The Salmon Of Knowledge: A Story Of Meaning

There are stories from antiquity that are still, oh so very relevant to us, and speak to us across the great distances of time. Here’s one from the time of ancient Celts and Druids, that tells of the way the Universe can benevolently ‘nudge’ circumstances in our favour, as it did for one young man.

Do bear in mind that to the ancient Celts and Druids the Hazel tree mentioned in this story was/is associated with ultimate wisdom.

The story goes, that:

…a young boy called Fionn, after his father died, was brought by his mother to a poet named Finnegas to be tutored and learn all he could, so that young Fionn could eventually join a group of well-renowned Irish warriors.

But, in order to join that mighty band of warriors, a man needed to have great wisdom and, yes, a knowledge of poetry. Finnegas the poet taught Fionn all he knew, and Fionn grew to be a fine young man.

Finnegas often talked wistfully about the myth of the salmon of knowledge. The salmon of knowledge was a fish that swam through the rivers of Ireland and nibbled at hazelnuts that dropped into the river (hence the ‘knowledge’ connection), but it was elusive, and so very difficult to catch. Anyone who caught it, however, and was first to eat that particular salmon would gain all the wisdom of the world.

Many months later as Fionn was studying, he heard Finnegas calling him frantically from outside. Running to the river, Fionn saw that the Finnegas had, indeed, caught the salmon of knowledge!

Finnegas the poet instructed the young man to cook the salmon, slowly, for him to eat later, but warned him not to taste the fish at all – Finnegas knew that this was the salmon of knowledge, and wanted that knowledge for himself, and not for the young man.

The young Fionn did as he was told and began cooking the fish over a crude fire. He watched it carefully so as not to burn it, and occasionally turned the fish, which was on a skewer, so it could be rotated and cooked evenly,

Some time later, Fionn saw that the fish was about to fall into the fire and ash. Immediately, reaching out, he grabbed the fish to push it back on the skewer, and in the process burned his thumb.

Without thinking, Fionn stuck his thumb in his mouth and sucked it to soothe the burn. Guess what? Several flakes of that salmon was ingested by Fionn.

When Finnegas the poet saw what Fionn had done, he grew very sad. Ultimate knowledge! He knew that he would never gain all the knowledge of the world that he desperately sought after, but, eventually, he grew to be happy at the thought that Fionn had gained that wisdom and he believed Fionn would be the greatest warrior the Fianna, that band of Irish warriors, had ever known.

And, indeed that was the case. Fionn grew to be leader of that mighty band of warriors, and became a great leader in Ireland.

—ooOoo—

And, that’s how Fionn obtained great nowledge, and is yet another example of how the Universe, the Great Spirit, the One Behind It All can so work things on our behalf, too. This was read at Tadhg’s Thought For The Day on Tuesday, 8 September 2020 at his live-streaming Facebook broadcast.

The Elderly Woman’s Two Pence: A Story Of Meaning

She walked, as she had done many times in the past into the Temple forecourts. The elderly, poor woman reached the point at the top of the staircase where she had to make an offering, and put in into the ornate plate. No one really saw her amble in, no one were aware her climb the stairs, slowly; no one was paying attention to her.

She furtively rummaged around in her purse, and found two coins. It was all she had. She took the money and put the two pence into the offertory plate, paused momentarily to say a quiet prayer, and moved to one side, almost invisibly.

A moment later there was a loud commotion as a rich man walked up the staircase. He was dressed in the finest suit, and wore the most expensive and opulent jewelry. He saw the offertory plate on the side and pulled out a fistful on money – probably about $500 or £500, and paused – his hand and the money ‘frozen’ over the offertory place, long enough for all to see his generosity of wealth. Minutes later, with his ego satiated he dropped the money and moved off, noisily.

The Universe stooped to take a better look. Both the elderly, poor woman and the rich young man were in the Universe’s single gaze.

‘A reward is due’, the Universe thought, and without any delay a golden, radiant, loving ray of light beamed from the Universe’s smiling countenance. downward. But, to whom? Who was the recipient?

Unbeknownst to the elderly, poor woman, the Universe blessed her with its golden light as she been humble and given all what she had, whereas the rich young man held back a lot, and displayed his works in public.

—-oOo—

This was read at Tadhg’s Thought For The Day this morning at his live-streaming Facebook broadcast, but a few had asked for a printed version, and here it is. It is an ancient story that turns the world’s way of working on its head, and shows the Universe’s true ‘economy’ of love, and what is most important – a grateful and humble heart, connoting that small and intentional actions means the most.

Cosmic Christ[mas]: Poem

20191205 COSMIC CHRISTMAS REVISITED

I love this time of the year. It’s getting much colder – below zero degrees Celsius in London, and the nights are getting longer. Sunset is now much earlier – about 3.55pm in London (and 3.44pm in Scotland) and over the next couple of weeks the sun will set a few minutes earlier as we move towards the Winter solstice.

My ‘inner child’, never very quiet, goes into ‘overdrive’ at this time of the year. The veil between Here and There, The Other ‘thins’; it’s a liminal time; the nights are longer and stories abound – but in many cases we call them evening movies on tv.

It’s a time of myth and story, of ‘earthy’ food, and drink, and revelry; of communion with families and others; and whether we believe wholeheartedly or ‘romantically’ in the fae, elementals, angels, woodland myths, those ancient stories of the Christ-child etc, no one can deny that this is a ‘magical’ time of the year, a profound season when we remember great events, and pause, ‘look up’ and gasp in awes at all that is!

With that in mind, some time ago I wrote the following poem:

Into the void
His word went forth.

What was not. Is!

Light and life accompanied His utterances
and in response, nature danced in the song of creation.
He formed the man of clay, and the woman who is the mother of all life.
And they, too, danced in the light of the morning.
Night has now come, and is far spent,
and the man and woman crane their necks and gaze upwards.
And their words go forth into the vacuum, that is space.
‘Is anyone out there? ‘.

Out of the void another sound is heard.

This time, a baby’s cry echoes in some dim and dusty street of old.
And in the darkness of the world, words of hope are once more heard.
‘My children. Did you think I would leave you as orphans to stray in the night?
I am with you, evermore! ‘.

Wishing you and those whom you love bright blessings of this wonderful season. Tadhg.

 

Celtic Advent: Even More Cosmic Thoughts At The Magic Cafe

20191114 EVEN MORE COSMIC THOUGHTS AT THE MAGIC CAFE CELTIC ADVENT

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.’ Helen Keller

Ever since the clocks went back an hour there has been an increasing expectation of the event. The nights draw in, the temperature drops, and parts of the UK have even had a dusting of snow.

Anticipation just hangs in the air as autumn gives way to winter, or is my ‘inner child’ even more overactive than usual? As I sit in the Magic Café in Fulham, London I read and drink coffee, and talk to friends that come and go. There’s much talk about politics and the impending election, which way to vote, should one vote tactically, and what of the future. There is a sense that the very soul of the nation is at stake for generations to come.

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

And yet, without minimising such day to day concerns about politics, for in many cases it is within the mundane that myth, magic and miracles take place, there is more.

Yes, the Celtic Advent is here.

Celtic Advent is always 15 November to 24 December, Christmas Eve, and it was a time of fasting and preparation that mirrored Lent which was celebrated in the lead up to Easter. But, I’d like to suggest something a bit different.

Whether you are a Christian, Celt, Druid or of some other belief, or a blend of two or more, this is a good time to prepare in the lead up to Christmas or the Winter Solstice.

Advent for many, is a time of pondering the cosmic significance of darkness, a turning of the great Circle and the seasons change, a time of personal preparation, a time to go deeper, a time of expectation.

It is at this time of the year that nature seemingly dies. Death is something the ancients didn’t fear, and this time of the year for them would be a time of remembrance and storytelling as regards the ancestors. What about us?

‘Praise to you Keeper of those I love and can no longer see.
I have entrusted to you the care that was mine once to give,
the embrace that was mine once to feel,
the story that was mine once to share.
Praise you for the love that I can never be separated from.
For even with the last fallen leaf and the flowers gone,
those I have loved are not under the earth,
they are here in my heart, they are here.’

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

And then, the season moves on and culminates in a time of joyful commemoration as Light wonderfully enters the world at the time of the Winter Solstice and/or Christmas.

As the days grow darker, it’s Light that we look forward to.

‘Counsellor of my soul, you quicken my soul’s progress this Winter day by the strength of your example. I look forward to your light to help me discover the track of the day’s question’. Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional.

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

You might like to consider reading a page a day of a book you read some time ago, or use the links below once a day to set your day up with an uplifting word or thought for the Celtic Advent.

In the busyness of life, maybe the last thing we need is to be more ‘busy, busy’. Oh, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype from the tv, the newspapers and radio, but once we’re aware of being ‘pulled along’ by the increasing flow of the pace of life at this time of the year, we’re in with a chance of doing something about it. So, perhaps it maybe best to use this time to slow, reflect and take on board on a thought for the day (see below)?

‘Be aware of the ancestral teachers, the grandparents and elders of the spiritual traditions, whose footsteps have kept the pathways open.’ Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional.

And, so in this cafe, having just packed away the Halloween decorations ten days or so ago, they’re now unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations. And, as I sit here pondering the darkness, as I look through the cafe window onto a cold, dark blue sky’d city street, I look forward, in anticipation and expectation to Light entering the world, and what that means personally for me, for you, and others.

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

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

My encouragement is for you to celebrate the start of the Celtic Advent with a meal – and yes, some will know that in ancient times it was a time of fasting, and if you’re called to do that, then do it, but also to take the time to ponder upon the themes of darkness and Light. So far as possible, slip beyond the rational (not into irrationality, but towards the arational, beyond rationality) for a while.

As regards, the celebration I’m thinking of an Celtic Advent celebration some time into the season and maybe couple it with a ‘telling place’ experience: a time of imagination and story, perhaps at the Magic Cafe one evening. Time to reflect. Time to go deeper. Time to encounter the imaginal and be transformed. Time for community. You’re invited. Are you free? Details soon.

If you’re interested on taking on one ‘extra’ thing, such as a thought for each day, for this season, here’s some links that you might like to dip into daily during this season:

BBC Radio 4 Thought For The Day: Here

A Forty Day Pilgrimage through the Advent Season with Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Saints: Here

Celtic advent calendar: Here

Contemporary and Ancient Celtic Blessings: Here

Meanwhile, many blessings of the Celtic Advent to you and to those whom you love. Tadhg.

 

With Samhain In Mind (Revisited): A Winter Haiku

20191008 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND REVISTED A WINTER HAIKU CORRRECTED

Brrrrrr! It’s getting colder. With Samhain (pronounced ‘soh-uhn’, well, that’s the pronunciation I tend to use) just a few weeks away, the Circle turns and the season of winter creeps ever closer. That time, starting on the evening of Thursday, 31 October to the evening of of Friday, 1 November, is the Celtic/Druid new year.  In Wales Wales, Samhain is also known as Calan Gaeaf.

With that winter season in mind, here’s a (series of) haiku – traditional Japanese poetry which consists of 17 syllables, in three phrases of five, seven and five syllables –  penned by me a year ago. Each haiku can be read separately or in succession – either as poetry, meditative words, a prayer or as part of a liturgy to celebrate Samhain: the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.

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.

 

The Soul’s Cry Or A Zen-like Experience At Sainsbury

20190926 THE SOULS CRY OR A ZEN LIKE EXPERIENCE AT SAINSBURY FULHAM

The last twenty-four hours has been a helter-skelter ride of events, and emotions, and confusion. And yet, the day has been an enormous learning-curve for me, and an encouragement to action. Isn’t that life? Living?

This is how it started.

In the early hours, and I know it was 2.22am for that was the time on the digital clock display, I woke up from an odd dream. I had dreamed that I was attending some kind of spiritual ceremony and had fallen asleep. Is it possible to dream of falling asleep within a dream? It seems so. The really bizarre thing is that as I fell asleep in that dream I woke up in reality. Having woken up for about half a minute, I then fell back to sleep and the dream commence where I had left it. Had I actually woken up? It is all so confusing.

‘Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night.’ Charles Fisher

But, it seems I had another dream just before waking up as the alarm sounded.

In that dream I was kneeling in front of someone. They were seated and I was kneeling, and blessing them by anointing their feet with oil. As I looked up, and looked over their shoulder, behind them, it was as if their life played out like an old home cine projection on the wall or as a series of black and white or sepia photographs – many showing tragic events in their life. The words ‘grief-bearer’ – someone who draws alongside those in great need, in times of grief and tragedy – sounded in my mind.

‘Am I a grief-bearer?’, I asked myself. It seemed like a deafening, ‘No’ resounded in my head, and it was clear that the person seated in front of me was the grief-bearer, and was in need of ‘shedding’ some of the grief that that person had absorbed from others.

‘… you are the Grief Bearer. You take some of the pain onto yourself when you enter in with a family. You take their grief. Some of it goes with you.’

‘I stopped for a moment. It is exactly like that. Some of the pain from each heart enters mine, and we carry it together. Every life I’ve had the privilege of honouring goes with me…both the gifts, and the heaviness. It is a rare gift to be seen and understood by another. And, I will be honest. Few people see me these days…few grasp the heart of what I do, and the consuming craziness of this calling.’

Kelly at Sufficient Grace Ministries.

I have no idea who this ‘grief-bearer’ really is, and recount the dream here and now only because it may be you? [Should you wish to reply to that question, please contact me one-to-one].

Later that day, just before lunch I did some shopping at a large, local supermarket.

Having gone to the check-out counter with the least number of people, I prided myself at being as fast at packing the items I bought as the check-out person was at scanning them. Witty banter ensued. I went to ‘drop’ my card on the card ‘reader’ as instructed, but it wanted me to ‘swipe’ the card. A feeling of dread made me almost shudder.

And, yes, for the fifth time in almost as many weeks, it bleeped, and up came the word ‘signature required’. I have to admit I was not best pleased. A line of people were now behind me and it was asking for my card, a signature and verification by the shop’s staffmember. I tutted (which is what we Brits do when we’re annoyed).

‘You know’, I said to the pleasant check-out person with whom I had exchanged a joke just seconds before, ‘All these people will think I have insufficient funds, and that’s not the case’, I said emphatically as I frowned. With a smile, she uttered words that I had said countless times to others, and which caught me by surprise. She said, ‘Does it matter what others think?’ Ofcourse not, I thought, smiled and suddenly felt buoyed up by her zen-like wisdom and warm smile.

‘When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.’ Maya Angelou

Still later, having gone home, unpacked the food, and hotfooted it to my favourite café I met some very good friends, and very soon we were talking about history and politics.

As usual, we didn’t see eye to eye, but we’re good friends. One person adamantly enforced their views, and rather like friendly ‘sword fencing’ I did the same as regards my view. They ‘sword fenced’ more so, and so did I. And so it went on.

I felt as though I was about to win an academic point, when it was as though I could look upon their soul. I looked into their eyes and  it was as if a mist cleared just for a moment, and I could see the ‘real’ them. I glimpsed their immortal diamond of a soul. And their soul was crying out.

Initially, I thought my responsive ‘sword fencing’ was the cause. But, it ‘felt’ deep down, that their ‘sword fencing’ was their soul’s cry for help and I had merely retaliated in kind, rather than respond deeply to meet their hitherto invisible and unmet need.

I felt a huge amount of anger. Not with them, but with me. How could I be so foolish as to engage in a friendly-but-deepening-verbal-argument when it was their soul calling out to mine all along? How blind could I be?

‘I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.’ Jana Stanfield

I now know that sometimes some people’s barbed comments, which may provoke us, may be (and usually is) their soul’s cry. My course of action to draw closer to them, lovingly, and to support them was affirmed.

And, that was part of my day – hectic at times, confusing at times, but wonderfully and humbly enlightening at other times.

The last twenty-four hours has been a helter-skelter ride of events, and emotions, and confusion. And, this is how it ended: in silent, deep meditation with the feeling that something had be ‘discovered’, and a work set before me. It seems to me that the more aware we are, the more we will notice these liminal openings, but in equal measure may become complacent about them and miss them at other times. And so, so great is the need for each other, for living in the world, for times of meditation, liturgy, poetry, story-telling, music, celebrating the seasons, and ritual, and a whole myriad of other ‘tools’ that encourage us to be still and go within, and so become more aware.

‘The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.’  Khalil Gibran