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

 

 

To Know The Dark…: A Thought

20180108 ENCOUNTERING THE KNOW THE DARKAnd so, having prepared the room for this ceremony – just me, this evening, I sat down on a cushion in the middle of the room. With the door slightly ajar and with my eyes now accustomed to the darkness, I could make out just a few things.

I lit the candle.

Such a small light, and yet its flickering light illuminating all the walls and the furniture in the room. And as the small candle flame flickered, so there was that ‘dance’ between light and dark. Sometimes darkness would move across part of the room, sometimes light, and seemingly in equal measure. No real competition. No angst. Just a natural interplay of light and dark, a paradox.

With the lighting of the candle I entered sacred space (and sacred time) and paused to Encounter.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again.’

(‘The Sound of Silence’, Simon & Garfunkel)

Oh, how some like the light. Oh, how some fear the dark. In many cultures and belief systems there seems to be a dichotomy between light and dark – one is liked, the other feared. And yet, ‘scratch’ a bit deeper and that dualism (so loved by the Greeks, and so (unwittingly) inherited by the West, dissolves.

Ofcourse, we can talk about being the dark, meaning ignorance; we can talk about seeing the light, meaning we now know something we didn’t formerly know. And, so in that instance it all seems easy to understand – but only because we have used light and dark in one way and as one metaphor to suit our purposes for that event. Life is much more complex. The universe is much more complex. Spirituality is…you get the picture.

The acceptance and meaning of light and dark depends on the circumstances, our use of them as metaphors, and the context. Be comfortable with ‘opposites’, with paradox.

For instance, it is in the darkness that wonderful things happen; planted seeds in the soil grow into might plants or trees, the baby in the womb is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and develops, and the Source of All moves.

‘[God]… made darkness his secret place; his pavilion… were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies’.

(Psalm 18:11 part, The Book)

It is no secret that I love the great outdoors, and being from north Wales I am well-used to expect rain and storms. Did you know in the part of Wales I hail from it rains some 330 days per year. And I love it. Cold, and damp and raining and windy….are all wonderful weather patterns to me. For some reason, I feel an Encounter more in the storm and/or the night than on a bright summer’s day when the sky is blue and there is not a cloud in sight. Indeed some of you will have read some of my previous articles where Encounters or significant events took place in forests on sleepless nights – see here for an example.

Could it be that when it is dark, wet, cloudy, stormy we aren’t distracted by the sun and the things that it encourages: sunbathing, picnicing, wonderful scenic walks – all good in themselves and to be enjoyed, but which may make deep Encountering difficult sometimes?

And so, having lit the candle, I waited to Encounter. In the darkness as well as the light, and maybe even more so in the darkness, I Encountered. With no visible distractions in that darkened room, I was alone with the Alone. And it was wonderful.

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.

(Wendell Berry, ‘To Know the Dark’ from The Selected Poems of Wendell

And then, wanting to go deeper, I blew out the candle flame. And paused for what seemed just five minutes – but when I checked afterward a full half hour has passed. In the darkness, I met the Friend. In the darkness, with no distractions, with no pre-conceived ideas or expectations, we can Encounter.

‘And the vision that was planted in my brain
still remains,
within the sound of silence’.

(‘The Sound of Silence’, Simon & Garfunkel)

 

Wisdom 2: Resources For Wisdom Day

20180105 WISDOM 2 WISDOM DAY RESOURCESThe 6 January, for some people (myself included), is associated with wisdom and the celebration of wisdom: a time to seek wisdom’s infilling, a time of gratitude, a time of pausing, reflection and meditation upon the theme of wisdom.

Here are some resources that you might like to use (and adapt as necessary) for your wisdom celebration (whether done individually, as a family or faith group etc).

Explanations precede the liturgy here, that can be said as invocations, prayers and blessings etc, but you might find that even the explanations can be recited (by the leader, or to yourself) to inform others of what is about to happen and why, and so may be beneficial.

So, here are some resources for you to use:

—o0o–

Wisdom is present throughout the universe. The Source of All is ubiquitous, and so wisdom is to be found everywhere. Indeed wisdom permeates every atom of the universe.

Wisdom calls out to all who would hear her
She cries aloud in the streets,
she shouts in the  marketplace,
she speaks in forests, mountain tops and valleys, and
she whispers to men and women, and to the children of mankind.
Wisdom calls out to all who would hear her.

Wisdom says, ‘I will pour out my spirit on you; to you will I make my ways known.’

‘When calamity strikes you, when anguish comes upon you, and when distress seemingly overtakes you, I will be there,’ says Wisdom. ‘My hand will be outstretched, and I, Wisdom can be found’.

Wisdom is better than choice gold. There is no deceit in her voice, nothing crooked in all her ways. All that you desire cannot compare with Wisdom. Wisdom says, ‘Look for me, and live’.

[With Proverbs 1:20–33 and Proverbs 8:1-11, the Book in mind]

—o0o–

A celebration or invocation wouldn’t be the same without the lighting of candles, the light of which reminds us of the elemental nature of fire, simplicity, the harking back to a former age, or focusses our minds on spiritual matters and sacred time/space. It ushers us into liminality.

And, so a candle can be lit just before you recite the phrase that relates to the earth, and then light another candle just before you recite the phrase that relates to the air, and so on as regards the other two elements. There is no rush – so do take your time, pause, and meditate (safely, with your eyes open – always conscious of fire safety), between phrases.

Wisdom from above, come to us at this time.

Wisdom of the earth, come and be the foundation upon which we stand.
Wisdom of the air, blow through us and dispel obstacles, and make way for the new.
Wisdom of fire, come and fill our hearts with wisdom that empowers and radiates.
Wisdom of water, flow through us to nurture us.

Wisdom from above, come to us at this time.

—o0o–

Perhaps, a time of prayer is called for. Below are sugestions of people and groups that you might like to pray for. If you have a form of words already for prayer you can add the following topics, and perhaps pause between each topic and think deeply and/or visualise the outcome.

However, you pray, it is intentionality that is important, so don’t worry if you don’t get it quite right (in the opinion of some).

You might like to prayer for

– the wisdom of elders, who grown older with poise, grace and dignity, and are there for others [you might know of some, and might like to name them]

– the wisdom and energy of those who seek to heal the earth [and you might say some names of individuals or charitable ecological organisations that deserve support]

– the wisdom of those who are in leadership at a local, regional, national or international level [and you might like to voice their names or the offices of leadership they hold, whether or not they maybe be your ‘favourite’ leader or politician]

– the wisdom of those who work with people to alleviate their suffering, poverty, loneliness etc [and if you know of individuals do name them, or name charitable agencies]

– the wisdom of tireless, quiet workers, who with joy spread wisdom throughout our society, in large and small ways – these may be people who are known to you, a neighbour, a school-teacher, someone who is their for you eg a family-member etc

– the wisdom of nature – of trees, animals, the elements etc, all of which are ‘silent teachers’ that  are faithful to the cycle of nature and which impart their wisdom for those willing to pause.

These are just a few suggestions – do add to them. If you don’t have a form of words for prayer then speak from the heart – and ofcourse, I hope that you would be doing that anyway. Ofcourse you are. But don’t hold back. It’s intentionality that is important, not whether you get the wording or pronunciation just right.

—o0o–

And, enjoy it, too. Be joyful. There is wisdom in joy. Blessings to you on Wisdom Day, Tadhg.

 

 

 

Wisdom 1: Wisdom…She Cries Out

20180104 WISDOM 1 WISDOM SHE CRIES OUTWe live in an age of scientific marvels, a time when knowledge seems to increase by leaps and  bounds. I’m told, knoweldge-wise it could be said that we have ‘discovered’ more in the last thirty years than in the three thousand years before that. Phenomenal. And, yet in all of this surfeit of knowledge there is, in some, a nagging disquiet. Mae mwy, as they say in Wales, ‘there is more’.

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

In our rush as a society to obtain knowledge perhaps we have lost something vital that some are only now (re-)discovering; the wisdom of the elements, of simplicity, of encounters with the Other (that some call the Source, the Word, God, or Spirit). And, we are indebted to those who show us alternative ways of being, however strange and different such ways are. It is when we encounter such ways that we understand and  value deep wisdom.

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

The young man was at the end of his training, soon he would go on to be a teacher. Like all good pupils, he needed to challenge his teacher and to develop his own way of thinking. He caught a bird, placed it in one hand and went to see his teacher.

‘Teacher, is this bird alive or dead?’

His plan was the following: if his teacher said ‘dead’, he would open his hand and the bird would fly away. If the answer was ‘alive’, he would crush the bird between his fingers; that way the teacher would be wrong whichever answer he gave.

‘Teacher, is the bird alive or dead?’ he asked again.

‘My dear student, that depends on you,’ was the teacher’s reply.

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

It has been said that knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data that you have learned about or experienced. It’s being aware of something, and having information. Knowledge is what we acquire through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience. The old Gaelic word for this would be fios – pronounced ‘fis’.

Wisdom, however, is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to your life. It’s the profound ability to apply that knowledge to the greater scheme of life. It’s also deeper; knowing the meaning or reason; about knowing why something is, and what it means to your life.The old Gaelic word for this would have been eolas – pronounced ‘oh-lass’. In Welsh it would be called gwybod, pronounced ‘goo-bud’

We may be content with just knowledge, believing it to be sufficient, but as individuals, groups and as a society as  whole, wisdom in much needed, perhaps more than ever today.

‘Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks…’ Proverbs 1: 20-21, The Book

For some, 6 January is a day associated with wisdom, and tomorrow we’ll look at resources that you might like to consider using or adapting to suit your requirements as you consider celebrating the wisdom of the universe, this vital Source-given, ubiquitous ‘resource’.

‘In the beginning all creatures were green and vital. They flourished amidst flowers,’ wrote Hildegard of Bingen in her praise of the greening power, the Veriditas of God

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

 

 

The Saining Ritual For New Years Night

20171229 THE SAINING RITUALIt’s coming up to the end of the year, and the new year is just around the corner. This time of year always brings back fond memories for me, and one of the most vivid and joyful is that of the ritual of the sain.

And so, the hallway grandfather clock ticked loudly, in its countdown to midnight, as the old year passed away. All of us had gathered there, and waited.  My grandmother came out of the kitchen. In one hand she held a few twigs of juniper that had been soaked in water (and shaken to remove the excess water), and in the other she held lightly smoking juniper twigs to ‘smudge’ each room.

It was a family custom and one held by many in Scotland and Ireland, and quite a few in north Wales. Saining, or blessing was an old ritual, done especially at this  time of the year. In it we each ‘saw’ out the old year and ‘saw’ in the new, asked for blessing and protection for the upcoming year, and came together as one. It was a happy event.

And then the grandfather clock juddered, gears and cogs deep inside it ‘whirred’ and then it chimed midnight. With some reverence we walked, following my grandmother around the house. At each room my grandmother would open that room’s door (and leave it open), shake the juniper with water on it, say the (shortened) sain blessing (see below), allow the smoking juniper to let off its fragrance in that room (and, maybe give those twigs a bit of a shake), and then move onto the next room, as we all followed.

In each room , including the hallway and toilet, the ritual was the same, and the sain (or blessing) was spoken and repeated:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front,
The sain put by Mary on her Son.

And then, at about ten minutes after midnight we would be at the front door. That door would be opened, as we all stood outside, and the final sain ritual would be said. The person who had performed the ritual would imbibe a small glass of whisky, and in our family everyone else would then follow suit.

And then it was over. Talking and singing of that wonderful song ‘aud lang syne’ would probably take place, maybe accompanied by another glass of whisky for all, or we would all go back inside the house for more revelry (and probably a closing all the doors now as the new year had been ‘invited’ in, and each room had been blessed), and we wanted to keep warm

Happy times to remember; and a great ritual to perpetuate.

Saining is a old Scottish, Gaelic, Celtic word for blessing, protecting or consecrating, the word (or similar) is also used in Ireland and Wales.

Traditionally saining rites, done at the stroke of midnight, involved water, and/or ‘smugding’ with juniper twigs, and moving from room to room (and maybe field to field), and/or the recitation of a prayer or poetry. This role might primarily fall to the lady of the house, but that wasn’t always the case. Flexibility rules the day, here. The ritual might conclude with the person performing the rite opening all the windows and doors in the house to ‘let our the old (year) and let in the new (year) and might involve imbibing just a small glass of whisky. The ritual was varied and might not include all of the aforementioned, but it was always an occassion that all looked forward to, and was quite joyful, with all the members of the family following the one performing the ritual around the house etc.

So, this new years night, how about performing a sain in each room of your house – don’t forget the hallway or the ‘smallest room’.

You can use the abovementioned paragraphs as a template but do vary it to suit your needs: instead of ‘smudging’ with juniper twigs you might light a candle or use a scented joss-stick; instead of whisky, you might use fruit juice; you can use the saining invocation used by my grandmother (or the longer version , below, or choose something else relevant to your faith or belief or write something yourself. Enjoy it, and make it a memorable occasion as you celebrate the end of one year and the start of the new year.

The prayers used by many of old in this ritual are Christian-based, a historical/family fact, but they can be adapted or replaced; and indeed have been successfully adapted and replaced and used by friends of mine of other faiths and beliefs – and so whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Druid, Pagan etc, I would suggest the ritual of the sain to you as a wonderful ritual for you and/or your family and friends at this time of the year.

Ofcourse, saining doesn’t only have to be done at the turning of the year. It could be done when moving into a new apartment or house, on the anniversary of moving in, or maybe once or twice a year as you feel it’s appropriate to bless a place, or invoke protection or if you want to ‘lift’ a place energetically. Try it. Enjoy it.

Enjoy. Blessings of the Sain be to you and yours, Tadhg

Note: The complete version of the Sain, invocation of for protection and blessing, is as follows:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
Sain from death, sain from wound,
Sain from breast to knee,
Sain from knee to foot,
Sain of the three sains,
Sain of the five sains,
Sain of the seven sains,

From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
Sain of the seven paters, one,
Sain of the seven paters, two,
Sain of the seven paters, three,
Sain of the seven paters, four,
Sain of the seven paters, five,
Sain of the seven paters, six,
Sain of the seven paters, seven
Upon thee now.

From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front.

Be the helmet of salvation about thine head,
Be the corslet of the covenant about thy throat,
Be the breastplate of the priest upon thy breast,
To shield thee in the battle and combat of thine enemies.
If pursued, oh youth, from behind thy back,
The power of the Virgin be close to succour thee,
East or west, west or east,
North or south, south or north.

(Sain, From the ‘Carmina Gadelica’)

Preparations For Winter Solstice 2017: Prayer For Winter Solstice Sunrise

20171215 PREP FOR WINTER SOLSCTICE PRAYER FOR SUNRISEYes, the winter solstice (Alban Arthan in Welsh) draws ever closer, and over the last couple of articles we’ve looked at (song and then liturgical) resources that you might use (or adapt) for yourself, or your family, friends or faith group as you consider celebrating this wonderful time of the year. Here’s another resource – a prayer of gratitude to the Winter Solstice-Giver, that you might like to consider using on the actual day of the winter solstice.

Prayer For the Winter Solstice Sunrise

Standing. Recite, facing south:
In this time when it is darkest,
we offer gratitude for all that was and is,
and for all that is about to be born in secret.

Recite, facing west:
In this season of expectation
we draw near in unity and peace for all,
to offer praise and worship to the Spirit of all.

Recite, facing north:
At this intersection of time and space
when Heaven touches Earth,
we look forward in anticipation and hope
to the year ahead.

Recite, facing east as the sun rises:
Yea, Lord, we greet you,
born this happy morning.
Sun of Righteousness, who brings the day and gives light,
testifies to birth, and re-birth in our hearts.
I/We welcome you.

Blessings, light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg.

The Enchantment Of Snow: Tadhg’s Journal

20171211 The Enchantment Of Snow Lessons From Frozen PrecipitationComing down the stairs, with my eyes looking at my feet so as not to trip, I blended in with a myriad of other people beside me, in front of me, and behind me, all intent on leaving the underground station as quickly as possible. It was dark, it was damp, and dreadfully cold. It was Sunday evening, 10 December, and it was snowing in London – the first snowfall locally for the winter (apart from a five minute ‘snow storm’ last week). It had been rumoured that even the fountains at Trafalgar Square had frozen, so I heard.

Now at ground level, and at the exit barriers, for a moment, I was lined up with half a dozen other people who looked as though they were just about to run several furlongs in the 2.40 at Haydock Park. And then we were off. Through the barrier and homeward bound.

‘Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.’ Andy Goldsworthy

The street was busy. So many people.  Traffic noise blared. Traffic lights seemingly overly bright, glared; and the snow-laden wind howled and caught us all by surprise as we turned the corner. Gasps could be heard as a bitter and raw wind hit the face of an unsuspecting people. In the distance the Salvation Army, in their favourite annual spot, just outside the pub, could be heard singing Carols to a moving sea of people who seemed not to notice them.

The snow underfoot had become ice and my pace slowed, not wishing to fall and crack a rib as I had done this time last year.

I know, for many, snow can be a nuisance, but for me, right here, right now, it was amazing. I love it, and admit to having let my inner-child run loose. But, please: don’t stop me know. Nature in all it’s glory had bathed the city in a white dress as only nature knows, and it was pretty, it was awesome, and inviting. But, an invitation to what?

In the middle of the park, I stopped. And yet, as I remained motionless, I had the perception of moving.

The falling snow, caught in the yellow street lamps that were in a line at the path’s edge, looked like twinkling, falling stars. And, in a horizontal wind, the snow passed my face to the left and to the right, and it felt as though I was moving and tit was stationary.

Without moving it seemed as though I had stumbled into unfamiliar and alien territory. I felt like a stranger, lost, and unable to recognise any familiar landmarks around me.

Silence descended. The traffic noise seemed a million miles away, and the neon traffic lights’ glare seemed like lights shining below the horizon, and the hustle and bustle of people rushing to get home was now a distant memory. All was still.

‘The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?’ J B Priestley

Mechanical time had given way to another perception of time that seemed to flow and yet not flow. A still point. It was nature’s dance and I was included. ‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and (yet) there is only the dance’.

Could I, indeed, be moving through an unchartered part of space, a field of stars? Should my intention be to ‘bodily go’, or was that happening anyway?

Had I entered some kind of liminal access point, a ‘thin place’, a portal to another realm, unknowingly?

Had I stepped back in time? Certainly childhood memories of playing in the snow flooded my thoughts. Wonderful memories!

Had I stepped out of our world, into some altogether much more expansive , connected and mysterious?

‘A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky -unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.’ Susan Orlean

Was my imagination running riot – that faculty that children wonderfully indwell and many adults rarely visit. Was this the key to this odd out-of-time event?

I wanted to analyse, research, detail what was happening, but knew that had I done so I would have been catapulted back into mechanical time, and so I just revelled in this fleeting experience and enjoyed it. Have you encountered this? Have you encountered?

‘Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.’ Anonymous

And then, without any apparent reason, I was back. Back from where?

People seemed to appear as if from nowhere, traffic noise seemed louder now, lights brighter, and I saw where I was:  in the middle of snow-laden Parson’s Green on a cold, dark, dismal, snowy December evening.

I started to walk, albeit slowly, but roughly keeping apace with other people around me, thinking of what I would cook for dinner that evening, what presents I would buy, and who I had to telephone. Yes, I was back in the realm of mechanical time. And yet, in the back of my mind was the memory of that encounter, that place, that still point ‘of the turning of the world’.

We are all ‘edge-walkers’, straddling two realms (and possibly more). Someone once said, ‘Seek and you will find’, and that is so. Don’t look at the world except with physical eyes and ‘physicality’ is all you will see. Seek and delve a bit deeper, and the world opens up to us all, into an altogether mysterious and more wonderful place, and at this time of the year, ‘thin places’  and ‘magic’ abounds…if we seek them.

 

A Storm Is Headed Our Way: Tadhg’s Journal

20171207 Storms And Us

A Storm is heading our way. Storm Caroline is battering Britain, and the ferry services between Oban and the Isle of Mull, and Mull to Iona have been suspended. Radio bulletin

One of the things I like about London is the museums and art galleries, and cafes, and the exhibitions it hosts, and especially the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit. So many stands, and so many wise and wonderful people, and not a wrinkle in sight (on many of the exhibitors). I have a confession: I avoid those who have ‘answers’ and yet have no wrinkles and scars. It’s just me, perhaps, but I wonder what they have in common with me. I mean, their life is so blessed and worry-free?

When I’m staying in London there are a number of churches (and I’m not anti-church, as they are great institutions) that are nearby. But, I find it difficult to join in with many of them, as they all seem to have problem-free lives, and that bears little resemblance to my life at the moment.

Ah, when I was younger, I used to love reading those Superman comics (and I even had a deal with the local shop: if I bought three comics, read them and returned them in mint condition, then I could have a fourth one, free of charge!). Supeman, then was ‘immune’ to any kind of injury and you always knew he would triumph. And, even at that young age I realised that he had little in common with me.

Here is my confession, yes, another confession in just the space of a moment or two: I am not immune to the ‘storms’ of life. In my relatively short life I have been a single-parent family and am immensely proud of my two sons, have been a cancer patient and subsequent survivor by the grace of God (working through the wonderful NHS in the UK), a thyroid patient, had a year-long dreadful reaction to precscribed medicine and got through it, fell down and cracked two ribs a couple of years ago and healed, and now I’m facing a ‘storm’ over the administration of my late-Dad’s house, when it could have gone so well but for ‘forces’ beyond my control. It is tough going, and there are no easy answers.

I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship. Louisa May Alcott

It’s for that reason that I like stands at the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit with ‘real’ people on them, people with wrinkles or scars, or a ‘tough’ life-story to tell. I love genuine people. People, who like me, have and are facing life-storms. I like churches where I know the people admit their flaws and still have hope. Authentic people. Wonderful. And I like that story, where the Source of All, who was perfect, took on the shell of humanity and even though perfect died a messy death (and overcame it, demonstrably). Life, seemingly snuffed out, comes back more ‘alive’ than before. Love wins.

And it’s one reason I like those who call themselves Druid. In latter days it used to take forty years to become a Druid, and so feasibly you would never meet a Druid or Druidic leader under the age of about 60. They would have lived life to the full, known a few ‘storm’s and have a few wrinkles on their countenenace. Awesome. Ofcourse, for many groups it doesnt take forty years now, but I ‘warm’ more with older Druids in leadership because of their experiences

‘Storms make the oak grow deeper roots’. George Herbert

It has been said our response to challenges and negativty can go one of two ways: make us better or bitter. In my current stortm – and I cannot tell you how excruciatingly emotional and draining it is – I am choosing to use the painful experience to be better. This ‘storm’ is temporary. It won’t last. It will not bring me down to respond negatvily. I choose to learn from it. And, it is teaching me that I am surrounded by a myriad of supportive family and friends, and that is an amazing comfort.

‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.’ Vivian Greene

Perception is important. I might look at the ‘externals’ only, and I see painful events. But, I know I need to read what I have written here previously, and look deeper. For then, whether I can see it or not, or experience it or not, I know that things are not what they seem, and good is coming out of this. Love prevails.

‘Storm Caroline will last approximately 48 hours and move eastward’. Radio broadcast.

If you’re going through a ‘storm’ now, I wish I could wave a magic wand and rectify things. But, I am with you dear bother/sister for this journey albeit rough right now, and though we might weep now, we will laugh together tomorrow and through eternity. And, we have the Companion with us. Something now, somehow, is being wrought out of the present ‘storm’.

Meanwhile, there are no easy answers. Perhaps, there aren’t meant to be any easy answers, but that we are changed for the better (whether we know it or not) in the process, and there will be a time (perhaps in the next realm) where it will all make sense. Love prevails.

‘And the one sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:5, The Book