech.

As regards fire, the rekindling of  fire in ancient times was problematic, and it was probably because of that that Abraham carried live coals with him when offering a sacrifice (Genesis 22.6, The Book). Others, especially travelling tribes would have done the same. In those times, sometimes, children were made to ‘pass through the fire’ as a sign of dedication (and not sacrifice) by some tribes.

In the beginning, some fourteen billion years ago, there was nothing. Then, about 13.8 billion years ago, the universe erupted into being and the temperature of it, for a brief moment,  was an astounding one billion degrees Celsius (though, it you still work in Fahrenheit then it was 1.8 billion degrees). Fortunately, it cooled down, and as we know from science energy is never lost or destroyed, but is changed, transformed, and so that energy is still around to day.

‘Fires from the beginning of time empower you right now – this instant. What you are thinking and feeling…is possible only through the cosmic fire. (‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon’, Brian Swimme)

The energy of the cosmos, from the Big Bang, continues. Not just in each star that we can see and not see, not only within the molten core of our home planet, but it is within each one of us, within everything that exists.

But fire is not always destructive and negative. In some cases, it is used as a purifying process or to signify truth, sometimes it is used to herald a theophany, and sometimes to talk about love and burning desire.

‘To love is to burn, to be on fire.’ (Jane Austen)

And, to ancient and latter-day Chinese people and those who practice Qi Gong, yang is the fire within and also the positive energy that circulates around the body, with its ‘chief’ organ being the heart.

It is no wonder that many cultures revere or hold a special place for fire in their community or home. Indeed, in many Celtic or Druidic ritual, fire is one of the main elements:  many face the southern compass point  in ritual to commemorate not just the season of summer, but also fire.

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

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year. Tess Ward

The Carmina Gadelica – a compendium of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, literary-folkloric poems and songs, proverbs etc gathered in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909, and recorded by Alexander Carmichael Gaelic-– speaks of smooring the fire in the hearth.

Many translate smooring as smothering the fire before one goes to bed, but it really means subduing the fire when rekindling the fire was a challenge (but, please, do safely smother any fire you light at the end of each day or as necessary). Smooring in that older sense meant that embers could easily be kept and rekindled the following day, and according to Carmicheal the following prayer would be used when smooring (or maybe used by us as we smother a fire or candle flame after (ritual) usage.

I am smooring the fire
as the Son of Mary would smoor;
Blessed be the house,
blessed be the fire,
blessed be the people all.

(Carmina Gadelica, compiled by Alexander Carmichael)

Or

I will smoor the hearth
as Mary would smoor;
The encompassment  (encircling) of Bride (Bridget) and of Mary,
on the fire and on the floor,
and on the household all.

(Carmina Gadelica, compiled by Alexander Carmichael)

And so, that childhood memory of the hearth returns to me. Happy days. Ofcourse, the circle has turned many time since then. Endless smooring and rekindling has taken place, and those around the hearth in my childhood, then, save one, have ‘gone ahead’ and been transformed. But, the memories and good times, and their words and example remain. The words of our Elders and loved-ones, though they may not be physically present, can positively  burn within our hearts and rekindle kindly action within us, even today.

That ancient and noble fire of love and truth, of light and encouragement continues on, in you and I.

‘Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames’. (Rumi)

 

A Story From The Heart(h): The Two Cave-Dwelling Fae

20190830 THE STORY OF THE TWO CAVE DWELLING FAE A STORY FROM THE HEARTH

There are some fire-side stories and chats that are so memorable, and worth re-telling many years later. The ancients, those ancient Celts and Druids, pagans, Christians, tribes people and others knew the value of story to teach, inform, question and to take us into deep places. I remember a story from my childhood that had a profound effect on me (and hopefully on you, in the re-telling).

‘Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.’ (Sue Monk Kidd)

The fire crackled in the hearth. I was, then, just a wee lad, perhaps six or seven years of age, and was huddled probably a bit closer to the fire that was best for me. One side of me seemed cold, one side of me, I could feel, warming a bit too much. My face was hot and I’m sure had became reddened. I moved a little further away from the fire, as the logs in the hearth glowed, cracked, crackled, broke and fell an inch or two.

Fyrgevraec – pronounced feer-ye-brak – is such a wonderful old English word. It describes in timeless and ancient tones what that fire was doing – crackling, snapping and breaking up with a sharp sound in that hearth. Those ancient words hark back to mysterious times, as did the story I was told by my grandmother that evening.

As I half closed my eyes, as I sat by that hearth of yesteryear, my imagination run riot, as she told a story, a parable:

There were once two fae, old fairies, more like crones, really, she said, who each lived in a cave – one cave was on the eastern side of the valley, one lived in a cave on the western side of the valley.

The fae who lived in the cave on the eastern side of the valley was a real charmer, she could talk the hind legs off a donkey my grandmother said. She was old, but dressed gaily, in an ancient-future sort of way and her long-flowing robe-like dress would always ruffle as if a wind was blowing, even if no wind was present! Very mysterious. Very intriguing.

People would visit her when the moon was full – she wouldn’t accept guests at any other time – and when they gave her some food, she would ask them, ‘past’ or ‘future’?. Her gift? She had a reputation of putting the past into perspective or giving assurances about the future. So they said.

She was very popular. The better quality the food or the more food she was given so the better were her ancient or future assurances. Ofcourse, people came to see her, mainly,  if they were ill or had family upsets, and would ask her what, in their past, had caused this.

She would give them a ragged stone with a word scratched on it, and that would be the reason for their illness or family problem, or indeed any other problem or challenge they were facing. Oh so they thought.. Ofcourse, one word etched onto a stone didn’t give much detail, and so most people who visited her were non-plussed and none the wiser. But, they felt they had tried.

Sadly, there illnesses or family upset or other challenge continued, but there was always the next full moon coming when they could visit her again, and again and again, with more and more food, and get more information about the past or future, perhaps.

‘Nothing distracts one from one’s true purpose in life more than following the crowd mentality.’ (Edmond Mbiaka)

The fae who lived in the cave on the western side of the valley was softly spoken, almost shy, and stammered somewhat. She, too, was old, as old as the cave itself some said. She dressed in contemporary clothes, and her dress had that washed-out look, and sported a patch or two on the dresses elbow or where her knees were.

She accepted guests at any time, and rather than demand food from guests as a fee for her services, she always laid on a lavish meal for them at no charge whatsoever. Her gift was of speaking about the present. She would give guests a rock with a word etched onto it – the word was always the same, it was the word ‘now’;  and over the meal would lovingly share with them what it meant.

People would visit her if they had an illness or family upset or some other challenge, but only a few, a very few people would visit. The few who visited her always left buoyed up, some knew what to do next – whether it was a call to action or patience and endurance. – and many lives were changed.

On most occasions she would look across at the small nearby town and cry that only a very few would visit her. It wasn’t that she was lonely – after all she was a fae and as old as the cave, and a thousand years to her was like an hour to us – it was just that she was upset that so many were troubled, and yet she had the answer for them.

And, so, little one, my grandmother asked me: if you had to visit one of those fae who would you visit? Would you visit the one in that eastern cave who could show you a ‘picture’ of the past or future for a fee; or would you visit the one in the western cave who freely spoke of the present?

It was a rhetorical question, and my grandmother answered as quickly as she had asked. Ofcourse, you would visit the fae in the western cave, wouldn’t you? Yes, ofcourse you would. I smiled.

She continued: You see, the fae in the eastern cave, who spoke of the past and future, and who charged a fee, and whose dress would ruffle in a mysterious and seemingly magical way, had no real answers for people. We know that beacause nothing really changed in their lives and they kept coming back again and again and again. They were always looking back into the past or into the distant future to solve their problems.

Now, the fae in the western cave new the richness of her gift, a gift so profound that no money could buy it, and so she offered her services freely to all. Her manner was rather subdued and her dress quite ordinary – no mysterious ‘smoke and mirror’ wind effect with her. But, the few people who visited her obtained satisfaction. To  some she would offer advice to wait and be patient, and to others to act immediately, but her guests always left lifted up and positive. Her give was ‘nowness’.

And my grandmother’s story finished there.

’…now it is high time to awake out of sleep…’ (Romans 13.11b, The Book)

As an aside it is interesting that half way up Moel Siabod (pronounced moil shab-bod), a mountain in Snowdonia, Wales, there is a point where you can look down at both sides of the valley below and just make out what really does look like a cave on one side, and another cave on the other side of the valley slope.

Now, I’m much older and hopefully a little wiser. I can see the appeal in uncertain times of delving into the past for significant answers or seeking the services of those who might predict the future. But, I believe the story my grandmother told me was that looking back and looking forward, in many cases, may not solve our challenges of today. If you want to understand what is happening and to effect change then, I believe, it must be done ‘now’, as the fae who lived in the western cave might inform you if you had visited her.

We only have ‘now’.

Last Wednesday, I got a text that something awful had happened. Forgive me for being ‘political’ (of sorts) for a moment. I had heard the the government intends to close Parliament and stifle debate on a major issue. Putting that issue to one side (and in many senses regardless of peoples differing views on the issue of Brexit as I wish to respect all views (even if I hold my own)), it hurt me to the core that the government of the UK – the Mother of all Parliaments – could do such a thing. I could tell you about past precedents or my future fears, but I realised this was above party politics and something had to be done now, now in ‘the now’. And so, and I hope you forgive me if you have an alternative view, but I had to act in the present – and at my ripe old age I went on my first protest match to College Park, London, and then with others to the Houses of Parliament, then Parliament Square and finally onto Downing Street. Something inside called out, something deep and profound and I had now to respond. And, I responded.

My grandmother was right. Looking back or into the future in many ways solves nothing. It might appear to (and maybe, just maybe, sometimes there is some usefulness),  and it might be very popular, but of those two fae the one who had the greater gift by far was the plain, stammering, somewhat shy fae who spoke of ‘nowness’ and told how it is. We only have ‘now’, this present moment in time to act.

Sometimes we need to act or endure in the present, I felt it was a time for action.

‘Nowness is the sense that we are attuned to what is happening. The past is fiction and the future is a dream, and we are just living on the edge of a razor blade.’ (Chögyam Trungpa)

Which fae would you visit? Which gift would help you more? What do you think?

 

Where Are You Going? My Spiritual Path And Yours

20190826 WHERE ARE YOU GOING MY SPIRITUAL PATH AND YOURS

I’m in the cafe. ‘Shhhhh, if you’re quiet, you might hear it’.

Mark Nepo calls this the ‘Original Presence that keeps calling to us’. It never stops, and yet is so gentle it can be forgotten, ‘drowned out’ or explained-away by others. But it’s there, calling us  to our own, unique and adventurous spiritual path.

So, where are you going?

‘Where are you going?’, is a typical question you may be asked occasionally? To live a healthy daily life you may answer that you’re going to the store, to the gym, to work, or to see family or friends.

But, ‘where are you going?’.

There is a spiritual content to our lives. Our uniqueness not only rests in whether you are right-handed and I’m left-handed, you have brown eyes and I have blue, or you like baseball and I like cricket, or you’re a musician and I’m more of a storyteller – these are great to ascertain some of our uniqueness and get to know each other, but there’s more.

We, are each on a spiritual path, and if you’re reading this then, at this juncture in time and space, our paths have crossed, and that pleases me.

What follows is an answer to that question: ‘where are you going?’ Your answers will be different, your life and circumstances are different, your aspirations may not be the same as mine, and your overall spiritual path may be different, and yet in our diversity we share a deeply spiritual, unique, bonded commonality.

Do you ever have that unlocated inner zeal, a ‘fire within’ to do something?

Some would call it a ‘calling’, others the ‘whisper of the cosmos’, or the bat kol (literally ‘the daughter’s voice) that is the voice of God, its like the wind calling your name, and some  say it is a communication with our higher self. Do you ever get that? It’s within and yet something just ‘tells’ us that the message and desire originated from far beyond us.

Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ (John 13.36, The Book)

In the middle of a busy, over-scheduled lifestyle it is easy for that inner prompting to get drowned out. And yet, it continues. It must be so important.

There is a temptation not to tell friends or family of that inner prompting, and to live the life of a ‘solitary’. Life is then easier, but it seems muted. But if we respond to that ‘calling’ without letting those around you know, they will know sooner or later. Oh yes. Something in what you say or do will be noticed – perhaps something offensive to them, or odd or just unexpected. When you dance to a different drumbeat bystanders will know your ‘moves’ are different to theirs.

But, do not stop your ‘dance’, whatever they think.

To divulge fully that inner prompting may be too much for them – it may ‘scare’ them or make life difficult for you. Perhaps there is a middle route? To share something, bit by bit, as much as they can handle and as much as you are comfortable with – whilst preserving something for later, and in any case each one of us on our individual spiritual path will grow, change and be transformed along the way and so we also need time to adapt.

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth

There have been times when I have erred on the side of being too reluctant to share. Even, then others notice.

Others mean well, usually (and it has to be admitted that sometimes some people don’t mean well).

And so, there I was in my favourite haunt, ‘The Magic Café’ sharing that I would be walking ‘the Camino’ from the edge of France, across northern Spain to Santiago. ‘That’s weird’, someone said. ‘You’re not that fit’, another said. ‘But, it’ll take forever’, someone else replied. To each of these my thoughts replied silently. I thought: but I go to the gym three times a week and so I’m reasonably fit, but that person who spoke up doesn’t know that; it’s not that weird as people have been doing that 500 mile/800 kilometre pilgrimage for centuries, and it will only take four to five weeks!

Where are you going?
Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you

Some things I shared, some I didn’t. Why did I want to do it, was what I couldn’t share with them?

There are several reasons that people walk the Camino, and one of them is to honour a loved-one that has passed on. I aim to do it to honour my two late-parents, to honour the memory of them, and yes, to honour them. I like to honour the ancestors. Typical Druid you might say, but I’d point you also to All Souls Day in the church calendar.

This is the balance that one undertakes, and sometimes it is impossible to do. To be honest and open, to give as much information as others can handle, and still stay true to oneself and survive any misunderstanding.

Still in the Magic Cafe I could tell that perhaps I had said too much. The other person was shifting their weight from one side to the other, uncomfortably, as I replied. Their eyes seemed to glaze over and I knew I had ‘lost’ them.  Do you think that perhaps some others don’t want to know or actually can’t comprehend? It’s just a thought when explaining our spiritual path to others.

Many of you will know that I’m a Christo-Druid or is it a Druidic-Christian. I have no problem with that, it is my ‘calling’, and it works for me. The challenge is when a  Christian calls my faith into question. ‘You can ride two horses’, they say.  And, yet some Christians have no awareness of them following their faith and materialism, or of living a faith that has more in common with Silicon Valley than Jerusalem!

Oh, did I mention panentheism? Shhh, we’ll come back to that at another time.

And it’s not only some Christians that can be so blunt! A Druid friend said a similar thing to me  but from the opposite angle. This isn’t a rant or gripe, just an acknowledgement that even when you steer a clear path, others will be offended, or upset or confused. But, be true to yourself. It is your journey, a path to which you have been called, not them.

Ofcourse, in admitting the abovementioned I might now alienate some Christians who didn’t know of the ‘druidicness’ of my belief system, and then I might offend some Druids who might think I cannot be a good Druid with Christian beliefs. All I can say is: it works for me, I love you just the same whatever you think, I’ll support you on your spiritual walk come what may, and I’m the same old Tadhg that stumbles and picks himself up, and laughs a lot.

Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk
I can walk!

So, where are you going?

My hope is that you, like me, are headed into uncharted waters, beyond the boundary of the circle which is the horizon, and which is way beyond our comfort zone. It’s there, that spiritual growth, maturity and transformation happens. It’s when we do something different, encourage ourselves (which may or may not mean putting an actual pebble in your shoe), and change our walk (no pun intended), that things happen – maybe imperceptibly at first. To do this, we will need others of a like-mind in some way.

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will walk, we will talk together
We will talk

And so, I call my ‘calling’ that path of the Christo-Druid or Druidic-Christian. What does that actually mean? It’s difficult to say, but, here goes. In essence, my credo is: One God of love who is invisible and yet perceptible in many forms and who is ubiquitous; and we are called to honour each other and those who have gone before; and to care for all of nature… because we are all connected. Oh, did I mention animism, or is that too much information?

Ofcourse, there’s more…I do this through story, through ritual and liturgy (and actually enjoy it), and meditate and contemplate, and visit places of significance, and interact with people, and live life to the full. And, yes, I love coffee and books, and meeting people in cafes where deep and meaningful conversations (and encouragements) can take place. And, don’t get me started on theosis! I love theosis.

And so, we’re walking together, you and I. Different, but accepting. Different paths but the same destination. Separate from each other and yet connected. Isn’t life wonderful and full of awe?

And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing
“Meet your new road!”

What we do, how we live out our spiritual life, whether for you it is a practical-spirituality or a ritual/liturgical spirituality, ‘high’ or ‘low’ (whatever that means) or an amalgam of all, we can walk together as you encourage me and I encourage you. Please be encouraged! Never let time, our fast-paced society or others discourage you.

Then I’ll take your hand
Finally glad.

And then we’re walking hand in hand. That may mean others around you accept you – but you’ll probably meet new people at home or at work and the challenge starts again. Ofcourse, one suggestion is to also contact those who think similarly to you. Be encouraged by others who are on a similar path.

Ofcourse, it will not always be like this. Finally, or finally-finally there will be a time when we ‘rest’, at the culmination of our spiritual path, whether it’s in Annwyn, Heaven, Jannah or  Sto’Vo’Kor etc, and then, in that Land of Eternal Youth (or the Great Cafe in the sky, as I sometimes call it)  the challenges of this life will pale into smallness, and perhaps it is there (and then) that life really starts.

Ofcourse, how to live a life worthy of that calling is another issue, and one that Mark Nepo and others mention, and one that we’ll come back to soon. But, for now, as I sit in The Magic Cafe I’m online and  researching and planning for that Camino walk, maybe next spring. What do you think?

 

All unattributed indented references above come from the song ‘By my side’, from Godspell

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Awareness & Tea-Drinking

20190821 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED AWARENESS AND TEA DRINKING

We recently looked afresh at what we take for granted: at clouds and their beauty here and here, and then we looked afresh at deers and gnats and more in wild places and considered elements where we can be more aware of animals’ manoeuvres and there meanings, and learn from them, here.

And, now perhaps, it’s time to consider something that many will consider (at least the example) mundane (but hopefully, not enough to stop reading, as there is more, and I believe the following to be beneficial. Awareness and the mundane (as if anything can ever be considered mundane).

Time for the ancients, early Christians, ancient tribes, druids, celts and pagans of yesteryear was experienced differently to us. Now, if I use a mobile phone app to check  when the next bus arrives I calculate in minutes, to the minute, and on most occasions to app is accurate and usually never lets me down. Thank you London Transport and especially the bus drivers of Route 424.

Time-wise, we might want to hark back to those former days in totality, but that may not be possible – we have work to do, busses and trains to catch, places to go and most of us, therefore, work to the minute. But all is not lost. There are many occasions when we, like those ancients, can slow down, take a few minutes out of our busy schedules, pause and enjoy the moment.

My suggestion is, at least for each of us to consider a slowed-down event, call it a ritual, each day to enjoy slowing, deep thinking and appreciating life in all its fullness.

Perhaps, as I’m British, a cup of tea could be the physical metaphor or physical ritual to do this. Why not? If you’re not quite sure what to use to ‘slow time down’ and to ‘go deep’, perhaps a cup of tea is just what you need – doubly so if tea-drinking is not part of your normal day or custom. It’s not that tea is ‘magical’, its how we ‘receive’ it and appreciate it that matters. Slow! Deep! Meaningfully! With deep(er) awareness.

Just a cup of tea. Just another opportunity for healing.

And, so I make the tea. A tea bag in the cup or teapot? And if you use a tea pot, do you put one teabag in it and then one for the pot? When about, when putting the tea into a cup, do you put the milk in the cup first? It used to be said the milk would go in first to avoid the heat cracking the fine china cup. I’m using a mug. But you decide. They may be important decisions, to contemplate slowly, but once you’ve decided, do it slowly, with intentionality, with pleasure, with feeling and deep thinking. This, now, for me is more than just a cup of tea to slake my thirst.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

Is it just a cup of tea? No, it’s definitely  more!

In this simple act there is deep meaning. It is part of my life and yours (if you choose to make it so). It takes time – time that we will never get back, time that will never be repeated. It is a unique act for this time, and so, it is full of meaning. The meaning we give it. Ofcourse, we might gulp the tea down quickly, quench our thirst and there may be times when that is necessary, but not now.

Slowly do I reach out. Observing with my eyes the milk patterns swirling around on the surface. For some reasons I feel led to half close my eyes, and do so. Pehaps there are less distractions this way. Perhaps I am ‘seeing’ without seeing?

I note the cup’s temperature, the smell of the tea, and more. In reaching out I notice the cool handle of the mug, but it’s getting warmer. Even as I ponder, there is change. Heat is ‘creeping’ to the cup’s handle. The cold, smooth pottery is now quite warm to my touch. Everything changes? But, I’m in no rush. I’m enjoying the experience.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

And then, I lift the cup, bring my arm closer to my body. The weight of the tea means the cup slips, just a little in my grip, and so I tighten my grip.

Is it just a cup of tea? It could be – but to me, right now it is so much more. I could think about where the tea comes from, its processing, how vital water is in general, but right now I was to be ‘in the moment’. Deep thinking, perhaps beyond rational thought, and moving into that area of quietness is what I’m seeking. When people are first in love there is that period of chatter ie ‘whispering sweet nothings’ as they get to know each other, talk and laugh. But, there comes a point where, sometimes, chatter ceases and just being local to each other, in each other’s company is enough. Silence is then the order of the day, as it is now.

The fragrance increasing as the cup nears the lips.  So present.

I can smell the tea’s fragrance. It’s Assam tea- full bodied and strong, and it smells so rich. I am aware of the details, but I want to me even more aware. The awareness that is beyond words. The awareness of no-thought (or perhaps, the being present between thoughts. That gap of silence, where possibility dwells).

Noticing the bottom lip receiving heat from the cup, the top lip arched to receive the fluid within. Noticing the first taste of tea before the tea even touches the lips.

And then I raise the cup to my lips. It’s tea, but the thought of wine in a goblet runs though my mind. Careful not to burn my lips I blow a small stream of air across the tea’s surface. I know, I’m a big child at heart and this is not something that I would do if invited to the Savoy Hotel, but no one is looking and no one knows I’m doing it – no one except you, and I’m amongst friends.

I sip slowly. The strong and rich taste of the tea, even just a few drops ‘hit’ my tongue and my taste-buds go into action. From no-taste to a rich taste of Indian tea, the taste pervades my mouth. So different. So refreshing. Do delightful. Almost overpowering, taste-wise. So different.

The fragrance and the heat rising into the mouth. The first noticing of flavour. The touch of warm tea on willing tongue.

And, now I can taste not only the splendid flavour, but the tea’s heat on my tongue, inner cheeks and the back of my throat. my mouth is warming up, but. fortunately, it’s not too hot. It’s comfortable.

The tongue moving the tea about in the mouth.
The intention to swallow.

I want to swallow, but I don’t. Well, not immediately. To swallow immediately would be to do this by rote, unconsciously and without thinking. I want to go slow, to pause, to dwell in that moment. And, one of the best ways to do that is to linger here and not do what one would usually do. And so, like some tea-taster at the Twinings factory I ‘swill’ the tea around my mouth (and that’s probably another reason why I wouldn’t be invited to tea at the Savoy hotel), but the flavour of this tea is wonderful and I want to extract every last molecule of flavor.

The tea seems less hot and the flavour less flavoursome now, but this could be that my senses are ‘acclimatising’ to the temperature and the flavour. I so want to swallow, but pausing is beneficial.

I want to swallow the tea, but chose not too. Interestingly, I consider (now) which part of me was responsible for those two opposing thoughts? Did they occur in the same part of my brain, or from two different areas: the brain and the mind (after all there is a difference between those two. And oh, this thought occurred as I  drank tea. Imagine what you might discover doing this or something else, slowly?).

And so, I swallow that tea. Just one small gulp. It’s enough.

The warmth that extends down into the stomach.

I can feel the heat run down my oesophagus (well, actually it runs down a few inches of what is left of my oesophagus, down a modified stomach that resembles now an oesophagus and into what is left of my stomach – but you may not have wanted that information). But, I can feel the heat flow down and permeate my body in its very depths. It’s a heart-warming process – no pun intended.  And it’s an unusual experience when slowing down and focusing on the experience as if for the first time. Perhaps this newness is what the Buddhists mean by having a ‘beginners mind’ and seeing things afresh as if for the first time, over and over again; or what being born again (and again and again), means?

What a wonderful cup of tea.
The tea of peace, of satisfaction.
Drinking a cup of tea, I stop the war.

It was a refreshing cup of tea. But, so much more. There was the act of slowing, pausing, appreciating the moment and experience, being aware and ‘in the moment’, which may be thought of as all acts of gratitude to the Source of All. Why not?

It was time wells-spent, a time when I ‘stepped out’ of ordinary time and into sacred time, and would invite you to do the same. There was a peace there, deep peace. A deep satisfaction. A veritable communion is a tea cup. What a wonderful physical metaphor, a physical ‘parable’, what a deep and meaningful way to ‘step out’ of the busy-ness of our daily life.

It’s was an opportunity to ‘go deep’ and know more about life, the universe and everything, or could it just be regarded  as just cup of tea with no cosmic importance? You get to decide. But, you would probably need to try it, or something similar, first to come to a conclusion, and there is my encouragement to do it, and to seek deep(er) awareness.

For me, it was (and when I do it, it is) a profound experience – but sometimes it does seem odd, peculiar, a waste of time, but that is to be expected. Our ego is ‘disturbed’ when we do something different, step out of our twenty-first century comfort zone, but it’s worth it if we are serious about reclaiming our ancient rights and practices, and thereby mature, grow and are transformed.

 

[All indented quotes above come from ‘Healing Into Life And Death’ by Stephen Levine]

The Elements: In Praise Of Water

20190816 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF WATER POEM LITURGY

It’s been warmer than usual in the UK, and yet today and tomorrow the forecasters predict that over that short period we should expect a month’s rainfall, if it were a ‘normal’ month.

We take it for granted, misuse it as though we have too much of it, and yet without water life on this planet would perish. Another sobering thought, as take clean water for granted, is that two billion people are without clean water, and, sadly, each year 320,000 children die because of that.  If ever there was a need to consider giving a small amount of money to water aid charities (if able), then now is the time. But, whatever we do, you might like to consider the following as a poem, a prayer offering, or as part of your liturgy for the environment.

The following was written some time ago by me:

Water.

The vast oceans, which sustains life on Earth,
which move at the behest of the moon,
the rolling tides that contains a myriad of sea-life, from plankton to the behemoth,
that which quenches the world’s need,
and from which all nourishment is assured,
acknowledgement is given.

From clouds you pour out rain upon the Earth, and enrich it.
Mighty lakes appear from which  ancient forests of growing trees are fed,
and daily bread is produced for our table.
An abundance for many,
and a veritable gift from the Great Water-Giver.
Bountiful.

It soothes and it heals.
For when an angel’s wing sweeps
across the surface of the Pool,
then healing takes place, and there is restoration.
Health-giving.

It’s cleansing power, daily, washes the body,
and restores vitality.
A clean start. A refreshing start. A new start.
All is washed away.
And, in it celebration commences,
in appreciation, in sport, in swimming and in children’s’ play.
Joyfulness.

It quenches the soul, it nurtures the spirit;
and from those who are aware,
springs of sanctifying water flow,
and outward pour,
to friends, to enemies,
to those near, and to those far away.
To all.

Water.
Whether we have much, or little,
may the words, “Come, all. Drink. Share”, be on our lips.
Praise to the Great Water-Giver.

 

Ancestral Thoughts At Llynau Mymbyr: Alternative Perception

20190808 ANCETRAL THOUGHTS AT LLYNNAU MYMBYR ALTERNATIVE PERCEPTION

Not far from Capel Curig in north Wales is the twin lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr (see this article’s header photo). It is a delightful area, full of myth and magic, legend and the feel of a ‘thin place’ about it. It exudes an energy that is both comforting and unnerving, it is an area where you can believe almost anything can happen. That expectancy flows though the very air like the ozone that one senses as a storm approaches.

As a child I used to frequent this area often – wonderful lakes, surrounded by tantalising (lake) beaches (albeit on the small side, but with intriguing rock pools, odd-shaped rocks and small pebbles of curious colours and shapes). And, I’m in that place again. It’s a sunny day, and a few clouds are sprinkled high above me.

Now, as I sit on a log with the water almost lapping at my feet, the view is a wonderful blend of grey-green, of slate rocks and mountains, and fern and lichen. In the very distance (in the photograph’s centre) is Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon, again, full of myth and magic, and though distant it dominates this area by is sheer presence.

The sun and clouds are reflected in the lake’s water, too,  and my thoughts drift. In what ways would those who went before us, our ancestors, think of this place: the pebbles on the lake’s beach, the few high clouds drifting by that I can see, and the sun shining down on me?

We often take if for granted that we know what they thought, and though we might get glimpses, I wonder if we can make that mental adjustment to ‘go back’ a thousand or two years and move about ‘in their shoes’. As a wee lad I used to love the Robin Hood tv series. Robin’s outfit was always clean and well pressed, and maid Marion’s hair was never out of place. I loved the series then, but in looking back now, ofcourse I know Robin Hood’s tunic would be muddy, smelly and probably patched. Maid Marion’s hair would have been devoid of conditioner (that hadn’t been ‘invented’), and if she lived in the forest she might have been missing a few teeth, and so not worry about ragged, dry, dishevelled hair. Apologies for being so graphic.

But we do get glimpses.

Our early ancestors may have had less knowledge of the way the world worked, but they had a greater and deeper appreciation of nature, and earthy wisdom.

With a notebook and pen in hand to take notes in wilderness areas – I don’t use computers in the field – my thoughts are drifting about: How would our ancestors have seen this environment or the world differently to us?

I do believe they would have had a deep(er) understanding of connectedness. As I look around my environment at Llyn Mymbyr I know that I am connected – but is it only a ‘cerebral’ understanding rather than a holistic one? How do I immerse myself in that belief? Or is it a case that understanding it then means I need only ‘surrender’ to that thought to imbibe its wisdom? Wise words about connectedness flow though my mind, words that I read some time ago:

‘Interbeing: If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. [And,] If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow….”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Yes, we are all connected, ‘inter-are’, but not just with each other now; and in opening up ourselves to less limited thinking, we come to know that we are connected in deeper ways through space and time, and not only to humankind but to the rest of creation. Even the cloud above, we know now,  has an effect far more reaching than we might have realised than when this article began.

I’m still sitting on that log, and gaze at a pebble, just under the water, that has caught my eye. Did you know that this whole area is part of what is known as the Capel Curig Volcanic Formation? If you read the science books it will explain this means that the area comprises some 1400 yards thickness of compacted ash that erupted some four million years ago. This resulted in rhyolites (and igneous, volcanic rock which  rich in silica and sometimes have a glassy texture and appearance). I’m gazing at such a pebble. What an ‘ancestry’ for a small pebble about the size of a kidney bean.

I can’t resist it. I admit it – I’m a ‘feely-feely’ person. If I see an interesting tree, I not only want to look at it, but want to run my fingers over its bark. If there’s a market medieval cross in an ancient English village or a standing-stone in the middle of an expanse, I not only want to take a photograph but also want to touch it. Who knows what that tree has ‘seen’? Who else might have touched that ancient market cross or standing-stone and thought of future generations, like me, who might touch it. There’s connectedness right there!

And, so I pick up the pebble, and another thought flows through my mind, of something that I had read about some time ago. And it’s this:

‘A man, walking on a beach, reaches down and picks up a pebble. Looking at the small stone in his hand, he feels  very powerful and thinks of how with one stroke he has taken control of the stone. ‘How many years have you been here, and now I place you in my hand”. The pebble speaks to him, ‘Though to you, I am only a grain of sand in your hand, you, to me, are but a passing breeze [in comparison]’. Martin Lowenthal and Lar Short, Opening In The Heart of Compassion’.

This small pebble had also ‘spoken’ to me. We are each connected; the same, yet different; but we all ‘inter-are’. But, the story makes us think. We do get glimpses of a different and deeper perception of nature, the universe and our place in it, but there is always more. I placed the pebble back from where I had removed it. And sat there, and wondered.

In thinking of this article, I thought: what about where you are right now? What might someone have done and thought in your location a thousand years ago, what was their view of the universe, and in what way are you connected to them? Some would say that you are separated from them by time and space, but are you? I don’t believe so. We are all connected, but we think we’re not. And the latter is, in my humble opinion, error. We are far more connected than we release – just like paper and the cloud. There is always more to discover.

And, as I stood up, ‘dusted’ myself down, slowly strode back towards the car, another thought came to me:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40b, The Book

I laughed out loud. Fortunately, no one was about – well no visible entities, at least. In thinking of connectedness and seeing things differently, and with that verse from ancient text flowing through my mind, a word formed deep within me: theosis. But, that awesome theme is for a future article.

 

[The article’s header photograph, cropped and overlaid with text is copyrighted by David Gill, and is used with permission: see here.]

What Are You Missing? Looking Beyond: Physical Metaphors

20190802 WHAT ARE YOU MISSING LOOKING BEYOND PHYSICAL METAPHORS

Take a look around you. What do you see? What do you really see? What is seen that is actually ‘pointing’ to that which is unseen and beyond? Puzzled? Here is an explanation of facts, from imagination, and from my journal of yesteryear and more recently.

’There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

We are surrounded by metaphors, physical metaphors, that point to something beyond, above or below. Such metaphors are glimpses that challenge, inspire or instruct if we allow them, but to do that we first need to be aware of them.

There is a mountain not far from Capel Curig, that, like the rest of Wales, is complete with myth and magic, rumour and a whole host of legends that invite the brave, or perhaps repel the timid. Glyder Fawr is just one such place. It is part of several peaks. How many? Well the ‘set’ is called Tryfan (and therein lies the clue, as Tryfan is Welsh for ‘three peaks’). As regards a wonderful and profound climb some time ago – see here.

There are myths in Wales about giants on mountains, dragons in mountains, water-horses in lakes and rivers, and other elementals that live deep in the ground. We all knew they were myths, and many, even in Wales, laugh at such superstitions, but deep in our minds, and I’m thinking of myself and friends of yesteryear, we weren’t so sure that those myths should be disregarded, well at least not totally.

‘I was born with the ability to see in metaphor. This has been my inborn way of relating to the living Oneness of things. From an early age, the world has spoken to me in this way. The analogous relationship of things has called, not in words, but in a silent language that has sow shown me, however briefly, the web of connection [of] everything.’ Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen

Perhaps, these myths were not to be taken literally, and they were metaphorical, and ‘poetically’ warned passers-by, or perhaps they were to be taken literally? As children we loved the not knowing, and as I and my friends grew older there was always that lurking possibility that maybe there was something ‘behind’ them. Exactly, what physical metaphors purport to ‘show’.

At the base of Glyder Fawr is a rocky crevice – about ten feet wide, thirty feet long, and deep, very deep. As teenagers when would hike and have adventures, this was the place to go. Forever and a day, for as long as I can remember, and certainly as early teenagers, at the base of Glyder Fawr, we called that breach in the ground Uffern.

As young teens we avoided that pit in the ground, but as we grew a little older, a lot braver, more adventurous and somewhat stronger the ‘terror’ of Uffern (which is the Welsh word for hell) grew smaller, until one day a few of us, well-versed in abseiling, and belaying by then, tackled that void.

We climbed down into Uffern, climbed into Hell. With a lot of laughing and some seriousness, we were encountering then, though we didn’t know it at the time, a physical metaphor.

Physical metaphors, which may include outdoor adventure, nature observation, ritual or anything that is challenging and physical (as in tangible, solid, observable) are excellent tools for making change in each of us, and to awaken us to what is beyond.

Physical metaphors can interrupt our habitual patterns of behaviour, place us in an awkward and challenging situation and thereby open us up to new ways of thinking and doing things. In such situations our limitations and objections (of ‘Yes, but….) cease to have any power over us. People discover they must discard old, useless behaviour and replace it with something fresh, empowering and creative. Physical metaphors make us go, ‘wow’ in awe and wonder.

‘Communion is a ceremony based around food and drink…. In the Lord’s Supper, it is as if we are enacting a physical metaphor. The physical act of eating and drinking is very much like the spiritual realities it represents’. Ron Julian, Communion Metaphor, Gutenberg College.

I’m back at Uffern.  I’m older. This time alone, this time as an adult (and a mature, agewise, one at that) and it is probably the hottest day of the year. And I’ve climbed down to the base of the crevice. It’s silent, unusually so, except for the occasional drip of water that hits the small, two inch high pool of water that has collected beneath my feet. I’m alone (or am I?). It’s awesome, its wonderful, it is an amazing place. It’s rocky, damp, deep, cramped and full of jagged rocks, but it is bliss.

I can now ‘unpack’ the meaning of this physical metaphor, which to me ‘speaks’ of overcoming my teenage fears of this pit in the ground, my wariness that it could be a link between ‘our world’ and that of elementals. To be honest, I think it might be a doorway, but I now don’t fear those elementals, but see them as fellow occupants of this wonderful planet. And if I’m wrong and they don’t exist then they will not be present to hear what I’ve just spoken to them, and no one will ever know that I’ve even spoken to them (or tried), except now I’ve confess to you. So, you know. But, I’m amongst friends.

I’ve also discovered that the Earth holds a depth of meaning (no pun intended) that is only discovered if we are bold enough to step out of our comfort zone, to take risks and dare to do. I’ve also found that, perhaps, we are surrounded by a multitude of physical metaphors (in rural places as well as in built-up places) and each of them can be prompts to each one of us from Beyond to encourage to ‘see’ behind the visible.

‘We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.’ Marcel Proust

At the base of Uffern I can relax and reflect on deep spirituality, to look at life that contains physical metaphors which anchor us to the world beyond, just as the gears of a car connect and change our foot actions into chemical-air-petrol formulations of a different order to propel the car. Connectedness.

What we see and do has actions far beyond the physical, and its for that reason I so love and cherish, and encourage liturgy, ritual and prayer and blessings, of observing and doing, of acknowledging that our seemingly small actions may have consequences (of a positive nature) far beyond our reckoning.

At the base of Uffern I have just enough time, before the light fades, to take some photographs of the amazing rocky strata that was formed and dishevelled during the last ice age, knowing that only a few have ventured to the base of Uffern, and so many have missed its beauty, and might otherwise have encountered an elemental. Ofcourse, I can’t tell you that I’ve seen one, by with eyes beyond eyes I believe I have, and from that I know the power of the imagination.

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

And now it’s time to climb out of Uffern. I have to admit the climb up is a lot more arduous that it looks, it takes a lot longer climbing up than scaling down, and I’m not as young as I used to be, but it was worth it.

Take a look around you. What do you see? What do you really see? A burning bush? The voice of the Source of All? An encounter with an angel, the fae, an elemental in the form of a physical metaphor? Take a look around. What is seen that is actually ‘pointing’ to that which is unseen and beyond?

 

 

Celebrating The First Harvest 2019

20190725 CELEBRATING THE FIRST HARVEST

Harvest? Here are a few words about the first harvest of the year, its background and history, and its importance to you and I, and there are  few suggestions about how we can celebrate it.

I can vividly remember as a wee lad, so this is going back a few years, the time when, each year, there would a ‘buzz’, a hubbub, a huge excitement at primary school like no other. Apart from Easter and Christmas, Harvest was such an important time. At school, many of our lessons, especially art, focussed on a harvest theme. And within a day of two the school hall and classes were festooned with drawings, painting and items all made by pupils  with harvest time in mind. Then, bread, corn dollies and garlands decorated the hall, along with parcels of food for the elderly. Wonderful memories.

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand… (Hymn by Matthias Claudius, Translated by Jane Montgomery Campbell, and one of my favourite, seasonal, hymns at primary school.)

And guess what? Yes, it’s nearly that time, again.

I can’t wait for the ancient Celtic and Druid festival of Lammas, also called Lammas-Day or the season, Lammastide, or Lughnasadh. In Wales it is known as Gŵyl Awst. It traditionally starts on August 1st, and it is the first harvest in the calendar. It is such an important occasion. So important that many, latter-day and Druids, ancient cultures and others celebrate two (and sometimes three) harvests each year. This harvest is the grain harvest.

Although many churches celebrate (one) harvest, now, one Sunday in September, that type of harvest celebration service is fairly recent: it began in 1843, when Revd. Hawker, then the Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, revived the ‘forgotten’ and ancient service of Lammas, as a once-a-year (new) service. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for that.

However, if we view that September harvest as the second harvest, a harvest of berries, applies, and wine, then… there’s more. It will soon be the first harvest, the grain harvest.

The Celts originally called this time, ‘lughnasadh’ (pronounced ‘loo-nas-sah’) after the ancient Gaelic deity, Lugh. But, it seems that believe ‘travelled’, and many believe the area in London now called Ludgate, is a derivation of Lugh.

‘In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.’ William Blake

But many call this harvest Lammas , after the Anglo-Saxon festival of hlaefmass – loaf mass. And it’s from that word that we get the word Lammas! It was the grain harvest, hence the reference to bread, and the baking of bread to celebrate the season.

So, my late grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, would bake bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack. Bara brith , is pronounced ‘barrah-bri(d)th.’ And, it’s now available in many of the larger supermarkets in the UK.

Lammas, then, is a time of giving thanks to mother nature for all her grain produce, gratitude to the Source of All, the Lord of the Harvest, and a reaping of what has been sown. In previous years it was a time of fairs, trade and much merriment.

With the reaping ended, the last sheaf of corn would be made into a Corn Dolly, which was meant to embody the ‘spirit of the season’ (in much the same way as we might display holly around the house at Christmas), or to represent the ancient corn goddess. The Corn Dolly could, though not always, be made in the form of a miniature human, but it could also be an intricate spiral pyramid, or a miniature sheaf etc. Other designs could include animals, agriculture tools like scythes and shepherds’ crooks, or objects with a Christian significance such as bells or a cross.

How will you celebrate Llughnasadh or Lammas this year? To celebrate this first harvest you might like to choose a time during the first weekend in August, perhaps a few hours one evening?

Perhaps, you might try you hand at baking a special loaf of bread that you can share with family and friends. Or, if not, buy a granary loaf of some kind to share with them. Coupled with a nice wine or non-alcoholic fruit juice it can be a timely reminder, lasting just a few minutes, of giving gratitude to the Great Giver. A communion?

But, you might like to go for a walk in the country or city park, and pause, and as you sit there gazing, meditate and give thanks, silently for a few minutes.

You might like to recite a formal liturgy that can be said by you and meal guests, or by yourself, in which case the following may be of use (to use as it is, or adapt):

Blessed are you, Fruitful One
giver of abundance and plenty,
giver of resources when stocks are low.
Grow my faith in your providence…

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

(Facing north)
Remembering the element of earth,
the land on which I/we tread,
from which all things grow.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to pause and imagine earth energy from which all things grow within yourself and your connection to it, flowing to you and others)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of air,
the energy of the mind and wind,
from which the seed is spread and planted.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the energy of the air surrounding you and sustaining all life, breathing deeply and slowly as you so. Air! Breath! Life!)

(Facing south)
Remembering the element of fire,
the spirit of creation, and destruction and new life,
the sun’s life-giving warmth.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the fire of the setting sun that fuels all creation and which reflects your spirit)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of water,
the energy of emotions,
that grew the crops that nourish me/us.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to think of swimming in the ocean or a pool, remembering that wonderful cleansing and rejuvenating feeling, and give thanks)

[You can vary any of this, and indeed as you work through the compass points, to start, you might like to start at another cardinal point other than north.]

(Tadhg Jonathan)

And/or,

Generous One of the Harvest,
walk alongside those who have sown in tears,
who have scattered seed without hope,
on land not of their choosing.
Come close to those who weep this day.

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

Thou thyself my reaping,
each ridge, and plain, and field,
each sickle curved, shapely hard,
each ear and handful in the sheaf,
each ear and handful in the sheaf.

(Book: Carmina Gadelica)

And so, this Lammastide, as it has been since I was a child, I’ll be baking several bara brith, and sharing one – yes, the breaking of bread with family and friends – in a simple, ‘after meal’ remembrance ‘feast’, remembering all the good things that have happened this year, and giving thanks, in silence and humility, to the Source of All for the harvest, for life itself.

Maybe, next time you’ll join me?

 

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Wild Places: Deer, Gnats & More

20190720 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED WILD PLACES EVERYWHERE DEERS GNATS

Ah nature! It is true the ancients were far more ‘in tune’ with nature than modern humankind, but all is not lost.

It is possible to rekindle that which in us is muted and appreciate nature (in a rural setting as well as in an urban setting). There are benefits. Awareness of nature around us can give us new insights, not only about the universe, but ourselves; not only in preserving the planet and therefore preserving humankind; not only enlarging our wisdom about the physical world but also about that that inner world we also inhabit in our innocence and essence.

It’s a warm morning.

The temperature is rising and the current humidity level heralds an even hotter, balmy and sweltering afternoon ahead, and I’m in London. But, having travelled just a short distance, several miles west of London, I am quite comfortable sitting in the shade of a huge, ancient, gnarled and majestic oak tree. And it’s bliss.

This particular old and ancient oak tree is in Richmond Park in west London, a huge open area consisting of over 2,500 acres of unspoiled space, and which has protected status as an important habitat for wildlife. And, that’s where I am. I’m in a wild place.

‘All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. Marie Curie

There are six species of deer that inhabit the park, regal, wild and yet surprisingly tolerant of humankind. Red deer and roe deer are indigenous. Fallow deer were introduced after the Norman conquest, almost a thousand years ago. Other species arrived later.

And as I sit under this tree, wildlife, because of my earlier ambling has ‘retreated’, vanished, gone. And yet, within minutes, almost oblivious to me it returns. In many senses of the word, by being quiet and still I am becoming ‘invisible’.

It seems to me, that nature, once it has been disturbed, ‘returns’ seemingly in order of height, or weight or complexity. I’m aware of the insects returning first: butterflies, bees, assorted flies, and those black flies or gnats – the ones that seem to swarm and fly above your head regardless of which way you turn, or does that just happen to me?

I’m told the reason gnats fly around your head is because they are attracted to the carbon dioxide flume that you and I emit when we breathe out.

Most gnat  repellents rely upon us spraying ourselves with large amounts of chemicals or sweet smelling perfumes to help prevent gnats from landing and biting, but the trick, however, may be not to prevent the gnat from biting you, but rather to prevent them from finding you in the first place. If you wear a hat, allegedly, sprinkling it with Geranium or peppermint essential oil (properly mixed and properly applied) or anything that is peppery this will keep them at bay. You too, will become invisible to them.

I’m wearing a hat, yes, but no spray, and they’re back. So far, they seem to be leaving me alone, but they are there. Just a nuisance? Apparently not!

‘One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature, for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us, and… may wish to communicate with…[us]’. Black Elk

Gnats are small flies of the suborder Nematocera, so I’m told, which also includes midges, craneflies and mosquitoes. And, whether we like them or not, they, even as small as they are, and sometimes as irritating as they can be, they do serve a purpose in nature. They are an important food source for birds, bats and larger insects, and they also pollinate flowers.

Should I move to avoid them? There is no point as they seem to follow me (and you), and hover over our heads! Nature is wonderful.

As I continue to sit quietly, bigger creatures seem to ‘return’ next. The tops of some long grasses ‘flick’ monetarily as grasshoppers spring off them, and maybe a mouse scuttles nearby, then a squirrel somewhat timidly draws closer. After many minutes, a small herd of deers come close – not too close, but close enough so that I can make out individual markings, and hear their grunts and sighs, and that distinctive ‘bark’ as the communicate with each other. Nature is awesome.

‘Every creature is full of God and is a book about God’. Meister Eckhart

Still some way off, but close enough to relate to them, eye contact to eye contact is made, and it feels like a secret communion has taken place. Soul to soul? Shy, vulnerable and gentle as they are they approach even closer. A few of them, particularly those nearest to me in this small herd, are ‘side on’ to me. It’s a defensive strategy. They know I’m here, pose no threat, and yet they are wary of me, and rightly cautious.

The closest deer licks its nose. This wets its nose with saliva and the moisture on its nose improves its sense of smell, and then its ears twitch. It is checking me out.

Having researched me, those deers nearest to me, join the others is foraging, lowering their necks below the ‘browse line’ of the tall grass, with only a periodic lifting of their heads as if to double-check on me. They’re acknowledging that I’m no threat.

I remain still, watching them for about twenty minutes, and as cramp sets in in my ‘nether regions’ I have to shift my weight as I sit under this tree, and a few small twigs crack. It is enough. Immediately, a few deer’s heads arch upward quickly, gazing over the ‘browse line’ of the long grass and look in my direction, their ears twitch, and the deers let out a muted, but distinctive ‘bark’ – an alarm call to the others. Nature is so balanced – we can learn a lot from it.

‘Only animals were not expelled from Paradise.’ Milan Kundera

I watch, now, as they run away from me, in a zig-zag motion. Some do a typical ‘bounce’ upward before the turn and scatter, others who were ‘side on’ to me only have to do a quarter-turn to flee (which is probably why they were not ‘face on’ to me as one would expect, because then they would have to do an about turn, a half turn to flee. That would take more time and energy. ‘Side on’ to me is more efficient, quicker and safer for them).

Even, there departure is beautiful to watch. They all run for about two hundred feet, and then stop, regroup after a few minutes, and start lowering their heads to feed, with the occasionally lifting of their heads above the long grass. And so it goes on.

‘The truly wise person kneels at the feet of all creatures’. Mechtild of Magdeburg

Over the millennia deer have been admired, revered and even worshipped. They have been the subject of children’s stories, fables and myth. In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is said by some to be a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and the Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. He is said to naturally have deer-like antlers upon his head, ride a horse, torment cattle, and rattle chains.

It has been suggested that the concept and name ‘Herne’ is derived from an ancient source, citing that ‘Herne’ may be a cognate of the name of ancient deity Cernunnos in the same way that the English ‘horn’ is a cognate of the Latin ‘cornu’. It makes you wonder, yes? Cernunnos being the conventional name given to depictions of the ‘horned god’ of Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos was/is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. Ofcourse, the aforementioned is a brief outline only, and others will know more and have varied beliefs on this theme. This is an outline only, and an attempt to show how marvellously nature ‘speaks’ to us even through story and myth.

Indeed, Some see the qualities of Cernunnos are thought to have been subsumed into the life of the fifth century Saint Ciarán of Saighir, who is acknowledged as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. When he was building his first tiny cell, as his ‘sacred journal’ tells, his first disciple and monk was a boar, followed by a fox, a badger, a wolf and a stag.

It’s time to go.

And so, I’m  walking back to the car, and within half an hour I will be home. Whenever you can escape to wild places, and even if you can’t, my encouragement is to pause and look at the wild things around you. Nature abounds in all its wildness even in the city, even in London (or wherever you are) for those who are aware. And though our ancestors may have had a head start on us in relating deeply to nature, it is a ‘skill’ that we can develop, especially as in essence we too are part of the web of nature and not apart from it; and that awareness can be awakened and grow.

Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.

Edna Jaques