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

20181114 TABLE TALK ONE DAY IN NOVEMBER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone asked: Do animals have souls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

Power & Practice: Blessing 101: When? Now? Are You Sure?

20181021 BLESSING 101 WHEN NOW ARE YOU SURE

Here are three accounts from my journal about blessing and awakening, which I believe may have parallels with your life, albeit the working-out may be different for all of us as individual Celts, Pagans, Christians, Druids etc. But, as regards the theme and nature of blessings, its timing, power and efficacy, do read on.

‘A blessing is the very soulfire made manifest’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Un/1
There was a time, many years ago, when I was, as they say, ‘wet behind the ears’. At the age of eighteen years and during the summer breaks between college terms I would assist in the church office. The church was a sleepy, little church, where nothing much seemed to happen, and if the telephone rang I was told it would probably be a utility company chasing an unpaid bill, in which case I was to make a note and pass it to the treasurer when I saw her next. It seemed like a good thing assisting in the office as it gave me something to occupy myself and meant I’d have some work experience, and it was a worthwhile summer endeavour.

At that time, my assistance was administrative only, that is until I found myself alone in the church office, and the telephone rang, and it wasn’t a utility company.

Caller: Hello, this is Charing Cross Hospital. May I speak to the Pastor, please?

Me: I’m sorry, he’s away on a church conference for the week. Is it something I can deal with?

Caller: Are the Church elders available?

Me: They are normally here at this time, but I’m afraid both are out of the office right now leading a service at a school at the moment. Could I be of assistance?

Caller: We have a male patient who is in a critical condition and is asking for someone to visit for prayer. Could you come quickly, please?

It was one of those ‘jarring’ moments when time seemed to stand still. I knew I had very little religious knowledge, certainly didn’t have any official church credentials, and yet here was a call, as it were, from out of the ether, a cry, a call for help by an unknown person who, I was told, was in a critical condition. Within the space of one second my mind seemed to come up with every possible disqualification not to attend that I could imagine, and yet I found myself saying, ‘I can be there in twenty minutes. Can you give me the details, please?’

Who can bless?

There were at least a dozen reasons for me not to go, but the only one that mattered was that someone’s life here on earth was about to expire, they had got the hospital to call on their behalf and fate, the universe, or God had ensured that that call had come through to me, and I didn’t want that person to die alone.

I got to the hospital, saw the middle-aged man in need in the critical care unit, introduced myself, took his hand, listened to him, prayed and blessed him. Ofcourse, there was more than that, as I left the ward sometime later I felt both concerned for that patient and yet quietly assured that I had responded appropriately.

Who can give a blessing? Well, as I was (then) part of an organised hierarchical group the leaders could and do bless. It’s true that they sometimes delegated on an ad hoc basis, but what was one to do in an emergency when they weren’t around? The answer in my mind is: any action based on love is acceptable, and indeed, necessary.

At that young age I was thrust into the heady world of life and death, hospitals and ensuring unhindered access in that time of emergency. Doors opened, and it was as if I had a companion beside me to empower me and guide me. I do believe the universe, my guardian angel, my favourite elemental, my coimimeadh, or God was with me that day. It was one instance of being nudged into awareness.

There is an account in the Book where Peter miraculously escapes from prison and goes to the house of Mary the mother of John. He knocks and Rhoda goes to answer the door. It’s almost comical in that she is so surprised, she leaves Peter outside.

It says: Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his [spirit, though some say, angel].” Acts 12: 13-15, The Book

Oh, you may have noticed the word coimimeadh? To ancient (Irish) Celts and Druids this is a mysterious being, an ‘other-us’. The coimimeadh (pronounced koym-imah) according to the Reverend Robert Kirk (writing in the seventeenth century) is our ‘co-traveller’. He thought that it is part of us (our soul), who walks beside us, generally, but sometimes can even go walk-about (in which case you, too, can be bi-locational).

We are guided into awareness and action by That Which Is Unseen, and this belief is global and spans may tribes, belief systems and cultures.

‘All blessings come from a single source: the soulfire of an intelligent love and compassion willing to give itself’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Who can bless? You and I can bless.

Dau/2
There was a time when, many years ago, when, at the age of nineteen I found myself clearing away things that had been used in the church service. The service had ended half an hour earlier, and there was no one was about, just me, or at least so I thought. It was late, a December evening, and it was pitch black outside and only minimal lights were now on in the worship area of this old, rustic, heavily stone-clad, somewhat dusty building. Dark shadows abounded within the building.

As I stepped onto the dais, the platform, there was a polite, somewhat high-pitched cough from the far row pews, and as I looked I could see the outline of a young lady in the shadows. Without wanting to act surprised, I slowly made my way to the back and politely asked if I could assist.

Person: I need a blessing.

Immediately I thought, how should one bless?

Me: Ah, I’m the only one here now. The Church leaders have now left but you could contact them tomorrow if you need. I can give you details.

Person: I need a blessing now. What’s to stop you blessing me?

Me: Nothing. Nothing at all.

For the next ten minutes this young woman spoke about a recent family tragedy of heart-rending proportions. All I could do was but listen as she unburdened herself. She took my hand and asked me to bless her. As I said the words, ‘Bless this young lady…’. She cried out, wailed loudly, rocked as she sat on that pew, and sobbed like a small child as her grief tumbled  out like a breach in a dam.

It was one of the moments that one just knew that what was needed was already being accomplished in the life of that young lady, even without (more) words. Who knows what was happening in the spiritual realm? More minutes passed by.

Person: I feel a little better, I have to go.

Me: I’m pleased I was able to help, but do ‘phone the Pastor tomorrow, please.

With that, she left.

‘Every time you create safety and reassurance where before there was fear…love where there is loneliness, comfort and encouragement where there was despair and depression, you are being a blessing.’ Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

How does one bless? It seems in many cases we are guided as we surrender to the moment, and sometimes just being there for someone, listening to them, is all that may be required.

Tair/3
Ofcourse, since that tender age the learning experiences of awakening have continued over the years. We never stop learning. We never stop experiencing, if we are open to new experiences.

There was a time, just a year ago, at the age of sixty-two years of age (yes, I am as ‘old as dust’), when I was sitting in a café in Clapham Junction, London, reading a great, deeply spiritual book, and as I sat at a high bench table that faced the huge pane of glass that allowed me to look out onto the busy high street, I had that feeling of being watched. I carried on reading the book and ‘endured’ the strange feeling for a few more minutes, then looked up and there, outside, looking at the cover of the book I was reading (it had a butterfly on in denoting new life) stood a middle-aged woman. I smiled, she smiled. At that was it, or so I thought.

My glancing up was only fleeting, and my eyes were soon buried back into that fascinating book. Except, that that feeling of being watch manifested itself, again. I looked up and looked out at the busy high street, but the woman had gone. Except, the feeling was still there. Yes,  she was now behind me.

Woman: I just had to come in because I was intrigued by the cover of the book you’re reading.

Me: Ah, It is a fascinating book.

Woman: What’s it about?

It was at this point that I was conscious of the fact that a few other people in the café had noticed the peculiar event and were also listening intently. Not one for being shy I explained as best as I could – without understating or overstating the book, trying to use everyday words so as not to seem from another planet, and yet try to convey the awesome spiritual nature of the book to the woman.

However, events overtook all this, and within a few minutes we were chatting, back and forth, sipping coffee and talking as though we had known each other for years. We must have chatted for about half an hour and then she left. She seemed to enjoy the conversation and got something from it, but it was as she left that I realised that I, too, had been greatly blessed by her and her uplifting and stimulating conversation.

What is a blessing?

A blessing is not meant to ‘impress but to touch and to connect. It could take whatever form would make that connection’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Who can bless? You can. How should one bless? In any appropriate way, being open to being guided by That Which Is Bigger Than Us. What is a blessing? It is whatever makes that soulfire connection manifest.

 

Table Talk: One Evening In September. [Life, Sex, Faith/Belief And More]

20180916 TABLE TALK ONE EVENING IN SEPTEMBER

A few of us had met and had the most wonderful three-course meal, recently. And now, with the crockery and cutlery cleared away and the dish-washer chugging away in the kitchen, we settled, with full stomachs, in the lounge.

Such post-meal evening discussions like this had happened before – there was no agenda, everyone’s viewpoint was valid, the conversation might be tossed too and fro in a myriad of directions, and Chatham House rules applied (which meant that nothing could be mentioned outside this meeting that identified any member without their consent – and so the following identifies me, Tadhg, but no one else.

What follows is ‘table talk’. [With apologies to Martin Luther].  It may ramble, it might not cover some of the things relevant to you (or it might), but through this I hope that interest is sparked and maybe some questions are raised (and answered), and that you find the article informative.

Someone asked: Tell us about the importance of ritual that you speak so much about on TadhgTalks.

Tadhg replied: Ritual is important to me, and I would encourage it in the daily life of others. In one sense we already live lives that encompass daily rituals, or yearly ones in the form of anniversaries. But, they are important reminders to us, can help us to make time for the essentials in life, and if done with intentionality they can have great meaning and effect.

The flip-slide of that is that they can so easily be done by rote and lose meaning and effect.

’What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it.’ – Ezra Pound

With a ritual there is a ‘surface level’ meaning that observers can see and understand, easily. But, it shouldn’t stay there at that level. There is a deeper meaning, and it is possible, and advantageous, to go ‘inward’ in contemplation. For instance, for the last two months I’ve done an Earth-healing ritual. On the ‘surface level’, anyone watching would have seen my physical actions (and physical actions are important), but there is a ‘deeper level’ of contemplation, the imaginal realm where ‘inwardly’ I am was performing that ritual without physical limitation, and others taking part in the ritual would be encouraged, similarly, to go inward.

’The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.’ Albert Einstein

That ‘deeper level’ some might call prayer or meditation.

Someone asked: But, in any group that uses contemplation in a ritual won’t each person ‘see’ something different?

Tadhg replied: Absolutely. That’s to be expected, and in one a very real sense it is to be encouraged. For instance, in leading a ceremony someone might refer to the Fae, another to elementals, others to gods of all descriptions that area meaningful to them, others might refer to the wolf aspect of nature, and I might refer to the Source of All. To me, these are all manifestations of the One in creation.

’A group of blind people heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said ‘This being is like a thick snake’. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. Another blind person who placed his hand upon its side said, ‘the elephant is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

We might each get a glimpse of That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and describe it in out own way, but that can’t mean that any of us know more than others, as the Truth is beyond comprehension. We each get glimpses that are different, and that’s why sharing and listening to each other’s experience and understanding, accepting the different ways to describe things, especially when different to our own, can only be a good thing to enhance our journey. Its a learning curve.

Someone asked: So, what about sex?

There was a little bit of laughter, but the questioner was encouraged to be specific. Refilling the glasses helped everyone here.

Someone asked: Well, one of the reasons I’m A Druid is that I like the way it deals with sex, life and death and rebirth, and isn’t prissy or embarrassed about procreation. And, that’s different from when I was a Christian. The Church then  seemed uptight about even using the word. So, Tadhg, as A Christian-Druid what would you say?

Tadhg replied: It is true, that in many cases churches are hung up on the word, and I know some that flatly refuse to use the word ‘sex’ in any way. The word ‘pregnant’ comes a close second in the tables of banished words in those places, and they prefer to use the phrase ‘with child’. It’s odd.

Right now, I can see two reasons why some, perhaps most, churches are ‘afraid’ of using sex or talking about it. One could be pure ego. It’s a constructed taboo which sets them apart from society, and perhaps they like that. I can’t understand that desire for artificial separation or ‘distancing’ from society, but it could be ‘ego’.

Or, it could be a plain (or wilful) misunderstanding of ancient text and its application. The challenge, and church history, provides proof, is to understand what St Augustine did when he became a Christian. Now, some may say he brought in much good theology, but he brought in more. When Manichaeism was banned, many Manichaeists became Christian almost ‘over night’. And St Augustine was a Manichaeist who converted, and sadly brought in some Manichaeists anti-sex notions which were seized upon by Reformers, and others ever since.

It seems to me to be a false dichotomy, and unnecessary ‘distancing’ from the One who created everything good.

’Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature’. Marilyn Monroe

For me, ancient text provides a healthy understanding of procreation and the God of Procreation and our responsibility, but its interpretation is (still, unknowingly by some churches ‘seen’) through Manichaeist spectacles which have little to do with essential foundational, balanced, responsible beliefs of the early Church.

I apologise for the course in Church history, but sometimes it’s important to divide what is foundational, and what is more recent and which just appears foundational.

Someone asked: Tell us about the standing stone you just visited in Wales, where you did an Earth-healing ritual.

Tadhg replied: Ah, that was Maen Llia, at the very north of the Brecon Beacons national park. And bearing in mind what we’ve mentioned about glimpses of knowledge and wisdom, and misunderstanding things (because of relatively new ideas which weren’t there at the beginning), Maen Llia is a wonderful reminder of how little we do know.

The current view is that our ancestors dragged that stone there some forty-thousand years ago and laid it flat, and about four thousand years ago it was upended (and now stands about twelve feet talk, nine feet wide, and two feet thick), and no one has a clue what its purpose was. I quite like that admission, because we can all share our ideas, tonight, about it, and no one is wrong.

So, what was its use for (when flat and then, later, when stood on its end)?

Various people said:

  • Perhaps it when flat it was used as a raised platform for the Druid to stand on to address the crowd.
  • Maybe it was used as a seat for someone to tell stories to people seated around it, sitting on the ground.
  • And/Or, when flat, maybe it was some kind of throne or seat to dispense judgement from.
  • Maybe it was upended when the crowd grew to big, and then the Druid would conduct rituals in front of it, and it was some kind of ‘backdrop’ to ‘push’ the sound forward to amplify the speaker’s voice
  • Or, perhaps it was used as a marker to show a nearby village, or denote a holy location, rather like Celtic crosses or the many cairns (piled-up stones) throughout the UK

Joshua said…’Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder.  They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ ‘Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan…’’ Joshua 4. 5b-7a, The Book.

And, so it went on. Do you have any thoughts about Maen Llia or standing-stones in general?

Someone asked: So, is ritual enough?

Tadhg replied: That’s good question. Bearing in mind there’s the physical, ‘surface level’ ritual of doing that is important, and there’s the inner ‘deeper level’ aspect of ritual which involves the imagination or mind’s eye. There is more. There is always more.

It’s my belief, and others may disagree, that both aspects of ritual need to be ‘earthed’, and that something (more) needs to be done. For instance, the Earth-healing rituals consisted of words and actions, the imaginal aspect. But then I ‘earthed’ the rituals by burying a Rainforest Jasper stone.

The ‘earthing’ can be varied and roughly associated with the ritual, but it can be a loose connection. So, I think it would be acceptable, in ‘earthing’ that ritual to have planted some seeds in a city plant-box the next day, or by writing to the local council to preserve some city park trees, instead of burying the rock. True, the aforementioned examples don’t accomplish anything in the national parks where I conducted the ritual, but a loose connection is, I think, good enough. And, with all things being inter-connected, maybe the seed-planting and writing to the local council will affect things further afield, in ways we cannot ‘see’.

’I had to decide what I was going to do, and what I was going to be. I was standing there, waiting for someone to do something , till I realised the person I was waiting for was myself.’ Markus Zusak,

There were many more questions  in the lounge that evening, but I think I’ll save them for another time. Meanwhile, drinks were refilled and the evening continued to flow. Maybe next time, you’ll be here. Youre more than welcome.

Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends after that meal, how about you sharing something of your spiritual journey (either here or by email to me), if you wish. Whether you do or don’t, rest assured that I appreciate you taking the time to read this and other articles of mine, and you are in my thoughts as we travel along this Path.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

As Above, So Below. Thoughts On Status & Responsibility At The StarDisc

I’m in Derbyshire, England for a few days, and soon to have the privilege of leading a baby-naming ceremony. But, I’ve ‘built’ some rest and relaxation into this trip, which means exploration and adventure, and who knows what might happen. 

Right now I’m at the heart of Stoney Wood…known as the Gateway to the stars. It’s been raining on and off for the last two hours, there’s a wind blowing and the clouds are grey and low, and I’m now venturing ever closer to the StarDisc. My first encounter. 

The StarDisc is a wonderful work of art that is arresting, intriguing and profound. It is a 21st century stone circle and celestial amphitheatre created by Aidan Shingler. It spans 12 meters (40 ft). Carved into black granite floor is a star chart that mirrors the night sky of the northern hemisphere. The surface of the stone circle is inscribed with the constellations and their names, and also a depiction of the Milky Way. Around the perimeter of the StarDisc are twelve silver granite blocks which are seats denoting the months of the year.

I’m gazing at the StarDisc, standing on it, looking down. I can seen the stars etched into the black granite floor, but with a light coating of rain on the surface I can see the reflection of the clouds (and little patches of blue sky, now) as I look down. As above, so below. 

The fact that we can glimpse and in a small way comprehend something of the universe declares the paradox that we find ourselves in when we think about our status in the universe. We are part of the universe, built of clay (or carbon) and yet we have the ability to see the universe. Are we not the universe looking at the universe?

The tallest, and heaviest,  and richest, and grandest of us pale into seeming insignificance when measured against the vast distances involved in the planet we inhabit. Becoming less significant as we think about the solar system in which out planet could go unnoticed. Then consider the millions of solar systems, many of them larger than this one, in the galaxy, and then – yes, mae mwy, there’s more – and the millions of galaxies, some of them ‘super galaxies’ that populate the known universe. And now scientist suspect other universes. We’re small. And our status matches this? A paradox.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god!’ Hamlet, William Shakespeare 

It’s a paradox because although we are seemingly small and seemingly insignificant we are here because That Which Is Bigger Than Us has called us into be, chosen us from before the beginning of time. You being here is not an accident. Seemingly small, we are bigger. Seemingly insignificant, we are significant. We are loved by The Source of All.

As I look down at that black granite floor I cannot but be in awe that we, humankind, have the ability to ask questions, posit answers, and gain wisdom. We are sufficiently mature to know that we know a lot, and yet know that we need to be in a state of humility for there is much more to know. Like children.

You are…’the lifter up of my head’. Psalm 3.3b, The Book.

As I look down, in the rain-soaked reflection I am seeing what is above – not just the star fields of the night-sky etched into the granite floor which is awesome, but the clouds and sky reflected to. In moments of quietness and solitude, in meditative states, and when humble we ‘see’ more. As below, so above. 

So in our ‘small-bigness’ what are we to do? 

We each have a responsibility. That maybe a word that some shun, but just as a parent has a responsibility and knows the joys of parenthood, so we have a responsibility and can realise the joy of being chosen for a specific task (or many) in ministering to others.

But, the ego can ‘kick in’ here. There are some who would say that much training is needed, and that may be so. But, the ‘trap’ seems to be to remain in a perpetual state of training for the ‘big day’ when you and I will be ‘ready’. The ‘big day’ never arrives. We then never mature, and others will never hear your words or be ministered to by your actions. Ofcourse, some training is needed, and the alternative ‘trap’ is to eschew any training at all and just leap into ministering without much foundation. Balance is needed.

I believe in trying to get a balance between individual freedom on the one hand and social responsibility on the other. Chris Patten

As I look at the StarDisc, which has a Stone Henge feel about it I cannot but feel humbled that those who built Stone Henge and those that worshipped there some time later, though they never left written records, did leave us a legacy, from which we can benefit, because they took their responsibility seriously. They studied and trained, and gave out – they ministered in thought, word and deed. And I dare say, some of them sometimes got it wrong. But I do believe that That Which Is Bigger Than Us understands. Better some study and then ministry, than all study and no ministry, or all ministry and no study.

What is our responsibility? No answer can be given here to the level of maturity we each find ourselves at, or need. Some may need much training before ministering (however we define that word, or believe our calling to be). But, some practical outwork is always needed so that study isn’t all…well, study. Some, may know that they have only studied and for such a long time that ministry is long overdue. Balance is needed. 

And, perhaps that is where the Anamcara, the ‘soul friend’, is useful. The Anamcara, and it could be a good friend acting in that role or it could be a latter-day Anamcara, is someone who has a mature knowledge of spiritual matters, is grounded, and who has your best interest at heart. They will tell you honestly your surrender ‘walk’. Do you have an Anamcara?

In everyone’s life, there is great need for an anam cara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. John O’Donohue

I’m still standing on the StarDisc, the rain is coming back and it’s time for me to go. But what of you? Is your current study-ministry ratio in proportion? Do you have an Anamcara?  It’s now pouring with rain, and as much as I like the rain, I’m moving, somewhat fast, towards shelter. My last thought as I seek shelter under a huge old tree, is, bearing in mind that each of us are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses down the ages, what are our priorities in ministering to others? What is our ministry? What is our calling? What is our responsibility to each other?

These questions, the answers of which will differ for each one of us,  are so important when ministering as a Celt, Druid, Christian etc, but they need to be asked, even if the answers are elusive.

It’s time to move on.

 

[Unable to upload ‘header’ photo as I’m ‘on the road’ and current computer program won’t allow photo uploading.]

 

 

 

Dreams, The Gate To Eternity?

20180810 DREAMS THE GATE TO ETERNITY

Ancient cultures, Celts, Druids, Hebrew nations and others have long held great store in dreams. Perhaps, we can learn something from them?

That evening, as I sat alone reviewing the day, his depression weighed heavily on my heart. A myriad thoughts vied for space in my mind as I thought about that young man in need. As I slowly dozed off, I fell into a deep sleep and began to dream – one of those profound dreams that seemed to be lived in ‘real time’, a lucid dream.

I was in a thick, old, dense forest, walking towards what looked to be a clearing in the distance. I laboured onward, slowly and with considerable effort. As I walked on there was, indeed, a clearing that was well lit as if it had an encampment fire in the middle of it, except, there was no camp fire. Just a bright light without a visible source, lighting up the clearing and the perimeter trees, but not permeating further into the dark forest.

’Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.’ Khalil Gibran

I was standing near the centre of the clearing, and the plight of that young man, his depression was on my mind. Looking at the surrounding trees, the light played on them and I perceived creatures hiding behind many of the trees. Angels? Elementals? The Fae etc? No one at that time said a word but in my heart, as I looked around, I felt that these hidden creatures were of enormous power, and were hiding not because they were fearful of me, but because they were so powerful that they were fearful of doing me harm.

I stood there and ‘heard’ what one of them, or was it all of them, said. ‘Learn what you can about Juniper trees’. Still unable to speak, and standing there for what seemed hours, nothing more transpired. I awoke.

Over the next few days, I did some research, but even without trying too hard, synchronicity ‘kicked in’.

In ancient sacred text I re-read of a man named who had carried out, what he believed to be God’s will, but was running in fear of his life from a ruler. He laid under a Juniper tree and fell asleep, twice, and on both occasions was woken up and nourished by an angel. Later, having believed himself to be alone and retreating to a cave he had an encounter in the cave. A voice spoke and said, ‘What are you doing here’. I get goose bumps every time I read that account. The Voice was in the cave, too (and not outside), thus assuring Elijah he wasn’t alone. The Source of All never leaves us (even if we think the Source does). And, confessing his fear and depression that man received power and boldness from perceiving things differently. The circumstances may not have changed, but his outlook did change.

‘The stuff of our lives doesn’t change. It is we who change in relation to it.’ Molly Vass

In some cultures, I found out that the Juniper tree is thought to be a guide and gatekeeper to the Imaginal realm, bringing humankind in contact with the powers and blessings of the Invisible realms. In Germany, I’m told the name for the Juniper tree is ‘wacholder’. It means the ‘tree of awakening’.

I found out that Juniper is used cross-culturally to bring blessings, and to make sacred. Thus, it is said, it can help one to listen more closely to our inner wisdom, uncover our true path, and connect more deeply with matters of the Spirit, bringing one in touch with the Sacred in your life. Truly, there was great wisdom to do as those creatures had tasked.

Over the next few days as I pondered on such things, and an assurance ‘tumbled’ across my spirit, and it seemed to me that that young man, currently depressed, was undergoing something much more profound and deeper than I had first envisaged. Something deeper than he knew, too.

Also, in the ‘cave’ he found himself in, he needed to know that he wasn’t alone, and so, so far as I possibly could, I drew alongside the younger man and ‘held space’ for him – walking along with him, without judgment, sharing his journey to an unknown destination. I knew that this was his current path, and that there was nothing I could materially do, except to be there for him. Sometimes the best aid we can give someone comes not in words but in the simple action of being there for them.

’ Perhaps the oldest working truth of self-discovery is that the only way out is through.’ Mark Nepo

Maybe there are some dreams that you have dreamed that were significant, or perhaps with hindsight you now see them as significant to you. Dreams can be very powerful wisdom-givers, for when we’re asleep we’re free from distractions and our barriers are lowered. And the Source of All, who communicates profound matters in metaphors and ‘pictures’ (as there is no other way) has our undivided attention. When asleep and dreaming we are (more) receptive to That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Truly, dreams can be very important.

After some months that young man’s depression lifted.

 

Here Be Dragons: Encountering Nature In The City & Looking Beyond The Veil

20180715 HERE BE DRAGONS ENCOUNTERING NATURE IN THE CITY

It is no secret that I like ritual. Ritual, if the intention is there, takes us out of ordinary time and into sacred time, away from only an awareness of mundane space and into sacred space; and it opens up a doorway, a liminal threshold to the Other. We enter a place and time where things happen. Really happen. Even if we’re unaware of the sequence of events.

And, it doesn’t have to be formal ritual. There are many rituals, simple ones, too, that are useful to us as individuals, that we do daily, beneficial routines that open the path to the imaginal realm, that realm of power and potential. This can lead to an encounter that can be wholly other (as in the imaginal), wholly ‘here’ (as in the physical realm), but is usually witnessed as a somewhat confusing combination of the two.

Holy superimposition.

‘There are two worlds: the world we can measure with line and rule, and the world that we feel with our hearts and imagination.’ Leigh Hunt

park1

Bishop’s Park, London

Today was very much like that. One of my daily rituals when in London is to take some valuable time out at the beginning of the day and visit the Magic Café, when in Fulham, south-west, inner London. There, over a latte I pore over a good book for an hour, at least. It is a time of grounding, ‘earthing’, drawing energy into my being to prepare myself for the day ahead.

In many senses I am so absorbed by the book I’m reading, at those times, that events can happen around me and I’m totally unaware of them. I might have ate a croissant and looked up about half an hour later only to find the empty plate has gone from my table. In such circumstance I try to catch the baristas eye and thank him or her for clearing the table, as it might have appeared rude not to acknowledge their good work at the time. Totally absorbed, was I in that liminal realm. The baristas know me well.

Something similar happened again, today. Serendipity.

The weather in London and, indeed, the UK has been unusually hot. Usually after a few days of hot weather (say, 26 Celsius or hotter), here, the weather breaks, we have a thunderstorm and it goes back to being mild and changeable. It’s been hot, between 25 and 31 Celsius for about three weeks, and although some local areas have had very brief rainstorms, they’ve missed Fulham.

‘Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for.’ Glauco Ortolano

park2

Bishop’s Park, London

And, as it happened, all the outside tables and chairs at the café were all occupied by others when I arrived there this morning. It was clear, there was only one thing for it: order a take-away latte and take myself (and the good book I was carrying) off to a nearby (riverside) park. Bishop’s Park. Ironic, really, as the book I was reading was about encountering nature deeply (in both rural and urban settings), and so I walked the four minutes to the park, slowly (as it was hot) to put into practice what I was reading.

I found a wonderful shady spot near the lake (which, courtesy of the local council’s ‘bio-diversity’ and wildlife welfare policy, is amazingly overgrown at the edges). It is a beautiful area. The sun was hot, the sky blue and cloudless but I was in shade. The air was filled with the fragrance of a myriad of flowers, and birdsong. I sat on a bench to read my book and occasionally sipped the coffee.

I read for about half an hour but was disturbed by a few ducks that had arrived and stayed for several minutes, a couple of dragonflies who seemed to want to ‘buzz’ me, and a large water rat that ambled out of the undergrowth and came towards me at some speed, stopping about six feet (two metres) in front of me, sniffed in my direction in an exaggerated manner before shuffling off.

Ofcourse, these weren’t interruptions at all.

‘We live in a relative and contradictory world. We go to work, care for our family and friends, and manage ordinary details every day. And yet we are timeless. We are the rhythm of life’. Llyn Roberts

If the book I was reading was anything to go by, and it is a good book by Sandra Ingerman and Lllyn Roberts, then this was just the time to take up one of its suggestions to put the book to one side. I did.

I relaxed, adopted a meditative state, half-closed my eyes and revelled in nature that was all around me, and if you take into account the fragrances in the air, then nature was within me! And, there’s more. As I sat there, in the middle of London in a lovely park, and in an awesome, overgrown, lush area of the park, ‘disturbed’ only by nature,  I was in bliss. I wasn’t apart from nature looking on, but was part of it, part of that rhythm of life.

Liminality.

It was then that I saw, resting on undergrowth to my side, a wonderful dragonfly – well, actually a damselfly. Very similar to dragonflies, but they’re smaller. They are close ‘cousins’ to the dragonfly. Both are members of the odonata order. So-called by a Danish zoologist some two hundred years ago who, mistakenly, thought they had teeth. The lovely creature resting on a flower was a (UK) common blue damselfly. Magnificent.

In the world of the imagination, myth and magic, it is said that dragonflies and damselflies were the dragons of old: think scaly winged, fire-breathing creatures. Now, much smaller they are ‘disguised’ when they appear in this realm.

park33

Bishop’s Park, London

They are said by some to be one of nature’s shape-shifters because they inhabit two elemental realms: air and water. Some believe that to see them up close means that your life will never be the same. Others believe that such creatures break down ones illusions and expose truth, usher in winds of change, wisdom or enlightenment, and if one lands on you then good luck is sure to follow. Dragonflies carry messages that deal with deeper thought – and they ask that we pay attention to our deeper thoughts and desires.

‘It is one thing to read about dragons, and another to meet them.’ Ursula Le Guin

I’m told the Swedish name for them is trollslända, which means ‘hobgoblin fly, and comes from a time when dragonflies and damselflies were thought to be the ‘horses’ for elves, brownies and the fae, who would travel around on their backs.

Meanwhile, that wonderful common blue damselfly was still resting on that nearby plant, and then suddenly he or she flew off. Gone. Did its presence have a significant meaning?

At one level it’s clear that nature is flourishing in this place and I (and you, wherever you find yourself, and even in the city) are part of it: connected. At another level, there is the view of acceptance, that we are one with nature and nature is one with us: kin. And, at a still deeper level, maybe there was a ‘message’ today in that damselfly’s visit that was pertinent to me (just as at other times and places other events are pertinent and meaningful to you)? Awareness.

Mark Nepo calls such events ‘quiet teachers’: natural events that can speak volumes to us, if we but take time to rest and let natural wisdom ‘soak’ into our being so that we are ‘taught’ something special, and deep, and wholesome from that event. It’s what our ancestors, ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans, ancient Christians and others would have understood, almost without trying. Participation mystique, or mystical participation. Something that doesn’t come easy to us, but which can be experience with some intentionality.

Why, then the wise thing to do is ponder upon its meaning and apply it to ourselves. Or, perhaps, or in addition to all this, is the fact that each of us are blessed in living on a wild and ‘life-full’ planet (whether we live in a rural or urban setting), and are part of the web of life; and today, in one small way I spied another creature, a dragonfly/damselfly also attuned into, and part of the web of life, and in looking beyond the veil I understood it to be a gift from the Source of All to you and I, and others. Gratitude.

’Hic sunt dracones; here be dragons’.

 

20180715 HERE BE DRAGONS ENCOUNTERING NATURE IN THE CITY

 

 

That Place Of Peace: A Personal, Celtic Perspective On Death, Mourning And After

20180604 THAT PLACE OF PEACE DEATH MOURNING AND AFTERWith white roses and lilac-coloured flowers in hand I strode across the busy, noisy, bustling road, full of cars and people, and entered the cemetery. Passing the huge wrought-iron gates the world changed. Crossing that threshold, I left the world of busy-ness and noise behind. All was now at peace.

It was one of those sunny hot, June days – yes, even in London they get good weather occasionally, and that’s where I am for a while. London.

This, then, is a personal view, and some of my exploratory thoughts about death, mourning and what follows. Hopefully uplifting. My thoughts may be different to your views, but they are shared in the spirit of love and openness, and should you want to share your views and I hope you do, please do so by emailing me, directly. I am always happy to receive emails, and by so doing ‘iron sharpens iron’, indeed, and we learn and grow.

So, walking slowly through the cemetery there is, even in the middle of London, an air or peace, quietness and seeming solitude. Today, 2 June, is the birthday of my late dad, who passed on, just over a year ago, and the flowers are for his grave – a grave shared by my late mum, and nestling alongside those of my two grandmothers.

It’s an old cemetery, and I can’t but help notice that much of it is overgrown and sorely in need of mowing and some tender loving care – Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council please take note. I remind myself to contact them. Moving through the cemetery to the newer part I walk towards one of the few wooden bench seats around.

As I got nearer, and eventually sat on the bench seat, I spied my favourite tree, a dear and familiar friend, just a few feet away, that many years ago I named ‘Y llygad’ (pronounced ‘e hl-gad), and Welsh for ‘the eye’ (see header photograph). It feels like I’m being watched. I do believe am! I’m comfortable with that, and happy.

Resting there for a few minutes, thoughts come and go.

In Celtic Irish custom, and it moved throughout some of Welsh culture, too, there is a thought that when someone is about to pass on, the ban sidhe (pronounced ‘ban she’), a ghostly figure, would wail loudly. Many would say they have heard her cries in the distance, and many fear her for obvious reasons. She does get bad press. Perhaps rather than a ghoulish figure, the harbinger of death, maybe she is (as many would affirm) a fairy woman, a spirit who laments the loss-to-come to relatives, and who guides the way for the deceased, through the veil that separates this world from the next.

’…the Celtic…tradition recognises that the eternal and the transient world are woven in and through each other. Very often at death, the inhabitants of the eternal world come out towards the visible world.’ John O’Donohue.

More thoughts arise. At my grandmother’s death (and before the funeral) several women spent sometime keening. Keening being an old Celtic action involving deeply moving spiritual singing by older women – not quite wailing, then, but more uplifting, and with the benefit of drawing alongside grieving relatives. Nothing negative at all. Those keening women cared.

As I sat on that cemetery bench even more thoughts arose. Around me are dear people buried, who, like me, breathed, loved, knew ill-health, life’s ‘ups and downs’, and lived life to the full, and have now passed on. Passed where?

’ 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.

Rumi

In the peace and tranquillity of that place, lofty questions arose. As I looked at some very old gravestones, some so old that that much of the writing had been worn away, it seemed to me that the Book of Nature (and science) showed that nothing is lost, that cycles exist and continued, and transformation takes place. Some believe that those who have passed on are even more alive in Eden, or heaven, to others they are in the Summerlands, and to others they are in Hy Braesil. I suspect these are different names for the same place, the final destination of humankind.

’Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.’ Rossiter W Raymond

Hy Braesil is one of my favourite terms, as it is wrapped in mystery and ‘magic’. Thought by some to be the place of life here-after, it is also said by some to be a mystical (physical) land far off the coast of north-west or western Scotland, and known to Celtic Welsh people, Scots and Irish people of old. Some say it only appears every six or seven years. Hy-Braesil, an island, was first drawn on maps in 1325AD by Angelino Dulcert, an Italian cartographer. It continued to be shown on maps until the 1860s.

Having rested there on that bench for a while, I moved off to the short distance to the family graves. Once there, I pulled the dead flowers out the flower-pots, cut the new flowers, save for one, and put the flowers in the flower-pots: one-third for my parents’ gravestone, and one-third each for my two grandmother’s gravestone flower-pots.

Wiping the gravestones, I then wait. On this occasion I have no prayer to say, only silent gratitude. It is enough, I believe. Gratitude to my late parents, my passed-on family, my ancestors and others. After several minutes I walk away, but not before a momentary head-bow.

Picking up the single rose, I walk in a certain direction – it differs each time. And then, on a gravestone, a different one each time, that is so weathered that no names can be read, or perhaps a gravestone that looks unkempt, I leave that single flower, as a mark of respect to that person, to acknowledge that they have not been forgotten.

But, for now they sleep. Or do they? From our perspective maybe they do, but in reality, maybe they are all more alive than ever, in a place where they no longer age, where there is no want and no sickness. Perhaps our perspective is wrong and needs to change? Maybe they are alive and it is we who sleep?

‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:’

William Wordsworth

Walking towards the large iron cemetery gates there are many profound, unanswered questions on my mind. Perhaps, there are somethings we will not know until we are ‘there’, and then those questions will evaporate as we will then know even as we are known. But, for the time being we revel in mystery and I am content with that.

‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?’, Dr Who.

Now, back in that busy street, cars speeding and people rushing about doing their shopping, it is easy to forget that we are more than just flesh and blood, as we unknowingly match the dizzying speed of a hectic world. But there is a distant echo, the voice of the Source, the bat khol, maybe the voice of our ancestors, or even an angel or elemental that whispers to each one of us that we are ‘Much more’. Be heartened.

 

Dark Of The Moon: 15 May 2018 [Ephemera: New Moon]

201800512 THE DARK OF THE MOON 15 MAY NEW MOON EPHEMERASome of you will know that I am an amateur astronomer, having been encouraged to observe the night sky and especially the constellations many years ago by my dad.

It was my dear mum and dad who also bought me my first, albeit small, telescope when I was a wee lad. Oh, I loved that telescope. Treasured it. It opened up a hitherto unseen dimension and gave me a different perspective, and not just astronomically-scientifically. That passion has never left me.

’When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.’ Mahatma Gandhi

My long-time fascination with astronomy – then a small pocket-size telescope and now many years later with a motorised, computerised ‘tracking’ 12 inch Meade telescope – also fits well with my nature-inquisitiveness and nature-appreciating disposition, as well as the chosen path of being a latter-day Celt and Christo-Druid (or is that a Druidic-Christian?). Amazing how life unfolds.

In thinking about astronomical, cyclical events (something which Celts, Druids, ancient Hebrews and Christians, and many other ancient and noble cultures would have celebrated, and later-day adherents still do) I would commend some kind of pausing, ritual, appreciation to the Source of All at the time of the full moon and/or this new moon.

Tonight the moon kisses the stars.
O beloved, be like that to me.
(Rumi)

When we look up we view the heavens we might think that we are separate from them, but in essence we ‘swim’ through space as if in a rocket and there is no separation. We ‘swim’ through space because our feet are firmly planted on the Earth, which as a planet in the solar system and ‘swims’ through space. We are space explorers and space-citizens, indeed we are space-connected, in every sense of the word(s).

For me the full moon is most energising and awesome for giving thanks and for ritual, as well as pouring out its light in abundance for the practical purposes of late evening ritual and safety. However, recently some have email me to ask for some consideration to be given to the new moon, which for them is equally energising and awesome for ritual. I am most happy and privileged to oblige. New moons, like full moons, are great times to praise The One Behind It All, That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves.

‘…people…are not the only creatures capable of praising God, after all, There are also wolves and seals. There are also wild geese and humpback whales. According to the Bible, even trees can clap their hands.’ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar In The World.

The next new moon is on the morning of Tuesday, 15 May 2018.

Did you know, that even today, in Cornwall, south-west England some people nod to the new moon and turn the silver coins in their pockets. In Edinburgh some men and women turn the rings on their fingers at that time and make a wish, and on the islands of Barra (off the west coast of the Scottish mainland) it is said that some women curtsey and men bow low in the direction of the new moon.

King of the moon,
Though King of the sun,
Though King of the planets,
Though King of the stars,
Though King of the globe,
Though King of the sky,
Oh, lovely Thy countenance,
Thou beauteous beam.

(Part of the Rune of the ‘Muthairn’, Carmina Gadelica)

So, the next new moon rises above the horizon (for those in the northern hemisphere) at 5.39am, about half an hour after sun rise, and for that reason (as the moon, this time, ‘tails’ the sun so closely there will be nothing to see.

Even then, because the new moon reflects no light and won’t be seen – and in astronomical terms is called the dark moon or dark of the moon – it is usually only a day or so after that that it is seen as a slim crescent in the sky. And then, that is the time when some celebrate the new moon. However, the slim-crescent moon starts to distances itself from the sun and may be visible low on the horizon when the sun has set below the horizon late in the day on 16 May.

’There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.’ George Carlin

This time, the new moon may be disappointingly close to the horizon for those in Europe and America. But, there is nothing to deter you from celebrating the wonderful event on, say, the evening of 15 May, in the absence of (even a thin crescent of) the invisible-to-us)  new moon.

So, however you celebrate this new moon – whether it’s a pause in your busy schedule and a gazing upwards on that evening, a word of gratitude whispered to the Source of All, a glass of wine held aloft, or a full-scale new moon ritual with others or by yourself, or something else, I send you the blessings at this time of the new moon to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

The Forest’s ‘Quiet Teachers’ And Time

20180511 THE FORESTS QUIET TEACHERS AND TIMEIt’s a wonderful morning. Sunrise was about an hour ago, and the early morning high and mist-like clouds are slowly being ‘burned off’ by the sun – yes, I’m back in north Wales. Valleys, here, have their own micro-weather system – and it is glorious. It almost seems that time itself has stopped and you can see and hear elementals hopping from one flower or blade of grass to another. Bliss.

’Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow! Grow!”’, Talmud

Timeless, yes.

I am sitting in my garden, sipping a cup of nettle tea, my favourite, and words cannot really do justice to the wonders of nature that I am beholding. Wherever we are, rural or urban landscape, we are part of the wildness and beauty of nature – you are beautiful, and however much we are told we’re separate from nature or feel so, it is an illusion. We swim through nature, breathing it in, breathing in air as a fish swims in water and gulps in that water and ‘exhales’ it to live.

Nature is awesome, even though I can spy a few weeds growing here and there on the lawn.

’ Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better’. Albert Einstein

There are different schools of thought about creation, the origin of all that is. And, as I sit here sipping this tea, my mind wanders to consider two of them. Journey with me.

Firstly, there are some who read ancient sacred text and interpret it (because the notion isn’t actually present in the text, so we have to take that information and work with it where we are), and deduce that everything was perfect (or good) on Earth but somehow it ‘went wrong’ [emphasis on the latter]. Many call this ‘the fall’.

And then I got thinking a wee bit deeper.

But, suppose, secondly, the perfection we have in our mythic memory is of Home, before we ‘arrived’ on Earth? And, the Earth didn’t ‘fall’ and ‘go wrong’ (although it may seem so in comparison from our pre-life ‘Home’ – see Jeremiah 1:5a), but that the Source Of All created everything good, and left a just little bit of it for us to do in ‘finishing it off’? Rather like, perhaps, our mum did, when we were wee kids, when she baked a cake, say, and let us stir the mix so we could, with pride, understand that we had a small hand [no pun intended] in baking that cake. Then we can say ‘I did that’, and then our parent (and the Source of All) can say, ‘my child did that’.

This idea, some call tikkun olam.

Tikkun olam has everything to do with ‘finishing off’ or ‘repairing’ the world. It, along with the ‘fall’ idea really is only understood by our own particular viewpoint, whatever it may be: ‘fall’ and in need of ‘repair’; or ‘unfinished’? I prefer the latter.

As I look out at the length of the garden the gardener, who initially worked on the garden some years ago, ensured that about three-quarters of it was a well ‘manicured’ lawn with plants and small trees ‘sprinkled’ throughout and a few paving stones here or there, as I had suggested. And, now there’s a few weeds. But, I digress.

But, the furthest quarter of the garden, the part that leads into a wild copse is wild by every stretch of the imagination, and that’s exactlyhow I asked the gardener to leave it.

The lawn area is different to that wild area, but just as much as nature as anywhere else. That wild area does need a bit of attention from me every so often. Tikkun olam.

Most of my garden is easy to manage, but the wild area needs some extra special care, understanding and management, stewardship from me. It is forever requiring attention so that I can appreciate its wildness and yet walk through it rather than me being ‘crowded out’ by the unbridled growth of plants and trees.

A human presence is needed to ‘repair’ or ‘finish it’ depending on your viewpoint) until, ofcourse, the following year and growing seasons repeat themselves. And so it goes on. I love it. It grows, I tend it, It grows. Tikkun olam.

Perhaps, that ‘finishing off’ applies to every walk of life, and not just to garden weeds. What do you think?

That wild quarter of the garden is a ‘guiet teacher’. It ‘speaks’ words of wisdom to us and all who are attuned to it. The area of my garden is lovely, but it may not be perfect as some people define perfection. If I waited until that part of my garden was perfect in human terms I might have to wait longer than one life span!

Perhaps, nature, the ‘quiet teacher’ is informing us, that life is good, but until we get Home, it won’t be perfect or well ordered – there will be challenges and upsets along the way, weeds. We can do our best, but we will have to wait a long time before everything is orderly in our life (if ever), and if we are waiting to start a project or do something only when that happens, then we will probably wait ‘forever’.

’We carry these [to do] lists near our heart and finger them like worry beads. It doesn’t matter what is on them. They are thieves, and it is the insidious virtue to have everything in order before we live that is the greatest thief’. Mark Nepo.

Life is a wild and sometimes circuitous journey, with challenges along the way but always an adventure, with things to learn along the way as we move through it. Yes, move through it.

As I walk through the wild copse, now having no more nettle tea left in the cup, I look at the contrast in the garden, the lawned area (and the weeds) and the wild part, and though different and not perfect (from a gardeners point of view) I love it just the way it is.

It’s almost as if the forest and garden are saying to us, ‘You will always have a few weeds  here in your life, but embrace them and work with them, but don’t let them bother you and procrastinate or you’ll wait forever’.

For the moment we are in time. Are there things in our life that we’ve put off, and like me, can look back? It’s never too late to start! Maybe it’s an educational course, a new hobby, a project at work or at home, or maybe it’s a long overdue phone call to tell someone you miss them and love them, or something else that you’ve put off? Until now. Tikkun olam. Is there something to start, ‘repair’ or ‘finish’?

’I swing between procrastination and being really thorough so either way things aren’t getting done quickly’. Freema Agyeman

Finally, ofcourse, there are times when it is right to pause and wait, but invariably we know the difference between honest waiting for a good reason and kicking things time and time again into the long grass.

‘We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?’ Dr Who

After all that deep thought, here I am walking back to the house thinking that I deserve a second cup of nettle tea. How about you?

 

Eyes Wide Open: The Luminous Web And You

20180501 EYES WIDE OPEN THE LUMINOUS WEB OF LIFE AND YOUAt the end of my garden in Capel Curig in north Wales, where it meets a rather distinctive, mysterious and therefore much-valued copse, there are a small number of gorse bushes growing wild. I love them.

I could tell you, as I looked at them, that their botanical name is Ulex europaeus, but that’s rather an academic and clinical view of them. Not very interesting. But, there’s so much more about them.

‘Everybody loves to tell me I was born an old soul
Better keep my eyes wide open’

Sabrina Carpenter, singer

I could tell you, and it is so true, that they are wonderful to look at, and when they flower between January to June their flowers are a most vivid, breath-taking and brilliant yellow. It is an also an important shrub as it provides shelter and food for many spiders, other insects, and birds such as Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and Yellowhammers. But, there’s more. Even more. There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales

What if our perception is stunted? Our understanding limited?

What if our perception of other people, of nature and the cosmos, what if the view we hold even about ourselves is arrested, partial and limited by our twenty-first century thought? Like looking into a dirty, in-need-of-a-polish mirror. We do, after all, live in a society which idolises science, and which is very much the offspring of ancient Greece with its dualistic view of the world.

What if we’re blind to what is really out there?

Composition

Once, as I gazed at those gorse bushes after a rain storm they bristled with light, the reflected light of the sun in thousands of water droplets on their spiny leaves and stems, caught in their flowers and on a myriad of spider’s webs that had ‘colonised’ them. As I half-closed my eyes and let my imagination flow I could see the shrubs, the water, the lights were Life itself. And what’s more it wasn’t only the shrubs the exuded such Light-lIfe. It was everything.

‘…there is another way to conceive…life…not [as] a clockwork universe in which individuals function as discrete springs and gears, but [as] one that looks far more like a luminous web, in which the whole is far more than the parts.’ Barbara Brown Taylor, The Luminous Web.

In our mind’s eye, in our imaginations – which are no less real (and maybe more so) than the physical world we see with our two eyes – Life is not separate parts that are autonomous but are facets of the One, that Life Web. Each seeming part, an observable node, is invisibly connected to that one Luminous web, but for now we might only be able to glimpse it periodically using our mind’s eye. It is enough.

The universe, then, shines and shimmers with an ancient light that is, currently, too fantastic to behold. And what of you and I? Oh, yes, as people who are connected to that Life-Web, we too shine. ‘I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being’, said Hafiz, and ‘Let your light so shine…’, said The Christ (Matthew 5:16a, The Book). Ofcourse, there are those who will find it hard to believe, and those who will fight against such a notion, but I do believe it is true.

There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales. Our composition, our outlook, our very status are all wonderfully, graciously entwined and part of that Luminous web of Life.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…’ (C S Lewis)

No Limitations

That Web stretches outward and is more luminous and expansive than we can yet imagine, touching everything in the universe. Why, that Web connects you, as you sit in front of your computer or iPhone reading this, with, say, the Crab Nebula, some 6500 light years away. Send out a ray of light to the Crab Nebula today and it will arrive in AD 6718. But, I would venture that that connectedness takes no travelling time should you ‘jangle’ the web of which you’re part (by sending a good-thought, a prayer, light and love in that direction, or elsewhere). Physical limitations don’t apply. The web in the Crab Nebula instantly responds. It can do no other.

There’s a wonderful book by one of my favourite ‘old’ Brit authors, John Wyndham. Amongst his great books, he was renowned for writing ‘The Day of the Triffids’. But he also wrote a book called ‘Chocky’, a delightful book that has twists and turns that causes challenges along the way. Matthew is the main character in that book and he gets into awful trouble at school for being different and acting oddly. His drawings and paintings in art classes, for instance, have odd colours for the sky and sea. Perhaps, purple instead of blue, and orange instead of green-blue water. And why do the buildings he paints seem odd and compressed? Matthew is getting his ideas from beyond, from someone else in another part of the universe – it is a sci-fi book, and a very good one at that. And this is what happens in his physics class:

‘It arose…from Mr Caffer’s assertion during a physics lesson about the speed of light was the limit; nothing, he dogmatically stated, could travel faster than light.

Matthew, put up his hand. Mr Caffer looked at him.

‘Oh’, Mr Caffer said, ‘I might have expected it. Well, young Matthew Gore, what is it you know that Einstein didn’t?’

Matthew already regretting his impulse said, ‘It doesn’t matter, sir’.

Mr Caffer insisted on a reply.

‘Well, sir. It’s just that the speed of light is only the limit of physical speed’, said Matthew.

‘Indeed. And perhaps you can tell us what travels faster?’

‘Thought, sir,’ said Matthew.

In sending a good-thought, a prayer, energy, light and love in any direction, you and I, as we’re part of that shimmering, Luminous Web, do so instantly. There is no time, no time delay involved. It’s instantaneous. Quantum physics, too, now seems to be hinting at this.

The physics that we’re so used to – and it does perform a good task when driving, shopping, mending the toaster etc – do not apply at the very deepest, spiritual, cosmic, energetic, intimate and ‘magical’ level of the Universe, of which we’re part.

Limitations do not apply, and you are not what you (probably) thought you were!

And finally…

You, too, shine with a myriad points of ancient and cosmic lights, and one day ‘when we’re there’, we will see each other as we really are, and know each other even as we are known, as it says in ancient sacred text. Meanwhile, so look deeper, more intently, intentionally, with your mind’s eye. An amazing world awakes  for those keeping their (spiritual) eyes wide open.  There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales

‘There is a radiance in all things that is indestructible and almost unperceivable.’ Mark Nepo