Ideas, Liturgy & Ritual For The Celtic Month Of The Hawthorn Tree

201705012 IDEAS LITURGY RITUAL FOR THE MONTH OF THE HAWTHORN TREESaturday, 13 May 2017 sees the start of the new month, the Celtic month of the Hawthorn Tree, and it’s a great time to celebrate. Don’t forget that the ancients started their day the evening before, from our perspective – so if you want, you can celebrate the event this evening, but for me, this time, it’s Saturday evening. You get to choose. And some depending on what they’re doing are celebrating over the whole weekend. So, why not you?

Essential Data: Celtic Month of the Hawthorn Tree: 13 May – 9 June. Celtic /Gaelic Name: Huathe (pronounced ‘oo-ah-huh’).

I’m sure you have some great ideas for celebrating the new month, but if you haven’t, or if you wish to add something different, do consider the following ideas, liturgy and ritual (as suggestions, and adapt as best suits your requirements).

This new month, now officially summer (in the northern hemisphere) is about power, spiritual growth, God-given sexuality (apologies to the ‘children of Augustine’), and God-blessed fertility. To ancient Celts, Christian Celts, Druids, Pagans and others it was a great time for hand-fasting, engagements, marriages and the starting any kind of creative activity (eg new work, new projects, new hobbies, new starts etc), and to latter-day ones, it still is!

My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Behold, he is standing behind our wall,
Song of Solomon 2.9a, The Book

IIDEA1DEAS
Why, to celebrate this new month, you might like to:

  • undertake anew hobby (you know you’ve always wanted to do [insert here the positive hobby, pastime etc- take up a sport (or lose weight (for yourself, if you wish, and not because of media or societal ‘pressure’, or indeed put on weight)
  • make a definite time and date to visit a local art gallery or museum (and take in the creativity of others, and appreciate great art), or go to a jazz band evening (or equivalent)
  • give yourself quality time by visiting a park or one of those ornate gardens (or even a forest), and why not go with family and/or friends and make it into a picnic too, and appreciate good company and being in the midst of nature
  • slow down and choose one task that you do, dare I say an everyday task, such as drinking tea, cleaning the toilet or washing your face, and so it slowly, joyfully and with awareness, as a holy act of serving
  • watch an eco-conscious movie or documentary on tv (one evening or anytime if you’re unable to leave the house easily)
  • make a donation to a woodland-orientated charity, or an animal charity for threatened species etc if able to, and/or send a blessing.

IDEA2LITURGY
You might like to take some time to use (and/or adapt) some of the following liturgy and poems to celebrate the new month, and take time to savour the turning of the wheel in everyday life and ‘mundane’ tasks.

I will wash my face
in the nine rays of the sun,
As Mary washed her Son
in rich fermented milk.
Love be in my countenance,
benevolence in my mind,
dew of honey in my tongue,
(and) my breath as the incense.

[From: Carmina Gadelica]

And/or

God, we are truly bearers of the light from above, within and around us. Help us to be bearers of that light to others who seek a vision of the goodness and beauty of Your Creation. We ask that you help us and our creative work to be witnesses to your love, your kindness, and your care for us. Continue to inspire us with the gift of your imagination. Amen.

[Grace Episcopal Church, Paris, TN (USA))

 And/or
Today as the new month begins
I hope for (you) wonderful things
That a new page is turning
And fresh times will come
I wonder what this month will bring.

I pray for (your) days to feel bright
For (your) sleep to be sweet in the night
For (your) health to be full
And (your) dreams to come true
May your/my heart feel happy and light.

Used with the permission of Prayerscapes

IDEA3RITUAL
If you’re a ‘solitary’, or finding yourself alone at the beginning of this new month, here’s an idea of celebrating this month of creativity and new starts in a simple and profound way. Such as:

  • Initially, draw aside and find a space where you won’t be disturbed (for a short time, perhaps half an hour or so).
  • Perhaps darken the room, make yourself comfortable by sitting on the floor (a cushion might be a good idea, too), and enter into sacred space, and so, after a few minutes…
  • light a small candle
  • close your eyes and ‘centre’ yourself (by not dwelling on extraneous thoughts, and by breathing slowly and deeply (and perhaps concentrating on your inhalations. Some, at least for the first minute or so like to ‘focus’ on a single abstract word (like love, or grace, or peace)), but only for a short while
  • for the next few breaths (and, don’t count them, because you’ll ‘jump out’ of sacred space), say the word of one thing creative act, project or achievement that you’re grateful for as you exhale, and as you exhale that spoken word imagine it as ‘energy’ going out to the Universe, the Source, God with gratitude, and then after a few minutes…
  • for the next few breaths (and, don’t count them, as it doesn’t need to be precise), imagine that you’re inhaling energy, positivity and creativity from The Universe, the Source, as a metaphor of ‘topping up’ and increasing your creative energy (and you might even want to speak the word ‘increase’ or similar), and then after a few minutes…
  • for the next few breaths, as you exhale, say the name of one person (or two or so in following exhalations, but don’t rush anything) that you would like to send some of that creative energy onto, so that they might benefit, and then after a few minutes…
  • spend a short time just being still, and then slowly open your eyes, perhaps say a word or two (or three) to close this sacred time/sacred space (such as ‘Amen’, ‘So be it’ or similar), and then,
  • extinguish the candle. It’s a good idea to wait another minute or so, to fully enter into the physical realm again, as there’s no rush, and the longer you linger, the more you spend in that blessed.

An after thought: Don’t worry or be concerned about giving away some of that creative energy, as I do believe that life is about sharing, and whatever energy and blessings(s) you give out will come back to you and in abundance.

‘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

So, enjoy this new month of the Hawthorn Tree, and blessings to you and those whom you love, Tadhg

 201705012 IDEAS LITURGY RITUAL FOR THE MONTH OF THE HAWTHORN TREE

Everything You Wanted To Know About Blessing, But Were Afraid To Ask*

20170428 BLESSING 0 BLESSING‘Bless you’, I said.  ‘But, I haven’t sneezed’, was their reply.

And so, for some, that’s the limit of their understanding of when a blessing is initiated, or perhaps an indication of their level of their uncomfortableness or embarrassment at being blessed.

Have you ever been asked to bless? As a Druid, Celtic, Christian, Pagan, or, of another faith or belief, have you ever been asked, or bypassed the request, or felt uneasy about it?

It may feel odd to receive a blessing in daily life; it may seem strange to  bless or want to bless another person. But, blessings are great events full of meaning, power, pathos and convey favour, love, understanding, acceptance, promise and, well…a blessing!

And yet, we are reluctant to bless, aren’t we?

‘When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness… all the good things.’  Maya Angelou

It is such a simple thing to utter those words, and yet we refrain, perhaps thinking it too easy. At other times, we be reluctant because we think it too complicated or disqualify ourselves, deferring to others – thinking, ‘They have a qualification, a title, and office, and so they are best placed to bless others’. Too simple.  And, we miss out blessing others, and miss out on being blessed. We seem to place obstacles in our path, close the door, and find reasons not to bless.

Perhaps there’s a middle route?

‘See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.’ Rev 3:8b, The Book

Who can bless? This is an easy one to answer. You can! We identify ourselves in so many ways, and usually materially, but then we live in a very materialistic world. We might identify ourselves by the work we do, our familial status, age, our social status or, perhaps, our income. Very seldom do we say, I am myself. I am spirit. I am soul. There is a holiness in me. Therefore, I am someone who can bless’. [Excerpt from David Spangler’s book, ‘Blessing: The Art And The Practice’]

I really do believe we live in a time when there is a great need to bless people, local and world events, etc eco-nature concerns, events, workplaces, homes, projects and endeavours etc. It’s time to ‘send out’ those blessings, and in return to realise we, too, are blessed. Whether we are Druid, Celtic, Christian, Pagan, of another faith or belief, I do believe (more) blessing is needed at such a time as this, and so all of the articles on TadhgTalks next week will be on blessing in one way or another. I’m excited about that, and would encourage the same in you. You are called! Needed! And, have that capability and energy, and will be blessed, too.

‘The most important matter for a practitioner is to be able to break through the veil of the material plane in order to enter the ultimate dimension and see the interconnection between us and all other phenomena in the world around us.’ Thich Nhat Hanh,

It is so important that we know the value of blessing, how to bless in formal ways and informal ways, to bless and be blessed in the process. It is not just a duty and a joyful one at that, it’s more. It’s your birth-right and a calling from another realm.

‘Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. John O’Donohue

Next week, we’ll consider exactly what a blessing is, the source of it/them, the ‘how to’ (using the Caim, imaginal ‘tools’ etc), the reasons for blessing, and the reciprocal nature of blessing-energy. Yes, you can benefit, too.

 

* Well, perhaps not everything.

 

Tadhg’s Ephemera & More: The Growing Moon: 11 April 2017

20170410 THE GROWING MOON 11 APRIL 2017 EPHEMERAFull Moon
Spring is truly here, and this month’s full moon takes place on Tuesday, 11 April 2017, in the constellation of Scorpio, the latter being seen, traditionally, as a water element.

This full moon rises around sunset, and sets around sunrise. This is the only time in the month when the moon is in the night sky all night long. The rest of the month the moon spends some time, at least, moving across the daytime sky.

‘The moon was reigning over their world, glowing its full splendour to all those willing to look up.’ Irina Serban

To the ancient and latter day Celts and Druids, such as myself, this full moon is known as the Growing Moon. Others regard/regarded it as the Seed Moon, the Pink Moon, the Awakening Moon, or the Egg Moon. Whatever we call it, this is a wonderful time of the month, and a time to sit, gaze up and ponder at our Earth’s wonderful companion smiling down at us.

On This Day: 11 April
1814 Napoleon surrenders unconditionally, and is exiled to the island of Elba.
1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act.
2015 President Obama meets Raul Castro, the first meeting between USA and Cuban heads of state since the Cuban Revolution.

Further Ahead
On the evenings surrounding April 20, Mars, that red planet, traverses across the sky and will pass close to the Pleiades star cluster, the Seven Sisters. After the sky darkens, they should be visible as a faint group of seven stars to the naked eye, as several dozen stars within a binoculars’ field of view, and with a telescope you might see several hundred stars.

The name Pleiades comes from Ancient Greek, and is probably derived from plein (‘to sail’) because of that star cluster’s importance to the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea. The name was later mythologised as the name of seven divine sisters, whose name was thought to be connected to their mother Pleione.

Also, look out for the annual Lyrids meteor shower which runs from 16 to 25 April, and which peaks before dawn on Saturday, 22 April.

‘The moon will guide you through the night with her brightness, but she will always dwell in the darkness, in order to be seen.’ Shannon L Alder

Soon, Earth Day
This year, Earth Day, occurs on Saturday, 22 April. Details of how you can get involved in a practical way can be viewed at the Earth Day website here.

And/or you can read their webpage and send out some positivity, good-energy, prayers and maybe hold an appropriate ritual, or meditate silently upon the Earth, extending love and peace to it and all its wildlife, and give gratitude.

‘And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair’. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Also, in doing this by yourself or with others, you might like to consider turning off all lights and unnecessary household equipment to stop or reduce your electricity usage for an hour (refrigerators/freezers etc exempt), and, perhaps, spend that time in darkness, or use a candle for light for your meditation, ritual etc.

May you have a blessed full moon celebration. Tadhg.

Haiku #7: Vernal Equinox[ology]: Ephemera

20170320 vernal equinoxolgy EPHEMERAAs you may know, I’m fascinated by the traditional haiku – short Japanese poems consisting of three lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five; and somewhere in the haiku there is usually a seasonal reference (called a ‘kigo’), however oblique.

It’s the Spring equinox today, and time to celebrate the time of equal day lengths and equal night. I also love liturgy and ritual, and so have penned three haiku to celebrate today and to use this evening as liturgy in part of my ritual for the ocassion.

And, so, here’s some words, in the form of haiku, to mark the season, the turning of the Circle, and in praise to the One behind it all.

Equal nights for owls,
And days for soaring eagles.
Vernal equinox.

Ascendant light, now.
The night but bows for six months.
Perfect harmony.

Celebrate, candle!
Mark the Circle’s turning, well.
Oh, Veriditas!

You might have your own unique way of celebrating this time, but if you want to use (and adapt) any, or all, of the haiku above, please do so. But, however, complex or simple your ritual and liturgy is, my encouragement is to do something today (or even tomorrow) to celebrate this wonderful day – so light a candle, meditate, plant a seed (or, perhaps donate a small amount of money to a tree-planting charity), or pause in gratitude as the Circle turns. Praise be to the Circle-Turner.

 

The Elements: The Wind Whispers

20170215-the-wind-whipers-poetry-and-liturgySince the celebration of Imbolc or Candlemas, usually the first few days of February, we’ve moved into the season of spring. Sometimes, local weather patterns prevail for a time to give a wintery feel, but rest assured spring is on its way. [Except for my antipodean friends. Sorry].

For ancient Celts, Christian Celts, Druids and those of many other ancient tribes, the cardinal point for spring is the east. So, my recommendation is that, for any ritual or recitation you make to celebrate the season, you face the east – unless you have a fixed custom, of course. For me, at this time, I like to start three compass/cardinal points ‘back’, and so as I work my way through a recitation at each compass point in a clockwise fashion, I end, for this season of spring, by facing the east. East represents spring time.

And the main element of spring is air/wind.

Here’s a poem entitled ‘The Wind Whispers’, about this season of spring and its main element:

– oOo-

I hear your voice on the sound of the wind,
and I hear you call out my name
deep within.

With no companion to my mood
I walk, but know
that in my solitude
I must bow to the wind that buffets me so.

Tonight was the first spring thunder
in the mighty rush of rain.
And the earth, like a child that knows her poems by heart,
declares, yes, that it’s spring once again.

And so I part the thrusting branches
and come  beneath
the blesséd and the blessing trees,
that look upward at God all day
and lift their leafy arms to pray.

Beneath a canopy of stars,
of broken branches showing the scars
of many winds and so much strife,
this is life.

Yes, the wind whispers to us all.
Its words carry across the tree tops, and it sings.
And, back comes the wind full strength with a body-blow
dandelion-pixabay-smalllike that of angel-wings.

Praise be to you my dear Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and now serene,
I hear your voice…and I hear you call out my name,
welcoming me, and those of my kin.

-oOo-

This is a ‘found poem. That is, a new poem fashioned from, and/or based upon the thoughts and words of others that have gone before. In this case, this poem written by me, was prompted by some great words penned by:  Rudyard Kipling, Sara Teasdale, St Francis of Assisi, Joyce Kilmer, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendell Berry, and Douglas Malloch.

 

20170215-the-wind-whipers-poetry-and-liturgy

Celtic Thought: Connectedness: ‘This Is London Calling…’

20170202-this-is-london-calling-celtic-thoughtWe are all connected.

I know many acknowledge that connection, but sitting here in such a small place as Capel Curig, where I’m currently living, with rugged grey-green mountains beset around it, and the locality spanning such a small area on a nation-wide map it can easily be lost, and even more so when one looks at the globe. Then it, probably along with Wales, disappears!

Connected

For a moment, it felt like Buzz Lightyear’s experience in that movie, who, thinking himself unique in the cosmos, is then confronted with thousands of replicas of himself in boxes on the warehouse shelf! I had that sort of experience – a humbling experience, albeit a very good one.

We are all connected.

We’re connected by our DNA, and scientists can now trace the origin of all humanity back to a couple who left Africa several tens of thousands of years ago; we’re connected by what we do and say – and who can not but be pleased or terrified by recent happenings at the Whitehouse and understand such connection; and we’re connected when we buy and sell – I’m currently wearing and using items from England, France, India, China and other far-flung (to me) and wonderful places; and we’re connected spiritually, one to one!

‘In a real sense all life is inter-related. All…are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.’ Martin Luther King.

This was brought home to me, as I finished off breakfast outside this morning by imbibing a steaming-hot cup of coffee at the garden table and gazed at Glyder Fawr (mountain range) in the distance. And, it was awesome. But, oh boy it was cold, but none of the freezing or below freezing temperature we normally get. No, a bracing 5 degrees Celsius. Quite mild, really, though the logical part of my brain reminded me that it was a cold as the inside of my fridge!

Really Connected

But, the really awesome thought was that you and I, we, are all connected in so many ways, and especially in a spiritual way, and what I write in my blog via the internet, and when you write comments in response to TadhgTalks (on WordPress) or my FaceBook page(s), and even when you just check my blog (or I read your blog, if you have one), then, our words, our thoughts, our intentions and our spiritual-connectedness, affects each other. Neighbours!

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Mark 12:31b, The Book

During the second world war, when much of the world was in darkness and ‘occupied’ by the enemy, the BBC (so I’m told and have heard only when listening to those old ‘news reel’ re-runs) would broadcast daily  massages about freedom and hope, and it affected the loves of millions who would listen on hidden radio receivers for the radio station that accounted, ‘This is London calling …’, they would hear, and gain hope.

We are all connected.

Globally Connected

Well, this is Capel Curig calling…. albeit in a smaller way, and I’m listening, too. By Facebook in recent days, as an example of connectedness, awesome people from the following countries have viewed TadhgTalks, read it and some have left comments, wonderful people from:

Afghanistan, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong (SAR China), India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain. Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States Of America, Zimbabwe.

‘that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…’ John 17:21a, The Book

I can imagine others might produce a longer list of viewers to their blogs, others a smaller list of those who have viewed their blog, but I am amazed, full of gratitude to those people who have taken the time to ‘connect’ with me, and in so doing I have ‘connected’ with them. Family!

We are all connected.

Practically Connected (As In, Connected In Practical Ways) & Something To Do

And, this got me thinking. Periodically, I perform the caim – a wonderful (full-of-wonder) special liturgy and ritual for protection, or as a blessing and for other reasons in that in-between realm of liminality, the ‘gap. See here for details of performing the caim.

For some, dark days are returning, and a ‘war’ on truth and liberty proceeds. But truth and light can be ‘reclaimed’, perhaps the caim is one way to reclaim it, and, in small and personal ways some will ‘switch’ the lights back on in peoples lives in a slow and peaceful way? Tadhg

And, I thought that I would, over the next several caims, over the next few weeks, I would send good-thoughts, positive energy, prayer-power and love to all those people from those wonderful countries listed above (maybe taking several counties per caim), to those individuals and those whom they love, their locality and, indeed, their country, and would ask them, ask you, to do the same – to learn and to perform the caim, in a glocal (local and global) act of powerful intercession. You can make a difference.

We are all connected.

Ofcourse, I don’t know you personally, and in many cases don’t even know your name (though I’d love to hear from you by email etc), and you, caim for others won’t know their names or exact location, but the Source of All does!

‘If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?’ Hillel The Elder

The Source, that which some all God, or the Christ, is the One behind the caim and does know, and so such liturgical and ritual power-blessings by us, will get straight through to you and those who you hold in our minds because of the Source of All, the Great Connector! And, so they are blessed. We truly are all connected, and the internet is yet another physical-tangible-usable-parable to remind us. And, the caim is a wonderful way, now, to participate in that cosmic, Source-originating connectedness to the benefit of others.

‘There was a time when fire and story would fall asleep in unison. It was dream time. Philippe Petit

Afterthought: Connected In Space & Time?

Ofcourse, we’ve only mentioned the caim as affecting space, sending good energy, thoughts and prayers to different locations. But, for (mystical) Christians, Druids, Celts and those of other/similar spiritualities there is the idea of such caim energy flowing though space and time! Now, there’s a thought…and something to write about over the next week or so. Meanwhile, blessings to you and those whom you love, Tadhg.

Ephemera: Imbolc: Liturgy & Ritual: Ideas & Resources

20170127-imbolc3-ephemeraThe circle is turning, and Imbolc is coming ever closer. that time of the ushering in of Spring, a new season, a new start – sometimes called St Brigid’s Day or Candlemas.

Having looked at the meaning of this festival in brief – see here, and having thought about ideas that you might like to do to celebrate Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day or Candlemas in a meal – see here, today (in this third instalment) we look at a few ideas regarding ritual and liturgy (words and deeds) to celebrate this wonderful event, for you to consider. Do adapt this to suit your circumstances, and make this a truly memorable ‘fire festival’.

Words

The following are a few poems or prayers that you might like to use in some form of rite (which can be elaborate, or used at the time of a celebratory meal (with words spoken either before, during or after), or  read them to yourself as you consider the turning of the wheel, and Winter becomes Spring.

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

And/Or

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).

And/Or

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Song of Solomon 2:11-12  The Book

And/Or

The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the [c]feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
‘Take courage, fear not..’

Isaiah 35:1-4a The Book

And/Or

Praise to you, Oh Caring one,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
feisty, pure and natural
with your white singular unbroken focus,
Maid-Mother to us all,
praise to you.

Tess Ward (Anglican Priest), The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

And/or

A sleeping world emerges to new possibilities,
weakening winter’s icy grip,
and birdsong and bleating lamb
announce to all the promise
that in due season
creation bursts into life.
And whilst leaves that fell in winter
lie upon the ground,
soon to feed the earth
in nature’s wondrous cycle
of death and rebirth,
within the tree is a stirring of new growth
For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth.

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. Used with permission. Click here to go to originating webpage.

And/or

We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For lengthening days
And sunlight’s warmth upon the soil
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For a snowdrop’s beauty
Reflecting its Creator’s artistry
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
We rejoice in the promise of Spring

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. Used with permission. Click here to go to originating webpage.

Deeds/Action

Imbolc is a great time to start new things, and as hinted above in ancient sacred text, Springtime is not only a good time to reflect, give thanks and look forward in hope, but it’s also a good time to ‘do’ something – for yourself and others. So, here’s a few activities you might like to consider:

Fire: An Imbolc tradition, being a ‘fire festival’ was to light a fire! Fires celebrated not only Brigid, and the returning power of the sun, and in the Christian calendar, Candlemas is the time when when candles were lit for Virgin Mary and/or to signify the Christ-child as the Light of the world. A brazier might be inappropriate now, but why not light a candle (or several throughout the evening celebration, a short time of reciting poems and/or prayers)?

Water: Imbolc was also a time for visiting a spring or a well, to both purify onself and bring fertility to our dreams. Indeed, Well dressing (also once known as well flowering) was regularly practised in rural England. Then, wells, springs or other water sources were decorated with designs created from flower petals. So, why not set out to visit a riiver, stream, or well, nearby? Make it a special occasion.

House Spring Clean: Now is a great time to spring clean your home, usually undertaken before Imbolc Eve. It’s a wonderful time to get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home and stagnating the energy. But, don’t see it as a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. Take your time. This, too, can be a holy acivity!

Trees: Why not plant, or fund the planting of a tree? There is a great need for each of us to be wise stewards of nature, and here’s an opportunity to do something practical. For a web charity link for a tree-planting/forests preservation group in the UK, see here.

Make Brigid’s Cross: This is ideal for those artistically included, and if you can’t find any rushes to ‘weave’ together you can use drinking straws (and it will still mean something deep as it’s the intention that counts). Details of making a Brigid’s Cross is here.

Conclusion

So, there you have – the third and concluding part of the Imbolc 2017 articles. I hope you’ve found this all useful.

Whatever you do, my prayers and thoughts are with you and those whom you love. May you (all) have a happy, deep and blessed Imbolc. Tadhg

 

Ephemera: Imbolc, Candlemas, St Brigit’s Day: In Brief [1/3]

20170125-imbolc1-ephemeraThe circle is turning, and Imbolc is coming ever closer.

The Winter solstice, when the sun was at its lowest point denoting mid-winter is behind us.  The  Spring equinox, that is mid-spring is still some weeks ahead of us and  denotes the ‘height’ of that season. But, in between is Imbolc, a moving into the season of Spring, and metaphorically, a knocking on Spring’s door and walking through it, and waving goodbye to Winter. It’s the start of something new!

‘It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.’ Rainer Maria Rilke

What follows, today, is an outline of the meaning of Imbolc; followed by an article imbolc1tomorrow highlighting some great ideas for a meal (for yourself and/or friends and family) to celebrate the event, followed by another article day latter of some suggested Imbolc liturgy and ritual for you to try/

Yes, it’s time to celebrate in all kinds of ways!

Event: Imbolc
Date: 2 February
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Besom, Spring Flowers
Colours: White, Orange, Red

Imbolc then, is halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring equinox, and is the first of this year’s in-between or Celtic ‘quarter-cross’ days.

Imbolc, or Candlemas, or Brigid’s Day as it is sometimes called takes place on (or about) 2 February. The date can vary, and the ancients’ way of reckoning would mean their new days would start the evening before from our viewpoint: so some, now, may be celebrating this Imbolc on the evening of 1 February, whilst others may choose the evening of 2 February. You get to choose.

Pronunciations vary for the word Imbolc, but the ones I prefer are ‘ih-mulk’ or ‘ee-mulk’ [with the stress on the second syllable], related to Oimelc and which means ‘ewe’s milk’ in Scottish Gaelic, and which is pertinent to this time of year

Imbolc

Imbolc was an important ‘fire festival’ to ancient Celts and Druids, and still is to latter-day ones, too.  Those ancients celebrated Brigantia at this time, and she is linked to fertility, childbirth and milking – hence the association of Imbolc to milk or ewes milk, a sign that spring was on its way.

‘You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep the Spring from coming.’ Pablo Neruda

During that ancient Imbolc ritual it was customary to pour milk (or cream), a libation, onto the earth. This was done in thanksgiving, as an offering of nurturing, and to assist in the return of fertility and generosity of the earth to its people, and the return of Spring.

Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came out from their winter dens may, it is said by some, be a forerunner of the North American idea of Groundhog Day.

For instance, some believed that if Imbolc was bright and sunny, this was because the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (pronounced  “kah-luhkh”) – the Divine Hag – had ‘engineered’ good weather so she could gather plenty of fire-wood, and so they would know winter would last longer. A bad weather day meant that the Cailleach wasn’t out and about looking for winter fuel and had stayed home, snoozing, and so winter would be almost over. Naturally, every one wanted the foulest of weather for Imbolc.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Candlemas

Many churches celebrate the ritual purification of Mary and/or the presentation of theimbolc2 Christ-child at the Temple, at this time. Because the sun would still be low in the sky and light in the evening would be dim, and because early Romans believed candlelight would scare away evil, and because Jesus is the light of the world, candles were specifically used (for all or some of those reasons) at this time – hence Candlemas. A wonderful time of thanks, a great time of remembrance and hope, and an opportunity to look forward.

St Brigid

The Church quickly associated this time with Saint Brigid, and noticed that that saint had many similarities with Brigantia. On the evening before Imbolc many people would have had a special meal (and, a meal was aside a meal for Brigid), especially as it was that night that Brigid, unseen, was said to visit  households and bless the residents therein.

Brigid (usually pronounced by some as ‘breed’) is the traditional patroness of healing, poetry and smith craft, which are all centred on practical and inspired wisdom.

And, many people, especially in Ireland would recognise the beautiful little crosses madeimbolc-3-220px-saint_brigids_cross from reeds which are called Saint Brigid’s Crosses and are thought to protect the homes for a year if they are hung over the doors.

In the Northern Ireland a family member, representing Brigid, would circle the house three times carrying  a corn-dolly, a doll-like figure known as a Brídeóg (also called a ‘Breedhoge’ or ‘Biddy) made of rushes and clad in bits of cloth, shells and/or flowers. They would then they would knock three times on the door asking to be admitted. Ofcourse, they would be allowed in, and would devour the special meal set aside for Brigid, thus conferring a blessing on all in the house.

Brigit, ever excellent woman,
golden sparkling flame,
lead us to the eternal Kingdom,
the dazzling resplendent sun.

St Brigid is one of my favourite saints. As well as being a very noble lady, she was eminently practical. She worked in a leper colony which found itself without anything for its residents to drink. When the lepers, whom she nursed, were thirsty, they implored her for beer, but there was none to be had. She immediately prayed and changed the water, which was used for the bath, into a most  excellent beer. She is also is said to have changed her dirty bathwater into beer so that visiting clerics would have something to drink. An interesting story, don’t you think? And, probably just the kind of person I’d like to invite to my next party!

Conclusion

So, Imbolc is a season of change, and it’s here where the first signs of spring and the ‘return’ of the sun are celebrated. It is the start of a new beginning, a season of fertility and growth, a time of planning new things in your home, at work, in your life. It’s an opportunity given by the Source of All, God, the Universe to start something new, a time to be bold, a time to grow. It’s time to celebrate. How will you celebrate it?

There’s more!

Tomorrow they’ll be an Imbolc article on how to celebrate the event with food: ‘Your Special Imbolc Meal’, and the following day an article on: ‘Your Powerful Imbolc Ritual & Liturgy: Ideas & Resources’.

20170125-imbolc1-ephemera

Everything You Wanted To Know About Jolabokaflod

161222-jolabokaflodExcerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: I love words, and if you’re anything like me, you might be interested in a new one (to me) that I came across yesterday.

The word is: Jolabokaflod. It’s Icelandic.

Okay, so it may be too late to really honour it this year, but the people of that small, but great nation of Iceland have the right idea, especially from my viewpoint as a book-lover.

‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’  Jorge Luis Borges

They have something they call Jolabokaflod, and it means (Yule or) Christmas book flood!

In the few months before Christmas,  most books are sold in Iceland because of the upcoming event. Books are lovingly selected with family and friends in mind, bought months or weeks in advance (and the commercial side of things will hold events, fairs etc), and the books are then wrapped and stored, ready for Jolabokaflod.

And then on Christmas Eve it happens. Whatever you may have (additionally) bought for family and friends, Jolabokaflod happens, and you give a book to a loved family member or friend. Yes, it’s all about books. It sound wonderful. I know it’s not really rocket-science, and many people already do give books for Christmas gifts to be opened on that day, but the idea of a special day for it, is quite wonderful. Ofcourse, Jolabokflod could be used for us to reward those who served us throughout the year eg corner-shop owners, those who sweep our roads, postal delivery people etc. People we might not want to ‘officially’ buy a Christmas present for, but, nevertheless, want to say ‘thank you’, to.

‘Books are a uniquely portable magic.’ Stephen King

The idea then, is to open the wrapper of the book gift you’ve been given on Christmas Eve, discover the book you’ve been bought, and that evening curl up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and that good, or retire early to bed and yes, take that new book and maybe a box of chocolate with you, and indulge.

‘You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world.’ Dr Who

What a way to celebrate that liminal time – the time when all the Christmas preparations have been made (or of they haven’t, it’s probably too late now, so don’t worry) and Christmas Day isn’t quite here – and now you can relax in some well-deserved ‘me’ time.

‘Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.’ Mark Twain

Ofcourse, it’s really all about giving  books away, and if there’s not enough time this year to do that, I’m sure we’ll be excused just this once, if we buy one special book for ourselves, just to try out a sort of dry-run for next year’s Jolabokaflod. And, if you did that, what book would you treat yourself to?

Winter Solstice: A Liturgy For Alban Arthan 2016 [‘Lighten Our Darkness…’]

161220-alban-2016-celtic-litrugyYes, tomorrow marks, for those in the northern hemisphere, the shortest day, the longest night, the wonderful time of the Winter Solstice; or Alban Arthan as it is known in Wales.

The Winter Solstice is on Wednesday, 21 December 2016 , and many will celebrate as the sun rises  at 8.04am, in London, UK (albeit some 20 minutes later in north Wales).

In the Druidic tradition the name ‘Alban Arthan’, is Welsh for ‘Light of Winter’. And so it is time of merriment around the camp or village fire for  Celts, Druids, Welsh folk of old, a time to light candles in the darkest of times, and a time to acknowledge that deep in the earth the seeds of hope are becoming active, and that Light and spring are on their way. It is seen as a time of rebirth and renewal.

Some Druids believe this light to be the Light of the hero King Arthur Pendragon who  is symbolically reborn as the Sun Child at the time of the Solstice. Others see the Light belonging to the star constellation known as the Great Bear (or the Plough). Others have many varied beliefs. Some, myself included, acknowledge many viewpoints out of respect for others, but focus on this light as being the Light of the Christ-child at this time.

‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’ Leonard Cohen

It is a most wonderful event when you gather a group of people together, who acknowledge that something wonderful happened and symbolically happens again and again, and each respects the other’s view knowing that it differs, but also knowing that the occasion is bigger, much bigger than the individual or even the ‘tribe’ they hail from. Truly, awe takes over.

For Iranian people, many celebrate the night of the winter solstice as, ‘Yalda night’, which known to be the ‘longest and darkest night of the year’. It’s a time when all the family gather together, usually at the house of the oldest family-member, and celebrate it by eating, drinking and reading poems (especially Hafiz). Nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are also served during this festival.

‘I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.’ Hafiz

At this time, The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is celebrated, and it is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese people. Traditional food, such tangyuan are served – these are glutinous balls of rice (equivalent to our dumplings, maybe), and can be served in a savoury or sweet broth.

How will you celebrate it?

You might be part of a Grove, faith-group or ‘tribe’, but if you’re not then the following suggestions can be used in part or adapted as suits your requirements. A simple meditation of gratitude before breakfast, or a lighting of a candle and a few words would suffice.

Here are some ideas (from previous articles) that you might consider using:

The ‘Circle is Turning’ (Winter Solstice version)
A few words have been adapted for the song to be used at the time of the Winter Solstice. It is full of depth and pathos – click here for the tune. It ‘fits’ the tune (with a bit of manoeuvring) and starts at 11 seconds into the video. The poem/song:

The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

The trees, they slumber.
Deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber.
Deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber.
Deep roots are dreaming.
I’m listening to the winter’s sacred rest.

The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The hope of spring, ye-et to come.

The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

– oOo –

Candle-lighting liturgy: Requirement: 5 Candles and a candleholder (Advent-style)

The following is recited, as the first candle is lit:

All: We walked in darkness, but you showed us the light. We pray for those that walk in darkness, that they, too, may see the light that shines in the darkness. (Based on Isaiah 9.2)

The following is recited, as the second candle is lit:

All: The light shines in the darkness, still. And the darkness did not comprehend it. We give thanks for the light that guides us. (Based on John 1:5)

The following is recited, as the third candle is lit:

All: You are the light of the world, and indwell us, so that we become a light in the world. We seek ways to live out that light in our life, in service to all. (Based on Matthew 5:14)

The following is recited, as the fourth candle is lit:

All: There will be no night there, because Your light will illumine us. We praise you for that great promise of light. (Based on Revelation 22:5)

The following is recited, as the fifth candle is lit:

All: Light from Light Eternal, born this happy morning, we greet you. (Based on a carol, based on ancient sacred text)

– oOo –

Prayer For the Winter Solstice sunrise

Standing. Recite, facing south:
In this time when it is darkest,
we offer gratitude for all that was and is,
and for all that is about to be born in secret.

Recite, facing west:
In this season of expectation
we draw near in unity and peace for all,
to offer praise and worship to the Spirit of all.

Recite, facing north:
At this intersection of time and space
when Heaven touches Earth,
we look forward in anticipation and hope
to the year ahead.

Recite, facing east as the sun rises:
Yea, Lord, we greet you,
born this happy morning.
Brother Sun, who brings the day and gives light
testifies to your birth, and re-birth in our hearts.

– oOo –

Meanwhile, however and wherever you celebrate the Winter Solstice this year, please accept my blessing, both to you and those whom you love.. Blessings, Tadhg

May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work
You do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal…

(John O’Donohue)