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

You Are Dust, Stardust: Reflections On A Wednesday

STARDUST REFLECTIONS ON A WEDNESDAY

If you’re in the United Kingdom and hold to those old traditions and customs then you will know that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. The day before, Tuesday, commonly known as Pancake Day, was when, so it is said, in years gone by,  it was the day to use up the flour as Lent, a time of fasting, was about to begin. And what better way to use up that flour than by making pancakes, coupled with sugar, syrup and/or fruit, and lemon juice. As a wee lad I can remember trying to flip the pancake over as it cooked in the frying pan and usually (but not always) getting it right. Great fun and a good tradition that many, even today, experience.

But, yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day when, apparently, we are to remember the fact that we’re dust, animated dust, earth, or (poetically) clay! It’s a time of reflection, to consider our humility and frailty. And, what follows is a reflection on that!

We are (earthly) dust!

The ancients, living in a pre-industrialised, pre-scientific, pre-computerised age would have been more easily be able to reflect on this. It was there evident in their daily life: the cycle of birth, growth, death, re-birth etc. The changing of the seasons, growth from the soil, abundance and then decay as plant matter rotted and became fodder for the next year’s growth. All this would have been known to them, and death and dust would have been very familiar to them. As would their humility to the forces of nature, and their frailty.

‘…Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’
(Genesis 3.19b, The Book)

It might seem morbid to dwell on this, but we live in an age of scientific marvels and do things in such a way that the experience of witnessing the demise of those around us is minimised, that we can become forgetful that we are dust! We are frail creatures! And, we only have a limited time here! Even if we don’t uphold the Ash Wednesday tradition, I do believe there is some mileage in thinking upon it, and what it means to us.

But, you know me – there’s more – and life here is followed by a returning to something else that continues onward, which some call the Summerland, heaven, elysium, arcadia, valhalla, nirvana or Jannah.

But, it’s good to remember that we are dust and will return to dust one day, for then it will encourage us to use the time we have here even better than we might hitherto have done. In this form, we only have now! And, Ash Wednesday is a great time to reflect upon that.

‘In reality, we are all travellers – even explorers of mortality’, (Thomas S Monson)

However if you didn’t get around to reflecting upon that fact today, and maybe wanted to have some form of quiet meditation, or liturgy, or poem reading to add to the event, you can always do that tomorrow. It’s intentionality rather than the exact timing that is important.

But, there’s more.

But, there’s always a flip side to these ideas, and always a balancing thought. We are dust, and will one day return to dust, and so we’re encouraged to make good use of the time. But. It’s not all negative. Apart from the Summerland, heaven, elysium etc, we can view our ‘dustly’ composition in another way.

We are stardust!

Yes, many of you will know that I’m an amateur astronomer. Nothing pleases me more than gazing up at the moon and its phases, the progression of planets across the night sky, and the constellations that rise, like Orion denoting the winter months are here, and fall in the sky as the seasons change. They are are great way to mark the seasons, and something the ancients, our spiritual ancestors, would have been doing for several millennia, quite naturally. Unlike them, I’m be blessed with such ‘tools’ as a Meade LX200 12 inch telescope (computer controlled), a planisphere, and a star atlas. But, the awe of gazing up and looking back into the distant past is always, always thrilling, as it must have been to them.

We are connected!

In looking up, we look at the Universe and a myriad of points of lights which are stars and galaxies. But, in doing so, we often make the mistake as though there’s some invisible barrier between us and the Universe. Yes, we live on the Earth and have a biosphere that makes life possible, but anyone looking this way, say from Alpha Centauri, would see our sun as just another point of light in their night sky, and not differentiate it from the Universe.

‘We are stardust,
we are golden,
and we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden’

(Joni Mitchell, Woodstock)

In many senses, there is no barrier, no separation, and the idea that the Universe is ‘out there’ and we are ‘down here’ is an illusion – and probably one that our ego quite likes as it makes us feel different, and therefore special.

But, the greater revelation, I believe, is to consider that we’re so special that we’re no different, in essence, to the Universe and have a special part to play in it. We are stardust, we are in the Universe and the Universe is in us, and we are the conscious part of the Universe looking back to itself. We are the stuff of stars! Star dust.

‘We are stardust, in the highest exalted way,
Called by the universe, reaching out, to the universe,
We are stardust, in the highest exalted way,
Reaching out, to the universe, with these methods and tools of science,

We are part of this universe,
We are in this universe,
The universe is in us,
Yes, the universe is in us’.

(We Are Stardust, Symphony of Science. Hear the song/see the video here.)

There are different ways of thinking about our connectedness to the Universe. The ancients celebrated the season and they believed what happened ‘up there’ affects ‘down here’. I don’t think they were far off the mark. NASA regularly montiors the sun for sunspots and coronal mass ejections of plasma, for instance, and issues warnings about ‘space weather’ which can affect national and corporate satellites, GPS, and even national electric grids. Others, may have ritualized that connection as in the first few chapters of Genesis, and still others by telling the story of Indra’s web (see here).

And, so today, as you read this do remember you are dust: connected, cosmic star dust!

 

The Curious Incident Of Brigid & The Bathwater: Imbolc/Candlemas [Re-visited]

20180122 THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF ST BRIGID AND THE BATHWATER...

The circle continues to turn. Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day, or Candlemas, as some call it, celebrated on (or near) 2nd February comes ever closer. Spring is in the air. It’s a wonderful time of the year.

If we’re still in the season of winter, and we (technically) are (as it started on 31 October, marked by the festival of Samhain, also called All Saint’s Eve by some, and progressed to its ‘height’ with the winter solstice) We are now coming to the end of that winter season.

Imbolc, 2 February (or a day earlier than that to some), marks the end of winter, and is the first day of spring. Yes, something, some change are in the air.

‘There is a delightful phrase in Gealic, ‘Ag borradh’, meaning that there is a quivering life about to break forth.’ John O’Donohue

And, if today is anything to go by – it was so relatively mild, weatherwise – spring is here, or is ‘just around the corner’. I could detect a slight ambient temperature increase today, a change in the prominent wind direction, you could almost smell it in the air. Something had changed. The circle continues to turn and this season is coming to an end.

And with 2 February in mind, our thoughts turn to Brigid of Kildare.

Brigid is viewed in differing ways, by different people. To some Brigid is an ancient Celtic goddess. The goddess of fire. Indeed, a sacred fire burned in Kildare in ancient time, as was kept burning by priestesses. In this way it was thought herds would be protected and harvests would be plentiful.

To others, Brigid is a saint, and at the time of Candlemas, candles are blessed (and lit by some), and Brigid is remembered as one who symbolises motherhood, new birth, the springing forth of seeds and, in the recent past, some would bless (even) agricultural tools on that day. It’s spring (or nearly, so), after all.

‘I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen’. Anne Lamott

Yes, and you know I like stories, and here’s another about Brigid. She was known for her hospitality.

For the weary traveller no expense was spared by Brigid.

On one occasion, going about her day, she came across some very tired, hungry and thirsty lepers. The plight of those dear people had already touched Brigid’s heart, and she made them as comfortable as she could. She ensured that they had had some food, but were thirsty.

One of those near to Brigid came to her and broke the bad news news: there was no beer for those thirsty lepers.

Brigid was deeply concerned, and it is said, immediately sprung into action. At the back of some nearby buildings she found an old bath, full of dirty bath water.

She put her hand into the bathwater and blessed it. As the attendant drew off pints from that bath they found that it had changed! No longer dirty bath water, but the finest, freshest and coolest beer you could ever imagine, which was served to all.

The lepers and others were delighted, and had more than enough to drink, and there was plenty of beer left over.

You will have to forgive me – flippant only for a moment or two – but isn’t Brigid the kind of person you would like at all your parties?

I know sceptics may ridicule the bathwater-into-beer story, but there are some deep and profound truths ‘buried’ in it, if we take time to discover them. The need to be hospitable, and the joy in being so. The fact that we live in a world of abundance. The ‘power’ that one good person has. The Universe (God, the Elements, The Source of All) is friendly. The power in a blessing etc. These are all wonderful truths that are ‘unpacked’ in this unusual and delightful story about dear Brigid.

‘Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems’. Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring is close.

However, you view Brigid, it may be good to give thanks for her example, for this season of rest, to look forward to the coming season of spring and the springing forth of plants etc, for growth, and perhaps to light a candle. Fire, however, you view dear Brigid, is a worthy symbol of her, and the lighting of a candle on her day a notable action to do.

And now, I’m off to do just that: Light a candle in remembrance of Brigid, think deeply on her example, say a few words (springtime poems and prayers), and seek to elements of her example to my daily life. Won’t you join me?

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.

 

 

January’s Full Moon: The Quiet Moon: Ephemera

moon blog

To the ancients, ancient Celts and Druids, Wiccans, pagans and other ancient tribes-people the moon played a great part in their calendar, their daily and spiritual calendar, working and social life. It governed, not just the progression of the month, but also related life to the seasons, to the days’ length, to the planting and reaping of seed in agricultural communities. To them is was also a mystical body, shrouded in secrets, and many cultures have lively and interesting myths about the Moon.

’The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.’ Jean Ingelow

And yet today many tend to minimise their focus on the moon. And even then, many of those who look at it do so only from a scientific viewpoint, and many urban dwellers may miss its birthing and dying and re-birthing all together, as it moves across the sky, blocked by city high-rise buildings, as it faithfully revolves around the Earth every month.

It is worth making the effort to travel to a less-cluttered environment to gaze at the Moon at its fulness. To ponder, to wonder, to give thanks.

‘When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.’ Mahatma Gandhi

For the astronomically inclined the Moon orbits the Earth in the prograde direction and completes one revolution relative to the stars in about 27.3 days (a sidereal month), and one revolution relative to the Sun in about 29.5 days (a synodic month). But, there’s more.

Yes, the first full moon of the year occurs on Friday, 10 January 2020 at 7.21pm (UTC/Greenwich Mean Time) in the constellation of Gemini.

It will appear low in the eastern sky at that time, near the stars Castor and Polux (The Twins), and close by the Moon will be the star Wasat (Arabic for ‘the middle’), and interestingly it ‘sits’ in the middle of the waist of Castor and Polux. As the night progresses so the Moon will climb higher in the night sky.

’The full moon – the mandala of the sky.’ Tom Robbins

To the Celts this full Moon was/is known as the Quiet Moon, but the Wolf Moon to those of medieval England and ancient and latter-day Wiccan. Others may know it as the Cold Moon, the Ice Moon or the Old Moon. But, there’s even more.

Some time ago I penned this poem about the moon:

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.

I’m not sure if you will seek out the Moon this Friday (and the weekend, why not?), but my encouragement is for you to do so. Gaze in silence for a few minutes at that bright disk with its smiling face looking back, maybe verbalise a prayer (see below), or raise a glass to it, and ponder on the awesomeness of the Moon and the Moon-maker.

O Divine Presence
Bless to me the lustre of your signs and wonders,
traces of our final home in land and sea and sky.
As you have made the mark of heaven in a human face,
may I see the imprint of your family likeness in every living thing
that your blessing might radiate
each day and each night,
until heaven and earth are One.

The Celtic Wheel Of The Year, Tess Ward

Wishing you and those whom you love the blessings of the Moon-maker

Tadhg

 

 

The White Stone Ritual: A Time Of Beginnings

20191229 WHITE STONE RITUAL

It’s coming up to the start of a new year, indeed, a new decade and the following White Stone Ritual may prove useful  to you (as an individual or group) in starting the new year.

Although the ritual can be used, say, within the first week of the new year or later, or at the start of a new project or on a feast day or event, as it can be adapted in many other ways to be used on many other occasions).

To recap, we recently looked at the Burning Bowl Ritual. That’s a form of ‘letting go’ ritual which can be performed in a group setting or by an individual. More can be gleaned by clicking here.

And, now having obtained some kind of ending, of closure, the next ritual is about moving forward, positively – it’s the White Stone ritual.

 ’When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.’ RuPaul

Outline
For the White Stone Ritual you will need a white stone, but any palm-sized stone will do, and you can improvise with paper etc if no stone is to hand. Be inventive. It’s intentionality that is important, here. You will also need a pen, preferably a marker pen or pencil.

In this White Stone ritual we are doing two things.  We are meditating to glean what it is we need that is positive: a new name to denote a new start (and this could be a spiritual name to run alongside our given name),  or a word to focus upon for the coming year or so, and then, secondly, to take part in a simple but profound ritual of writing that onto the white stone (or improvised item).

White Stone: Significance
The symbolism attached to the white stone is ancient and profound. It is said that, in antiquity, when a prisoner was freed from prison he (or she) would be given a white stone. By this stone he/she could prove they had served their time, that something significant had happened (that is, that they were in prison, but are now free), and could look forward to the future with some positivity.

 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says…I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ Revelation 2:17 (part), The Book

The White Stone Ritual, then, is about new beginnings, a new name or spiritual focus, positivity, moving forward, and about energy.

 The White Stone Ritual
You may want some sacred music playing in the background, and/or recite some relevant spiritual verses or a relevant poem (some of which are used throughout this article at various points, but if you use them you may need to ‘relocate’ the words/poems used in this article to different places within your ceremony for it to ‘flow’).

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.

And nothing happens!
Nothing…Silence…Waves…

Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramón Jiménez

You might want to recite some words of liturgy. Be open, be adaptable, but don’t disqualify yourself or belittle the ritual in any way for any lack perceived, for at the end of the day a simple but (improvised) ritual can have a significant effect of positivity and power.

So:

  • Close your eyes, and hold the white stone, or other stone, or small piece of paper in the palm of your left hand and place your right hand over it. Take a slow, deep breath and exhale. Meditate. Remember, we might be asking for a spiritual name, but a name  can also mean the ‘nature of’ something, your spiritual identity or spiritual focus
  • Ask yourself quietly, ‘What is the main spiritual quality that is need to move forward ?”
  • Take a slow, deep breath again and exhale. Now, think of one or more words that describe your highest spiritual essence. Listen intently.

‘I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centred at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.’ Maya Angelou

  • Just allow a few words to ‘bubble up’. There is no need to force the name or the words of your intended spiritual focus. Just allow it to surface from your depths. It can be words such as: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, forbearance, gentleness, faith, self-control, energy etc.

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

  • You can select a word or two now (but, if circumstances dictate, then you may choose to change it later, so the name or word(s) that come to you today can be kept, or altered depending on the guidance you receive from the bay kohl, that still small voice.
  • When you’re ready, you may open your eyes.
  • Write your name or the words given to you in that time of meditation on the white stone with a marker or pencil (if the ink runs off, don’t worry. It may be aesthetically nice for the word(s) to remain on the stone (or paper etc) but it’s intentionality that counts. You wrote it once, the ink didn’t remain as a word or more, but you did it! And, that intentionality, not the inks permanence or impermanence that is important.

’I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it until it begins to shine.’ Emily Dickinson

  • Reflect on the name or words that came to you and on the significance of the whole white stone exercise. Place your stone  or paper in a prominent location now, and over the next few days and weeks, so you will be reminded of your new name, or new spiritual focus.
  • You might want to just sit/stand there for a few minutes. Something wonderful has occurred, whether you know it or not. A new beginning is underway. A new determination has been rooted in your psyche, and new energy is at your disposal, energy from the Source of All.

’Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.’ Abraham Lincoln

Earthing
This ritual, like any other ritual moves us from ‘mechanical time’ to the realm of sacred-time, sacred space. In ‘returning’ it is important to mark that returning occasion with a physical action. If outside, you might like to walk about a little. If indoors, then a small hand clap to mark your return is sufficient. Some small, token, physical action is important to end the ritual.

Blessings, Tadhg.

[To ensure you’re kept informed of other rituals and articles in the future, do ‘sign up’ on Tadhg’s  ‘TadhgTalks’ blog or his FaceBook site, or email him, or drop him a line to say ‘hi’.]

 

 

The Burning Bowl Ritual: The Year’s End

20191227 BURNING BOWL RITUAL

As we come to the end of the year, you might find the Burning Bowl ritual useful.

‘Attachment is the source of all suffering.’ Buddha

Many of us (if not all of us) have things that seem to cling to us and hold us back. Attachments.  It could be something that some have said to us, or unfortunate events that we’ve experienced, inappropriate reactions, uninspiring thoughts, outdated ideas that have served their purpose in the past but which now serve no useful purpose, or negativity etc. All these seem to cling to us, and other things, too,  and can hold us back from being who we are meant to be.

Our reactions to life events, if we’re not careful, can become something like a weight that clings to us, that weighs us down, but it is so subtle sometimes, or we’re so used to the same actions and reactions, that we are hardly conscious of it.

‘The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather’. Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets.

This is where the Burning Bowl Ritual can prove to be useful.

It is a form of ‘letting go’ ritual which can be performed in a group setting or by an individual, and what follows is the rationale behind it, its purpose, along with some resources that you can use or adapt, as needed.

If it is time to release that which is holding you back (and there are ‘seasons’ so there is no pressure to perform the ritual as a ‘must do’ at this time), then do read on.

A Burning Bowl ritual is a transformative ritual.

It is traditionally performed on New Year’s Eve or other meaningful holidays or dates. There’s some flexibility here, and so, with the end of the year coming up you might like to move the ritual around by a few days (or more). It is a good way to release that which we’re clinging to and which is unhealthy: the past, negativity, or pain, of dealing with old resentments, hurt, grudges, regrets, or suffering. It is a another step on the adventure of becoming who you really are, and embracing the benefits now.

However, as you prepare or, indeed, perform the Burning Bowl ritual it is important to try to be in a positive, peaceful mood.

In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. – Deepak Chopra

It’s a celebration of the end of all that is holding us back, and the release into something new.

Step-by-Step Guide

Essentially, you start by writing what you want to let go of, and then you’ll burn that piece of paper. But, there’s more. So for this you will need:

• Paper
• Pen
• Matches or a lighter
• A safe, burn-friendly surface (like a metal or glass bowl, fireplace, etc.)

Safety
Do not burn something valuable out of spite, like legal documents, photographs, or something that could be important to another person. It is a symbolic act, and so writing on a small piece of paper will suffice.

Also avoid burning something that is highly flammable or something that can cause you harm, and any burning should take place in a safe area outside. Ensure you, others and the environment are safe,

Use a large enough unburnable bowl or a container (like metal), and do be aware of your environment or surroundings. Ensure no harm.

Intentionality
Throughout the burning ceremony, remain calm and grounded in your intent. The ceremony should not be performed to shake away anger or frustration. There is no ‘wrestling’ with negative emotions or feelings – it is a ritual of serenity.

You might like to think or voice out loud your intentions, such as:

• I am peaceful
• I am grounded
• I let go of attachments
• I find peace when I let go

The Four Quarters
For those that like to acknowledge the four quarters, the cardinal compass points the abovementioned could be recited as you face, first phrase to the west, the turn and recite the second phrase to the north, the third to the east, and the fourth to the south. The reason for ending facing the south is that symbolically south represents fire (the main element in this ritual), but you can start or finish at other cardinal points as you feel are appropriate.

When your intentions are clear and focused, you can determine what you want out of this ceremony.

Grounding
Here, you can sit down or stand firmly with both feet on the ground for a few moments until you feel present and grounded. As negativity or tension releases from your body, let it pass. Stand quietly in prayer or meditation, while you honour your commitment to change.

Writing & Burning
Write down what you’re ready to let go of on your piece of paper. It could be a word or a phrase that sums up that which is holing you back. It may be best just to spend a minute or two doing this, and avoid writing more than a few words. Being succinct is good.

‘Nothing releases like forgive. Nothing renews like forget.’ Ray A Davis

Now that you have listed what you want to let go of, hold it for a few minutes. Read it, reflect on it, but try not to react negatively.

Now, it’s time to burn. Light the piece of paper on fire or throw it, carefully, into the pre-lit burning bowl. Watch it burn, take a few deep breaths, and you might like to rub your hands together for a final release  of the attachment you just let go of.

In burning that piece of paper, you have symbolically ended any power that attachment had over you, and have embraced that which is positive and which is about to come (or, its already there, depending on your viewpoint).

So…
By burning away clinging, negative attachments, you can free yourself from any regret, sorrow, or pain, and look forward to a brighter future. Let the burning ceremony allow you to sense a feeling of closure, that will allow you to move on.

So, as we come to the end of the year, and if it feels like the right time, and you feel its right to let go of attachment, do try a burning ceremony.

But…
But, if you’re performing the ritual indoors where an open flame may not be appropriate or safe, and the same may apply if you live in the city, then do adapt the ceremony.

If a (literal) burning bowl is inappropriate or unsafe, then after you have written what you want to release on paper you might like to ‘feed’ it through the shedding matching,  or rip it into little pieces and put it in the rubbish/garbage bin (in small enough pieces that no one can read it), or write it on rice paper and watch it dissolve in a bowl of water (and in a very symbolic action, it occured to me that you might substitute ordinary paper for toilet paper, write on that, and afterwards flush it down the toilet! How symbolic is that?).

‘When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.’ Kahlil Gibrán, Sand and Foam.

The abovementioned are a few ideas for a Burning Bowl ritual, an ending to that which is holding us back.

Earthing
This ritual, like any other ritual moves us from ‘mechanical time’ to the realm of sacred-time, sacred space. In ‘returning’ it is important to mark that returning occasion with a physical action. If outside and having faced the four quarters then you might like to walk about a little. If indoors, then a small hand clap to mark your return is sufficient. Some small, token, physical action is important to end the ritual.

But, There’s More
Within the next couple of days, in time for the first day (or few days) if the new year, I’d like to mention the White Stone ritual which is a way, after releasing that which was holding us back, will move us on it a positive and life-affirming way (and for which one or two white stones that can fit in the palm of your hand may be needed – but as always, do improvise).

 

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

 

The Winter’s Light: Winter Solstice Approaches [Poem/Liturgy]

20191210 THE WINTERS LIGHT WINTER SOLSTICE APPROACHES REVISITED

The season of winter is upon us and almost half way through. And, Winter Solstice approaches. And, I love it. The cold, the dark, the freshness of it all, and hopefully, some snow. This time is a liminal time, a time of myth and ‘magic’, and so my encouragement is for you to pause, draw aside, use your imagination, and let those ancient whispers from yesteryear permeate your very being.

Poem and video follows.

As you contemplate the season, join a group or arrange something by yourself to celebrate the Winter Solstice (called Alban Arthan in Welsh, ‘the light of winter’) you might find the following poem – penned a few years ago by myself – an aid to your meditation, or you might use it as liturgy.

The poem is followed by a video link to Seattle Unity Church who used the poem last year, and so you can hear the poem read by Scott.

Winter solstice approaches.

The day is over, and night comes early.
Orion is higher in the sky now,
and imaginations are unshackled.
Above us the gods of yesteryear move across the heavens.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

The silvery December moon rises
and the face that smiled upon the Birth,
of yesteryear, also smiles on us.
Above us Rhiannon advances.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Wise ones seek the Truth,
and beings of light, lit their Way.
Angels? Fae? The Watchers? Elementals, The Others?
And, about us unnamed, invisible Companions guide us still.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

We dance together in the dark,
as the Circle turns, and yet
we dance joyfully and with purpose.
We celebrate the season, that is.
And, around us, in the darkness
we ‘see’ the Friend at work.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

And yet in the darkness,
there shines a Light.
And, in remembrance, we light this festive candle
to the Sun of Righteousness.
And, we declare to all, near and far;
peace and hope, light and love
be to you and yours.
Now, and forever more.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Winter solstice approaches.

My friends at Seattle Unity Church read the poem as part of their Christmas celebration last year, and if you want to hear it read (extremely well by Scott, starting some forty seconds into the video link) – highly recommended – please click here.

The blessings of this awesome season be to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

20191210 THE WINTERS LIGHT WINTER SOLSTICE APPROACHES REVISITED