An Encounter With Nwyfre In London? [Revisited]

20181127 AN ENCOUNTER WITH NWYFRE IN LONDON

There is a forest not far from where I live in north Wales, old and dense; it is ancient and just walking in it one can feel the weight of the ages there. I love it. And there, after a long, winding trek through the thick forest is a small clearing, stands ‘Y goeden mellt’, the much-loved Lightning Tree. (See here). It was there that I first had an experience of ‘it’ and was able to put a name to ‘it’.

But, I’m still in town, still in the city, still in London, and won’t be back in Capel Curig for at least another few days. And yet….deep in my spirit there’s a restlessness. There are several places where I’ve experienced Nwyfre (pronounced ‘noo-iv ruh’) , and one of those it when in the presence of that Lightning Tree.

Yes, that ‘it’ was, and is, Nwyfre.

Nwyfre, isn’t life, but is Life! It is the activating, animating, creative force that flows through nature. Traditionally, and literally, it has to do with the wind and the sky. If you can imagine fast flowing, light clouds, low in the sky, say, or the wind ‘howling’ of the tops of trees, then that’s evidence of Nwyfre. But, it’s more than just an atmospheric phenomenon – to those with deep awareness, insight, enlightenment, to those who are poets and those who might have a ‘romantic’ inclination, it’s more.

There is always more.

‘Time and attention are the most precious gifts we can give.’ Rob Liano

Nwyfre, at its deepest and most profound, and I would say its most real level, is: Spirit, and the connectedness of everything because of Spirit, and the flow of energy (love etc) between everything. And, rather than an ‘it’, Nwyfre is personal (and can be referred to as ‘he or she’, and preferably as ‘he and she’ (such is the cumbersome limitations of out language). Nwyfre is the Welsh name known to the Welsh, ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, and others. Nwyfre is known by other names by different ‘tribes’, and perhaps the most well-known (locally, and to Christians) is that Nwyfre is referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, also known as the Counsellor, Intercessor, Revealer, Teacher, Spirit of Life).

And so, feeling a fair amount of ennui last evening, I went for a walk along the banks of the River Thames in the heart of London. It was late and the air was now cold, very cold, and the wind was howling over the rooftops of nearby high-rise buildings, making a wailing sound like some kind of invisible bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’). Oh, the wind moaned a deep, mournful, relentless groan.

I felt small in comparison to the power of the wind that raced across city rooftops and shook the trees. I felt separated, as something of a different order altogether to that barometric pressure that moved noisily, and yet invisibly, nearby. And yet, I felt connected, contentment, a oneness. That’s Nwyfre!

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with… the Spirit.’ John 3:8a, The Book

Gazing at the river, only dimly lit by street-lighting, I breathed in – air. Nwyfre! The same wind that blew high above me, that howled across the rooftops, that had come from unknown parts in its journey to who knows where, was now in my lungs and coursing through my veins. I ‘discovered’ that I am no longer separate because of Nwyfre! That which was outside, is inside me. And as I exhale, that which was inside me is now outside. We are encompassed by Nwyfre. Cocooned. Connected. Congruent.

‘The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.’ Carl Sagan

Walking now, to keep warm – it seemed colder than ever, and the fog was moving in – I ‘discovered’ also that I no longer felt that small. Nwyfre! Not separated, not small, but deep in my soul I knew that we are all connected. Connected and powerful. Our status is such that we have great power and great opportunities to do good.

I experienced that at Y goeden mellt’, the Lightning Tree in Wales on many occasions when surrounded by that deep forest, and in solitude; and now in the heart of London – surrounded by ‘mountains’ of bricks and mortar, and ‘trees’ of ‘street furniture (is what the Council call lampposts, traffic signs etc), and in a ‘forest’ of eight million souls  – I experienced Nwyfre once more.

I ‘discovered’ a third fact. And this one that affects you, wherever you are. You too, can experienced that connectedness of Nwyfre. In thinking of spiritual experiences many think of out-of-the-way and difficult places to visit, but that doesn’t have to be only that way. Where you are, right now, is as special, and as sacred, and as holy as Y goeden mellt, and so is every place, too.

‘Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.’– Margaret J Wheatley

In the heart of London I experienced the connectedness of Nwyfre, and wherever you are, you can too. Ofcourse, if our minds are too busy, or if we’re distracted, then we’ll miss the invitation of Nwyfre. It seems we have a choice. Nwyfre, metaphorically, opens the door, issues an invitation with a ‘silent call’, as deep calls to deep, but we must walk through that door (or not).

‘When you make a choice, you change the future.’ Deepak Chopra

It was now bitterly cold, and as I headed home – about a four minute walk from where I was at that point, I looked at the lights in those high-rise apartments, the glow of tv screens ‘playing’ on curtains and the apartments’ ceilings, and the general busyness of the metropolis, and felt saddened that unwittingly some had made a choice, and had missed the opportunity of encountering Nwyfre. And, the really sad thing is that they never even knew that they had already made a choice to not walk through that metaphorical door.

‘When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.’ William James.

The abovementioned was written two years ago, and has been slightly amended/adapted, and is still relevant, and contains some truth, I believe, and also it’s relevant because I am back in London for a while, it has got decidedly cold over the last few days and for the first time this year (post summer) river-hugging fog has appeared and has rolled into surrounding streets, and it enshrouds everything, and it is wonderful to see, so otherworldly, and arresting. Pause for deep thoughts.

‘You can’t outwit fate by standing on the sidelines placing little side bets about the outcome of life… if you don’t play you can’t win.’ Judith McNaught

Nwyfre is ubiquitous. And, there’s even more…Nwyfre is inviting you.

 

All About Mistletoe: Meaning, Myth & ‘Magic’

20181124 ALL ABOUT MISTLETOE

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low…

We’ve looked at holly recently (see here), and then we looked at ivy (see here), and associated with this time of year, with Christmas and the Winter Solstice coming up, is mistletoe. And, we’ll look briefly at mistletoe from the botanical view, mythological and historical point of view, and current uses for Christians, Druids and others, with some ideas for yourself about its use.

It is a most wonderful shrub.

Botanical View: Science & Nature

From a botanical point of view mistletoe is fascinating. It is a semi-parasitical evergreen shrub, but caution is needed: mistletoe leaves, stems and berries are all poisonous.

Common name: mistletoe, also known as European mistletoe, European white-berry mistletoe, common mistletoe
Scientific name: Viscum album
Family: Santalaceae

Its scientific name aptly reflects its sticky nature – viscum comes from the Latin ‘visco’ meaning sticky.

Mistletoe has a positive effect on wildlife. The white berries of mistletoe aren’t usually sought out by birds as they often prefer those that are red, orange or purple. But, some will eat white berries. It is an important source of winter food for the mistle thrush, redwings and fieldfares.

Several species of insect are mistletoe feeders, such as the mistletoe marble moth (Celypha woodiana) and mistletoe weevil (Ixapion variegatum).

All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Mythological & Historical View: Ah, Mystery

There is a tradition that mistletoe can ward off evil. It was/is thought that mistletoe brought into the house at Christmas, or mid-winter when the days were darkest, or at the time of the New Year should be kept hanging for a full 12 months, and this would protect the house from negativity or  evil.

Ancient and latter-day Druids believe mistletoe to be sacred. It was at the Winter Solstice ( ‘Alban Arthan’ by the Druids) that, according to Bardic Tradition, the Chief Druid would cut the sacred mistletoe from the Oak using a golden sickle on the sixth night of the new moon after the winter solstice.

According to Pliny the ancient Druids would climb the tree to harvest it, cutting the mistletoe and let it fall naturally to be caught in a cloak before it touched the ground. If it did reach the ground it would lose its special properties.

Branches of mistletoe were/are then cut into many sprigs and distributed to the people to take inside their homes or hang the sprigs  over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe)…

And, ofcourse, that event which can be fun, lovely and/or embarrassing takes place: kissing takes place under mistletoe. But, why?

Well, there is an ancient Scandinavian custom that led to the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. This tradition went hand-in-hand with the Norse myth about Baldur whose mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal, and inanimate object promise not to harm her son. But Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant, and the mischievous god of the Norse myths, Loki, took advantage of this oversight. Loki tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear made from mistletoe.

According to a happier ending of that legend, Baldur’s mother wept tears onto the arrow which turned into white berries that she placed onto Baldur’s wound, bringing him back to life. Overjoyed at new life springing forth in her son, Frigga blessed the mistletoe plant and promised a kiss to all who passed beneath it. Now you know it is a positive symbol of new life, resurrection, and in many ways symbolises eternal friendship.

Also, when the first Christians came to Western Europe, although some tried to ban the use of Mistletoe as a decoration in Churches,  many still continued to use it! York Minster Church, in the UK, for instance, used to hold a special Mistletoe Service in the winter, where wrong doers in the city of York could come and be pardoned. And, many church buildings are gaily decorated with holy, ivy and mistletoe today, and look splendid, indeed. I love.

Today, mistletoe still has some interesting English connotations and traditions attached to it.

And Today: You & Me

The English town of Tenbury Wells, on the Worcestershire/ and Herefordshire border is famous for its annual mistletoe auctions. However, in 2004/5 the owners of the  market site in town said they were closing the site and leaving town. A small group got together to think of other ways to keep the mistletoe traditions alive and the result was the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival which now runs alongside the auctions.

Did you know that 1st December (or usually the first Saturday after the beginning of December) each year is National Mistletoe Day?

Another fixture is the Mistletoe Queen, crowned on National Mistletoe Day. She is the Head Girl of Tenbury High School and is accompanied by the Holly Prince, the Head Boy. A new tradition in the making.

No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

So, what to do today?

What to do with mistletoe in our faith groups and groves, or by ourselves?

Well, maybe cutting or buying some mistletoe to hang in our homes for tradition-sake and/or for protection is one suggestion, and you can always continue the kissing-tradition under it.

How about giving some mistletoe away to someone special, in the same way an ancient or latter-day Druid might cut springs of mistletoe on the sixth night of the full moon to give to others the following day – though I think, in the spirit of this, there can be great flexibility (and so if the intention is there, the moon phase need not hinder you from doing that noble deed).

At home, individually, or in our faith groups and groves, especially at the time of Winter Solstice or sometime over the Christmas period we can meditate upon mistletoe and/or recite some words which have meaning to you, or a classic poem (such as the one used here aptly called ‘Mistletoe’ (indented, above), and penned by Walter de La Mare).

Meanwhile, many blessings to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

All About Ivy: There’s More To It Than Meets The Eye

20181117 ALL ABOUT IVY MEANING MYTH AND MAGIC

Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o’er ruins old!

(Charles Dickens)

Much misunderstood, and the subject of myth and magic in the winter season, Winter Solstice and at Christmastime, Ivy is a wonderful ‘climber’ that has a story of mystery to tell from over a millennia ago. Ivy can be viewed from a botanical point of view, as a friend of nature, and as a plant of myth and magic. And, each is fascinating and spell-binding. So…

Botanical view
Ivy grows well throughout the UK and is native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa, and can be found in many habitats including woodland, scrub, wasteland and on isolated trees. It quite likes shaded areas, and can live in all but the most dry, waterlogged or acidic soils.

Common name(s): Ivy, common ivy, Atlantic ivy, English ivy, British ivy, European ivy
Scientific name: Hedera helix
Family: Araliaceae

It is an evergreen plant so its easily identifiable leaves can be seen all the year. It flowers in September to November, and fruits ripen in November to January.

But, there’s more to Ivy than meets the eye
Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
And a staunch old heart has he.
How closely he twineth, how tight he clings,
To his friend the huge Oak Tree!

(Charles Dickens)

It is a woody climber which can grow to a height of 30metres. It has two different forms – juvenile and mature. It climbs trees, walls and building, using specialised and adapted hairs which help it ‘stick’ to surfaces as it climbs.

There are many views as to whether ivy climbing on brickwork damages the brick. It seems its doesn’t crack or damage brick but exploits any cracks and damage that were  already there – but if you have ivy on your house etc it’s best to take professional advice.

As creeping ivy clings to wood or stone, And hides the ruin that it feeds upon, So sophistry, cleaves close to, and protects Sin’s rotten trunk, concealing its defects.

(William Cowper)

But, it is not a parasitic plant, and has a separate root system in the soil and so absorbs its own nutrients and water as needed.

But, there’s more.

Friend of nature
Some may be inclined to pull ivy off a tree fearing that it will harm the tree (though in individual cases it may need to be trimmed back), but Ivy growing on trees does no harm to the tree, and, indeed, it provides an abundant supply of food for insects and birds.

Ivy is the wild lady of the greenwood; she gathers us all together, entwinning and embracing.

(Danu Forest)

Nectar, pollen and berries of ivy are bountiful during autumn and winter when food is scarce. And it provides shelter for insects (especially hoverflies, wasps and bees), birds, bats and other small mammals.  It is also an important food plant for some butterfly and moth larvae. It’s a wonderful plant.

But, there’s even more.

Myth & More
As an evergreen plant ivy (along with holly – and we looked at holly recently: please see here) was seen as an especially powerful symbol during winter, and it was brought into the house to keep negativity and evil spirits at bay.

In ancient Rome wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around ones head was supposed to prevent one from getting drunk –  unlikely, I would think  – and the Roman god Bacchus, the god of intoxication, was usually depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grapevines.

However, Ivy was also seen as a symbol of intellectual prowess, then, and wreaths were used to crown the winners of poetry contests.

That headlong ivy!
Not a leaf will grow,
But thinking of a wreath,
Large leaves, smooth leaves.
Serrated like my vines, and half as green.
I like such ivy, bold to leap a height,
Twas strong to climb! as good to grow on graves,
As twist about a thyrsus , pretty too,
(And that’s not ill) when twisted round a comb.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

In ancient Greece wreaths were also given to winning athletes, and they were also seen as emblems of fidelity, and priests would present a wreath of ivy to newly married couples. Even today it is still often the custom for bridal bouquets to contain a sprig of ivy. Ah, sometimes the old ways and wonderful traditions live on, even unbeknownst to many.

English ivy also has a tendency to travel along the ground – and who hasn’t tripped in the matted roots system as it spreads over the ground. Sometimes, if its growth is unchecked it can travel from one plant to another, binding the plants together, and this binding ability sometimes has a deeply symbolic meaning.

But, like ivy, we grow where there is room for us.

(Miranda July)

Some early versions of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, refer to the ability of ivy to bind.

Here’s the story: Tristan, a Cornish knight went to Ireland to ‘claim’ Isolde, an Irish princess, as a bride for King Mark. During the arduous journey back to Cornwall, Tristan and Isolde drank a love potion made from ivy and fell madly in love. [But, please don’t emulate them in making or drinking any Ivy concoction as it’s poisonous, and so this story is for historical and mythological study purposes only). For them Ivy ‘binded’ them together.

In some other versions, Tristan and Isolde do die and are buried in separate graves by King Mark so that even in death they cannot be together. However, in that story, an ivy vine grew out of each grave towards the other one. The ivy vines, then, met and entwined around each others body, forming a loving and eternal connection. And, even when the King Mark cuts the vines they regrow and reconnect. Wonderful story.

For ancient Celts, Druids and medieval Christians, Ivy represented peace, perhaps because of its ability to bind different plants or even different kinds of plants together. And it is for that reason I would advocate you buying and bringing in some Ivy into your house, especially at the darkest part of the year when we celebrate the Winter solstice and/or Christmas.

It’s also for the reason of peace and fidelity that many Celts and Druids of old, and today (including me when conducting a handfasting or marriage ceremony) wear holly wreaths at some events – do see an earlier article where I did just that, which included the line: ‘‘You’ve got grass on your head, mister’.

Also, during the winter solstice, in years gone by, there was a tradition of a nominated boy wearing a holly wreath, and a girl wearing n ivy crown to symbolise the different sexes, the ‘battle’ between sun and moon, between dark and the barrenness of winter and light and the green fecund world, the endless turning of the circle. Yes, the ivy is a wonderful plant full of mystery and magic, and surely has a place in our homes this yuletide.

For the stateliest building man can raise,
Is the Ivy’s food at last.
Creeping on, where time has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

(Charles Dickens)

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

 

 

 

Rivers: Nature And Supernature. The Power & The Myth

20180908 RIVERS NATURE AND SUPERNATURE

Where is a body of water things happen. It’s not just that humankind sometimes uses oceans and rivers to (artificially) mark out territory at a superficial level, and things happen because of that. But, it’s deeper. There’s more.

As you know I’m in Hay On Wye, just inside the country of Wales, and chuckled to myself last evening as I walked the twenty minutes to the shop. To get there I crossed over a bridge over the small but vibrant Dulas Brook. It’s a wonderful Brook.

’It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things.’ Nicholas Sparks

Momentarily I stood there and looked down, and pondered the fact that half of me was in England, and half in Wales. I know, sometimes my inner child runs rampant – but, what not?

I was in no particular rush,  and so sat down beside the brook, away from the road, and enjoyed the solitude. 

Water, bodies of water, rivers and lakes have played an important part over the years in the belief system of many religions and faith groups. 

Millions of Hindus, with ashes over their bodies, plunge into the River Ganges in the hope that their sins will be washed away. The ancient Hebrews believed  that the Pool of Bethesda would heal them when it’s waters rippled declaring the presence of an invisible angel. And, many Christians bathe in the River Jordan for a blessing. The latter, ofcourse, use blessed or holy water in christenings and on other occasions when it is ‘flicked’ at the congregation. And, who can forget the old story, and one of my favourites, of dear Brigit turning bath water into beer!

’he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the [blind] man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam”. So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.’ John 9: 6b-7, The Book

Cleopatra, it is said knew of the healing properties of the water of the Dead Sea, and many today bathe in it, (or buy its water for home use) in the hope it will heal them (and indeed some say it may have some beneficial effect for skin ailments etc  because of its high salt content). But, there’s more.

Ah, water.

As I sat there and gazed into the Dulas Brook and with the sun setting, I wondered of the number of ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others that have done the same. Wales is that kind of place. It is a land of mystery and magic, where ancient voices can be heard in the wind and the energy of bygone ritual flows through the earth. Water, it seems, invited, and the Giver of Water moves through this land.

The ancients believe water could heal. And, at Buxton in Derbyshire is the ‘well’ that was flowing before the Romans invaded England, and which was used by Druids and others for healing. It was originally called Aqua Arnemetiae meaning. ‘the waters of the goddess who lived in the sacred grove. Know it is known as St Anne’s well.

Healing?

The ancient Celts and Druids told of stories where the Otherworld is reached by going under the waters, such as pools, lakes, or the sea, or by crossing the western sea. In Irish Immrama tales, a beautiful young Otherworldly woman would oftenapproach the hero and invite him to go away with her, as she sings to him of this happy land. He follows her, and they journey over the sea together and are seen no more.

A gateway?

Could Dulas Brook be a gateway to Annwn, the OtherWorld in Welsh mythology, that place of eternal youth and where disease was unknown?

The ancient Celts and Druids (and others) also believed that around water, such as lakes, rivers and brooks, elementals inhabited the area. Many still believe this today, and stories abound of good and not-so-good events around, or involving, water.

The spirits of watery places were honoured as givers of life. Sequana, it is said, seems to have embodied the River Seine at its spring source, the goddesses Boann and Sionnan give their names to the rivers Boyne and Shannon, and the ancient name for the River Marne was Matrona ‘Great Mother’.

Could there be a correlation between the River Lugg, just a few miles away, and Lugh? In the past I’ve dismissed it, but now I’m seriously considering the link.

It makes you think.

And, as I sat there gazing into the Dulas Brook I could see how water and the human imagination could ‘connect’ and deep thoughts take place. Ofcourse, many might dismiss such thoughts,  but what if imagination, like water, houses mysteries that defy rational explanation? What if we are surrounded my the miracle and magic that is water, but are oblivious to the fact?

Just a body of water? I would venture that when we gaze upon a lake, river or ocean there is much more than the eye can see. 

’Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’ Albert Einstein

 

 

Tadhg, On The Road To Hay On Wye. Mystery, Magic And Healing The Land

20180903 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO HAY ON WYE

In a few days I’m off on another short jaunt. Another adventure. And, who knows what might happen? Having just come back from the wonderful Matlock area of Derbyshire, this time I’m off to Hay On Wye, Wales.

‘The winds of God are always blowing, but you must set the sails.’ (Unknown)

The region of Hay on Wye is an area that abounds in myth and magic, and is a wonderful place to visit. The town nestles just inside Wales, separated geographically from England by the Dulas Brook, and Hay on Wye boasts the largest concentration of bookshops in the UK, so ‘I will be in my element’, as they say.

Division?

‘Where you are today and where you want to be lies a gap….’ Oscar Bimpong

Over those few days I also aim to visit the Brecon Beacons (national park in Wales) which is a huge open, rugged and wild place, the habitat of wonderful animals, insects, plants and trees. It also has some wonderful waterfalls, some amazing caves, and yes, plenty of mystery. There are a number of standing stones in the Brecon Beacons which were the ritual places of ancient Celts. No wonder the Celts of old loved that area (and latter ones still do). It is a place of mystery, a liminal place, a place where Here and the Other spiritually ‘connect’. A ‘thin place’ [see here].

Connection?

’In reality, we live in everyone. I live in you. You live in me. There is no gap, no distance. We all are eternally one.’ Amit Ray

And myth? What of myth? The River Wye that runs through Hay joins the River Lugg some ten miles to the east. One cannot but notice the similarity between the name Lugg as in the River Lugg, and Lugh the god of the Celts. However, Lugh comes mainly from Irish myth and probably means ‘of the long arm’, whereas Lugg as in the River Lugg, is thought to be more local, and means ‘the bright one’. But, it makes you wonder.

Ponder?

In that area other myth is recorded: the ghostly figures of Swan pool, the appearance of King Arthur’s cave, mischievous pwcas, and more. Perhaps we swim through myth and magic wherever we are, but are unaware of it. It may be noticeable or ‘felt’ only if we develop our (underused) senses of awareness. Maybe such myths and magic is ubiquitous?

‘How blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear!’ Matthew 13:16, The Book

Evidence for this comes from where the River Wye connects with the River Lugg. There, at Mordiford is an interesting myth. Legend has it, and one mentioned on the side of a local church wall, says that in a bygone age a dragon was harassing nearby villagers. It was eventually slain by a member of the local nobility, though such is the nature of myth, it might have been a convicted criminal who killed the dragon. Some even attribute the original owner of the dragon as a young girl by the name of Maud.

Although the stories vary, that dragon, in this region, is always prominent in such stories. And, what of Maud? A short walk through the nearby Haugh Wood brings you to a path, said to be found my dear Maude herself, called Serpent’s Lane. Serpent, dragon? It is said that at certain times of the year the dragon can be seen there, and you’ll know when you’ve reached the path even if you don’t spy the dragon, as legend says nothing grows there.

Just a myth? Or, something more?

’He is short-sighted who looks only on the path he treads and the wall on which he leans.’ Kahlil Kibran

But we can’t leave the myth there. Some of you may know that normally dragons are fairly placid creatures unless disturbed (and have six limbs), and it is more than likely that this ‘dragon’ [see here], was, infact, a wyvern because of local drawings showing a creature with four limbs – thus making it an altogether rather disagreeable creature. Not a dragon at all. A wyvern.

There’s more.

There is always more. Having buried a rock (a Rainforest Jasper rock) recently at Mam Tor [see here], Derbyshire in a simple Earth-healing ceremony, I intend to do the same, and for the second time, at Maen Llia in the Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.

Join me over the next few days, ‘imaginally’, in prayer, energetically, in a ‘kything’ sort of way, and participate albeit-geographically-at-a-distance, but in essence at no distance at all. Oneness!

’…that they may be one as we are one.’ John 17.22, The Book

At Mam Tor: Earth-Healing Ritual And More

Today, the weather was overcast and cloudy, and quite cool because of a northerly wind. It rained intermittently. Suitably attired with anorak, waterproof over-trousers and hiking boots, and water I headed to the hills. There was work to be done, and ‘adventure’ like the feel on the skin of an approaching storm was in the air.

‘Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday.’ Sarah Ban Breathnac

Today was the day when I was to undertake my first simple Earth Healing ritual which would involve saying a simple prayer of dedication as I buried a small Rainforest Jasper stone.  

Rainbow Jasper, some say is a ‘helpful stone to connect with Mother Earth and the energy of the natural world, and may be used in earth healing rituals.’ And, it can ‘aid you to make a stronger connection to the great forests and green areas of the planet, as Rainforest Jasper encourages you to have a deeper, more heart based love for the earth.’ Whatever your views on that stone are, at the very least it can,  and does act as a focal point for our concern and prayer  for peace and harmony on, and in the Earth.

Having travelled some ten miles, I stopped momentarily at the foot of the large hill – to me a mountain. How fitting that this Earth Healing ceremony and Rainforest Jasper should be buried at the top of this large hill (517m  or 1,696 ft in height), rightly called Mam Tor or The Mother Hill. Healing, Rainbow Jasper, Earth-Healing, connectedness at high places, the Feminine aspect of the Divine, it all fitted together. This was to be the place.

‘Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.’ Francis of Assisi

I advanced up the side of Mam Tor and was soon at the peak. A few people came and went, and as I sat on a boulder watching them and waiting for a lull in their coming and going, I prayed.

Reaching down I buried the small rock of Rainforest Jasper (about the size of my thumbnail) and simultaneously prayed under my breath, ‘I bury this stone, Rainforest Jasper, for this land: for a deeper connection and harmony with nature and with plants, trees and animals, and with Mother Earth herself. The vibration of happiness and joy for life will flow outwards, throughout all life and carry strong energy for change and positivity to local communities. May all, everything, in this locality, be blessed by That Which Is Bigger Than Us.’

I stood up, silent for several minutes looking at the awesome scenery. Here, some three thousand years ago (and verified by recent archeological finds) Celts lived at the top of Mam Tor. There and in this area are glimpses of Druid activity. And, not for the first time did another Druid stand at the peak of Mam Tor. The wind picked up and it was if I could hear the voices of the Ancients, those Celts who had lived here, Druids who had performed their rituals and others calling out in affirmation.

‘I heard your voice in the wind today
and I turned to see your face;
The warmth of the wind caressed me
as I stood silently in place.’ Author unknown

And so, I slowly picked my way down Mam Tor. Although requiring more effort to ascend Mam Tor it took longer to get down as I gingerly placed feet in foot holds and steps, so as not to tumble. I was in no rush, either. The scenery is wonderful and the whole area radiates with the ‘magic’ of the ages and liminality. Truly, this is a place where many caol áit (a Celtic/Gaelic word, pronounced ‘kweel awtch’ and which means ‘thin places’) exist. [See here for more information about thin places].

I then drove toward where I was lodging,feeling that my adventure for the day was complete. I felt as though what needed to have been done, the Earth Healing ritual, had been accomplished. And, yet those Welsh words that my grandmother would often use when I was a child rang in my ears, ‘Mae mwy’, ‘there is more’.

I drove for about twenty miles, about a days journey for our ancestors, and so still in the area of Mam Tor, and decided to stop and have lunch at a local pub at Birchover. 

The Source of All does have a sense of humour. The local public house (pub) was called ‘The Druid Inn’. And perhaps, not for the first time did another Druid imbibe in that establishment (or area). Though I hasten to add it was primarily the food that had led me to stop there, and any drink was non-alcoholic as I was driving. Nevertheless, the ‘co-incidence’ of the pub’s name hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Birchover, so I found out as I tucked into a steak and ale pie, is situated near a number of features of geologic and historic interest: there are numerous tunnels, several prehistoric and ancient carvings in caves, and a number of stone circles on nearby Stanton Moor.  Such stone circles and carvings was evidence, in many locals’ minds of ancient Druid ritual in the area.

Whoever you go in this part of the world there is mystery, but there’s more. It is everywhere, if we have eyes to see.

‘The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.’ Anais Nin

Truly, we are surrounded by mystery. We all live in the twenty-first century of technology and mechanical time, the hustle and bustle of busy jobs, and dualism that makes little room for meditation and deep spirituality, but take a moment to scratch beneath the surface and the legacy of the Ancients,  Celts of old and Druid’s appear in all its wonderment.

Underneath the carcophany of modern daily life The Source still speaks. The spirituality that we all crave is there, and it is just a heartbeat away. There is no separation, except that we we think. ‘Truly, I am with you, even to the end of the age’, said the Human One.  And it is so. Mysterious, and true. Mysterious, and comforting. (Just) Breathtakingly Mysterious. The Mystery.

 

An Eco Ritual: Healing The Land & A Celebration

20180820 AN ECO RITUAL AT MATLOCK

The following is a brief outline of an ‘eco’ ritual that I am intending to use for one of a series of ‘healing the land’ rituals over the next year or so – this one at the time of the full moon (26 August) near Matlock, England.

We often take the natural environment for granted and many feel separate from it, and yet as year succeeds year, we realise (more so) that we are connected to nature, indeed, we are one with nature. From the largest swirling galaxy, to this planet with its vast blue oceans, to its mighty trees and forests, to wolves and foxes and bears, and buzzing and sometimes annoying insects, to all of creation we, humankind, are one. Visible and invisible, all one.

The moment the angel enters a life it enters an environment. We are ecological from day one. (James Hillman)

I would encourage you to read the article, please, take it to heart, adapt it and try the ritual (physically in your neighbourhood and/or ‘imaginally’ within your house) so that you can participate, periodically, and make a difference, too, to your local area, wherever you are. And remember: intentionality is important.

We are children on the earth: people to whom the outdoors is home. Nothing can separate us from the vigour and vibrancy of this inheritance. (John O’Donohue)

There no right or wrong way of doing this, and in many cases (depending on the area, time, circumstances) you might have to adapt proceedings. Indeed, the most profound rituals are the simplest, so do ‘subtract’ from the following if it feels to ‘weighty’. Nothing, not even ritual, should come between us and awareness of Who Is.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about. (Rumi)

What follows, then, is an outline and is a prompt and encouragement to you to try (unless you have something that suits you better, in which case please email me and share). It may be, especially if the area that I’m drawn to for this ritual is busy, that I might only be able to recite some of the words below, or maybe only use the words in the section headed ‘The Work’ (see below) and then bury the Rainforest Jasper stone. But, that’s okay. Intentionality is important, remember. As much as I like Harry Potter movies for entertainment, this is not a Harry Potter spell and nothing bad will happen to me or you if we get it wrong (but you cant, because there is no right and wrong way of doing this, either).

The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured. It must not be destroyed! (Hildegard of Bingen)

The following, then, is for the first ritual for the healing of the land, but also a celebration of nature and an acknowledge that we are one with nature (and not apart from it) – and for me, the ritual will take place near Matlock.

Notes are in square brackets.

OPENING

Facing East, say:
May there be peace in the East.
Facing South, say:
May there be peace in the South.
Facing West, say:
May there be peace in the West.
Facing North, say:
May there be peace in the North.

Walking in a circle, deosil (clockwise)…[And, walking clockwise is usual to ‘energise’ or empower a circle, and show that things are about to happen as we move into sacred-space and time. Also, I like to trace out or actually mark a circle with a staff (some use a ‘wand’, others point with their index finger on their right hand)].
Say, when at Eastern cardinal point:

I/we acknowledge the East, for the wind that blows from the continent onto this land and distributes the seeds to provide us with food. I bless you, O God, of the East.

Say, when at Southern cardinal point:
I/we acknowledge the South, for the warmth of the sun which gives us a temperate climate and abundance. I bless you, O God, of the South.

Say, when at Western cardinal point:
I/we acknowledge the West, for the great sea which nourishes us and provides us with ecological balance. I bless you, O God, of the West.

Say, when at Northern cardinal point:
I/we acknowledge the North, for the ancient hills and valleys and streams without end, the sure foundation of this this emerald isle. I bless you, O God, of the North.

LAMENT

[It seems appropriate to ‘start where we are’ and acknowledge that humankind is responsible for much of the Earth’s degradation, hence this lament. But, I prefer not to linger here, as I do believe power and energy goes to what we focus on, and our focus is on the positive.]

Say:
I/we have forgotten who we are.
I/we have distanced ourselves from the unfolding of the cosmos.
I/we have become estranged from the flowing of the earth
I/we have separated ourselves from the cycles of life.
And, I am/we are truly sorry.

PURPOSE

Say:
I/we join with the Earth and with each other…
To bring new life to this land
To restore the purity of the waters
To refresh the air for all
To renew the forests
To care for the plants
To protect animals and insects

To revel in the blowing winds
To rejoice in the bright sunlight
To celebrate the turbulent seas
To dance on solid ground
To sing the song of the stars

To recall our destiny
To renew our spirits
To reinvigorate our bodies
To recreate the human community with justice and in peace
To remember the children

I/we join with the earth and with each other.

Yes, I/we join together as many and diverse expressions of one loving mystery: for the healing of the earth and the renewal of all life.

And/or

We live in all things.
All things live in us.
We rejoice in all life.

WORDS OF REMEMBRANCE

[It could be that here, others in your group could each take a line or two to recite those words below or those scattered throughout this article, or you can use one or more of them, if working alone.] Say:

I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. (John O’Donohue)

We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share. (Maya Angelou)

The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature. (Hildegard of Bingen)

Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. (Matthew 6: 28b – 29, The Book)

Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness. (Mary Oliver)

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature. (Joseph Campbell)

Each thing – each stone, blossom, child is held in place. Only we in our arrogance, push out beyond what we belong to…If we surrendered to Earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

The Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth. (Marlee Matlin)

Pick a flower on Earth and you move the farthest star. (Paul Dirac)

THE WORK

[If I have to forgo any other part of the ritual, this seems to me to be the crucial part, and when having recited the following words I then intend to scoop out a small amount of soil and bury a small Rainforest Jasper stone, and…] Say:

‘I bury this stone, Rainforest Jasper, for this land: for a deeper connection and harmony with nature and with plants, trees and animals, and with Mother Earth herself. The vibration of happiness and joy for life will flow outwards, throughout all life and carry strong energy for change and positivity to local communities. May all, everything, in this locality, be blessed by That Which Is Bigger Than Us.’

CLOSING

Walking in a circle widdershins (anti-clockwise)…[And, walking widdershins is usual to ‘dissipate’ energy or ‘close’ a circle, and show that things are now returning to ‘normal physical time-space. Also I like to trace out or actually mark the closing of the circle with a staff (some use a ‘wand’, others point with their index finger on their right hand]
Say, when at Northern cardinal point:
I/we give thanks for the North, for the ancient hills and valleys and streams without end, the sure foundation of this this emerald isle. I bless you, O God, of the North.

Say, when at Western cardinal point:
I/we give thanks for the West, for the great sea which nourishes us and provides us with ecological balance. I bless you, O God, of the West.

Say, when at Southern cardinal point:
I/we give thanks for the South, for the warmth of the sun which gives us a temperate climate and abundance. I bless you, O God, of the South.

Say, when at Eastern cardinal point:
I/we give thanks for the East, for the wind that blows from the continent onto this land and distributes the seeds to provide us with food. I bless you, O God, of the East.

END

[With the end of the ritual, it’s a good time to share food with others, but if you have done this by yourself there is no reason not to consume a snack, and if done in seclusion then it’s best to ‘ground’ yourself, even if that’s a walk around the garden or room, and a drinking a glass of water.]

The greatest forces lie in the region of the uncomprehended.  (George MacDonald)

 

The Caim 3: In Times Of Ecological Distress

20180716 THE CAIM 3 IN TIMES OF ECOLOGICAL DISTRESS

We live in a world where ecological distress occurs, weather patterns are changing, manmade disasters occur and animals are becoming extinct.

Closer to home: For some days fire fighters have been tackling a fire on Wanstead Flats, a large open expanse of land in Redbridge in east (well probably north-east) London. At one point some 220 fire fighters were fighting the ‘scrub’ fire. The weather in the UK, at least for the last three weeks has been unusually hot, very hot and dry, and although the cause of the fire is unknown, the blaze is significant and worrying.

Fire commissioner Dany Cotton said she was ‘praying for rain’ as long-lasting hot weather is creating favourable conditions for wild fires.

Prayer for rain?

What follows is a simple Caim ritual for an individual, but a ritual, nevertheless, full of power, with an ecological ‘challenge’ in mind that you might consider using (and adapting to suit your requirements, concerns). The Caim, as previously mentioned, is a ‘circling’ ritual and the circle was/is very much part of the daily life and ritual of ancient and latter-day Celts, Druids, Christians and others. This Caim is a ritual for rain for Wanstead Flats in London, but can be adapted for use by you, elsewhere.

As I stand in a candle-lit the room, I quieten my mind.

After a few minutes, I take the staff I brought from the Isle of Iona, and use it to point to the floor, gently scribing a circle on the carpet.

I start off by facing east and slowly turn 360 degrees, clockwise, to cast the Caim. On this occasion the circle is not visible or marked out by rocks or pebbles but is in my mind’s eye. It is sufficient. At each of the cardinal points I pause, momentarily. Eventually I am facing north, and on this occasion turn to face east once again– the direction of Wanstead Flats from my location.

Ceremonial separation and the casting of the Caim has been achieved.

Previously, I had selected the Merlinite palmstone and put in on the small table within the Caim circle.

There are some who believe that palmstones have inherent power, others that such rocks are alive and posses a soul that can impart power, others hold that each rock has a guardian elemental that can be of use, others that intentionality can invoke or ‘borrow’ power from on High, some advocate that it is (just) a ‘tool’ to be used in a meaningful ritual, and there are others who accept that the ‘jury is out’ and all that matters is that it seems to work. Ritual is important

’We not only nurture our sacred relationships through ritual, but we are nurtured by them as well. In ritual, we move, and we are moved.’ Alison Leigh Lilly

Merlinite, also known as Dendritic Agate is an interesting rock. Many believe it is so-called as it is named after the wizard Merlin (Myrddin Emrys in Wales), and because of the stone’s ability to attract mystical and magical experiences to anyone who wears it.

It is said by some to allows a connective relationship between ourselves our environment. So, the rock is very suited for any working with any environmental issue, and doubly-so as the overriding element for this stone is ‘storm’, and so it is very much associated with rain

And, so I picked up the Merlinite palmstone, and with it in my hand and held it close to my heart. I closed my eyes, and began to visualise, imagine, hold in my mind’s eye a ‘picture’ of the desired outcome: rain, and lots of it pouring from the sky onto Wanstead Flats. I could see it, hear it, almost feel it, as I visualised it. Under my breath I utter the word, ‘rain’. Words are important, too.

’The human voice is the organ of the soul.’ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It is my belief that each one of us has access to untold power and energy, and that so often we are unaware of it. During times such as this, when invoking the power of the Caim, it is good to have in mind the source of such power. To me, I believe such power resides in the Source of All, who give to all ‘prodigally’. Others may have other ideas, but perhaps it is the case that we all see different facets of the One?

I raised my arms, opened them in the direction of Wanstead Flats, and waited for a few minutes.

What we ‘give out’ does ‘come back’, albeit in a different form. And, so having used words of power, invoking a blessing for Wanstead Flats in this Caim, I waited. The blessing does come back, almost instantly.

Feeling drained on energy, I paused. And, under my breath I said, ‘thankyou’ to the Source of All for the Source’s energy, and for the privilege of being a conduit for good.

The power part of the Caim ritual, the ‘standing in the gap’ has been completed.
Having accepted the blessing, I lowered my arms, and used the staff to scribe an imaginal circle on the carpet.

To close the Caim, some may like to reverse the direction they take, and move through the four cardinal points (perhaps, starting facing the east) in an anti-clockwise manner. You can choose the direction that is most fitting for you. Intentionality, after all, is all-important.

And, so I turned, holding the staff, and moving clockwise, I ‘scribed’ an invisible circle on the carpet as if to ‘erase’ the Caim circle formerly scribed.

And, then having closed the Caim, I walked about for the next few minutes as an opportunity to slowly, ceremonially, ‘come back’ to this realm, as an act of grounding.

Grounding, it is said, is the earthing of residual energy to the natural energy field of the earth. If you are not grounded you may feel dizzy, a little ‘spaced out’, or generally feel out of sorts. In any case, it is always a good idea to take a few minutes after any significant spiritual event to, slowly, attune yourself to ‘mundane’ time-space by taking it easy for a few minutes, and then by a taking part in a simple physical action eg walking, deep breathing etc for a minute or so. Grounding completed.

The Caim is versatile, and can be used as a ritual of protection for yourself or others, as a ritual for conferring blessings on others, seeking a remedy for an ecological ‘challenge’, as noted here in a Caim for rain for the ecological ‘distress’ of Wanstead Flats, London, for example. And, it can be used and adapted by you.

Other articles in this series are:  Caim 1: Personal Experience & Caim Essentials [Here], and Caim 2: Variations & Examples [Here].