Ritual: Body Prayer: Getting Started

20190522 RITUAL BODY PRAYER GETTING STARTED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ephemera: The Bright Moon: Full Moon

20190516 EPHEMERA THE BRIGHT MOON 18 MAY 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, find a quiet place, and:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

20190507 ANY POWER YOU HAVE COMES TO YOU FROM FAR BEYOND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was then.

And, I’m in that place once again.

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

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

And what of energy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

20190427 FIRE AND AN GEADH-GLAS THE WILD GOOSE

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

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

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

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

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

Beltane is a fire festival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stole NEW IMG_3202

The Wild Goose Stole

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

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

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

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

20190427 FIRE AND AN GEADH-GLAS THE WILD GOOSE

Beltane 2019: FireFall (Start Here)

20190412 BELTANE 2019 FIREFALL START HERE 1

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

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

Celtic blessing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tess, Ward. The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

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

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

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

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

Tess, Ward. The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

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

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

Spring-Time Song For Alban Eiler[Revisited]: Spring Equinox

20190318 SPRING TIME SONG FOR ALBAN EILER

Spring equinox or Alban Eiler as it’s known in Wales (which, translated from Welsh, means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’) is almost upon us in the northern hemisphere: Wednesday. 20 Match 2019. And, with spring in the air you might feel like singing.

Confession time! I love singing: singing in the rain (yes!) when no one is about, singing in the shower under that personal ‘waterfall’ that ‘transports’ us elsewhere (doesn’t it?), singing to myself (or are we really ever alone?), singing when leading a group (and acting as their cantor), and at other times, too.

‘The song of Lúthien before Mandos was the song most fair that ever in words was woven…. Unchanged, imperishable, it is sung still in Valinor beyond the hearing of the world…’ The Silmarillion, J R R Tolkein

Singing is wonderful. Try it! And, don’t worry about being in tune. Just enjoy it, and as it says somewhere, ‘Make a joyful noise…’ (Psalm 100:1a, The Book). It’s also beneficial.

Here’s a couple of startling facts.

Did you know that researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that the heartbeats of the choristers synchronised when they sang together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga.  And the same scientists asked a group of lively teenagers to try three choral exercises – humming, singing a hymn and chanting. The scientists monitored their heart rhythms during each. It showed that singing had a dramatic effect on heart rate variability, which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. This all formed part of a fascinating UK national newspaper article and can be read here.

Singing, then, is good for your body and you soul. So, this Spring equinox sing, and with that in mind, below is a song (penned by me about a year ago), and set to an old, memorable, Irish/Celtic tune

The following (and yes you can recite it as liturgy or read it as poem to complement what you might be doing to celebrate this time) is a song which can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’. It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Lord of the Spring we honour you,
we thank you for na-ture’s green,
(for) the Earth’s beauty no-ow seen.

Light and darkness dance together well,
in perfect, balanced humility,
in flower, plant and mighty tree.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

Sacred time as the moon rises high
New life comes from that which did die,
new birth comes to us in the by and by.

Wolf and lamb, lion and leopard, too
Shall live one day in sweet harmony
As nature moves , and the Circle turns.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

If you’re interested in the tune that ‘works’ with the abovementioned words, do check the link of Siuil a Ruin (as sung by Anúna) here. The words above ‘coming in’ at fifteen seconds into the tune.

And, just to recap that a few days ago, still with the Spring equinox in mind there was an article on this blog: Spring-tine blessing liturgy (see here). There, two resources to enhance your celebration of the Spring equinox and to give thanks to the That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Wishing you and yours much light and love this Spring Equinox, Tadhg

 

Spring-Time Earth Blessing: Spring Equinox Liturgy

20190312 SPRINGTIME EARTH BLESSING LITURGY

Spring is coming. Acknowledging that in some places it seems to be delayed, it edges ever closer, however, as the Circle turns. The Spring Equinox is just a week or two away (20 March 2019 in the northern hemisphere).

In many pats of the UK Spring flowers grow and buds appear on many trees. It is a time of reflection, to think upon new life. After a long winter, Spring unfolds at the behest of the God of Green Hope, and blesses the Earth with a wonderful bounty, and so it’s a time of extreme gratitude, as well.

You know I love liturgy. Our breath is holy, our words of each person sacred and full of meaning; and the sentiment behind them, that of which we speak, are ‘metaphors’ of great meaning, and words of intentionality, and power.

Some believe the universe began with a word being spoken, others a song being sung, and the word and song continues to sustain all that is. Who, as a child never said the ‘magical’ word ‘abracadabra’ out loud? A word of great meaning? We may not have thought so at the time, but I’m told it comes from Hebrew or Aramaic and means, ‘I will create as I speak’. Yes, words have power.

And, with the Spring Equinox coming closer here is a form of words (penned some time ago and adapted), a liturgy that you can use (and adapt as necessary). It’s time to celebrate, to give thanks, to say words of power in response to the Spring-time promise of the Source of All.

Spring-Time Earth Blessing (adapted)

(Facing east)
Blesséd be the One who crosses boundaries,
who is evident in the lengthening day,
in the turning of the Great Circle, and
who is felt in the soft, refreshing Spring wind.

Response: Blesséd be the One who crosses boundaries.

(Facing south)
Blesséd be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature,
Viriditas,
who makes plants grow and flower,
and the trees to prepare for blossom, and
who warms the earth as the sun rises higher in the sky.

Response: Blesséd be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature.

(Facing west)
Blesséd by the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep,
who waters the earth, and calls to the deep;
and the deep joyfully replies and stirs to life, and
who changes the slow, icy brooks into life-laden babbling streams.

Response: Blesséd be the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep.

(Facing north)
Blesséd be the One who speaks to the earth,
and from the rocks new life appears,
who showers the earth with rain from your storehouse of abundance, and
who blesses the earth, which, in turn, blesses us.

Response: Blesséd be the One who speaks to the earth.

(Facing east)
(Together): Lord of the elements, ‘Three-Personned’ Life-Giver, we praise you.

 

In Praise Of Blue, Green, Grey: World Water Day

20190308 IN PRAISE OF BLUE GREEN GREY WORLD WATER DAY

As a concerned person, (in my case) a latter-day Celt, Druidic-Christian or Christo-Druid I am, like you, intensely aware of nature and its cycles around us, but know that that in many cases we take it for granted. Timely reminders are important, hence the usefulness of faith, natural, and stellar calendars to mark and note the changing seasons, the passage of time and important occasions.

World Water Day is an annual UN observance day (always on 22 March) that highlights the importance of freshwater.

The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be educational, theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature.

Some time back I wrote the following poem. Indeed, it was penned by me when at Dyffryn Ogwen, north Wales on 22 March 2016, World ‘Water Day’. Depending how you use it, the piece below could form part of a liturgy or prayer for that occasion (on that date or, indeed,  on any other), for a ceremony you might hold for World ‘Water Day’, or similar.

Although it may contain place-names that you may be unfamiliar with, they can still be included, if you wish, as locations of beauty to give thanks for, even if not witnessed (yet). But, please feel free to adapt.

Under the canopy of an oh-so-blue sky
I’m sheltered from the howling wind by spine-like mountains on either side.
The tempest may soar high above me, of that I testify
but all is at rest here, in this place, this hide,
this azure-domed valley, of Dyffryn Ogwen.

Surrounded by the life-colour. I shout, ‘Viriditas’.
It echoes the Deity’s handiwork of creativity and love.
Trampling underfoot lichen, moss and occasionally witchgrass
it harks back to an earlier day, a remembrance of
times of innocent, pure, green-childhood.

And onward, like time, to Afon Ogwen, that bountiful river of power and flow.
To stand, to meditate, and commune, and wait
and purposefully gaze upon it, and know
of the life-industry of former times, of Celts, of Romans, of purveyors of grey slate.

And I give thanks to you
The Source of all for blue, green, grey.

 

Playing With Dirt: Alternative Perspective On Ash Wednesday

20190301 PLAYING WITH DIRT ASH WEDNESDAY

Even as a Christo-Druid (or Druidic/Celtic-Christian) I admit it sounds bizarre, but letting someone smear ashes on your forehead while telling you that you are dirt is a good experience. And, though it isn’t as obvious, it is also a declaration of stupendous importance and of great news.

‘Technology and industry have distanced people from nature and magic and human values’. Laura Esquivel

There was a time when I would do it religiously. Yes, at school when I was a wee lad, at the time of Ash Wednesday, we would all have to line up, then kneel at the front of the church in groups of about twenty. The priest would walk about in all his robes, dipping his thumb into a plate of ashes and mark a cross on our foreheads. Our only thought was: let me be the third one, please.

That was then.

They were great days at school – although with hindsight it did so very much resemble Hogwarts!. To save time at those Ash Wednesday services and to save ash the priest dipped his thumb into the plate of ashes every third student, but it also meant that the third student would, fortunately for him/her, only get a few ashes, hardly visible on the forehead.

The student who was number one each time the priest’s thumb was dipped into the ashes, unfortunately from his/her viewpoint, would receive a huge dollop of black ash on the forehead, so much so that some of it would usually fall onto the cheek or nose. Wiping it off during the day – even with studies in the afternoon – was frowned upon.

‘There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability when you are trying to find answers’. Deborah Norville

Oh, when I left school I dismissed the ‘religious’ stuff as something that meant little to me. And, because of that I had little to do with the ritual behind it. It meant little to many of the teachers at school, too, and that thought ‘rubbed off’ on to me any many students.

That was then; this is now.

Fast-forward a number of years and now having attended a number of Ash Wednesday services, and led them, they mean something more, something much more. I’m never an advocate of blind or shallow ritual. But,…..?

But, what about meaningful ritual? What about ritual that touches the very core of your being? What about ritual that is deeply moving and seemingly opens us up to sacred-time, and ushers us into a ‘thin place’? What about ritual that is physical-metaphor or intentionality that ushers us into the imaginal realm of the Other, a place of peace, power, potential? Yes, now that is altogether very different to what I experienced at school.

What sparked this trip down memory lane?

Well, next Wednesday, 6 March 2019 is Ash Wednesday and many people will be receiving those ashes on their forehead. Ofcourse, some will receive them unthinkingly, some will ensure they don’t take them for a variety of reasons (and I do support those people, too, but would ask them to periodically ‘review’ their position as should we all, myself included); and some will receive those ashes on their forehead and for them it will be a deep and meaningful experience that is a liminal, threshold experience, a glimpse of the Other. And, that is the point of this article.

‘The only way we’ll know where we’re going is to look at the past and to remember who we were through ceremonies and rituals’. Laura Esquivel

And, so next Wednesday, a few of us will be in a busy London city street, and for those  unable to get to a church service, we’re bringing to them the ability to be blessed in the street, to receive ashes on their forehead too, as I, and the few others administering the ashes will also say to them: ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ In this sense it can apply to all, and that street blessing and ash-application wont be exclusively Christian, but will be open and available to all those who want a blessing and experience that ritual (perhaps for the first time).

It sounds like a negative but for those willing stop for a few minutes I would share that is extremely positive: it means we’re here in this form for a limited time and we’re encouraged to make good use of the time; we’ve come from dust, even star dust, we’re part of nature, and to that state of dust we’ll return; we’ve come from somewhere which some call heaven, and we’ll all return ‘home’. I find that immensely life-reassuring and positive, and love the depth of meaning to life that ritual can apply, and which many miss.

‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ 1 Corinthians 15,22, The Book

So, taking a few minutes out of our busy lives, and letting someone smear ashes on your forehead while telling you that you are dirt is an experience that I would heartily recommend.

And, no I wont be dipping my thumb into the ash for every third person blessed, but I will take ‘pity’ on them and will wipe the excess off my thumb each time before applying and blessing them. And if you can’t get to participate in such a ritual, then rest assured that evening I will be thinking of you, blessing you (as I do now; be blessed) and will apply ashes to myself vicariously so you benefit.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden…

Woodstock, Crossby, Stills & Nash

 

Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More (1)

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 1

Yes, I’m on the road again, as this time (on Saturday, 2 February) I’m heading to the New Forest, in England.

Odd that it should still be called The New Forest, as it has existed as woodland since the end of the last Ice Age, and its heaths were first cleared and cultivated  in small areas by  Bronze Age settlers . The area was formerly known as ‘Ytene’ the land of the Jutes (an Anglo-Saxon tribe). However, it was grouped together as a ‘new’ forest by William the Conqueror in AD1079, hence its name. The New Forest of AD1079. And, it’s a wonderfully rugged and wild area, the place where things can happen, and nature abounds.

And, that’s were I’m headed. The New Forest. Over the next few days I will meet friends and celebrate Imbolc, then the following day will lead a house blessing, and then bury a pebble and recite liturgy as part of my small endeavour to be involved, along with others, in healing the land.

But first Imbolc.

Yes, the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonder, major festival is almost upon us. It’s time to celebrate in large ways and small, in groups and by yourself. It’s intentionality that’s important, so I would encourage you to do something this Imbolc, and to enjoy it. It really is time to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Beloved.

Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February (but many will celebrate it on Sunday, 3 February this year)
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Spring Flowers, St Brigid’s Cross, Candles
Colours: White, Orange, Red

Imbolc, in the Celtic seasonal calendar marks the beginning of the lambing season and signals the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life. It is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit). She is one of my favourites.

About Brigid

Brigid, so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget, and rightly remembered and revered. To some she is a Goddess of healing, poetry, of fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. To others, a saint. What matters is that she is remembered.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and the wells, patroness of sweet water. Water the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire, are the instruments of the forge. Brigid is the goddess of the forge and smith craft. Heat and fire tempered by water. Perfect balance.

She is also said bring fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies.

Symbols of Brigid

With the coming of spring, the following are some symbols that you might like to consider in some form of quiet time, some form of meditation on that day, but there are also some ideas listed below of things that you can do, things you might like to bring into the house and/or put on your home altar, such as:

Snowdrops. The first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter.

Candle(s). Imbolc is a Fire Festival and fire of all kinds is associated with Brigid – the fire of creativity, the protective hearth fire, and her fire wheel – the Brigid Cross, which heralds her, according to some, as a Sun Goddess. A lit candle as you have your meal or as you gaze or meditate upon it, is a wonderful way to celebrate her and the return of spring, to give thanks to the One Behind It  All, the Source of All.

Brigid’s Cross. This is a traditional fire wheel symbol – found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection. A customer in the shop recounted finding a hearth in Ireland, in recent years, adorned with over 200 Brigid Crosses – 200 years in the life of a hearth and a family, overlit and protected by Brigid.
Brigid Doll. A very old tradition involved the making of a Brigid doll which can be included in ceremony and/or placed in ‘Bride’s Bed’ to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.

The Serpent. In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration – the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries. Paths of earth energy were called serpent paths and at Imbolc they are stirred from their slumber. And in the Hebrew Testament a bronze serpent is lifted up and all who gazed upon it were healed.

Sheep. Brigid’s festival is at the beginning of lambing – you might be fortunate to try eat ewe’s milk cheese!

The seed: From the seed new life sprouts. And you might like to consider planting a seed, or more. It need not be an expensive plant, but a packet of inexpensive seeds that you might like to grow on a piece of common ground, in your  your garden or in your window-box.

Blackberry: Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.

Ginger: revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayer for Imbolc & Brigid – honouring Brigid and Mary

Praise to you O Caring one,
midwife of our newness and growth,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
tend the fresh shoots of our emerging as we set foot this day.

(Tess Ward, Celtic Wheel of the Year 2007)

Stories about Brigid

Stories about Brigid abound, and in the past two have caught my attention. There is a story about Brigid and a miracle or magic regarding her cloak, but its a story of justice and plenty. Do read about it here

And there’s another story I like about Brigid. It’s a story about her concern and love for strangers and travellers, and the extraordinary lengths she went to, to meet their needs. It’s a story of generosity and a miracle or magic of plenty. Do read about it here.

Finally…

Imbolc and St Brigid’s feast day is a time of celebration, so be encouraged to spend some time outdoors in nature, and celebrating in some way indoors. Celebrate. Enjoy. Be intentional.