The blessing of Gŵyl Awst, Lammas, Lughnasadh be to you and those whom you love at this time, Tadhg.
There is a full moon coming up.
I love full moons, and this one will light up the sky splendidly on Wednesday and Thursday of 27 June 27 and 28 June 2018. This is because this full moon occurs at 0453 GMT/UTC, so depending on which time zone you live in, the full moon will be at its best late on Wednesday (June 27) or in the small hours of Thursday (June 28) in the northern hemisphere. Actually either/both nights will show a wonderful full moon.
‘The moon is the reflection of your heart and moonlight is the twinkle of your love.’ Debasish Mridha
It will be in the constellation of Sagittarius the archer, and the ringed-planet Saturn will be close by (about a distance of seven moon-widths from the moon, as you look at it).
Moon name: To some, this full moon was the Dyan Moon to those of medieval England, and today it is known as the Dyad Moon to some, the Planting Moon or Strawberry Moon, or Rose Moon to others, and the Moon of Horses to ancient and latter-day Celts, Druids and myself.
‘The full moon – the mandala of the sky.’ Tom Robbins
Moonfact: Although kept a secret at the time, on 20 July 1969, at the time of the first ever moon-landing, Aldrin took out a small container of wine and some bread that he had brought to the moon from Webster Presbyterian church near Houston, where he was an elder.
Aldrin then radioed to Nasa and said, ‘I would like to request a few moments of silence … and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.’
He then ate and drank the elements of bread and wine: communion. The surreal ceremony is described in an article by Aldrin in a 1970 copy of Guideposts magazine: ‘I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.’
He also read a section of the gospel of John. During it all, Armstrong is said to have watched respectfully but without making any comment. This information was gleaned by me from the internet, and one has to be careful about the veracity of some claims made on the internet, but Snopes has it down as an accurate fact.
‘The moon stays beautiful with its craters, so why then are you afraid of your scars?’ Zubair Ahsan
Celebration: I know celebrating the full moon with communion elements may not be ‘everybody’s cup of tea’, but I would encourage you to celebrate this full moon in some meaningful way. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Something simple, intentional and moving (to you) is of great value.
As regards the universe, John Wheeler said, ’We are participators in bringing into being not only near and here, but far away and long ago.’
John Wheeler, an American physicist who is known for having coined the term ‘black hole’ said that each of us is intimately involved with the universe. From that, we can deduce that what we do does make a difference. He called it the ‘participatory anthropic principle. So, do celebrate this full moon in some way and make a difference: an intentional walk in moonlight, or a silent gazing at the full moon, a glass of wine ‘toast’ to the moon, or perhaps buy a moon chart to mark its progress and changes throughout the year, or a word of gratitude to the moon and/or the One Behind It All, or perhaps something else.
Oh Universal Presence,
bless us with the gentle light of your signs and wonders,
as we gaze heavenward to Earth’s companion, the Moon.
Gazing up we see a serene face looking back,
etched into grey-white rock.
May we see all humanity contained in that face,
and look in awe at all humankind, too.
May we see light and love in this radiant light from the full moon falling to the Earth, and covering all.
May we see we see the life of the universe in everything.
May we look upon the Moon’s face, to the One Behind It All
and be grateful.
With white roses and lilac-coloured flowers in hand I strode across the busy, noisy, bustling road, full of cars and people, and entered the cemetery. Passing the huge wrought-iron gates the world changed. Crossing that threshold, I left the world of busy-ness and noise behind. All was now at peace.
It was one of those sunny hot, June days – yes, even in London they get good weather occasionally, and that’s where I am for a while. London.
This, then, is a personal view, and some of my exploratory thoughts about death, mourning and what follows. Hopefully uplifting. My thoughts may be different to your views, but they are shared in the spirit of love and openness, and should you want to share your views and I hope you do, please do so by emailing me, directly. I am always happy to receive emails, and by so doing ‘iron sharpens iron’, indeed, and we learn and grow.
So, walking slowly through the cemetery there is, even in the middle of London, an air or peace, quietness and seeming solitude. Today, 2 June, is the birthday of my late dad, who passed on, just over a year ago, and the flowers are for his grave – a grave shared by my late mum, and nestling alongside those of my two grandmothers.
It’s an old cemetery, and I can’t but help notice that much of it is overgrown and sorely in need of mowing and some tender loving care – Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council please take note. I remind myself to contact them. Moving through the cemetery to the newer part I walk towards one of the few wooden bench seats around.
As I got nearer, and eventually sat on the bench seat, I spied my favourite tree, a dear and familiar friend, just a few feet away, that many years ago I named ‘Y llygad’ (pronounced ‘e hl-gad), and Welsh for ‘the eye’ (see header photograph). It feels like I’m being watched. I do believe am! I’m comfortable with that, and happy.
Resting there for a few minutes, thoughts come and go.
In Celtic Irish custom, and it moved throughout some of Welsh culture, too, there is a thought that when someone is about to pass on, the ban sidhe (pronounced ‘ban she’), a ghostly figure, would wail loudly. Many would say they have heard her cries in the distance, and many fear her for obvious reasons. She does get bad press. Perhaps rather than a ghoulish figure, the harbinger of death, maybe she is (as many would affirm) a fairy woman, a spirit who laments the loss-to-come to relatives, and who guides the way for the deceased, through the veil that separates this world from the next.
’…the Celtic…tradition recognises that the eternal and the transient world are woven in and through each other. Very often at death, the inhabitants of the eternal world come out towards the visible world.’ John O’Donohue.
More thoughts arise. At my grandmother’s death (and before the funeral) several women spent sometime keening. Keening being an old Celtic action involving deeply moving spiritual singing by older women – not quite wailing, then, but more uplifting, and with the benefit of drawing alongside grieving relatives. Nothing negative at all. Those keening women cared.
As I sat on that cemetery bench even more thoughts arose. Around me are dear people buried, who, like me, breathed, loved, knew ill-health, life’s ‘ups and downs’, and lived life to the full, and have now passed on. Passed where?
’ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
In the peace and tranquillity of that place, lofty questions arose. As I looked at some very old gravestones, some so old that that much of the writing had been worn away, it seemed to me that the Book of Nature (and science) showed that nothing is lost, that cycles exist and continued, and transformation takes place. Some believe that those who have passed on are even more alive in Eden, or heaven, to others they are in the Summerlands, and to others they are in Hy Braesil. I suspect these are different names for the same place, the final destination of humankind.
’Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.’ Rossiter W Raymond
Hy Braesil is one of my favourite terms, as it is wrapped in mystery and ‘magic’. Thought by some to be the place of life here-after, it is also said by some to be a mystical (physical) land far off the coast of north-west or western Scotland, and known to Celtic Welsh people, Scots and Irish people of old. Some say it only appears every six or seven years. Hy-Braesil, an island, was first drawn on maps in 1325AD by Angelino Dulcert, an Italian cartographer. It continued to be shown on maps until the 1860s.
Having rested there on that bench for a while, I moved off to the short distance to the family graves. Once there, I pulled the dead flowers out the flower-pots, cut the new flowers, save for one, and put the flowers in the flower-pots: one-third for my parents’ gravestone, and one-third each for my two grandmother’s gravestone flower-pots.
Wiping the gravestones, I then wait. On this occasion I have no prayer to say, only silent gratitude. It is enough, I believe. Gratitude to my late parents, my passed-on family, my ancestors and others. After several minutes I walk away, but not before a momentary head-bow.
Picking up the single rose, I walk in a certain direction – it differs each time. And then, on a gravestone, a different one each time, that is so weathered that no names can be read, or perhaps a gravestone that looks unkempt, I leave that single flower, as a mark of respect to that person, to acknowledge that they have not been forgotten.
But, for now they sleep. Or do they? From our perspective maybe they do, but in reality, maybe they are all more alive than ever, in a place where they no longer age, where there is no want and no sickness. Perhaps our perspective is wrong and needs to change? Maybe they are alive and it is we who sleep?
‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:’
Walking towards the large iron cemetery gates there are many profound, unanswered questions on my mind. Perhaps, there are somethings we will not know until we are ‘there’, and then those questions will evaporate as we will then know even as we are known. But, for the time being we revel in mystery and I am content with that.
‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?’, Dr Who.
Now, back in that busy street, cars speeding and people rushing about doing their shopping, it is easy to forget that we are more than just flesh and blood, as we unknowingly match the dizzying speed of a hectic world. But there is a distant echo, the voice of the Source, the bat khol, maybe the voice of our ancestors, or even an angel or elemental that whispers to each one of us that we are ‘Much more’. Be heartened.
Some of you will know that a couple of months back I spent some time on one of Scotland’s remote islands, Iona.
It was a wonderful time. It is an awesome and liminal place. It was a pilgrimage in many respects – a time to draw aside, remember vows made and promises to myself, and a time to think, meditate, pray and ‘re-energise’. I would heartily recommend a visit to Iona if you’re able to, and haven’t done so already.
Coffee? Tea? Chat in person? Skype call?
One of the deep thoughts I had there was of the sense of connectedness with you and all who read these articles, and the deep gratitude I have for you in reading articles here. But, there was more. In an age where we can cover vast distances in no time at all through the internet, I sought to think of ways of how to utilise that useful ‘tool’.
And so, I am now thinking that:
if you live or work in London (UK) I’d really like to invite you for a cup of coffee to meet you and get to know you more, especially with the winter solstice, Christmas, new moon and the new year coming up. Time to meet, to celebrate another year and know each other more. The easiest way to do this, is via text – and I can be reached by text on the UK mobile telephone: 07743 956981.
I can mention some times I’m available at the Magic Cafe, Fulham Palace Road, Fulham, and will do so if/when you text (with directions). Or, you can mention some dates and times when you’re available to come to the Magic Café. We’ll try to work out a mutually convenient day/time. Don’t forget to tell me who you are.
- if you live further afield, outside London or abroad, then maybe we can ‘connect’ via Skype. Again, please text availability using my UK mobile telephone: 07743 956981. My Skype name is: tadhg jonathan. We’ll try to work out a mutually convenient day/time. Don’t forget to tell me who you are.
- if you’d rather send a text or two (or more) only, by all means use the mobile telephone number already mentioned, and we can get to know each other that way.
Ofcourse, this is optional and a personal invitation to you. But, if you would rather not do any of this, rest assured you are in my prayers and well-wishes as we journey together via this website, and I look forward to connecting with you in the future via articles, here.
Blessings, light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg.
As I sit in the Magic Café in London my imagination is energised into action. A myriad of thoughts flood my mind, and soon pictures, words and sounds ‘solidify’ and take shape. Seemingly ‘filtered’ an ‘impression’ emerges – a train of thought with beginning, middle and end rises from that Other place.
Stories. We each have a wonderful story to tell, a life-story; indeed we’re still living it day by day, in the spectacular and wondrous, and those other times and events we mistakenly deem to be mundane and unimportant, and sometimes in events that we might want to forget.
Our stories are important as they are part of the very fabric of the universe. Yes, as real, if not more so than a colossal supernova in the vast reaches of space, or the smallness, the gentleness of a delicate flowering plant. Our life-stories matter.
Find opportunities to tell your life-story, even to yourself. For in telling our story we use our imaginations, and when we use our imaginations a whole world opens up – a world of power, a world that accesses the Other, a conduit to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves. In so doing we allow inspiration to flood us, for Arwen (if you’re a Druid and/or Welsh) or the Spirit to move within us, or if your ‘theology’ allows it, for the fae or elementals to whisper words of wisdom to us, or for Wisdom herself to ‘speak’ directly to us. Imagination opens us up to a world of wonders. The door opens when we use our imaginations and power, and energy and Love pour through. Indeed, we place ourselves in ‘the flow’ at such times.
Find opportunities to tell your life-story, even to yourself. For in telling our story we remind ourselves of what has happened and where we’ve been; of where we are now; and draw hope for the future of where we will be. Our stories, in the retelling, quietly voice our history with all its awkward corners and overcoming, shout out our status as one who is much-loved by the Lover of All, and yells out our future hope of promise and certainly, and continuity and bliss in the Other Country (that has already started). Our story is important for when told we acknowledge our place in the Universe, our status.
‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience’. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Find opportunities to tell your life-story, even to yourself. For in telling our story we are changed. That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves does not leave us unchanged. In some deep, mystical and maybe imperceptible way, that power of Unconditional Love comes in, inspires us, confirms our Being, and then transforms us. We are not left unchanged. If you want to be smart, mix with smart people. It rubs off. If you want beauty tips then mingle with people who know about such things. It rubs off (and no pun intended). Guys (and ladies), if you want to know about how to use gym equipment and get/fit then fraternise with those in the know. When you encounter The Source of All we are changed – as surely as night follows day. It rubs off. Moses knew that.
When we encounter That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves in our stories by the use of the imagination, a ‘Divine osmosis’ takes place. An exchange. A cosmic swap occurs. It cannot but help happen. And That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves finishes (though that is debatable) with what many would term a blessing – but not a blessing into ‘the air’ and which is quickly forgotten, but a blessing with a spiritual and cosmic, tangible and/or spiritual transformation. Tears may flow, or silence may endure as we consider such a thing in solitude and awe. Reaction or not on our part, our story is nevertheless important for when told we surrender ourselves to the Source of All, we are blessed in a myriad of ways. And that osmosis of grace is ‘infectious’. It flows to us from the Source of All, and from us to others, and blesses others around us, when our story is told.
‘Don’t let anyone tell your story. Pick up a pen and write your own.’ Majid Kazmi
So, tell your life-story. It matters.
And, so as I sit in the Magic Café, writing and consider whether to order another latte or not, and as you read this, and are perhaps at school or college, at home, or work tomorrow, the world spins, as does the galaxy, but in all the vast regions of space, and eons of time, your life, your life-story matters.
I am sitting in a café in London, and it’s magic. I know this to be the case, as over the door it says in big bright lettering, ‘The Magic Café’, and it’s one of my favourite places to relax. As a regular I’ve got to know the other regulars that frequent this awesome place.
I’ve probably mentioned it in the past: there is the yachtsman, the Portugese lady, the journal lady, the nanny, and the taxi drivers. As I sit here today, I wondered if they had a name for me, or if the journal lady had written about me as she writes copiously at her table, right now, supping coffee and chewing on a croissant?
Each one of us has a story to tell.
I was once at a meeting where a speaker, originally from London and had spent a number of years in a remote corner of Africa, only to return and recount his story. After fifteen minutes or so he said that each one of us has a story to tell, and suggested that one by one – there were twelve us in this group – we might tell something of our story. It hadn’t got far, infact only two people had shared their story, when the third person said something like, ‘But you’re story is so much more important, so full of awesome events, that we would like to hear more’, to the speaker. And so the story-sharing came to an abrupt end. Disappointed.
‘A bruised reed He will not break.; Isaiah 42.3 The Book
As I sit in the Magic Café, now, I imagine what each of the regulars’ story might consists of. I can imagine, and do. I wonder in what way their lives are similar to mine, and their will be similarities. In what ways different, and there will be great differences. I wonder in what ways your life story and mine co-incide. It does! At the very least it co-incides as I write these words and you are reading them. Interaction. And, there’s more. In a spiritual realm my thoughts ‘flew’ as I write these word, and your thoughts ‘fly’ as you interpret them. Mingling.
We participate in each others story because of that interaction via the internet, via physically meeting or emailing or commenting, or even thinking about each other; and participate in each others story on a cosmic level which, right now might be more than we can conceive, but one day we will understand fully. Imagine that.
‘If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name’. Kendrick Lamar
But for now, I use imagination to understand the depth of our connectedness. And would suggest the same to you. Imagination is a spiritual gift even though we play it down, or use it just as a figure of speech. And, imagination, right now, fuels my desire, our desire to get to know each other (more). The more I think about, say, the journal lady in this café, sitting just a few feet away from me, the more inquisitive I am about her (in a wholesome way), and imagination does change things.
‘…we are talking about spiritual transformation, mediated by the imagination.’ Sandra M Levy
Using my imagination piqued my interest, and that in turn brought about a desire to know that person as a friend, and that in turn lead me to talking to her, and interacting on a verbal level (and more). Ah, she’s a retired doctor, and yes, she loves to journal. I know part of her story now, and she knows part of mine.
Each one of us has an awesome story to share, and unlike the third person in that group, mentioned above, your story is as great as anyone elses. And our stories connect us.
‘Your story is different from mine because of different experiences. Even so, somehow or other we fit them into a Big Picture, we develop a sense of how our own stories fit into a larger one…’ Sandra M Levy
Our individual stories connect us to each other because our stories form part of the chapters of the ‘big picture’ of the cosmos or the big Book, and in such a Book there are no incosequential stories, no inconsquential people. Your life story counts, and it’s writ large upon the universe. All life-stories matter. Share your story. It’s a good one.
But, there’s more…
As the nights draw in, and the clocks go back, and the temperature drops (in the northern hemisphere and particularly northern climes), it is a sure sign that Samhain is almost upon us.
Samhain (pronounced ‘soh-win’, though there are variation) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season, and is sometimes greatly misunderstood. It marks the beginning of winter, and is traditionally celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
In Gaelic tradition and thought there is the idea of ‘thin places’. These are places, times or events where the spiritual realm seems even closer than usual, and Samhain is just one such time.
Ofcourse, the modern-day Hallowe’en’ is known as a time of ‘trick or treat’, a modern and commercial ‘interpretation’ of those stories of old about ghosts walking the earth at this time and annoying humans. Whatever your view is on this modern view and activity by children, the ancient understanding of remembering those who have ‘gone ahead’ is, I think, one to be cherished (and it has been adopted by many churches in the form of All Saints Day and All Souls Day for that reason).
My encouragement to you, then, is to use this time to give thanks to the Source of All for our ancestors who have given us so much (whether we know it or not, as we’re thinking of ancestors from one or two generations ago that we might have known, to those of many generations before us, and who might have an indirect influence on us).
It is a time of reflection, in giving thanks, as the Circle of the Earth moves into the darkness of the winter season, with the hope of Light. In thinking of our ancestors, we can be grateful to them, grateful to That Which Is Larger Than Us for them, and do something in their honour and remembrance at this time.
Below are some suggestions.
You might like to mark Samhain, remember the ancestors, and mark the moving into the winter season by:
- taking a nature walk in the country on in a city park. Observe and contemplate the colours, aromas, sounds, and other sensations of the season. Experience yourself as part of nature,
- decorating your home with Samhain seasonal symbols and the colours of orange or you might place an autumnal wreath on your front door. Create displays with pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, acorns, and apples,
- lighting a token candle (and perhaps saying a prayer – perhaps one of those at the end of this page?),
- creating an ancestor altar or table, with, perhaps photographs, heirlooms, and other mementos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures, to reflect upon. Thank them for being part of your life. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you experience,
- having a Samhain simple dinner, however you interpret it, to think deeply about the new season of winter, the ancestors, and to give thanks,
sharing with others, or just remembering to yourself, a story about your ancestors or a particular ancestor,
- visiting a cemetery and tend the gravesite of a loved one there, or leave a flower on an old grave (perhaps worn over the years) if your ancestors are buried some distance away – in this way they too, are honoured, or
- reflecting on your life over the past year. Using journals, planners, photographs, blogs, and other notations you have created during the past year. Consider how you
- have grown, accomplishments, challenges, adventures, travels, and learnings. Meditate. Journal about your year in review, your meditation, and your reflections.
It is not necessarily a morbid time, but a time of thankfulness – a looking back, a taking stock, and a looking forward with hope.
You might like to consider the following prayers:
Oh Hallowed Three In One,
as Autumn turns to winter,
may we see you more clearly in nature,
love your sonlight more dearly today,
and follow you more nearly in all circumstances,
as the Circle turns.
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.
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.
Whatever you do, my prayer is that you mark this time in some way, and celebrate the season and the ancestors at this time is a deeply spiritual and wholesome way.
And may That Which Is Larger Than Us bless you and yours at this time, and all those that have gone before us. Light and Love be to all.
Today, 15 October, was my last full day on Skye, and tomorrow I start the two-day journey back home. In all of this I have been moved by the energy, light and love, the presence of the ancestors, of angels and fae, and That Which Is Larger Than Us. Iona and Skye a two very different, but two equally, very ‘thin places’.
Today I just walked. There was no schedule or agenda. And as I walked the thought of rhythms came to me. We, each move at a different pace, to a different rhythm or tune, but what a wonderful symphony we make when we all come together. Not all can be flautists, not all can be percussionists, but though these are metaphors of our individuality, we can be what we are meant to be – whatever that is.
There is a different rhythm on this Isle of Skye to the Isle of Iona, and it will be different to,the rhythm you and I experience where we are, right now. But that’s to be expected. And there is nothing wrong, and no difficiency experienced so long as we are aware that the rhythm we move to in our daily life is just one of many available to us. Depending how,you view it, there is our mechanistic rhythm as we work, but, you are more. There is the natural rhythm of nature which beckons is (in trees and flowers, sunsets and the seasons), and there is the rhythm of,the body, the soul, the spirit, and the Spirit. And, perhaps all these are many facets of one Immortal Diamond.
I’ve been aware of the energy, light and love, the presence of the ancestors, of angels and fae, and That Which Is Larger Than Us on this pilgrimage. And I hope you have, too, because you have been with me on,this journey. And it still goes on in your dreams I.
I start my journey back tomorrow, amd will have a couple days to ‘acclimatise’ and will the re-start writing articles most weekdays. Over the next few weeks some of those articles will ‘unpack’ some experiences I had on those two wonderfully ‘thin places’, amd I will include more photographs – Iona’s internet connection wasn’t quite up to speed for photographs. And also, over the next few weeks I’ll outline and start some of events, websites, workshops etc, thst were on my mind before the pilgrimage and were confirmed. At the very end of this article I want to share with you, that you were with me and were very much on that pilgrimage as I was, and our wonderful journey together, goes on and on and on….
Blessings from Iona, that Isle of Druids, and light and love from Skye be yours, Tadhg
PS: Next article will be Thursday.
Having left the Isle of Iona, today was my first full day of the wonderful Isle of Skye. Last evening as I drove across the Bridge of Skye I kept a moments silence as I ‘greeted’ the island and it welcomed me. And then, I couldn’t help it. As I drove the car, whether it was a moment of flippancy or (more than likely) a spiritual passion at having arrived, I couldn’t help but sing the Skye Boat song to a traditional Scottish tune, as loud as I could. I laughed and it felt good.
Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing
Onward the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.
So, today was my first full day on Skye. The Isle of Skye is as mythical, magical, and as deep and profound as the Isle of Iona. Here, too, is the Source of All, energy, the memory and presence of the ancestors, and it too, is a wonderfully ‘thin place’.
I’m staying in Portree, and in common with these islands, nature wild and rugged is never far away. And so I walked in a green-grey landscape (wonderfully part-grass, bracken and gorse covered hills and grey, huge, mountains), and thought, and meditated, and in my spirit went to that place, ‘ Out [there] beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.’
I walked and the wind howled, and in the wind That Which Is Larger Than Us’, spoke words beyond words and imagining. In such cases the analytical brain is of no use. All that one need do, indeed all that one can do, is to remain silent and be ‘bathed’ in words that have been spoken since before the universe was called into being. That Voice speaks to us all – to you, as you read this, as you’re here with me on this pilgrimage – and the Voice never stops. Wherever we are, we are in communion with the Voice.
And then, as I followed the path, and turned a corner, the Old Man of Storr came into view.
The weather was getting worse – the wind was picking up and the rain had increased, and thinking of some of the steep slopes I had navigated in getting this far, common sense dictated that I should go no further. I stopped.. That rocky pinnacle, some 165ft (50m) high and pointing skyward was about 1/3 mile away, and it looked awesome. I stopped and just gazed in silence. In awe.
As I’m travelling and my iPad isn’t synchronised to my camera, I’ve got a directed link of the Old Man of Storr: see here https://goo.gl/images/NFoVGh
There is a story that says that the Old Man of Storr was a giant who had lived in Trotternish Ridge. When he was buried, his thumb was left jutting out the ground, creating the famous jagged landscape. There are some who think that that isn’t the giant”s thumb, but another part of his anatomy – but I’m too polite to mention it here: but please email me for details.
But there are other stories. One tells of a brownie – a Scottish hobgoblin – who is said to have done good deeds for a family he chose to serve. On Skye, it is said that a man called O’Sheen saved the life of a brownie and the two became good friends. O’Sheen died from a broken heart following the death of his beloved wife , and the devastated Brownie took it upon himself to chisel two rocks – one in memory of O’Sheen and a smaller one to remember his wife.
And, so I headed back to Portree, a little wiser, and having experienced the might and majesty of the Old Man of Storr, and witness nature wild and rugged, and it was good.
Yes, the Isle of Skye is a wonderfully ‘thin place’, that has an effect on the individual far beyond mere words, and that ‘viriditas’ is not only accessible here, but is present where you are, right now.
Reflection: 12 October 2017. Today is my last full day on Iona. I just had to revisit St Oran’s Chapel and a few other places, again. But, I also wanted to visit a hill just five minutes or so from where I’m staying, and just a few minutes short of the Machair.
On the Isle of Iona, this Isle Of Druids, surrounded by great, craggy, huge prominences this small hill – probably fifty feet across and thirty feet high, is easy to overlook. And yet, it is so significant. It is known by various names, Cnoc nan Angeal or The Hill of Angels, and to some it is Sitheon Mor or the Hill of the Fair (the Fairy Hill).
It is a place of deep connection, another ‘thin place’ on an island that is itself a ‘thin place’. For several millennia before St Columba/Columcille set foot on the island, Druids,and others would come here, to this very hill that overlooks the sea, and would commune. Whatever name they used, and however they saw that connection, something too place then, and it takes place, still. Encounter.
When St Columba/Columcille set foot on the island at Pentecost in AD563, it,is recounted by Adomnan writing some years later, that Columcille would regularly climb this hill and converse with angels. It is a place of power, energy, a place that is liminal, both straddling this world and the Other.
I just had to climb to the top of Sitheon Mor. And I’m glad I did. Did I hear the fae or Angels. Not directly. But I do believe the spirit converses with spirit, and though we may be unaware now, in years to come through memory or when we are ‘there’ and the ‘blinkers are off’ we will know then that we have (indeed wherever we are, and not just at Sitheon Mor) been in the company of the Fae, Angels, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves etc, and always have been.
But, right now as I stand on the brow of the hill, and with the wind ‘moaning’ it sounds very much like the murmurs of the Fae or Angels speaking to me.
But, then I am born into this time and it is so easy to distance myself from spiritual reality by saying the wind sounds like the voices of elementals and Angels. In using the word ‘like’ I have distanced myself – it is like, but not exactly so! So, writing as others would have written in times gone by, as I stand on this hill, I will be so bold as to say, the voices of the Fae and Angels come in the howling of the wind and speak to us. There , I’ve said it. And, if you’re reading this, then you too, are with me in spirit and are part of this wonderful and ongoing conversation that Druids, Columcille and others have had.
It’s now getting late, and so I’m leaving Sitheon Mor. Tomorrow, I head for toward the Isle of Skye, but with the firm promise of coming back to this Isle of myth and magic, a place the speaks to all those who have ears to hear, this very ‘thin place’. Iona.