Samhain 1: Introduction Of The Festival, The First Day Of Winter

Samhain (pronounced ‘so-uhn’) is  a wonderful festival ‘oozing’ with ancient Gaelic tradition and ‘magic’. Something you can participate in, wherever you are. It marks the end of the third harvest and the end of autumn, and it marks the advance of the season of winter. It is the start of the dark period, winter and the underworld, when our thoughts go to those whom we love who have passed-on.

‘Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.’ (Ezra Taft Benson)

It’s when, in rural communities, surplus cattle were culled, and their meat stored for the depths of winter.

It starts on the evening, at dusk, on Saturday, 31 October, but don’t forget that we’ll have a Facebook live-streaming event, a ceremony to celebrate the event, called Them Night Of Long Shadows, to honour the ancestors. More details about this will follow in a few days.

But, here’s some suggestions to whet your appetite, and to start thinking of Samhain. Samhain is a cross quarter day, indeed it’s the first of the year as it starts the Druid and ancient Celtic new year. It is a moon festival (as opposed to sun festivals, such as the solstices and equinoxes when time is measured by the sun’s elevation etc)

Winter advances: 
Since ancient times this time was seen as a feast of the dead, and the modern idea of Hallow’een ‘sits alongside’ it. Hallowe’en? The name comes from ‘all hallows eve’. When Christianity arrived in Celtic countries, and the church discouraged fortune-telling, and magic etc, a day of celebration of all the Saints of the Church was instituted on 1 November. 

The wind is full of a thousand voices
They pass by the bridge and me.’ (Loreena McKennitt, ‘All Souls Night’
)

Many of our hallowe’en traditions, such as bobbing for apples which were originally part of the foretelling of the future, and the baking cakes containing “lucky tokens” also originated at this time, and survive to this day. In addition, and an import from America, it is a time for children (or all ages) to visit door-to-door dressed as something with a ‘deathly’ theme to it, to ‘trick or treat’.

A time to take stock
Samhain, then, was a time when farmers would take stock of their animals – which would live, and which would be killed, and a time to finally gather in (any) residual harvest; a time when local and tradition rituals would be enacted eg bonfires, and embers of these would be taken home as a form of protection; young men would run around the villages boundary with torches, again, for the villagers’ protection, as that night, many believed that the veil between this world and the world of the dead was ‘thin’, and something might (or did) come through for a while. It’s a time for the imagination to run riot, and for stories to be told.

‘Somewhere in a hidden memory
Images float before my eyes’. (Loreena McKennitt, ‘All Souls Night’
)

Whether you believe this factually, ‘romantically’ or not at all, the stories of that night, retold around a bonfire, perhaps, intrigued men and women, and (no doubt) frightened (hopefully in a ‘nice’ sense) many a child. Even today, the tv ‘lights up’, innocently, with many horror movies at this time of year to keep adults ‘mesmerised’. It is a ‘thin place’, this time.

Taking stock? A ‘thinning’ of the veil between here and the other, ensures that this night, the evening of 31 October, is a feast, a celebration, a time of deep thought, a reflecting of the life of those that have gone before us.

Even in its simplest form – depending on your theology – it is a time to think about the ancestors, how they contributed to make us the person/people we are today, and to give thanks. A time to remember the ancestors in different, honouring ways. For me, reflection, thinking about the ancestors and the giving of gratitude to the Source of All predominates at this time.

Do something
Others will indulge in ritual, and though each may have a different way to acknowledge this feast, I enjoy the variety, enthusiasm and intentionality that my Christian, Celtic Christian, co-Druids, Wiccan and other friends put into this festival. I have my own way, my own ritual to mark this time, and it may be that you do, too.

My advice to you is: Do it! Be honest to yourself, be sincere and intentional, be joyful about it, but in some way (large of small, complicated or simple) observe the time, and make it something good, and wholesome, and memorable.

Enjoy the feast
A bonfire might be out of the question, but how about lighting a candle, at least for 10-20 minutes and thinking of your ancestors in a joyful and honouring way? They’re home. You might now be able to run around then edge of a village, but how about an evening walk, a silent walk of gratitude? Elementals? Here’s your opportunity to find our more about them – an evening when their activity is said to increase – and you can find a lot about them on the internet, but don’t make it only ‘book-learning’. Why not go for a county walk, or a walk in the park, or alongside a riverbank, and meditate in some way, to ‘day dream’ and reflect? And, then perhaps, later, treat yourself to a meal, a glass of wine, a warm coffee as you gaze at the cold night sky, and yes, even watch a good, scary movie?

Ofcourse, you might like a ritual of some sort or recite relevant poetry, or sing a song, and here’s a poem/song I penned some time ago. If you join the Facebook live-streaming event you might even hear me sing it.

Song/Poem

The Circle is turning,
autumn  becomes winter.

The Circle is turning,
autumn  becomes winter.

The Circle is turning,
autumn becomes 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,
(and) autumn becomes winter.

The Circle is turning,
(and) autumn becomes winter.

The Circle is turning,
(and) autumn becomes winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.


If you’re ‘brave’ enough to sing it, there’s a delightful melody (the tune of Fear a Bhata (The Boatman), a traditional Gaelic piece of music to accompany you)), but if you want to hear me sing it, just join me for that Live-streaming Night of Long Shadows Ceremony – details soon.

Or, you might like to read (and recite) Rabbie Burns’ poem ‘Hallowe’en’, part of which is:

Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the rout is ta’en,
Beneath the moon’s pale beams;
There, up the Cove, to stray an’ rove,
Amang the rocks and streams
To sport that night;

And, finally, you might like to recite the following traditional Scottish prayer:

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us


However you celebrate it, do make it something spectacular and memorable. More about Samhain will appear here, as we think about The Long Of Night Shadows event, denials how to view it, and to print out a liturgy if you wish to participate.

In Praise Of Water (Revisited): Poem/Liturgy

2020816 IN PRASIE OF WATER REVISITED

‘Water, water everywhere…’. Samuel Taylor Coleridge

From the beginning of this month we moved, ritually, into the season of autumn (from a northern hemisphere viewpoint).  Lughnasadh (1 August, though some opinions may differ by a few days) was the first day of the season.

That date was also the festival of the first harvest (wheat, barley etc), and half way through this season is Alban Elfed or Autumn Equinox (22 September) which is the time of the second harvest (soft fruits etc), culminating in Samhain (31 October), which is the third harvest of the season (of berries and nuts).

But, there’s more.

For the season of autumn the compass, cardinal point is west; and the predominating element is water; and water is the theme of this short article.

’We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?’.  Anonymous

In our groves, faith groups or solo rituals and practices, it is good to be reminded, especially in this water-orientated  season, of this precious liquid. It is a necessity for life, is the object of our gratitude for it, and the source of our sheer wonderment that it occurs on this planet, and in such abundance – this is surely the ‘blue planet’.

Water is sacred.

It can teach us about Life and it can teach us about life (note the capital L and lower case use of the letter – to denote Life in all its mystery, and life in the ‘small things’ of our daily life), or is there no real division?

‘Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.’ Lao Tzu

In our rituals we might spend some time pouring some water from a jug into a bowl, and meditating of the wonder of water. Or, we might pour water into a cup, at some point during our ceremonies, to sip ad savour cold water, and meditate upon it. Or we might pour some out onto the garden (or window box or potted plant) as a libation – a sacred ‘thank offering’ to the Great Water Giver.

’A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.’ – Lucy Larcom

Whatever you do, be encouraged to do one, or more things, water orientated in this ‘water’ season. If you’re fortunate to have rain (in these exceptionally hot and dry days), wrap up safely, grab a raincoat and/or umbrella and go for a walk – all the time appreciating the cool rain, and maybe, purposely getting wet to enjoy the moment. Even more reason to give gratitude.

’All water is holy water.’ Rajiv Joseph

In our liturgy – the spoken parts of our ceremonies – you might find the following poem (or is it a prayer of gratitude) penned by me a few years ago, useful, as part of the ritual.

But, there’s (even) more.

In our very being, the ‘exterior’ composed mainly of water, and in our spirit and soul, as well as our bodies, we are intrinsically connected to water, in actuality as well as a metaphor, of life in all its sacredness.

Water.

The vast oceans, that which sustains life on Earth,
which move at the behest of the moon,
the rolling tides that contains a myriad of sea-life, from plankton to the behemoth,
that which quenches the world’s need,
and from which all nourishment is assured,
acknowledgement is given.

From clouds you pour out rain upon the Earth, and enrich it.
Mighty lakes appear from which  ancient forests of growing trees are fed,
and daily bread is produced for our table.
An abundance for many,
and a veritable gift from the Great Water-Giver.
Bountiful.

It soothes and it heals.
For when an angel’s wing sweeps
across the surface of the Pool,
then healing takes place, and there is restoration.
Health-giving.

It’s cleansing power, daily, washes the body,
and restores vitality.
A clean start. A refreshing start. A new start.
All is washed away.
And, in it celebration commences,
in appreciation, in sport, in swimming and in children’s’ play.
Joyfulness.

It quenches the soul, it nurtures the spirit;
and from those who are aware,
springs of sanctifying water flow,
and outward pour,
to friends, to enemies,
to those near, and to those far away.
To all.

Water.
Whether we have much, or little,
may the words, “Come, all. Drink. Share”, be on our lips.
Praise to the Great Water-Giver.

Note: Apologies for the wrong symbol for water used in the ‘header’ photo. The triangle should, infact, be pointing down to represent water in the four classical symbols. Pointing up represents air. Mea culpa!

 

 

Harvest Celebration: Lughnasadh / Lammas (Outline) & Your ‘Live-Streaming’ Invitation

30072020 HARVEST OUTLINE AND INVITATION X

It’s nearly time for our celebration of Lughnasadh, or first harvest – Lughnasadh is the Irish Gaelic for ‘the commemoration of Lugh’ which was prevalent event in England in former years. If you live in England think of the area in London called Ludgate formerly called Luds Gate. This time, for some, is also called “Lammas”, from the old anglo-saxon  –  their word for loaf mass, a mass where the first loaf of bread of the harvest is consecrated.

Here is:

  • a very brief outline of Ludhnasah, and
  • a hymn for it penned by Tadhg, and
  • a few verses about John Barleycorn from an ancient, mythical folk tune, and there’s more.
  • at the base of this article is your invitation to view/participate in our ‘live streaming’ Lughnasadh ceremony online, on Tadhg’s Facebook page, on Friday, 31 July 2020 at 8pm (UK time) though the event takes place in the northern hemisphere on 1 August (or the evening before). Do feel free to print this ‘article’ at home, for your personal use, as some of it will be used in the ceremony

In an agricultural society the begin of the harvest was a natural occasion to celebrate and to give thanks to the Divine for Its gifts. And, there is no reason in our technological society why we, too, should give thanks to the Lord of the Harvest, the Great provider.

This time of the year would, for our ancestors, have been a time of great joy, as the times grow darker. They would have started storing food for the winter.

But, the idea of celebrating harvest, giving thanks, storing for the winter goes back, goes back way before the times of the Church, way before even the Celts and Druids of the UK, and many thousands of years before that – and so it truly is an ancient and cosmic-celebratory time which no one religion, faith or tribe can lay exclusive ownership, which is entwined in our ancient and later day tribes’ survival and the honouring of That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves, the Great Provider.

Some time ago, with Lughnasadh or Lammas in mind, and with the idea of giving gratitude to the One Behind It All, I wrote the following Hymn For The Harvest:

 

HYMN FOR THE HARVEST

Lord of the harvest we come to you,
we thank you for the ripened grain
(for) the circle turning year by year.

Great provider of all humankind,
we thank you for the sun and wind,
the earth and all life-giving rain.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Nature once in vernal green enrobed,
gives up its bounty, gifts for all
(and) prepares to sleep as autumn comes.

On our table you supply our bread,
We share with all, for all to be fed,
And joy in our heart at what shall be.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Inspired by: Lord of the Harvest, Hymn by Joseph Anstice, 1836
To the tune of Siuil a Ruin. Link for that tune is here.
‘Green hope’ a reference to Romans 15:13, ‘The Message’, The Book.

 

THE STORY OF JOHN BARLEYCORN

It’s about this time of the year that many will recite, or sing the mythical song about John Barleycorn. Now, there were many variations of the song, and some have come down to us today. It’s mythical in that it’s a foundational story and was the very centre of peoples lives if we go way back.

How far back?

The first known written copy of the song appears in a manuscript penned by George Bannatyne in AD1568 (parts of the song are indented below). He was a wealthy merchant from  Edinburgh and included the song of John Barleycorn in a collection of several poems, songs and other writings which he seems to have committed to paper as a simple amusement.

However there is some speculation that it was known and sung hundred of years earlier, and others think it  goes way back to our civilizations’ tribal beginnings.

Why is it so profound and important?

John Barleycorn, could be seen as a symbolic figure; a poetic personification of the barley; the corn itself. Taken at this level the song  describes the process of preparing the ground, sowing the seeds, watering and waiting for the crop to grow, followed by harvesting, threshing and milling. Finally, the products of brandy and bread made from barley are extolled for their virtues as staples of the diet of early agrarian peoples and upon which laborers, craftsmen and lords alike depended for their sustenance.

There were three men come out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn should die.

These are the first indications that the story in the song has its origins in a religious or magical ritual actually enacted in the pagan, agrarian past. If such is the case, then it would be reasonable to assume that the role of John Barleycorn would have been played out by a real person for the ritual – what we would call an enacted parable, today. And, that role-play is, indeed, acted out, today.

Did you notice that there are three men and that they come out of the west?

Why three? Why from the west?

The number three has been clearly demonstrated to have religious or magical significance in most human cultures around the planet since ancient times.  The image of the Triad was adopted in later centuries by the Christian Church as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. In agrarian England – think of the triskelion or triquetra – it was originally ascribed to the worship of the Earth Goddess, who was represented in three aspects as a young maiden, a life-bearing mother, and a wise old crone.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that in the earliest Celtic writings and myths, the male heroes frequently set out in groups of three to undertake their sacred quests. It’s more than just a song – its about the cycle of life and humankind’s progress in it.

And, ‘The West’ was a euphemism for the ‘otherworld’ or ‘faerieland’ – the mystic isle across the western sea where myth and magic were commonplace, immortality could be found in the dwelling place of the gods.

Why they would come to kill him?

They let him stand till midsummer
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John he growed a long beard
And so became a man.

They let him stand until midsummer day. He grew a beard and became a man. In the ancient pagan cultures, midsummer was the most important festival of the year, celebrated as the longest day, the victory of light before the long descent into Winter darkness.

This song is about the cycle of death and rebirth was of tremendous and practical importance to our agrarian ancestors.

John Barleycorn grows a long beard. In part, this is a simple reference to the ‘bearded barley’ which has long hair-like strands coming off the ear of corn when it is ripe for harvest.

They hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him most barbarously.
They hired men with the sharp pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart.
They wheeled him round and round the field.

When his time had come, John Barleycorn was sacrificed, his broken body was dragged through the fields to ensure  future fertility.

John Barleycorn is the personification of barley, and because our ancestors life depended on it, he was the personification of life itself – life that grew from a seed, was cutdown and harvested and we benefited, died, only to return to life the following year.

 

YOUR INVITATION TO OUR LUGHNASADH CEREMONY
FRIDAY, 31 JULY 2020 AT 8PM (UK TIME)
INVITE & DETAILS OF HOW TO VIEW

If you haven’t already ‘friended’ Tadhg on his Facebook page, please see below.

Live-Streaming Video instructions: To view this  inlcusive, participative, live-streaming video, you need to be a FaceBook friend of Tadhg’s as that it where the ‘broadcast’ can/will be seen. So: If you’re already a friend, or you’re been able to see many of the morning ‘Thought For The Day’ broadcasts via my Facebook site then you’re good to go.

If you’re new, not on Tadhg’s  FaceBook friend’s list, or are not sure, do check here. If don’t see many previous videos there, or if you can’t gain full access to read that  Facebook webpage then you’ll need to become a Facebook friend.

To become a Facebook friend: press the ‘friends’ link on Tadhg’s Facebook site – that link in the paragraph above. He will accept as soon as he can, and, when he does, please try the link again  to see if you can gain full access, in readiness for the ‘broadcast’ on his FaceBook page. If you still can’t get access, or if there’s any ‘challenges’, please email him, at: tadhgtemp@googlemail.com.

 

The Night Of Long Shadows: 2. More Thoughts

20191207 THE NIGHT OF LONG SHADOWS 2 MORE THOUGHTS

At the time when the world seems to come alive, at Christmas time, when the glare of neon fills the shops, ‘tumbles’ of out the tv in the shape of even more ‘over the top’ tv adverts, and store music seems altogether louder, this time of the year can make some people, the bereaved, those celebrating anniversaries or Christmas alone, feel even more lonely.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

[Rumi]

I’m not convinced, and it’s a personal thought, that many of those people want to be continually despondent, and they do acknowledge the gaiety of the season around them, it’s just that they may need some acknowledgement of their deep feelings and need for someone to hold space for them, and the ‘Night Of Long Shadows’ service may be the vehicle to assist them. See here for the #1, earlier article.

I had hoped to organise such an event this year, but the response has been somewhat low (and there are a number of understandable reasons for that) and many churches already had their programs arranged.

Relevant to you? Read on.

Nevertheless the following may be of use to you in planning a group event, or an event for yourself – you can still benefit, I believe, from the article, even if it’s to offer one-to-one comfort to a bereaved person. You might be just the person the Universe, ‘That Which Is Bigger Than Us’, The Source uses tomorrow?

So, what follows are thoughts about the shape of such a service, a plan with suggestions, that can be downsized and adapted if it is for a ‘solitary’ event with one person, or ‘up-scaled’ and adapted should there be a dozen or more people attending. Notes are included as to the rationale behind suggestions.

‘And when the stream that overflows has passed,
A consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory;
Images and precious thoughts that shall not be
And cannot be destroyed.’

[William Wordsworth]

The following, then is an idea:

The Welcome

The environment might be one of subdued lighting. A few candles could be lit to welcome people, and project an other-worldly setting for a sacred-space, liminal encounter. Welcoming and being made comfortable is all-important.

If it’s for a group, then the celebrant would remember their two key roles. Firstly, to explain at the beginning and as the service progresses what is about to happen, to put people at ease, and so there are no unwelcome surprises. Secondly, to be sympathetic to those attending and to encourage them in their grief to participate and so benefit. They are, ofcourse, our primary concern, and some maybe want to just sit and watch – but they too are benefiting.

The atmosphere and tone of voice by the celebrant should reflect the occasion – one of a welcoming tone to draw alongside the bereaved person(s) and yet celebrating the life of those who have passed-on, but without any ‘over-solemnity’. Be natural, be understanding, be yourself.

Going Deep

In such an event we move from ‘clock time’ into ‘sacred-space’ time. Liminality ushers us into an altered state. This may sound jarring to some, but it just means we acknowledge that we have gone, and are going deeper into the real meaning of things – and similar happenings occur when we witness a christening, a wedding or major event. It’s a ‘magical’ time. We move out of the mundane, into the sacred.

‘Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in the snow…’

[Mary Elizabeth Frye]

Music, particularly background music can assist us, to ensure our souls to ‘fly’, and move us into that liminal state where things happen. Music takes us deep(er). For me, I love Taize chants which have profound words and amazing harmonies (but if you didn’t want words sung or specifically Christian words sung, then Taize instrumentals are amazing (and a long sample of that can be found here).

The nature of this service is to ensure the group know what to expect, and to know what is expected of them, but to keep them in the ‘moment’, and so some forethought of what happens next and how to announce i,t and introduce it are important. Here, ‘unhurried’ is my favourite word.

At the very end of the event, musicwise, as it is Christmas time, as people file out, perhaps a seasonal song could be played. A moving ending such as ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ by Enya (see here) is a wonderful finale. For those wanting an instrumental version only, the Piano Guys have a wonderful version [here].

Tributes

It could be that some might want to share anecdotes about their loved-ones. They should be encouraged. No one should feel coerced or forced. Gentle invitations to share can be given, and accepted, even if some get tongue-tied, tearful or use words that we might feel inappropriate. The bereaved person needs to be heard – this is their time – and all are accepted.

‘I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when [the] day is done.’

[Helen Lowrie Marshall]

At some point early on some might like to display photograph copies of their loved-ones on an altar or table for the duration of the service. They would need some advanced noticed to bring copied photographs, and copies are best for fear of original, old, memorable photographs getting damaged or lost.

Also, if pebbles and chalk is available, some might like to write their loved-ones name on a pebble at some time during the event, and place it on the altar or table. The memorial stones or pebbles are a wonderfully profound idea. Or messages or loved-ones names could be written on post-it notes and displayed.

Honesty

Getting the balance just right is important. Feelings with be raw in some people, and need to be expressed – and yet the event should not be without hope.

Several things spring to mind. Interspersed throughout the event comforting readings can be made, and read out by pre-arrangement, so ensuring that you have a few people who can assist you is important. Such readings could be from sacred text or uplifting poems, the kind used throughout this article.

Silences will abound, and these can be cathartic, so never be in a hurry to fill them with words or music. Yet, be sensitive, and do move the event on if it feels right.

Comforting

By prearrangement it might be best, to have several people primed and able to sit alongside, or move to those who become tearful.

Comforting words, could be used:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ John 14:1-3

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30

One of my favourite uplifting poems (and it can be adapted) is by Henry Van Dyke, entitled ‘I am standing by the seashore’.

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;
“Here she comes!”

Other comforting words can be found in the writings of Seneca, ‘In the presence of death’; ‘No man is an island’ by John Donne; ‘The unknown shore’ by Elizabeth Clarke Hardy etc

Conclusion

Ofcourse, the abovementioned is but an outline, and will need adapting for a larger group or for yourself, if you want to celebrate the life of a loved-one at this time, in a solitary manner. Adaption and sensitivity is important.

Perhaps the final corporate act would be closing music, as mentioned earlier, proceeded by an announcement to those that wish to stay, to stay for refreshments and conversation, are encouraged to do so. As regards the latter it would be good to have several mature and sensitive people on hand to draw alongside those taking up the offer of refreshments, and to engage in polite conversation. For some attending, even that, may be too much. But some may welcome it. Additionally, it might be good to have other people available that could go deeper still, only if requested, and then comforting words and prayer can be offered.

Even then, it is imperative for those on hand to know their role is to hold space, to draw alongside the bereaved person, and that listening is absolutely necessary. Many of those who are bereaved will appreciate you and others listening to them. Our role is not to ‘fix’ people, but to be there for them.

‘Grieve for me, for I would grieve for you.
Then brush away the sorrows and the tears.
Life is not over, but begins anew,
with courage you must greet the coming years…’

[Navaho prayer]

 

The Days Are Cold: A Winter’s Song/Poem

20191024 THE DAYS ARE COLD A WINTERS SONG POEM

The weather is changing. There’s a chill in the air. Even the rain, up to now intermittent, is different and lasted hours today instead of a small number of minutes, on and off. In the UK winter is almost here, and the Celtic Advent (16 November) approaches.

English skies, seemingly ever daubed with cloud, now change from white to a dark, brooding grey. It’s a time to reflect, and with that in mind, and in thinking of the approaching winter, I’ve penned some words that ‘fit’ to an old Scottish, traditional tune of yesteryear.

I like to sing, adapt words, use ancient tunes, and let my spirit dance to the Universe using words and tuneful sounds (or at least that’s the intention, but the Source of All accepts all that we have even if it’s not what some would call tuneful). I’d encourage you to do the same, that is sing with all that you have. Do feel free to use the song, below, in your group or individual times of ceremony as a song, or as a reflective (said) poem for the day.

The tune is  ‘The water is wide’ and an instrumental version to give you an idea of it, is here.  The ‘Water is wide’ is a A folk song of Scottish origin. The original lyrics and tune partly date to the 1600s and speak of an unhappy first marriage. I’ve changed the words to reflect the season of winter, but kept the tune which seems deeply reflective to suit the words of the newly-penned song and the season.

THE DAYS ARE COLD
A winter’s Hymn

The days are cold
And night comes soon.
The circle turns
As in days of old.
Nature does sleep
And the winds do howl
And my eyes do weep
Through the cold air now

The snow falls harsh
Upon the land
There is a light
Within and without
We raise our hands
To the source of all
And nature responds
with elementals call.

The days of change
Are here again
Our voices raise
To a loud refrain
We wish you peace
We wish you well.
All nature sings
Winter’s fare thee well.

In the link to the tune above, the tune starts at 10 seconds into the Youtube music and concludes at 51 seconds (and that tune is then used three times for the three verses above).

 

Spring-Time Song For Alban Eiler[Revisited]: Spring Equinox

20190318 SPRING TIME SONG FOR ALBAN EILER

Spring equinox or Alban Eiler as it’s known in Wales (which, translated from Welsh, means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’) is almost upon us in the northern hemisphere: Wednesday. 20 Match 2019. And, with spring in the air you might feel like singing.

Confession time! I love singing: singing in the rain (yes!) when no one is about, singing in the shower under that personal ‘waterfall’ that ‘transports’ us elsewhere (doesn’t it?), singing to myself (or are we really ever alone?), singing when leading a group (and acting as their cantor), and at other times, too.

‘The song of Lúthien before Mandos was the song most fair that ever in words was woven…. Unchanged, imperishable, it is sung still in Valinor beyond the hearing of the world…’ The Silmarillion, J R R Tolkein

Singing is wonderful. Try it! And, don’t worry about being in tune. Just enjoy it, and as it says somewhere, ‘Make a joyful noise…’ (Psalm 100:1a, The Book). It’s also beneficial.

Here’s a couple of startling facts.

Did you know that researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that the heartbeats of the choristers synchronised when they sang together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga.  And the same scientists asked a group of lively teenagers to try three choral exercises – humming, singing a hymn and chanting. The scientists monitored their heart rhythms during each. It showed that singing had a dramatic effect on heart rate variability, which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. This all formed part of a fascinating UK national newspaper article and can be read here.

Singing, then, is good for your body and you soul. So, this Spring equinox sing, and with that in mind, below is a song (penned by me about a year ago), and set to an old, memorable, Irish/Celtic tune

The following (and yes you can recite it as liturgy or read it as poem to complement what you might be doing to celebrate this time) is a song which can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’. It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Lord of the Spring we honour you,
we thank you for na-ture’s green,
(for) the Earth’s beauty no-ow seen.

Light and darkness dance together well,
in perfect, balanced humility,
in flower, plant and mighty tree.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

Sacred time as the moon rises high
New life comes from that which did die,
new birth comes to us in the by and by.

Wolf and lamb, lion and leopard, too
Shall live one day in sweet harmony
As nature moves , and the Circle turns.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

If you’re interested in the tune that ‘works’ with the abovementioned words, do check the link of Siuil a Ruin (as sung by Anúna) here. The words above ‘coming in’ at fifteen seconds into the tune.

And, just to recap that a few days ago, still with the Spring equinox in mind there was an article on this blog: Spring-tine blessing liturgy (see here). There, two resources to enhance your celebration of the Spring equinox and to give thanks to the That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Wishing you and yours much light and love this Spring Equinox, Tadhg

 

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

 

With Samhain In Mind: Words of Power & Might

20181012 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND WORDS OF POWER AND MIGHT

With Samhain coming ever closer, that time when we, whether Christian (thinking of All Souls’ Night), or Druid, or Celtic etc, think of the ancestors and those who have ‘gone ahead’, and which also marks the beginning of winter, the echo from another age of tradition beckons us to pause, draw aside and to ponder deeply.

Here is another article, the second of a few in preparation for Samhain and winter, and this one includes relevant and lively liturgy that you might like to use in your own Samhain (group or solo) celebration, and it includes a song especially suited to the season.

‘Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.’ Hamza Yusuf

Samhain is a time to look backwards with gratitude, as we remember all those that have gone before us, and it’s a time to give thanks, and look forward.

Life, seemingly ‘defeated’, becomes alive once more (or undergoes a transformation, which appears to us as ‘death’). Nevertheless, the Circle turns, and what was (seemingly) dead is resurrected. It can be a tough time for some, so do be encouraging and supportive of them, but in essence it can be a time of great positivity, as we become (more) aware of the closeness of that other realm, and of the triumph of Life.

‘Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.’ Eckhart Tolle

With that in mind, you might like to consider using/adapting the following liturgy/prayers:

Early/Awaking Prayer:

Oh Hallowed Three In One,
as Autumn turns to winter,
may we see you more clearly in nature,
love your son-light more dearly today,
and follow you more nearly in all circumstances,
as the Circle turns.

Or

Ancestors’ prayer:

Maker of time and space,
who is in all things and yet ‘above’,
be with all souls this evening.
Be with those who have lived on earth and are now ‘at home’ in Bliss.
Blessings be to my/our ancestors.
Be with those who live on earth now and journey onward in differing circumstances.
Blessings be to them and me.
Be with those yet to come, who, also, are part of the great family of humankind.
Bless them, too.
Maker of all time and space,
in gratitude do all souls, past , present and future, praise you,
and bless you this night.

Or

Evening/Night-Shielding Prayer:

Hallowed Spirit come with compassion this night,
and look upon all souls.
Darkness falls at your behest,
and winter closes in,
and yet the Circle turns.
In the darkness the Everlasting light still shines
in our hearts.
A beacon of hope to all.

And then, there’s more!

However good your singing voice is, you might like to sing the following song (or use it as a poem or liturgy for your celebration). Remember, you don’t have to sing like the late, great Pavarotti or Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Don’t disqualify yourself. You can do it.

‘I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better’.  Maya Angelou

It is intentionality that is all important, and the Source of All smiles at our efforts and values them. So, deep breath, and dance as though no one can see you, and sing as though no one can hear you, and enjoy the ‘connectedness’ of the season.

Song: The Circle is turning

Verse:
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.

Chorus:
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.

Verse:
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.

Chorus
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 tune is ‘borrowed’ from a great and well-known traditional Irish Gaelic folk tune, Fear a’ Bhàta (The Boatman), see here for a link to the tune. It ‘fits’ the words quite well, but to give you a helpful prompt, for each verse and chorus above, the tune  starts at 10 seconds into the video and ends at 55 secs, with each verse/chorus, above, being a repetition of that.

‘No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.’ John Keating

Don’t worry about tune repetition, as many traditional Gaelic ballads were composed of simple, repetitive, but wonderful tunes.

And, finally…

If you want to (re-)read the first article in this Samhain preparation series and perhaps use that poetry in your own celebration, do check here: With Samhain In Mind: Winter Haiku.

Meanwhile, over the next two weeks there’ll be one or two more articles for Samhain and the start of the winter season to prepare you for an awesome celebration.

Much light and love to you and yours at this time, Tadhg

Gŵyl Awst (Harvest): Meaning, Celebration Ideas, Hymn And More!

20180723 GWYL AWST HARVEST MEANING IDEAS HYMN AND FULL MOON ECLIPSE

Harvest is almost upon us. Others, ancients, Celtics, Druids and early Christians, and latter-day ones know this event by a number of names, such as Lammas Lughnasadh, or Gŵyl Awst (as it is known in Wales). The latter being my preferred choice.

It’s a wonderful time to take stock at what has happened this year, to reflect and to give thanks, to learn, even through the tough times. It’s a time to give gratitude to the Source of All.

Lammas, or whatever name your prefer, is observed on 1st August, usually.

The word Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, meaning “loaf-mass”, and is the festival of the wheat harvest. If you think it’s far too early to think about harvest in the northern hemisphere, don’t worry. This is the first harvest harvest of the year. There’s another harvest celebration later on, at the time of the Autumn Equinox.

You might want to celebrate this festival on Wednesday 1st August, then; or you might like to delay it until the following Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

My grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, make bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack, which is also delicious.

Oh, bara brith was my favourite type of bread as a child. It’s a cross between bread and cake! The smell of baking bread over the hearth in her north Wales county cottage was heavenly, so inviting, and so scrumptious. I can still remember the smell of that baked bread wafting up my nostrils, and my stomach rumbling in anticipation.

Alternatively you could celebrate Lammas a little early, say, on Friday, 27th July or that weekend – bearing in mind there’s also a full moon on Friday, 27th July, and more

But, there’s more. Yes, there’s a full moon coming up and it’s a total eclipse of the moon. All happening on 27 July 2018. It’s also known as a blood moon as total lunar eclipses – the Earth coming between the Sun and the Moon, makes the moon ‘glow’ with a dull red colour. It will be visible from the UK from moonrise at around 9pm. At different times it will be viewable from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and most of south America, but not the USA or Canada, so I’m told. From a UK persepctive lunar totality will start at 9.21pm and finish at 10.13pm.

So, a great reason to celebrate Lammas, Harvest, Lughnasadh, or Gŵyl Awst, at the same time as the full moon eclipse, unless you really like ritual and want to keep them separate.

As a child, I knew I was in for a treat. There was, and is, nothing quite like freshly-baked bread, baked in the hearth, and served, still piping-hot, and covered in lashings and lashings of real butter. I can remember butter running down my chin as I ate a huge chunk of fresh bread.

Wonderful.

Abundance.

Blessed.

And so, this Lammastide, as it has been since I was a child, I’ll be baking several bara brith, and sharing one – yes, the breaking of bread with family and friends – in a simple, ‘after meal’ remembrance ‘feast’, remembering all the good things that have happened this year. Giving thanks, in silence and humility, to the Source of All for the harvest, for life itself.

We are blessed, my grandmother used to say, when we share bread.

Ofcourse, you might like to just gaze at the moon this harvest time, walk in its light, or wait until 1st August to do that. Whatever you do, I would encourage you to celebrate Lammas, Harvest, Lughnasadh, or Gŵyl Awst.

Part of your celebration could be baking, or buying a nice loaf of bread from your local supermarket – from the bakery section – and inviting a friend or family member over, or by giving them a loaf, or by donating a small amount of money to a food agency for those with insufficient food, as an act of gratitude for a good year and as action to assist others.

We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest. Orison Swett Marden

Or, you might like to leave some food out (appropriate food for wildlife, ensuring that food left wont cause harm to wildlife) or pour out a small libation as a ‘thanks offering’ to That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Some friends pour out a small ‘tot’ of whisky or vodka or water at such times – a ‘giving back to the Earth’ which is full of meaning.

And, don’t forget to include in your gratitude those whose work brought food to your table: farmers, fisherman, factory processing people, drivers, store staff etc. A positive thought, prayer, light directed to them, I’m sure, would be appreciated.

You might like to recite a poem to celebrate this harvest time or recite some form of liturgy to make the time special of thankfulness. Or, perhaps reflect and meditate and give thanks at home, or during a night (or moon-lit) walk, or liturgically.

‘Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. ‘Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.” Exodus 23:16, The Book

I love singing and yet find a paucity of songs that reflect my Celtic upbringing and nature-loving viewpoint. And, so you might consider using the following song or hymn written by me last year:

HYMN FOR HARVEST

Lord of the harvest we come to you,
we thank you for the ripened grain
(for) the circle turning year by year.

Great provider of all humankind,
we thank you for the sun and wind,
the earth and all life-giving rain.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Nature once in vernal green enrobed,
gives up its bounty, gifts for all
(and) prepares to sleep as autumn comes.

On our table you supply our bread,
We share with all, for all to be fed,
And joy in our heart at what shall be.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Inspired by: Lord of the Harvest, Hymn by Joseph Anstice, 1836

To the ancient Celtic folk tune of Siuil a Ruin (see below)

‘Green hope’ a Romans 15:13, ‘The Message’, The Book, reference.

To get an idea of how the words above fit the Gaelic, traditional folk tune Siuil a Ruin, please click the link here. That recording plays a little preamble introduction and then after about 16 seconds two verses are played of that folk song, followed by a chorus, and the tune exactly fits the first two verses and chorus of the words above. Simple! I hope. Any queries, please contact me (and yes, I might even sing it for you).

‘The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest;. William Blake

Whatever you do, I wish you and yours light and love as Gŵyl Awst approaches. Many blessings, Tadhg.

 

A Hymn For Alban Hefin [Summer Solstice]: Revisited

20180530 A HYMN FOR ALBAN HEFIN REVISITEDThe Summer Solstice, known to the Druids of old in the Welsh language as ‘Alban Hefin’ (which means ‘the light of the shore’) is a few weeks away.

The words, based on ancient words, below, can be read as poetry or liturgy at the time of the solstice, or indeed, at any time. They can also be used as a song, which works well to the tune of ‘She moved through the fair’, a wonderful, otherworldly Gaelic, Celtic tune of old.

So, happy Alban Hefin to you and yours, and here is ‘A Hymn For Alban Hefin’ (albeit written by me last year and now repeated for this season).

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Unresting, unheeding
in beauty you shine.
Full of health and vigour
poured out like new wine.
For all humankind
your riches bestow
from heaven above
to the Earth below.

All life you create
in the circle of love.
And we celebrate
your end-less gifts.
Laud and honour
for-ever be,
to you Bless-ed One,
For-ever Three.

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Tune: ‘She moved through the fair’. For an instrumental version of that song, to familiarise yourself with the tune and to ‘fit’ the words above, do click on the following link. The first fifty-five seconds of the recording gives an outline tune to verse one and subsequent verses. [Tune link].

Words inspired by: Light’s Abode, Celestial Salem, attributed to Thomas á Kempis