The Story Of The Blackthorn Tree: A Lesson In Respecting Nature

BLACKTHORN TREE

The grandfather clock ticked loudly in the hallway, and every quarter of an hour there would be a loud thud, and a few seconds later it would chime. The kitchen, a place chosen by my grandmother in all the cottage, was  where she spent most of her time, in her rocking chair, near an open hearth – it’s what country folk in this rugged part of north Wales did.

Now, This is some years back, and I was probably just wee lad of about five years of age.

A storm was raging outside – valley weather can change suddenly and be most severe, and being a young boy I couldn’t help but look out at the window. Rain lashed against the window panes, wind blew the trees about outside, especially the large one at the end of my grandmother’s garden, and thunder and lighting raged across the sky, intermittently. But, I was fairly warm and comfortable – as snug as a bug in a rug.

‘What type of tree is that, at the end of your garden?’, I asked my grandmother, still looking intently out of the window.

‘If you come here’, she said, ‘I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell you a little story about it, too’, she replied. My grandmother was a prolific story-teller, a seanchai, and everyone in the family loved her deep and profound stories.

I could never resist a good story, either, and still can’t, and so I stopped peering out of the window, ambled to the foot of her rocking chair, and sat on the floor – the floor consisted of paving stones in the kitchen, but warmed by the heat from the open fire. I was even more comfortably warm, in complete contrast to the coolness near the window and the storm outside.

She said, ‘In nature, everything is in equilibrium, in balance. Sometimes the weather is sunny and dry; sometimes it is cold and thundery, like now. Everything balances out.

In nature everything should be respected, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because life on this planet depends on it, even you and I. And that tree, the one you asked about, is a noble blackthorn tree.

Now the blackthorn tree is a canny tree. It produces lovely flowers and awesome berries, that I sometimes boil, but it demands respect, and you never want to touch it carelessly. It has two inch long spikey protrusions on it, like needles. Some of the farmers here use them as cattle-proof hedges.’

She moved her head closer to me, momentarily, and in a hushed voice, asked, ‘Would you like to know a secret story about the blackthorn tree’. She knew I couldn’t resist a good story, and so I nodded eagerly, and as the hallway clock juddered and chimed once more, she continued.

‘There was once a farmer, who really didn’t care about the land he farmed. He was just in it for the money, and he was never satisfied. He was always looking for ways to get more and more out of the land, to get richer and richer. He noticed that in the middle of his field stood a lonely, but very large blackthorn tree. It had been there since before he was born. It was a noble, majestic specimen, and a very fine and proud tree, too.

The locals used to believe that the Lunantisidhe, moon-fae, used to live in blackthorn trees or used to live nearby them and looked after them. They are good creatures, but it would never do to upset them. Also, some people believe that the Cailleach, that old crone that you’ve probably heard outside on occasions, carries a staff made of a blackthorn branch. – and with it she can summon up a storm. Perhaps , like the one outside?’.

I quickly looked toward the widow and back. It’s true I had heard the Cailleach several times, but also remembered that my grandmother always said that there was nothing to fear from her, if you gave her due respect.

My grandmother continued, ‘That money-mad farmer was insistent that that blackthorn tree had to be felled, and that would give him more land to farm, more crops, and more money. He asked for help, but not one of the locals would help him chop the tree down. They knew the farmer didn’t really respect the land, was besotted with money, and they knew the myth of the blackthorn tree and the very protective Lunantisidhe, or moon-fae.

The farmer grew angry with them, and the next morning, as the sun came up, he took an axe to the tree. It took him hours and hours, and as his axe cut into the tree, so it looked like blood was coming out of the blackthorn tree. Certainly, the farmer’s arm was bloodied, as some of the long thorns from the tree scratched and dug into his arm.

Once the tree was felled, the greedy farmer stood back, sweating and with sore, aching muscles cursed the tree for the work it had caused him.

He turned around. His jaw dropped and his heart raced. His farm house was ablaze. And being made of wood and with a thatched roof there was no way of saving it. His house was completely destroyed. And, as the timber burnt and cracked, and crackled, and flames leapt into the air, in the breeze whispers could be heard to those that had ears to hear. It was the angry voices of the Lunantisidhe who had sought revenge, by balancing nature. The tree had lost its life at the hands of the greedy farmer; the farmer had lost his home. All because he did not respect nature, the blackthorn tree or the Lunantsidhe.’

She finished the story, and I couldn’t resist going back to the window, to gaze outside at that storm and that noble blackthorn tree standing at the end of her garden. If I listened hard enough would I hear the Lunantisidhe?

Now, I’m much older. But, in that story of myth and magic, and told many years ago, is there a moral there for us as individuals and as a society when it comes to appreciating and protecting nature?

 

Full Moon Ceremony: 7 May, 2020: Your Invitation

full moon may 2020

 

Welcome. The following is an outline of a Full Moon Ceremony online, and you’re invited, and at home during lockdown you can participate and join in the the liturgy, or just let in ‘sink’ deep, from your own home, either ‘live’ or as a recording.

The twenty-five minute video broadcast will appear of my Facebook site (see here), and will still mean you can applaud the NHS workers, if in the UK. at 8pm.

Please check now if you’ve got full access to my Facebook site, and, if so, you’ll see some other videos recorded there. If you don’t see previous video or if you can’t gain full access then press the ‘friends’ link on my Facebook site, I’ll accept as soon as I can, and then try the link again to see if you can gain access then, in readiness for it. If you then can’t get access, or if there’s any ‘challenges’, please email me, at: tadhgtemp@googlemail.com.

I haven’t found a way to put a docx link here to simplify things so you can print out only the Order of the Ceremony – but I’m still working on it. Meanwhile, it maybe best to just print out the following so you can participate, but erase this paragraph and the three above this, before doing so.

 

FULL MOON CEREMONY
Order Of Ceremony 

Thursday, 7 May 2020, at 7.30pm (UK time)
Via Facebook video

GRACE GROVE, LONDON

 

For this ceremony you may need:

• A candle
• Safety matches

 

A CEREMONY FOR THE FULL MOON
Asaph Rite

Intention And Preface
Today our intention is to celebrate the Full Moon and the One Behind It All.
Lauded in many places, the Moon is personified by many. In Wales many know her in as Arianrhod (ah-ree-AHN-rhohd), meaning ‘silver wheel’. And so, to the ancient Celts and Druids, and latter-dy ones, too, she is known as the Silver Wheel that descends into the sea.

The time of the Full Moon can deeply affect us, revealing what was once buried and hidden on a personal and community level. It is a time of self-reflection.

Symbolically, as the Full Moon hangs in the darkened sky it has a way of revealing what is true and what isn’t, what is necessary and what isn’t, and in that there is release; an opportunity for our potential to manifest itself.

Our ancestors were much more in-tune with the night sky, and the cycles of the natural world, and would observe the moon and its phases, using them for practical purposes; for marking the days; for farming; to note the seasons; and for sacred ceremonies, rituals and celebrations.

This Full moon, in May, is known by some as the Milk Moon, or Planting Moon, and others know it as the Bright Moon, or Flower Moon.

Through tonight’s Full Moon Ceremony you will able to reconnect with the natural rhythm of the world which is present in everything, and to re-connect with deep wisdom and guidance in celebrating this Full Moon and the One Behind It All.

And so, come, participate, and join in the endless dance between the Earth and the Moon as we welcome the Bright Moon.

 
See yonder fire! It is the moon,
slowly rising o’er the eastern hill.
It glimmers on the forest tips,
and through the dewy foliage drips
in little rivulets of light,
and makes the heart in love with night.
(Henry Wordsworth Longfellow)

 
Light the Full Moon candle

On Rising
The Source of All is Spirit, and those who worship the Source of All must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24, The Book, paraphrase)

Calling The Quarters
Calling the Quarters, as we turn in sequence to face the four cardinal compass points, helps us to become fully present so we can deeply connect to the world around us, and create safe and sacred space for us all.

Facing East
Guardian of the East, Oh Ancient One of the air,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the wind.

All:
We welcome you.

Facing South
Guardian of the South, Oh Ancient One of the fire,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the flame

All:
We welcome you.

Facing West
Guardian of the West, Oh Ancient One of the waters,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the tides.

All:
We welcome you.

Facing North
Guardian of the North, Oh Ancient One of the earth,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the land.

All:
We welcome you

From the centre, perhaps adopting the orans posture
Guardian of all, Oh Ancient of Days,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with your power.

All:
We welcome you

.
Call For Peace
The call for peace is an affirmation that there is peace amongst us, now; and that peace is offered to the world though not all embrace this, today, but one day will do so.

Is there peace in the East?
All: There is peace in the East.

Is there peace in the South?
All: There is peace in the South.

Is there peace in the West?
All: There is peace in the West.

Is there peace in the North?
All: There is peace in the North.

Throughout the entire land there is peace.

 

The Ancestors Present
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance… and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… (Hebrews 12:1 pt, The Book)

 
Praise And Gratitude
All/Some of the following praises may be used:

Praise be you, though all your creatures,
through Brother Sun,
through Sister Moon and the stars,
through Brother Wind,
through Sister Water
through Brother Fire,
through Sister Mother Earth.
(Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun, excerpt/adapted)
Give thanks to the Maker of the heavenly lights—
The Maker’s faithful love endures forever.

 

The sun to rule the day,
The Maker’s faithful love endures forever.

And the moon and stars to rule the night.
The Maker’s faithful love endures forever.
(Psalm 136:7-9, The Book, paraphrase)

 

Acknowledging Regret
All/Some of the following may be used:

Creator of All, we have taken the natural world for granted,
and we have misused its resources and spoilt its beauty.
We have not fulfilled the great calling to be good stewards of the earth,
and its bounty we have distributed unequally and unfairly.

All: For this we are truly sorry.

Giver of life,
we acknowledge polluted air, and we groan with creation.
All: We regret.

Giver of Life,
we acknowledge rising global temperatures, and we groan with creation.
All: We regret.

Giver of Life,
we acknowledge poisoned water, and we groan with creation.
All: We regret.

Giver of life,
We acknowledge a plundered earth, and we groan with creation.
All: We regret.
Thanksgiving

Web-maker, Maker and Sustainer of the web of life,
who hears the voice of your children:
We thank you that in days of darkness, you sent light,
in the time of silence, a baby’s cry was heard,
and when we felt lost, you came to us,
for you did not leave us as orphans,
but, you are with us now.
We thank you.

The Work: A Story
The Silver Wheel, the Full Moon moves higher in the sky, and for our ancestors it would have been a miracle, and comforting to see the moon, regular and passing through its phases, and they would have told stories about it. Different cultures, in different countries, at different times would have told profound stories, stories containing deep wisdom or perhaps humour. Here is one story…

Take a few minutes to tell a relevant Moon story.

 

Various Prayers of Request
Some of the following prayers may be used:

Sustainer of the Earth and everything that is,
we bring our earnest requests to you for the plight of nature.

We think of Africa and its special needs, of human, animal and the environment.
We think of Antarctica and it special needs, of human, animal and the environment.
We think of Asia and its special needs, of human, animal and the environment.
We think of Australasia and ocean nations, and there special needs, of human, animal and the environment.
We think of Europe and it special needs, of human, animal and the environment.
We think of the Americas and there special needs, of human, animal and the environment.

 

We see continents and division, but the Moon looks down and sees but one planet.
May the Universe and the One Behind it all, hear our request.

Earth teach us freedom
as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach us regeneration
as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach us to forget ourselves
as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach us to remember kindness
as dry fields weep with rain.
(Ute prayer, adapted)

Creator of All, grant us the wisdom to care for the earth and till it.
Help us to act now for the good of future generations and all your creatures.
Help us to become instruments of a new creation,
Founded on the covenant of your love.
(The Cry of the Earth, adapted).

Relevant Words
Some of the following sentences may be used during the Quiet Time Of Reflection or after:

Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
She befriends.

Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
A blessing.

Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.

And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.
(Tadhg Jonathan)

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou seemest most charming to my sight;
As I gaze upon thee in the sky so high,
A tear of joy does moisten mine eye.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the Esquimau/Eskimo in the night;
For thou lettest him see to harpoon the fish,
And with them he makes a dainty dish.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the farmer in the night,
and makes his heart beat high with delight
As he views his crops by the light in the night.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the eagle in the night,
And lettest him see to devour his prey
And carry it to his nest away.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the mariner in the night
As he paces the deck alone,
Thinking of his dear friends at home.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the weary traveller in the night;
For thou lightest up the wayside around
To him when he is homeward bound.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the lovers in the night
As they walk through the shady groves alone,
Making love to each other before they go home.
(William Topaz McGonagall)

Once upon a time I heard
That the flying moon was a Phoenix bird;
Thus she sails through windy skies,
Thus in the willow’s arms she lies;
Turn to the East or turn to the West
In many trees she makes her nest.
When she’s but a pearly thread
Look among birch leaves overhead;
When she dies in yellow smoke
Look in a thunder-smitten oak;
But (in May/now) when the moon is full,
Bright as water and white as wool,
Look for her where she loves to be,
Asleep in a high magnolia tree.
(Elinor Wylie)

Dreaming serenely up the sky
Until exultantly on high,
It shimmers with superb delight,
The silver navel of the night.
We are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side.
(Kahlil Gibran)

The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.
(Ming-Dao Deng)

I love to think that animals and humans and plants and fishes and trees and stars and the moon are all connected.
(Gloria Vanderbilt)

Always remember we are under the same sky, looking at the same moon. (Maxine Lee)

The moon, full-orbed, forsakes her watery cave,
and lifts her lovely head above the wave;
The snowy splendours of her modest ray
stream o’er the glistening waves, and quivering play;
Around her, glittering on the heaven’s arched brow,
unnumbered stars, enclosed in azure, glow,
thick as the dew-drops of the April dawn,
or May-flowers crowding o’er the daisy lawn;
The canvas whitens in the silvery beam,
and with a mild pale-red the pendants gleam;
The masts’ tall shadows tremble o’er the deep;
The peaceful winds a holy silence keep;
The watchman’s carol, echoed from the prows,
alone, at times, awakes the still repose.
(Willam Julius Mickle)

 

Commitment
Warm-winged Spirit, brooding over creation,
rushing wind and fire,
we commit ourselves to work with you
and renew the world.
(GreenAnglicans, part, adapted)
Source of all our being
and the goal of all our longing,
we believe and trust in you.
The whole earth is alive with your glory,
And all that has life is sustained by you.
We commit ourselves to cherish the your world
And to follow your ways.
(GreenAnglicans, adapted)

Closing The Quarters
Facing East
Guardian of the East, Oh Ancient One of the air,
we thank you for your presence with us today.

All:
We thank you.

Facing South
Guardian of the South, Oh Ancient One of the fire,
we thank you for your presence with us today.

All:
We thank you.

Facing West
Guardian of the West, Oh Ancient One of the waters,
we thank you for your presence with us today.

All: We thank you.

Facing North
Guardian of the North, Oh Ancient One of the earth,
we thank you for your presence with us today..

All:
We thank you.

From the centre, perhaps adopting the orans posture
Guardian of all, Oh Ancient of Days,
we thank you for your presence with us today..


All:
We thank you.

 

Final Blessings
One of the final blessings may be used:

May the beautiful full moon
light up your face,
light up your heart,
and light up you soul.

And may the One Behind It All,
whose image is etched upon the moon,
smile kindly upon you and those whom you love

Extinguish the Full Moon candle

 

[Note: The moon photo, above, is copyrighted by Pennie Ley, and used with kind permission. Gratitude to Pennie [Link]]

 

Copyright © 2020 Tadhg Jonathan Gardner (https://tadhgtalks.me)

The Caim Ritual: When Healing Is Needed: Coronavirus

THE CAIM CORONAVIRUS ACTION

Many are sick. The virus is spreading. Here is something you might consider doing. Ritual! Or, more specifically a caim ritual adapted to the need of the moment.

We are all aware of the coronavirus and the effect is it having. A few have written to me and asked for a simple ritual that can be conducted, in requesting a healing of people and the planet. The following ritual was conducted by me a few days ago, and you might like to use it in your ritual, quiet time or meditation time as a one-off or periodically. Do adapt it, as needed.

Introduction To The Caim: What Is It?

The caim is a profound ‘circling’ prayer used by ancient Celts and others over several millennia. It is still used by the discerning and those who know its power. The word caim is gaelic, and it has to do with ‘protection’ or ‘sanctuary’; it is derived from the root word meaning ‘circle’, to bend, or turn, and this becomes apparent when you start forming the caim. It is pronounced like the word ‘came’.

The rudiments of forming a caim are known to us, but much detail was not recorded or has been lost in the mists of time, but I like to think it was the former, and that those who used the caim of old, didn’t want to legislate the minutiae of what should be done.

The caim can be adapted, and has been adapted for the healing ritual that follows.

The Caim For World Healing In The Light Of The Coronavirus

You might like to use the following caim, either with your grove, church or group, or by yourself. It is a simple ritual that should take no more that ten minutes or so, and can be a stand-alone ritual or incorporated in a larger ritual you might have. It was used by me and a small group a few days ago.

The Caim Ritual 1: Preparation

It is preferable to have a time of entering into sacred space, and there are many ways of doing this – some have been mentioned in previous articles, but sitting quietly, meditating, perhaps lighting a candle is the simplest way. It marks an entering into liminal and sacred space and time – a place of power.

The Caim Ritual 2: The Threefold Prayer

On the central table lay a map of the world. Those present, as we all looked at the map, focussed on the plight of people affected by the coronavirus and its spread.

As the group remained seated, at a pre-arranged time designated people stood, moved nearer the table, to the space around it, and, one by one, spoke the following:

‘Let us think about all those at risk of catching the coronavirus, the general public and public service workers, that the virus may be eradicated’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

And, then:

‘Let pray and send good-thoughts to those who are have the coronavirus, that they may be quickly restored to full health’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

And, then:

‘Let us remember those who have passed-on, those now in the Place of Peace, acknowledging and honouring their passing-on, and let us remember those grieving at this time’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

The Caim 3: The Quarters

And, then I then moved to central table.

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face south, the place of fire. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the south, and seek the healing purity of fire at this time’. And, all faced south and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

After, a minute or so I encouraged everyone to stand.

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face west, the place of water. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the west, and seek the healing freshness of water at this time’. And, all faced west and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

And, then:

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face north, the place of earth/soil. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the north, and seek the healing abundance of the soil at this time’. And, all faced north and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

And, then:

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face east, the place of the wind. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the east, and seek the healing breath of the mighty wind of (the) Spirit’. And, all faced east and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

In facing the cardinal points I started with facing south. This ensured we ended up facing east, the place of the wind, especially pertinent bearing in mind the quote below (though you can vary the cardinal start point).

The words of ‘peace’ and ‘healing’ are intertwined. In the spiritual realm to seek or ask for peace is to seek healing; to seek or ask for healing is to ask for peace. Either word can be used. Or, you can use both.

The raising of ones hands, healing hands, is symbolic of sending a blessing and/or healing, and could be viewed as an enacted parable (something which the sages or prophets of old, as recorded in ancient sacred text, did). I like to think of each person being a conduit – receiving power from Beyond and disseminating it through their hands to the world (rather like the thought behind the powerful and meaningful dance of the whirling dervishes).

‘The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.’ John 3:8b, The Book (Contemporary English Version)

And, then:

And then, facing inward, facing the table as all raised their hands, I put a pebble of Larimar on the world map on the table, and said, ‘Great Spirit of All, heal the world of this virus’. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

Optionally. As we lifted hands this time, I asked that, those who wished to, to imagine a golden light moving from this place and encompassing the world – this is the healing light of the Spirit reaching all.

Now, Larimar is a special stone, known by some to have healing properties, and to associated with the elements of water and fire – both necessary for healing, both relevant to this ritual. The placing of the Larimar stone on the map is symbolic, so you can substitute something else for it. Other stones that you might use, instead, are agate, jade or quartz – or perhaps, something symbolic of healing and wellness such as soap or a tissue or even a vitamin tablet. This is not to belittle the ritual, but rather to work out a physical action of an inner and spiritual request, and place it on the world map. Or, you could write the word ‘healing’ on a piece of paper, and place it on the world map. Ultimately, it is intentionality and powerful symbolism that is important.

The Caim 4: Conclusion

We sat in silence for a while and ended the ritual, except that we were reminded that in all rituals, physical action follows. So, all were reminded to be vigilant and follow health officials’ suggestions of catching sneezes in tissues and binning the tissues, of not touching your face, and of handwashing with soap thoroughly at regular intervals. The ritual is in addition to the usual hygiene needed to ward off the coronavirus, and isn’t a substitute.

We concluded the ritual by grounding/earthing ourselves – that is I extinguished the candle; and all clapped, a physical action to denote a moving from liminal and sacred space and time to ‘ordinary time’ (as if there really is such a thing) and an action which many believe raises the power.

 

Celebrating Alban Eiler: Spring Equinox [Ephemera]

CELEBRATING ALBAN EILER

It’s spring, and the time of being half way through the season is fast approaching.

Yes, the Spring equinox (at least in the northern hemisphere) edges closer and closer, and this year falls on Friday, 20 March 2020. It’s a time of rejoicing as new energy is poured out and life in its fullness grows. Is it any wonder that the church in centuries gone by ‘overlaid’ Easter at this time of year – Easter Sunday, this year, being 12 April.

Blessed are you, Boundary- Crosser,
for breaking through the hard surfaces,
for coming in the quiet like the birdsong,
on the edge of night and day.

I wake into this day with you.
or
I lie down to sleep resting in you.

(Tess Ward, ‘The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

The stars in the sky mark the seasonal boundaries, and as the sun traverses the sky in a great circle throughout the year, it crosses boundaries, and ushers in, not just a new season, but new thought and vitality. Who doesn’t feel  (generally) more energised waking up on a March morning than, say, compared to  a December morning.

’Spring adds new life, and new beauty to all that is.’ (Jessica Harrelson)

Many groups will celebrate the event by nominating a spring maiden with a basket of flowers or eggs, or both. The eggs representing new life, and the fertility of the Earth and creation. Days are getting longer, the weather is warming up a little, and the seeds of winter can now shoot forth. It’s getting lighter!

In Wales, and to many others, the deep name of the Spring equinox is Alban Eilir, which means ‘The Light of the Earth’, as light and life take precedence. Not just animal life or plant life, but all life as many ancients, and Celts and Druids and others today. see life in all living things, from rocks and stones, to rivers and springs, plants and trees – all life is sacred.

’I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ (Luke 19.40, The Book)

The ancient Celts and others, even today (myself included) believed that the physical, spiritual and mental levels were intertwined, connected in perfect balance. And the Spring equinox (equinox meaning equal night) is the time of year when the days, in getting longer and longer, are equal in length to the night just for that one point in time (until later on in the year). After that,spring days are longer than the night, until midsummer.

So, do celebrate it. I know of few people that will celebrate it on the evening of Wednesday, 20 March as the ancients started their new days on the preceding evening, and a few groups/groves etc) will be celebrating it on the following Sunday.

‘The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also’. (Harriet Ann Jacobs)

With celebration in mind, below is a song (penned by me some time ago), and set to an old, memorable, Irish/Celtic tune. The words can be recited and used by you as a celebratory poem or spoken as liturgy, but if you use the words as a song it can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’, (click here for the tune – in that recording there is a musical preamble and the actual tune, which ‘fit’ the words below, starts at about fifteen seconds into the recording). It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will you celebrate Alban Eiler? I haven’t decided yet, but I may go for a long country walk and experience the elements – the wind and rain, sunshine, and rocky terrain. Or, go somewhere with a friend of two and experience ‘dragon energy’, those liminal places where we feel closer to the Other. Maybe have breakfast with them in a rural spot (but if you aren’t able to leave an urban environment you can still go for an early town or city walk, meet friends in the park and have breakfast in a local café.) I might make  small shrine of spring flowers – buying them rather than picking them (which may be illegal in many areas). Or, maybe I’ll sit quietly near a large, old and wise tree and meditate. I’ll let you know. But, I do intend to come back to the theme of the Spring equinox as we still have some time to explore its significance to us today.

[Note: The header photo is of one of the guardians of the Forest – one of a number of dramatic sculptures placed in Thetford Forest, which straddles the north of Suffolk and the southern park of Norfolk, in the UK. They are designed to promote understanding about the need to protect our woodlands and forests, and nature in general. Designed by Tom Piper MBE, and  sculptured by Lisa Wright, I visited these awesome sculptures last year, and they remain in place until the end of May 2020. See here for more details.]

Ooops! Apologies for having the equinox date wrong. Now corrected, Tadhg

The Heroes Journey For You & I: Return To Innocence

THE HEROES JOURNEY RETURN TO INNOCENCE

Many will know that I love to return to the wilderness, and especially to the wilds of north Wales periodically.

What is it that calls out to me?

One can only be in awe of the grandeur of the Welsh landscape, the rugged environment, the grey-green of the slate-grass, the heaven-ascending mountains, fresh valley streams, and wet, ragged sheep ambling this way and that, near Capel Curig. The call of the ancients still echoes on the mountains and in the valleys, here, and I must respond.

We are all on a journey , a heroes journey, and sometimes to advance on that twisting, unpredictable adventure of life we need to retrace our steps. We need to revisit those places of the past, and perhaps see them anew for the first time. Like a pole vaulter preparing for the high jump, he or she needs to pace backwards before starting the fast run to propel them over the bar.

‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’ John Muir

I’m back. I’m back at Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’), two trees in a forest clearing named by my friends and I when we were wee lads and lasses, and we imagined the two arched-together silver birch trees was a doorway to another place. And, those Welsh words aptly mean ‘door to another world’.

Such is the imagination of children.

Back in this place it seems to me that there is a circularity to each of our lives. As I look at those two leaning-together trees, forming an arched ‘door’, there is a remembrance that is unchanging, and yet something has changed.  We can return to the beginning and learn, partly because our  circumstances may have changed, partly because the world has changed, and partly because we have changed. Same places, new discoveries awaiting.  As I look at those two trees, they seem much, much smaller. It’s me. I’ve grown physically bigger.

‘The stuff of our lives doesn’t change. It’s we who change in relation to it.’ Molly Vass

Physically bigger and stronger than I was when I first encountered these trees as a child, there is deep down an ‘electric’ energy that seems to speak inwardly, now. Inaudibly I hear the words,  ‘Wait, for there is now more for you to know’. Doesn’t that apply to all of us? I  believe so. There is more, and if we pause in our busy schedules knowledge and wisdom will be revealed. Even in the mundane, places that we visit infrequently, places that we visit on a daily basis, in rural areas and in cities, the Voice speaks constantly, and if we still ourselves we will hear the Bat Kohl (the Daughter’s voice), the voice of the Source of All.

If, as a young lad, I believed that these two trees was a door to another realm, at least in my imagination, I don’t think I was far wrong. Now I have a greater understanding and more words to describe it. Now, I can comprehend deeper things, and yet know we all stand on the horizon of expectation and greater wisdom,  and are moving forward.

There are ‘doors’ set before each one of us – doors of opportunity that we might walk through easily, say, at work; doors of relationship and commitment that might take some work; doors of adventure, always. And, other ‘doors’ that present themselves in a myriad of forms, and at odd, awkward or unexpected times that are of a different. Drws i fyd arall is such a door. They are ‘doors’ which enter our daily life and take our breath away or speak deeply to us of that which is Beyond. Each encounter, each liminal or threshold experience is different, but you will recognise it as something deep and spiritual when it happens. The Causer of Deep Things will ensure you notice the encounter.

‘What you seek is seeking you.’ Rumi

It might require some effort to put ourselves in the way of such adventures,  if we feel the need. But, if the Source of All wants an encounter, then it will happen. The event’s production and occurrence isn’t up to us, thankfully. However, I do believe it is important to draw to one side, and that may mean pausing, or meditation in a forest or our even in living room, to pray in a group or singly, to recite some liturgy or perform a ritual so that we are attentive and accepting of them when they occur. Such activities are not for the benefit of the Source of All, nor to appease the Source (and why ever would we feel the need to do that?). No, pausing, meditation, prayer, liturgy and ritual are for our benefit.

Those two trees, Drws I fyd arall are in front of me, and as I sit on a felled log, I half-close my eyes and listen, inwardly. The forest sounds seem to ‘retract’ into the distance, and even though I can still feel the damp air on my skin it means less to me that it did. And, I wait. And listen. And wait.

’Every particle of creation sings its own song of what is and what is not. Hearing what is can make you wise; hearing what is not can drive you mad.’ Ghalib

I can feel damp, dead leaves under my feet. The life of trees is circular. Leaves grow to catch sunlight for photosynthesis, and are discarded when the sun is low in the sky and the temperature  drops. Leaves then become an incumbrance to the tree. But, in shedding them, much needed nutrients are released by them into the soil as they rot, and are collected by the tree’s roots, and the tree benefits in other ways. And, the following spring, trees adorn themselves with leaves once more. The perfect economy of nature.

Behind me, I can hear the soporific sound of a babbling brook. I’d stepped across it an hour ago – and at this point in the forest it is less than one foot deep and not more than three feet wide.  It’s quite fast for it’s size, and it meanders through the forest without a care in the world – except to be a babbling brook, to flow, and to do what a babbling brook does. And, it moves exquisitely along its course.

’How can you follow the course of your life if you do not let it flow?’ Lao Tzu

And, as I relaxed and bask in the forest around me, high above I could hear birdsong. Sitting in the trees, I could pick  our several birds by their unique birdsong. It was beautiful.

Resting high above me, they sang songs of joy. ‘Our hearts are just small birds waiting’, wrote mark Nepo.

An hour later, I was back home. But, I just had to sit quietly and ‘unpack’ the encounter. Some encounters can take your breath away, metaphorically or physically knock you off your feet. Others are more subdued in effect, but nonetheless real. Do not let ego, or other people’s ego inform you that the subdued kind of encounter is of a lesser quality than theirs or of any other kind. An encounter, is an encounter, is an encounter.

What was the commonality between those three experiences of damp leaves, a babbling brook, and birds and birdsong? It may vary from person to person, and it may be that you have your own ideas. And, ofcourse, it could be that you are experiencing an encounter now in reading this, in which case do meditate deeply on the ‘message’ from Beyond, for you! Who is to say that in reading this you are not encountering?

For me, the ‘message’ was that trees do what trees do and there is a (circular) purpose to it; brooks do what brooks do and enjoy their meandering course through the forest, almost oblivious to everything else; and the birds in those ancient trees burst into joyful birdsong and are scattered, they fly away, when something ‘big’ takes place – a noise, a nearby predator etc. They wait until an opportune time.

Everything flows.

Everything has its place. Everything, including you and I have our place in the great cosmic dance of life, which is unending – it changes in many ways (just as we grow in stature etc), it is transformed, it moves (in unexpected ways), and it flows, and it is unending.

And now for the application. It is necessary to earth such experiences. A good, in-depth and internal experience, however meaningful, will stay there unless it is earthed, grounded, and worked out in our daily life.

How do I apply that encounter and the ‘message’ to my daily life? Major decisions lay ahead for me. It might sound too easy to say I will emulate the tree and shed what is unnecessary – but isn’t that the lesson here for me?. I believe so. We do need a periodic ‘spring clean’ to offload what is holding us back. What was good and beneficial then, might be a ‘boulder on our back’ slowing us down, now. Decisions need to be made – tough choices. And, doubts will creep in. That’s part of what it means to be human. We have the ability to reflect and be objective. And the greater the decision, perhaps, the greater the doubts. And, the greater the reward. Do not lose heart.

But, don’t be perturbed as if you are being singled out – and it probably will feel like it – but it’s common to all humanity especially when we face major challenges ahead. But,  I need to offload some things and travel lighter. The brook meanders this way and that way effortlessly. Perhaps, there are times when no resistance is needed. The concept of wu wei wu (Chinese words, pronounced ‘woo way woo’) is ‘action-no-action’, a free -flowing spontaneity, that is, that sometimes the best way forward is acceptance.

…The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going’. John 3.8b, The Book.

 I need to accept more of what is coming (but that’s not to say we cannot and shouldn’t make course corrections along the way – that too is part of our humanity). And, those chirping birds that rest in high and ancient trees, and then fly. I need, having rested, to trust in flight (more), and be borne on the high winds, to have faith, to travel to diverse encounters, adventures and happenings.

Don’t be afraid to be weak.
Don’t be too proud to be strong.
Just look into your heart my friend.
That will be the return to yourself.
The return to innocence.

(Song by Enigma)

And now, to action! ‘Allons-y’, as the French say. ‘Let’s go!’.

Celebrating Spring: Imbolc / Candlmas: Ephemera

imbolc snowdrop-4026893_960_720

It’s nearly that time. Half way between the Winter solstice and the Spring Equinox is the beginning of spring. It’s called Imbolc, or Candlemas by many Churches.

And, so the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonderful, major festival is almost upon us. It’s time to celebrate in large ways and small, in groups and by yourself.

It’s intentionality that’s important, so I would encourage you to do something this Imbolc, and to enjoy it, to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Friend.

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

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

About Brigid

Brigid, so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget, and rightly remembered and revered. To some she is a Goddess of healing, poetry, of fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. To others, a saint. What matters is that she is remembered. It is awesome that such a person can unite us in deep spirituality, if we let that deep spirituality take hold.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and wells; she is the patroness of sweet water. Water is the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire 9a symbol denoting Brigid), are the instruments of the forge. Brigid is the goddess of the forge and smith craft. Heat and fire tempered by water. Perfect balance.

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

Symbols of Brigid

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

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

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

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

If you’re interested in making a St Brigid’s cross, do click here.

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

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

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

Blackberry. Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.
Ginger. Ginger revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayers for Imbolc & Brigid

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

(Tess Ward, Celtic Wheel of the Year 2007)

And

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

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

And

For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For lengthening days
And sunlight’s warmth upon the soil
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For a snowdrop’s beauty
Reflecting its Creator’s artistry
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. A link to his page here.

And, so this Imbolc or Candlemas my encouragement is for you to celebrate it and give thanks to the Source of All. If you want ideas about celebration meals to mark the festival please see here.

Meanwhile, the Green blessings of the season be you and those whom you love. Tadhg.

 

 

Blessing Creation: All Creatures Great And Small

20200116 ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

We live in an interconnected universe, where inanimate touches the animate, immaterial (in spiritual terms) touches matter, and the quality, depth and sacredness of life, to many people, is becoming all the more apparent and precious.

There is a need.

We can learn a lot from each other, and from creation. Those who have (or have had) dogs and cats as companions, will know we can learn a lot from animal-kind, especially.

’But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. In his hand [the Source of All] is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7, 8, 10. The Book

Which of us never climbed a tree when younger and enjoyed it’s ‘company’. Ah, trees!  Yes, we can learn a lot from trees, plants, too. And so, we are all connected to the whole of creation, to enjoy, to journey with and, when necessary, to protect. Yes, we have a responsibility to the environment – the garden in which we have been placed for a time.

Creation-kindness is important.

We can absorb much wisdom from ancient and current ‘tribes’: Celts, Druids, Pagans, ecologically-aware main-stream believers and others. Perhaps one place to start in in our intentionality to step up to the plate, and begin with understanding the needs of the hour and to respond with blessing, liturgy and well-wishes (prayer) etc to and for creation.

‘Blessed are you…Maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired Saint Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you…[Source of All], in all your creatures! Amen.’ The Blessing of Pets at Franciscan Churches. Part/adapted.

Over the next week or so, formulated ceremonies for blessing our companions at the birth or home-bringing, their birthdays, passing-on or for those animals who have passed-on some time ago, remembering them will be penned. There will be rituals and liturgy for them, and for the general environment in which we find ourselves – even in the city there is a need for blessing and well-wishing of flora and fauna for good things. And, then there is the wilder world in need.

Global. Local. Glocal!

But, for now, here are some general blessings and minor liturgy to get us started, that you might use for animal-companions (present or deceased) and for wild flora and fauna present in your local eco-community. As always do adapt the following words to best suit your requirements. The power and efficacy of the words lay in your intentionality and the Source of All who hears and expedites.

For all living beings:

Leader: Whatever living beings there are,
All: Either feeble or strong

Leader: Either long or great…
All: Either seen or which are not seen, and which live far or near,

Leader: Either born or seeking birth,
All: May all creatures be happy minded.

From the Sutta Nipata, 8:145-146. (Buddhist scripture)

And, for dogs (deceased):

With my hand upon his head,
is my benediction said, therefore, and forever.
Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
pretty collars make thee fine,
sugared milk make fat there!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail –
Hands of gentle motion fail
nevermore, to pat thee

Yet be blessed to the height
of all good and all delight
pervious to thy nature.
Only loved beyond that line,
with a love that answer thine,
loving fellow-creature

Elizabeth Barret Browning, from ‘To Flush, My Dog (Deceased)

And, for spiders:

Spider, your threads are well stretched.
Wily hunter, your nets ar well woven.
Spider, you are assured of abundant food.
Forest/nature), be propitious.
May my hunt/life be joyous as spider’s.

Pygmy blessing (adapted)

And, for frogs:

In am moonlit night on a spring day,
the croak of a frog
pierces the whole cosmos and turns into a single family.

Chang Chiu-Chi’en (Zen Buddhist poet)

And, for cats:

Then my best friend
on all the Earth
Sit upon my lap
not to be comforted
but to soothe.

Wizard of the heart,
my cat,
when the world fails,
or the day weighs,
with a wave of the tail
or soulful glance
makes the Universe
shine once more.

Magician, Arlene Gay Levine

And, for trees:

I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.

Though I am silent
There is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.

Woods by Wendell Berry

Specific ceremonies and liturgies will appear over the next few weeks to give thanks, to pray or well-wish for certain ecological needs, or as eco-caims using visualisation to send support to certain areas, as well as ceremonies and liturgies for specific types of animals. flora and fauna blessings in our local community and worldwide.

And, finally:

Blessed be you Tree of Life,
with your roots reaching down to the dark centre of the universe,
your leaves yearning towards the light beyond heaven.
Shelter me with all your creation as I rise up this day.

(alternative last line)
Shelter me with all your creation as I take my rest this night.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

 

Alban Arthan/Winter Solstice: Liturgies & Resources For You

20191216 ALBAN ARTHAN WINTER SOLSTICE LITURGIES AND RESOURCES

Yes, the winter solstice draws ever closer and occurs on Sunday, 22 December. In Welsh Druidic and Celtic tradition the name of this season’s festival is ‘Alban Arthan’, Welsh for ‘Light of Winter’. I love the winter!

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.

(Edith Sitwell)

Below, there  are a couple of resources, liturgies – one more inclusive, and the second, perhaps, more ‘Christian’ (but both, hopefully, can be adapted for your group or personal use). They are liturgies (or, enacted poems) of gratitude to the Winter Solstice-Giver.

‘Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of power they carry.’ Joyce Meyer

I love liturgy. Not only can words cause us to pause and think deeper, but the words of liturgy can have an even more beneficial effect.

Words have power.

With a word all that is visible and invisible was created and is sustained. With a word we make life-long promises to each other. Through the words of liturgy we can be ‘transported’ to, and dwell within the realm of the liminal, that ‘gap’ between Here and the Other, that ‘ thin place’, a place of power and potential, where things happen, and where we can be changed.

‘The magic of words is that they have power to do more than convey meaning; not only do they have the power to make things clear, they make things happen.’ Frederick Buechner

Liturgy can have a greater and more far-reaching positive effect that we can possibly imagine as your thoughts, intentionality and energy affect the web of connectedness. So, use your words wisely, but do use them – and the following resources may be of use to you.

In each case below that ‘starting point’, the way you are facing (and I know individuals and groups have their own preferences and so ‘starting points’ can be changed if you so wish, but the initial ‘starting point’ is used, below, so that the final cardinal point you face is east, the direction of the rising sun. Clever, huh?).

Liturgy #1 For the Winter Solstice Sunrise

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

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

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

Recite, facing east (as the sun rises):
Yea, Source of All, we greet you,
born this happy morning.
Sun of Righteousness, who brings the day and gives light,
and who testifies to birth, new birth and re-birth in our hearts.

I/We welcome you.

You might also like to consider the following

Liturgy #2 For the Winter Solstice Sunrise

For this you will need five Candles (Advent-style with candle-holders or tea lights). The candles can be lit five days before Alban Arthan or Christmas day, or sequentially on the day of the Solstice, that is at one event, sequentially lit.

The following may be recited as the first candle is lit:

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

The following may be recited as the second candle is lit:

All: The light shines in the darkness, still. And the darkness did not comprehend it. We give thanks for the light continues to shine and guides us on the right path as the sun that shines in the noonday, the southern sky. (Based on John 1:5)

The following may be recited as the third candle is lit:

All: You are the light of all that is, and indwell all of creation, so that we, too,  let our light shine. We seek ways to live out that light in our life, in service to all as water flows through the land to the western sea. (Based on Matthew 5:14)

The following may be recited as the fourth candle is lit:

All: There will be no night there, because Your light will illumine us. We praise you for that great promise of light as we stand firm with our feet on the earth, looking to the north. (Based on Revelation 22:5)

The following may be recited as the fifth candle is lit:

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

You might like to personalise the liturgy and add peoples names, or the names of countries or towns or places in need. There is a need for the light of wisdom to be established in the world, to bring up the plight of humankind’s damage to nature and the climate, to ponder injustice etc.

Wishing you and yours the abundant love of The Friend at the time of this wonderful season, Tadhg,

‘Your words become your world.’ Nadeem Kazi

 

Lost In Wonder: Two Tales And An Exercise In Awareness

20191020 LOST IN WONDER TWO TALES AND AN EXERCISE IN AWARENESS

As you know, I love visiting far-flung corners of the UK, and there is nothing I like better than immersing myself in an ancient forest and getting lost – not necessarily geographical lost (though that happens occasionally), but lost in thought and awe, lost in imagination and the labyrinthine depths of the mind, and yes, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

And, yet we all seem to move too fast, and it seems the pace is quickening.

Travelling as I do, usually by car, I enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Therein lies a challenge. When I’m driving, and I promise I don’t ‘dawdle’, but being unfamiliar with the twists and turns of country roads I might drive a little slower. And I assure you it is only a little slower than the regulars who use that stretch of road. But, then I’m in ‘tourist mode’ and I like to imbibe the countryside, the changing colours of the leaves, and see herds of sheep all facing the same direction (and, why do that do that?), or just gaze and the undulating scenery (whilst being attentive to traffic conditions, of course). All this means that I might just travel a tad slower than the regulars who seem intake on tailgating me.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Yes, we  all (or many people, at least) seem to move too fast, and it seems the pace is quickening.

It was a cold, dark, grey, cloudy evening, with the wind howling around the chimney stack and making a ghoul-like noise. In north Wales the winds can be particularly strong and even more so in the valleys, as the mountain sides seem to act like a conduit funnelling strong winds into ‘smaller space’s and making for even stronger winds. But, I’m inside the Cottage, Ty Gwin, and now safe, comfortable and warm, and aged about seven years – and so this happened some time ago.

Earlier that afternoon my grandmother, wrapping herself up in many layers, gave me a wink which meant so me to do similar and join her on a ramble. I liked the mystery of not knowing of where we would be going, and so asking the purpose of the ramble just didn’t occur to me. And had I asked, I think, knowing my grandmother well, the answer would have been alluringly vague or cryptic.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

My grandmother was, then, very mobile, but getting on in years, and that on particular afternoon we seemed to walk and talk for about twenty minutes and then stop, and in silence just sit on a log. That happened several times over the course of the afternoon’s ramble, and then we circled back to the cottage early evening, where I could hear the wind picking up and making those ghoulish noises outside.

‘So, what did you notice on our jaunt this afternoon, little one?, she asked – always with a friendly, somewhat mystical, assuring, twinkle in her eye.

‘Well, when we stopped the first time, I noticed the horses in the nearby farmer’s field, and I heard some tractor noises in the distance, and I saw a bird fly out from a hedge, so it might have been a wren’, I replied.

‘Very good, and more…?, she said.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

‘Well, the second time we stopped, I noticed more mud on my boots so the ground was a bit marshy, and there was a bad smell of fox pooh, so there must have been foxes around somewhere’, I replied.

And without waiting, and being somewhat eager to please,  I went on and added, ‘And the third time we stopped, although I couldn’t see it I heard the sound of a Great tit’.

‘How do you know that’, she asked.

‘Ah’, I promptly replied,’ I remember you telling me that that bird sounded as though it was saying ‘Teacher, teacher’.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

She smiled, winked, and said, ‘Well done. Exactly right. And what did you notice when we were walking?’.

‘I thought about it for a few minutes, and I  said, ‘Not that much. I was trying to keep up with you, not stumble, not get mud in my boots and on my socks, and had to duck several times under branches’.

She smiled an even broader smile, let out a small laugh and said, ‘That’s fine, little one. It’s usually when we stop racing around that we’re more observant, anyway’.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

That was many years ago, but more recently I heard this (anonymous) story: It is said that a man ventured into the most remote part of Africa, and was only accompanied by paid porters. They each carried a machete as  they made their way through the thick undergrowth. Their aim was to keep going at any cost. If a river appeared and several did, they would cross them in the shortest time possible. If there was a hill and there were many, they quickened their pace so as not to waste a minute. But suddenly, and without warning, the porters stopped. The explorer was nonplussed, and very surprised. They had only been walking for a few hours. So he asked them: ‘Why have you stopped? Are you already tired after just a few hours walking?’ Then one of the porters looked at him and explained: ‘No sir, we’re not tired. It’s just that we have been moving so quickly that we have left our soul behind. Now, we have to wait for it to catch up with us again.’

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

We do all seem to move too fast, and it seems the pace is quickening, don’t you think? If you can, my encouragement to you this week, is to ‘gouge out’ some regular time when you can slow down, or even stop and rest even for a short time. I know it’s not easy, but working around work, and busy schedules and other commitments my encouragement to you (and me) it to take (more) time to stop and stare, and to really appreciate our local (rural or city) environment, and truly appreciate the life around us and within, and the opportunities we have to be in awe of nature and the Source of All.

 

(All indented phrases above are from the poem ‘Leisure’ by the Welsh poet W H Davies. The ‘Guardian of the Forest’ sculpture, in the header photograph, is one of about ten sculptures situated in Thetford Forest UK from October 2019 for the next few months).

 

The Peace Of Wild Things: An Encounter In Thetford Forest

20191013 THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS AN ENCOUNTER THETFORD FOREST

I’m in the depths of Thetford Forest. Some distance behind me is the hustle and bustle of a myriad of people near the visitors centre, using the café, experiencing zip lining or bbq’ing. But for those willing to venture away from the ‘near wild’, the voices in the forest call out.

 ’Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth… they preach… the ancient law of life’

As I pick my way through the damp forest – yes, although the rain is light it has been, and still is relentless – I am surrounded by wonderfully tall, sky-hugging lowland pine trees, some less than two feet apart from its neighbours. The sun is still high in the sky, but it’s shrouded by the trees, and so I’m walking in a twilight state, and so am being careful with face-high branches and twigs as I weave left and right.

The going isn’t that easy. The mud sucks ones boots down and makes walking laborious, and moss, like a green carpet, underfoot and dead, wet leaves give an alternative challenge, that of accelerated locomotion just when you didn’t expect it. Sometimes, my ambling though dense forest alternates between ‘clod-hopping’ and sliding all over the place. Not a pretty sight, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought. I am life from eternal life’

The forest is alive. Even in mid-October animals scurry this way and that in the undergrowth, birds fly overhead, and there’s that wonderful pine, tree, somewhat dank undergrowth smell that is fascinating, distinctive and refreshing. I can’t resist but to frequently, look around, inhale deeply, and find some excuse to sit on a fallen tree. Yes, I know it’s wet, but I’m ‘armed’ and wearing a waterproof kagoule and waterproof trousers. It’s bliss. There is no such thing as bad weather: just inappropriate clothing.

And there, standing in the distance, obscured by undergrowth until I move closer, is Venus. The artist will tell you that this is a human-height sculpture placed in the forest to show off the skills of human ingenuity. The ecologist would encourage you to note the sculptures  ‘skin’ of forest colours, to denote life, and in this case to promote the idea of nature-appreciation, reforestation and more. But there’s more.

The forest is alive. And just as a bird might make a nest, a beaver make a dam, and a Fox make a lair, and  we would call it natural, so too, these sculptures evoke a deep spirituality that is, perhaps, natural for humankind. And so, it is fantastic to see the first sculpture of about ten.

It is almost as if the forest is pressing in to get a closer look at what humankind has done here, and it is a acceptable. Surrounded by elementals, dryads, some would say forest angels, there is a presence here, in the forest. And this sculpture ‘fits in’ perfectly.

 ‘A longing to wander tears  my heart when I hears trees rustling in the wind…’

And so I move on, exploring the forest. Something like a bright orange light, just for a split-second catches my attention to the right. I turn my head in that direction,  look intently, but… nothing. Nothing but dense trees and fern. A trick of the light? A reflection on the side of my glasses? Or the beckoning of a Guardian of the Forest? Whatever it was, it has got my interest and I move in that direction.

Ten minutes later I’m still walking and there in front of me are two more sculptures: David and Daphne.

‘When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me…Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent’

The two magnificent sculpture: David (as in, David and Goliath), and Daphne (who, and those who remember their Greek mythology will know, was turned into a Laurel tree, but Apollo made the tree into an evergreen tree thus conferring immortality upon her.

I sit here,  mesmerised at the two sculptures. Two thoughts  in my mind: David faced his monster and prevailed. Daphne succumbed and gave her life, and yet even then became immortal. Who says the forest cannot teach us anything? I may not have heard an audible voice as I sat on a wet log, but I do believe an elemental, a dryad, a fay, or an angel whispered into my  ears words too deep to hear as sound, but penetrating deep within the labyrinthine ‘corridors’ of the brain, where mind, body and spirit meld. Of course, you would expect me to say that: I’m an animist.

I spent another couple of hours moving through the dense undergrowth and tall trees, and encountered all the sculptures carefully placed throughout the forest, some ‘hidden’ so that only the most adventurous would find them, and reap the reward of encountering these Guardians of the Forest. As above, so below.

And then I headed back to the visitors centre, still with the hustle and bustle of many people enjoying the fruits and pleasures of ‘near wild’. I’m now sitting at a picnic table and am gazing back the way I had walked. Two hundred feet away from me, the ‘manicured’ grass gives way to the dense trees and I look on longingly, and yet I’m completely happy and satisfied. Green joy unbounded. It was a wonderful experience – to forest-bathe, to amble in dense woodland, and to encounter sculptures that evoke the deep spiritual centres within, and to meet…. well, to have met forest entities, known and unknown.

’Whoever has learned to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness’.

 

(All indented quotes above are by Herman Hesse, and from his book Baume: Betrachtungen Und Gedichte)