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.

 

A CountDown To Alban Hefin: Celebrating The Sun

20180528 COUNTDOWN TO ALBAN HEFIN CELEBRATING THE SUNFor many people today, and certainly in ages past the four compass points were important to daily life and ritual. Those four points represent winter (north), spring (east), summer (south) and autumn (west). Tonight I have the sun, summer, fire, the south in mind as we are in the season of summer and are racing toward the summer solstice.

The summer solstice, Thursday, 21 June 2018 is the time of the longest day of the year, and a time to consider the sun. In Wales that event is lovingly known as Alban Hefin, which means ‘The Light of the Shore’. That event and the shoreline are mystical times and places, liminal, they are ‘thin places’, a meeting of two realms, places and times where things happen.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I seldom see you seldom hear your tune.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister Moon)

Midsummer’s day is also celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches as a feast day, celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, who was the herald to the (incarnated) Light.

And so, the following then has summer and the sun in mind, in general and might6 be useful to you now, and then over the next couple of weeks more articles will appear with the summer solstice in mind, and with ideas of how to celebrate that time in action and ritual.

On midsummer’s eve many people stayed up all night (or perhaps even more woke up early the following morning) to watch the sun rise on the longest day of the year. Candles were carried, bonfires were lit on hilltops and aromatic herbs were thrown into the fire.

‘This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath.’

(Margaret Atwood)

It was thought that if sick cattle or any poorly people passed through the smoke of that bonfire they would be healed, whilst others might chose a ‘tame’ part of the bonfire and jump across it to ward off bad luck and/or to seek an abundance that year in fertility of the land etc.

Don’t worry If you’re not attending a bonfire celebration, a token and just-as-meaningful candle can be lit as a focal point for to think of the summer solstice and to celebrate that time. Ritual ideas, words and ideas will follow over the next week or so.

But, to whet your appetite the amazing words of that mystic, Hildegard of Bingen spring to mind.

’I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond
The beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters,
And I burn in the sun, moon and stars.’

(Hildegard of Bingen)

The summer solstice is a dual celebration: on one hand there is much revelry and enjoyment because it is the longest day of the year and the sun is in its ascendancy, but it is also the time when days start to grow shorter, nights longer and the darkness begins to grow. Yes, the circle turns, and the great cycle continues. Tempus fugit.

Although not the summer solstice tonight, there is nothing to stop us celebrating the sun (especially, but not only, in the season of summer) and giving thanks to That Which Is Greater Than Us for it, and so, tonight, I lit a candle.

In the middle of one of the busiest cities on the planet, in my small city garden (okay, a yard), occasionally interrupted by ambulance sirens,  a small oasis of calm ‘blinked’ into existence for a few minutes. On this occasion I didn’t move in ritual, but I revolved the candle in its arrow-marked ‘saucer’: first ‘aiming’ it at the west and pausing, then slowly turning it to face north, then east, and then slowly, and reverently turning it so that it ended facing the southern compass point; the south, representing fire,  the sun.

I closed my eyes and spent a few minutes in silence, aiming not to produce a thought, but just to revel in that inward solitude as best I could, and in the light that the candle was giving out.

And then, quietly I gave thanks using an adapted prayer of ancient Hebrew origin as a basis for my words. Intentionality is all-important.

‘Praise to you, Oh Source Of All, that the celestial heights, the messengers and other hosts, the sun and moon and shining stars should praise you, and here I am, praising you, too, for everything. Sun of righteousness, thank you’.

(Ancient Hebrew prayer adapted)

I sat there for a few more minutes, in silence, and then extinguished the candle flame. The little flame, creating so much light before was dark was gone, and the darkness closed in.

I sat there in the darkness, with the occasional ambulance siren wailing in the distance, a helicopter flying quickly overhead, and despite the busy-ness of others, it was awesome. This oasis of quietness and light slowly, and very slowly,  ‘folded up’, and it was gone (or was it?). And yet, in darkness that surrounds me now, the sun’s light yet blesses someone else with its vitality and abundance.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I now do see you, I can hear your tune
So much in love with all that I survey.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister moon)

 

Ephemera: The Bright Moon [Full Moon, 29 May 2018]

20180524 EPHEMERA FULL MOON 29 MAY 2018Another full moon approaches, and so we have another opportunity to meditate as we gaze upward to the ‘silver penny’ that smiles down upon us, or extend gratitude, or pause for thought, or go for a walk looking at our moon-shadow.

Full moon. Time to stop.

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful satellite that guides the Earth’s seasons and weather, controls its oceans and tides, that makes life possible on this blue planet, and when one thinks of the Source behind it all, it has a deeply, deeply spiritual dimension.

’The moon is beautiful only when the mind is seeking beauty and the heart is loving.’ Debasish Mridh

Many ancient cultures measured time using the moon and its phases. For instance, to the ancient Hebrew tribes Rosh Chodesh, celebrating the new moon, was an awesome event though its observance waned over the centuries, despite clues to the event in the Torah. And, ofcourse in the West our calendar is still dominated by irregular months imposed by Roman emperors of yesteryear for political and egotistical reasons, rather than for religious or spiritual reasons.

It’s time to reclaim the spiritual.

And, with the spiritual side of the full moon is mind, and although written for the new moon, the following, might be useful as a form of liturgy at this time:

‘Praised be to the moon
as she rises tonight:
a round white pearl
in the velvet earlobe of the world.

Praised be to her light
that fills my empty teacup,
and across the jagged city
strokes your sleeping cheek
as you reach through your dreams…’

Lesléa Newman, part of her contribution to Celebrating The New Moon, edited by Susan Berrin. In the liturgy/poem above the last two lines could be amended to read ‘Strokes my/our sleeping cheek, as you reach through my/our dreams.’

So, this month’s full Moon falls on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 (at 14.19 GMT/UTC) from a UK aspect.

While the moon is officially at its fullest during the day, the rising satellite will provide fine views by night-time, though it may be low in the sky, rising at 9.48pm (from the UK aspect).

The May Full Moon is known by some as the Full Flower or Big Leaf Moon. In medieval England it would have been called the Hare Moon and later on the Milk Moon. Others call it the Grass Moon, and I and a number of latter-day Celts (and others) know it as the Bright Moon. Perhaps you have a special name for this month’s full moon?

’We are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side’. Kahlil Gibran

The full moon, having a tendency to be so bright that it ‘drowns out’ stars and planets, will, nevertheless share the sky with some of the planets that are visible to the naked eye, such as the planet Venus in the western sky. Those in the Southern Hemisphere will also get views of Venus on that night, though Venus will be lower in the sky.

For the astronomically minded, the moon will be near the cusp of the constellations of Libra and Scorpio, and near the bright, red supergiant star, Antares, some 550 light years away. With its reddish appearance that star can look very much like the planet Mars. Hence, its traditional name Antares which is derived from the Ancient Greek meaning ‘rival to-Ares’ (‘opponent to-Mars’ or ‘ant(i) Ares’).

’May you touch dragonflies and stars, dance with fairies and talk to the moon…’ Unknown

And, for those whose gardening is governed by moon folklore and/or are interested in the rural ways of yesteryear (especially, but not only of Welsh folklore), tt is generally reckoned that lettuce, spinach, grass, cabbage, cress and any leafy plant will thrive if planted now, as energy at this time goes to the leaves.

So, how will you celebrate this wonderful event?

However you mark this event, I ask for the Source of All to bless you and yours at the time of this full moon, Tadhg.

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

 

 

The Quest: A Story From The Heart(h) From Beyond The Veil

20180521 THE QUEST ANOTHER STORY FROM THE HEARTH BEYOND THE VEILIt’s a great evening here, as I sit in my garden of Tŷ Gwyn cottage, north Wales. It’s one of those evenings that, after a fine, sunny, cloudless, quite warm day for the time of year, it has now become somewhat cold, or as they say around here, ‘bracing’ or ‘fresh’.

‘Imagination is the true magic carpet.’ Norman Vincent Peale

As I sit here with a glass of good red wine on the old wooden garden table, my mind wanders and I remember former times. My stomach is full, some of that red wine is coursing through my veins, a pleasant glow seems to envelope me and my imagination is fired up, especially as my eyes seem now to be half-veiled.

As a wee lad I would gather by the hearth and listen to one of my grandmother’s stories. She was a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, Gaelic] a story-teller, and would tell me many a profound story that only now, in some respects, do I see a yet deeper layer of meaning in the retelling.

‘Lift the veil that obscures…and there you will find what you are looking for’. Kabir

As the sun sets, so in my mind’s eye I can see the past, me as a wee lad, the golden glow from the hearth, and I can feel its heat on just one side of my face, something which periodically causes me to move from the side of the rocking chair, where my grandmother is sitting, to the opposite chair. There is a satisfying and protective feeling of warmth around the hearth, and not just from the fire.

I can remember telling my grandmother, somewhat reluctantly, that I had forgotten to do something that she had asked me to do – it had slipped my mind as such things do when a child is engrossed in play especially when surrounded by the majestic beauty of valleys, lakes and streams, mountains and an abundance of wildlife, such is north Wales.

My grandmother used my forgetfulness as the basis for another story.

‘There was once a small child’, she said,‘ who lived in a palace with fine food, luxuries of all kinds and who never wanted for anything. His father was the King, his mother was the Queen, and the small child was a prince.

There came a certain day when the King and Queen told the prince of a quest they had set before him. Giving him provisions for the journey they took from him his prized purple toga and glittering white robe. They instructed him to head west and to bring them back a most beautiful pearl and he would be rewarded, but to be careful as the pearl was guarded by a ferocious huge serpent. And so, off the prince went with his two guardians.

The prince travelled far and arrived on an island, his guardians left him. He asked many questions of the locals about the pearl and the huge serpent, and as he bided his time, for he wanted the huge serpent to fall asleep, he got bored and lonely. He really missed his home and his family.

He shared his provisions with his new neighbours and became good friends with them. Why, he even started to talk like them and to dress like them. Dressing like them, talking like them, eating their strange-but-now-familiar food he forgot that he was a prince, home seemed a distant memory or a fairy tale now, and he even forgot his quest for the unique pearl.

Years went by. When their son didn’t return home the King and Queen wrote a letter to him, signed by the King and Queen and all the nobles, which was delivered to their son by an eagle.

The young man, for he had now grown up into a fine young adult, awoke with a start. The eagle spoke to him and gave dropped the letter on the young man’s bed. He read the letter and remembered that he was indeed a prince and his home were there is no want, and he remembered his quest for the pearl. The veil of forgetfulness immediately fell away from his eyes.

He manfully went about his quest, located the pearl and the huge serpent, and sang, and sang, and sang until the huge serpent fell asleep. Then he took the pearl, went back to the village, cleaned his clothes, and embarked on the long journey, eastward, to his home.

Just as he reached the city gates to his home he saw his family running to greet him, and they brought with them his favourite purple toga and his bright, glittering, white robe. As he put on his fine clothes, he thought of how many years had passed, but his over-riding emotion was of joy at being back home with his family.

Giving the King and Queen the wonderful pearl, they rewarded him with even more fine clothes, luxuries of every kind, and as promised he inherited the kingdom to rule, along with his bother.

My grandmother finished the story by asking, ‘Do you think you might be that prince, the one who forget and then remembered?’. Ofcourse, I knew the cue, nodded, and she let out a hearty laugh.

‘Awake, O sleeper…’, Ephesians 5:14a. The Book.

‘Yes, yes, yes you are, ‘she said. ‘We all are. It’s as though we’ve all fallen asleep, we’ve all forgotten where we come from, our purpose in life and where our true home is. But, some of us are now waking up, starting to remember, aren’t we?’. Again as a small boy I knew another nod was required.

And even today, many years later her story rings true.

We have all forgotten our real home, our status, our purpose, and our return. But, some, maybe I as I retell this story and you, as you read it, are getting glimpses of the truth behind the veil.

Research showed me that my grandmother ‘borrowed’ that story from the Acts of Thomas and loosely adapted it. Nevertheless, it does contain gems of truth about our origin, status, purpose and journey home, and that we currently live in a world where many have forgotten the most important thing in life. Many are asleep.

The sun has now gone below the horizon here in north Wales, and my eyes are now wide open. There’s a distinct chill in the air and its pitch black. But, it’s a wonderful evening. It’s dark. There are many walking in darkness, but not you, and not those you draw alongside. As my grandmother passed the lighted-truth onto me in that ancient-future story, so you and I pass it onto others, sometimes even without knowing it by what we do and say. The veil is lifting. Don’t go back to sleep.

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!’

(Rumi)

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 Web Of Time And You: Eyes Wide Open

20180504 THE WEB OF TIME AND YOU EYES WIDE OPENI’m back home in north Wales, and the weather at this time of day…is fresh!

Throughout my life a lot has happened, and still sometimes happens, at Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’), a rather  special and mystical part of a nearby forest. As children, I and my friends had called two arched trees in that forest, a short distance from our homes, Drws i fyd arall which means ‘door to another world’.

Such was the imagination of us as children, and an indication of the games we used to play and the effect of children’s tv sci-fi at the time. We would spend hours in play having walked between those two arched trees imagining we were somewhere else, and probably as many hours just sitting on felled logs gazing at the two trees pondering and talking with each other about what we would find if we went between them. We all had vivid imaginations as children, and we loved that area.

And, here I am, now, years later, some would say only a little bit more mature (yes, my inner-child, is alive and well), sitting on a felled log in the very early morning mist, looking at, somewhat larger versions of, Drws i fyd arall. Time flies.

In a previous article we looked at the interconnectedness of space, and that invisible, luminous web which binds us all, indeed binds everything, together, recently. The benefits of that, is that we are never alone– see here.

And now it’s the turn of time.

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
Albert Einstein

If the invisible, luminous web connects everything spatially , then what of time?

Some, and it is a modern thought, believe that time is linear, a straight line. In that scenario, the past might be seen as behind us, and the future in front of us. The present is, ofcourse, where we stand.

But, here’s a thought: suppose time is circular.

We know the seasons are governed by the movement of the Earth around the sun (a huge circle) and by the regular tilt of the turning planet on its axis. All regular, all circular, all periodic. And, the moon, too, moves around the Earth in a circle. Animals and insects procreate, live and die in cycles, circles. Trees too, as governed by the cycle of the seasons. Wherever we look, in the physical realm, circles seem to predominate. And in the spiritual, too.

The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another. Ezekiel 1.16, The Book

And, personal experience seems to infer time moves in a circle as we navigate it. I can think of instances where, months or years later, events seem to have repeated themselves. Is that the same for you? Why, then time would be a great circle that we move around, rather than a straight line. I like the idea of time as a circle.

But, maybe time is a complex circle. Things seem to repeat themselves in my life, but there is always a slight twist, a slight difference, something has changed. Not quite the same, but similar. Is that the same for you?

‘Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel’.

Dusty Springfield, The Windmills Of Your Mind

Then, maybe time is circular but there is some ‘movement’ or progression that allows the difference, so that time more resembles that toy, the coil spring-like toy that ‘walks’ down stairs – a slinky – see the banner photo. And, then that too is only a simplification. Perhaps time more resembles a three (or four) dimensional web (or slinky) that ‘shoots out’ in all directions of time and eternity, and we’re at one point or node now, and tomorrow we’ll be at a different juncture.

As I sit on his log in with the early morning mist billowing around me, I quite like the idea of time as a multi-dimensional web, because it declares time to be interconnected and purposeful, connected with us, indeed with everything, and that there is a Divine Plan.

If today, it is a tough day for you, then tomorrow as time ‘moves on’ around that circle and there’s a ‘forward progression’ in some direction, then things may be different for you. Everything changes from our viewpoint of time. Everything is as it is from that time-web point of view, and it’s good.

Also, if that time-web reaches out in all directions, then maybe our energy, well-wishes, prayers and good-thoughts can ‘travel’ that time-web in all directions? Why, from our perspective in time – where we believe the past is unchangeable and the future unwritten (or written but not knowable yet) – perhaps we can affect not only the present, but the past and future, too. Could it be that your energy, well-wishes, prayers and good-thoughts can ‘travel’ back in time from our perspective?

Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.
Max Frisch

If you are sending energy etc or praying for someone’s health today and they call on their mobile, for example, to say that they started feeling better yesterday, who is to say that your current sent-energy or prayer didn’t have a retrospective effect. I cannot but believe that the Source of All, who is both ‘in’ time and ‘outside’ time, cannot effect a change  borne on the intentionality,  energy and prayer that you, say, ‘sent’ the day (or some time) after. And, perhaps past thoughts and energy can travel from the past into the present. What about the obtaining and understanding of mythic stories?

Never underestimate the effectiveness of intentionality, energy, light and love, prayers for others, in time.

‘For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.’
C.S. Lewis

This is quite a thought and some will dismiss that idea, and I am prepared to ponder upon the idea that maybe the ‘magic’ and mystery at Drws i fyd arall is affecting me, or perhaps it’s an ‘echo’ of some kind from childhood that has been re-ignited in this place, or perhaps it is the whisper to you and I from an angel, an elemental or a genii loci, but if so, does it make it any less true?

‘We have to stop and be humble enough to understand that there is something called mystery.’ Paulo Coelho

 

In Praise Of Sister Water: A Westward Ritual

20180428 IN PRAISE OF SISTER WATERIt’s evening, and so like some I face the west in this simple ritual.

The four compass points, to many, represent the winter (north), spring (east), summer (south) and autumn (west); but in this ritual of thankfulness, north corresponds to the night, east corresponds to the morning, south corresponds to the afternoon, and west corresponds to the evening. It’s evening and so I faced west.

Ofcourse, some may suggest that a ritual of thankfulness for water is not needed, and all that is required is merely to set aside time to be thankful using thoughts alone. So simple. To me, ritual assists. In many cases ritual isn’t for some other cosmic power or elemental entity, but it is for our benefit. It is an aid to us.

How many times have I intended to set aside time for good-thoughts, and yet other events ‘crowded in’ and prevented me? How many times have ‘obstacles’ been placed in your way that stopped you from that special time of sending ‘up’ good-thoughts? How many times have our good-thoughts and prayers resembled ‘shopping lists’ or have been said at breakneck speed – we are all busy people, after all. And yet, ritual and liturgy have the power to slow us down, encourage us to ‘go deeper’, and to allow our total self, mind, body and spirit, to ‘dance’.

‘Any ritual is an opportunity for transformation. To do a ritual, you must be willing to be transformed in some way. The inner willingness is what makes the ritual come alive and have power.’ Starhawk

Never underestimate the benefits of ritual and liturgy.

No, ritual is for our benefit and important. In making that time different to other times, perhaps by wearing slightly different clothes, lighting of a candle or two, having special words that usher us into sacred time, into sacred space, we make an effort to step outside of mundane time. In purposefully doing things differently, however simple they may be, we declare our intentionality. And, that’s important. That Which I Bigger Than Us, I do believe, honours such intentionality.

The symbolism for the west, then, is water. From the UK perspective this is easy to remember as to the west of the UK is that great body of water, the Atlantic Ocean. And, so in facing west, I encouraged myself to give thanks for water.

We take water for granted, and yet 845 million people do not have access to clean water, and 2.3 billion do not have decent toilet facilities. There is not to heap guilt upon you and I, rather an encouragement to give thanks for what we have, (and later) to send out prayers or light-love or positivity etc to those who don’t enjoy fresh water, and perhaps to take a physical effort in contacting a water-aid charity to make a small difference.

‘I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.’ Matthew 25:35, The Book.

And so, I lit a candle. At the foot of the candle I had placed a small, white sea-shell representing the sea, and which contained a few teaspoonfuls of water. I gazed thoughtfully at the shell and the water; and the only thought that ‘bubbled’ up continuously was ‘thankyou’, and yet it was enough.

‘Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water who is so useful, humble, precious, and pure.’ Francis of Assisi

In front of me I had also placed a glass of cold, fresh water. I sipped it, slowly as a ritual act. Each little sip of water slid down my throat and was so refreshing. In my minds eye thoughts danced. I visualised the turbulent sea, clouds forming above it as the water-cycle played out, I recounted streams where I had walked barefoot in cool water, and times when I had got caught, unprepared, in a rain storm and could do nothing but laugh. Each sip of water produced a feeling of gratitude. With water we bathe or shower daily and are refreshed, perhaps we pour out a libation of water occasionally, and with water holiness is ‘flicked’ onto the faithful and places. It is a dynamic symbol of new life in baptism etc.

Having drank all the water, I stayed silent. In those next few moments I moved from gratitude to thinking of all those without fresh water around the world, and sent out well-wishes, good-thoughts, prayers and positivity to those in need and to relief agencies in the form of a visualised prayer to all near and far. Might you do the same in a similar ritual?

Some ten minutes later, I extinguished the candle, bowed to the west and gave thanks to the Great Supplier Of Water without whom life would cease. The ritual was over and I had left sacred space/time (or, do we ever really leave it?). The simple ritual had ended, but life goes on….because of water.

‘Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.’ Lao Tzu

 

Encountering The Òran Mór

20180226 ENCOUNTERING THE ORAN MORI’m sitting cross-legged, in a darkened room. Dark, save for one, small candle with its gentle flickering light projecting barely-seen shadows on the wall. It’s peaceful. I’m at rest.

Tonight my meditation is kataphatic – that is I’m going to use thoughts and ‘pictures’ from my imagination to be my ‘silent teachers’, and then in an unstructured way – that is non-directed, and I aim to be open to the Awen (pronounced by some as ar-wen; though I like the three syllable pronunciation, ah-(w)oo-ern), that Spirit of creativity known to ancient (and latter-day) Celts and Druids, and others (and known by various other names).

As I sit here, eyes closed, there is no sound except for the sound of the wind, outside. I’m back in London, and my small apartment is one of a few, that, like most modern architecture can be prone to ‘funnel’ the wind and create a sound – like that of a long moan. I love it. I can hear it now. The wind is blowing from the east, and it’s cold air. As I begin a time of quietness, it is nature reminding me that, even in the city, nature predominates.

My mind wanders, and I let it.

The mournful sound outside reminds me of a story I once heard when I was a child. The flickering candle light, even with my eyes closed, gently reminds me of the glow of the hearth as that story was told. My mind conjures up pictures of yesteryear, of childhood, of innocence.

My grandmother, would tell me that: In the beginning, and it varies between cultures, nothing existed. But all that is, was brought forth by a sound. Some call it the word or Word, others of a Celtic or Druidic persuasion call it the Òran Mór (some pronounce this Oran-mor, others oh-ran mohr). The words differ, but the wonderfully deep meaning persists.

Òran Mór, the Great Song or Great Music, song of the universe, was (and is) the continual love song of the Source of All, and through it everything that is, was brought into being, and continues because of the Òran Mór, my wise grandmother would say to me.

‘…while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy’. Job 38.7 The Book

Everything vibrates, my grandmother would remind me, and so everything is ‘dancing’ to the music of the Òran Mór. Then, the former was a difficult concept to understand as a child, but the latter was understandable. As a child I loved dancing. And so, Òran Mór is nature’s dance, such as a bird chirping, a frog croaking, leaves making a sound in trees when the wind blows, the sound of rain or the waterfall, our breath, a babies cry, our cells, and for those with scientific instruments to measure it, the very rocks and stars oscillate and participate in Òran Mór.

‘As you entered the world, your first independent action was to breathe, and then to make sound – the sound of your creation. Since then, each time you’ve made a sound you’ve re-created yourself’. Stewart Pearce, The Alchemy Of Voice

Oh, she was clever, if not confusing, especially to a wee lad to me, as I was then. I only partly understood then what my grandmother was saying about about the Òran Mór, but in remembering now, I can piece together much of what she said, and now understand it more so.

‘All things emanate from this Great Song of power that is spinning vibrantly through all life, from the microcosmic level of electrons, atoms…to the giant swath of whole galaxies…’, Frank MacEowan, The Mist-Filled Path

My grandmother would often ask me to listen out for the Òran Mór, as for us, it can also be heard as a barely audible whisper of wisdom, heard in nature, those ‘silent teachers’ or on the lips of others. Have you heard the Òran Mór as an audible sound, or as an inner whisper, or a paradoxical unheard ‘sound’ of inclusion that seems palpable, or through nature?

For humankind, we share in the ‘dance’ of the Òran Mór along with nature, but are blessed to acknowledge it – to be both part of it, and to ‘understand’ it (in part), objectively. In that sense our very words and singing can form part of the Òran Mór. Our breath has power. What a blessing to add to it. To be embraced by it. How important it is for us to speak words of ritual or ceremony, to speak positively to others, to utter gratitude, to sing or chant in groups or individually to nature and/or the Source of All. When we do so, we join in with the Song of the Universe, and the latter joins in with us. We become part of a magnificent cosmic symphony.

‘The Òran Mór is already within us waiting silently for the activation of our memory…The human soul enlivened with the Great Song becomes aware that it is a manifestation of the theophany of Creation…’ Frank MacEowan, The Mist-Filled Path

And so, often, my grandmother would send me out into her garden to listen. I have a feeling that it gave her time to attend to other things or to be by herself for a while, but it fascinated me – I was sent on an adventure to discover…who knows what?

When I returned she would ask me what I heard. And like the small child I was I would recite at breakneck speed, and without many pauses for breath, everything – listing the buzz of flies, the sound of birdsong, the bleat of a ragged sheep, the sound of thunder reverberating in nearby mountains, the sound of my footsteps, the sound of a babbling brook, the crack of a tree branch breaking nearby and falling from a great height, and the sound of an aircraft overhead.

‘And which of those was the Òran Mór?’, she would ask. ‘All of them?’, I would answer, hedging my bets and phrasing it as a question. ‘Ofcourse, all!’, she replied, and smiled as only she could.

I’m sitting here now in this darkened room, eyes half open, listening to my breath as those wonderful  ‘picture’ images of yesteryear disperse in my mind. The candle flame dances and splutters, as I realise that’s Òran Mór. The wind outside is howling like a ban-sidhe (pronounced bann-she), that’s Òran Mór, and as I sit here and chant then I, and you too, as you sing or chant or speak now or later, join in with the Òran Mór, and we add something valuable to the fabric of the Universe, and the Source of All joyfully sings with us.

‘And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and the loud rumbling of thunder. And the sound I heard was like harpists strumming their harps. And they sang a new song…’. Revelation 14:2-3a The Book

I blew out the candle flame. Sat cross-legged in the silence of the room, but still  hearing the howling, moaning sound of the wind outside. Yes, wherever we are, rural or urban centres, in a forest or an apartment block, we are reminded that Òran Mór is ubiquitous. It is with us now (though many would say the Òran Mór is personal, and so ‘it’ is not quite the word to use, but such is the limitation of language in dealing with major spiritual themes) . Even as you read this, rest assured that you and I, and all of creation are part of that glorious, ancient, powerful, connection that is the Òran Mór, the Great  Song.

 

Home, The Land, Energy & Us: Home As Sacred Space

20180105 HOME THE LAND ENERGY AND US HOME AS SACRED SPACE

‘The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.’ Blaise Pascal

In France there is a delightful word, terroir (pronounced tair-rwah) and it is the sum of all landscape features such as soil composition, valley or mountain terrain, crop growth habits and farming practices, that affect crops for wine growing. And, so landscape affects the taste and ‘body’ of each bottle of wine (though terroir can be applied to coffee, tobacco, chocolate, chili peppers, hops, tomatoes, heritage wheat, maple syrup, and tea). Minor landscape changes do, it seems, affect that crops outcome.

But, this isn’t an article about wine or tea etc, but about the way the land affects us, and how we affect the landscape or close environment, energetically. There is an interconnectedness, that we sometimes miss because we take it for granted or because it is ubiquitous. The landscape, or land affects us and we affect the landscape – whether we’re thinking about rural areas, urban areas or our homes.

‘The connection to place, to the land, the wind, the sun, stars, the moon… it sounds romantic, but it’s true – the visceral experience of motion, of moving through time on some amazing machine…’ Antoine Predock

In ‘A Celtic Way Of Seeing’, a wonderful book by Frank MacEowen, he talks of the eastern quadrant of the Irish Spirit Wheel, and how the energy of the hearth-keeper, the householder is evident there in a house. It is the perception of Celts, Druids, ancient tribes and those aware of the Sacred Earth.

But, if energy within a house is blocked then those in the house may suffer as they take on no energy or absorb negative energy. Haven’t we all been in places, homes or old or external places that ‘feel’ gloomy or lifeless, or places where ‘you could cut the air with a knife’?

Similarly, those who have some negativity in their psyche or ‘core’ may affect the environment or the house. Haven’t we all ‘felt’ places that seem abandoned because of negativity, a loss of interest, or an imbalance that devalues nature, the environment or a particular premises?

‘Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel…’

‘The Windmills Of Your Mind’, (Song). Written by Alan Bergman & Michel Jean Legrand.

There is an energetic circularity where an individual (or group) can affect the local environment, and in turn, the local environment (locale, premises, house) can affect an individual – either negatively or positively.

How we define or perceive that energy or power will depend on our viewpoint, but I would suggest that we, at least, think of ‘it’ as more than just an electric force-field, but as part of the loving fabric of the Universe, The Source of All, That Which Is Bigger Than Us, as having personality and more.

‘…Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ Luke 8.46b The Book

It can be a ‘downward’ spiral of energy, or an ‘upward’ of positive energy. It’s the later that I would encourage.

So for instance, how do we encourage positive energy within our homes?
How about an ‘Abundance Altar’ or space: and include a candle that you can light periodically and gaze at or perform a ritual at, and don’t forget to include representational items like a photo of some good friends (if you’re seeking more friends or deeper friendships), a small coin (for fiscal wealth), a bag of grain (for a good harvest) etc. Or use this space, when thinking of someone else’s wealth or use it to give gratitude for abundance.

‘An altar is like an airport where spirits take off and land.’ Steven Chuks Nwaokeke

A Healing altar or space for yourself or another for healing (or to give thanks for healing) might ‘lift’ your home. That space might include a candle (and yes, I do like candles so they’ll be frequent ‘tools’, and also the lighting and extinguishing of them is also good to denote entering and leaving sacred space-time). But, such spaces might include, also, the photo of a loved-one if healing because of bereavement is needed (and my encouragement even then, if you can,  is to be as positive as you can in affirming and giving thanks for that person’s earthly life), a small green plant to denote life and growth, or a band-aid to represent ‘repair’, or anything that means something deep to you.

And a…person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave… Numbers 19.18 The Book

One more? How about a Purification altar or space? This could include…yes, a candle. But, maybe a small hyssop twig (a symbol of purification), or indeed any twig, that can be dipped in a small bowl of water, and used to ‘flick’ sacred water, or burn an incense stick or a sage-stick or smudge-stuck (bundle), or place a feather on the table etc. For more ideas do see Denise Linn’s book: Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines Into Your Everyday Life.

Ofcourse these are just a few ideas – we’ll return to this idea over the next few weeks. How you use these altars or sacred spaces will depend on your background and requirements – they can be used as places to have there to energise the house, or as places to gaze or meditate upon, as places to go ‘inward’, or as places where you can perform a small ritual. There is power and potential here, so often neglected in our daily lives.

And, ofcourse, because of that connectedness, that circularity, our attitude and wellbeing also affects it – and so there is encouragement to you (and that includes me) to meditate on positive things, to read good books and poetry, and to look for the good, to give gratitude in all things. And, to remember, never to neglect the day of small things.

Our homes are an expression and an extension of our minds and hearts. Inner clutter and discord is expressed as clutter and discord in our homes.’ Frank MacEowen. De-clutter as a spiritual practice and opportunity.

 

Time To Celebrate Spring: Imbolc, Brigid’s Day, Candlemas

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMASYes, it’s that time again. The circle, the wheel of the Earth continues to turn, and nature’s cycle ushers us, once again, into spring. It’s time to celebrate. Here’s some ideas of how to celebrate the event with a meal, ritual and words (liturgy). Really celebrate!

Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Spring Flowers, St Brigid’s Cross, Candles
Colours: White, Orange, Red

Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came out from their winter dens may, it is said by some, be a forerunner of the North American idea of Groundhog Day.

For others, this time of the year is known as Brigid’s Day (a healer, whose example to us today is one of unbridled hospitability), or Candlemas, a time of rededication and purity, and the lighting of candles. Nevertheless, however you regard it, it is the first day of spring, and time to celebrate.

Meal
And because it’s a celebration, what follows are a few ideas of things you can incorporate into you main meal of the day (or other meals, as you feel appropriate).

You might like to do the whole meal as an Imbolc or Spring celebration, or just one part of it. I’d suggest the latter, especially if this is the first time you specifically celebrate the event, and in any case, it’s usually the small things that are most significant. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, expensive spread, after all it’s intentionality that is important.

pixabay imbolc bread 232On a number of occasions I’ve had a normal meal, and ‘focused’ on part of the meal to celebrate the event, and bought a special bread for after the meal. A remembrance of bread being a staple food, the Bread of life.

So, try something different, experiment by adding something to your main meal, say, that you may not usually buy.

Meal Preparation
Whether it’s a meal for yourself or a few others, too, preparation can be fun, meaningful and easy to accomplish. If you’re not usually into formality or table lay-out I’d suggest having just one or two additional elements.

Candles! I love candles, and I’d suggest the simpler the candle setting, the better. One candle, lit, on a table looks great. Go for ‘minimalist’ approach if you wish – it can, in many circumstances, make it even more meaningful.

pixabay candle ereeBecause the sun would still be low in the sky and light in the evening would be dim, and because early Romans believed candlelight would scare away evil, and because Jesus is the light of the world, candles were specifically used (for all or some of those reasons) at this time – hence in many churches they celebrate this time as Candlemas.

Later, as you gaze upon that lit candle, remember, the sun rising higher in the sky and Spring returning, new life, a ‘chasing away’ of the dark and light dawning, and ponder on growth, good things, and hope. Give thanks to the Source of All.

Nature on display! I really like those displays that contain berries and fir cones etc and they look great as a table display. Or, hwo about a small bunch of inexpensive spring flowers! Both can look great, and act as a great reminder of gratitude to the earth, to nature.

For this event, celebrate with foods that honour the earth, hearth and home, such as milk products vegetables, bread etc, and these are incorporated in the suggestions below.

pixabay man sun 4544Breakfast: Imbolc is about milk – think of baby ewes being born and their mother’s milk flowing to nurture them. It’s a time of fertility, new life. So, why not try something different, milk-wise to pour over your breakfast cereal

Whether you eat this meal focussing on Imbolc, or Candlemas, or with Brigid in mind, whether you eat it by yourself or with others, it’s a great way of remembering the bounty of the earth, all those that have been involved in bringing it to your table, and ofcourse it’s a great time of expressing gratitude to the Giver of All. Take time to ponder.

Words & Ritual
Throughout the meal, maybe between courses, or at the beginning and at the end, it’s good to pause, to give thanks. As you light the candle or gaze upon the lit candle, some may like to recite a poem or prayer at certain times. Here’s some words that you might like to use or ponder upon:

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

Or,

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 The Book

Or,

Praise to you, Oh Caring one,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
feisty, pure and natural
with your white singular unbroken focus,
Maid-Mother to us all,
praise to you.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

Finally
Do plan a great event, enjoy it, and take your time. We all rush around far too much, and here’s an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the simple, natural things in life as we yet again mark the season’s change, and give thanks.

Wishing you and yours blessings at this time of Imbolc, Spring, Brigid’s Day and Candlemas. Tadhg

 

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMAS