Ritual & Ceremony: Essentials: Attire

20190111 essentials rituals and ceremony attire

There was once a time when things were much simpler. To the Ancients, to Druids, Celts, Pagans, early Christians and those of other faiths life was, back then, much simpler. Oh, if you’re old enough, like me, to have seen those 1950s and early 1960s tv programs of Robin Hood you will know.

As a wee lad I used to love those programs and would sit on the sofa, sandwiched between my mum and dad, and eagerly gaze at our old black and white tv (405 lines, but that may not mean much to many people, today), and join in with the opening song: ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen; Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men; Feared by the bad, loved by the good; Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood’.

And, if that wasn’t enough: In that tv program, each week Maid Marion would look lovely with her coiffured hair, Robin Hood and his merry men would be fit and well-fed, have great teeth and wonderfully ‘Brycreemed’ hair. Except, some years later, I was to discover it wasn’t quite like that. It couldn’t have been.  If Maid Marion and Robin Hood and his men had lived in the forest, times would have been tough, clothes wouldn’t have been very clean and pressed, and they may even have been missing a few teeth, even Maid Marion. Times were tough.

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it,’ said Galadriel. From The Hobbit by J R R Tolkein

Nevertheless, there was once a time when things were much simpler. Tougher, yes; but simpler. This is not to disdain modern technology which if, it’s advantageous, we should embrace, but the world has changed and many have lost something in the process.

And so, in preparing for a rather formal baby-naming ceremony, which was to start in ten minutes, I put on the cassock – do you know how many tiny, fiddly, little buttons are on cassocks? It can be in the region of 33-39 buttons!

Having donned the black cassock, next came the white cotton surplice. They always remind me of the ‘cape’ they use in mens barbers, and, as always, care needs to be taken that it, the surplice that is, is put on straight. Not too much material at the back, not too much at the front, otherwise it would look… well, it would look odd. But, dressing up like this, does take its time.

‘Playing dress-up begins at age five and never truly ends.’ Kate Spade

Maybe there are some traditions that need changing?

And so, the last item to put on was the stole – they look rather like long scarfs that are worn similar to a Dr Who scarf – just draped around the back of the neck, hanging down the front. But, which one? Ah, the white one with butterflies and a rainbow on it. Yes, that would look good, do justice to the important occasion. And then, I suddenly realised I needed to visit the bathroom. Good manners forbids me to say anything here other than, the apparel just mentioned had to come off in reverse order, and then several minutes later was put back on in the appropriate ‘forward’  order. Why so many fiddly, little buttons on cassocks?

‘Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.’ Vivienne Westwood

Maybe there are some traditions that need changing?

The baby-naming ceremony went off very well. The baby’s mum and dad were very pleased, family and other guests were also pleased, and yes, on this occasion (and it doesn’t always happen) the baby, when in my arms for a few minutes, behaved himself impeccably. Obviously I have the ‘power’ (until next time).

And, several hours later, I reflected on the event.

There are traditions that shouldn’t change (if we can help it). That’s right: They shouldn’t change (after all).

In many cases we need traditions: we need ceremony and ritual to mark the times, denote special occasions and define rites of passage, to remind us that there is more. Without ritual we are prone to get stuck, and everything seems to stay the same. It is for that reason that I (also) mark time by new and full moons, enjoy the changing seasons, and love family rituals etc, as did/do the Ancients, Druids, Celts, Pagans, early Christians and those of other faiths.

Nowadays, with much of society having lost the wisdom of ceremony and ritual in daily life, we are urged to buy this or that and be better for it, to perform better, to ‘do’ the right thing, and are encouraged in a myriad ways to be (more) successful. Instead of liminal experiences, we have the liminoid.

I do believe there is an inner connection to the outward; there is an outer connection to the inner life. And so, the ‘being stuck’ outwardly, can affect us inwardly. That can result in powerlessness or the opposite and result in an abuse of power. Dualism can lead to imbalance.

The Ancients, to Druids, Celts, Pagans, early Christians and those of other faiths and beliefs, however, emphasized balance and harmony, and wholeness. Any religion that promotes mere moral requirements (don’t to that; do this etc) just leaves people see-sawing between the extremes of feeling very guilty or very smug. No, the Ancients etc, in their rituals and thinking, possessed a wisdom that led them to search for balance and harmony – darkness and light, winter and summer, angels and demons, death and new life etc. It is for that reason that, occasionally, I love to join others in forests (and in buildings, sometimes) to celebrate the seasons. Don’t forget Imbolc is coming up soon.

It takes a contemplative, non-dualistic mind to be content with the paradoxes and mystery and that can be tough at first, especially as our twenty-first century minds work in a binary fashion. But, ritual and ceremony based on the contemplative and mystical is uniting, it opens the way to ‘imbibe’ wisdom, to draw nearer to the Source of All. Try it.

‘It unveils the Great Spirit in all things, and in us, and then we are able to live with all the seeming contradictions in between, with no primal need to eliminate them until we learn what they have to teach us.’ Richard Rohr.

And so, having named the baby, others at the event, as we ate and drank coffee, tea (and some alcohol) talked about other rites to me: such as christening, baptism, handfasting, engagement, marriage, funerals etc. But, I also encouraged them to think on, and we talked about house blessing, maturation events, graduation thanksgiving ceremonies, marriage renewal, pet blessings etc; as well as marking the seasons and moon phases (perhaps one good example of the latter being Easter).

Ceremony and ritual are important, and I would encourage you to find any (reasonable) way to use ceremony and ritual for yourself and family. Not only does it bring people together, but it teaches us that both dark and light, joy and grief, life and death and new life, good and negativity are part of the journey that each of us are on. It can be great fun, too.

And, as I further reflected on the day and looked at the cassock, surplice and stole gently draped over an armchair it occurred to me that everyone dressed up for this baby-naming occasion, and so, why not me?

After all, firemen dress in protective uniforms, police dress in identifiable uniforms and those are two good reasons for those leading (and/or taking part in ceremonies and ritual) to ‘dress up’. But, why so many buttons on a cassock. Why not a zip! Why not Velcro?

And yet, I smile to myself. All the ‘dressy’ paraphernalia added to the specialness of the day and a element of seriousness or purpose, was well-liked by those that attended, it was fun, and I think it pointed all to the fact that we had ‘entered’ sacred space for a time, and it enhanced the ceremony.

I guess, there are traditions that shouldn’t change, but that we should revel in them and enjoy. So embrace your cassock, surplice, stole, cloak, cape, tabard, special shirt or top, kilt, dorchau pen (Welsh for ‘head wreaths’, and yes, I do wear them (appropriately) sometimes), or whatever you wear that is appropriate ritual wear. What we do does matter.

‘The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.‘ Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

 

Table Talk: Traits Of The Wise Person. Some Thoughts

20190105 traits of the wise and spiritual person

‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small ‘unregarded’ yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.’ Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The scientific name for humanity, so I’m told, is homo sapiens sapiens – not just homo sapiens as that means ‘wise mankind’, but homo sapiens sapiens which means wise mankind that knows he/she is wise.

Don’t you think it is astounding that in all the known created universe we are not only the wise ones, but the wise ones who know we are wise (that is, we have that objectivity to ‘know’ it). Though, some may question the wisdom of some of mankind’s politics and assault on nature, and rightly so. And those thoughts were on our minds as, one by one, we met in a local café in London.

‘It was out of the dynamic of cosmic celebration that we were created in the first place. We are to become celebration and generosity, burst into self-awareness. What is the human? The human is a space, an opening, where the universe celebrates its existence.’ Brian Swimme, The Universe Is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story

But if we are homo sapiens sapiens, the universe becoming conscious and celebrating its own existence, how do we define wisdom? As we, a group of us now, sit in the Magic Café in Fulham, we wondered what are the traits of a wise and spiritual person?

What qualities would an individual display, if he/she were wise and spiritual?

As I posed that question to several friends around the café table, we spoke of a number of qualities that most, dare I say, all spiritual people exude, and that we admired.

I’m old enough to know that these qualities know no bounds, and occur in people who are Celtic, Christian, Druid, Hindu, Muslim, Pagans, Sikh, Atheists and others, including those from other nations, and other tribes etc.

And, it’s for that reason that I do my best to surround myself with a myriad of spiritual people, from various tribes. And, somewhat tongue in cheek, I always say that in surrounding myself with such people their wisdom and spirituality exudes from them into my being, like a spiritual ‘osmosis’.

Who is to say otherwise?

It is clear, I think, that we have all sensed when someone deep and spiritual person has been in the room and we’ve ‘felt’ their presence, haven’t we? So who is to say that that kind of ‘osmosis’ isn’t true.

So what would we look for in a wise person, whether such people are Celtic, Christian, Druid, Hindu, Muslim, Pagans, Sikh, Atheists and others, or from other nations or other tribes?

Here’s a short list of traits that I and those around the café table believe that we would see in the wise and spiritual person (and which may be an encouragement for each of us to ‘work’ towards):

A lightness of spirit: There are some who seem to flaunt their spirituality with grandiose claims and words ‘ripped’ from the pages of academia. There may be a case where such seriousness is needed, but not in the Magic Café where I’m now mixing with friends and talking about spiritual matters. Now, there is need for a light touch. A wise person would, I think, maintain perspective and balance, that allows them to navigate the mundane and ‘magical’, and appreciate all as one. They have a confidence of inherent status (that we all possess, and which, sadly, some forget) that allows them not to try to spend energy impress, but to build up the other person.

‘So at the end of this day, we give thanks for being betrothed to the Unknown.’ John O’Donohue

A sense of humour: Just because something is important, it doesn’t have to be mind-bogglingly boring. Weighty matters can sometimes be communicated with humour or in story form, in a childlike manner with awe and the fervour of a ‘beginners mind’ (but this is not to be confused with a childish manner. There is a difference). Humour can lovingly ‘disarm’ our barriers and allow the truth to penetrate deeper, and before we know where we are, we find ourselves saying ‘aha’, declaring that ‘eureka moment’ of understanding. Jesus was a great storyteller.

‘An adaptive mind has better learning capability.’ Pearl Zhu

A degree of flexibility: Society changes, even our words change their meaning, and the spiritual person is one who is flexible, changing, and developing their practices as appropriate. Ofcourse, this will mean that you may, read will be, different to others, but that is half the ‘fun’ of being a unique human. Oh, and you will make mistakes along the way, but don’t beat yourself up. It’s how we learn!

‘Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance…’. Proverbs 1:5, The Book

An accessible manner: There are some, and it may have to do with ego, who claim secret knowledge and want to keep it that way, and want to maintain a distance between themselves and others. But, it seems to me that the wise and spiritual person doesn’t play the ‘secrets game’. Ofcourse, professional workings with clients and others needs to be confidential, and it may be that our outworking of our ritual practices are best conducted in groups that appreciate them, but I do believe there should be an openness in all things as far as possible, so far as is appropriate.

The secret knowledge, in one sense, is still secret but only because many don’t pursue it or open their minds to it, rather than because we want to keep it to ourselves so that we remain special. You are special anyway!

Let’s stop ‘tolerating’ or ‘accepting’ difference, as if we’re so much better for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference, because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different.’ Kate Bornstein

A reverence for nature: Perhaps at no other time in history, with out burgeoning populations and machinery that is ultra-efficient, is there such a  great and urgent need to display and work towards a (greater) reverence for nature (of which we are part). Everything contains the ‘fingerprints’ of the Divine, and so there is an encouragement for each of us to be wise stewards in, and of, the world that we inhabit. It is one of the reasons I love the Druidic attention and appreciation of nature, and that its ritual are (usually) conducted in forest groves etc.

‘We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.’ Terri Swearingen

An honesty and integrity: Most people have a pleasant instinct always to work with others, and yes, we all occasionally disappoint. Intentionality is all-important here, and the ability to undertake periodic reality checks, is essential, I think. No one expects perfection – you’re human after all, and being human is good. But, in our dealings with others (and perhaps politicians should note, also), honesty and integrity is important. Perhaps, a good maxim is: our word is our bond.

A person that looks normal: Okay, there may be occasions when, for ritual purposes, there is a specific form of attire to wear, but that cloak, the staff, the cassock and chasuble may be inappropriate on the number 211 bus in Dawes Road, Fulham in London.

But, when it is appropriate then adorn yourself with all manner of appropriate attire. In many cases it helps us and others to know that something different, deep and wonder is about to happen, that we’re stepping out of ‘mechanical time’ into sacred time. Although, thinking about it, a long flowing cloak and a Merlin-like staff would certainly get me a seat in a crowded number 211 bus in London!

A desire for knowledge: We never stop learning. The learning can have, and may still be, academic in nature, or it can be an informal and intuitive learning about nature. It is said that an ‘apprenticeship’ for a Druid of old lasted twenty-years, but even then, I do believe a Druid then would say, learning goes on. We never stop learning.

‘A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.’ John Muir

A person who ‘connects’: I do believe that, often, the wise and spiritual person is, or is somewhere near, the centre of the community or connected to society in many ways. And, they are ware of being connected to Life in its fullness, being aware of the interconnected web of life and nature, of being aware of the mundane world and the spiritual, the outer and the inner, the sacred and secular, of prayer and action, the imaginal and external, and to know that there is no real difference between these.

And then…the conversation in the Magic Café changed, and as we supped our lattes, Americano, Espresso, Flat white and Macchiato coffees, occasionally peering out of the window and watching the world go by, we laughed, talked about myriad other things, and lived life, heartily and in good company. Ah, table talk! I love it.

But, what do you think? And, if you’re in/near London why not join us in the café next time?

 

Lights Will Guide You Home [Revisited]. Thoughts & Poem Of Encouragement.

20181220 LIGHTS WILL GUIDE YOU HOME

Do you ever have the feeling that at some point in time, about a year or two ago, you woke up in an alternative universe? That the one you’re in now, wasn’t the one you were born into and remember? I know psychologists tell us that we all feel that way from time to time, but doesn’t it feel more evident, and more real, and more concerning with recent events?

‘We are so privileged to gather in moments like this when so much of the world is plunged in darkness and chaos. So, ring the bells…’ Leonard Cohen, ‘Anthem’ (preamble).

What is the answer?

There are those who want to cause confusion. Be encouraged to seek the truth and so avoid confusion. There are those who would encourage hate. Repay hate, with love, it says somewhere. Some would instil fear in you. The answer to that comes from Hafiz, who seven hundred years ago, write: ‘Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.’ Others would seek to provoke you with bad speech in the hope that you would stoop low. To those who would want you to be stressed, find ways to unwind and be at peace.

‘There is no fear when you choose love. The more you choose love, the more love is in your life. It gets easier and easier’. Melissa Etheridge

It is as if darkness grows stronger. It is true the days grow darker, but we know that is seasonal, and will change at the time of the winter equinox. But, what of spiritual darkness? Maybe, the darkness and chaos we witness in the world today are but the birth pangs of something altogether different, and altogether bigger than what we’ve experienced before….if we continue in our beliefs.

I do believe in the darkness many witnesses, those who are really aware will ‘see’ the good that is happening, and that a myriad of lights shine, and these are faithful Druid’s, Pagans, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others who care about mercy, justice and worshipping That Which Is Bigger Than Us. To such people, yourself included, it may be an encouragement to (more) prayer, meditation, sending light and love, to work that out in our daily lives in large ways and small, in the spectacular and in small ways – each way is just as important and just as effective.

‘It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light’. Aristotle

In the darkness, the light, the Light burns even brighter, and I truly believe you can ‘add’ to it by resisting the darkness and ‘dark ways’, and by responding to the Light in the positive ways to which you are called. In a time of darkness, lights, the Light will guide you, very apt at this time of year, with Christmas and the winter solstice almost upon us.

With that in mind, some time ago I wrote a poem and I’ve ‘pasted’ it below, and maybe this is part of my ‘adding’ to the light (written below, to encourage you to do, and ‘be’ in the Light), and which I feel is, perhaps, even more relevant now.

Is there something missing,
and you feel that there’s nobody listening?
Could it be that everyone of us is scared,
everyone of us is hurt?
Oh, I think I landed in a world I hadn’t seen,
where a wicked and wild wind blew down the doors to let me in.

Look up, I look up at night,
planets are moving at the speed of light.
I hear you come nearer,
I hear you, but I don’t understand.
In your eyes, I drifted away,
and in your arms I just want to sway.

Oh, I think I landed where there are miracles at work.
Time just floated away.
Still I call it magic, a simple plot but I know one day,
good things are coming our way.
Christmas lights, light up the street.
Light up the fireworks in me.

Oh, angel sent from up above.
You know you make my world light up.
Yes, lights will guide you home.

You’re part of the human race,
and, all of the stars and the outer space,
are part of a bigger plan.
If you’d only, if you’d only say yes.
Under this pressure, under this weight we are diamonds taking shape.
Still, I call it magic.
You’re such a precious jewel.

This poem falls within the ‘Found poetry’ genre. According to Wikipedia it ‘is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.’ The abovementioned poem uses ‘borrowed’ phrases from Coldplay song lyrics.

 

Liturgy For Alban Arthan: Winter Solstice & Christmas 2018

20181216 LITURGY FOR ALBAN ARTHAN 2018 A

I love liturgy. Not only can words cause us to pause and think deeper, but the words of liturgy can have an even more beneficial effect. Words have power. With a word all that is visible and invisible was created and is sustained. With a word we make life-long promises to each other. And, with a word we can encourage someone or, sadly, dehumanise them.

Through the words of liturgy we can be ‘transported’ to, and dwell within the realm of the liminal, that ‘gap’ between Here and the Other, a place of power and potential, where things happen, and where we can be changed.

‘The magic of words is that they have power to do more than convey meaning; not only do they have the power to make things clear, they make things happen.’ Frederick Buechner

Liturgy can have a greater and more far-reaching positive effect that we can possibly imagine as your thoughts, intentionality and energy affect the web of connectedness.

The following liturgy is a suggestion, and one that I find useful in connection with my ‘path’. I offer it to you to use, if appropriate to your ‘path’ at this time of the year. If it isn’t, then please adapt it.

In the Druidic and Celtic tradition the name of this season’s festival is ‘Alban Arthan’, Welsh for ‘Light of Winter’ (although some may refer to it as the ‘Light of Arthur’. Whichever you prefer to use, in the lead up to this time, the following liturgy can be incorporated within another ceremony appropriate for the season that you might be using, or adapted, as you wish.

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

Requirement: 5 Candles and a candleholder (Advent-style). The candles can be lit five days before Alban Arthan (Friday, 21 December 2018) or Christmas day, or all at once of a time of your choosing. Remember, it is intentionality that is important, and ritual serves you, to bring you closer to the Source of All.

The following may be recited, as the first candle is lit:
All: We walked in darkness, but you showed us the light. We pray for those (individuals and nations) that walk in darkness, that they, too, may see the light that shines in the darkness, and rises (like the wind) in the east. (Based on Isaiah 9.2)

The following may be recited, as the second candle is lit:
All: The light shines in the darkness, still. And the darkness did not comprehend it. We give thanks for the light continues to shine and guides us on the right path as the sun that shines in the noonday, the southern sky. (Based on John 1:5)

The following may be recited, as the third candle is lit:
All: You are the light of all that is, and indwell all of creation, so that we, too,  let our light shine. We seek ways to live out that light in our life, in service to all as water flows through the land to the western sea. (Based on Matthew 5:14)

The following may be recited, as the fourth candle is lit:
All: There will be no night there, because Your light will illumine us. We praise you for that great promise of light as we stand firm with our feet on the earth, looking to the north. (Based on Revelation 22:5)

The following may be recited, as the fifth candle is lit:
All: Light from Light Eternal, Spirit incarnated this happy morning, we greet you. (Based on a carol, based on ancient sacred text)

You might like to personalise the liturgy and add peoples names, or the names of countries or towns or places in need. There is a need for the light of wisdom to be established in the world, to bring up the plight of humankind’s damage to nature and the climate, to ponder injustice etc. Do adapt the liturgy as needed.

Also, you might light to turn to the four compass points as part of your ritual. Do adapt, do keep it simple, do make it meaningful for you or your group, and do enjoy it.

‘Your words become your world.’ Nadeem Kazi

 

Ready For Christmas/Winter Solstice: Thoughts For The Discerning

20181202 READY FOR CHRISTMAS READY FOR WINTER SOLSTICE

It will soon be Christmas, soon the Winter Solstice, and tv, newspapers and magazines are awash with ideas of what to do for the season. Here are a few ideas they might not have mentioned. Such as:

  • Yule clean(s)ing
  • Yule log (or light)
  • Christmas (tree) blessing
  • Giving
  • Home altar
  • Seasonal Music

More about these topics is listed below. You might like to try them as they might take you out of your usual tradition or ‘comfort zone’, and you might like to use (and adapt as necessary).

’When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ Anonymous

The ancient Celts and Druids, and others, knew that this time of year, Christmas, the Winter Solstice (Friday, 21 December 2018) was the longest night of the year—and that meant that the sun was beginning its long journey back towards earth. It was a great time of celebration, and for rejoicing knowing that soon, the warm days of spring would return, and the dormant earth would flower once more.

So, here’s some thoughts and ideas that you might like to put into practice.

Yule Cleaning
About now would be a good time to ‘de-clutter’, and dispose of anything you don’t really need, and the less physical clutter you have about the house, the easier it will be to function (better) on a spiritual level. You’ve heard of spring cleaning, well now it’s time for Yule Cleaning. There is someone out there that could appreciate that little something.

Ofcourse, if you (also) wanted to perform a simple ritual in each room about the house, a sort of Yule house cleansing of a spiritual kind, that would be good, too. And you can find an example of that by reading Gruffyd and Megan’s house blessing of two tears ago (but which is so relevant, and can be adapted by you), here.

Yule log (or light)
It started as a holiday celebration in Norway, and then on the night of the Winter Solstice it was common to put a giant log, the Yule log into the hearth to remember the heat of the soon to be returning sun and lighter evenings, when the Earth was, in the northern hemisphere, at its coldest and darkest.

‘The light shines in the darkness… John 1:5a, The Book

It could be that you don’t have a hearth and use an alternative form of heating, such as central heating. Don’t despair. I think, as an alternative to the Yule log, to remember the heat and light of the sun, you might like to set one of those (festive) battery-operated candle bridges on the window ledge or somewhere in the house. Any candle will do – but do be safe and keep naked flames away from children, pets, fabric etc.

Christmas (Tree) Blessing
Whether you use a real Christmas tree or an artificial one, how about setting aside some time to bless it or bless others using the tree as a focal point? You can do this alone, or with family and friends. It can take the form of a few words and/or a drink or two with mince pies.

As regards the blessing, how about this:

Source of all,
as the sun rises over the woods and sets upon the same,
bring your Yule blessings of good cheer.
As the fire rises (in the hearth),
Bless all with the warmth of your love.
As the gift is given in the quiet of the darkness
Bless me/us, and all I Know, with surprise of your nearness.

(A blessing (adapted) from The Celtic Wheel Of The Year by Tess Ward)

Giving
In many modern Celtic, Christian, Druidic and Pagan communities, an emphasis is placed on the idea of helping those in need. This can be done by donating clothing, canned goods, toiletries, books, and even pet care products to local groups, churches, groves etc, or to a local charity shop. Before you donate it, you might like to consider praying over it, invoking the goodwill of the Source of All on the unknown recipient, or send your personal light and love with it. Or, perhaps you could give a few hours of your time to those who might be lonely and feeling unloved. If that’s not possible, or you have mobility challenges, you can always remember those in need in prayer (and perhaps use the Caim).

Home altar
Yes, I am an advocate of that one special place in the home that can be a place of focus and quietness, a place of re-membering, a place energy and power: the home altar, although it’s known by various names.

‘Celebrate the idea that you don’t fit in. Find your own fit. Stay unique.’ Betsey Johnson

If you haven’t created one, or if you’ve had the same one for several months, now might be a good time to create one for Christmas and/or Winter Solstice. Sometimes the simplest ones are the best, but it can be a table or ledge containing items that are meaningful to you at this time and which bring to mind the season, and so it could have candles, mistletoe, holly, a crib set or a symbol to bring to mind your own spirituality.

‘May you be blessed
With the spirit of the season, which is peace,
The gladness of the season, which is hope,
And the heart of the season, which is love.’

(An old, traditional Irish blessing)

In the header photograph to this article you can see a table (top of my filing cabinet) in my office, and the seasonal altar that is taking shape. It’s meaningful to me, but yours may be very different – just ensure it is meaningful and pleasing to you.

On my altar right now I have a star and a crib set to remind me of the Nativity. That event is meaningful to me – the day the Source of All took on flesh. Amazing. I’ve also got three small Christmas trees (as I’m Trinitarian) as part of that altar, three candles to remind me of the three realms, and two candles at the back (to remind me that prayer or good wishes and action is needed, or to remind me ‘as above, so below’). I confess I do love candles. You’ll find them everywhere around the place, here.

Experiment, have fun, but make it meaningful to you.

Seasonal Music
Why not spend some time, maybe an evening, just relaxing and listening to seasonal music, and perhaps consider listening to some from outside of your comfort zone or from different spiritual ‘tribes’. This can be a form of meditation, and way to ‘encounter’, to ponder deeply about the meaning behind the season.

‘Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.’ Lao Tzu

I’ve selected three examples of seasonal music that I like a lot, and that you might like to consider listening to. Such as:

Christmas carols from King’s College, Cambridge [here].

Christmas carols by Libera [here].

Christmas carols by The Piano Guys [here]

And, how about Celtic/Druidic ‘home grown’  song for the season:

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

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

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

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

Words by me, Tadhg. The tune to this is an old, traditional Irish folk tune, Fear a Bhata (The Boatman), and the tune/video can be seen/heard [here]. The tune for the four verses above is the same, and is the tune on the video, played between 10 seconds and 56 seconds there.

‘My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.’ Edith Sitwell

Wishing you and yours the blessings of Christmas/Winter Solstice, Tadhg

 

Star Light, Star Bright: Celtic/Druidic Astronomy For All

20181130 STAR LIGHT STAR BRIGHT

I have always been interested in looking up and the night sky, and pondering. Don’t you find it fascinating and both humbling to look up at the vast numbers of stars in the night sky and see a ‘sea’ that goes on (seemingly) for ever? What is out there? Why does it exist? How is it that we can comprehend it (albeit in part)? What is our purpose? From the time of being a wee lad, I’ve looked up and wondered.

‘Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust,’ said Lawrence Krauss.

Look up!

It was a cold 1st December evening, and I was about seven years old (and so this is a recollection of some years ago). My dad had encouraged me, a budding amateur astronomer even at that tender age, by buying me a telescope the Christmas before, and I treasured it.

And, peering out of the window of my grandmother’s cottage on a freezing, cloudless, clear December evening I couldn’t wait to go outdoors and gaze at the night sky once more.

And, once outside, between them, my grandmother and dad, on that night like many others, would point out the constellations, significant stars and the planets, and I was in awe. They knew so much. They shared so much. And, both of them would turn the event into something that was educational, challenging and fun.

‘Look up there, dear Tadhg, what do you see?’, my grandmother said pointing to the north-eastern horizon. I can remember laughing and saying, ‘I can see ten bright stars and they look like the letter ‘H’, like rugby goal posts’. I was always encouraged to use my imagination.

‘Exactly,’ my dad said, ‘but to some people, to the ancient Greeks, that constellation looked like to men fighting. It’s called Gemini which means ‘twins’. And. as I looked they did look like two ‘stick’ men side by side’, fighting.

Ofcourse, others such as ancient Druids used their imagination and saw something slightly different’, my grandmother said.

She went on to explain that when those ancients looked up at those stats they saw Gwyn and Gwyrthur, the sons of Greidawl who seek the hand of the lady in red, Creudyladd. I looked, and they did look like characters that the ancient Celts talked of.

Look up! Be encouraged to look up at the night sky. If you’re in the northern hemisphere then the constellation Gemini (or Gwyn and Gwyrthur) rise above the north-east horizon at dusk, climbing high in the south-eastern sky ay midnight, during this time of the year.

Interesting isn’t it, that regardless of our faith background and ‘tribe’ we are comfortable with Greek myth, from an astronomical point of view when naming constellations, and yet to many, local and ancient myth seem unfamiliar and odd, and perhaps to a minority to be resisted.

‘Now check that one, son’, my dad asked me as he pointed to another constellation. I knew the constellation he was pointing to. It was Orion. ‘Use your imagination’, he said. And I did. I remember laughing and saying it looked like a butterfly, or a bow tie (not that I had many occasions to wear a bow tie on many occasions as a wee lad – but there were one of two weddings where I did), but I knew it was Orion the Hunter. My dad continued, ‘..and to the ancient Celts and Druids that constellation is Herne the Hunter’.

Many years later I was to find out, born to Euryale, a Gorgon, and Poseidon/Neptune, the god of the sea in the Graeco-Roman tradition.

Did you know, that the earliest depiction of the constellation of Orion is prehistoric? On a mammoth ivory carving found in the Ach valley in West Germany there is the outline of the constellation dating back about thirty-five thousand years ago.

‘The heavens declare the glory of God..’ Psalm 19.1a, The Book

Did you know that Herne is, allegedly, a resident spectre and keeper of Windsor Forest in Berkshire, England, whose most notable feature is that he has antlers. It is said he often appears riding on horseback, accompanied by other wild huntsman.

Look up! If you’re interested in seeing the Constellation Orion (or Herne the hunter), at this time of the year, it will rise above the southern horizon at about 8pm (London time) and climb higher in the south-eastern sky as the night passes. You can’t miss that constellation’s brightest star (infact it’s the brightest star in the night sky), Sirius, which is four hundred and sixty-three light years away. So, light leaving there in AD1555 would only now just be reaching your eyes as you look at it.

It was getting even colder, and I think my grandmother and dad were eager to get me indoors and in the warm, but (even then) my interest was piqued and I could be quite persuasive, and I persuaded them to explore just one more constellation.

This time I pointed out a group of stars unknown to me. My dad explained that that constellation was Perseus. He said that he was one of the great heroes of classical mythology, the son of Jupiter and Danae, and was best known for his killing of the Gorgon Medusa. My grandmother explained, ‘Or, to the Welsh, Perseus was really the hero Llew Llaw Gyffes, who was the child of Arianrhod. He was killed but, at the moment of his death, his soul transformed into an eagle, and he still appears in the night sky for all to see’.

It was now freezing cold, and so we all headed back home, to listen to some more stories by my grandmother at the hearth.

Look up! Persus or Llew Llaw Gyffes can be seen in high in the night sky, now, in the east.

My love for the night sky still persists, and I would encourage you to pause and look up at the night sky…and be in awe. There is great wonderment there, myth, ‘magic’ and great understanding. If we only’ stop and stare’, as the late Welsh poet W H Davies penned. ‘Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.’ Sarah Williams.

 

An Encounter With Nwyfre In London? [Revisited]

20181127 AN ENCOUNTER WITH NWYFRE IN LONDON

There is a forest not far from where I live in north Wales, old and dense; it is ancient and just walking in it one can feel the weight of the ages there. I love it. And there, after a long, winding trek through the thick forest is a small clearing, stands ‘Y goeden mellt’, the much-loved Lightning Tree. (See here). It was there that I first had an experience of ‘it’ and was able to put a name to ‘it’.

But, I’m still in town, still in the city, still in London, and won’t be back in Capel Curig for at least another few days. And yet….deep in my spirit there’s a restlessness. There are several places where I’ve experienced Nwyfre (pronounced ‘noo-iv ruh’) , and one of those it when in the presence of that Lightning Tree.

Yes, that ‘it’ was, and is, Nwyfre.

Nwyfre, isn’t life, but is Life! It is the activating, animating, creative force that flows through nature. Traditionally, and literally, it has to do with the wind and the sky. If you can imagine fast flowing, light clouds, low in the sky, say, or the wind ‘howling’ of the tops of trees, then that’s evidence of Nwyfre. But, it’s more than just an atmospheric phenomenon – to those with deep awareness, insight, enlightenment, to those who are poets and those who might have a ‘romantic’ inclination, it’s more.

There is always more.

‘Time and attention are the most precious gifts we can give.’ Rob Liano

Nwyfre, at its deepest and most profound, and I would say its most real level, is: Spirit, and the connectedness of everything because of Spirit, and the flow of energy (love etc) between everything. And, rather than an ‘it’, Nwyfre is personal (and can be referred to as ‘he or she’, and preferably as ‘he and she’ (such is the cumbersome limitations of out language). Nwyfre is the Welsh name known to the Welsh, ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, and others. Nwyfre is known by other names by different ‘tribes’, and perhaps the most well-known (locally, and to Christians) is that Nwyfre is referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, also known as the Counsellor, Intercessor, Revealer, Teacher, Spirit of Life).

And so, feeling a fair amount of ennui last evening, I went for a walk along the banks of the River Thames in the heart of London. It was late and the air was now cold, very cold, and the wind was howling over the rooftops of nearby high-rise buildings, making a wailing sound like some kind of invisible bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’). Oh, the wind moaned a deep, mournful, relentless groan.

I felt small in comparison to the power of the wind that raced across city rooftops and shook the trees. I felt separated, as something of a different order altogether to that barometric pressure that moved noisily, and yet invisibly, nearby. And yet, I felt connected, contentment, a oneness. That’s Nwyfre!

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with… the Spirit.’ John 3:8a, The Book

Gazing at the river, only dimly lit by street-lighting, I breathed in – air. Nwyfre! The same wind that blew high above me, that howled across the rooftops, that had come from unknown parts in its journey to who knows where, was now in my lungs and coursing through my veins. I ‘discovered’ that I am no longer separate because of Nwyfre! That which was outside, is inside me. And as I exhale, that which was inside me is now outside. We are encompassed by Nwyfre. Cocooned. Connected. Congruent.

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

Walking now, to keep warm – it seemed colder than ever, and the fog was moving in – I ‘discovered’ also that I no longer felt that small. Nwyfre! Not separated, not small, but deep in my soul I knew that we are all connected. Connected and powerful. Our status is such that we have great power and great opportunities to do good.

I experienced that at Y goeden mellt’, the Lightning Tree in Wales on many occasions when surrounded by that deep forest, and in solitude; and now in the heart of London – surrounded by ‘mountains’ of bricks and mortar, and ‘trees’ of ‘street furniture (is what the Council call lampposts, traffic signs etc), and in a ‘forest’ of eight million souls  – I experienced Nwyfre once more.

I ‘discovered’ a third fact. And this one that affects you, wherever you are. You too, can experienced that connectedness of Nwyfre. In thinking of spiritual experiences many think of out-of-the-way and difficult places to visit, but that doesn’t have to be only that way. Where you are, right now, is as special, and as sacred, and as holy as Y goeden mellt, and so is every place, too.

‘Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.’– Margaret J Wheatley

In the heart of London I experienced the connectedness of Nwyfre, and wherever you are, you can too. Ofcourse, if our minds are too busy, or if we’re distracted, then we’ll miss the invitation of Nwyfre. It seems we have a choice. Nwyfre, metaphorically, opens the door, issues an invitation with a ‘silent call’, as deep calls to deep, but we must walk through that door (or not).

‘When you make a choice, you change the future.’ Deepak Chopra

It was now bitterly cold, and as I headed home – about a four minute walk from where I was at that point, I looked at the lights in those high-rise apartments, the glow of tv screens ‘playing’ on curtains and the apartments’ ceilings, and the general busyness of the metropolis, and felt saddened that unwittingly some had made a choice, and had missed the opportunity of encountering Nwyfre. And, the really sad thing is that they never even knew that they had already made a choice to not walk through that metaphorical door.

‘When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.’ William James.

The abovementioned was written two years ago, and has been slightly amended/adapted, and is still relevant, and contains some truth, I believe, and also it’s relevant because I am back in London for a while, it has got decidedly cold over the last few days and for the first time this year (post summer) river-hugging fog has appeared and has rolled into surrounding streets, and it enshrouds everything, and it is wonderful to see, so otherworldly, and arresting. Pause for deep thoughts.

‘You can’t outwit fate by standing on the sidelines placing little side bets about the outcome of life… if you don’t play you can’t win.’ Judith McNaught

Nwyfre is ubiquitous. And, there’s even more…Nwyfre is inviting you.

 

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

20181120 EPHEMERA FULL MOON DARK MOON 23 NOVEMBER 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.’ Ming-Dao Deng

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

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

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

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

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

Celebration: So, this full moon – as the Circle of the Year moves ever onwards, as seasons change– whatever our belief, it’s time to give thanks to the ‘silvery face’ that smiles down upon each one of us, regardless of our circumstances, and time to give thanks to the One who is behind it and sustains it for our benefit.

Why not Light a candle this full moon and spend a few minutes meditating upon it, or walk in the moonlight (and perhaps see your moon-shadow) and bask in its light, or raise a glass of wine (or fruit juice) in its honour, or say a silent prayer to the Moon-Maker.

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

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year. Tess Ward)

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

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

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

 

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

All About Ivy: There’s More To It Than Meets The Eye

20181117 ALL ABOUT IVY MEANING MYTH AND MAGIC

Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o’er ruins old!

(Charles Dickens)

Much misunderstood, and the subject of myth and magic in the winter season, Winter Solstice and at Christmastime, Ivy is a wonderful ‘climber’ that has a story of mystery to tell from over a millennia ago. Ivy can be viewed from a botanical point of view, as a friend of nature, and as a plant of myth and magic. And, each is fascinating and spell-binding. So…

Botanical view
Ivy grows well throughout the UK and is native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa, and can be found in many habitats including woodland, scrub, wasteland and on isolated trees. It quite likes shaded areas, and can live in all but the most dry, waterlogged or acidic soils.

Common name(s): Ivy, common ivy, Atlantic ivy, English ivy, British ivy, European ivy
Scientific name: Hedera helix
Family: Araliaceae

It is an evergreen plant so its easily identifiable leaves can be seen all the year. It flowers in September to November, and fruits ripen in November to January.

But, there’s more to Ivy than meets the eye
Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
And a staunch old heart has he.
How closely he twineth, how tight he clings,
To his friend the huge Oak Tree!

(Charles Dickens)

It is a woody climber which can grow to a height of 30metres. It has two different forms – juvenile and mature. It climbs trees, walls and building, using specialised and adapted hairs which help it ‘stick’ to surfaces as it climbs.

There are many views as to whether ivy climbing on brickwork damages the brick. It seems its doesn’t crack or damage brick but exploits any cracks and damage that were  already there – but if you have ivy on your house etc it’s best to take professional advice.

As creeping ivy clings to wood or stone, And hides the ruin that it feeds upon, So sophistry, cleaves close to, and protects Sin’s rotten trunk, concealing its defects.

(William Cowper)

But, it is not a parasitic plant, and has a separate root system in the soil and so absorbs its own nutrients and water as needed.

But, there’s more.

Friend of nature
Some may be inclined to pull ivy off a tree fearing that it will harm the tree (though in individual cases it may need to be trimmed back), but Ivy growing on trees does no harm to the tree, and, indeed, it provides an abundant supply of food for insects and birds.

Ivy is the wild lady of the greenwood; she gathers us all together, entwinning and embracing.

(Danu Forest)

Nectar, pollen and berries of ivy are bountiful during autumn and winter when food is scarce. And it provides shelter for insects (especially hoverflies, wasps and bees), birds, bats and other small mammals.  It is also an important food plant for some butterfly and moth larvae. It’s a wonderful plant.

But, there’s even more.

Myth & More
As an evergreen plant ivy (along with holly – and we looked at holly recently: please see here) was seen as an especially powerful symbol during winter, and it was brought into the house to keep negativity and evil spirits at bay.

In ancient Rome wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around ones head was supposed to prevent one from getting drunk –  unlikely, I would think  – and the Roman god Bacchus, the god of intoxication, was usually depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grapevines.

However, Ivy was also seen as a symbol of intellectual prowess, then, and wreaths were used to crown the winners of poetry contests.

That headlong ivy!
Not a leaf will grow,
But thinking of a wreath,
Large leaves, smooth leaves.
Serrated like my vines, and half as green.
I like such ivy, bold to leap a height,
Twas strong to climb! as good to grow on graves,
As twist about a thyrsus , pretty too,
(And that’s not ill) when twisted round a comb.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

In ancient Greece wreaths were also given to winning athletes, and they were also seen as emblems of fidelity, and priests would present a wreath of ivy to newly married couples. Even today it is still often the custom for bridal bouquets to contain a sprig of ivy. Ah, sometimes the old ways and wonderful traditions live on, even unbeknownst to many.

English ivy also has a tendency to travel along the ground – and who hasn’t tripped in the matted roots system as it spreads over the ground. Sometimes, if its growth is unchecked it can travel from one plant to another, binding the plants together, and this binding ability sometimes has a deeply symbolic meaning.

But, like ivy, we grow where there is room for us.

(Miranda July)

Some early versions of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, refer to the ability of ivy to bind.

Here’s the story: Tristan, a Cornish knight went to Ireland to ‘claim’ Isolde, an Irish princess, as a bride for King Mark. During the arduous journey back to Cornwall, Tristan and Isolde drank a love potion made from ivy and fell madly in love. [But, please don’t emulate them in making or drinking any Ivy concoction as it’s poisonous, and so this story is for historical and mythological study purposes only). For them Ivy ‘binded’ them together.

In some other versions, Tristan and Isolde do die and are buried in separate graves by King Mark so that even in death they cannot be together. However, in that story, an ivy vine grew out of each grave towards the other one. The ivy vines, then, met and entwined around each others body, forming a loving and eternal connection. And, even when the King Mark cuts the vines they regrow and reconnect. Wonderful story.

For ancient Celts, Druids and medieval Christians, Ivy represented peace, perhaps because of its ability to bind different plants or even different kinds of plants together. And it is for that reason I would advocate you buying and bringing in some Ivy into your house, especially at the darkest part of the year when we celebrate the Winter solstice and/or Christmas.

It’s also for the reason of peace and fidelity that many Celts and Druids of old, and today (including me when conducting a handfasting or marriage ceremony) wear holly wreaths at some events – do see an earlier article where I did just that, which included the line: ‘‘You’ve got grass on your head, mister’.

Also, during the winter solstice, in years gone by, there was a tradition of a nominated boy wearing a holly wreath, and a girl wearing n ivy crown to symbolise the different sexes, the ‘battle’ between sun and moon, between dark and the barrenness of winter and light and the green fecund world, the endless turning of the circle. Yes, the ivy is a wonderful plant full of mystery and magic, and surely has a place in our homes this yuletide.

For the stateliest building man can raise,
Is the Ivy’s food at last.
Creeping on, where time has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

(Charles Dickens)

Table Talk: One Day In November. [Elementals/Angels, Life, Quantum Physics, Dogs’ Souls & More]

20181114 TABLE TALK ONE DAY IN NOVEMBER

Have you ever thought about ritual and the need to go to certain locations, ever wondered about quantum physics, whether dogs have souls and other gnawing questions? Seven people did!

It had been a couple of months, but a few of us met earlier today in a local café, and as we ate croissants or pain au chocolat, and imbibed various types of coffee with seasonal syrups we sat back and talked about those lofty themes. We all aired our views, asked our question, all learned something from each other, and laughed a lot. It was a great time of deep and meaningful fellowship.

‘Learning life’s lessons is not about making your life perfect, but about seeing life as it was meant to be’. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

There was no set agenda, and what follows is a record of our ‘table talk’, albeit a brief outline of what followed.

Someone asked: So, is it important to go to specific places to perform a ritual?

Tadhg replied: Ah, the answer is no and yes. But I don’t think you would be happy with me if I left the answer just there.

In one sense, it isn’t important to go to a specific place to perform a ritual, because you could perform it, as a group or by yourself, anywhere, even in your house.

On many occasions I’ve used the caim and other ritual, and used visualisation with it, using my imagination to imagine being at that place in my mind. If intentionality is important, and it is, then a ritual in a substitute place, will suffice and be effective. So, if sending light and love to an area in need or of concern to you, to say, Chengdu in China, or to California, USA, or Jaipur in India, one doesn’t need to visit. A ritual, time set aside, somewhere else,  with time to visualise and imagine deeply is just as effective.

‘Ritual is able to hold the long-discarded shards of our stories and make them whole again. It has the strength and elasticity to contain what we cannot contain on our own, what we cannot face in solitude.’ Francis Weller

Having said that, there are times when it may be good to go to specific places, physically. For instances, I’ve been invited to a wedding, and to support the bride and groom I will attend, physically. And, it would be bad banners to stay away.  Other Druidic and Christian, and other faith celebrations do sometimes mean physical attendance is needed to show support, to give ‘out’ to others, and to ‘receive’ from them. For the benefit of others.

I went to Maen Lli in Wales to perform an Earth-Healing ritual, and in that case, I felt it necessary to actually go there to do that ritual, in part because it would mean something even deeper to me (or to others looking on). It was a kind of pilgrimage. So, it was mainly for my benefit in that case. But, being there, on that occasion, meant so much more.

Someone asked: So, what then are the important ‘ingredients’ to ritual, at the essential and deepest level?

Tadhg replied: Two major ‘ingredients’ are intentionality and sincerity, and those attributes I do believe, can change things.

In the strange, infinitesimally-small world of quantum physics/mechanics it is scientifically accepted that matter, at its deepest level, acts differently when it is observed by humans compared to when unobserved. The Universe changes the outcome depending on human input. Also, Carl Jung talked about the collective unconscious and the way it affects humankind, and perhaps in some way we are adding or changing this in some way by ritual at the deepest level.

‘If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.’ Attributed to Richard Feynman

I think it is not too great a step to imagine a changed outcome when ritual (done with intentionality and sincerity) is employed. Ofcourse, the outcome may be subtle, it may be delayed or work its way out in a way that we cannot perceive, but I do believe ritual (prayer etc) changes things.

Someone asked: Each of us sitting around this believe different things – some minor difference and some major. How do you reconcile this?

Tadhg replied: It could be that we’re closer to a unity of belief than we thought. For instance, which one of us holds the same kind of belief that we held, say, ten years ago?

I hope there has been some change because that denotes growth and a maturing. Anything else means no growth! So, our commonality is that we’re all on a journey the same journey, experienced in different ways. And, maybe we’re all at differing stages of development? And, that’s the area for fundamental comparison. It’s good to discuss with others their belief and ours, as in part, that’s how we grow together, if done in love – but if we discuss our individual changes and growth then we understand each other and the Universe a bit more than we would otherwise have done. Then, our task could be to build each other up, further, along our chosen paths.

’In essentials, unity; in differences, liberty; in all things, charity.’ Philipp Melanchthon

Also, where we have differences maybe they could be because of different words used, or seen as different metaphors of the same thing? You might see an angel, I might see an elemental, others might see a ghost? Who is to say what is more accurate?

What we can say is that each of us saw something awesome, unusual and other-worldly.

I might talk of the soul, others might use the term psyche, and yet others might use the word ‘atman’. A Jewish person talking of God’s bounty might refer to the miracle of manna and quail in the desert, whereas a Christian might refer to the first miracle at Cana – the changing of water into wine by Jesus. Others might tell the story of Brighid changing bathwater to beer to quench the thirst of weary travellers. All declare the provision of the Source of All.

‘The longer we listen to one another – with real attention – the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.’ Barbara Deming

We have more in common, and a closer affinity to each when we understand our fundamental beliefs, than we can at first imagine.

Someone asked: Do animals have souls?

Tadhg replied: That’s an interesting question. You will find a huge amount of research on this. Many mainline Christian denominations and many Jewish groups, and others, are adamant that only humankind have souls.

Rabbi Moses Cordovero,  a leading mystic in 16th-century, recognised that animals do have some kind of spiritual energy, which he calls nefesh heyuni, but his view was that it was not a soul in the conventional sense. Once the animal dies, nothing survives.

‘A Druid is likely, then, to acknowledge a tree, river or stone to have spirit, or soul, or consciousness. This consciousness is as different from human consciousness as a stone’s nature is different from human nature.’ Druid Network

However, Plato on the other hand believed that animals and plants possess souls, and he’s quite convincing, as were some of the saints of old.

It’s noteworthy that St Francis Paola called his pet animals by their names even after their earthly lives had ended. He apparently believed they continued to exist after their deaths. And let’s not forget St Francis of Assisi who preached to animals and creation for a reason. Why preach to them if they have no soul?

‘That is why such a person never ceases to pray also for the animals… that they may be preserved and purified’. St Isaac.

I am convinced that all animals, plants, indeed all of creation possess a soul and continue on – they live, they die or change and continue on, made new; and that’s part of my Druidic Christian (or Christo-Druid) belief.  I have no misgivings in blessing animals or any part of nature, or organising a ritual for animals’ healing etc, and have done so in the past, and infact I consider it a joy to do so.

‘And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Revelation 21.5a, The Book.

Someone asked: Earlier you mentioned ritual, and visualisation, but what about actions, what about action or work. Aren’t they necessary.

Tadhg replied: Another good question. Once you’ve experienced a ritual, or visualised or made a prayer request, there is usually a need to ‘do’ something allied to the ritual, visualisation or prayer.

If for instance I am concerned about the plight of those caught in the California fires and who need shelter, after a ritual, visualisation or prayer for them I might be led to ‘do’ something. Now that could be something connected with that situation and might involve sending money to the American Red Cross, but it could be something loosely connected with it, such as planting a tree (or sending money to a tree-growing charity) so that each time you look at, or think of, that tree you’ll remember those caught in the California fires.

‘You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons… When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.’ Kahlil Gibran

So, action or work may be needed, but it need only be loosely connected with what the ritual, visualisation or prayer was about, and it can be a token action and something achieved within minutes. Don’t ever feel you need do so much that is becomes a burden and troublesome. You may not be called or able to resolve the issue. Small efforts can reap huge benefits.

Conclusion: Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends in that café. Do stay in touch, do sign up to receive notifications of future articles. Also, the thought occurred to me to have ‘open’ or limited-number café events in London so that you might be able to savour the experience of ‘table talk’ if in/near to London?

Would you believe this is the 500th article I’ve written. Thank you for reading this, and for being loyal and reading my previous articles. Do stay in touch, even if it’s to say ‘hello’.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg