Essential Celt: The Purpose Of The Journey Is To…

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Having come from the Mystery, we enter this world of mystery and awe, and embark on a voyage of (re-)discovery. Yes, the journey continues, here.

I’m sure we can all remember times when, as a child, things seemed new and bright, and the unknown was alluring. Or, have seen that in other people’s children. Then, our imaginations ran riot, and time itself seemed to move so slowly. Our perception, then, was keyed to see ‘magic’ in all things, or maybe it was the Mystery in all things that was hidden just below the surface, that was our first mission of finding it. A remembrance of ‘home’.

‘….sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.’ Kahlil Gibran

Years passed, and we grew, we grew up, matured, and things that once seemed new and bright, became somewhat familiar and dulled. Routine set in. And our mission of (re-)discovery took second place to more pressing matters. It still is possible to recapture that sense of Mystery in all things, but it seems in our oh-so-busy-and fast society we have to work at it, and it seems to be apparent that it is only sometimes that this Mystery is accessible to us. But, maybe, all this may be part of the plan of encounter: we have to work, earn money, pay the bills, shop, eat etc to live in the world, and so the ‘mundane’ squeezes in, but, such everyday chores are only part of the journey. The journey continues.

There will be times, then, when it seems the Mystery is more accessible and we should cherish those moments, and deliberately put ourselves in the Mystery’s way. And, there will be times when we don’t ‘feel’ the closeness of the Mystery at those ‘mundane’ times, but the Mystery is still there, so take heart, and I’d say were even more evident in those seemingly ‘mundane’ chores. The journey continues.

But, where is this Mystery and what is our purpose on this journey? Perhaps, our purpose is simply to encounter the Mystery, once again, as we once did before birth?

‘You were sent to the earth to become a receiver of the unknown. From ancient times  these gifts were prepared for you; now they come towards you across eternal distances.’  John O’Donohue.

How each one of us encounters the Mystery is many and varied. The Mystery is all around us – we swim through the Mystery. You can encounter the Mystery in religion and various spiritualties eg (Celtic) Christianity, Druidism, Paganism, another religion, and more!

You can encounter the Mystery in dreams, or when you meditate, in ritual (one of my favourite ways), in prayer, or in that period of relaxation when you’re about to fall asleep, in a phrase you might hear on someone’s lips, in a verbal blessing, when listening to an awesome poem or piece of music that sinks deep and touches your heart, in a fleeting numinous thought or feeling of closeness or of being loved,  during a walk through a forest (another favourite way of mine), when you see birds swirling in the sky ready to migrate, in a babies smile, in accomplishing a piece of work or overcoming some hardship or trauma.

You can encounter the Mystery when undertaking a new skill or some form of education or personal or spiritual growth, or in our daily chores of shopping, cleaning, exercising, or working with or assisting others etc. You can encounter the Mystery in a million ways. And, indeed, do!

In that respect, there is no mundane – except for those who are not alert to the Mystery. Alert or not,  The Mystery, for now,  though, seemingly hides. But, take heart.

‘[The Mystery] doesn’t hide Himself from you so that He can’t be found; He  hides Himself from you so that He can be found.’ Tommy Tenney

And, so having come from the Mystery, we enter this world of mystery and awe, and embark on a voyage of (re-)discovery to encounter the Mystery. In that community-orientated prior realm of the Mystery, we journey here, but still we need each other, and still need to be aware of opportunities to work in conjunction with the Mystery. This is made easier in community. Community is important for the journey to continue. We really do need each other.

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’. Mary Oliver

 

Celtic Thought: ‘I Is For InterBeing’ Or, ‘You And A Cloud Are Related!’ [Do Not Read This If You Are Theology-Adverse]

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“No man is an island, entire of itself.” – John Donne

The ancient Celts, and indeed all nature-related religions and beliefs that I know of – such as early Christians, some latter-day ones as well , early and latter-day Druids, pagans and others, accepted a fundamental interconnectedness of everything.

Who cannot but be moved by Brother Francis and his famous ‘Canticle of the Sun’?, his anthropomorphising of nature, and declaring its inter-connectedness (to us). Wonderful words and an awesome meaning – literally, full of awe!

“Be praised…especially through my lord Brother Sun…through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful…through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures…through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste…through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong…through Sister Mother Earth…” Brother Francis, Canticle of the Sun.

However, we are taught to think the opposite of this kind of ‘unity’ thinking, and so it is easier for us to see things in dualistic terms – yes or no; black of white; inclusive or separate; either this or that. What about if I said something is both and/or, simultaneously? Immediately, the poor brain stalls.

Thinking in such dualistic ways distances us from nature, from the Source, and from all that is. But, it wasn’t always like this. Pat yourself on the back if you’re still with me. Many might give up and this point, as to really understand Celtic thought can be jarring to the system.

Couple this with the modern usage of the term ‘like’ rather than ‘as’, and we have further distancing taking place.

Theology alert!

For instance, in ancient sacred text, did the Spirit of God descend ‘like’ a dove or ‘as’ a dove? It is an important question.

The former (that is ‘like’) has a quality that distances us from that Godly event and gives the impression that God did a close approximation of revelation, but was still some way off, or that we were at a distance. It was ‘like’ something, but not quite it!  As in, it wasn’t really God, it was ‘like’ God, or ‘like’ a dove . No connection at all.

However, if God came down ‘as’ a dove, then we’re ‘closer’ to the Source as the revelation appeared in space and time ‘as’ something substantial!

So, I checked. Was it ‘like’ or ‘as’ a dove?  And, in most English translations it says ‘like’ a dove. Oh, distance! But, you know….that didn’t feel right. God at a distance, when He (or She) seems to spend half the time in stories about drawing near, just didn’t seem correct.

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one..”. John 17.21a, The Book

So, I checked deeper. This is what I found: Interestingly, the dualistic English interpreters chose ‘like’ a dove – a distancing word; but in the  Greek, it’s ὡς, that is, ‘as’ a dove. Much closer. So close infact, there’s a connection to you and me. Interconnectedness!

Connectedness. Up close and personal. Not, at a distance. Oh, no!

Thich Hnat Hanh writes about this, and calls this interbeing; and the closest meaning, in everyday language, I can manage is the absolute and fundamental connectedness of being and without division. So, we’re all one. Sort of. Connected, but individual(s).

He writes that if you’re a poet, and look at a piece of paper, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in it! Yes, a cloud. For, without a cloud, there would be no rain; without rain their would be no trees, and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud, then, is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary, but is a combination of the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” and, we then have a new verb, inter-be. Inter-being.

So, if we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, he says, we can see then see sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And, he continues, if we look deeper, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And, we see the wheat. We know the logger cannot exist without his or her daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his or her bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Everything it seems is ‘in’ everything. Everything is connected. And, this fits neatly with the contents of the book, ‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story’ by  Brian Swimme, in which he deduces that as everything came from that incredibly dense ‘big bang’, that everything must inter-related. Even us. We are inter-connected, inter-are, and are not separate from nature (even if we think we are).

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

Could it be that the ancient Celts, ancient Druids and those of ancient tribes knew these things, the connectedness of all things? And throughout the years sages periodically reminded us latter-day people, that we are in some deep, essential, profound way related to everything around us?

If it sounds ‘new age’ and/or heretical, the question to ask yourself, now, is this: Is this way of thinking wrong and the modern approach right, or is it right and our modern interpretations and understanding of the ancients (and ancient sacred text) are way off, shallow and in error? I  believe, it’s probably the latter.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic – the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” – Charles de Lint

In Memory Of Jimmy

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Today it feels as though the ‘wind has been knocked out of my sails’. My dear, dear friend, known to many simply as ‘Jimmy’ passed on, yesterday. I found out this morning, and am in shock.

Jimmy, probably stood at just under five feet, was slightly built, built like a horse-jockey. In the times we worked together – he was a volunteer, and had been so for about seventeen years before I got there –  he would recount stories to me of him ‘wrestling’ with six-footers, of putting the world to right, and dialogues of what he had said to others or would have said, and he would also spend some time ‘bending my ear’, at least initially. But, I’m a patient guy.  He was a stickler for routine  – it was the way he coped; he was pedantic to the minutiae – it was the way he showed his love; and he gave – he was a great volunteer to the poor and needy in this area. He had a heart of gold.

As I got to know him, I understood more of the ‘battles’ he had endured, and still faced each week. The word  that epitomised Jimmy was ‘hero’. Even after leaving the post where I had been employed, we kept in touch,  and we would meet up every two or three weeks for coffee. If I was lax and wasn’t quick in contacting him to arrange a rendezvous, I’d get a late evening text, saying, ‘Are you free for coffee, maty’. Yes, Jimmy’s spelling was atracious and he could never find the question-mark button on his mobile phone. His misspelt texts always made me laugh. And, I liked being called ‘maty’ by him, his mate. He just wanted someone to listen to him – and I did just that. Isn’t that what we all want?

We’d meet in the cafe in Wandsworth. He would get there early, to pay for my coffee, and so next time I’d get there twenty minutes earlier (with a good book to read, to bide the time) to ensure I was already in place to pay for his coffee….except he pre-empted this, and got there even earlier to buy me a coffee.

We would talk and talk, and talk some more. He was an interesting man, and would always conclude our cafe-meets with a hearty hand-shake, and  with the words, ‘Give my regards to your Dad, and bring him along next time!’. I liked that a lot. He cared. Each time I left him, after our cafe-meets, I learned more and more about him, about the real Jimmy.

And now he’s gone. Passed on.

He suffered a massive heart attack yesterday, during the night. He was 42yo. I can imagine him, having been taken to the After-Life by angel-wing, giving God a tough time in Heaven. I miss this dear man, who became a good friend, and so will all fellow-volunteers where he worked, and all those whom he lovingly served, locally. He was one of the most altruistic people I knew. A great man.

[There is no Christian, Druid, Celtic, pagan or light-worker message to this post, today, but I am posting it on various sites -as I would normally do, places frequented by the aforementioned friends, in the hope that (depending on your theology) you would bless and pray (send good-thoughts, energy etc) for Jimmy, to his mother, wider family and his friends, please, who miss him sorely.]

OrthoPraxis: Celtic Practice In The Twenty-First Century: Tolerance: Is It Me, Or Have We All Become More Intolerant?

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And, so he corrected me. ‘No, you’re doing the ritual all wrong. Do as I do!’, he said. And, I looked on, knowing that there was no right or wrong way of doing it, but only that ones intentionality was all important. But, he was so confident in his error, he actually convinced himself. I’m laidback about these things, even though I’ve been involved in ceremony and ritual for thirty years (my, has it really been that long?), and my silene convinced him even more!

But, why so intolerant?

I’ve read with interest, and now to the point of exhaustion, the debate about whether the USA athletes should sit or stand for their national anthem. If you agree they should stand, so the post/meme declares, type ‘yes’. I know it’s a real issue, and important to some people, but sometimes, just sometimes, isn’t there a time to ‘think’ ones thoughts without finding the need to voice them? And, is that the most pressing issue of the day? There are people starving in the world, people dying in wars, and even in America there are huge numbers involved in gun crime deaths – some 265 people were shot by children, alone, in one year! But, it seems the geographical position of ones rear is more important it seems.

But, why so intolerant?

“Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.”  Voltaire,

I almost wept yesterday. The online post/memes I had come across were promising me blessings from God if I typed ‘yes’ and/or cut and pasted the meme. One actually implied a threat if one didn’t comply, because ‘Jesus knows who is typing ‘amen’ and who isn’t’. Oh, it wasn’t the post/meme that caused me to almost weep, but the hundreds of Christians who had, sadly, typed ‘amen’ in response.

Maybe, then I’m the intolerant one?

After all, if people want to type ‘amen’ to that they can do so. Ofcourse they can. It is there right to choose to do so. But, the cause for almost-weeping was that they did it! I cannot believe that God, Spirit, the Source of All works in such a manner, and it upset me to think that those people did! That’s not religion, is it? Not spirituality? Am I wrong to conclude that is resembles mere superstition? I read somewhere, that we can do all things….but not all thing are helpful. I worry that those who restrict themselves to a god of memes, may miss the God who loves them, unconditionally.

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is edifying.” 1 Corinthians 10.23. The Book

As a Druidic-Christian (and admitting that will get me into trouble in some quarters), and with a broad range of friends from pagan, Druids, Hindu, Muslim, Christian backgrounds etc, I get the feeling that we’re all a wee bit too self-opinionated, too willing to claim our rights and yet so wanting people to be tolerant of us, but we’ve become intolerant of others and their opinions. Am I wrong? Overly sensitive?

Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged”. Jalaluddin Rumi

What do think? What are the views of a latter-day Celt, Christian, Druids etc in these matters? And, how do we restore respect and tolerance?

Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist talks about ‘grounded’ (or is it ‘earthed’) Buddhism, and by that he means a spirituality that is living and active in the world, by doing some practical good. It’s about respecting others. I like that. But, even he gets opposition.

“All you need is love.” The Beatles

Why are some so intolerant? Is it fear? Arrogance? Not understanding others? Not willing to understand others? When it comes to some French officials declaring that some women are over-dressed on the beach, we have to ask: Have we all moved towards the intolerant end of the spectrum, and if so how do we move back, practically, in what we say and do in the world, in our local communities, in our homes?

“The primary philosophical posture of Druidism is one of love and respect towards all of life – towards fellow human beings and animals, and all of Nature.’ From http://www.druidry.org

Meanwhile, I’m going to continue with the ritual, the one I mentioned earlier, which was for global peace.

  • Oh dear. Mea culpa. Apologies for the banner/photo misspelling of the word ‘practice’, and for getting the wrong century LOL

 

Essential Celt: Autumn Equinox & Incarnational Balance

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It’s Alban Elfed, the autumn equinox, that great time of balance; the time of equal day lengths and night. Balance is a great word, but how do we apply it to our daily lives? Here’s a thought.

I know some men and women of action, but with little prayer life  and ritual. They achieve good things and I greatly admire them.They are always busy, but in some way they seem ‘disconnected’ from the Source, exhausted, ‘drained’, ‘energyless’.

I know some other men and women, who are great people of prayer and ritual and I greatly admire them, too. But, little action. To them, the goal of action may seem too remote, or maybe they have assumed it’s the ‘calling’ of others ‘do’, and not theirs. They seem ‘disconnected’ from interaction with the local and wider community, almost recluse.

I am only speaking in generalisations, and it’s not for me to judge them. I only write the abovementioned because, at different times and in different ways, I resemble both these groups.

Do you?

At times I seem so busy, that prayer and ritual are put on the backburner. I race around, but deep inside all is not well with my soul. At other times, I’ve spent so much time in prayer and ritual, secluded, I know the good that could have been done, physically, relationally, interactively with others, hasn’t happened, and I’m the poorer for it.

There are many ways to celebrate the autumn equinox, and several days ago I highlighted some practical suggestions: here.

However, there is another way to celebrate the autumn equinox: incarnationally!

This autumn equinox, this time of balance, I’m going to think deeply, reflectively, objectively about ‘balance’ in my life, tonight. What am I doing? And, why? Is there an imbalance in my work-rest-play life? Am I too ‘reclusive’ or to ‘outward’, do I think too much of others to the detriment of myself, or is it the other way round? What do I need to add to obtain ‘balance’, and what do I need to change or subtract. And, what about you, and your life?

Alban Elfed, the autumn equinox is not only the time of this season, though it is and that’s important, not just as an academic observation, but it can also be an aim, that is as something  definite to achieve within my life: work, rest, play balance. The Autumn equinox can be incarnated, born in the flesh and ‘out-worked’, through you and me in our daily life. Just a thought.

What do you think?

[Meanwhile, wishing those whom you love a great Alban Elfed]

 

The Case Against Tadhg: Is It Ancestor Worship Or Ancestor Honouring? You Get To Decide

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My confession is…I honour my ancestors. And, for that, I’m in trouble, again.

Druids and pagans are loving me for saying it, but some (and by no means, all) of my Christian friends think I should be, metaphorically,  hanged, drawn and quartered…’in love’, of course. Celts, depending on their calling toward Druidism or Christianity (do we have to choose?) may be a different response.

I was taken aside (some time ago), and told ‘ancestor worship’ is wrong.

‘So, I’ve been told,’ I replied, ‘but why are you telling me?’.

What had I done wrong?

Well, here’s the evidence, for you to decide guilt or innocence:

I had, and still have a table, set aside, a special table as it has items on it of relevance to me, reminders of the seasons, and is a focal point for me to dwell upon, meditate upon, and give thanks.

Currently, although that will change tomorrow as the Autumn equinox approaches, it has an ear of corn on it; a candle that I light for a short while each evening to gaze upon; an open book with a poem about harvest, visible;  and several photographs of my ancestors to prompt my memory. Usually, regardless of the season, photographs of ancestors abound. It was the latter that ‘sparked’ some interest by the one who drew me aside.

To be fair to the person accusing me of ancestor worship, their heart is in the right place, and I bear no malice; however, it did (and still does) concern me at how many people apply ancient text out of context, and are oblivious to it! It worries me. In many cases it may be because they haven’t honed the skills of objective thought, or maybe they have been ‘duped’ by the modern world and its ‘soundbites’ into accepting a view which is modern and shallow, but seemingly and falsely ‘dressed up’ as ancient and wise; or maybe it’s ego on their part. I’m not sure. Nevertheless, it concerns me.

However, I happen to believe history, especially family history, is important.

ancestors-1Part of my family is Italian. When I hear of people talking about ‘taking back control of our borders’ and stopping immigration, I immediately think of that Italian ancestor of a couple of hundred years ago being turned away, and in my mind’s eye the ensuing family tree (chart) being slowly erased…until I finally disappear. What happened in the past, affects me (and you), now. Ancestors are important.

‘People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.’ (Edmund Burke)

One of my favourite phrases is: standing on the shoulders of giants. That is, we are the product of all those that have gone before, and that includes our immediate family, the last generation and the myriad of generations before that. Ancestors are important.

‘Honour your father and your mother…’ (Exodus 20:12, The Book)

For instance. I have blue eyes. Did you know that, ‘…research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.’ (Science Daily, 31 January, 2008). And, so I’m indebted to that ancestor for my blue eyes and  other bodily characteristics. Ancestors are important.

One of my ancestors, according to his marriage certificate has as his occupation as ‘reporter’. I think that that is a mistake by the recording clerk at the time, and that his occupation was a porter in a market, and not a reporter. What persuades me of this? Well, my ancestor (and we’re going way back) couldn’t sign his own name on the certificate, and so put an ‘x’. If he was a reporter and unable to spell he would be the world’s worst reporter! No, I think he was a porter, and am proud that.  Despite him not being able to write, he secured paid employment for him and his family in extremely tough times. Resilience. I honour that. I honour him.

ancestor-3Having used the oak tree as an analogy of a literal family tree, passing on attributes from one generation to the next generation of oak tree, Brian Swimme in his book ‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon’ says, ”Modern humans….regard history as something dead, and fail to realise how this cripples us.’ And he goes on to ask: ‘What would happen if we began to see that the achievements of our ancestors are permanent creative advances, handed down for our benefit?’. It’s like a relay race, and we’re the ones to have ‘inherited’ the baton that has been passed down from generation to generation…except very few people know that, today, and those that do know it are considered as ‘ancestor worshippers’. When, infact, they should be known as ‘ancestor honourers’.

‘The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children’. (Philip Carr- Gomm)

ancestor-2So, there’s the case. I do honour my ancestors, but don’t worship them. I do, however, worship the One behind it all – who guides you and me (on our continuing lineage-journey). But, I do I honour my ancestors, giving gratitude for all that they’ve done to ‘bring’ me to this time, and that reminds me to accept the responsibility of passing on their good works, and for me to do something for the next generation. I would encourage you to take time to honour your ancestors periodically, in some way, not as a chore, but as something lively and joyful, and, well….honouring.

‘Our ancestors did great work for humanity. What will we do for the next  generations?’. (Lailah Gifty Akita)

So, innocent or guilty? You get to decide.

 

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Essential Celt: Eight Practical Ideas To Celebrate Alban Elfed, The Autumn Equinox

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Soon it will be Alban Elfed, which is the Welsh, Celtic and Druidic name (for many) of the Autumn equinox (Thursday, 22 September 2016) – that great event when the length of the day and the night are the same, that great time of balance. The compass direction for this Equinox is ‘west’, and so the element is ‘water’.

All praise be Yours, my God, through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious, and pure.
St Francis of Assisi

A few people have emailed me recently, seeking ideas of how to celebrate the Autumn Equinox in practical ways in a faith-group setting, as a family or by themselves, and a few suggestions follow. The list is not exhaustive and you are most welcome to respond with ideas that you have, or with what you have done in the past.

‘May the stream of your life flow unimpeded.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.’
Celtic Prayer

Here, then, are a few practical suggestions of celebrating the event:

8p-fruit-untitled(1) Give thanks for the harvest. This could be a full-scale family meal, and/or friends meal on that evening, or part of a simple meal for one or two (such as the breaking of bread at the beginning or at some point throughout the meal. It can be done symbolically and/or accompanied by a prayer or a piece of poetry).

‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread  from the earth.’ (A Jewish prayer. Bread, here, could be seen to represent all  kinds of food for this meal).

(2) As time of gratitude you might like to recount all the good things that have happened in the past year, maybe write them on a piece of paper (or in your journal). You could even invite a few family and/or friends over to do this. You might like to start a gratitude jar Some like to celebrate this time by giving thanks by inviting friends and family over, and forming a circle so that each person in turn can verbalise something that they’re grateful for. Some incorporate the use of a ‘talking stick’, so that the ‘talking stick’ is passed, in sequence, to the next person who will speak, and therefore he or she then has ‘the floor’ and all others must listen. The making of a ‘talking stick’ and gratitude jar will be the theme of tomorrow’s post.

acorns-untitled(3) Plant a native seed, such as an acorn at this time, or make a contribution to a forest trust who will plant a tree on your behalf or in memory of a loved one, and so, ecologically restore balance in the world. In the UK, I can heartily recommend the Woodland Trust, see here.

‘Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
The fountain is there among its scalloped
green and grey stones.

It is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,
up and out through the rock.

(Denise Levertov)

8p-candle-untitled(4) Dedicate part of your house, a corner-table in a room, a shelf or window sill to celebrate this event of celebrating the Earth’s abundance: and so decorate it with cloth the colour of autumnal browns and those awesome autumnal orange and red colours, with nuts, berries; with autumnal flowers (real or artificial) such as fennel, hops, marigold or hawthorne berries, all of which are associated with the Autumn equinox (or anything you like); and a candle (but if you light the candle, do ensure theres a safe distance between any cloth, fabric or curtains etc).

(5) Think about ‘balance’ in the wider context. As ‘balance’ is the thrust of the Autumnal equinox (the balance between day and night), see how this affects you eg do you have your work – rest balance in harmony, and if not, what adjustments would you like, could you make?

(6) Make time to (re-)connect with your ‘inner’ self, however you do it: consider a silent meditation; consider a walking (silent) meditation or ‘amble’ in the country or city park; or listen to a soft piece of music and sip wine or coffee (and why not include chocolate) at home, just relaxing and getting ‘dreamy’ as the music plays etc.

8p-water-bowl-untitled(7) As the Autumn equinox element is water, why not place  a bowl of water on the meal table, or maybe, place a bowl of water for the day near the door, and then you can ‘bless’ yourself (and remind yourself to be grateful for water) as you leave or enter the house. Holy water? And because the season’s element is water, you might want to embellish it with sea shells or the like.

‘…You give them to drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.’
(Psalm 36:8-9 part, The Book)

(8) Some might like to consider drumming, or using drum-based music to dance to. I do this reguarly, but I confess it is, for me, a private event. My dance moves are not the best in the world and I’m not sure if the public at large are ready for them, but they are ‘offered up’ as a ‘dance sacrifice’ for the season, and it’s enjoyable, and I would recommend you trying a ‘dance of gratitude’.

If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

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Essential Celt: Liturgy For Alban Elfed, The Autumn Equinox

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In a few weeks it will be the Autumn equinox – that great season when the length of the day and the night are the same, that great time of balance. The compass point associated with the Autumn equinox is the west, which, from our vantage point is ‘the great sea’, and so therefore the element represented is that of water.

This equinox is sometimes called Mabon, Harvest home or the Second harvest (the first being Lammas), the Feast of Avalon, but I prefer the old Welsh name for it – I know, I maybe somewhat biased –  but to the ancients of Wales it was/is known as Alban Elfed, meaning, ‘the Light of the Water.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to post liturgy that can be used for Alban Elfed (or, flexibly, at other times, too), the first of which is today’s post. The following is based very loosely, and initially on a prayer/blessing adapted from the Carmina Gadelica.

An Alban Elfed Prayer:

Giver of water,
you who are higher than the sky,
we pray that you would shower us with your love, your grace and mercy.

Maker of the Sea, Of Ocean’s deep,
carry us over the currents of this life, and on to the end of the journey,
that we may return home to you in peace and safety.

River-shaper, Creator of rain and of dew,
you who causes everything to spring up,
establish in us a living faith, that flows, and matures, and grows.

Storm-bringer, Oh Three-In One
subdue the wind and crest of the wave.
Ward off the storm from the west,
that all may be calm, tranquil, and all may be at rest.

Great Guide of all, God of the elements,
be at the helm of our life.
Be to us our compass-chart,
a bright star to lead us through unknown seas.

 

(Based on: Beannachadh Cuain / The Ocean Blessingg)

Essential Celt: What’s Your Level Of Spiritual Growth?

160905 fowler THOUGHTS

Have you ever played one of these ‘answer a few questions’ games on the internet (usually on Facebook) and it will tell you what employment you had in a former life, or which where you should holiday next, and it gets even stranger, some will tell you what colour you are!

Playing a few of them is fun, but taking them seriously is to be avoided.

However, if I asked you what is your stage of spiritual development, that might be altogether more serious, and I think, much more useful, whatever faith-tribe you belong to!

So, what is your stage of spiritual development?

There are a number of good ‘tables’ and charts, and theories that outline spiritual maturity, but one of my most used is Fowler’s stages of faith/spirituality. What follows, then, is an outline, based loosely on Fowler’s work. And, it might be beneficial (bearing in mind this is only an outline),to ask yourself where you are on the following stages of the spiritual journey:

Stage 1: Subjectivzphoto11e faith: Adherence to the rules (but little or no understanding as to why) is the mark of this stage. Good experiences in life will encourage one to trust God/the Universe, but negative experiences will encourage one to distrust. God is seen as remote, and given to mood changes for no reason, even capriciousness. Those at this stage, the ‘beginners stage’ may ask, ‘Why does God have his favourites, and why aren’t I one of them?’ God is seen as a distant ‘mythic’ character. It is, as one would expect for someone just starting a spiritual journey, a naïve stage.

zphoto 22Stage 2: Literal faith: God is viewed in anthropomorphic terms. If the Bible says, ‘and underneath are the everlasting arms…'(Deut 33:27b) then God must surely have arms, and likely to have legs, and look like us.  God is ‘understood through stories told, and in experiences felt, and in the lives of the people they meet. Authority-figures welcomed by those at this stage. Literal stage. Most church members or faith-group members are at this stage, and encouragement is needed is to move onto stage 3.

zphoto 33Stage 3: Maturing faith: God is viewed as close(r), but maybe not too close. Respect for order is evident, and a liking for conformity prevails. It is the stage of an adult-maturity level of faith. However, conflicts with ones belief are likely to be ignored for fear of the spiritual consequences. Most local church pastors or faith-group leaders are, it is said, at this stage, as are most long-term adherents.

zphoto judderThe ‘Judder’: To progress above stage 3 requires some trauma to be overcome. This could be a loss of work with bad consequences, a major illness or something of that kind. Those who experience and overcome this ‘barrier’ move on to stage 4. Those who never experience such trauma or shy away from it, or don’t deal with it well, are likely to remain at stage 3.

zphoto 44Stage 4: Objective faith:  Outwardly, it may resemble stage 1. There is an observance to rules (well, some of them), but now there is some understanding as to what they really are, and what these observances and symbols mean.

At this stage, of which only a few reach, one is able to reflect, objectively, one ones own belief and hold questions ‘in tension’ without fear. This stage sometimes labelled the ‘second naivety’.

zphoto 55Stage 5: Non-literal faith: Resembling stage 2, outwardly, some of the unresolved questions are seemingly resolved at this stage, by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement. Except love (everyone).

zphoto 66Stage 6: Mature faith: Resembling, outwardly, stage 3, this stage is the universal-love-everything stage. It is a stage marked by grace, peace, justice, and a spiritual calmness come what may.

So, there you have it. Where are you? What stage? Compared to, say five years ago have you matured? This is a rhetorical exercise, so please don’t post results publicly, though do please let me know what you think of this ‘adaption’ of Fowlers stages of spiritual progress. Also, do remember that this is an adaptation and only a brief outline. Something to enjoy and ponder upon, and as an encouragement to take the next step on your spiritual journey whatever your faith-tribe.

 

Imaginative Blessing: Six Steps To Blessing Others In A ‘Non-Cringing’ Way

190902 six steps to blessign others THOUGHTS

‘Let’s have a prayer meeting, and specifically  bless…’.

Run!

I have to admit, as much as I value prayer in my life, and believe that I should pray more, and believe that prayer and blessing others is effective and beneficial, even necessary, those words used to strike horror into my heart.

When those words were uttered, I would be put in the unenviable position of wanting to attend the meeting and show willing, but resisting it, in equal measure.

You see, at that time, having been a member of a faith-group for so many years, prayer conjured up: a few people who would take turns to pray (and sometimes I just didn’t want to pray out loud at the time it got to my ‘turn’, and then there would be an awkward silence), and it would take place in a dusty vestry office (and, oh boy,  could you smell the dust from yesteryear; ever so ‘musty’), and it would feel so contrived, and therefore so unspontaneous, and lifeless.

Does blessing and praying have to be so unimaginative? Does it have to resemble a shopping list?  Does it have to be so….well, boring?

Can’t we vary it, God? Just a little?

I apologise if anyone reading this likes the abovementioned style of prayer meetings, but I have to confess, it just didn’t do anything for me (and still doesn’t). I do believe that even those times were beneficial (because of intentionality), but I just wanted prayer to be a little more lively, to be living and vital, meaningful and, yes, even ‘fun’!

Dear God, why can’t I use my imagination, my body when it comes to blessing, praying?

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.’ Luke 12:27, The Book.[‘Consider’ non-italicised by me, for emphasis].

And, so, in my own time, in my own way, I experimented with prayer and blessings for specific purposes in an innovative and imaginative way.

One of these prayer and/or blessing adaptations was the Caim (and variations on it): see here.

Another was ‘Huh’ blessing (or praying), which follows.

If you can breathe in and out, you can do this! It’s another spiritual ‘tool’ you might like to use.

I am indebted to several (Celtic) Christian, Druid and Buddhist friends, over the years, for their encouragement and suggestions along the way about this style of breath or  ‘Huh’ blessings and praying. This type of prayer can also be incorporated in the middle segment of the Caim prayer.

However, the outline below is a ‘stand alone’ version of the ‘Huh’ blessing or prayer:.

Step 1: Preparation: In a quiet space – somewhere where you won’t be disturbed – sit, relax. I usually light a candle and place it in a safe place near by, so candlelight is the only light available. A tea light (whose base is wider than it is high) is safe (and even then I place it in a ‘lipped’ saucer-like tray and ensure that that is on a coaster of some sort. Call me safety conscious.

I’ve prepared the room. Artificial light is ‘off’, and one candle is lit. I’m  sitting comfortably.

Though I believe there is no boundary between the sacred and profane  (however those words are defined), I know that I benefit from this simple  ritual as a way of, seemingly, entering this time and place as ‘sacred time’ and  ‘sacred space’. It’s symbolic.

It becomes ‘time-between-time’.

Then, close your eyes. I try to face in the direction of the person or location I’m about to pray for, to bless (though you don’t have to). Slow your breathing (but still keep it natural – we don’t want you passing out!)  And, calm your thoughts as best you can, by relaxing, ‘surrendering’. No resistance. Just relax. If thoughts come, then just let them go. Don’t analyse them. Let them go. Relax and enjoy time in (apparent) sacred-space, and with the Presence.

Sometimes, if thoughts are ‘racing’, I might gently, inwardly, say one word to  myself eg love, peace etc to ‘centre’ myself, and then, after a few minutes, even let that word-thought go. I’m relaxed, now. I’m surrounded by the Presence.

I like to invoke the name of the Deity, once at the beginning of the session, and  so will start with a short and simple prayer, to set the scene. And,  that’s what  I’ve just done, as a reminder that the Deity is at work here, and not  me.

Step 2: Intentionality: In your mind’s eye think of something or someone you want to bless and/or pray about. It can be a local, national or international event, it can be people and places devastated by a natural disaster, or war, or think of the homeless, those without food etc. Or you can think a person known to you who is suffering, or all people similarly suffering with that ailment. Or you can think of the plight of animals, the natural world, where intervention is needed etc. And then picture it in your mind’s eye. Really imagine it.

I like to imagine myself and the candle, and parts of the room (eg table) that  might be lit up (as if for one minute, I’m observing myself), and then I like to  imagine the recipient of the blessing or prayer. I’ve just done that.

Right now, I’m thinking of a friend who is not well and suffering with some  kind of lung problem,  and is some 800 miles away, but in  my mind’s eye he is just a  few years/metres away.

Step 3: Breathe In: And then, as you breathe in, imagine that you are breathing in that area’s plight or that person’s anguish, pain, discomfort or ailment etc etc. Inwardly (or verbally) you might like to ‘name’ that negativity in one word. Breathe it in, in one ‘controlled’, slow, meaningful, unlaboured breath.

I breathe in, slowly, and utter one word, once, to sum up the plight of this  friend.  It’s a lung problem, and so after breathing in, I verbalise the word  ‘lung’. In a symbolic way it is ‘asking’ for the removal of that ailment, in this  case. I then breath slowly (in/out) for a short while (seconds or minutes, its up  to you) before moving on.

Step 4: Breathe Out: And then, as you breathe out,  imagine the ‘answer’ to that areas plight or that person’s predicament being met. Again, breathe out in one ‘controlled’, slow, meaningful, intentional, unlaboured out-breath. And, as you breathe out you might want to ‘name’ the answer, or blessing (for that is what it is) being sent from you to them in your mind or out loud.

I usually like to precede that one-word verbalisation with an emphatic (but not too loud), slightly extended ‘Huh’ sound, coming deep from within my lungs to show intentionality. I like to imagine that breath-prayer ‘winging’ its way to that area or person, like a ‘bubble-blessing of goodness’. Druid and other friends will have their own ‘theology’. As a believer of the Way, I perceive this blessing as coming from God’s storehouse of goodness.

I breathe out slowly with a ‘huh’ breath, followed by the word ‘healing’, in  this case (and okay that might be two exhalations, but who’s counting), and  I imagine, in this case, healing going out to this friend.

In my imagination I ‘see’ this exhalation as a  green bubble-blessing wafting  towards this friend, and moving through their chest to their  lungs, in this case.  I utter the word ‘healing’, for that is my prayer/blessing to them.

It takes no time at all for the blessing to reach him.

I then  breath slowly (in/out) for a short while (seconds or minutes, its up to  you), before moving on.

Step 5: And Repeat: It’s then a case of repeating Steps 3 and 4 several times in a slow, relaxed, unhurried way. I try to pray like this, overall, for at least 15-20 minutes. If you feel it can be, or should be shorter (or longer) in your circumstances, then that’s just fine. Experiment.

Step 6: End: At the end of the session, you leave ‘sacred time/space’, and you may wish to close with a prayer of gratitude to the Deity. As you end this session, again, don’t rush, but take several minutes before opening your eyes (and extinguishing that candle).

Having concluded the blessing/prayer, I say a simple prayer of gratitude.

And, I rest. I wait. There is no hurry.

I’m enjoying the Divine embrace. Why don’t you try it?

And  then, after a few minutes I begin to ‘stir’, open my eyes, blow the candle flame  out (- always safety conscious), and wait just a few more minutes.

I feel as though I’ve had an intercessory role in this prayer/blessing. And, it  feels that way, because I believe I (and you) have!

Conclusion: In all of this, do not make it a chore. Don’t do it unthinkingly. Don’t rush it. Relax. Be imaginative. Take your time.

It may sound complicated, but it’s like driving a car, in one sense. Initially, you dwell on each step, but eventually you slip effortlessly into the next step.

Intentionality is important, so don’t worry about getting it right, or worry if you got some of it wrong.

Having used the shopping-list prayer and blessing formula for years, I like this imaginative variation, as another way, a one more useful ‘tool’ amongst many of praying for, or blessing others. Try it!

And, yes, you can enjoy this type of session, and enjoy basking in the Presence.