All About Mistletoe: Meaning, Myth & ‘Magic’

20181124 ALL ABOUT MISTLETOE

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

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

It is a most wonderful shrub.

Botanical View: Science & Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mythological & Historical View: Ah, Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Today: You & Me

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

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

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

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

So, what to do today?

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, many blessings to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

Full Moon: Poem: Thy beauty makes me like the child.

20181121 FULL MOON THY BEAUTY MAKES ME LIKE A CHILD

Ah, the winter nights are drawing in, and evening descends earlier and earlier (in the northern hemisphere). At last, in London and elsewhere in the UK the temperature is dropping to the seasonal norm, and I love it. It, at least feels natural, as the warm weather is now ‘shelved’ by nature and current daytime temperatures reach about the same as the interior of my fridge. Oh, I hope it snows!

With the earlier nights, colder temperatures and crisper air, comes the delight of clearer skies to overserve those wonderful winter stars (such as the constellation Orion, one of my favourites), and the moon.

‘Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.’ Dale Evans

This time of year is a liminal time, and an air of ‘magic’ can pervade our life if we but let it. Christmas and the Winter Solstice draw near, and doesn’t our spirit, deep within, dance as we think about truly celebrating that time? And sitting at the beginning of the Celtic advent is a forthcoming full moon.

Some time ago I wrote a poem about the full moon. You know I love full moons, and so this poem could possibly be recited or meditated upon by you at the time of the impending full moon – Friday, 23 November 2018. The poem ‘sits’ roughly within the style of  ‘found poetry’.

Here’s my poem:

Above the tower – a lone, twice-sized moon
breaks upon the city’s domes.
‘Art thou pale for weariness of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
dreaming serenely up the sky?’

Slipping softly through the sky,
pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon,
so tremulously like a dream,
to keep me company.
Thy beauty makes me like the child.

Thou silver deity of secret night,
yours is the light by which my spirit’s born.
She’s the mistress of the night, and
all love to be out by the light of the moon.
It mesmerizes lovers and dreamers.
A ghostly bridge ’twixt heaven and me.

‘Found poetry’ according to Wikipedia ‘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) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.’

The abovementioned poem uses ‘borrowed’ and adapted phrases from: Dylan Thomas, Sara Teasdale, William Henry Davies Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Louis Stevenson, Linda Ori, Siegfried Sassoon and others.

I hope you enjoy it. Many blessings, Tadhg.

Ephemera: Full Moon: The Dark Moon, Meaning & More

20181120 EPHEMERA FULL MOON DARK MOON 23 NOVEMBER 2018

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

I love full moons. I know many like the energy and vibrancy of the new moon, but for me it’s the full moon in its radiant glory and power, that charming smile that gazes down upon us all, and the brilliant energy that beams in the darkened sky, that makes me pause in wonderment.

And, the next full moon in November takes place in the early hours of Friday, 23 November 2018 (at 5.39am using UK times), though it will appear full the evening before and later that day.

It will be in the constellation of Taurus, and a couple of days later it will be sitting only 1.5 degrees from Aldebaran, that bright reddish star that marks one eye in the triangular face of Taurus the bull.

To some Celts and Druids (and that includes me) this was, and is known as the Dark Moon. To others it is known as the Tree Moon, the Beaver Moon and the Hunter’s Moon. In medieval England it was known as the Snow Moon.

‘And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.’ Hafiz

The Moon has, in some quarters, had bad press over the years, and infact even from ancient times myths and ‘magic’ have abounded about the moon and its relevancy and effects upon humankind. Here’s four interesting ‘facts’:

One: The Roman goddess of the moon was Luna, and it’s from her name that we get the terms lunacy and lunatic, an ancient belief that the moon was responsible for causing madness – something which we carry over into our modern day language.

It was also thought that sleeping in the light of a full moon could make a women pregnant, and the full moon was when werewolves turned from their human form into their lycanthrope stage, and the latter, ofcourse, is a well-loved theme of Hollywood.

’When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained… Psalm 8:3. The Book

If all of this makes you fearful of the full moon, then the term you need to know is: selenophobia.

Two: There is evidence, as we know, that the moon was very important to the ancient Celts and Druids. The Welsh goddess Arianrhod is viewed by many as being a lunar deity. It is thought that her name means ‘silver wheel’ – an obvious reference to the moon as it speeds wonderfully across the sky. Cerridwen is another possible Welsh deity with lunar connections. Her name means, ‘bent white one’ and this, too, is likely to be a reference to the crescent moon as it hangs in the sky.

’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

Three: The Earth’s oceans are massive, and yet the moon exerts a twice-daily gravitational surge on them: even over the size of relatively smaller bodies of water such as the Great Lakes of the USA, this tidal effect can be measured in inches. Scale that down even further to human size and the effect is minuscule, but theories abound that, for example, the Moon’s gravitational influence on the water in our brains can cause us to be affected by the moon in some way. Unlikely, but you never know!

’We are going to the moon that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself.’ Anais Nin

Four: Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon where the brain tries to make recognisable shapes where none exist – the face we see looking at us from the moon could be said to be an example. Just a ‘trick’ of the mind, pareidolia, or maybe something more?

Talmudic tradition says that the image of Jacob is engraved on the moon, and ancient Chinese tradition says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chango’e has been living on the Moon for 4,000 years. It is said she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband and consumed a double dose of it. She is also accompanied by a small group of ‘moon rabbits’ that live on the Moon, an image that human mind has perceived through the centuries, in the face of the Moon.

‘When the storm is over and night falls and the moon is out in all its glory and all you’re left with is the rhythm of the sea, of the waves, you know what God intended for the human race, you know what paradise is.’ Harold Pinter

Celebration: So, this full moon – as the Circle of the Year moves ever onwards, as seasons change– whatever our belief, 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 is behind it and sustains it for our benefit.

Why not Light a candle this full moon and spend a few minutes meditating upon it, or walk in the moonlight (and perhaps see your moon-shadow) and bask in its light, or raise a glass of wine (or fruit juice) in its honour, or say a silent prayer to 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 your imprint of your family likeness in every living* thing
that your blessing may radiate
each day and each night,
until heaven and earth are one.

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year. Tess Ward)

* [My preference, being an animist, is to say ‘every created thing’]

Do pause in your busy schedule and just gaze upward to the moon (or where it may be, if cloudy). My encouragement would be to do something, however simple, however brief, to celebrate this most wonderful full moon, and be thankful.

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

 

[Many thanks to Pennie Ley for the use of the moon ‘header’ photo above. Copyrighted]

All About Holly: Now The Holly Bears A Berry…

20181109 ALL ABOUT HOLLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was she asking permission?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the holly bears a berry
as red as the blood

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

Now the holly bears a berry
as black as the coal

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

Now the holly bears a berry
as white as the milk

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

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

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

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

 

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

20181102 GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES THOUGHTS ABOUT SAMHAIM 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonderful Samhain, All Souls/All Saints Day.

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

20181025 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO PORTSMOUTH

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

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

The mission?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ephemera: Harvest Full Moon: 24 October 2018: Meaning, Myth & More

20181017 EPHEMERA FULL MOON 24 OCTOBER 2018

There’s a full moon comping up.

We live in a remarkable universe. The solar system we inhabit sits on the outer spiral arm of the Milk Way galaxy, and the sun is an even-tempered star. We are on a planet that is within the ‘goldilocks zone’, that is, not too close to the sun to bake, and not too far away to freeze and make known life impossible. Ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others of old could only look up and gaze in wonder.

And yet the wisdom they possessed can teach us so much.

The planet tilts throughout the year, just enough to distribute temperature and ensure seasons; and we have a moon that, in astronomical terms, is very large compared to the planet (and because of that, some call it a companion planet, or a binary planetary system), and which harmonises with the Earth and ensures tides and weather systems. A wonderful stellar symbiosis.

It’s that moon, or rather the impending full moon on 24 October 2018 that we look at.

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?’ Unknown

The next full moon is on 24 October, and is known by some as the Hunter’s moon, or the Blood moon. To many Celts, Druids and others, myself included, it is known as the Harvest moon. It rises above the horizon (from a UK viewpoint) at about 6.20pm in the east on that evening, and climbs to its highest point at about midnight (and will be south-south-east by then).

This awesome Harvest moon will appear on the cusp of the constellation of Aries the Ram, and close to it (but maybe too small to be seen unless you’re using a telescope) is the planet Uranus which is about nineteen astronomical units away from us – one astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun – so it is nineteen times further away from us that we are from the Sun. Amazing.

‘The white light of the moon is infinitely gentle with the dark. It insists on no awakening or disturbance of colour except for the occasional illumination of the breaking wave…the rhythm of the tides…the red rhythm of the blood’. John O’Donohue

There is an ancient story about Arianrhod (pronounced ah-ree-ahn-rhohd), which is Welsh for ‘silver wheel’ or ‘silver disc’ and Arianrhod was, to those ancient Welsh tribes, a goddess, the personification of the moon.

One of many stories about Arianrhod, and perhaps not a noble one, forms part of the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Welsh myths, some dating as far back as the Iron Age.

This story tells of the goddess Arianrhod, daughter of a goddess, and niece to the Math the King of Gwynedd. She is forced to step over a magician’s rod to prove her virginity, and as she does so, she immediately gives birth to two sons; one called Dylan, the other who is eventually named Lleu.

Arianrhod is enraged at the humiliating virginity test that she had to endure and directs the anger she has for the men-folk towards one of her sons.

She places three curses over Lleu during his life: He shall have no name except the one she gives him. He shall bear no weapons except ones she gives him. He shall have no wife of the race that is now on the earth.

Her brother cleverly manages to trick her each time, dispelling all of her curses placed upon Lleu. Arianrhod then retreats to her castle Caer Arianrhod, and was later drowned when the sea reclaimed the land.

The sunken ruins of the island on which she is said to have lived, Caer Arianrhod, can be found off the coast of Dinas Dinelle, in North Wales. On a low spring tide this ancient relic can sometimes be viewed from the shore.

Many of you will know that I am an amateur astronomer, and so the moon especially is dear to me. But, I think I’m also a romantic and like to look beyond ‘the veil’, and about a year ago I wrote the following poem about Arianrhod.

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.

So, this full moon my suggestion is for us to pause and gaze in awe at the moon, to revel in the thought that without it life on Earth would be very different and the planet might not have been inhabitable, and to ponder upon the One Who Flung Stars Into Space and give thanks. For me, as is my custom I will do the aforementioned, and ‘toast’ the moon and show gratitude to the One Behind It All with a sip (or three) of some really nice wine (and maybe pour some out as a libation).

Those ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others can teach us so much, and perhaps at this full moon we can pause and appreciate nature in its fullness, and be connected to those that have gone before us. Wisdom.

 

[The moon and star facts and header photo above are cited/used only because of my astronomical interest, a sky-map to locate the moon and planets relative to the constellations and using astronomical, scientific symbolism.]

With Samhain In Mind: Words of Power & Might

20181012 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND WORDS OF POWER AND MIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early/Awaking Prayer:

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

Or

Ancestors’ prayer:

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

Or

Evening/Night-Shielding Prayer:

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

And then, there’s more!

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

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

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

Song: The Circle is turning

Verse:
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

Chorus:
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
I’m listening to the winter’s sacred rest.

Verse:
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The hope of spring, ye-et to come.

Chorus
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

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

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

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

And, finally…

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

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

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

With Samhain In Mind: A Winter Haiku

20181004 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND A WINTER HAIKU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Full Moon: The Singing Moon & More: Ephemera

20180923 EPHEMERA THE SINGING MOON 25 SEPTEMBER 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed, Tadhg.

 

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