The Telling Place In The Age Of Binary

20170921 THE TELLING PLAE IN AN AGE OF BINARYThere was a time when I was a child, when my friends and I would take a short walk to Clackitt’s wood, stay out as late as we could – dependant on our ages and parents’ wishes – and tell each other wild stories. We would scare ourselves, and we loved it. As we sat on felled trees, someone would start the story.

‘Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.’ Oscar Wilde

It might be the story of the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, a creature that is said to resemble a giant frog, but with a stinger on the end of its tail, and bat wings instead of front legs. Another might remind us that it would part-fly and part-jump across lakes and land, hence its name (in English), the Water Leaper. Someone would start the story, and someone would add to that fragment of information, and sometimes someone would go back in the story to add or correct someone’s memory about the story. For instance, someone might remind the person who had just spoken that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was, infact, said to be the size of a cow. Oh, how we scared ourselves, and became more alert to the noises and scuffles in the undergrowth. Could it be that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was lurking nearby, watching us? As children, we loved it.

‘The imagination of early childhood has no limits. This is why children are fascinated by stories. A story has permission to go anywhere….The child rarely experiences the story as an observer. The child enters the story, it experiences the drama from within.’ John O’Donohue

Now much older, I’m sitting around a garden table in my ever-so-small, but greatly appreciated garden in London, with a few friends. This evening we’ve already shared stories of myth and magic, sometimes fragments of memories of a friends’ childhood, and sometimes more recent events, events that actually happened to someone we knew, and other stories that were fictional.

Stories are important. And more so in our electronic, computerised, fast-paced age.

The ancients, those Celts and Druids of old, knew of the benefits of stories. They would regularly meet around the village fire, in the evenings and tell stories that were, perhaps sometimes of individuals around the fire, or of ancient heroes and their ancestors, or of stories of cosmic proportions eg creation stories and/or of the tribe’s origin.

‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.’ Elie Wiesel

‘Do you remember when we all went fishing, and Tadhg fell in?’, one of my friends around the garden table said. They described a snapshot in time of yesteryear. I’m beyond being embarrassed by that event – yes it did happen, and I was only eight years old at the time, and I was, and still am surrounded by friends. And then another would share another fragment of memory. ‘And, yes,’ they remarked, ‘and when he was pulled him out he wouldn’t let go of the fishing rod. What a great fisherman!’.

And, bit by bit, these fragments of memory would be put together by individuals in the group to make a kind of cine film of activity, if you can imagine the old days when a movie was a long length of celluloid made up of individual frames of still pictures.

The ancients new the value of story-telling, when they met together at Telling Places. There, fragments of memory were woven together, and ‘bits’ become ‘whole’, and all added to the complete story, and all listeners were included. Fragments of memory, separate and ‘isolated’ were re-membered. The opposite of dismembered. ‘Re-joined’. Put back together again. And in community, too.

‘We keep stories alive because to re-member is to put broken pieces back together. We keep learning from stories how to make things whole.’ Mark Nepo

Telling our individual stories, or of those of our ancestors, and such stories can take the form of sharing the mundane (as if anything is mundane), of what happened a few days ago. Ofcourse, if something unusual happened, that would make a wonderful story to share with friends. But, every aspect of your life is important, and able to be shared, as your story minute by minute becomes part of the fabric of the universe and transcends time itself. Your story matters.

‘You didn’t think I would let go of a fishing rod that took me five months
pocket money to buy? I retorted to my friends. We all laughed. ‘And, I still have that rod!’

‘Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.’ Joel 1:3, The Book

Story forms community, it brings individuals into the group, it enables us to see the ‘whole picture’, very essential in an age that likes to fragmentise information eg three-point sermons all beginning with the letter Q! Stories heal, bind, enable depth, encourage laughter and other deep emotions, they alter and clear our perception, challenge and can comfort us, and cause us to wonder at The Source of All.

‘It is not by accident that the Native American medicine men put the questions to the sick who were brought to them: When was the last time you sang? When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you told your story? When was the last time you listened to the story of others?’ Mark Nepo.

And so, one of the things on my list to consider on my imminent visit to Iona, is to think deeply about story, our society, and how, as latter-day Celts and Druids we can give more weight and opportunity to the telling of stories, and encourage groups, faith groups and others to have periodic Telling places, and reap immense benefits.

It’s now late. My friends and I are still around the garden table, wine bottles empty, and we’re still telling stories, and eating the last of the cheese and biscuits. I couldn’t let my watery encounter go without adding, ‘And besides, I didn’t fall in,’ I quipped, ‘I was pulled in by the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, the Water Leaper, which was the size of a cow’. I laughed. They laughed. And as our Telling Place impromptu evening came to an end, it felt that as a group we were closer than ever to each other. Sharing. Laughing. Joy. Affirmation. Inclusion. Community. Love.

‘Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.’ Don Miguel Ruiz

 

‘Eucharistic Planet’ : Celtic Thought About Life & Geography

20170824 EUCHARISTIC PLANET CELTIC THOUGHT ABOUT LIFE AND GEOGRAPHYI am back in that place of paradox. Fulham cemetery in central London, so ancient and full of the remains of human bodies and ashes, and yet with the lush trees and foliage that abound here , it is a place teeming with life. To the materialIst, to those steeped in twenty-first century (maybe so, even without knowing it), to those who see only with physical eyes, there is no more.

But, there is more.

We are surrounded by ‘biological’ life: insects, animals, trees and plants etc, but even there, there is more. I’m in a physical location that has pebbles for pathways and a myriad of other stones with etchings on them, but there is more. There are things I cannot see – some would call them spirits or entities associated with this place (and, the Romans called the genii loci), and then there are the ancestors. How materialistic and limiting to presume that because we cannot see something that it does not exist (especially as ‘our science’ informs us that more that 90% of the universe is invisible to us).

There is more.

‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…’ Quote/Misquote from Star Trek

There are some who believe that all things – that which we call animate and inanimate – are ensouled. Even the pebbles on the pathway that I’m currently looking at are ensouled. They have a story to tell, are part of the created order, and though many would say that that idea is nonsense their was a time when those who thought the earth was the centre of the solar system would have argued vehemently that they were right and others were wrong.

‘I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ Luke 19:40, The Book

Having the view that everything has a soul, may sound bizarre to some, but even to sceptics there are benefits. If I gaze lovingly at a tree – and their are two beautiful, old, gnarled and noble trees to my left and right with stories to tell, and I believe they are ensouled and I’m in error, then nothing has been really lost. I slowed down, I might have given the trees some ‘respect’ that some materialists would say I didn’t need to do, but nothing is really lost.

‘Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.’ Gerard De Nervalok

However, even then there are benefits. I will not be so quick to view these trees, and creation in general, as a commodity to be dug us, used, and causally discarded. Even if the is no ‘ensoulment’ of all things and we act as though there is, it makes for a kinder, cleaner and more nature-based world, and one that is appreciated because it is reverenced. However, currently at the hands of materialist-thinkers the planet is being merely being ‘used’ and poisoned. ‘Ensoulment’-believers are very good for the planet and for future generations, at the very least.

There’s more.

For me everything is ensouled, and using the wisdom of ancient Celts, proto-Christians and Druids etc that ‘theology’ is wonderfully (and logically) life-preserving.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Hamlet, Shakespeare

I’ve now relocated. I needed to stretch my legs and I’ve walked about a mile south-west of the cemetary, and I’m now in the delightful Bishop’s Park (see header photo, above) which nestles against the River Thames .

And what of other entities? We live in such a materialist age that even many of those who frequent churches, mosques and synagogues etc struggle with the concept of angels. Call them Angels, elementals, genii loci, dryads, ancestors; there are things known, and there are things unknown. Perhaps we’re not meant to solve this mystery, but just to admit that this mystery exists, to experience it, and to revel in it.

These other entities, the spirits of the place, they exist. They exist here in this ancient land called by some, myself included, Clas Myrddin (or Merlin’s Enclosure), and they exist where you are. Even if you’re the other side of the globe, and in a ‘new’ country with a modern history of several decades or a just a handful of hundreds of years, the land is more ancient than that and so are those who inhabit it in the unseen realm. If I said this land was more special that would be for my ego to gain the upper-hand, or to give credence to some kind of ‘purist’ or arrogant fantasy. I would say every place on the face of the earth is special, and holy, and inhabited by genii loci. So, make friends with yours, wherever you are.

‘What if the universe is not merely the product of God but also the manifestation of God – a ‘eucharistic planet’ on which we have been invited to live?’. Joseph Campbell quoted by  Barbara Brown Taylor

In Bishop’s Park just a short walk away from that cemetery, the geographical location is different, my view is different, the ‘feeling’ is different, but the spiritscape shares an ancient commonality wherever we go, wherever you are, wherever I am. Different, but the same. Indeed, a ‘eucharistic planet’. Ensouled.

To Be Here Is Immense: Celtic Thought About Life & Time

20170822 LIFELINE TO BE HERE IS IMMENSEI’m sitting on a somewhat rickety bench seat in Fulham cemetery, in central London. It’s about mid-day and it’s August, and its overcast and cloudy. A wee bit humid, too, and it could threaten to rain, but so far it’s dry.

I’m alone.

There are parts of this cemetery which are more recently used than others and consist of fairly ‘well-manicured’ lawns. The part of the cemetery where the bench seats are – their are three of them – are in the oldest part of the cemetery, and the least used part now, and there nature is ‘wilder’. I like that area. That’s where I am.

With many tall trees and overgrown shrubs around me, the noise of nearby buses and other traffic is hardly noticeable. It’s like being in another place. Another world. It is, after all, known as ‘God’s acre’.

It feels as though I am alone. And yet…

As I sit here it feels as though things have always been this way. But, each one of us had an arrival date, each one of us navigates our way through a myriad of days, and as the names and dates on the gravestones reveal, there will be a time when we will all ‘move on’.

There is a Presence in this place. I don’t feel alone anymore.

Some might say this Presence are the souls of the departed here, others might say it’s angels or the Source of All. Still others may talk of dryads and elementals. Who knows? Whatever we call that Presence, and I think there’s room to ponder there, we’re acknowledging two things: the Presence connotes life (or should that be Life) and the paradox of this place; and that each one of us can, if we’re not distracted or too busy, be aware of the Presence.

‘To be here is immense’. Rainer Maria Rilke.

Almost in front of me is a large gravestone listing three members of the same family. The husband died in 1903, his wife died in 1908, and oh, that dear woman’s mother died two years after her. These three have gone from our sight, but the Presence is a ‘guarentee’ that life goes on, albeit in another form. Gone, but their memory lives on. It lives on in my mind as I have just read the gravestone. But, there are others alive today that came from their ancestral line, just as these three people came from their parents’ ancestral line.

‘In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.’ Robert Frost

None of us is alone.

We are all part of that which has gone before, and we all contribute to those who are yet to come (or those who are here now and maturing, or contribute in a myriad of ways to others’ lives now, if not genetically). Like runners in a baton race – receiving and giving.

We can metaphorically look back at the ancestors with gratitude, look forward with anticipation and hope, and look around us, today, with wonder and awe…..perhaps at the very fact, that we can actually do that!

‘To be born is to be chosen. To be created and come to birth is to be blessed. Some primal kindness chose us, and brought us through the forest of dreaming until we could emerge…’ John O’Donohue.

As I sit on this wooden bench it’s easy to forget the marvel, the miracle, that is Life. As I gaze around at wild nature, but it’s the same wherever we are – or wherever you are – the fact that we are aware of those who have gone before us, those we know now, and can envisage those who might yet come, that we can look around us and be aware ‘is immense’.

And yet, ‘amnesia’ sets in, and we can so easily forget our part in that long ancestral line or the calling of the Presence to ‘be’, and to ‘do’. Then, the visible seems to overpower the invisible, our hurried present seems to ‘crowd out’ the Presence…except in those still moments of solitude when the Presence, or angels, or dryads or elemental or the ancestors, or whatever our theology ‘permits’, still cry out to us. I have a hunch that the Originator of this ongoing message is more concerned about us hearing the message than debating who is, or what is, or what the Originator looks like.

‘We are a continuum. Just as we reach back to our ancestors for our fundamental values, so we, as guardians of that legacy, must reach ahead… And we do so with a sense of sacredness in that reaching.’ Paul Tsongas

The wind is picking up, and it’s time for me to leave. I stand up slowly, momentarily aching somewhat from sitting in a less-than-anthropometically designed, old bench seat, but it was wonder…and, I cannot leave without pausing for a moment and giving a nod of my head. To do less seems disrespectful to the Presence, and to others, such as the ancestors. Life is sacred. Life goes on. There will never be a time when you won’t be!

‘You are the fairy-tale told by your ancestors’. Toba Beta

 

A Great Cloud Of Witnesses: Celtic Thought

20170811 GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSESAs you may know, I’ve spent the last few days in in a beautiful, secluded, thick, old, ‘magical’ forest to ‘re-charge my batteries’, and be ‘primal’. Without creature comforts, no tv, no mobile phone, no internet. And it worked. Batteries ‘re-charged’. And, I’m back.

A lot has happened over the last few months and I needed this break.

There were a jumble of reasons for the need of a break of some kind, and sitting on a log, now, in this secluded forest, overlooking a wonderfully still lake I realise the benefits to me of taking this ‘time out’ in a rural area.

In the tranquillity of these surroundings thoughts pour out in an unstructured way, and I’m content with that. It needs to happen.

Thoughts flooded my mind. I had thoughts of being absent from my Dad. My Mum passed-on about three and a half years ago, my Dad about four and a half months ago. I miss them. I have fond memories of them both, and now the grief at my Dad’s passing-on is changing, like my Mum’s did.

Could it be that the greater the love for someone, the greater the grief at their passing-on. And even if so, this wonderful, new-to-me, strange and unfamiliar place is helping me.

In ancient Roman ‘theology’ they would say that each area, such as this one, has its own genii loci – its own ‘spirits of the place’. To ancient and latter-day Celts, Druids and others we might talk of the elementals and dryads that inhabit each area, and in modern parlance some might talk of the ‘feel of a place’, though I suspect ‘modern’ people are interacting with the spirits of the place without knowing, and yet lack the ability and language to be fully aware or describe it. This place is different, but just as welcoming as any rural, natural wilderness. There is a peace here.

‘…there is still a beauty in grief. Your grief shows that you have risked opening up your life and [gave]…your heart to someone’. John O’Donohue

It’s starting to rain now. Could they be tears? There’s part of me that reckons this may be so, but there’s a deeper feeling, a ‘voice’ deeper inside, deeper ‘out there’, that subtly hints that the rain is a ‘washing away’ of the old, and a ‘cleaning’ in preparation for the new, for the next stage. I remain on that log. Expectantly. And soaked.

Grief changes, and our memories of loved-one may never fade (I hope not), but how we consider them, daily, does change. In this ‘Eden’ of a forest something is changing in me. No longer do I just look back to my parents’ form of bodies, for that for me, would now be to ‘entomb’ them in the past and be backward-looking, and ‘restrictive’. Something has changed. I’m content.

‘Now you glimpse the possibilities of being with them in a new way. If you loosen the sad grip of grief, a new belonging becomes possible between you…the belonging between us and our loved ones in the unseen world. It is a subtle and invisible belonging…’. John O’Donohue.

Birds are still singing high in the trees, and though the light rain is making ripples, occasionally on the lake, fish can be seen coming close to the shore and gobbling food. The clouds are high and sparse, and so the rain is more of a drizzle. There is mist ‘rolling’ slowly down nearby mountains. It is bliss. I’m happy.

Everything seems so right. I look around and there is a natural balance to everything, a harmony, that everything is as it should be. A calmness pervades everything here, including me. For now, we only see in part.

‘Depth is height.’ Meister Eckhart.

The thought comes to me, that it is time to view my ‘loss’ in a different way and if I were to remain at the stage it would be as if I were held back. It’s now time for me to move on. Not to forget, but to remember and to do so with deep gratitude, but in a new(er) way. Now, it is time to realise that my, indeed, our loved ones live on – just as real and energetic as they did before when in physical-body form, but now in an unseen and subtle realm (from our point of view, at present), and just as close to us as ever. Perhaps, more so.

‘From their side, our friends in the unseen world are always secretly embracing us in their new and bright belonging’. John ODonohue.

It’s stopped raining, but I am joyfully soaked. A jumble of thoughts still flood my mind, but that’s all right. I find myself laughing – not a hearty laugh, but not a keep-it-to-myself laugh, after all there’s no one around. No one, except nature and elementals, dryads, companions, and angels maybe. Who knows? And that’s the overriding thought as I get up off this log, and as cold, wet clothes now brush against parts of my body as I walk – not entirely clothes-comfortable – but it makes me laugh even more. Oh, the overriding thought….is that there’s more. That’s my favourite Welsh phrase that I quote and which has been quoted to me in sacred places, in liminal encounters, and in ‘thin places’.

There is more! Mae mwy (pronounced ‘may mee-oh) as it is in Welsh. And there is more. There is more to our surroundings than we have so far imagined if we have eyes to see. More to life. And, for those who have loved-ones who have passed-on there is more, for them, for you, for me, and not only by way of fond memories, but the fact that they are still with us, loving us, encouraging us, embracing us in real, but albeit subtle ways.

‘…we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,..’ Hebrews 12:1b, The Book

I rose up, walked back to the small cottage I was staying in, soggy but joyful, cold but content, missing my parents, yes, but ‘energised’ by the fact that they live on – as do all of those that we have said ‘goodbye’ to as they enter Bliss, that which some call the Summerland, and still others call it Jannah. In the Welsh language it is called Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress). Life goes on there, and the ancestors are not far from any us.

Take heart. Blessings to you and yours, here and there, Tadhg

(Many thanks for your prayers, well-wishes and energy sent during my break. Greatly appreciated and felt).

Celtic Thought: Befeathered Friends at 4am [Tadhg’s Journal]

20170531 BEFEATHERED FRIENDS AT 4AMThis morning, at some unbelievably early hour I was awakened by birdsong. Left to my own devices I would have curled up and gone back to sleep, but I couldn’t. Not only was the birdsong so loud, but it had an altogether other-worldly rhythm that, in some strange and positive way ‘enticingly disturbed’ my sleep.

Invitational.

Listening to it for some time, I slowly rolled out of bed, grabbed the dressing gown and ambled downstairs. As I approached the backdoor the birdsong grew louder. Opening the door and being ‘hit’ by early Capel Curig morning cold air, I stepped onto the lawn – no shoes, so it was a ‘very awakening’ experience.

‘Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches.’ Psalm 104:12, The Book

The birdsong, at least those nearby ‘dawn choristers’, stopped abruptly. I had been spied.

I waited.

They waited.

I waited a little longer.

They waited even more.

As I  sat on a garden chair, slowly, and one by one birds started to sing again. And, before long, a number of them were in full flow, and I was enveloped in a complex melody of pure, unadulterated birdsong that ebbed and flowed. And, it was wonderful.

Included.

I’ve often written about our separation from nature, and that’s true in one sense. Humanity, oftentimes acts as though it has a second planet in reserve,. But, in this sense, as I sat on that garden chair, that separation is only we think and so act out, but it is that, only.  We think we’re separate, and so we miss out because, actually, we’re not separate…we just think we are.

Erroneous thinking.

I do believe that if we slow down, and stop sometimes; if we ‘hear’ the invitation of all that is around us, we will know that we are part of all that is. As I heard the birdsong this morning I could only but listen in awe. Not as a passive bystander, but as someone now included in this avian symphony of nature.

Union.

As I sat there, I remembered some words of the late Gerald G May, a fellow cancer sufferer (though he, sadly, succumbed, and I survived by the grace of That Which Is Larger Than Us). In the wilderness, whilst at the beginning of his ailments, at dusk he found himself surrounded by cicadas in the bushes. Unseen, but not unheard.

‘I notice that the drone [of the cicadas] is not a steady sound at all. It reveals an underlying rhythm, and the rhythm also is a composite, an intricate summation of cadences. One cicada’s rhythm joins that of another to generate a third conjoint beat, so that two insects create at least three rhythms…

Sensing the rhythms within the drone, I begin to beat the drum with them. I try to pick out a cadence and follow it, but it feels too complex; I cannot tell one pulsation from another for more than a few moments. Then, in the way I have learned to receive gifts, I quit trying. Relaxing, I just beat the drum, allowing my own rhythm to emerge and find its place in the overall sound. Then a wonder: I sense a change in the cicada song, a subtle shift that seems to be a response to my joining them…as if each insect in its buzzing has adjusted itself a tiny bit to create a space for me, for my sound.

I am lost now, lost into the firelight’s flickering on the tree leaves, warmth mingling with cool night star sparkles, all into the cicada song; I have been shown the way into the joining. I have been guided in a harmony path, to a oneness within which I am, once again, freshly and absolutely alive’. Gerald G May ‘Wisdom Of The Wilderness’.

Could it be that in our perceived separation from nature, we’re missing the point? Could it be that in believing we’re some ‘distance’ from nature that we’re really the ones separating ourselves from all that is holy? Could it not be the case that we are part of nature, we are not separated, and not at some ‘distance’ from it, but included! We’re there…but we just don’t know that we’re there!

‘We need a powerful new story that we are a part of nature and not separate from it. We need a story that properly situates humans in the world — neither above it by virtue of our superior intellect, nor dwarfed by the universe into cosmic insignificance. We are equal partners with all that exists, co-creators with trees and galaxies and the microorganisms in our own gut, in a materially and spiritually evolving universe. This was the breath-taking vision of the late Father Thomas Berry.’

Realisation.

I have to confess that I sat there at 4am this morning, with the ambient temperature somewhat lower than I would have liked (especially for the way I dressed),  I didn’t care. I didn’t want extraneous or complaining thoughts to come between me and this embrace by nature. It was a time just to enjoy it, revel in it, marvel at it, and gaze at the marvel that is nature.

And, nature gazed back.

‘The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.’ Meister Eckhart

As I write this I’m toying with the idea of setting the alarm clock for 4am for tomorrow, to ensure that I put myself in the way of another nature-encounter.

Celtic Thought: Life Is Like…

20170413 LIFE IS LIKE...CELTIC THOUGHTAt the far end of my cottage’s garden in Capel Curig (in north Wales) is a rivulet. Hidden by trees and gorse bushes, it rushes by the northern boundary, invisible to all, except to me and a few locals. It’s so small – you can leap over it – it has no name, except for the one I gave it. To me, this ‘watery companion’ is: Bach ac yn gyflym. Welsh geographical place-names are very descriptive, and it seemed right to call this rivulet by this name. It means ‘small and fast’.

Here’s a few thoughts as I watched Bach ac yn gyflym flow by, and as (for some) we are nearing the end of a specially remembered week that culminated in dramatic events, that many take to heart.

Metaphorically, life is like a stream, perhaps something like Bach ac yn gyflym. I was going to write about encouraging you to step into that Life-stream, but I do believe we are all in it, already.

“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck!” Rumi

This stream isn’t just life events as we experience them with all their surprises, twists and turns; it is that, but it is also more. There is more! Mae myw! It is Life, the Life-Giver itself (and apologies for that impersonal pronoun when Life itself is anything but impersonal, but Life is also beyond ‘he’ or ‘she’, and yet encapsulates both/all).

This Life-stream embraces us as we live life, and my encouragement then to myself and others, bearing in mind we are all already in that flow, is to encourage each of us to have an awareness and/or remembrance of being part of it.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22:1 The Book

As I sit and watch Bach ac yn gyflym flow by I witness leaves and debris float by. Some of it swirls into little eddies caused by indentations in the river bank, and stay there for a while. Out of the main flow of the stream, they may look or ‘feel’ safer and linger for a while, but the power they experienced just seconds before is diminished. And then, maybe unexpected to them, but not to me as an observer, the current catches them and off they go at great speed to their destination.

Maybe, we too, can feel safe or get comfortable, or maybe too safe and too comfortable, and object to the buffeting of life. In being too cosy, like those leaves in that riverbank indentation we can feel safe, but lose access to power and energy. Even in that ‘safe’ position we are still in the Life-stream, but maybe unaware. Even in that ‘safe’ position we have access to that power and energy. But, we don’t use it….after all, we’re (momentarily) unaware of it.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”  Rainer Maria Rilke

Being aware of our status (we’re all in that Life-stream) and aware of the power and energy (and that it is available to us), will, I think, put life events into perspective. There is no ‘maybe’ with a river, no need to barter, no worry of it stopping, no concern about where it is going or its destination. It flows. It knows. It is.

It’s flowing now, carrying us in an amazing ever-changing movement in that Divine, energetic dance, and if we’re quiet we might just ‘hear it’ and experience its all-embracing love. And then, the next step is to revel in that Life-flow wherever we are or whatever our circumstances might be, to enjoy its energy for good (purposes), and to pass (recognition of) it on to others. What do you think?

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” John O’Donohue

 

Ephemera: The Celtic Month Of The Willow Tree [15 April-12 May]

20170414 CELTIC MONTH OF THE WILLOW TREE EPHEMERAFriday, 14 April is the last day of the Celtic month of the Alder Tree, and 15 April sees the start of the new month of the Willow Tree (though some like to start that day, in common with ancient cultures, at sunset on the evening of 14 April).

Essential Data
Month: Willow Tree
Dates: 15 April – 12 May
Common Name: Willow
Celic /Gaelic Name: Shellach
Scientific Name: Salix

The Gaelic words for willow are shellach, or suil, and its name features in Scottish place names such as Achnashellach in Ross-shire, Glensuileag in Inverness-shire and Corrieshalloch on Speyside. It is also called sallow (from Old English sealh, related to the Latin word “Salix“; Willow).

‘Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.’ Bruce

About The Tree
Willows, also called sallows, and osiers, and come from the genus Salix. Willows have abundant watery bark sap, and soft, usually pliant, tough wood, with slender branches, The roots are remarkable for their toughness, size, and tenacity to life.

The leaves are typically elongated, but may also be round to oval, frequently with serrated edges. Most species are deciduous or semi-evergreen.

Willows are dioecious, that is they have male and female flowers which appear as catkins on separate plants; the catkins are produced early in the spring, and often before the leaves.

Willows are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, such as the mourning cloak butterfly, and ants, such as wood ants, and it is common to find aphids coming to collect honeydew, as sometimes do wasps.

Willow is used to make charcoal (for drawing), willow stems are used to weave baskets and three-dimensional sculptures, such as animals and figures and are also used to create garden features. Willow is grown for biomass or biofuel, in energy forestry systems, and large-scale projects to support willow as an energy crop are already at commercial scale in Sweden.

Willow is one of the ‘Four Species’ used ritually during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. In Buddhism, a willow branch is one of the chief attributes of Kwan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. And, Christian churches in north-western Europe, Ukraine and Bulgaria often used willow branches as a substitute for palms in the ceremonies on Palm Sunday.

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our lyres. Psalm 137:1-2, The Book

Folklore
Because many willows grow close to water, legends, magic and folklore associated with the willow tree include many references to water. The moon, too, is often linked to the willow tree. Indeed, Culpeper says in his Complete Herbal book says, ‘The moon owns the willow’.

Hecate, for instance, the powerful Greek deity was goddess of the moon and of willow. Associated with water, her priestesses used willow in their water divination.

The willow muse, called Heliconian was sacred to poets, and the Greek poet Orpheus also carried willow branches (wands?) into the Underworld, having received his gift by touching the Willows in a grove sacred to Persephone.

Willow groves have been used by many types of artisans to gain eloquence, inspiration, skills and the gift of prophecy.

There is a wonderful creation myth in Druidic mysteries. Two red snake eggs were hidden within the willow tree, and it was from these eggs that the Universe was hatched. One egg contained the Sun, the other the Earth.

Also, Hildegard, the Christian mystic spoke of creation and the universe as an egg, when she recounted her third vision, and wrote: ‘After this I saw a vast instrument, round and shadowed, in the shape of an egg, small at the top, large in the middle and narrowed at the bottom; outside it, surrounding its circumference, there was bright fire…’

Traditionally, in spring rituals, these red eggs were replaced by hens’ eggs, coloured scarlet for the Sun and eaten at Beltane. This act transferred later to the Christian celebration of Easter.

Interestingly, Greek Orthodox Christians, even today, dye hens eggs red on Holy Thursday to symbolise the Christ’s blood poured out to death on Good Friday, and that egg also symbolises the new life of Easter Sunday. There is also a game called tsougrisma and played in Greece, today, in which two people take one red egg each in their hand, and alternately try to break their opponent’s egg – the winner being the one whose egg doesn’t crack first.

All around my hat I will wear the green willow.
All around my hat for a twelve-month and a day.
And if anyone should ask me the reason why I’m wearing it
It’s all for my true love who’s far, far away.

Steeleye Span

Healing
The cunning folk used the willow tree, extensively, for healing. It is said (and, please do not try the aforementioned) that they made an infusion from the bitter bark of the willow tree as a remedy for colds, fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. They also chewed young willow twigs to relieve pain.

In the early nineteenth century modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, and from this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin.

Celebration
The willow is known by some for its wisdom-instilling and creativity-giving properties, and so, whatever you do to welcome in the new month, perhaps you could light a candle and meditate for a while and seek a creativity-boost, and/or read a few apt poems about the willow tree or trees in general, or visit an art gallery in person or online, for inspiration. Awen.

Wishing you, and those whom you love, a very blessed new month.

Tadhg’s Journal: Dayenu. For Now!

20170407 FOR NOW DAYENU TADHGS JOURNALSome of you will know that my dear, 91yo Dad, Robert – a brave, loving, clever, gentle giant of a man – passed on last Monday evening.

Caer Wydyr

As you can imagine emotions seem to be a roller-coaster ride for me and close family. In all of this I want to thank my friends here, Celts, Christian, Druid, Pagan and others – too numerous to mention – for your kind words, thoughts, energy-sending, prayers, ritual, caim-casting etc, and for those that sat with me in the silence. It means a lot.

My heart is filled with gratitude for all those well-wishers.

It is all too easy to rush through life’s ‘judders’, upsets, disappointments and traumas, as if to try to escape them, or at least speed them up to return to normality, whatever that is. I’ve realised that ‘going through it’ is necessary, and though I don’t want to prolong the pain and heartache, neither do I want to artificially steer a course through it to quell the pain. The journey is necessary.

The journey, at this time, (just) is.

It has its own time. I’m learning something each day. It will end. But, perhaps, not just yet. Life is a mystery, and sometimes there are no easy answers. It’s then that I take comfort, and have done so, in those who send words of comfort, who verbally and in word form via FaceBook or email  sit with me, metaphorically or in actuality, for a while.

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvellous
to be understood…

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have all the answers.

Let me keep company, always, with those who say
‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver

The ancients had a word, hupomone, which means to ‘stay with whatever is happening’, and that is what I am doing. Not speeding through this part of the journey, nor purposely slowing it down. Just staying with it.

‘…the call is not to run away when things become challenging. Stability demands that we stay with difficult experiences and stay present to the discomfort they create in us’.

Christine Valters Paintner

In some instances, like the current event it is impossible to run away from it. But, even so, I get though each day, I grow, somethings are shaken loose, I enjoy good company, I am lifted up by others, I realise more of what it essential in life and what isn’t, I move through this experience slowly, thoughtfully, and not alone.

Dayenu.

Today, was but one day on this journey. Tomorrow, another. The Unseen Guide guides, consoles, empowers me (and you) one day at a time, and visits us in the myriad of people and events that we encounter each day. One day…it is enough.

 

Tadhg’s Journal: ‘And Nothing Happens…?’

20170110-nothing-happens-journalExcerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: Have you ever had one of those days when expectations ran high? Where your heart beat faster, when there seemed to be ‘electric’ in the air, like an approaching storm, and you felt sure something significant was about to happen? But, nothing happened!

Yesterday (again), for me, was just such a day.

On the surface, as regards any significant event…zero, zip, zilch, nada, nothing!

But, at the end of the day when the noise of life lessened, and the ‘monkey mind’ wasn’t quite so active, deep inside there seemed to stir a quiet voice saying otherwise, an intuition that suggested that significant events had indeed happened, but that I (or you) were not aware of them, or perhaps had misinterpreted them. Maybe, passing them off as trivial?

There is another way of perceiving life. The ancients, the Celts, the Druids of old, and many today know there is more to life than meets the eye, and that we can, sadly, sometimes be caught up in the busyness of modern life that we miss it, as our appreciation of life becomes…superficial, shallow, surface-level, so fast. But, and here’s one of my favourite Welsh phrases, mae mwy – there is more.

That quiet voice of positivity that whispers to us, is the voice of the bat kol (literally, ‘the daughter’s voice’, the voice of the Divine) that we all have access to, and which (or should that be ‘who’) constantly speaks to us. It is the voice of the Friend, but a voice that we seldom heed.

I’m reminded of the following poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez:

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.

And nothing happens! Nothing… Silence… Waves…

Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Significant things, then, are happening to us everyday, sometimes revealing themselves as large and significant, sometimes disguised as ‘small’ events that we might be tempted to overlook. Sometimes they appear to be very mundane (whatever that means), but they do happen. Please don’t overlook them.

Maybe the first birdsong we heard of the day was a ‘call’ just for us to draw aside, rest and relax, and appreciate nature? Perhaps, that baby’s smile ‘tugged’ a deep memory within us that reminded us of how loved we are? Or, was that argument we witnessed on the city bus between a couple, a reminder to you of the fragility of human relationships, and an encouragement to contact a family member or friend that evening?

These are events with cosmic consequences. They are ‘whispering sages’ from whom we can learn, if we but pause, heed the event and seek to be aware of its meaning and significance in our daily lives.

It is written in ancient sacred text: Do not neglect the day of small things.

Every event in our life is significant, because there is no such thing as an insignificant person, and the Divine is constantly communicating in our thoughts, through word and through actions.

You and I are standing in that new life;  and yesterday, significant things actually did happen to us. And, today…….?

Celtic Thought: Lessons In [Over]Thinking.

20170109-lessons-in-over-thinking-111

Did you ever see the movie, ‘Bruce Almighty’? It’s the one where Bruce Nolan played by Jim Carrey, is a television field reporter at his wits end. Life just doesn’t seem fair.

At one point, in the movie, Bruce is driving along asking God for a sign. As he drives he passes a road side indicator panel – the kind that warn of impending road works –  showing the words ‘Caution Ahead’. He doesn’t notice it.

A truck loaded with road signs (of the kind: yield, stop, slow down etc) pulls out in front of him causing him to mutter and swerve, and he’s oblivious to it. He asked for a sign, got it, and didn’t recognise it for what it was.

‘I had a dream that I was awake, and I woke up to find myself asleep.’ Stan Laurel

I’m one week into the new year, as are you, but I’m feeling a bit like Bruce Nolan. Expectant, but there’s a nagging feeling that maybe I’m ‘asleep’?

It all started a few days ago. I like good music, and do appreciate a good choreographed choir. I say that with some trepidation, because I wouldn’t win any votes on Britain’s Got Talent for my singing. So, a few days ago – oh, I do hope they invite me back – I was at a place (and that’s as precise a description as I’m going to give), where the congregation, many of whom are dear, sweet friends, just could not sing. I wept. Not because they couldn’t sing, but because it moved me. They had a joy, a love and a ‘holy innocence’ that reached down into my core and caught me up with their offering to the Source of all. A magnificent inclusion that was overwhelming. A ‘thin place’ event. And it was enough. I realised afterwards that I could have ‘switched off’ completely, and been critical, and missed something oh-so-special at that service.

Can we be so critical, that we miss being moved by the little things in life?

‘My friends are the beings through whom God loves me.’ Mark Nepo

And then, a couple of days ago, at my ever-so-humble, north Wales cottage, Tŷ Gwin, I had one of those wake-up-in-the-early-hours-of-the-morning events. It’s at times like that, that to get back to sleep, I like to go for a walk in the nearby forest – suitably dressed, ofccourse, and regardless of the time. As a Celt, a Christian and a Druid, I love nature, the wilderness, the barren places where ritual and/or meditation can take place, and where you can hear the Source of All. But, that night is was raining. Normally, that wouldn’t stop me, but I could hear the rain in torrents hitting the windows as it was caught by gusts of wind, it was even colder-than-cold outside, and if I’m honest there was a little bit of ‘stay-indoors-and-keep cosy’-ness that enveloped me, and forced me to remain within the cottage. What could I do?

So, unusually for me, I stayed put, and put the radio on for a while, instead. As I sat on the sofa in a semi-comatose state – well, drifting in an out of a day-dream state – I could hear the radio’s music in the background. Okay, I admit I am not a fan of Cyndi Lauper, but the song’s refrain continued to vie for my attention. I tried to resist, I really did. But, in the end I had to climb that metaphoric ‘staircase’ out of the day-dream state to listen more so. ‘If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, time after time; If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time’.

Could it be that the Source of All uses any means he/she wants to get our attention, and to get the message across, even to the point of using Magic Radio? (105.4 FM in the UK for those interested, and also available on DAB radio). It’s an interesting thought.

‘…but [the Source of All] will rejoice over you with singing.’ Zephaniah 3:17b, The Book

And now as I write this, I’m wondering whether I should continue or whether it just sounds plain odd, daft, as soppy as a box of frogs? But, if you’re reading this then you’ll know the choice I’ve made.

Ofcourse, in concluding this, and mentioning two examples of something that I could have missed but didn’t, it begs the question: If the Source of All communicates with us, and I do believe that is the case, then ‘What have I…..umm, what have we missed, say, even in the last few days?’

This shouldn’t make us downcast, nor neurotic, but should gently, hopefully, tease an answer to that question, and positively spur us on to be alert to what Mark Nepo calls those ‘quiet teachers’ that speak to us all, all the time.

‘Often we find it easier to think our way around things rather than to feel our way through them.’ Mark Nepo