All About Holly: Now The Holly Bears A Berry…

20181109 ALL ABOUT HOLLY

There was a specific time of the year when, much younger than I am now, I would wistfully sit at a window in my grandmothers’ cottage, perhaps kneeling on a chair so that I could comfortably look out, and I would wait. At the time of the year when night came early, I would gaze, for hours, looking at the trees and nearby bushes shrouded in white, in a seeming coating of cotton wool because of the first snowfall. I wait to be told that I could go outside. Yes, I would wistfully look out of the window at that wonder, landscape-changing snow, and for a reason.

My grandmother was a patient woman, and as a wee lad of six years of age, I was anything but patient, but I waited, because I wanted my first encounter, that year, with December snow to be extra special.

And then, having wrapped herself in layers, and I had donned an outdoor coat, and wellington boots, and a woolly hat, she would lead the way, and hand in hand we ventured forth.

As she opened the outside door, the warmth of the kitchen gave way to an icy, cold, and very refreshing breath of fresh air. It took my breath away. We had stepped over the threshold and, as our feet made a ‘scrunching’ sound as we compressed snow underfoot, it was as though we had entered another, liminal realm.

It was an annual event: to collect holly for indoor decoration at first snowfall in December, and it was something that I liked to do, even at that young age. My grandmother was the one to wield the secateurs, and my mission was to collect the holly branches and twigs that she gave me, and to carefully transport them back to the cottage.

And the first tree in the greenwood
it was the holly.
Holly! Holly!
And the first tree in the greenwood
it was the holly!

At the farthest end of the long garden, near a brook that marked the boundary, there was usually a huge amount of holly to be had. My grandmother would take her time, inspect the holly as I waited beside her, and I admit I would be rather impatient by then. But, it was a though she was lost in thought for a time.

Could it be that my grandmother was saying a prayer before cutting off holly twigs?

Was she asking permission?

Was she thinking of which bit would best suit her need for decoration?

There are some today, and certainly in ages gone by, who would say a prayer before lopping off part of a tree. And, why not? We live in an age when loggers can fell many trees in an hour, but there is something precious in taking time in giving thanks to the Great Provider for what we harvest from nature, and that includes holly. To take time, to pause, to extend gratitude is vital.

There are some who believe that each part of creation has its own soul, and some who believe only humankind possesses a soul. But isn’t there something special in taking time to acknowledge that life exists in many forms, and though it might be necessary to take from nature, it is also right to consider, and ask? Soul or no soul, such a practice would guard against the thoughtless use and misuse of nature and her resources.

Ofcourse, my grandmother could have just been thinking which holly twig was best for the purpose of indoor decoration.

That tradition of holly cutting persisted for many years, and even as a teenager I would want to be involved. And, as time went by, I asked her what she was doing, each time she was about to cut some holly?

It seems my grandmother was doing all those things: giving thanks to the Source of All, seeking permission to cut holly and so ensuring that each piece of holly was considered from nature’s perspective, and also thinking about how best to usefully use that holly. It was a three-fold practice that was instilled in me from a certain age, and for which I give thanks.

And so, she cut the holly and I would carefully carry it back to the cottage. That evening she would further cut the holly, and she and I would fashion it and make holly wreaths, or place the holly over or around the hearth, and make ‘holly triangles’ to stand on tables, bookshelves and shelves, or near beds to ensure good dreams and/or a good nights sleep, or for wisdom.

From my grandmother’s stories at that time of year (about December) I heard about the Holly King and the vying for supremacy (ie the struggle between light and dark, the Oak King and the Holly King, and how summer gives way to winter, only for winter to give way to summer). The Holly King was ‘born’ each year but his role was that of a sacrificial king. He would live for a while, many would benefit, and then die, only to be born once more. A very liminal time, indeed.

Now the holly bears a berry
as red as the blood

Holly wreaths were also used during the ancient festival of Saturnalia, celebrated by the Romans on 17 December but, later changed to 23 December to coincide with winter solstice. At such times there would be much feasting, revelry, and gift-giving. Sounds familiar? Saturn was the Roman god akin to the ancient Celtic Holly King, and subsumed by some into Christmas Day celebrations and the awesome the story behind it: A child born to die (and wasn’t that the significance of the myrrh – an embalming oil, the symbol of death?). As well as being called the holly, its is also known as the hulm tree, the holy tree, and (with Easter in mind) Christ’s thorn.

Now the holly bears a berry
as black as the coal

Whichever account, myth or story you subscribe to, something awesome happened in ancient times, and it continues, even today! It is a great event that spans time and space, and even different cultures, religions and belief systems, albeit told in different ways; and it is one that enjoins the use of the holly in an annual ritual and celebration as the darker days of the year approach. Holly is that important as a reminder and more!

Now the holly bears a berry
as white as the milk

It is also said that carrying holly can rekindle desires, and hung over a bedpost it will rise the marital ‘life force’. Ofcourse, many would regard this as superstition, and yet still seek a kiss by raising a piece of mistletoe aloft! Ofcourse, it’s just for fun. Or, is it only fun? Is there something more?

Holly was, and is used by some, to seek protection. Brought into the house, the house and family would be protected. The same protection would be afforded by placing a holly wreath on the front door of the house. Oh, the things we do today even without realising it. But, don’t stop! It’s that time of the year.

And so, at that young age of six, I had enjoyed my first snow fall of that year, had been productively engaged in collecting holly (and later on, cutting – yes, there was an age I reached when I would be trusted to use the secateurs) and fashioning it into various ‘tools’ of protection etc and wonderful seasonal decorations to celebrate that time of the year (however I interpreted it then, and now).

Holly has many uses and many meanings, and though each person reading this may have his/her own view, it is without a doubt a versatile and ‘deep’, thought-provoking shrub, and full of ‘magic’, and at this time of the year it is a timely reminder of darker days ahead in winter, and that the circle turns.

 

Deep Calls To Deep: When The Caim Becomes Kything

20181107 WHEN THE CAIM BECOMES KYTHING

And so, they called to the Quarters. In a forested area, about thirty people, firstly, faced and addressed the east, then turned to face the south, then the west and then, finally, the north. Through ritual, through intentionality, a circle of power had been formed. A type of caim now existed.

’I live my life in growing orbits which move out over this wondrous world. I am circling around God, around ancient towers and I have been circling for a thousand years. And I still don’t know if I am an eagle or a storm or a great song.’ Rainer Maria Rilke

The circle is important. Within the circle of the caim there is power and potential: things happen. Sometimes the caim can be a physical circle in which a practical ritual takes place, usually for a group. On many occasions the caim can be used by just one person, and then the caim starts with a physical circle and then as one mediates one goes on an ‘inward’ voyage.

The caim has many uses, and have been the theme of previous articles. See here for one example.

And so, on this occasion of a solo event, I wanted to go ‘inward’ to bless someone in a special way. The way of blessing is many and varied, and usually there is no need for elaborate ritual, but on this occasion the decision the person in mind, a dear friend, was to make was so important to them that I felt I wanted to do a little more.

And so, the caim sprang to mind.

The caim can be a simple but powerful, and effective ‘circle’ ritual that moves one ‘inwardly’ to that inner sacred place, that place of communion, le pointe vierge – the virgin point, that which is at the centre of our being at a point of ‘nothingness’, untouched by illusion.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field, I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi

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

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

Once in that ‘inward’ meditative state, in my mind’s eye I visualised a protective ‘bubble’ around me, in a ‘sea’ of stars, unseen to others. The caim is a circle, but in three dimensions it can be viewed as a sphere, a ‘bubble’.

‘When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.’ Matthew 6:6, The Book

In that secret place I imagined this friend as outside the caim ‘bubble’ I was in, and a short distance away. And then, as I looked in that direction, to my surprise, I imagined them to be in a similar ‘bubble’. Astounding. Could it be that at times when we intend to use the caim for others, that our spirit can communicate with their spirit, and at such times their spirit (unknown to them) is also embraced with a caim, a bubble, a ‘shield’ of power and potential for them (even if they are physically unawares)?

Not wishing to be distracted from sending power, light and love to assist this friend in their impending I wondered briefly. Usually, I wouldn’t let any other thoughts distract me at a time like that, but on this one occasion I did allow thoughts to flow.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the second world war. Seeing the horrors around him, he was sustained by the loving connection he felt between his wife and himself. Though physically separated by thousands of miles, he felt a close, spiritual connection. In that concentration camp he wrote:

‘As my friend and I stumbled on for mile, slipping on icy sports, supporting each other time and time again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise’. Viktor Frankl

In that caim I saw my dear friend though many miles away, in that imaginal realm, which some may believe to be real, whilst others may believe it is unreal. I believe the former. And, my friend, too, inhabited a caim, a circle. Viktor Frankl’s experience was indeed a spirit-to-spirit presence, and I do believe that the caim can, in some cases, also be used in such a way – for spirit-to spirit encounters of the imaginal kind.

Have you ever been in someone’s company and come away knowing more about them than what they have just spoken about?

Have you felt that you have got close to someone, closer that just words have permitted, but at a soulish or spiritual level?

And, have you had the experience where you may have met someone for the first time, or perhaps have known them for some time, and just knew that words were not needed, and just basked in a knowing silence?

These are examples of the kind of encounter I’m referring to. A spirit-to-spirit, deep calls to deep, encounter. Kything?

Roger Gerard calls this kything. Kything, then, is like spiritual intuition involving another person. It is a going beyond being present to their body, emotions, mind, to something altogether deeper, more mysterious and fundamental. When you kythe you are in touch with the spirit or soul of another. Some may say this encounter is very real, others would say it is metaphorical. I believe the former. But in any case, if it is metaphorical and viewed as not real in substance , and we view the encounter as a prayer or well-wishes etc, isn’t intentionality the all-important factor here? If so, in either case is it is acceptable, and still worthwhile, and remains a powerful strategy.

Later, I continued with the caim and sent energy, light, love, power, and prayer to that person in need, seeing them in my imagination, and in a new and vital way because of this caim event.

But after coming back to physical space (but do we ever leave that sacred space/time?) and ‘grounding’ myself, and opening my eyes, I couldn’t but help think further about kything and its benefits to you and I, and will write on it further, soon.

‘With kything, you may also work through forgiveness for a past offence even I that person is no longer physically accessible, either because of…distance…or refusal to meet.’ Louis M Savary and Patricia H Berne

Surrounded By A Great Cloud Of Witnesses…Thoughts About Samhain 2018

20181102 GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES THOUGHTS ABOUT SAMHAIM 2018

I’m back at Capel Curig in north Wales just for two or three days. The weather is changing, and the mornings and evenings are particularly cold, and I love it.

At this time of year, mist rolls off the mountains in the distance and as you walk about so water droplets cling to the skin and clothes almost unawares. It’s a wonderfully refreshing experience: in essence I’m walking in a cloud of a myriad water particles.

Near the end of my garden is an old gnarled elder tree. It lives up to its name. It must be the oldest tree around here by far, it is an Elder elder. Underneath its branches there’s a bench seat, and that is where I am now, with the sun about to rise, sitting, embraced by a cloud, somewhat cold but enjoying it, pondering the last few days.

‘For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone….Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life’. Herman Hesse

The sacred elder tree is, by some, thought to be the home of the Elder Mother, and as guardian of the tree she is a type of genius loci, the spirit of the place. In Germany the elder tree is also sacred and associated with Frau Holda, who, it is said, brings the souls of unborn babies from that place where they initially reside, to soon-to-be-pregnant mothers, and looks over and protects both. I like that idea. Each one of us still has the Elder Mother or Frau Holda looking out for us, or perhaps she is known by another name to some? Our guadian angel, perhaps?

Yes, the elder tree is a gateway, a prompt, between realms and is about life.

It is said that sleeping beneath the elder tree might result in access to the other realm(s) in dreams, though in Ireland caution was employed as it was said that, sometimes, one could be physically transported by the fae – yes, bodily ‘away with the faeries’!

But, I’m not sleeping, just meditating deeply, day-dreaming about the last few days, and the happy memories I have. I’m content.

With my eyes half closed, and now quite warm (layers, always wear layers when it’s cold), and being quite comfortable on a well-worn bench seat, with the tree trunk forming a back rest, I go even deeper into my thoughts, and the physical world seems, momentarily, less of a priority.

Ah, wonderful thoughts bubble up, and my heart really does leap for joy.

Samhain is the end and the beginning, and the last year has been wonderful. That’s not to say it has been one long peak experience for me, for family and friends I know. It has been a challenge in part. Some of you will know that what I joking called ‘man flu’ last March turned out to be pneumonia, which resulted in eleven days in hospital. A tough, painful time, but joy, real joy. Our joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances but on our response. True, I’d rather not repeat that experience of pneumonia but I learned from it, and was introduced to the wonderful UK NHS ‘free at the point of need’ health care service, and the ‘angels’ who staff it. A cause for joy!

‘Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day’. Henri Nouwen

Looking back, a time of reflection can be very cathartic, but Samhain is also about looking ahead. The year ahead will, no doubt have its ups and down for you and me, but my prayer is that we seek out the good and learn in all things, and respond with joy.

Deeper thoughts bubble up as I sit here. Samhain is that time when we think of the ancestors, that time when the veil is unusually thin and the Other Realm is palpable. In days of old, and as a great story-telling time around the village or camp fire, many would be told of spirits crossing over, and it’s from there that we get children (and adults), at Halloween, dressing as Frankenstein, zombies or ghouls. Yes, Hollywood has a lot to answer for, but its fun. But, at this time my mind wanders to the ancestors.

‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ Rumi

In my imaginal state I think of all my ancestors. To call it the family tree is apt, because that is what is must look like – and if we form branches, then those that went before form thicker branches, and the trunk and even the roots. We’re here because of them. Co-incidentally (if such a concept exists) the elder tree behind me groaned as a sudden gust of wind caught its high branches. And, then my thoughts turn to my late parents – my dear mum and dad, and Colin my brother who died at birth, and grandparents and others who have ‘passed on’, and I am flooded with gratitude for them all. I am comforted knowing that they, and others, are in the Summerlands, in Jannah, in Valhalla or Fólkvangr, Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress), or heaven.

Ofcourse, from my understanding of theology the ancestors are always with us – but ceremonies and times such as Samhain are useful reminders.

And, still my mind wanders. Ah, Samhain celebrations.

A week ago I was in the Portsmouth area for a meeting, and it was my privilege and joy to witness a Samhain celebration, there. One always hopes that in going somewhere new, in passing through, one is always included in a ritual, and that certainly was the case there.

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight…’ Hebrews 12.1a, The Book

I was greeted by a wonderful group of people at Hilsea Lines, was encouraged to fully participate (as much as I wanted), and witnessed an awesome, moving and great, relevant celebration, with people who were passionate about what they were doing – and when one or two needed prompting, others were supportive and loving, and a little bit of laughter ensued, but, ’laughing with’ and not ‘laughing at’. In my mind, as I recollect that rather cold day, last Sunday, I experienced warmth and love, inclusion and acceptance. And, yes, one could feel the ancestors there, looking on, joining in. It was a wonderful, deep, thought-provoking celebration.

Just as we are connected to our ancestors, so we are connected to each other.

‘When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.’ John Muir

And so, with the sun peeking above the horizon, I open my eyes, and walk back to Ty Gwin, my little cottage, for breakfast. As I do, so that cloud of water droplets collects in my hair, on my skin, and on my clothes, so much so, that by the time I enter the boot room of the cottage, ‘I’m fair soaked’. Surrounded by invisible droplets of water in that cloud that I walked though I got wet. As we go through life, and Samhain is a good reminder, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, the ancestors. We are all connected in space and time, and in ‘realmic’ ways we can only now imagine.

Wonderful Samhain, All Souls/All Saints Day.

Tadhg,On The Road To Portsmouth: Samhain, Land-Healing & More

20181025 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO PORTSMOUTH

I am a man on a mission. I’m now in Portsmouth (in England), and despite a need, earlier, to call the car break down service, and whoever thought that the immobiliser on the car would immobilise without a care, delay the journey by ninety minutes, and be rectified by a step that, with the appropriate computer ‘strapped’ to the car engine was as simple as ‘turning it off and turning it on), my view about this weekend began to change, but I’m here.

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air (Elvish translation). Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it…. The Lord Of The Rings 

The mission?

This weekend I aim to conduct yet another small ritual regarding the healing of the land, but also will meet some rather interesting people and witness their Samhain event this Sunday.

I have now conducted two rituals, spoken the same words twice, and buried a small rock of rainforest Jasper in two locations. This weekend the ritual, the words, that action with a small rock of rainforest jasper will take place in Portsmouth, and it is both, indeed, exciting and necessary.

Is it necessary to travel to special or sacred places, is it a ‘must’? 

I don’t believe it is necessary. The good work of healing the land can be done by anyone reading this, wherever they are. Intentionality, is important. But sometimes, when an effort to travel isn’t made, sometimes we forget to do that event. Too easy, and the needs of daily living crowd in  and drown out our good, proposed works. Perhaps, that’s one reason why travelling to special  places – such as Portsmouth, for me – can be beneficial. There are none of the usual daily interruptions.

In conducting this ritual my mind is unsettled  because there is a genuine and real need to heal this land (of the United Kingdom, but isn’t it the same elsewhere?). It is not only the physical land that is sick (and made worse by fracking and a general disdain for all that is green in the pursuit of corporate greed), but there is a sickness in our institutions.

Doesn’t it feel like things have changed? That does seem to be my perception. Oh, they always have been changing, little by little, but now it seems more so, or that we’ve crossed some invisible ‘line’ and have lost something. The world is changed.

People are worried. People are seeking. People are asking questions. What do you think?

This ritual will encompass the thought that healing is needed in the land of elements, and healing is needed in the realm of human affairs and activity. This isn’t a rant about Brexit (which is actually something I am most worried about, and desire the least), but about admitting that there is a need for something to change and it has to start with us. 

‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.’ Mahatma Gandhi

Our rituals, sacred words and actions, our prayers, positive energy, light and love, our visualisation and imaginal times, are the best place to start, can reap wondrous effects, and can (and some might say,  should) lead to (physical) action in the world to promote peace in its widest and fullest sense.

‘Where there is no vision, the people perish….‘ Proverbs 29.18a, The Book

For many Druids and others Samhain (pronounced soh-uhh) marks the death of one year and the beginning of the new year. If so, what is your vision for the new year?

Whatever good things you have committed to do in your life, in large ways and small, in healing the land, Samhain is a good time to (re-)start. Your ritual, sacred words, imaginal visualisations, your prayers and positive-energy sending, may seem odd, unfamiliar or seem even small, but it is a start, and we have more power at our disposal than we can ever imaginal. And, then action – the need to put our thought into action – is imperative.

I am sitting in the bedroom of a person who, a few hours earlier, I didn’t know (and thank you Airbnb), having been ‘rescued’ earlier by two car breakdown staff, and will this weekend meet some fine people and witness a Samhain event with them,  and cannot but wonder: the working today for a common, good, goal, the serving of each other in love, and being there for each other, the working out of something new has already started.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now…[and] even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption… Romans 8.22-23 (part), The Book.

Change is in the air, we can feel it. But, just as a new life rises from the embers of the burnt Phoenix, as the Paschal Triduum shows us that that darkest Friday was eclipsed by Easter Sunday, just as a woman enduring a painful labour will give birth to new life, so we be can be part, no actually we are, part of something wonderful, already. Sometimes to get a better view of what is happening we need not use our eyes.

Ofcourse, this is not to minimise the stresses we find in the land, in human institutions and in our daily, individual lives,  but a reminder that sometimes it is often darkest before the dawn. In many cases we just need a different perception.

Samhain is that time, ‘borrorwed’ by some who will dress up and trick or treat for Hallow’een, when we think of the ancestors. Who they are, where they are will change from one persons view to another. Perhaps, sometimes we are all in need of a change of perception. Even then, in thinking of the ancestors, I try to imagine a tree and look back at all the ancestors I know, realising that someone in a hundred years time may do the same and then I’ll be included in their family tree as they look back, and so, in my mind’s eye I turn to look to the future and imagine them. I know that may seem crazy to some, but I enjoy that exercise, and do believe the way forward is in a change our perception in our daily lives, our land and land use, and in our human institutions.

[Humans] ‘look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then, we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well: and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time…it would not look like a lot of separate things dotted about. It would look like one single growing thing- rather like a very complicated tree’. C S Lewis

 

 

With Samhain In Mind: Words of Power & Might

20181012 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND WORDS OF POWER AND MIGHT

With Samhain coming ever closer, that time when we, whether Christian (thinking of All Souls’ Night), or Druid, or Celtic etc, think of the ancestors and those who have ‘gone ahead’, and which also marks the beginning of winter, the echo from another age of tradition beckons us to pause, draw aside and to ponder deeply.

Here is another article, the second of a few in preparation for Samhain and winter, and this one includes relevant and lively liturgy that you might like to use in your own Samhain (group or solo) celebration, and it includes a song especially suited to the season.

‘Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.’ Hamza Yusuf

Samhain is a time to look backwards with gratitude, as we remember all those that have gone before us, and it’s a time to give thanks, and look forward.

Life, seemingly ‘defeated’, becomes alive once more (or undergoes a transformation, which appears to us as ‘death’). Nevertheless, the Circle turns, and what was (seemingly) dead is resurrected. It can be a tough time for some, so do be encouraging and supportive of them, but in essence it can be a time of great positivity, as we become (more) aware of the closeness of that other realm, and of the triumph of Life.

‘Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.’ Eckhart Tolle

With that in mind, you might like to consider using/adapting the following liturgy/prayers:

Early/Awaking Prayer:

Oh Hallowed Three In One,
as Autumn turns to winter,
may we see you more clearly in nature,
love your son-light more dearly today,
and follow you more nearly in all circumstances,
as the Circle turns.

Or

Ancestors’ prayer:

Maker of time and space,
who is in all things and yet ‘above’,
be with all souls this evening.
Be with those who have lived on earth and are now ‘at home’ in Bliss.
Blessings be to my/our ancestors.
Be with those who live on earth now and journey onward in differing circumstances.
Blessings be to them and me.
Be with those yet to come, who, also, are part of the great family of humankind.
Bless them, too.
Maker of all time and space,
in gratitude do all souls, past , present and future, praise you,
and bless you this night.

Or

Evening/Night-Shielding Prayer:

Hallowed Spirit come with compassion this night,
and look upon all souls.
Darkness falls at your behest,
and winter closes in,
and yet the Circle turns.
In the darkness the Everlasting light still shines
in our hearts.
A beacon of hope to all.

And then, there’s more!

However good your singing voice is, you might like to sing the following song (or use it as a poem or liturgy for your celebration). Remember, you don’t have to sing like the late, great Pavarotti or Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Don’t disqualify yourself. You can do it.

‘I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better’.  Maya Angelou

It is intentionality that is all important, and the Source of All smiles at our efforts and values them. So, deep breath, and dance as though no one can see you, and sing as though no one can hear you, and enjoy the ‘connectedness’ of the season.

Song: The Circle is turning

Verse:
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.

Chorus:
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.

Verse:
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.

Chorus
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 tune is ‘borrowed’ from a great and well-known traditional Irish Gaelic folk tune, Fear a’ Bhàta (The Boatman), see here for a link to the tune. It ‘fits’ the words quite well, but to give you a helpful prompt, for each verse and chorus above, the tune  starts at 10 seconds into the video and ends at 55 secs, with each verse/chorus, above, being a repetition of that.

‘No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.’ John Keating

Don’t worry about tune repetition, as many traditional Gaelic ballads were composed of simple, repetitive, but wonderful tunes.

And, finally…

If you want to (re-)read the first article in this Samhain preparation series and perhaps use that poetry in your own celebration, do check here: With Samhain In Mind: Winter Haiku.

Meanwhile, over the next two weeks there’ll be one or two more articles for Samhain and the start of the winter season to prepare you for an awesome celebration.

Much light and love to you and yours at this time, Tadhg

With Samhain In Mind: A Winter Haiku

20181004 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND A WINTER HAIKU

With Samhain (and different pronunciations of that word abound, but I quite like the pronunciation ‘soh-uhn’) just a few weeks away, the Circle turns ever closer as the final harvest of the year is about to be brought in and celebrated, and the season of winter creeps closer, at the end of this month. In Wales, this first day of winter is also known as Calan Gaeaf.

With that winter season in mind, here’s a (series of) haiku, and each can be read in succession – either as poetry, prayer or as part of a liturgy to celebrate the harvest and season of winter, Samhain.

I am fascinated by the traditional haiku. It’s a wonderful poetic style and I’d encourage you to write a poem or two in that style. An awesome discipline, and great fun.  Haiku are Japanese-style short poems consisting of three lines: and the lines should contain firstly five syllables, then next line contains seven syllables, and the last line contains five; and somewhere in the haiku there is a seasonal reference, however oblique.

So, a winter haiku, a resource for you to use and adapt as you think of the last harvest of the year, winter, Samhain.

1
The northern winds blow.
Ice and snow slowly creep south.
Life sleeps in the earth.

2
Harvesting takes place.
And, grateful hearts raise a song
to the Source of All.

3
Winter tilts the Earth.
The sun reclines; and winds roar.
White frost cocoons all.

4
Revelry takes place,
and nature’s bounty is shared
with mankind and beast.

5
Naked are the trees.
Sparse, the green shrubs and bushes.
Harsh, the cold on skin.

6
Hail, winter Spirit.
That which dies now at your hand
will soon come alive.

7
The Circle moves on.
And the promises of old
are heard loud and clear.

8
‘As long as earth lasts,
seedtime and harvest, summer,
winter, never cease.”

9
The Deity smiles,
and blesses all; but for now,
the northern winds blow.

Over the next two weeks or so, other aspects of Samhain will feature here; ritual, thoughts, maybe even a song or two. Many blessings, Tadhg.

 

Full Moon: The Singing Moon & More: Ephemera

20180923 EPHEMERA THE SINGING MOON 25 SEPTEMBER 2018

In a society of ‘mechanical time’, where the emphasis is on greater productivity and acquisition, there are a few discerning people, and that includes you, who are aware of nature’s cycles and their deep meaning, and who really celebrate life and the turning of the Circle, and who ‘see’ beyond the surface level.

There is a realm we can encounter that is beyond, where rationality may not ‘rule’ but which is not irrational, but ‘arational’. Above. Beyond. It is there that we can meet, and appreciate that which is beyond, and full Moon’s are wonderfully liminal events and times

‘In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song.’ Khalil Gibran

For you, here’s some vital information, information for all Celts, Druids and others about the upcoming full moon and another astronomical sight to see a little later on, and a story about the Moon and Sun. You know I like stories and ancient myth, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s time to pause and consider deeply.

‘Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.’ Matthew 6:28a-29, The Book

FULL MOON DETAILS
The next full moon takes place on 25 September 2018 at 2.52 UTC, and so it will look (almost) full on the evening of Monday, 24 September and Tuesday, 25 September 2018, and viewable  in the south-eastern sky (from a UK aspect). It’s time to celebrate.

’There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.’ George Carlin

Some call this full moon the the (Full) Corn Moon or Harvest Moon. The term ‘Harvest Moon’ refers to the Full Moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal Equinox. Others call it the Barley Moon, the Fruit Moon, or to some Druids and Celts, such as myself, it’s called the Singing Moon.

MYTHICAL STORY ABOUT THE MOON AND SUN
You know I love stories, and here’s an ancient myth from the Philippines about the Moon and the Sun.

At the very beginning of time the Sun and the Moon were married, and they had many children. These were the bright stars you see in the night sky. Now, the Sun was very fond of his children, but whenever he tried to embrace any of them, he was so hot that he burned them up. This made the Moon very angry, so angry infact she finally forbade him to touch them again, and he was greatly grieved.

One day the Moon went down to the spring, as usual, to do some washing, but before she left she told the Sun that he must not touch any of their children in her absence. When she returned, however, she found that he had disobeyed her, and that several of the children had, sadly, perished.

She was very angry, and picked up a banana tree to strike him. He retaliated by throwing sand at her, and some landed on her face, and to this day you can see the dark marks of sand on the face of the Moon.

Their argument got worse and the the Sun started to chase the Moon. And, now they have been arguing and chasing each other ever since. Sometimes he gets so near that he almost catches her, but she escapes, and so the chase goes on.

ANOTHER ASTRONOMICAL SIGHT
For the astronomically-minded, or for those who like to look upward and gaze at the stars, the end of the month is significant. On 29 September the Moon will be quite close to the bright star Aldebaran. If you look at the Moon, and hold one arm out, and form a fist but with three fingers extended as if giving some kind of (arms-length) scout salute (each finger then being about 1.5 degrees), that’s the perceived gap between the Moon and Aldebaran.

’May you touch dragonflies and stars, dance with fairies and talk to the moon…’ Unknown

Aldebaran appears about 5 degrees away from the Moon, and is an orange giant star some sixty-five light years from us, situated in the constellation of Taurus. The space exploration probe Pioneer 10 which left the solar system is headed in the direction of that star, and should have a (relatively) close encounter in about two million years.

In Hindu astronomy Aldebaran is called Rohini, ‘the red one’ and is thought to be the wife of the god Chandra (which is the Moon); in Bengali it is called Stacidan because of its orange colour; and to the ancient Greeks it was known as Lampadias, ‘the torch-bearer’. As regards the Greeks, it was recorded that that star was occulted (covered (just)) by the Moon on 11 March AD509.

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

As well as featuring in ancient myth, references to Aldebaran have featured in Star Trek, Far From the Madding Crowd, Ulysses, Lord of the Rings, and in a Rolling Stones song.

CELEBRATION
You may want to celebrate this full moon. I’d heartily recommended it as a way of marking time, pausing to put things into perspective, and to celebrate the circle of the moon and nature, and to ponder upon The One Behind It All.

In many ways the best way to celebrate and/or give thanks is to go out and gaze in awe and appreciate the wonder of that full Moon, and the Source of All, in the stillness of the night. But, in addition, you might like to:

  • say a few words of gratitude out loud or to yourself for the bounty of this year’s food, harvest,  the simple things in life, for personal prosperity or health, or incorporate it in a ritual that you might do periodically, and maybe drink a celebratory drink as you gaze in awe, or
  • remember a loved one who has passed-on, and bless them, and remember good things about them as you look up, or
  • send up good-thoughts or a prayer about an upcoming event or for someone known to you that might need energy or healing, expecting the Source of All to hear and respond.

’Tell me the story…about how the sun loved the moon so much, that she died every night…Just to let him breathe…’ Hanako Ishii

Be blessed, Tadhg.

 

[With gratitude to Pennie Ley (FaceBook Link) for the kind use of the Moon photograph header, above. Copyrighted. All rights reserved, Pennie Ley, 2018].

Alban Elfed, The Light Of The Water. Autumn Equinox 2018

201808920 ALBAN ELFED THE LIGHT OF THE WATER AUTUMN EQUINOX

‘That orbed continent the fire, that severs day from night.’ William Shakespeare.

On the outskirts of a rather common spiral galaxy, there is a small solar system consisting of nine planets (actually eight planets now as the International Astronomical Union decided in 2006 to call Pluto a ‘dwarf planet,’ reducing the list of ‘real planets’ in our solar system to eight). However, astronomers are now hunting for a (true) ninth planet which they suspect may be lurking on the very limits of the solar system.

But, there’s more.

The third planet in that system is (our) Earth and it continues to move around the Sun in its orbit, and bit by bit its tilts by 23.5 degree relative to its orbital plane. This means in summer (in the northern hemisphere) the Sun is high in the sky. And six months later, when the Earth is half way around its solar orbit (on the other side of the Sun), the sun is lowest in the sky at midwinter.

‘Sunshine is Nature’s hug and spirit breath to the earth.’ Terri Guillemets

At the time of Autumn equinox the Earth is tilted half way between those two extremes and night and day are equal length, and from thereon nights get longer. Perfect balance.

For the astronomically or astrology-minded, the morning of the autumnal equinox is when the sun, from our viewpoint and against the backdrop of the stars and constellations, moves into Virgo.

Time flies. Would you believe the Autumn Equinox (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) is fast approaching. Infact, it is this Sunday, 23 September 2018.

‘Oh, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.’ Roman Payne

But there’s more.

The observance of the Sun is not only confined to the physical sciences, but to the realm of the nature and the Spirit. For many it is much more than a mass of hydrogen and helium. It gives life to the planet. Not too close to burn, not to far away to freeze, the Earth is within that ‘Goldilock’s zone, and that is surely no mere co-incidence. There is a deeper, spiritual dimension that many in our fast-paced society ‘forget’. But, not you.

‘The sun does not follow its appointed course without having been so ordained.’ Statius

For ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, particularly of Welsh extraction, but not only, the Autumn Equinox is known as Alban Elfed – the Light of the Water. Very apt as the dominant compass point for Autumn Equinox is west, and west, as a cardinal point for Druids and others is represented by one of the physical elements: water.

Others dear to me may know this time as (just) the autumn equinox, the Second harvest, or Mabon. But, around the world and by different (faith-)groups it is known by different names and is celebrated in different ways. But each, in their own way, pause and turn to contemplate the Sun and celebrate.

If you’re not going to a ceremony this weekend, the following might be useful to know, and some of these events might be adapted and used by you for your own Autumn equinox celebration.

‘The rich sunset makes the most sterile landscape enchanting.’ Eliza Cook

Japan marks the equinoxes – both of them – with a period called Ohigan, and the Japanese Buddhist belief is that the land of the afterlife is due west, and during the equinoxes, the sun sets directly west. The equinoxes are symbolic of the transitions of life. And so, this week for them it is a time to visit the graves of one’s ancestors, to spruce up the grave sites, and to leave flowers on them. It is also a time of meditation and a time to visit (living) relatives.

Some Wiccan rituals for Mabon include building an altar with harvest fruits and vegetables, meditating on balance, gathering and feasting on apples, offering apples to That Which Is Bigger Than Us, sharing that food, and counting one’s blessings.

China and Vietnam celebrate the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, which is on the full moon nearest to this equinox. It is celebrated with the many festival activities, plus gazing at the moon and eating moon cakes. On the theme of food, in the southern parts of the USA, those who celebrate Chinese and Vietnamese customs would eat Moon Pies instead of moon cakes.

 ‘But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…’ Malachi 4:2a

The Christian church replaced many early pagan equinox celebrations with Christianized observances, such as Michaelmas, which falls at the end of September. Traditionally, at such times in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, was eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes: ‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, want not for money all the year’.

In Scotland, St Michael’s Bannock, or Struan Micheil (a large scone-like cake) is also made. This used to be made from cereals grown on the family’s land during the year, representing the fruits of the fields, and wass cooked on a lamb skin, representing the fruit of the flocks. The cereals was also moistened with sheep’s milk, as sheep were  deemed the most sacred of animals.

‘By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.’ Helen Hunt Jackson

A regular number of people attend the autumnal equinox at the Kokino megalithic observatory in the north-western town of Kumanovo, 43 miles north of Skopje, Macedonia. The 3,800-year-old observatory was discovered in 2001 and is ranked as the fourth oldest observatory in the world, according to NASA.

In Soria, a city in northern Spain, revellers hold torches or candles as they parade the city near the ancient Celtiberian settlement of Numantia, which was famous for its role in the Celtiberian War.

And, people light candles after sunset during the autumn equinox celebration at the Neris River waterfront in Vilnius, Lithuania.

‘Blessed be you Balance-Holder,
unafraid of the dark from which all newness must begin,
giver of light that draws us on and out into fullness.
Help me to balance my need for outgoing and restoring this day.
(With thankfulness for my going out, restore to me my rest this night).’

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year: Celtic And Christian Seasonal Prayers).

And so, the circle turns, the planet tilts and the sun, as faithful as ever, shines upon us and bathes us in its light and warmth. Alban Elfed is a wonderful time, and a great event to mark the year’s progress in some meaningful way.

How will you celebrate this Autumn equinox? You might like to try some of the abovementioned idea. Or, perhaps, this Alban Elfed you might find time, maybe in the evening, to recollect good events during the last year (and even make of list) and to give thanks in some small way.

Expressing gratitude can done be in a number of ways, so do choose one that you’re comfortable with: maybe lighting a candle and praying a gratitude prayer to the Source of All, inviting friends around for a harvest meal, meditating for a short while on the bounty of nature, reciting a relevant poem or expressing yourself in a simple ancient ritual, or in some other way.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Alban Elfed, Tadhg.

 

 

Table Talk: One Evening In September. [Life, Sex, Faith/Belief And More]

20180916 TABLE TALK ONE EVENING IN SEPTEMBER

A few of us had met and had the most wonderful three-course meal, recently. And now, with the crockery and cutlery cleared away and the dish-washer chugging away in the kitchen, we settled, with full stomachs, in the lounge.

Such post-meal evening discussions like this had happened before – there was no agenda, everyone’s viewpoint was valid, the conversation might be tossed too and fro in a myriad of directions, and Chatham House rules applied (which meant that nothing could be mentioned outside this meeting that identified any member without their consent – and so the following identifies me, Tadhg, but no one else.

What follows is ‘table talk’. [With apologies to Martin Luther].  It may ramble, it might not cover some of the things relevant to you (or it might), but through this I hope that interest is sparked and maybe some questions are raised (and answered), and that you find the article informative.

Someone asked: Tell us about the importance of ritual that you speak so much about on TadhgTalks.

Tadhg replied: Ritual is important to me, and I would encourage it in the daily life of others. In one sense we already live lives that encompass daily rituals, or yearly ones in the form of anniversaries. But, they are important reminders to us, can help us to make time for the essentials in life, and if done with intentionality they can have great meaning and effect.

The flip-slide of that is that they can so easily be done by rote and lose meaning and effect.

’What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it.’ – Ezra Pound

With a ritual there is a ‘surface level’ meaning that observers can see and understand, easily. But, it shouldn’t stay there at that level. There is a deeper meaning, and it is possible, and advantageous, to go ‘inward’ in contemplation. For instance, for the last two months I’ve done an Earth-healing ritual. On the ‘surface level’, anyone watching would have seen my physical actions (and physical actions are important), but there is a ‘deeper level’ of contemplation, the imaginal realm where ‘inwardly’ I am was performing that ritual without physical limitation, and others taking part in the ritual would be encouraged, similarly, to go inward.

’The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.’ Albert Einstein

That ‘deeper level’ some might call prayer or meditation.

Someone asked: But, in any group that uses contemplation in a ritual won’t each person ‘see’ something different?

Tadhg replied: Absolutely. That’s to be expected, and in one a very real sense it is to be encouraged. For instance, in leading a ceremony someone might refer to the Fae, another to elementals, others to gods of all descriptions that area meaningful to them, others might refer to the wolf aspect of nature, and I might refer to the Source of All. To me, these are all manifestations of the One in creation.

’A group of blind people heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said ‘This being is like a thick snake’. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. Another blind person who placed his hand upon its side said, ‘the elephant is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

We might each get a glimpse of That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and describe it in out own way, but that can’t mean that any of us know more than others, as the Truth is beyond comprehension. We each get glimpses that are different, and that’s why sharing and listening to each other’s experience and understanding, accepting the different ways to describe things, especially when different to our own, can only be a good thing to enhance our journey. Its a learning curve.

Someone asked: So, what about sex?

There was a little bit of laughter, but the questioner was encouraged to be specific. Refilling the glasses helped everyone here.

Someone asked: Well, one of the reasons I’m A Druid is that I like the way it deals with sex, life and death and rebirth, and isn’t prissy or embarrassed about procreation. And, that’s different from when I was a Christian. The Church then  seemed uptight about even using the word. So, Tadhg, as A Christian-Druid what would you say?

Tadhg replied: It is true, that in many cases churches are hung up on the word, and I know some that flatly refuse to use the word ‘sex’ in any way. The word ‘pregnant’ comes a close second in the tables of banished words in those places, and they prefer to use the phrase ‘with child’. It’s odd.

Right now, I can see two reasons why some, perhaps most, churches are ‘afraid’ of using sex or talking about it. One could be pure ego. It’s a constructed taboo which sets them apart from society, and perhaps they like that. I can’t understand that desire for artificial separation or ‘distancing’ from society, but it could be ‘ego’.

Or, it could be a plain (or wilful) misunderstanding of ancient text and its application. The challenge, and church history, provides proof, is to understand what St Augustine did when he became a Christian. Now, some may say he brought in much good theology, but he brought in more. When Manichaeism was banned, many Manichaeists became Christian almost ‘over night’. And St Augustine was a Manichaeist who converted, and sadly brought in some Manichaeists anti-sex notions which were seized upon by Reformers, and others ever since.

It seems to me to be a false dichotomy, and unnecessary ‘distancing’ from the One who created everything good.

’Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature’. Marilyn Monroe

For me, ancient text provides a healthy understanding of procreation and the God of Procreation and our responsibility, but its interpretation is (still, unknowingly by some churches ‘seen’) through Manichaeist spectacles which have little to do with essential foundational, balanced, responsible beliefs of the early Church.

I apologise for the course in Church history, but sometimes it’s important to divide what is foundational, and what is more recent and which just appears foundational.

Someone asked: Tell us about the standing stone you just visited in Wales, where you did an Earth-healing ritual.

Tadhg replied: Ah, that was Maen Llia, at the very north of the Brecon Beacons national park. And bearing in mind what we’ve mentioned about glimpses of knowledge and wisdom, and misunderstanding things (because of relatively new ideas which weren’t there at the beginning), Maen Llia is a wonderful reminder of how little we do know.

The current view is that our ancestors dragged that stone there some forty-thousand years ago and laid it flat, and about four thousand years ago it was upended (and now stands about twelve feet talk, nine feet wide, and two feet thick), and no one has a clue what its purpose was. I quite like that admission, because we can all share our ideas, tonight, about it, and no one is wrong.

So, what was its use for (when flat and then, later, when stood on its end)?

Various people said:

  • Perhaps it when flat it was used as a raised platform for the Druid to stand on to address the crowd.
  • Maybe it was used as a seat for someone to tell stories to people seated around it, sitting on the ground.
  • And/Or, when flat, maybe it was some kind of throne or seat to dispense judgement from.
  • Maybe it was upended when the crowd grew to big, and then the Druid would conduct rituals in front of it, and it was some kind of ‘backdrop’ to ‘push’ the sound forward to amplify the speaker’s voice
  • Or, perhaps it was used as a marker to show a nearby village, or denote a holy location, rather like Celtic crosses or the many cairns (piled-up stones) throughout the UK

Joshua said…’Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder.  They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ ‘Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan…’’ Joshua 4. 5b-7a, The Book.

And, so it went on. Do you have any thoughts about Maen Llia or standing-stones in general?

Someone asked: So, is ritual enough?

Tadhg replied: That’s good question. Bearing in mind there’s the physical, ‘surface level’ ritual of doing that is important, and there’s the inner ‘deeper level’ aspect of ritual which involves the imagination or mind’s eye. There is more. There is always more.

It’s my belief, and others may disagree, that both aspects of ritual need to be ‘earthed’, and that something (more) needs to be done. For instance, the Earth-healing rituals consisted of words and actions, the imaginal aspect. But then I ‘earthed’ the rituals by burying a Rainforest Jasper stone.

The ‘earthing’ can be varied and roughly associated with the ritual, but it can be a loose connection. So, I think it would be acceptable, in ‘earthing’ that ritual to have planted some seeds in a city plant-box the next day, or by writing to the local council to preserve some city park trees, instead of burying the rock. True, the aforementioned examples don’t accomplish anything in the national parks where I conducted the ritual, but a loose connection is, I think, good enough. And, with all things being inter-connected, maybe the seed-planting and writing to the local council will affect things further afield, in ways we cannot ‘see’.

’I had to decide what I was going to do, and what I was going to be. I was standing there, waiting for someone to do something , till I realised the person I was waiting for was myself.’ Markus Zusak,

There were many more questions  in the lounge that evening, but I think I’ll save them for another time. Meanwhile, drinks were refilled and the evening continued to flow. Maybe next time, you’ll be here. Youre more than welcome.

Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends after that meal, how about you sharing something of your spiritual journey (either here or by email to me), if you wish. Whether you do or don’t, rest assured that I appreciate you taking the time to read this and other articles of mine, and you are in my thoughts as we travel along this Path.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

An Encounter At Maen Llia

20180910 ENCOUNTER AT MEAN LLIA

Having inputted the details into the mobile phone’s navigational program – you have to love ‘Waze’ – and put the mobile phone into the car’s dashboard cradle I set off for Maen Llia – an ancient and mysterious standing stone. 

Where would we be without SatNav?

Typically the weather was inclement, but I’m in the car, and on the backseat is my trusty old waterproof jacket, plastic over-trousers, boots and a backpack with assorted food for the day. You can never be too careful.

‘The things you own end up owning you…’ Chuck Palahniuk,

Ah, modern hiking conveniences! What would we do without ‘thinsulate’?

Leaving Hay-On-Wye, the twenty-six mile journey should take about forty minutes. It look me a little bit longer. Driving along the B4350 wasn’t problematic, but joining the A438 and then the A470 was. It seemed the world and his wife was out today. Their were umpteen cars, coaches, even more cars, cement lorries and more, all  travelling at a fast pace. The kind of ‘get me to work fast’ pace, or ‘get me home quick’ speed. I could understand their need for speed, but I was in ‘tourist mode’. I was in ‘Oh, look there’s a cow, let me slow down’ speed.

Ah, modern motoring. Where would I be without my Renault Clio?

And so, not wishing to upset the drivers behind me and not wishing to gather speed and miss the moment – and I promise I wasn’t dawdling – I made plenty of space between me and the huge cement lorry in front so that the dozen motorists behind me could overtake. And they did.

’ I have two speeds. Nothing and full pelt’. André Rieu

And then I turned off onto a minor road running north from Ystradfellte, towards Heol Senni, at a much more leisurely pace. It was as if time itself had slowed. Bliss.

Certainly, the pace had to be slower, as the road was now only ten feet wide, wading, and with only the occasional ‘passing point’ should another car be coming in the opposite direction. And a few did. And, what great manners they had. Each taking time so that they and I could pass, inviting gestures, some ‘thumbs-up’ thankyous and with some reversing, but it was so civilised. Ballet de automobile!

Ah, the rule of the county road? Where would we be without the Highway Code?

And, then I spied it. Pulling over, I got out of the car and walked briskly up a small, grassy, rain-soaked incline toward Maen Llia,  an ancient standing stone. Alone in a rather bleak area. No one was where, except for me.. The people who pulled that hefty rock here – it’s about twelve feet high, nine feet wide, and two feet thick – are unknown, as is the reason for it being here. But, my not knowing, doesn’t detract from the splendour and majesty of this object that has stood here for thousands of years.

Maen Llia is timeless. It is a world away from SatNav, ‘Thinsulate’, motor cars, and the Highway Code. And, as I stood in front of it I couldn’t but bow my head a little, momentarily. This standing stone, indeed the area, is spiritual and alive with energy.

As I thought about the people who erected this standing stone, I couldn’t also but be ‘hit’ by the thought of how much we are all beholden to the modern world. Mechanical time, work routines, shopping trips to the supermarket, servicing cars and more – maybe ‘necessary evils’, but all alien to those who first gazed upon Maen Llia and experienced time differently.

‘Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.’ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

And yet, here I had an opportunity to take time out. Or, to be out of time. Ofcourse, that can happen anywhere, but it seems that humankind usually needs a prompt – isn’t that what ritual, anniversaries and statues do? They act as a focus, pointing to That Which Is Bigger Than Us.

And, as I stood in front on Maen Llia, now getting wet from the light rain caught by wind and blowing into me horizontally, it seemed that perhaps Maen Llia was that unknown people’s focal point. Some think that the standing stone could have been a boundary marker, but it could easily be something incredibly spiritual – a spiritual focal point for those ancients, especially as it looks like a finger pointing heavenward. And to me, that is exactly what it was. An incredibly isolated and spiritual place. A standing stone focal point to cause wonderment. The energy and ritual of the ancestors still reverberates in that place. You can’t see it with physical eyes, nor feel it one your skin, but it is palpable in a way beyond words. Ancestors, elementals, angels?

Interestingly, some paper guides say that Maen Llia is thirty yards/metres from the road, others say it’s sixty yards/metres. How can the two be reconciled? The answer could lay in the myth that when no one is looking the standing stone moves. Some say it occasionally wanders off, to the river, the Afon Llia to drink. Others say it does this one Midsummer’s Eve. 

Where would we be without myth and imagination?

With the rain now pouring, I said a few words and buried the Rainforest Jasper stone as a ritual action for Earth Healing, and then after a few minutes I headed back to the car, energised, and entered the modern world of mechanical time once again.

‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’ Mother Theresa