Celtic Advent: Cosmic Thoughts At The Café

20171104 COSMIC THOUGHTS AT THE CAFE CELTIC ADVENT

Ever since the clocks went back an hour there has been an increasing expectation of the event. The nights draw in, the temperature drops and the anticipation just hangs in the air. And now, as I sit in the ‘Magic Café’, boxes marked ‘decorations’ are brought from a room at the back of the café to the main area, and they huddle in he corner.

Yes, the Celtic Advent is just around the corner.

‘Advent: the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when
you’re running yourself.’ Bill McKibben

Depending on which calendar you follow, or which group you listen to, the Celtic Advent starts on 16 November (though in common with those ancient people and tribes the ‘day’ starts the evening before from our reckoning, and so it starts on the evening of 15 November). Others will point out that that 15 November is the first day (and so it actually starts on the evening of 14 November). Confused? Please don’t be: it means you get to decide.

Advent is a time of pondering on the cosmic significance of darkness, a time of personal preparation, a time to go dpeeper, a time of expectation, and then it culminates in a time of commemorarion as Light wonderfully enters the world. As the days grow darker, it’s Light we look forward to.

‘Pause. Listen for the whispers of your Soul.
Soul quietly flows through every part of you.’  Nancy Lankston

There are some who will set themselves, at this time, the task of reading more sacred text, or of attending an extra service, of spending a little bit more than usual, of adding an extra home ritual or prayer to their list or prayers – and all of these are wholesome, good and proper for you, if you feel ‘called’ to do one or more of them.

In the busyness of life, maybe the last thing we need is to be more ‘busy, busy’. Oh, it’s easy to get caught up in he hype fom the tv, the newspapers and radio, but once we’re aware of being ‘pulled along’ by the increasing flow of the pace of life at this time of the year, we’re in with a chance of doing something about it.

‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).’ Mark Twain

There are some who don’t feel called to attend this service or that, or to read extra sacred text, perhaps they want to take time to stop and pause, and to go ‘deeper’. If this isn’t quite you, if you are in the ‘let’s do extra’ group, then I would suggest you find those people. Sometimes doing things differently, even for part of the time, is exactly what we need, spiritually.

Ofcourse, if you’re cooking a turkey roast for the family celebrations or are working right up to the eleventh hour, it’s not easy, or even proper to pause right then. But, somewhere in our busy schedule there are opportunities to slow down, pause, and to look forward to Light entering the darkness, however we interpret that phrase. Sometimes, we can re-adjust our calendar to spend more time ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.

I promise not to legislate for you, as you celebrate the Celtic advent, and I hope you wont legilsate the way I should celebrate it. To do so (or to become too busy) misses the point. To so do means that we’ve jumped out of the great invitation to be part of that cosmic event to erroneously, metaphorically, take a snap shot of it – and once we do that we have a wonderful ‘picture’ of the event from the ‘outside’, but we’re not part of it. So, really experience it this year.

And, so in this cafe, they’re unpacking boxes. And, as I sit here pondering the darkness, as I look through the cafe window onto a cold, dark blue sky’d city street, I look forward, in anticipation and expectation to Light entering the world, and what that means personally for me, for you, and others. And yes, ten mintes later I’m helping the cafe owner untangle a boxful of decorations. Perhaps, there is nothing wrong in the ‘doing’ or the busyness of the season so long as we make time for the real meaning of the season, don’t legislate for others and don’t ‘beat ourlsevlse up’; and pause to give ourselves long enough to consider the deeper meaning of this Celtic Advent.

I’ll be celebrating the start of the Celtic Advent on Friday eveing, 10 November (even if that means adding a few extra days in the lead-up to Christmas). For me this will mean a more leisurely approach, even more time to pause (sometimes), and go deeper, and being the start of the weekend the ‘pressure’ is off, and I can relax and enjoy the moment, the meal cooked for family and friends, to tell and listen to heart-warming stories, and ponder, maybe looking at a lone candle shining in the darkness as a metaphor for the occasion.

‘These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community’s past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.’  Brian  McLaren

To paraphrase some, this Celtic Advent was created for you and your benefit, and not the other way around.

My encouragement is for you to celebrate the start of the Celtic Advent with a meal – and yes, some will know that in ancient times it was a time of fasting, and if you’re called to do that, then do it), but also to take the time to ponder upon the themes of darkness and Light. As regards, the celebration I’m thinking of an Celtic Advent celebration meal at my London place, to start the season. You’re invited. Are you free?

 

Ephemera: The Dark Moon & Story: Full Moon November 2017

20171102 DARK MOON AND STORY FULL MOON 5 NOVEMBER 2017 EPHEMERA

You know I like full moons, and the next full moon in November takes place in the early hours of this Saturday morning (4-5 November 2017), so you should have a fine view Friday or Saturday night, weather permitting.

‘The Sun, Moon and Stars are there to guide us.’ Dennis Banks

This moon, just missed being classified being a ‘supermoon’ (meaning that its orbit brings it slightly to the Earth than its many other orbits, and so appears slightly larger) as it passes into the constellation Cetus on its way between Pisces and Aries,  is viewable in the southern sky on Friday and in the south-east on Saturday (from a UK aspect).

‘November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.’ Emily Dickinson

To those of medieval England this full moon would be known as the Snow Moon – and according to the weather forecast for December in the UK snow is predicted, with night temperatures of some where in the region of -8c. Certainly holly berries were out in abundance and a deep, deep red indicating a tough winter ahead.

‘In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets.’ Cynthia Rylant

To others this full moon is known as the Tree Moon, The Beaver Moon, or The Huneter’s Moon. To many fellow Celts, Christian Celts, Druids and to me as a Druidic-Christian it is known, because of the nights drawing in, as the Dark Moon.

‘Drink in the moon as though you might die of thirst.’ Sanober Khan.

According to scientists the moon was  contributory factor for life on Earth by poviding a ‘shield’ to many rocky bombarments during the time of the early solar system – hence the reason that the far side of the moon, always turned away from us, is so pitted. It also assisted the earth is acquiring a stable orbit as it  ‘ironed out’ any wobbles or eccentric orbits, so that the Earth faced the sun in just the right way to ensure a fairly stable, habitable, climate, and ofcourse the moon beneficially regulates the tides, and affects the weather. I don’t believe in co-incidences. The Source prevails.

In addition sacred text also lauds the benefits of the moon: ‘God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also’. (Genesis 1:16, The Book).

So, this full moon – as the Circle of the Year moves on, as seasons change and it’s right to mark those changes – it’s time to give thanks to the silvery face that smiles down upon each one of us, regardless of our circumstances, and time to give thanks to the One who created and sustains it for our benefit. Light a candle, walk in the moonlight (and perhaps see your moon-shadow), raise a glass of wine to it, or say a silent prayer to the Moon-Maker, pause in a busy schedule and just gaze upward to the moon (or where it may be, if cloudy), but my encouragement is to do something, however simple, however brief, to celebrate this most wonderful moon, and to give thanks.

There is an African myth, still told to many children today, that at one time the sun and moon didn’t live in the sky. You know I love fictitious stories (esepcially ones full of meaning), and so as you ponder upon the moon this week, maybe imbibe a glasss of wine in honour of it, here’s that story:

Many years ago, the hot sun and the flowing water were very good friends, and they both lived on the earth. The sun very often used to visit the water, but the water, for some reason, never returned the visits. At last the sun asked the water why he never visited. The water replied that the sun’s house was not nearly big enough, and that if he came with all his people – all those creatures that lived in the sea, he would drive the sun out of his home. And water didn’t want that.

The water then said, ‘If you want me to visit you, you will have to build a very large house. But I warn you that it will have to be very large, as my people are numerous and take up a lot of room’. The sun promised to build a very large house, and soon afterwards, he returned home to his wife, the moon, who greeted him with a broad smile.

The sun told the moon what he had promised the water, and the next day, they both began building a large house to entertain the water and all the creatures that lived within water.

When it was completed, the sun asked the water to come and visit him. When the water arrived, one of his people called out to the sun, and asked him whether it would be safe for the water to enter, and the sun answered, ‘Yes, do come in.’

The water began to flow in, followed by the fish and all the other water animals. Very soon, the water was knee-deep in the house, so water asked the sun if it was still safe, and the sun again said, ‘Yes,’, and so more of them came in.

When the water was at the level of a man’s head, the water said to the sun, ‘Do you want more of my people to come?’

Not knowing any better, the sun and the moon both said, ‘Yes,’. More and more of the water’s people came in, more and more pond, lake, river and sea cratures entered the house until the sun and the moon had to sit on top of the roof.

The water once again asked the sun if it was still okay to keep coming in. The sun and moon answered yes, so more and more of the water’s people came in.

The water soon overflowed the top of the roof, and the sun and the moon were forced to go up into the sky…and they have been there ever since.

Blessings to you and yours at this time of the Dark Moon, Tadhg

 

Alone With The Alone At The Machair: Poem

20171026 ALONE WITH THE ALONE AT THE MACHAIR POEM

This is one  of several poems inspired by my pilgrimage to those wonderfully ‘thin places’ of the Isle Of Iona (also known as the Isle Of Druids) and the Isle Of Skye – rugged and awesome islands off the west coast of Scotland.

This poem is based on thoughts, feelings and an encounter at the Machair. The Machair is a Scottish/Gaelic word for ‘fertile beach’, and is pronounced ‘makkah’. It is a delightful, part sand-part grassy coastal area on the Isle of Iona with a unique eco-system, and is a windswept and wild,  liminal place, a place of myth and magic, indeed. Things happen here. Visit, and you will not be unchanged.

The weather changes and the blue sea turns white.
Dark clouds speed from the horizon
to where I am standing, and the wind blows a gale.
The light dims.
The tide recedes as a mighty storm approaches.
And I wait.

There was a time when the Voice was heard
speaking words of peace, and love, and hope.
Now the age of neon shines
and a cacophony of sound fills the air.
And I wait.

For a moment I hear murmurs in the wind.
Could it be the sound of martyrs and monks of yesteryear?
Could it be angel-sound, or the gleeful chattering of the fae?
Perhaps it’s the  words of Druids of a bygone age?
And then it’s gone.
And I wait.

The waves crash against mighty rocks
and yet the rocks are unmoved, unchanged.
Gulls  squawk in the distance, but have moved inland.
The wind blows a mournful sigh.
A howling that increases and decreases in volume and pitch.
And I wait.

At the Machair
I am alone with the Alone. I listen.
Could it be that the Voice still speaks
words of peace, and love, and hope?
Love personified, prevails. Surely?
Doesn’t Wisdom cry out to all who listen to her?
I listen but shrill sounds fill my mind.
And I wait.

In a time of plastic
I yearn for that age of myth and magic.
And when all that matters, that is substantial and real
seems, oh so far away,
something calls to me to stop and look.
And in waiting,
I notice that,
ah yes, the tide is turning’.

 

Tadhg’s Ephemera: The Harvest Moon & Rhiannon (Poem)

20171004 TADHGS EPHEMERA HARVEST MOON AND RHIANNON POEM

In ancient Welsh stories, myths, Rhiannon  was a personification of the moon – much as we might talk about the man in the moon, or Chinese people might talk about rabbit in the moon.

In Japanese folklore, a fox, a rabbit and a monkey are accosted in the woods one evening by an old man. Hungry, the old man begs the animals for some food. The monkey gathered nuts, the fox stole some fish, but the rabbit — who ate only grass — had nothing to offer. When the other animals teased the rabbit, he offered himself as a meal and hopped onto the old man’s fire. Deeply touched, the old man gave the rabbit immortal life by placing him on the moon.

A quant story, a good myth, and one that makes us look up at the moon, and wonder.

So, this Thursday, 5 October sees the October full moon in the constellation of Pisces (though it’s on the cusp with Cetus). The moon rising above the horizon in the east, from a London aspect, just after 7pm.

‘God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.’ Genesis 1:16, The Book

In medieval England this full moon was known as the Blood moon; and to ancient and latter-day Cherokees (so I’m told), it is known as the Harvest moon, to Celts, Celtic Christians and to many of my Druid brothers and sisters it is known as the Harvest moon.

Some time ago I wrote a poem about the full moon:

Like a silver penny stitched onto the dark fabric of the sky,
placed there by the Friend, she shines and takes no rest.
Smiling upon all, faithfully she rises, and moves oh so slowly from west
to east, undiminished.
Ashen light.

Upon all humanity she gazes, and
upon bowed sheaves of corn in lonely fields.
Upon lowing cattle, and a myriad of creatures,
upon sleeping trees with relaxéd arms, she peers.
And, upon valleys deep and mountains high,
this harvest moon is illumined in all her glory,
this night.

Affecting artists, musicians, lovers and humbled souls,
and those who momentarily upward gaze in awe,
she influences cells and seas alike, and vast ocean tides.
The moon is within us all, bright,
and that inner journey, is the enlightening, exhilarating ride.
Inner light.

Tonight, Rhiannon in all her fullness smiles and dances for the Friend;
and the Friend smiles back, and dances, too.
And, you?

Interestingly, 5 October is the feast day of St Murdoc, known as the last of the ancient bard and who lived as a hermit near a lake in Argyleshire, Scotland – and who was famed for compiling the Scottush Menology (Calendar of Saints) in the 8th century.

And on 5 October, King Alfonso VII recognises Portugal as a Kingdom (1143), Spain declares war on England (1796, but we’re friends now), the Jarrow march sets out to London (1936), and the Beatles released their first record, ‘Love me Do’ (in 1965).

A busy time, then, this Thursday in world affairs, today and in the past. And yet, my encouragement is to find time to pause and look up at the smiling moon, and to give thanks. Maybe our prayer, in a world that might be decribed in many places as fractured with wars, rumours of wars, and many killed and injured in Las Vegas and other places, is that the moon, and the Moon-giver, would spill her beauty and smile on a thousand Earthly races, and for peace to prevail.

Sending blessings to you and yours for peace at this time of the full moon.

Tadhg

 

Twitter Addendum: And, in mentioning busyness, my plans for a pilgrimage to Iona and Skye, in Scotland are gathering pace – I start out on that journey this coming Saturday or Sunday, and would appreciate your well-wishes, light, love and prayers.

If you want to follow my progress do check this page, TadhgTalks (and you’ll find a twitter ‘cartouche’ there with all the latest updates, if you go to the generic page – click large banner photo at the top of the page – rather than an inidivually themed page). Or, you can check my twitter page, direct, daily here. Once there, you’ll also get the opportunity to register to ‘follow’ and receive updates. Let’s stay in touch.

 

Ephemera: The New Month Of The Vine: 2 September – 29 September

20170831 CELTIC MONTH OF THE VINEThe new month is almost upon us. Leaving the month of the Hazel (tree) behind us, we start the new Celtic month of the Vine on 2nd September, and it finishes on 29 September.

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
close bosom-friend of the maturing sun,
conspiring with him now to load and bless
with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run…

(John Keats)

There are different calendar variations, and different calendars much loved by different ‘tribes’, some calendars older than others, and the oldest (which will be the theme of an article soon) and most loved by purists is also one that some would say seems to be the least ‘workable’ for every day living.

It’s because of that that I use this tree calendar, which some call the Beth-Luis-Nion Celtic Lunar Tree Calendar/alphabet.

No spring nor summer’s beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face….’.

John Donne

The Beth-Luis-Nion calendar consists of 13 lunar trees. The calendar is based on a lunar year as opposed to a solar one, and so there are there are 13 lunar months in each year. Being tree-based it also reminds us of our love for trees and nature, and all things green, and is life-centred. I love it. And, it’s understandable. And, as we move into September, the month of the Vine, we greet the changing season and the colour changes in nature, and we can gaze upon the vine and give gratitude to nature and nature’s never-ending cycle, express love and appreciation to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves, The Holy One.

‘Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul… but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.’

Peggy Toney Horton

The month of the vine, and romantics amongst you may know, is the month is associated with happiness and wrath. The sceptics may wonder whether this has something to do with the fact that the vine harvest would occur this month, and wine may indeed be the bringer of happiness, but it can also be the bringer of wrath, especially when imbibed to excess.

Nevertheless, wine, as well as having a social aspect, was and still is used in ritual to bring us closer to all that is Holy, and usher us into sacred time of communion.

This month of the Vine, September, also sees a full moon on the 6 September, and the time of the autumn equinox on Friday, 22 September – that time when with the diminishing day light, the length of day and night are equal in length for a brief period as we move toward winter.

‘Equal dark, equal light
Flow in Circle, deep insight
Blessed Be, Blessed Be
The transformation of energy!
So it flows, out it goes
Three-fold back it shall be
Blessed Be, Blessed Be’.

(Unknown)

Now, swans are seen as a symbol of love and fidelity around the world because of their custom of mating for life, and, for many, this month is associated with the swan.

It is said that ancient Druids saw swans as representing the soul. In ancient Ireland, the bards, for instance, would wear a special ceremonial cloak called a tuigen, which was made of songbird feathers, but the cowl would consist of the skin and feathers of a swan.

The Celts also loved their stories. Here’s an ancient Gaelic/Celtic story about love and swans, it’s so relevant to the start of the new Celtic month, and is full of meaning:

Aengus had fallen in love with a young woman he had seen, seen in his dreams. Each night he would close his eyes, fall into a deep sleep, and dream only of her.

It took him three years of searching the length and breadth of the land before the young woman of his dreams was found by him. Her name was Caer Ibormeith. Every second year, she and over a hundred other young women, were chained in pairs, and were transformed into swans for a year.

Aengus was madly in love with her, and was told he could indeed marry the young lady of his dreams, but only if he could identify her in her swan form. Aengus looked at all the young women who were now swans, but to him, they all looked the same.

Inspiration came to him. He immediately turned himself into a swan, and recognised her at once. Much in love, they flew away together, singing beautiful music that put all listeners asleep for three days and nights.

I find that story quite charming, and appropriate for this month. Swans. Love. Two souls, finally, in a bond of togetherness, forever. Love wins!

May the Blessings of the Sacred Three be upon you and those whom you love as we move into the month of the Vine, Tadhg

 

Haiku #10: Harvest Celebration With Alban Elfed In Mind

20170828 HAIKU 10 HARVEST CELEBRATION ALBAN ELFEDIn a few weeks time it will be Alban Elfed (which is Welsh for ‘the light of the water), and it is the second and final harvest of the year (for those of us in the northern hemisphere. It’s one of my favourite times of the year.

It will then be the time of autumn equinox (so I’ll come back to that in a few weeks). Then we’ll be celebrating the time of equal day and equal night, and have in mind water as water is the ‘dominant’ element for the season, and the westward-looking compass point is the ‘dominant’ point on the ‘wheel’ for that time. Oh. it’s a great time to indulge in deep thought, ponder nature’s provision and extend gratitude.

As you may know, I’m also fascinated by the traditional haiku – those short Japanese poems consisting of three pithy lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five. And here’s a few haiku (which can be viewed as several stand alone poems, or one of several verses) with Alban Elfed in mind. The Haiku, below, can be used in liturgy for that time or (just) as poetry for the season.

Nature’s circle turns,
and night and day are balanced.
Time for heartfelt thanks.

Water, that gives life,
often taken for granted,
appreciated.

The earth’s provision
at this bless-ed harvest-time,
for all people, stored.

Easterly winds blow,
renew our spirit’s within.
Congruous lifestyle.

Warming sun of all,
now, in this season balanced.
Sun of righteousness.

Nature’s circle turns,
and with gratitude given.
Source of All be praised.

The verses can be viewed as one poem with several verses, and if used in Celtic, Proto-Christian or Druidic liturgy/ceremonies you might like to consider facing the cardinal compass points as you read/recite it: Verse two, for instance, is about water, the dominant element for this season and so one would face west; verse three one would face north for the element of earth; verse three is about air/wind and so one would face east; and verse four is about the sun element and so one would face south.

But, whatever you do, and however you celebrate this time, my recommendation is that you take ‘time out’ to reflect and/or so something special and appropriate to give gratitude for the earth’s awesome bounty.

‘Ah, Moon And Star’: Full Moon Poem [Found Poetry]

20170807 AH MOON AND STAR FULL MOON POEMAs you know, I like to write poetry, and in the past have done so for the time of the full moon. As well as previous moon poems, and the last few days writing here about celebrating today’s full moon, here’s a poem for this particular full moon.

Ah, moon and star
you are so very far,
and yet, the moon came into the forge
in her bustle of flowering nard. *
Then fairy fire enkindles it
like a gossamer by a taper lit.

Art thou pale from weariness
of climbing heaven and gazing upon the earth?
As I gaze upon thee in the sky
a single tear of joy does moisten mine eye.

Once upon a time I heard
that the flying moon was, infact, a Phoenix bird,
but the moon has a face like the clock in the hall
and she shines on thieves on the garden wall.

When, round and full, her silvery face
swims into sight, it lights all space.
It is so sad and so beautiful, and yet
so tremulously like a dream.

Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade,
the lovers guardian, and the Muse’s aid.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, and on our feast day.
For a million light-years away
we three will meet again,
deep in the milky way.

There’s a lunar surface rarely seen.
There’s a face on it!
Maybe God’s? Who knows?

You are the moon, dear one, and I the sea.
Pour down your unstinted nimbus energy, sacred moon, on me.

This poem falls within the ‘Found poetry’ genre. That is, it ‘is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage), and by minor making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.’ It’s also an interesting way to be introduced to numerous different poets and their style. The poem, above, comes from many sources. See below:

Lines 1, 2 Emily Dickinson; Lines 3, 4 Federico Garcia Lorca; Lines 5,6 Robert William Service; Lines 7,8 Robert Louis Stevenson, Lines 9, 10  William Topaz McGonagali; Lines 13, 14 Sappho; Lines 17, 18 Dylan Thomas; Lines 19, 20 Ella Wheeler Wilcox; Lines 21, 22 Psalm 81v3 (The Book); Line 23 John Tiong Chunghoo; Lines 24, 25 Li Po; Lines 26, 27, 28 Kelly Vinal; Line 29 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; Line 30 Walt Whitman.

*Nard (plant) or spikenard, or an aromatic oil derived from that plant.

The Corn Moon: Celtic Full Moon: 7 August 2017: Tadhg’s Ephemera

20170804 TADHGS EPHEMERA CORN MOONThis Monday, 7 August 2017 sees another full moon. Known to some as the Fruit moon, Sturgeon moon, the Grain moon, it is known in China as the Harvest moon. Latter-day* and current-day Celts know it as the Dispute moon or the Corn moon. I prefer the latter as it’s more descriptive of the season, as we’re in the season of the first harvest of the year.

Did you know: The Moon is moving away from us by 1.48inches (3.78cm) a year.

In the early hours of next Monday morning there is a partial eclipse of the moon at 4.50am UTC and this is something for early-risers to look out for. And, then in the evening the full moon can be seen in the constellation Capricornus, is the south-eastern part of the sky.

Did you know: According to astronauts, Moon’s dust smells like gunpowder.

You know I like stories, and though to us the following two stories may seem strange, they both come from ancient and noble people, and from them we can learn so much.

Story #1: Tipä´ke‘so: A Menominee Tribe Story:
Once upon a time Ke´so (the Sun), and his sister, Tipä´ke‘so, (the Moon) lived together in a wigwam in the east. The Sun dressed himself to go hunting, took his bow and arrows and promptly left. He was absent for such a long time that when his sister came out and up into the sky to look for her brother she became distressed. She travelled for twenty days looking for the Sun; but he finally returned, bringing with him a bear which he had shot.

The sun’s sister still comes up into the sky and travels for twenty days; then she dies, and for four days nothing is seen of her. At the end of that time, however, she returns to life and travels twenty days more.

And the moon steps lower,
quietly changing
her luminous masks, brushing
everything as she passes
with her slow hands
and soft lips…

(Harvest Moon  by Mary Oliver)

Story #2: Heng-O and The Twelve Moons: Chinese Story:
In ancient times, it is sais that Chinese people believed that there were twelve Moons, just as there are twelve months in one year. Some also believed that there were ten Suns as there were ten days in the Chinese week. The mother of the twelve Moons was the same of that of the ten suns.

At the beginning of each month, the mother, Heng-O, washed her children in a lake at the far western side of the world. Then each Moon, one after the other, would travel in a chariot for a month and journey to reach the opposite eastern side of the world.

There, the Suns would begin their journey. It was believed that the Moons were made of water, and either a rabbit was living in their interior. The story exists in many cultures, prominently in Asian folklore and Aztec mythology.

This rabbit, Jade rabbit, was also the name of the successful Chinese probe to the moon which sent back valuable data for an amazing thirty-one months – though the expectation was that it may only operate for three months! Well done, China.

Conclusion:
The ancients celebrated the journey of the moon across the sky and it’s phases, they revelled in the turning of the circle, the seasons, and were in awe at those lights in the sky, the stars and comets. Our understanding of the sky may be greater than there’s – but they were (and are) wise and can still teach us many things – nevertheless don’t let scientific advancement dampen your awe. Enjoy the upcoming full moon in a significant way: by reciting a poem, enjoying a special meal, an evening walk in silence pondering upon the moon’s beauty (‘moon bathe’), perhaps use some liturgy or ritual, but whatever you do, my encouragement is for you to mark the wonderful time of this full moon in some special way to you.

There’s also an post from a few days back, which is a Hymn For The Moon, that you might like to use as a song of praise, or as a poem or liturgy in a ritual (click here).

Photograph, above, copyrighted and used by kind permission of Pennie Ley (click here). Bless you.

 

[* Addendum: In the opening paragraph where it’s written ‘Latter-day and current-day Celts know it…’, it should read ‘Ancient Celts and latter-day Celts know it…’. Oops!

 

The Celtic Month Of The Hazel Tree (5 August – 1 September)

20170802 CELTIC MONTH OF THE HAZEL TREEIn a few days time, on 5 August we leave the old month of Holly tree and move into a new Celtic month – the month of the Hazel tree.

Now the ancients started their days (and, so new months) from the prior evening from our reckoning, and so that would make it the evening of 4 August,  but the choice of which evening/day to celebrate the new month is up to you). But do celebrate and mark the time in some way. The month of the Hazel tree ends on 1 September.

Did you know…Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts in the world with approximately 75% of worldwide production.

Celebration
It’s always good to celebrate a new month in large ways or small. I would encourage you, at the very least, to draw aside one evening to ‘welcome in’ the new month, even if for say, twenty minutes. It’s can be a deeply moving, profound, spiritual event.

Slow down, and maybe read and/or recite some poetry and spend some time mulling over the words, and meditate upon them. A glass of wine or two might assist. The Hazel tree is connected with knowledge and wisdom, and so a poem or quote associated with knowledge or wisdom might be appropriate, or maybe use a quote from here  that evening. There’s also a link to a great and relevant story, below.

And, also, how about giving thanks for all the good things that have happened in the previous month, and think ahead to what might happen this month, seeking light and love and energy, and guidance for the month ahead from the Source of All.

‘All our wisdom is stored in the trees.’ (Santosh Kalwar)

The Tree
The hazel tree, corylus avellana, itself, is a deciduous broadleaf tree native to the UK. Usually coppiced, but when left alone they can grow to a height of about thity-five feet (12m) and can live for up to eighty years (and, perhaps, four times that age, if coppiced).

The hazel tree has a smooth, grey-brown bark, which peels with age, and has pliable, hairy stems. Leaf buds are oval, blunt and also hairy.

‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.’ (John Muir)

Bees usually find it very difficult to collect hazel pollen and can only gather it in small quantities. This is because the wind pollinated hazel has pollen that is not that sticky and actually repels one grain from another.

Once pollinated by wind, the female flowers develop into oval fruits, which hang in groups. They mature into a nut with a woody shell surrounded by a cup of leafy bracts (modified leaves).

Hazel trees grow across much of Europe, as well as parts of north Africa and western Asia. In the UK it’s often found under the canopy of the lowland oak, ash or birch woodland, and is also found sometimes in scrub and hedgerows.

Did you know…The hazelnut became Oregon’s official State Nut in 1989.

As with the harmony of nature, hazel tree leaves provide an abundance of food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the large emerald, small white wave, barred umber and nut-tree tussock. They may support many species of butterfly, particularly fritillaries. Coppiced hazel trees also provides shelter for ground-nesting birds such as the nightingale, nightjar, yellowhammer and willow warbler.

Hazel nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays and a number of small mammals. Hazel flowers provide early pollen as a food for bees. And the tree trunks are often covered in mosses, liverworts and lichens, and the fiery milkcap fungi grows in the soil beneath.

‘She said that the planting of trees, like the education of children, was a gift to the future.’ (Cassandra Danz)

Myth & Symbolism
The Hazel is associated with ‘knowledge’ and there is a wonderful story about a young man named Fionn, which includes the hazel tree and the salmon of knowledge, and is a story to tell, retell at this time of the year or on the evening of your new month celebration, and to quietly ponder upon it (see here).

Hazel has a reputation as a’ magical tree’. In many parts of Europe, a hazel rod is supposed to protect against evil spirits, as well as being used as a wand and for water-divining. In some parts of England hazel nuts were carried as charms and/or held to ward off rheumatism. The hazel’s connection with the Well of Wisdom is evident by the tree’s frequent presence at holy wells throughout Britain and Ireland, where pilgrims. still continue to this day, festoon its branches with votive offerings in the form of pieces of cloth.

‘Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.’ (Kahlil Gibran)

The hazel’s association with wisdom extends to other cultures of the ancient world. In Norse mythology it was known as the Tree of Knowledge and was sacred to Thor; the Romans held it sacred to Mercury; and Hermes’ magic rod may have been made from hazel.

Conclusion
Whatever you do, my encouragement to you is to celelebrate the new month one evening as we enter the new month of the Hazel tree.  Appreciate the marking of time, the new month, and trees. Yes, love trees. Wishing you and yours a blessed Hazel tree month, Tadhg.

‘Make peace with people, make peace with animals, make peace with trees!’ (Mehmet Murat ildan)

 

Thoughts About Gŵyl Awst, Or Harvest: Celtic Thoughts

20170728 THOUGHTS ABOUT GWYL AWST OR HARVESTYes, Lammas or Lammas-tide, or harvest as many churches know is almost upon us. I love this time of the year. Hard work for the farmers and rural farmhands, but their tireless labour is appreciated by us all.

Usually celebrated during the very first few days of August, you might want to consider celebrating it on the first day of August, or the following weekend, but I’d also suggest you might like to celebrate it at the time of the upcoming full moon (on the evening of 7 August).

It is, nevertheless, a time to be thankful for the earth’s bounty, and grateful to the Great Provider Of All for the last year.

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand…

(Hymn by Matthias Claudius, Translated by Jane Montgomery Campbell, and one of my favourite, seasonal, hymns at primary school.)

It is called the first harvest, because there is a second harvest at the time of the Autumn Equinox. Others will also know this time as Lughnasadh [(the ‘commemoration of Lugh’), but I like to call it by its old Welsh name Gŵyl Awst.

Lammas, for the inquisitive amongst you, by the way, comes from the Anglo-Saxon festival of hlaefmass – loaf, and so it’s good to celebrate the time with a loaf of bread – home-baked or perhaps, something special bought from a local shop. Maybe eat this special bread after your main meal one evening, with lashings of butter on it, and eat slowly, savouring eat bite as an act of deep meditation, deep reverence and with deep thanks-giving. Rituals don’t have to be lavish and complicated. Simple ones, with intentionality goes a long way. Why not invite family and friends along?

So, my grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, make bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack.

Oh, this was my favourite type of bread as a child. A cross between bread and cake! The smell of baking bread over the hearth in her north Wales county cottage was heavenly, so inviting, and so impedingly-scrumptious. I can still remember the smell of that baked bread wafting up my nostrils, and my stomach rumbling in anticipation.

As a child, I knew I was in for a treat. There was, and is, nothing quite like freshly-baked bread, still piping-hot, and covered in lashings and lashings of real butter.

In Ireland, some of the mountain pilgrimages have survived. By far the most popular is the Reek Sunday pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick, which attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims each year. The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland established the custom of blessing fields at Lughnasadh.This time then, is a time of giving thanks by all to mother nature for all her fruits, gratitude to the the Lord of the Harvest, and a celebration using what has been sown.

And so, this Lammastide, as it has been since I was a child, I’ll be baking several bara brith, and sharing one – yes, the breaking of bread with family and friends – in a simple, ‘after meal’ remembrance ‘feast’, remembering all the good things that have happened this year, and giving thanks, in silence and humility, to the Source of All for the harvest, for life itself.

There’ll be more about the harvest and harvest celebration on Monday, but meanwhile don’t forget the harvest hymn, that you may want to sing, recite as poem or liturgy – see here for the Hymn For Gŵyl Awst.