A Walk In The Woods: Light That Yet To Us Is Dark

20171113 A WALK IN THE WOODS LIGHT THAT YET TO US IS DARK

A continuing reflection on that nocturnal walk in the woods, near Capel Curig in Wales: Last time (see here for that journal entry) I had ambled through the woods to two arched trees that seemed to form a doorway.

As children, I and my friends had called these two trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world. Such was the imagination of us as children, and an indication of the games we used to play. Even as an adult, I still call these two wonderful trees Drws i fyd arall, for that is what they are to me and to those who can see with a childlike spirit.

And so, I’m sitting on a felled log looking at these two remarkable trees. And, I wait. It’s now well after 1 am. I can hardly see. It’s dark. Against my hands and face, the temperature is, oh so cold. I’m alone, except for unknown, nearby animals scurrying around in the undergrowth. Otherwise alone. Or am I?

I’m in awe in this sacred place, at this sacred time. It is liminal. It is, to me, a ‘thin place’. And, I wait. And wait, some more.

An encounter?

Random thoughts vie for superiority. And in seeking to still them, or at least not give them prominence, I wait for an encounter. But, how to recognise an encounter?

There is an ancient story about a man on the run. Hiding, and in fear of his life he seeks an encounter with That Which Is Bigger Than Us, bigger than him. In his rational mind he assumes that the Source of All would come as a mighty wind, a huricane. A storm rages and rocks are shattered into pieces, but it is only a violent storm.

Then a most dreadful earthquake struck and the ground shook, but the Source of All was not encountered in that massive earthquake. And then, a huge fire arose. Whether it was a volcano spewing forth magma or fire from a cleft in between rocks on the ground that opened up, is lost in antiquity. But we do now that the Source of All was not encountered in that great and ferocious fire. The story then goes on to record that the seeker hid in a cave. And it was there that That Which Is Bigger Than Us, bigger than him was encounter. There in that cave, with the fugitive, was the Source of All manifest as an almost silent voice. Ofcourse, that was how this person encountered on that occasion, but isn’t the Source of All present in all things.

The Source: Manifest to us in somethings; present in all things. And that ancient story concludes, neatly, with an encounter of hope, but of one that defied that man’s expectations. Perception is important.

And so I sit in the dark of the night and wait. And it seems that nothing happens.

We travellers, walking to the sun,
can’t see ahead, but looking back the very light
that blinded us shows us the way we came.
Along which blessings now appear, risen
as if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
by blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
that blessed light that yet to us is dark.

(Wendell Berry)

And as I sit here on this felled log, I think long and hard: We come with our preconceived ideas of what an encounter with the Source of All should be like. And yet, isn’t there part of us that knows the Source of All is beyond our reasoning, and all we can do is but catch a glimpse. Not a thundrous word from the Source of All, but a still small voice that suffices. And it happens at times. We know, deep down inside of us, that we cannot force an encounter, but can only put ourselves in the ‘flow’, and know that the Source of All is the one who initiates it. And the Source does initiate. Our intentionality, though, is all important here.

And, how would we recognise an encounter? In one sense that seems to be the most important of questions, and yet it isn’t. If That Which If Is Bigger Than Us determines an encounter is good for us, then the Source of All will ensure that it is comprehensible to us. Not too much to overwhelm us. Not too little so that we will miss it. But enough, to satisfy. And so I wait.

‘…in the light of the ordinary day, we come
to the space between ourselves,
the narrow doorway, and pass through
into the land of the wholly loved’.

(Wendell Berry)

And, after what seems to be an hour, I look at my wristwatch and almost three hours has passed by. [And indication of an encounter, even if not felt or remembered.] In doing so I am ‘pulled’ back into mechanical time – time measured in hours and minutes at the spin of a wheel or the oscilation of a crystal – and I leave sacred time-space, that otherworly experiece that is fleeting and seeemingly fragile.

And I walk back home. Slowly, with the flashlight dancing on the trees and shrubbery, I pick my way back to the path, and the thought comes to me. I’ve encountered. And so have you. When lovers meet there is a time when words mean nothing, when words just get in the way, and their presence, being in each others company, is everything.

Tonight, and perhaps (now) as you read this, we can understand and know that we can encounter wherever we are, if we go beyond rationality as we understand it. This is not to say we should be irrational, but perhaps arational. The latter being outside and above rarionality. How else can we encounter the Divine? Anything else limits us.

So here’s my question to you: Bearing in mind our set or usual patterns of prayers or rituals, or habits, are we too rigid, too limiting in our expectations? How open are we to encounter That Which Is Bigger Than Us (or the Source, or which ever ‘name’ you’re confortable with), not on our terrms, but on the Source’s terms?

‘It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, the sacred’.
(Denise Levertov)

 

A Walk In The Woods: ‘But In The Dark….’

20171113 A WALK IN THE WOODS BUT IN THE DARK...

I could be anywhere. It’s cold. It’s dark. There are no visual references. It’s gone midnight, and I’ve walked several miles from my little place near Capel Curig, in Wales. I’m back home.

There are scuffles in nearby undergrowth, animals, perhaps not liking my presence, scurry away. It’s now very cold, and pitch black, and I am very much in my element, as they say. I love it. Alone.

Earlier, I had done the usual daily chores, cooked a scrumptious steak and ale pie meal (yes, now you know I’m a meat-eater and imbibe alcohol, but have the greatest admiration for those who abstain from one or both), unwound by reading a book, and yet as the evening wore on, a ‘divinely-prompted fidget’ set into my being. Ofcourse, there could have been another reason for the disquiet I was experiencing, but I’m happy with accepting that it was a ‘calling’ from That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Could it be that such a ‘prod’ is a calling, albeit a non-verbal ‘call’? I think so, and maybe it happens more often than not. What do you think?

‘Listen, my child,’ you say to me
‘I am the voice of your history
Be not afraid, come follow me
Answer my call, and I’ll set you free’

Lyrics, ‘The Voice’, by Brendan Graham

And so, it’s cold. It’s dark, and as I keep to a small path there are no visual references, as it is pitch black. Except, that now the path now peters out, and on goes the flashlight. Trees nearby and in the mid-distance suddenly appear, but they appear flat against what’s behind them, as perpective is lost, and what was familiar during the day now looks somewhat alien. And yet, using memory, and an acceptance of the way things are (now) and a love of the dark – yes, I really do love the dark – I am ‘at home’ right here, right now.

I’m passing a felled tree, an old and familiar friend. As children, playing in this area, my friends and I called this tree, Y goeden mellt, the Lightning Tree. They were wary of it and kept some distance from it; I loved it, treated it as a wise and trusted friend, and approached it knowingly. And here it is. Constant. Noble. Powerful. Bigger. A faithful companion. To many it is just a felled tree, unless they have an imagination. A felled tree, only? Oh no, it is more.

‘Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.’ Helen Keller

And, still I walk on. Taking it slower now, as the scenery changes and grows somewhat unfamiliar, and the light from the flashlight falls on less of the substantial trees and more on shrubs that grow and change quickly from season to season, when compared to trees – making ‘landmarks’ more difficult to ‘fix’. Some things change.

And then I spy two arched trees. Drws i fyd arall. As children, that’s what we called them. It means ‘door to another world’. Such was our imagination as children. I’ll let you into an ‘open secret’, my imagination never ‘gew up’. You don’t know how precious it is to have a child-like imagination. But, in your case, as you read this (and the fact that you’ve come this far), I think, maybe, you do know; that you also have such a wonderful and active imagination, and one that lets you see reality and the ‘reality beyond reality’.

In the past, it is here that, for me, encounters happened, however you define them. Would such an encounter happen tonight? Have you, or will you today experience an encounter with That Which Is Bigger Than Us?

I’m now sitting on a log, overlooking Drws i fyd arall. These two arched trees are bigger, the opening between them smaller, but they are still there. Somethings never change.

Imagination is important. Imagination isn’t just make-believe, but a way of seeing that let’s us see with eyes beyond eyes, to view what is really there. Seek imagination. And perception is imporant, if we are to lay ‘layer upon layer’ each of these different realms. Not always easy to do, hence the need for patience. Patience. How many times might we have encountered or Encountered, but missed the opportunity because of being too busy? Or missed it, because we dislike or have a mistaken idea about the imagination or the dark.

‘So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.’ T S Eliot

And so, it must be coming up to 1am, but I refuse to look at my wristwatch. I don’t want to be pulled our of sacred time into the time governed by minutes and hours. In sacred time, in sacred space, in liminal places such as this – maybe where you are – things happen. And so I sit on a log overlooking Drws i fyd arall, and I wait. Indeed, we wait.

So, here’s my question to you: Keeping within the realms of safety and social acceptability to yourself and others. have you ever placed yourself, even in a small way, into the Flow of a possible encounter with That Which Is Bigger Than Us’?

‘The meaning is in the waiting.’ R S Thomas

[To be continued]

 

Ephemera: The Dark Moon & Story: Full Moon November 2017

20171102 DARK MOON AND STORY FULL MOON 5 NOVEMBER 2017 EPHEMERA

You know I like full moons, and the next full moon in November takes place in the early hours of this Saturday morning (4-5 November 2017), so you should have a fine view Friday or Saturday night, weather permitting.

‘The Sun, Moon and Stars are there to guide us.’ Dennis Banks

This moon, just missed being classified being a ‘supermoon’ (meaning that its orbit brings it slightly to the Earth than its many other orbits, and so appears slightly larger) as it passes into the constellation Cetus on its way between Pisces and Aries,  is viewable in the southern sky on Friday and in the south-east on Saturday (from a UK aspect).

‘November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.’ Emily Dickinson

To those of medieval England this full moon would be known as the Snow Moon – and according to the weather forecast for December in the UK snow is predicted, with night temperatures of some where in the region of -8c. Certainly holly berries were out in abundance and a deep, deep red indicating a tough winter ahead.

‘In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets.’ Cynthia Rylant

To others this full moon is known as the Tree Moon, The Beaver Moon, or The Huneter’s Moon. To many fellow Celts, Christian Celts, Druids and to me as a Druidic-Christian it is known, because of the nights drawing in, as the Dark Moon.

‘Drink in the moon as though you might die of thirst.’ Sanober Khan.

According to scientists the moon was  contributory factor for life on Earth by poviding a ‘shield’ to many rocky bombarments during the time of the early solar system – hence the reason that the far side of the moon, always turned away from us, is so pitted. It also assisted the earth is acquiring a stable orbit as it  ‘ironed out’ any wobbles or eccentric orbits, so that the Earth faced the sun in just the right way to ensure a fairly stable, habitable, climate, and ofcourse the moon beneficially regulates the tides, and affects the weather. I don’t believe in co-incidences. The Source prevails.

In addition sacred text also lauds the benefits of the moon: ‘God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also’. (Genesis 1:16, The Book).

So, this full moon – as the Circle of the Year moves on, as seasons change and it’s right to mark those changes – it’s time to give thanks to the silvery face that smiles down upon each one of us, regardless of our circumstances, and time to give thanks to the One who created and sustains it for our benefit. Light a candle, walk in the moonlight (and perhaps see your moon-shadow), raise a glass of wine to it, or say a silent prayer to the Moon-Maker, pause in a busy schedule and just gaze upward to the moon (or where it may be, if cloudy), but my encouragement is to do something, however simple, however brief, to celebrate this most wonderful moon, and to give thanks.

There is an African myth, still told to many children today, that at one time the sun and moon didn’t live in the sky. You know I love fictitious stories (esepcially ones full of meaning), and so as you ponder upon the moon this week, maybe imbibe a glasss of wine in honour of it, here’s that story:

Many years ago, the hot sun and the flowing water were very good friends, and they both lived on the earth. The sun very often used to visit the water, but the water, for some reason, never returned the visits. At last the sun asked the water why he never visited. The water replied that the sun’s house was not nearly big enough, and that if he came with all his people – all those creatures that lived in the sea, he would drive the sun out of his home. And water didn’t want that.

The water then said, ‘If you want me to visit you, you will have to build a very large house. But I warn you that it will have to be very large, as my people are numerous and take up a lot of room’. The sun promised to build a very large house, and soon afterwards, he returned home to his wife, the moon, who greeted him with a broad smile.

The sun told the moon what he had promised the water, and the next day, they both began building a large house to entertain the water and all the creatures that lived within water.

When it was completed, the sun asked the water to come and visit him. When the water arrived, one of his people called out to the sun, and asked him whether it would be safe for the water to enter, and the sun answered, ‘Yes, do come in.’

The water began to flow in, followed by the fish and all the other water animals. Very soon, the water was knee-deep in the house, so water asked the sun if it was still safe, and the sun again said, ‘Yes,’, and so more of them came in.

When the water was at the level of a man’s head, the water said to the sun, ‘Do you want more of my people to come?’

Not knowing any better, the sun and the moon both said, ‘Yes,’. More and more of the water’s people came in, more and more pond, lake, river and sea cratures entered the house until the sun and the moon had to sit on top of the roof.

The water once again asked the sun if it was still okay to keep coming in. The sun and moon answered yes, so more and more of the water’s people came in.

The water soon overflowed the top of the roof, and the sun and the moon were forced to go up into the sky…and they have been there ever since.

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

 

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

 

Perceiving Anew: Seeing Through A Glass Darkly: 1 To Catch A Tiger…

20170906 PERCEIVING ANEW SEEING THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY 1Every so often there is talk about DNA advances, prehistory and the idea that some scientists have some of using the preserved DNA of the extinct mammoth. The thought goes that, although the mammoth DNA is incomplete it might be possible to use ‘bits’ of current-day elephant DNA to fill in the gaps. In theory, you might then end up with a living-breathing elephant-mammoth hybrid, but it could be the nearest thing to a living mammoth that has not existed for the last five thousand years.

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. (The voice of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings (movie))’

For some (few) years there has been a revival in all things Celtic and Druidic, and long may it continue. For through such passionate beliefs of people from all ages and walks of life, will come a greater community spirit, a greater appreciation and protection of nature, and a great appreciation of the things of the soul and spirit, and of spirits, elementals and the like, and a renewal of all that is good, wholesome and holy. and, the world needs it, fast.

But, the world has changed from the heyday of the Druidic society of yesteryear and much has been lost. The Celts, the Druids were a story-telling community and the passing on of traditions and history was done orally. There are gaps.

Some try academia to fill in those gaps – much like using elephant DNA with mammoth DNA, and ofcourse this is right to try (academia, that is). It will take us so far, but it will not take us all the way.

Those that pin all their hopes on academia to fill in the gaps will find huge blanks, still.

Nevertheless, academic study as one tool amongst several is to be encouraged. The ‘challenge’, however, in academic argument is that proponents of it might think it is the only way, and also fall into the ‘trap’ of using Greek and modern-day dualistic thought (eg black and white, right and wrong, left and right, I’m right and you’re wrong etc) to advance their understanding of a non-dualistic culture. It cant be done.

To catch a tiger, you have to think like a tiger.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ (Albert Einstein)

The greater the culture is technologically-advanced, the more likely its people are to ‘see’ through dualistic eyes, and the more likely to miss the point.

It has been suggested that to fill in the gaps in Celtic/Druidic stories, understanding, liturgy and ritual, perhaps memory is needed. The kind of ‘cellular’, ancestor-linked memory that can be ‘tapped’ through meditation (at various places), through ‘thin-place’ encounters, through the Caim, through intuition, or through dreams, prayer or imagination etc. I think there is some (great) mileage in this.

‘Pass it on to your children, and from your children to their children, and from their children to the following generation.’ Joel 1.3, The Book

Then, one places oneself in the path of the ancient-future memory-stream of the ancestors, and those stories of old, knowledge and wisdom are re-kindled in our hearts, and come alive in our daily living and daily practices, to be told and shared.

‘I believe that there is a place where our vanished days secretly gather. The name of that place is Memory.’ (John O’Donohue).

To the purist and the academic this is nonsense, and yet this is the very way it was done by the very culture the purists and academics wish to know more about. To find out more about the Celts and Druids of yesteryear, to rediscover their ways, one need only to enter into Celtic/Druidic culture, ‘philosophy’, beliefs and practices, today, and many are doing just that. And, benefitting.

The wise amongst you will quickly realise that this will mean that I will perceive memories of the ancients differently to you. I may rediscover parts of the gap that are different to the gaps you ‘recover’; and we may even be at odds over some things if we compare (if we were to ‘see’ things from a dualistic, modern approach). But, why resort to current-day perception and understanding when dealing with an ancient culture?

Theirs was a culture where truth was not contained in a science manuals, not catalogued, cross-referenced or even written down, but it flowed, was debated and told as stories around the village camp fire. And, it didn’t matter if their were lose or ragged ends, or various versions of the same story.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

For instance, take some of the books of the Hebrew Testament. Dualists or academics will scratch their heads as they discover that the books are not in chronological order. To ‘moderns’ they should be! That’s the way they would appear on a modern-day bookshelf, after all. However, to the ancients, the book order was decided by the length of each book – starting with the shortest books first (or, was it the longest book, first), and ‘it worked’ for them. And, when we hear the stories and legends of (Saint) Brigit, sometimes she’s firmly placed at the end of the fifth century, and then in other stories is described as a ‘nanny’ to the baby Jesus, five hundred years earlier! The ancients would have known about this ‘discrepancy’ and not batted an eyelid. The point is, scientific understanding and dualism was not important to the ancients, indeed, it was unknown. To them, the stories and the benefits it wrought to the village and individuals, the moral and deep spiritual meaning, and the comfort it brought was most important, was paramount.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

‘Celtic spirituality is a kind of somatic archaeology, a study of unearthing the deep resources of spirit within ourselves by accessing the wisdom, power, and inherent knowledge of the body. We have largely been taught to ignore the body and the deep resources of spirit within ourselves’. The Mist-Filled Path, Frank MacEowen

Nights Of Fog And Clouds: Liminal-Numinous Encounters

20170905 NIGHT OF FOG AND CLOUDS LIMINAL NUMINOUS ENCOUNTERSYes, I’m still in London. And last night was one of those nights where I woke up, at about 3am, and just couldn’t get back to sleep. They don’t happen that often – but I always think such interruptions might prove fruitful.

Usually in such circumstances I would have gone for a country walk, if in Wales, but I’m in London. And, so I relocated myself to the study, and there I sat, and pondered. And waited for an encounter with sleep. It didn’t arrive.

After about an hour – it could have been longer, or shorter, as time seemed irrelevant, and I had nothing really to measure it by – I half drifted off to sleep. It was as if a fog appeared. The study, still visible was rather opaque, obscured by this fog, but not totally – though it wasn’t the kind of fog that I’ve encountered in or near Capel Curig that moved in repsonse to air currents, and there no was smell to it, and no temperature change.

Room fog!

But, something felt different. I could hear myself breathing gently, hear the gentle ticking of the clock on the desk, but there was no other sound, and it seemed as though I should just remain as I was. Content. Content to let whatever was about to unfold, to unfold.

And, then, seemingly seconds later, I wanted to analyse this feeling, and my eyes became wide open, the fog disappeared and I was wide awake and alert again. I had no memory of what really happened, and I can’t tell you if ‘fog time’ lasted a few seconds or minutes or longer. But, something had happened. And, this got me thinking.

In physical locations or in the spiritscape of the mind, fog or clouds are an indicator that something special is about to happen. A(n) herald.

‘ Clouds and thick darkness surround Him…’. Psalm 97:2a, The Book

Time is skewed as we move into that sacred time-space, the liminal, and we may have no memory of what took place, just a pleasent ‘feeling’ that something significant had taken place as we look back and remember. Liminal encounters are usually experienced in the ‘now’ and ‘unpacked’ later as a memory of what happened. Has that happened to you?

Fog or clouds are an indicator that something special is about to happen or has happened.

On that night I saw a brilliant yellow-green light some 200 feet away from me, through the dense forest. I walked toward it. The air was colder than ever, the fog masked the exact location of the light until I got to within about fifty feet of it. At about forty feet from it – and the light source seemed about eight foot wide – it went out! Was it the Canwyll Corff, the corpse candle myth. Who knows?

Clackitt’s Wood, The Last Word (see here). Tadhg.

The Source of All, the Universe, elementals, That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves seems to use clouds, fog and the cover of darkness to draw near – whether this is a physical reality, or a just-as-real ‘inner’ visitation in our minds, mind’s eye or vision-eye. It’s as if unbridled power and energy and holiness must be ‘masked’ to ‘come closer’ to us, for our sake.

There is a story told that, in the 6th century, the poet Senchán Torpéist gathered the poets of Ireland together to see if any of them knew the story of the Táin Bó Cúailnge. None of them could give details that gave the whole story. They all only knew parts of it. And this grieved Senchán.

And so Senchán Torpéist sent three of the younger men to seek out a very old man who it was believed could tell them the complete story. They travelled far and eventually came to the grave of an ancient poet called Fergus MacRoich. Two of the young men travelled onward toward the next village for shelter for the night; one of the men stayed, and honoured the memory of Fergus MacRoich with a poem. And then slept by the great poet’s tomb.

Suddenly a mist enveloped the younger man. Now unseen by his two companions, this young man found himself in the presence of Fergus MacRoich. From that awesome encounter, which lasted three days and three nights, he learned many things from Fergus MacRoich. And many of the older stories – some of which were formerly partly lost, others lost completely – were now known to that younger man because of that liminal experience.

From that ancient story we can take heart that: those old stories, knowledge and the wisdom of the ancients, though seemingly lost to us, can be encountered and re-kindled; that there are ways of putting ourselves ‘in the way’ of numinous and liminal happenings using prayer, fasting, ritual, liturgy, meditation and even poetry etc.

Never minimise the effect of prayer, fasting, ritual, liturgy, meditation and even poetry etc. Never play down your status, and the power-from-beyond at your disposal. Never be so caught up in daily living that we miss those liminal events, those ‘Divine nudges’.

‘Thin places’ (see here) may be events and occurrences that cannot be scheduled, but maybe there are ‘thin place’-like experiences that we can encounter in certain ways. Encountering them by the use of music, poetry, liturgy, meditation, the Caim – perhaps because that’s so because we’re making ourselves ‘open’ to the experiences, and the experiences are happening more than we had hitherto had known about. In essence, such experiences happen much more often, but we were/are unaware of them. Until now.

As I sat there, in the study pondering these things I wondered how many times we have almost put ourselves ‘in the way’ of these numinous and liminal events and got distracted and unknowingly ‘pulled away’? How many times the Caim, as a ‘tool’ of ritual and intention might be of (more) use to us – and this started me thinking even more about the Caim (see here).

It was about 4am when I ‘crawled’ back to bed and waited for an encounter with sleep. It was an interesting night, albeit not an uneventful one, though. As I drifted off to sleep my last thought was, and one that I would dearly like to share with you now, is: Look out for fog and clouds in your life. Fog or clouds are an indicator that something special is about to happen to you.

‘The greatest stories are those that resonate our beginnings and intuit our endings, our mysterious origins and our numinous destinies, and dissolve them both into one.’ Ben Okri quotes

 

Ephemera: The New Month Of The Vine: 2 September – 29 September

20170831 CELTIC MONTH OF THE VINEThe new month is almost upon us. Leaving the month of the Hazel (tree) behind us, we start the new Celtic month of the Vine on 2nd September, and it finishes on 29 September.

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
close bosom-friend of the maturing sun,
conspiring with him now to load and bless
with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run…

(John Keats)

There are different calendar variations, and different calendars much loved by different ‘tribes’, some calendars older than others, and the oldest (which will be the theme of an article soon) and most loved by purists is also one that some would say seems to be the least ‘workable’ for every day living.

It’s because of that that I use this tree calendar, which some call the Beth-Luis-Nion Celtic Lunar Tree Calendar/alphabet.

No spring nor summer’s beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face….’.

John Donne

The Beth-Luis-Nion calendar consists of 13 lunar trees. The calendar is based on a lunar year as opposed to a solar one, and so there are there are 13 lunar months in each year. Being tree-based it also reminds us of our love for trees and nature, and all things green, and is life-centred. I love it. And, it’s understandable. And, as we move into September, the month of the Vine, we greet the changing season and the colour changes in nature, and we can gaze upon the vine and give gratitude to nature and nature’s never-ending cycle, express love and appreciation to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves, The Holy One.

‘Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul… but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.’

Peggy Toney Horton

The month of the vine, and romantics amongst you may know, is the month is associated with happiness and wrath. The sceptics may wonder whether this has something to do with the fact that the vine harvest would occur this month, and wine may indeed be the bringer of happiness, but it can also be the bringer of wrath, especially when imbibed to excess.

Nevertheless, wine, as well as having a social aspect, was and still is used in ritual to bring us closer to all that is Holy, and usher us into sacred time of communion.

This month of the Vine, September, also sees a full moon on the 6 September, and the time of the autumn equinox on Friday, 22 September – that time when with the diminishing day light, the length of day and night are equal in length for a brief period as we move toward winter.

‘Equal dark, equal light
Flow in Circle, deep insight
Blessed Be, Blessed Be
The transformation of energy!
So it flows, out it goes
Three-fold back it shall be
Blessed Be, Blessed Be’.

(Unknown)

Now, swans are seen as a symbol of love and fidelity around the world because of their custom of mating for life, and, for many, this month is associated with the swan.

It is said that ancient Druids saw swans as representing the soul. In ancient Ireland, the bards, for instance, would wear a special ceremonial cloak called a tuigen, which was made of songbird feathers, but the cowl would consist of the skin and feathers of a swan.

The Celts also loved their stories. Here’s an ancient Gaelic/Celtic story about love and swans, it’s so relevant to the start of the new Celtic month, and is full of meaning:

Aengus had fallen in love with a young woman he had seen, seen in his dreams. Each night he would close his eyes, fall into a deep sleep, and dream only of her.

It took him three years of searching the length and breadth of the land before the young woman of his dreams was found by him. Her name was Caer Ibormeith. Every second year, she and over a hundred other young women, were chained in pairs, and were transformed into swans for a year.

Aengus was madly in love with her, and was told he could indeed marry the young lady of his dreams, but only if he could identify her in her swan form. Aengus looked at all the young women who were now swans, but to him, they all looked the same.

Inspiration came to him. He immediately turned himself into a swan, and recognised her at once. Much in love, they flew away together, singing beautiful music that put all listeners asleep for three days and nights.

I find that story quite charming, and appropriate for this month. Swans. Love. Two souls, finally, in a bond of togetherness, forever. Love wins!

May the Blessings of the Sacred Three be upon you and those whom you love as we move into the month of the Vine, Tadhg

 

The Tylwyth Teg: Celtic Mythological Creatures

20170829 THE TYLWYTH TEG MYTH AND MEANINGI’m still in London, and though I love the vibrancy of the city and the wonderful mix of people, and yes the cafés , too, I’m missing the wonderful wilderness that is north Wales, especially as today is a somewhat cloudy, yet too-humid-to-be-in-the-city type of day.

But, I’ve located myself in a corner of Bishop’s Park, at the end of a path that leads nowhere and which nestles against a rather fine small lake with a myriad of ‘bullrushes’ and metre-high lake grasses growing along its sides which afford some kind of seclusion. Few venture this way because the path just ends abruptly. But for me, today, it’s wonderful. I’ve been reading for about an hour, and as I sat on a park bench under a willow tree I began to doze a little, and think about the book I was reading.

The book mentioned a creature, the subject of many a story of yesteryear, told by my grandmother, and one that both intrigued me to find out more and yet made me a little apprehenive. I was very young at that time.

It was the story of the Tylwyth Teg (pronounced ‘ter-loo-ith tehg’). It means the ‘fair folk’, and it was the name given to the fae, the fairies of Wales; a name given to them to placate them as they were sometimes responsible for some minor mischief.

Frequenting watering areas, they were said to be small in statue, have golden hair and dress in white. When happy they would spend their time singing and dancing, especially where there was water. Like this lake!

With that book on my lap, and the heat making me sleepy, my eyes half-closed, and I revelled in that half-awake and half-asleep state, not wishing to ‘travel’ too far in either direction. The grasses around the lake end swayed to and fro, some grass strands seemed distrubed by something and bent ,and returned to their almost-upright state. I could detect no animal and I didn’t want to open my eyes fully to be too analytical and come out of that liminal, half-way experience. But, no small insect could make that kind of ‘assualt’ on lake grass, either.

Maybe it was the Tylwyth Teg?

Ofcourse, that’s what they’re called it Wales, but they are ubiquitous and are known by different names. And, they love water – ponds, lakes, puddles and even the water pipes, sinks and showers in your house. You probably have encountered the Tylwyth Teg, or may have one in your house, even without knowing it.

Signs that a Tylwyth Teg is close, according to my late grandmother,  was confusion amongst people, maybe an argument starts for no reason, the loss of keys and spectacles, and just a myriad of odd happenings that are unexplained. Like long, metre-high, pond grass bending for no apprarent reason. It’s their way of having fun.

Each culture in history has its creatures of the unknown, myths and monsters to avoid. To the Greeks it was Scylla and Charybdis – two mythical sea monsters noted by Homer, and to be avoided at all costs. To the ancient Jews it was the Behemoth – a sea monster of gargantuan proportions. And to the Welsh it was, or is, the Tylwyth Teg. Interestingly, have you noticed that water is a common theme throughout?

In that half awake, half asleep daze, and with the heat of the day at it’s hottest, I ‘travelled’ further one way and dozed off completely. The book felt to the stone path with a thud and I woke up with a start. Nothing had changed, and yet something had changed. The  lake grass was still. I had ‘jumped out’ of liminal space and time, and was back in ‘ordinary’ time (as if there is such a thing), and no one or thing was disturbing the lake side now.

As I sat there, having retrieved the book, it occured to me the meaning and value of stories about the Tylwyth Teg. We live in a world, which in many senses is very predictable now that we have a vast amount of scientific data, number-crunching computers and the internet that means I can witnesss things on the other side of the planet in a second (which, when I was a child would have taken hours by wires and radio waves to arrive on the black and white tv set).

And, yet there is a lot we don’t understand. Things seem to go missing around the house, upset or illness or ‘bad’ fortune just seems to come out of the ether, and its as if there’s an invisible hand at work. My grandmother, ofcourse, would say it’s the Tylwyth Teg.

You may not believe in the Tylwyth Teg (or whatever they are called locally) but I draw comfort from those old stories. For they teach that however much we think we know, there is more. However much we plan, some plans will go awry. However much we want always to be happy, life has a habit of ‘kicking us in the solar plexus’ and upsettting us. We always want good news, but sometimes it’s not so good. Ofcourse, life is a mixture of events and emotions, oh but how the tough ones sting. The other lesson the Tylwyth Teg teach us is that mischevoius as they are sometimes, the can be positive and beneficial to – good and sometimes not-so-good, just like some life-events. At the end of the day, we can reason that sometimes we are not at fault. ‘Do you best, and what doesnt work out is the fault of the Tylwyth Teg’, my grandmother would say.

So, who was bending that lake grass and threw my book on the stone path? Ah, a passing Tylwyth Teg, ofcourse.

I’m not sure what is happening in your life right now. But sometimes, just sometimes (and discernment needs to takes place here), sometimes it isn’t our fault but a nearby Tylwyth Teg. And even then, don’t really get upset with the Tylwyth Teg, as its in their nature to be playful or mischiveous, and they’re not always like that, and what seems bad today has a habit of changing…especially when the Tylwyth Teg gets bored of being mischievous or leaves. Take heart. Things change.

 

 

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

 

Developing ‘Soft Eyes’: Kataphatic ‘Day-Dreaming’

20170817 DEVELOPING SOFT EYES KATAPHATICRecently I mentioned about my childhood adventures with friends in north Wales, and how our imaginations ran riot. Oh, how we loved mystery. Then, albeit an adventurous and daring group of boys and girls, like most children, there was a limit. And beyond our physical comfort-zone, our immediate locale, lay the ‘even more’ mysterious area that we, as children, called ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’ (see here).

And then, we all – you and I – grew and matured, and we generally lost that ability of childlike perception and love of mystery. Busyness or disinterest set in, or we became so mature that we might have believed all previous ideas were naive, or perhaps we became fearful. And, bit by bit we forgot to use our imaginations as a child does.

In that previous article I mentioned an Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

‘The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

As adults I would suggest that we can recover our childhood ‘soft eyes’, and rekindle that ‘focus’ on the mystery that is around us, and ‘see beyond’, with the use of kataphatic and apophatic ‘day-dreaming’.

‘There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.’ Aldous Huxley

Yes, I’m sitting in my little garden in my London apartment, and there’s one candle lit on the garden table. I’m in a restful mood, and my eyes keep half-closing. It’s not tiredness. it’s just that I am quite relaxed and very comfortable. And as I look at the candle, my mind thinks about its light, its warmth, how small but significant it is, and then my mind wanders to consider the light that a lighthouse emits and how useful to mariners they are. Somewhat of giant leap from candle to lighthouse, I know, but such is the imagination and its strength.

And, that is an example of kataphatic thinking.  It’s about thinking on an object or theme, and mulling it over deeply to an end.

This way of thinking is vital if we are to rekindle that childhood perception and to view the world around us with the ‘soft eyes’ of exploring mystery, rather than only use the analytical eyes of modernity.

Now some might call it kataphatic meditation or contemplation and that may upset some or make others fearful, and so, in this instance I’d like to call it kataphatic day-dreaming, because we all day-dream at times. And, usually we’re quite comfortable with the idea of day-dreaming and are familiar with it.

This kind of thinking around a theme or dwelling on object, in my case a candle, has many uses and there are so many exercises that are of benefit to develop that skill. It is much-beloved by advertisers, who months ago on tv and in magazines will have ‘seeded’ your imagination with thoughts of sun-drenched beaches, a new car or the latest fashion, even without you knowing it sometimes.

Did you know, for instance, that August Kekulé, a German organic chemist (1829-1896) said that he discovered the ring-shape of the benzene molecule after having a day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is an ancient symbol known as the ouroboros)?

We might use this kind of kataphatic day-dreaming to imagine a story – maybe ‘putting ourself into the story’. It is one thing to objectively read a portion of sacred text or part of the chronicle of a latter-day hero who may have fought with dragons and to consider it analytically, but it is entirely another thing to ‘enter’ the story using our imagination. Then, we can ‘picture’ ourself as a bystander or having a significant role in the account, and imagining our interactions as well as the sights, sounds and smells etc that we might encounter. We might ask ourselves what we would have done? Isn’t that a function of those ancient parables and koans eg ‘Consider this….’. Isn’t this very much like some of the St Ignatian programs and imaginative exercises that many churches and faith groups use and are finding so useful? We can learn so much more this way.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

And, ofcourse, for those wanting to be a good footballer, who hasn’t had an imaginary conversation with their footballer-hero of yesteryear and asked for hints on how to improve their game, or who, as a writer, hasn’t imagined going back in time to interview Shakespeare and ask him for writing hints or tips, or imagined Sherlock Holmes peering over their shoulder to assist with a knotty plot problem? You havent? You should try it.

And if you do try one of those examples above, or perhaps you might like to try kataphatic day-dreaming in a forest, your local park or your garden to be at one with nature, then allow yourself to be fully immersed in the moment and let thoughts come and go, and ‘play’ with your imagination. Make copious notes at the end of that time, rather than as you go along, as that will ‘draw you out of the moment’, and dispel the ‘magic’ of your newly kindled imagination. Enjoy it.

‘Set your imagination free and do your best to keep up with it.’  A R Fagundes

Developing ‘soft eyes’ to appreciate nature and the mystery around us, to gain wisdom and nature-peace, healing, guidance, energy, the awareness of Presence and more, with the use of the imagination is a good start. Try it!

This is one small aspect of kataphatic day-dreaming’, and something we’ll come back to over the next few weeks (perhaps with the addition of local and online workshops etc).

This is a brief outline of kataphatic ‘day-dreaming’. There’s so much more. And, tomorrow, we’ll look at Apophatic day-dreaming.