All About Ivy: There’s More To It Than Meets The Eye

20181117 ALL ABOUT IVY MEANING MYTH AND MAGIC

Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o’er ruins old!

(Charles Dickens)

Much misunderstood, and the subject of myth and magic in the winter season, Winter Solstice and at Christmastime, Ivy is a wonderful ‘climber’ that has a story of mystery to tell from over a millennia ago. Ivy can be viewed from a botanical point of view, as a friend of nature, and as a plant of myth and magic. And, each is fascinating and spell-binding. So…

Botanical view
Ivy grows well throughout the UK and is native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa, and can be found in many habitats including woodland, scrub, wasteland and on isolated trees. It quite likes shaded areas, and can live in all but the most dry, waterlogged or acidic soils.

Common name(s): Ivy, common ivy, Atlantic ivy, English ivy, British ivy, European ivy
Scientific name: Hedera helix
Family: Araliaceae

It is an evergreen plant so its easily identifiable leaves can be seen all the year. It flowers in September to November, and fruits ripen in November to January.

But, there’s more to Ivy than meets the eye
Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
And a staunch old heart has he.
How closely he twineth, how tight he clings,
To his friend the huge Oak Tree!

(Charles Dickens)

It is a woody climber which can grow to a height of 30metres. It has two different forms – juvenile and mature. It climbs trees, walls and building, using specialised and adapted hairs which help it ‘stick’ to surfaces as it climbs.

There are many views as to whether ivy climbing on brickwork damages the brick. It seems its doesn’t crack or damage brick but exploits any cracks and damage that were  already there – but if you have ivy on your house etc it’s best to take professional advice.

As creeping ivy clings to wood or stone, And hides the ruin that it feeds upon, So sophistry, cleaves close to, and protects Sin’s rotten trunk, concealing its defects.

(William Cowper)

But, it is not a parasitic plant, and has a separate root system in the soil and so absorbs its own nutrients and water as needed.

But, there’s more.

Friend of nature
Some may be inclined to pull ivy off a tree fearing that it will harm the tree (though in individual cases it may need to be trimmed back), but Ivy growing on trees does no harm to the tree, and, indeed, it provides an abundant supply of food for insects and birds.

Ivy is the wild lady of the greenwood; she gathers us all together, entwinning and embracing.

(Danu Forest)

Nectar, pollen and berries of ivy are bountiful during autumn and winter when food is scarce. And it provides shelter for insects (especially hoverflies, wasps and bees), birds, bats and other small mammals.  It is also an important food plant for some butterfly and moth larvae. It’s a wonderful plant.

But, there’s even more.

Myth & More
As an evergreen plant ivy (along with holly – and we looked at holly recently: please see here) was seen as an especially powerful symbol during winter, and it was brought into the house to keep negativity and evil spirits at bay.

In ancient Rome wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around ones head was supposed to prevent one from getting drunk –  unlikely, I would think  – and the Roman god Bacchus, the god of intoxication, was usually depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grapevines.

However, Ivy was also seen as a symbol of intellectual prowess, then, and wreaths were used to crown the winners of poetry contests.

That headlong ivy!
Not a leaf will grow,
But thinking of a wreath,
Large leaves, smooth leaves.
Serrated like my vines, and half as green.
I like such ivy, bold to leap a height,
Twas strong to climb! as good to grow on graves,
As twist about a thyrsus , pretty too,
(And that’s not ill) when twisted round a comb.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

In ancient Greece wreaths were also given to winning athletes, and they were also seen as emblems of fidelity, and priests would present a wreath of ivy to newly married couples. Even today it is still often the custom for bridal bouquets to contain a sprig of ivy. Ah, sometimes the old ways and wonderful traditions live on, even unbeknownst to many.

English ivy also has a tendency to travel along the ground – and who hasn’t tripped in the matted roots system as it spreads over the ground. Sometimes, if its growth is unchecked it can travel from one plant to another, binding the plants together, and this binding ability sometimes has a deeply symbolic meaning.

But, like ivy, we grow where there is room for us.

(Miranda July)

Some early versions of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, refer to the ability of ivy to bind.

Here’s the story: Tristan, a Cornish knight went to Ireland to ‘claim’ Isolde, an Irish princess, as a bride for King Mark. During the arduous journey back to Cornwall, Tristan and Isolde drank a love potion made from ivy and fell madly in love. [But, please don’t emulate them in making or drinking any Ivy concoction as it’s poisonous, and so this story is for historical and mythological study purposes only). For them Ivy ‘binded’ them together.

In some other versions, Tristan and Isolde do die and are buried in separate graves by King Mark so that even in death they cannot be together. However, in that story, an ivy vine grew out of each grave towards the other one. The ivy vines, then, met and entwined around each others body, forming a loving and eternal connection. And, even when the King Mark cuts the vines they regrow and reconnect. Wonderful story.

For ancient Celts, Druids and medieval Christians, Ivy represented peace, perhaps because of its ability to bind different plants or even different kinds of plants together. And it is for that reason I would advocate you buying and bringing in some Ivy into your house, especially at the darkest part of the year when we celebrate the Winter solstice and/or Christmas.

It’s also for the reason of peace and fidelity that many Celts and Druids of old, and today (including me when conducting a handfasting or marriage ceremony) wear holly wreaths at some events – do see an earlier article where I did just that, which included the line: ‘‘You’ve got grass on your head, mister’.

Also, during the winter solstice, in years gone by, there was a tradition of a nominated boy wearing a holly wreath, and a girl wearing n ivy crown to symbolise the different sexes, the ‘battle’ between sun and moon, between dark and the barrenness of winter and light and the green fecund world, the endless turning of the circle. Yes, the ivy is a wonderful plant full of mystery and magic, and surely has a place in our homes this yuletide.

For the stateliest building man can raise,
Is the Ivy’s food at last.
Creeping on, where time has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

(Charles Dickens)

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

20181114 TABLE TALK ONE DAY IN NOVEMBER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone asked: Do animals have souls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

Deep Calls To Deep: When The Caim Becomes Kything

20181107 WHEN THE CAIM BECOMES KYTHING

And so, they called to the Quarters. In a forested area, about thirty people, firstly, faced and addressed the east, then turned to face the south, then the west and then, finally, the north. Through ritual, through intentionality, a circle of power had been formed. A type of caim now existed.

’I live my life in growing orbits which move out over this wondrous world. I am circling around God, around ancient towers and I have been circling for a thousand years. And I still don’t know if I am an eagle or a storm or a great song.’ Rainer Maria Rilke

The circle is important. Within the circle of the caim there is power and potential: things happen. Sometimes the caim can be a physical circle in which a practical ritual takes place, usually for a group. On many occasions the caim can be used by just one person, and then the caim starts with a physical circle and then as one mediates one goes on an ‘inward’ voyage.

The caim has many uses, and have been the theme of previous articles. See here for one example.

And so, on this occasion of a solo event, I wanted to go ‘inward’ to bless someone in a special way. The way of blessing is many and varied, and usually there is no need for elaborate ritual, but on this occasion the decision the person in mind, a dear friend, was to make was so important to them that I felt I wanted to do a little more.

And so, the caim sprang to mind.

The caim can be a simple but powerful, and effective ‘circle’ ritual that moves one ‘inwardly’ to that inner sacred place, that place of communion, le pointe vierge – the virgin point, that which is at the centre of our being at a point of ‘nothingness’, untouched by illusion.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field, I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi

Many, today, for sole event caims, use a minimalist three-stage approach to the caim at least in the beginning of their caim practice. This is:

  •  making a caim and
  • using a prepared ‘set’ prayer, or liturgy, or creative visualisation, and
  • closing the caim and an act of ‘earthing’ it.

Once in that ‘inward’ meditative state, in my mind’s eye I visualised a protective ‘bubble’ around me, in a ‘sea’ of stars, unseen to others. The caim is a circle, but in three dimensions it can be viewed as a sphere, a ‘bubble’.

‘When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.’ Matthew 6:6, The Book

In that secret place I imagined this friend as outside the caim ‘bubble’ I was in, and a short distance away. And then, as I looked in that direction, to my surprise, I imagined them to be in a similar ‘bubble’. Astounding. Could it be that at times when we intend to use the caim for others, that our spirit can communicate with their spirit, and at such times their spirit (unknown to them) is also embraced with a caim, a bubble, a ‘shield’ of power and potential for them (even if they are physically unawares)?

Not wishing to be distracted from sending power, light and love to assist this friend in their impending I wondered briefly. Usually, I wouldn’t let any other thoughts distract me at a time like that, but on this one occasion I did allow thoughts to flow.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the second world war. Seeing the horrors around him, he was sustained by the loving connection he felt between his wife and himself. Though physically separated by thousands of miles, he felt a close, spiritual connection. In that concentration camp he wrote:

‘As my friend and I stumbled on for mile, slipping on icy sports, supporting each other time and time again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise’. Viktor Frankl

In that caim I saw my dear friend though many miles away, in that imaginal realm, which some may believe to be real, whilst others may believe it is unreal. I believe the former. And, my friend, too, inhabited a caim, a circle. Viktor Frankl’s experience was indeed a spirit-to-spirit presence, and I do believe that the caim can, in some cases, also be used in such a way – for spirit-to spirit encounters of the imaginal kind.

Have you ever been in someone’s company and come away knowing more about them than what they have just spoken about?

Have you felt that you have got close to someone, closer that just words have permitted, but at a soulish or spiritual level?

And, have you had the experience where you may have met someone for the first time, or perhaps have known them for some time, and just knew that words were not needed, and just basked in a knowing silence?

These are examples of the kind of encounter I’m referring to. A spirit-to-spirit, deep calls to deep, encounter. Kything?

Roger Gerard calls this kything. Kything, then, is like spiritual intuition involving another person. It is a going beyond being present to their body, emotions, mind, to something altogether deeper, more mysterious and fundamental. When you kythe you are in touch with the spirit or soul of another. Some may say this encounter is very real, others would say it is metaphorical. I believe the former. But in any case, if it is metaphorical and viewed as not real in substance , and we view the encounter as a prayer or well-wishes etc, isn’t intentionality the all-important factor here? If so, in either case is it is acceptable, and still worthwhile, and remains a powerful strategy.

Later, I continued with the caim and sent energy, light, love, power, and prayer to that person in need, seeing them in my imagination, and in a new and vital way because of this caim event.

But after coming back to physical space (but do we ever leave that sacred space/time?) and ‘grounding’ myself, and opening my eyes, I couldn’t but help think further about kything and its benefits to you and I, and will write on it further, soon.

‘With kything, you may also work through forgiveness for a past offence even I that person is no longer physically accessible, either because of…distance…or refusal to meet.’ Louis M Savary and Patricia H Berne

A Walk In The Woods: Liminality And Its Benefits. Three Stories

20181010 A WALK IN THE WOODS LIMINALITY AND ITS BENEFITS

The imagination of the Ancients taught them wisdom that is lost to many today. Ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans and others knew more than we can guess, and yet many of the practices they observed are open to us today. They were ‘connected’ in a way that is only just being (re-)discovered, and the benefits, especially as regards liminality are enormous.

It was evening and the sun was sinking behind Cadair Idris, that wonderful mountain at the southern end of Snowdonia in Wales, that I frequented a lot as a teenager. Cadair Idris means the ‘Chair of Idris’ and was the giant warrior poet of Welsh renown. But, it was the setting sun that caught my attention.

The air temperature was dropping considerably as I stood on the mountain side, and long shadows ‘overwhelmed’ me, as the setting sun took my breath away. As I gazed in its direction the sun changed colour, diminished in brightness, but it was awe that embraced me, and that was so overpowering.

‘I have a thing for doors. I always think of them as a threshold to something new’. Jada Pinkett Smith

Yes, it was a liminal moment, a threshold event, a peak experience, a door to something or somewhere else as some might describel it.

Many shy away from the word surrender, but witnessing that awesome event, with no real thought prevalent in my mind, I basked in silence, motionless at the experience. I was in awe, connected to the universe and all that is. I had surrendered to the event, the handiwork of the Source of All, and the Source of All was palpable to me in some strange, unexplainable way. And, it was good.

Indeed, a liminal experience. Just then, the thought of capturing the moment occurred and I reached for the camera hanging around my neck, lifted it, took aim and photographed that amazing sunset. At I gazed through the camera’s viewfinder my eyes welled up, as I realised that I had left that liminal moment behind. In trying to preserve that wonderful moment of connectedness, I had lost it. Gone.

It was a group event, a workshop, and the first exercise was for the group to close there eyes, and having mentioned centering, beforehand, each member of the group was asked to imagine a walk in an imaginal forest, a walk in the woods, that started in the corner of the room they were in. The forest had a defined path, it was evening and quite dark, but in the distance there was a light, and each group member was asked to, imaginally, walk towards it. The path led to a clearing, and there each member was encouraged to imagine themselves sitting on a bench in the middle of the clearing and just ‘be’. After ten minutes I asked them to journey back on the path, out of the clearing and back into the room.

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

This was the first exercise of the day and was an essential step to cover the wonderful themes on the days curriculum, but in sharing their imaginal journey, it was clear that this was, indeed, the first step of many. Some shared and described the wonderful forest they were in and related as to how, as they sat in that imaginal forest, it took them back to their childhood. Another, related how a bird’s song sounded like a mobile ‘phone and they they really must ‘phone an old friend. Another, recounted how they felt cold and a small wind was rustling leaves and wondered if the central heating was on at home, and so it went on.

The first exercise of that workshop (as it was meant to) showed how easy it is to fill our minds with thoughts – the monkey mind – when meditating or when on an imaginal journey, as that exercise was, and what could be a liminal event of ‘being’, can so easily turn into a non-liminal event of thinking or ‘doing’. We then ‘step out’ of that liminal time and so miss out, or worse, we fool ourselves into thinking that we have had a liminal event when it was only a liminoid event (a near miss, but not the real thing).

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

I was about nine years old, and my grandmother, having finished one of her amazing stories, looked at me and said, ‘It’s time for something a bit deeper, dear one. Time for an encounter’. The grandfather clocked had just chimed 7.30pm. ‘Good,’ she said, ‘No interruptions’.

She asked me to sit up, breathe regularly, close my eyes, and I did. She mentioned a few preparatory things to do, and then talked about a forest in the corner of the room, a walk in the woods, and asked me to imagine it, and to imagine that I was walking along a path. It was fun, and very easy for me to do – my childhood imagination worked ‘overtime’ at the best of times (and, still does!).

With my eyes closed, she asked me to imagine that I was walking towards a clearing, where there was a bench in the middle, upon which I was to sit, and do nothing else. I did as she asked, and in my mind’s eye saw an old stone bench in the middle of a large gap, a clearing in the trees. I approached it, and sat on it, and waited.

‘I looked for someone among them who would…stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…but I found no one’ Ezekiel 22.30 (part), The Book

A few thoughts arose, and a stirring in the undergrowth at the edge of the clearing caught my attention, but I knew that I wasn’t to hold onto these thoughts, but just let them go. I sat. Little or no grasping thoughts arose, and it seemed to get easier, and I waited patiently.

As I sat there, in that imaginal clearing, even the trees and the edge of the clearing seemed to dissolve and to become unimportant. Was I sitting or standing? No thought arose, as whatever I was, was (just) there. There was silence. There was darkness, or was it light? There was nothing.

Just then, I heard my grandmother’s pleasant and melodic voice call out to me. ‘Tadhg, it’s time to come back’, and she guided me to that path I had taken earlier. In my mind’s eye I was walking along that path and back to the room, and sat down’. You can open your eyes now, but do it slowly, little one’. She also ensured that I was ‘grounded’, and then told me to relax. I did.

She asked about my experience, but all I could say was that, during the few minutes of the exercise, nothing had happened. ‘Aha, then you encountered for sure’, she beamed.

‘Encountered what? And, why did it last only a few minutes?, I pleaded as if I had been short-changed by the experience.

‘The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough’. Rabindranath Tagore

‘Ah, those are good questions. Some believe they encounter elementals or their guardian spirit, others say that they encounter angels in silence and invisibly, and others say they encounter the Source of All. So, you did encounter Tadhg. You did’, she said. She was so pleased.

‘So, it’s like being in the company of a friend that you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t speak to, and can’t hear’, I said somewhat sarcastically, and looking a bit puzzled I think. ‘Exactly’, she replied, and laughed. ‘Exactly, so!’.

‘Then how do I know I encountered?’, I asked.

‘Well, you’ll know, you’ll just know, but usually always after the event’, she said in her lyrical Welsh accent. ‘The One you wanted to encounter is more eager to encounter you, so whether you know it or not, an encounter takes place,’ she continued.

‘What you seek is seeking you’. Rumi

Just then, the grandfather clocked chimed. It was 8pm. My grandmother gave me a knowing look! And smiled. She knew!

Even at that young age I was struck by the fact that that imaginal journey seemed to take less than five minutes, but it had, infact, lasted thirty minutes. I knew I had encountered. I knew I had experienced the liminal. Such thresholds are indescribable, take one’s breath away, affect us at a soul or spiritual level, and skew time, my grandmother later explained.

’But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.’ 2 Peter 3.8, The Book

As I look back, bearing in mind there have been numerous encounters, and I’m a regular traveller of imaginal journeys and meditation even today – I lead individuals in such imaginal journeys; both kataphatic and apophatic, but more of that soon – I often wonder, when time goes by so quickly in those sessions, what is actually happening? And at what level? Physical? Soulish? Spiritual? But, it doesn’t really matter. An encounter is an encounter, and it is beyond reason. It isn’t irrational, but ‘arational’. It is above and beyond, and it is good.

The benefits of such encounters, of which the accounts above are but one type, and there are many, are transformational. I would encourage you to undertake such imaginal journeys to encounter, and to be alone with the Alone.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to move on.

 

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

 

 

 

Let Your Light Shine: An Encouragement

20180704 LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE AN ENCOURAGEMENT NHS

‘Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.’ Og Mandino

She lit the candle, she sang a song, and then she went quiet. She gently touched the back of one of my hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to me. After several minutes she said she had concluded her prayer for me. Would the prayer ‘work’, would I be healed? Right there and then, what moved me to tears, was that she cared enough to go out on a limb, to make herself vulnerable, and be intentional for my sake. Right there and then, it was enough.

There is an old quote that I like: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes.

It translates as, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. It is said that Bernard of Chartres, some 800 years ago, used to compare us, metaphorically, to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we can see much more and much farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. Because of them.

It isn’t often that I write about a government institution, but Thursday, 5 July 2018 sees the UK’s National Service (NHS) reaching the age of seventy years. I’m never sure about the politics of other countries, when it comes to medicine, but I can only say the NHS is a Godsend, much-loved by millions in the UK, and has saved countless lives, including mine.

Happy 70th Birthday, dear NHS

On 5 July, 1948, a nervous, and very ill girl, Sylvia Beckingham, then aged 13 years, was admitted to Park Hospital in Manchester with a potentially fatal liver condition. Until then patients, apart from the few that were fortunate to gain access to the few free hospital, would have to pay. Not so, little Sylvia. She was the first ever patient to be treated on the NHS.

‘He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” The Book, Luke 10:25-37

It’s not often that I laud a politician, but Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health in 1948 is to be praised for his foresight and vision, and passion to found the NHS despite opposition by some at the time. I am so pleased he overcome that opposition.

Aneurin Bevan was born on 15 November 1897 in Tredegar in Wales. His father was a miner and the family were poor and working class, and Aneurin (or Nye) grew up in a setting that gave him first-hand experience of the problems of poverty and disease.

In his early fifties, Aneurin Bevan, on 5 July 1948, true to his ‘calling’ ensured that the government of that day took over responsibility for all medical services and there was free diagnosis and treatment for all. The NHS was born that day, because of him.

Angels walk amongst us, and they can usually be found in hospitals wearing tabards with the word ‘volunteer’ on the back or chest, or wearing white, or blue, or green.

It’s not often that I talk about my medical history, but sometimes it’s right to mention it. Oh, there was that eleven days in hospital a few months ago, which turned out to be pneumonia. Then about seven years ago it was necessary for me to undergo a thyroidectomy. And about eleven years ago I was admitted to hospital as I had oesophageal cancer. That necessitated umpteen appointments, endoscopies, CT scans, three cycles of chemo, a massive operation, and several weeks of radio-therapy. Following that were umpteen check-ups, and even voice ‘lessons’ (as part of the oesophagostomy operation meant going in through the side of my neck to ‘tie things up, and it bruised by vocal chords).

No one at any time sat me down to talk about money and payment, because the NHS was, and is, free at the point of need. I had the best service from a myriad of caring professionals, and all that was discussed were operation procedures, recuperation, follow-up and the like, with much encouragement. Four and a half years later, I received the ‘all clear’.

If it were not for others, I wouldn’t be here. I suspect that that is the same for you. If not healing via a hospital, you are here because of others, nevertheless.

It might be fairly easy to ‘look back’ and imagine ourselves as part of a family tree, the web of life, and wonder. The next step, I would suggest is to ‘look forward’, to imagine future generations, as that tree grows, and what they might look like and do, because of us; and to imagine how they might be grateful to us as they look back at us.

‘Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.’ Tim Gunn

Yes, we are here because of others, and others in the future will be here and/or affected by us because of our actions and the legacy we carve out, in our words now, our thoughts, our rituals and prayers for healing and guidance etc. Because of you. You cared, you prayed, you lit incense, you performed a liturgy, and That Which Is Larger Than Us heard, and responded.

And so for a very dear friend, I lit the candle, sang a song, and then went quiet as I meditated, visualised an ‘inner caim’. I gently touched the back of one of their hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to to the person next to me. After several minutes I said that I had concluded my prayer for them. Would the prayer ‘work’, would they be healed? Right there and then, what moved them, I believe, was that I cared enough to go out on a limb, to make myself vulnerable, and be intentional for their sake. Right there and then, I believe it was enough.

What is true for me, I believe is true for you. Follow your passion. Don’t hold back.

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ Marianne Williamson

 

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)