The Winter’s Light: Winter Solstice Approaches [Poem/Liturgy]

20191210 THE WINTERS LIGHT WINTER SOLSTICE APPROACHES REVISITED

The season of winter is upon us and almost half way through. And, Winter Solstice approaches. And, I love it. The cold, the dark, the freshness of it all, and hopefully, some snow. This time is a liminal time, a time of myth and ‘magic’, and so my encouragement is for you to pause, draw aside, use your imagination, and let those ancient whispers from yesteryear permeate your very being.

Poem and video follows.

As you contemplate the season, join a group or arrange something by yourself to celebrate the Winter Solstice (called Alban Arthan in Welsh, ‘the light of winter’) you might find the following poem – penned a few years ago by myself – an aid to your meditation, or you might use it as liturgy.

The poem is followed by a video link to Seattle Unity Church who used the poem last year, and so you can hear the poem read by Scott.

Winter solstice approaches.

The day is over, and night comes early.
Orion is higher in the sky now,
and imaginations are unshackled.
Above us the gods of yesteryear move across the heavens.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

The silvery December moon rises
and the face that smiled upon the Birth,
of yesteryear, also smiles on us.
Above us Rhiannon advances.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Wise ones seek the Truth,
and beings of light, lit their Way.
Angels? Fae? The Watchers? Elementals, The Others?
And, about us unnamed, invisible Companions guide us still.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

We dance together in the dark,
as the Circle turns, and yet
we dance joyfully and with purpose.
We celebrate the season, that is.
And, around us, in the darkness
we ‘see’ the Friend at work.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

And yet in the darkness,
there shines a Light.
And, in remembrance, we light this festive candle
to the Sun of Righteousness.
And, we declare to all, near and far;
peace and hope, light and love
be to you and yours.
Now, and forever more.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Winter solstice approaches.

My friends at Seattle Unity Church read the poem as part of their Christmas celebration last year, and if you want to hear it read (extremely well by Scott, starting some forty seconds into the video link) – highly recommended – please click here.

The blessings of this awesome season be to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

20191210 THE WINTERS LIGHT WINTER SOLSTICE APPROACHES REVISITED

 

The Night Of Long Shadows: 2. More Thoughts

20191207 THE NIGHT OF LONG SHADOWS 2 MORE THOUGHTS

At the time when the world seems to come alive, at Christmas time, when the glare of neon fills the shops, ‘tumbles’ of out the tv in the shape of even more ‘over the top’ tv adverts, and store music seems altogether louder, this time of the year can make some people, the bereaved, those celebrating anniversaries or Christmas alone, feel even more lonely.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

[Rumi]

I’m not convinced, and it’s a personal thought, that many of those people want to be continually despondent, and they do acknowledge the gaiety of the season around them, it’s just that they may need some acknowledgement of their deep feelings and need for someone to hold space for them, and the ‘Night Of Long Shadows’ service may be the vehicle to assist them. See here for the #1, earlier article.

I had hoped to organise such an event this year, but the response has been somewhat low (and there are a number of understandable reasons for that) and many churches already had their programs arranged.

Relevant to you? Read on.

Nevertheless the following may be of use to you in planning a group event, or an event for yourself – you can still benefit, I believe, from the article, even if it’s to offer one-to-one comfort to a bereaved person. You might be just the person the Universe, ‘That Which Is Bigger Than Us’, The Source uses tomorrow?

So, what follows are thoughts about the shape of such a service, a plan with suggestions, that can be downsized and adapted if it is for a ‘solitary’ event with one person, or ‘up-scaled’ and adapted should there be a dozen or more people attending. Notes are included as to the rationale behind suggestions.

‘And when the stream that overflows has passed,
A consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory;
Images and precious thoughts that shall not be
And cannot be destroyed.’

[William Wordsworth]

The following, then is an idea:

The Welcome

The environment might be one of subdued lighting. A few candles could be lit to welcome people, and project an other-worldly setting for a sacred-space, liminal encounter. Welcoming and being made comfortable is all-important.

If it’s for a group, then the celebrant would remember their two key roles. Firstly, to explain at the beginning and as the service progresses what is about to happen, to put people at ease, and so there are no unwelcome surprises. Secondly, to be sympathetic to those attending and to encourage them in their grief to participate and so benefit. They are, ofcourse, our primary concern, and some maybe want to just sit and watch – but they too are benefiting.

The atmosphere and tone of voice by the celebrant should reflect the occasion – one of a welcoming tone to draw alongside the bereaved person(s) and yet celebrating the life of those who have passed-on, but without any ‘over-solemnity’. Be natural, be understanding, be yourself.

Going Deep

In such an event we move from ‘clock time’ into ‘sacred-space’ time. Liminality ushers us into an altered state. This may sound jarring to some, but it just means we acknowledge that we have gone, and are going deeper into the real meaning of things – and similar happenings occur when we witness a christening, a wedding or major event. It’s a ‘magical’ time. We move out of the mundane, into the sacred.

‘Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in the snow…’

[Mary Elizabeth Frye]

Music, particularly background music can assist us, to ensure our souls to ‘fly’, and move us into that liminal state where things happen. Music takes us deep(er). For me, I love Taize chants which have profound words and amazing harmonies (but if you didn’t want words sung or specifically Christian words sung, then Taize instrumentals are amazing (and a long sample of that can be found here).

The nature of this service is to ensure the group know what to expect, and to know what is expected of them, but to keep them in the ‘moment’, and so some forethought of what happens next and how to announce i,t and introduce it are important. Here, ‘unhurried’ is my favourite word.

At the very end of the event, musicwise, as it is Christmas time, as people file out, perhaps a seasonal song could be played. A moving ending such as ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ by Enya (see here) is a wonderful finale. For those wanting an instrumental version only, the Piano Guys have a wonderful version [here].

Tributes

It could be that some might want to share anecdotes about their loved-ones. They should be encouraged. No one should feel coerced or forced. Gentle invitations to share can be given, and accepted, even if some get tongue-tied, tearful or use words that we might feel inappropriate. The bereaved person needs to be heard – this is their time – and all are accepted.

‘I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when [the] day is done.’

[Helen Lowrie Marshall]

At some point early on some might like to display photograph copies of their loved-ones on an altar or table for the duration of the service. They would need some advanced noticed to bring copied photographs, and copies are best for fear of original, old, memorable photographs getting damaged or lost.

Also, if pebbles and chalk is available, some might like to write their loved-ones name on a pebble at some time during the event, and place it on the altar or table. The memorial stones or pebbles are a wonderfully profound idea. Or messages or loved-ones names could be written on post-it notes and displayed.

Honesty

Getting the balance just right is important. Feelings with be raw in some people, and need to be expressed – and yet the event should not be without hope.

Several things spring to mind. Interspersed throughout the event comforting readings can be made, and read out by pre-arrangement, so ensuring that you have a few people who can assist you is important. Such readings could be from sacred text or uplifting poems, the kind used throughout this article.

Silences will abound, and these can be cathartic, so never be in a hurry to fill them with words or music. Yet, be sensitive, and do move the event on if it feels right.

Comforting

By prearrangement it might be best, to have several people primed and able to sit alongside, or move to those who become tearful.

Comforting words, could be used:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ John 14:1-3

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30

One of my favourite uplifting poems (and it can be adapted) is by Henry Van Dyke, entitled ‘I am standing by the seashore’.

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

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

Other comforting words can be found in the writings of Seneca, ‘In the presence of death’; ‘No man is an island’ by John Donne; ‘The unknown shore’ by Elizabeth Clarke Hardy etc

Conclusion

Ofcourse, the abovementioned is but an outline, and will need adapting for a larger group or for yourself, if you want to celebrate the life of a loved-one at this time, in a solitary manner. Adaption and sensitivity is important.

Perhaps the final corporate act would be closing music, as mentioned earlier, proceeded by an announcement to those that wish to stay, to stay for refreshments and conversation, are encouraged to do so. As regards the latter it would be good to have several mature and sensitive people on hand to draw alongside those taking up the offer of refreshments, and to engage in polite conversation. For some attending, even that, may be too much. But some may welcome it. Additionally, it might be good to have other people available that could go deeper still, only if requested, and then comforting words and prayer can be offered.

Even then, it is imperative for those on hand to know their role is to hold space, to draw alongside the bereaved person, and that listening is absolutely necessary. Many of those who are bereaved will appreciate you and others listening to them. Our role is not to ‘fix’ people, but to be there for them.

‘Grieve for me, for I would grieve for you.
Then brush away the sorrows and the tears.
Life is not over, but begins anew,
with courage you must greet the coming years…’

[Navaho prayer]

 

The Telling Place At Christmas 2019: Your Personal Invitation

20191214 TELLING PLACE EVENT 2019a

In an age where mystery seems to have retreated, here’s an opportunity to do what the ancestors did: to re-connect at this time of the year when the veil between Here and There is ‘thin’.

This will be an evening to share, to hear, to do, and to be transformed. If you’re in/near London do contact Tadhg by email [email: tadhgtemp@googlemail.com ] to find our more and/or book. You are invited! Limited to 20 people, and pre-booking and an adventurous spirit are essential.

The Telling Place: A Review, An Invite

20191121 THE TELLING PLACE 1 2018 AND 2019

‘What is the one message that only you can give? It’s your story’. J R Rim

It was a cold, dark, December’s evening. The café had shut to the general public an hour ago, and a few changes were made – a few festive lights added, a few unlit candles placed on tables, a few symbolic items, ‘tools’ or conversation pieces were placed on the tables, and food was placed on the corner table – in anticipation for the Telling Place event 2018 (and so, if local, there will be another this year, so do please read on… but please read on anyway as it was a wonderful event).

Ah, the Telling Place event: a place of myth, ‘magic’ and imagination.

‘Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.’ Don Miguel Ruiz

The clock chimed 6.45pm and the doors were unlocked, and within minutes several people ambled through the door, out of that cold night, and into a café that was warm, bedecked with Christmas lights, albeit rather subdued lighting, and expecting the unexpected. The café can hold about twenty people and it soon filled up with expectant ‘adventurers’

“Welcome. Welcome to the Telling Place”, Tadhg said cheerfully.

The ancients knew the value of story-telling, when they met together at Telling Places. There, fragments of memory were woven together, and ‘bits’ become ‘whole’, and all added to the complete story. Everyone was included. Fragments of memory, separate and ‘isolated’ were re-membered. The opposite of dismembered. ‘Re-joined’. Put back together again. And in community, too.

‘We keep stories alive because to re-member is to put broken pieces back together. We keep learning from stories how to make things whole.’ Mark Nepo

The ancients, those Celts and Druids, ancient Hebrews, Christians, and others, of old, knew of the benefits of stories. They would regularly meet around the village fire, in the evenings and tell stories that were, perhaps sometimes of individuals around the fire, or of ancient heroes and their ancestors, or of stories of cosmic proportions eg creation stories and/or of the tribe’s origin.

But, what about us? In this part of the twenty-first century there is a great need for that kind of event, and this Telling Place fulfilled that requirement wonderfully.

“Tonight, is a time of listening, a time of sharing a story (whether something from your own life-story that is not too personal and which can be shared), or a story that you have heard and which means a lot to you. Stories of dark and light, endings and beginnings, down and up, of people and places. Stories to make you think. Stories and a few activities, yes a few activities that you will be invited to join in, that make you go ‘oh’, or ‘awwww’. Stories of  myth, ‘magic’, and imagination.”

But, there’s more.

“There will be stories about myth – those fictional and some-times factual foundational accounts on which we base part or all of our life. Stories about ‘magic’. Not the conjuring sort of magic, but the kind that some would call a numinous event, a peak experience, a transformational event. Come expecting to be changed. And, there will be stories of the imagination, and here there may be some pleasurable and non-cringe-making activities you will be invited to take part in. More will be explained as the evening goes on.”

“But, for now relax.”. A short time was given over for people to amble and introduce themselves to four other people in fifteen minutes – no mean feat – as they tucked into some delightful food from the smorgasbord and filled their glasses with various chilled fruit juices. Everyone talked enthusiastically. A hub-bub ensued, sounding rather like the friendly drone in a bee hive.

‘The imagination of early childhood has no limits. This is why children are fascinated by stories. A story has permission to go anywhere….The child rarely experiences the story as an observer. The child enters the story, it experiences the drama from within.’ John O’Donohue

Now back at their tables, everyone settled down. Tadhg explained as he went along, and opened the Telling Place officially.

A candle was lit, and in doing this simple ritual, Tadhg explained that it was as though we had been pulled out of physical time, as a group, and  into sacred space-time, and were propelled back in time to engage with the Ancestors in story. Or, was it that they had joined us? Or was it more than just seeming so? Was it happening in actuality? However, we understood it, he explained that this was to be a meaningful time of remembering.

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…

Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramon Jimenez

“This remembering”, Tadhg continued,  “is called anamnesis: a remembering that makes the original event present to the believer. In a very real sense, ritual negates time and space. The Passover Seder, for instance, starts with the question, ‘How is  this night  different from all other nights?’ Ritual, then, brings the participant, that’s us, into that timeless realm of the sacred in which the time and space that separates us  from the original event, or which separates us from the Other, just disappears.”

“It’s not just remembering. It’s a re-experiencing and a re-connectedness to that former event – in this case story and the Ancestors. Anything less that that, is merely mimesis, an imitation or re-enactment. This is more”

Several people shared stores. Two shared stories from their own life, stories of challenging times and of overcoming. Two other shared stories, fables, that had meant a lot to them and which were well received by all. The evening continued well, with each person giving support and praise to others, as well as receiving it. It was so uplifting. Awesome.

Tadhg lit another candle.

At this point he explained that, at the end of the year it was a good time to review the positive and the not-so-positive events of the year, and to deal with them. He suggested that each person takes two pieces of paper. One would, if that person so wished, would be displayed on the wall later and would contain one or two positive highlights of the year. It would be a form of written gratitude to the Source of All. The other piece of paper, would be private, and would highlight negative points and negative thoughts and actions that had happened during the year. People wrote feverishly. A few minutes later each person put the gratitude sheet on the wall; each person took the sheet of negative thoughts and actions and, at Tadhg’s suggestion,  symbolically dealt with them by placing them into the shredder machine.

Tadhg said a few words…ensuring that that negativity was truly gone! Dealt with. Gone for good!

‘You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors.’ Toba Beta

More stories were shared. Tadhg lit another candle, and talked about remembering those who had gone before us – to remember them with joy. He talked about how our ancestors would have used this time to celebrate the lives of the Ancients, and of Modranicht, called  “the Night of the Mothers” or simply “Mothers’ Night”. Everyone had been asked to bring a copy of a photo of a deceased relative that they wanted to honour, and some also shared stories – many quite witty stories that made many smile, and all uplifting – about loved-ones that had passed-on.

Later, Tadhg lit another candle. This time, as some time had elapsed and the evening was drawing to a close, he asked each person to close their eyes, to meditate, and to use their imagination.

“If you would, imagine that this room is filled with your Higher Self, or an elemental, a goodly spirit, an emissary from the Source of All, from the Universe, an angel or fae perhaps. Don’t worry about what they look like but imagine they have a message for someone in the room – not you – but for someone else, and it’s one word, or two, but no more than three, and it’s uplifting. “

As people thought deeply, used their imaginations and opened themselves up to the Other, the haunting melody of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ by Enya played in the background.

‘The sacred soul delivers the message of life.’ Lailah Gifty Akita

“You can imagine them speaking this to you” , Tadhg said, “or writing it down, or them giving you a book with this word or words as the title. Now, when you have it, open your eyes and write it down on a piece of paper.”

Everyone wrote something, and everyone shared the word, two or three, not knowing who it was for. Although Tadhg said those present may want to share any word spoken that was relevant to themselves, others, he said, might just quietly like to ponder upon a word heard that they felt was relevant to them, quietly in their heart.

The event closed with the extinguishing of the candles, as Tadhg explained that each of us were now moving back into mundane time. He suggested we all stand, and applaud – applaud each other for making the evening such a joy, applaud the Other and The Invisibles present for being present, and applause as a form of ‘grounding’.

One by one, people left. That evening tears were shed, smiles were witnessed, and many were transformed. Each had had an encounter with the Other. In the distance, as car doors opened and closed, the hushed whispers of ,‘See you at next year’s Telling Place’, could be heard.’

‘I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?’ Zhuangzi

[Another Telling Place event is planned for Saturday, 14 December 2019 in Fulham, London (starting at 7pm and finishing at 9pm. And, you are invited. Suggested donation is £10, but no one should be deterred by a lack of funds. Come anyway! If interested or if you require further information, please contact Tadhg by 1 December by email: tadhgtemp@gmail.com ]

‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future.’ Elie Wiesel

 

Celtic Advent: Even More Cosmic Thoughts At The Magic Cafe

20191114 EVEN MORE COSMIC THOUGHTS AT THE MAGIC CAFE CELTIC ADVENT

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.’ Helen Keller

Ever since the clocks went back an hour there has been an increasing expectation of the event. The nights draw in, the temperature drops, and parts of the UK have even had a dusting of snow.

Anticipation just hangs in the air as autumn gives way to winter, or is my ‘inner child’ even more overactive than usual? As I sit in the Magic Café in Fulham, London I read and drink coffee, and talk to friends that come and go. There’s much talk about politics and the impending election, which way to vote, should one vote tactically, and what of the future. There is a sense that the very soul of the nation is at stake for generations to come.

‘Pause. Listen for the whispers of your Soul. Soul quietly flows through every part of you.’ Nancy Lankston

And yet, without minimising such day to day concerns about politics, for in many cases it is within the mundane that myth, magic and miracles take place, there is more.

Yes, the Celtic Advent is here.

Celtic Advent is always 15 November to 24 December, Christmas Eve, and it was a time of fasting and preparation that mirrored Lent which was celebrated in the lead up to Easter. But, I’d like to suggest something a bit different.

Whether you are a Christian, Celt, Druid or of some other belief, or a blend of two or more, this is a good time to prepare in the lead up to Christmas or the Winter Solstice.

Advent for many, is a time of pondering the cosmic significance of darkness, a turning of the great Circle and the seasons change, a time of personal preparation, a time to go deeper, a time of expectation.

It is at this time of the year that nature seemingly dies. Death is something the ancients didn’t fear, and this time of the year for them would be a time of remembrance and storytelling as regards the ancestors. What about us?

‘Praise to you Keeper of those I love and can no longer see.
I have entrusted to you the care that was mine once to give,
the embrace that was mine once to feel,
the story that was mine once to share.
Praise you for the love that I can never be separated from.
For even with the last fallen leaf and the flowers gone,
those I have loved are not under the earth,
they are here in my heart, they are here.’

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

And then, the season moves on and culminates in a time of joyful commemoration as Light wonderfully enters the world at the time of the Winter Solstice and/or Christmas.

As the days grow darker, it’s Light that we look forward to.

‘Counsellor of my soul, you quicken my soul’s progress this Winter day by the strength of your example. I look forward to your light to help me discover the track of the day’s question’. Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional.

There are some who will set themselves, at this time, the task of reading more sacred text, or of attending an extra service, of spending a little bit more than usual, of adding an extra home ritual or prayer to their list or prayers – and all of these are wholesome, good and proper for you, if you feel ‘called’ to do one or more of them.

You might like to consider reading a page a day of a book you read some time ago, or use the links below once a day to set your day up with an uplifting word or thought for the Celtic Advent.

In the busyness of life, maybe the last thing we need is to be more ‘busy, busy’. Oh, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype from the tv, the newspapers and radio, but once we’re aware of being ‘pulled along’ by the increasing flow of the pace of life at this time of the year, we’re in with a chance of doing something about it. So, perhaps it maybe best to use this time to slow, reflect and take on board on a thought for the day (see below)?

‘Be aware of the ancestral teachers, the grandparents and elders of the spiritual traditions, whose footsteps have kept the pathways open.’ Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional.

And, so in this cafe, having just packed away the Halloween decorations ten days or so ago, they’re now unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations. And, as I sit here pondering the darkness, as I look through the cafe window onto a cold, dark blue sky’d city street, I look forward, in anticipation and expectation to Light entering the world, and what that means personally for me, for you, and others.

‘These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community’s past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.’ Brian McLaren

To paraphrase some, this Celtic Advent was created for you and your benefit, and not the other way around.

My encouragement is for you to celebrate the start of the Celtic Advent with a meal – and yes, some will know that in ancient times it was a time of fasting, and if you’re called to do that, then do it, but also to take the time to ponder upon the themes of darkness and Light. So far as possible, slip beyond the rational (not into irrationality, but towards the arational, beyond rationality) for a while.

As regards, the celebration I’m thinking of an Celtic Advent celebration some time into the season and maybe couple it with a ‘telling place’ experience: a time of imagination and story, perhaps at the Magic Cafe one evening. Time to reflect. Time to go deeper. Time to encounter the imaginal and be transformed. Time for community. You’re invited. Are you free? Details soon.

If you’re interested on taking on one ‘extra’ thing, such as a thought for each day, for this season, here’s some links that you might like to dip into daily during this season:

BBC Radio 4 Thought For The Day: Here

A Forty Day Pilgrimage through the Advent Season with Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Saints: Here

Celtic advent calendar: Here

Contemporary and Ancient Celtic Blessings: Here

Meanwhile, many blessings of the Celtic Advent to you and to those whom you love. Tadhg.

 

The Night Of Long Shadows #1: A Service For The Bereaved: Thoughts

20191027 THE NIGHT OF LONG SHADOWS 1 THOUGHTS

Christmas is coming closer. For some, it’s a time to celebrate the coming of the Christ, the wonderful time when we remember the Universe incarnated at Bethlehem, when we exchange gifts and sing cheerful carols, and more. To some friends, especially those of nature or earth-based beliefs it’s a time to celebrate dark and light, death and new life, of renewal and balance: equilibrium.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
and heav’n and nature sing. (Christmas Hymn/Carol)

It is with the former, mainly, in mind that I write this. Those who celebrate Christmas as part of their faith or, like me, as part of a blended-faith, can find Christmas, in some instances, a tough, sad time. For them, the season seems lopsided. I do believe my Wican, Pagan, and Druid friends do much better at getting the balance just right and of honouring the ancestors, and I am the richer for their company and wisdom. For others, it’s…..well, it’s lopsided.

In what way lopsided? Well, the commercialism of Christmas doesn’t help. Buy this for your mum or dad, here’s a great gift for your daughter or son who will love this, and hey, don’t forget the grandparents! And, in churches, hymns and songs laud the baby in the manger and welcome shepherds and kings like.

But, the reality is, that at every Advent church service, in every choir rehearsal, and at every Christmas Eve candlelight service, there are people who are deeply hurting and in pain, whose lives are in great turmoil, and who are seeking help or answers. Even surrounded by our candles, poinsettias, the delightful laughter of children, and the great joy of the Christmas season, I do believe that we do not adequately consider those among us who cannot enter fully into the joy of the season. And, outside, cheerful parties abound at work, at home, at local pubs and clubs, and on tv just seem to make the exclusion worse.

But, what about those who, this Christmas, perhaps like last Christmas, look around and notice the spaces in their family and friends? To them, it is lopsided, exclusive, and can be a tough, solitary time.

‘You don’t know who is important to you until you actually lose them.’ Mahatma Gandhi

For some, Christmas can be a time when the loss of a loved-one can be most profoundly felt. Ofcourse, during that season such people, like myself, will be happy and socialise, and enjoy the company of others.

‘I enjoy Christmas immensely as a Christo-Druid (or is it a Druidic-Christian), but there is also a sense of loss.

I am an ‘amphibian’ at Christmas. Celebrating the joy of the season, the razzamatzz, and the growing number of younger family members and friends is wonderful, and by nature I am a positive person. But, I also look around at the gaps. Having grown up, in my teens, twenties and thirties, with seven pairs of aunts and uncles for instance and a myriad of other family, all but one couple of aunts/uncles have passed-on, as have both my parents, and that can be heart-breaking  at times.’ Tadhg

But sometimes, just sometimes, and perhaps on one occasion over that period it would be comforting and energising to have some kind of formal ritual or service to commemorate those that have passed-on, to remember them, and have something where we can be true to our feelings without being morbid or morose, to acknowledge our loss, draw strength and to move on.

With that in mind, and right near Christmas is the winter solstice, there is the idea of just such a celebration for the bereaved. The Night Of Long Shadows.

Aptly named, The Night Of Long Shadow can be held at that time of the year when many celebrate the darkest and longest night of the year, and it takes into account that many feel as though they are in darkness when it comes to emotions of remembrance, but there’s more.

‘The death of a beloved is an amputation.’ C S Lewis

What would a service of The Night Of Long Shadows look like?

With songs and words that draw alongside those who are bereaved (whether recently, a year or more ago, or some time ago) there would be a time of honest appraisal of feelings, a period of reflection, a time when the bereaved could say or do something or sit and listen. The event would be short (and not more than fifty minutes) . Maybe a few tears would be shed. There would be an opportunity to ‘tell it like it is or feels like it is’ by those who attend (if they wish to), and for those leading, they would then move onto the part of the ritual or service that would instil hope with words and actions – I love ritual, and sometimes simple ritual-actions can take us to a much deeper place than words.

Such a ritual or service can interpret the ‘shadow’ in the Night Of Long Shadows as the comforting shadow of good memories (or the mere shadow of not-so-good memories) that we might each share of those who have passed-on.

And/or it can refer to the transforming work of renewal and growth that takes place in dark places, such as a seed buried but about to sprout, or a baby growing in the secret place of its mother’s womb. It is with that in mind that we can learn a lot from our brothers and sisters who uphold a nature or earth-based belief.

‘We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world – the company of those who have known suffering.’ Helen Keller

A service of The Night of Long Shadows, would earnestly and honestly draw alongside the bereaved, hold space for them, support them, listen to them, give some kind of encouragement and be there fore them. There is no quick fix in this kind of ritual of service. How could there be. In many cases it is beyond us to fix many things, and especially this! But, we can be there for others, and through ritual and prayer, blessings and la time of tea and coffee after, be inclusive and supportive.

What songs, what words of acceptance and hope could be used, what structure would such a ritual or service take? That is for next time. Suffice to say, that I do believe there is a need, and am working towards such a ritual or service for the first half of December. If you could support that venture in prayer, good-thoughts or by sending light, or by sending suggestions, or by expressing a desire to take part or feel the need to attend such a ritual or service in in/near London (UK) because of bereavement, I would love to hear from you. It may be best one-to-one and so do email me at: tadhgtemp@gmail.com

We live in an age where the pace of life can be so fast that we lose or diminish the human touch. There is a great need at creating sacred space for people living through dark times. Such services, and the service of The Night Of London Shadows can fulfil such a need, and be inclusive, reflective, accepting of where we really are, and of holding out healing and hope. And, such a ritual or service is not the preserve of Christians or Christo-Druids or Druidic-Christians, but can also be used and adapted by my Wican, Pagan, and Druid friends, and others.

’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

 

The Elements: In Praise Of Earth

20191002 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF EARTH

As the days shorten and nights becomes longer, we’re moving towards winter. Already in the UK mornings, evening and nights are becoming much, much colder, and the midday sun sits ever lower in the sky.

Winter is that time of nature’s rest, even death, and plants and insects die; and even then there is a paradox that life is ‘home’ and active deep in the ground, and some of it is dormant and ‘sleeping’ deep in the womb of the earth, the soil that we tread so blithely .

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

(In the bleak midwinter: Christmas carol)

As winter approaches, here’s a few words of a seasonal introduction; the primacy of story, memory and ritual at this time; a new song; and something for those of an inquisitive nature and interested in a simple but profound scientific experiment centred on nature at this time of the year.

STORY, MEMORY AND RITUAL

With naked trees and animals saving warmth and energy, and many species dying off for the winter (until a new generation emerges) there is a silence that descends at this time – a primordial silence.

Human voices can predominate as animal noises momentarily reduce, and it is no wonder in nature’s silence that our ancestors warmed themselves around tribal fires and recited stories of old.

‘The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.’

(Wendell Berry)

Many of those stories might have been tribal histories, and who hasn’t on a winter’s night, especially at Christmas and the New Year reminisced about relatives that have moved abroad or who have ‘gone ahead’ to that heavenly realm? It is a time of story and of memories.

The landscape, cold and bare, also shares its memories if we ‘look’ deeply. We might see a tree taller than it was, a plant thicker, and the ‘scars’ on tree barks, that still tell their story to those that stop and look. Nature has a memory.

Story, memory and ritual come to the fore at this time.

The following can be incorporated into your Samhain celebration. Samhain starts the evening of Thursday, 31 October and runs for twenty for hours (but there is nothing to stop you celebrating it over the weekend).

The following can be used at (or about) the time of the Winter solstice in December, too, or indeed at any time during the season of winter. Use the following, adapt it, enjoy it.

This is a time to reminisce, tell stories, to remember that death is part of the cycle and new birth is ‘on its way’, and it’s a time of celebration (and yes, even mirth).

Here, then, are some wonderful words that can be incorporated into your seasonal ritual/liturgy:

‘If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up like rooted, like trees’. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

And,

‘We come from the earth and return to it, and so we live in agriculture as we live in flesh. While we live our bodies are moving particles in the earth, joined inextricably both to the soil and to the bodies of other living creatures’. (Wendell Berry)

And

‘The vines that are tended by the Divine Gardener’. (Catherine of Siena)

And

Spirit of the Abundant Earth,
allow me to live in the knowledge that
I am of the earth, from the earth, and returning to the earth.
Blessings of the earth be upon me.

(Christine Valters Paintner, Book: Water, Wind, Earth & Fire, part)

SONG: THE DAYS ARE COLD (A WINTER’S SONG)

The following song can be sung to the old, traditional Scottish tune, ‘The Water is wide”, and hails from the 1600’s. If you want an idea of the tune, do check here. (The tune for each of the three verses below is a repetition of the first forty-seven seconds of the link’s tune).

The days are cold
And night comes soon.
The circle turns
As in days of old.
Nature does sleep
And the winds do howl.
And my eyes do weep
Through the cold air now

The snow falls harsh
Upon the land.
There is a light
Within and without.
We raise our hands
To the Source of all.
And nature responds
with elementals call.

The days of change
Are here again.
Our voices raise
To the loud refrain.
We wish you peace,
We wish you well.
All nature sings
Winter’s farewell.

Tune: “The Water Is Wide”
Words: Tadhg Jonathan

THE QUADRAT
FOR THOSE OF A SCIENTIFIC OR INQUISITIVE NATURE

If you want to get an overall view of what wildlife is present in your garden, local park or nearby wild area eg forest etc even at this time of year, either because of your concern about the biosphere, sheer interest in the local environment, or out of general curiosity and personal interest, then you (and any children) may be interested in making and using a quadrat.

’It is apparent that no lifetime is long enough in which to explore the resources of a few square yards of ground.’ (Alice M Coats)

A quadrat is a merely a hand-made frame, maybe made out of thin cane or similar, and is generally one metre square (three feet by three feet in size approximately), with the four canes tied at the intersections to form a simple square.

Once made, it is a great way to sample a large area by concentrating on a small area. On suggestion is that, once in an area of wilderness, you randomly throw the quadrat (safely and gentlt), and see where it lands. If you want more information about quadrats, please see here.

Then, depending on your time, you can have endless hours of fun surveying plants, wildlife and insect life within the randomly selected area of that frame.

The idea is to explore and catalogue so do be careful not to destroy anything, nor cause too much of an upheaval to that area as you gently brush aside grass and plants or dig a little (and if you, inadvertently disturb anything,  do ensure you return it to its former state as much as possible, so that no one would ever know you had been there).

You might like to take a pen and paper to record results, and/or a camera, too, to take a photograph of anything interesting. With that in mind you might also like to record the scale of something found so you might like to take along a rule(r) or a coin  for comparison sake and lay the specimen alongside it  or it alongside the plant etc – a two (UK) penny coin is 25.9 mm wide (so close to one inch you can call it an inch) as you photograph specimens.

Don’t forget this is an adventure, and experiment, and it is also fun and respectful of nature – so record only, and so, no take-away specimens, please.

’Our world is a web of interdependencies woven so tightly it sometimes becomes love.’ (Tim Flannery)

If you want to email me a copy of your notes and findings (with the date, time and rough location of the one square metre quadrat, I will most certainly be pleased to look at them.

For the mathematically-inclined, if you know the total area of the garden, park or wilderness area in square metres, you can, roughly, multiply your findings by that total amount to gain a rough idea of the numbers and variations of wildlife in that total area.

But, I find just checking and recording what is alive in that one square metre to be fascinating and profound! Have fun!

‘The land is a mother that never dies.’ (Maori Proverb).

 

The Elements: In Praise Of Air

20190919 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF AIR

Air, I should explain, becomes wind when it is agitated. (Lucretius, On the Nature of Things)

Breath

There is a school of thought that says we each have a limited, unknown, number of breaths that we will take before we expire. And, by slowing down ones breathing, maybe with focused breathing, slowing exercises or meditation we can increase our lifespan.

Breathing.

Air.

It’s important to life and our longevity.

There is another school of thought that says by regulating our breathing we can place ourselves ‘in the way’ of the Divine, The Universe, the Source of All. Breathing has a natural rhythm of its own, and something we take for granted, but in hatha yoga this pause in breathing is called kumbhaka.

Kumbhaka, then, is the pause between inhalation and exhalation when the lungs are full, or between exhalation and inhalation when the lungs are empty – I prefer the latter. Then, in that pause there is no breathing. All things being well, the pause should only last for a few seconds – it’s not a competition to hold ones breath until one metaphorically bursts, but it is a gentle cessation of breathing for a short while, and then a return in inhalation/exhalation, ready for the next pause. In that way we ‘jump out’ of ordinary time for a split second and move closer. An ever-so important exercise that we can use in our own time ritual or group ritual.

Breathing.

Pausing.

Air.

It’s important to deep meditation and encountering.

Exhaling air we can speaks words of wisdom, and words of encouragement, and yet the same breath can be used destructively. I went on a march to Parliament – yes, I must be one of the oldest protesters around, but I felt so strongly about the case. A group of ten thousand of us chanted, ‘Save our democracy, stop the coup’, outside a prorogued (‘suspended’) Parliament. A positive, heartfelt response to a dire situation. At one point, heavily surrounded by police, a small opposition group of about forty fascists marched by. The jeered, they snarled, they pointed their fingers accusingly. It was as though a dark cloud of hate and confusion had closed in, almost. They chanted, ‘We’ve got a lamppost just for you’. Our words have consequences.

Breathing.

Air.

Giving our voice the power of positivity, and sadly, we have the option to be negative.

Also, lets not forget (though I’m a not-so-good clarinet-player and flautist), that with our breath, with air, woodwind musicians can make delightful tunes that can move us deeply within ourselves, and move us closer to the Divine.

The Druids, the Ancients, and other tribes (and ‘tribes’) knew of the importance of air to their lives, of breathing, and celebrated it in song, liturgy and ritual.

All praise be Yours, my God, through Brothers Wind and Air.
And fair and stormy, all the weather’s moods,
By which You cherish all that You have made. (Francis of Assisi)

Air, in Welsh is awyr (pronounced ah-weir, and preferably ‘rolling’ that ‘r’), can also mean sky, and was important to those Ancients, and to discerning and fellow ‘deep’ followers of today who revel in nature and the Spirit.

In ritual, many would turn to the east to celebrate or think deeply of air. To some it represents the intellect, is understood by the colour yellow, and others associate it with several constellations. To others it represents spring and life, new life. It is the only natural element that is invisible.

The letters of the Name of God in Hebrew are Yod, Hay, Vav, and Hay. They are frequently mispronounced as “Yahveh.” But in truth they are unutterable. Not because of the holiness they evoke, but because they are all vowels and you cannot pronounce all the vowels at once without risking respiratory injury.

This word is the sound of breathing. The holiest Name in the world, the Name of the Creator, is the sound of your own breathing.

(Rabbi Lawrence Kushner: Eyes Remade for Wonder)

Don’t you find that so profound and so comforting? That the name of the Source of All is the sound of breathing, and is on our lips constantly.

Ritual / Air

And, so there we were a few of us, Druids and Christo-Druids (or Druidic-Christians) deep in the forest at sunset, a liminal time. Part of the ceremony had us facing the four cardinal compass points in turn.

As we all face east, hands were raised in the orans position (ie  the position one would adopt, say, if someone was pointing a guy at you and said, ‘hands up’. Your hands would be about eight inches from each ear and at ear level, and that’s the orans position, and was used in antiquity in prayer, praise and blessing).

I recited a blessing:

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

Everyone responded with the word ‘amen’ or Awen’. Interestingly, I find that when I talk about the Awen to others, the Welsh word and notion for inspiration, the Spirit, I use a two-syllable sound, ie ah-wen. Here, in this ritual they and I, and for formal liturgy we used the more correct three-syllable sound ‘ah-woo-un’ to invoke the Spirit.

Later on, in unison, the group exhaled slowly, five times, and each time used the word Awen, this time ‘aaahhhhhhh-wooooooooo-uuuuuuunnnn. It was a wonderful and powerful expression of deep spirituality resonating though the ether.

At one point, one person was to be ‘commissioned’ into a certain role. Words were spoken, promises made and I reached out to touch that persons shoulder in mutual blessing and others did the same.

As I was leading this, I was in front of the person and gently got them to lower their head, and breathed on the crown of their head. It felt the natural and seemly thing to do, a good ritual of blessing, conferment and consecration.

Interestingly, shamans would do similar when healing others. But, it is something that many ancients did, and though it might seem odd to us, it wouldn’t appear so to them. ‘And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20.22, the Book).

Shortly after, we all went home.

But, air is not just our breath, important though it is. It is around us and is witnessed as wind. Invisible wind, and yet we see and feel its effect.

Close your eyes and turn your face into the wind.
Feel it sweep along your skin in an invisible ocean of exultation.
Suddenly, you know you are alive.

(Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration)

Experience

A few years ago, I spoke about experience the blustery wind on that wonderful and remote island of Iona on the west coast of Scotland. The wind picked up on that Iona beach, and a storm comes ever closer.  I might like to think I am in control, but the weather doesn’t obey me, and the Source is not at my behest, either. It is easy to fall into thinking that, but the wind blows where it wishes. To read more of that encounter on Iona, see this link.

 

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)