Yes, the winter solstice draws ever closer and occurs on Sunday, 22 December. In Welsh Druidic and Celtic tradition the name of this season’s festival is ‘Alban Arthan’, Welsh for ‘Light of Winter’. I love the winter!
Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.
Below, there are a couple of resources, liturgies – one more inclusive, and the second, perhaps, more ‘Christian’ (but both, hopefully, can be adapted for your group or personal use). They are liturgies (or, enacted poems) of gratitude to the Winter Solstice-Giver.
‘Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of power they carry.’ Joyce Meyer
I love liturgy. Not only can words cause us to pause and think deeper, but the words of liturgy can have an even more beneficial effect.
Words have power.
With a word all that is visible and invisible was created and is sustained. With a word we make life-long promises to each other. Through the words of liturgy we can be ‘transported’ to, and dwell within the realm of the liminal, that ‘gap’ between Here and the Other, that ‘ thin place’, a place of power and potential, where things happen, and where we can be changed.
‘The magic of words is that they have power to do more than convey meaning; not only do they have the power to make things clear, they make things happen.’ Frederick Buechner
Liturgy can have a greater and more far-reaching positive effect that we can possibly imagine as your thoughts, intentionality and energy affect the web of connectedness. So, use your words wisely, but do use them – and the following resources may be of use to you.
In each case below that ‘starting point’, the way you are facing (and I know individuals and groups have their own preferences and so ‘starting points’ can be changed if you so wish, but the initial ‘starting point’ is used, below, so that the final cardinal point you face is east, the direction of the rising sun. Clever, huh?).
Liturgy #1 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, Source of All, we greet you,
born this happy morning.
Sun of Righteousness, who brings the day and gives light,
and who testifies to birth, new birth and re-birth in our hearts.
I/We welcome you.
You might also like to consider the following
Liturgy #2 For the Winter Solstice Sunrise
For this you will need five Candles (Advent-style with candle-holders or tea lights). The candles can be lit five days before Alban Arthan or Christmas day, or sequentially on the day of the Solstice, that is at one event, sequentially lit.
The following may be recited as the first candle is lit:
All: We walked in darkness, but you showed us the light. We pray for those (individuals and nations) that walk in darkness, that they, too, may see the light that shines in the darkness, and rises (like the wind) in the east. (Based on Isaiah 9.2)
The following may be recited as the second candle is lit:
All: The light shines in the darkness, still. And the darkness did not comprehend it. We give thanks for the light continues to shine and guides us on the right path as the sun that shines in the noonday, the southern sky. (Based on John 1:5)
The following may be recited as the third candle is lit:
All: You are the light of all that is, and indwell all of creation, so that we, too, let our light shine. We seek ways to live out that light in our life, in service to all as water flows through the land to the western sea. (Based on Matthew 5:14)
The following may be recited as the fourth candle is lit:
All: There will be no night there, because Your light will illumine us. We praise you for that great promise of light as we stand firm with our feet on the earth, looking to the north. (Based on Revelation 22:5)
The following may be recited as the fifth candle is lit:
All: Light from Light Eternal, Spirit incarnated this happy morning, we greet you. (Based on a carol, based on ancient sacred text)
You might like to personalise the liturgy and add peoples names, or the names of countries or towns or places in need. There is a need for the light of wisdom to be established in the world, to bring up the plight of humankind’s damage to nature and the climate, to ponder injustice etc.
Wishing you and yours the abundant love of The Friend at the time of this wonderful season, Tadhg,
‘Your words become your world.’ Nadeem Kazi
The season of winter is upon us and almost half way through. And, Winter Solstice approaches. And, I love it. The cold, the dark, the freshness of it all, and hopefully, some snow. This time is a liminal time, a time of myth and ‘magic’, and so my encouragement is for you to pause, draw aside, use your imagination, and let those ancient whispers from yesteryear permeate your very being.
Poem and video follows.
As you contemplate the season, join a group or arrange something by yourself to celebrate the Winter Solstice (called Alban Arthan in Welsh, ‘the light of winter’) you might find the following poem – penned a few years ago by myself – an aid to your meditation, or you might use it as liturgy.
The poem is followed by a video link to Seattle Unity Church who used the poem last year, and so you can hear the poem read by Scott.
Winter solstice approaches.
The day is over, and night comes early.
Orion is higher in the sky now,
and imaginations are unshackled.
Above us the gods of yesteryear move across the heavens.
The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.
The silvery December moon rises
and the face that smiled upon the Birth,
of yesteryear, also smiles on us.
Above us Rhiannon advances.
The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.
Wise ones seek the Truth,
and beings of light, lit their Way.
Angels? Fae? The Watchers? Elementals, The Others?
And, about us unnamed, invisible Companions guide us still.
The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.
We dance together in the dark,
as the Circle turns, and yet
we dance joyfully and with purpose.
We celebrate the season, that is.
And, around us, in the darkness
we ‘see’ the Friend at work.
The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.
And yet in the darkness,
there shines a Light.
And, in remembrance, we light this festive candle
to the Sun of Righteousness.
And, we declare to all, near and far;
peace and hope, light and love
be to you and yours.
Now, and forever more.
The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.
Winter solstice approaches.
My friends at Seattle Unity Church read the poem as part of their Christmas celebration last year, and if you want to hear it read (extremely well by Scott, starting some forty seconds into the video link) – highly recommended – please click here.
The blessings of this awesome season be to you and yours, Tadhg.
At the time when the world seems to come alive, at Christmas time, when the glare of neon fills the shops, ‘tumbles’ of out the tv in the shape of even more ‘over the top’ tv adverts, and store music seems altogether louder, this time of the year can make some people, the bereaved, those celebrating anniversaries or Christmas alone, feel even more lonely.
“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.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
I’m not convinced, and it’s a personal thought, that many of those people want to be continually despondent, and they do acknowledge the gaiety of the season around them, it’s just that they may need some acknowledgement of their deep feelings and need for someone to hold space for them, and the ‘Night Of Long Shadows’ service may be the vehicle to assist them. See here for the #1, earlier article.
I had hoped to organise such an event this year, but the response has been somewhat low (and there are a number of understandable reasons for that) and many churches already had their programs arranged.
Relevant to you? Read on.
Nevertheless the following may be of use to you in planning a group event, or an event for yourself – you can still benefit, I believe, from the article, even if it’s to offer one-to-one comfort to a bereaved person. You might be just the person the Universe, ‘That Which Is Bigger Than Us’, The Source uses tomorrow?
So, what follows are thoughts about the shape of such a service, a plan with suggestions, that can be downsized and adapted if it is for a ‘solitary’ event with one person, or ‘up-scaled’ and adapted should there be a dozen or more people attending. Notes are included as to the rationale behind suggestions.
‘And when the stream that overflows has passed,
A consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory;
Images and precious thoughts that shall not be
And cannot be destroyed.’
The following, then is an idea:
The environment might be one of subdued lighting. A few candles could be lit to welcome people, and project an other-worldly setting for a sacred-space, liminal encounter. Welcoming and being made comfortable is all-important.
If it’s for a group, then the celebrant would remember their two key roles. Firstly, to explain at the beginning and as the service progresses what is about to happen, to put people at ease, and so there are no unwelcome surprises. Secondly, to be sympathetic to those attending and to encourage them in their grief to participate and so benefit. They are, ofcourse, our primary concern, and some maybe want to just sit and watch – but they too are benefiting.
The atmosphere and tone of voice by the celebrant should reflect the occasion – one of a welcoming tone to draw alongside the bereaved person(s) and yet celebrating the life of those who have passed-on, but without any ‘over-solemnity’. Be natural, be understanding, be yourself.
In such an event we move from ‘clock time’ into ‘sacred-space’ time. Liminality ushers us into an altered state. This may sound jarring to some, but it just means we acknowledge that we have gone, and are going deeper into the real meaning of things – and similar happenings occur when we witness a christening, a wedding or major event. It’s a ‘magical’ time. We move out of the mundane, into the sacred.
‘Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in the snow…’
[Mary Elizabeth Frye]
Music, particularly background music can assist us, to ensure our souls to ‘fly’, and move us into that liminal state where things happen. Music takes us deep(er). For me, I love Taize chants which have profound words and amazing harmonies (but if you didn’t want words sung or specifically Christian words sung, then Taize instrumentals are amazing (and a long sample of that can be found here).
The nature of this service is to ensure the group know what to expect, and to know what is expected of them, but to keep them in the ‘moment’, and so some forethought of what happens next and how to announce i,t and introduce it are important. Here, ‘unhurried’ is my favourite word.
At the very end of the event, musicwise, as it is Christmas time, as people file out, perhaps a seasonal song could be played. A moving ending such as ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ by Enya (see here) is a wonderful finale. For those wanting an instrumental version only, the Piano Guys have a wonderful version [here].
It could be that some might want to share anecdotes about their loved-ones. They should be encouraged. No one should feel coerced or forced. Gentle invitations to share can be given, and accepted, even if some get tongue-tied, tearful or use words that we might feel inappropriate. The bereaved person needs to be heard – this is their time – and all are accepted.
‘I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when [the] day is done.’
[Helen Lowrie Marshall]
At some point early on some might like to display photograph copies of their loved-ones on an altar or table for the duration of the service. They would need some advanced noticed to bring copied photographs, and copies are best for fear of original, old, memorable photographs getting damaged or lost.
Also, if pebbles and chalk is available, some might like to write their loved-ones name on a pebble at some time during the event, and place it on the altar or table. The memorial stones or pebbles are a wonderfully profound idea. Or messages or loved-ones names could be written on post-it notes and displayed.
Getting the balance just right is important. Feelings with be raw in some people, and need to be expressed – and yet the event should not be without hope.
Several things spring to mind. Interspersed throughout the event comforting readings can be made, and read out by pre-arrangement, so ensuring that you have a few people who can assist you is important. Such readings could be from sacred text or uplifting poems, the kind used throughout this article.
Silences will abound, and these can be cathartic, so never be in a hurry to fill them with words or music. Yet, be sensitive, and do move the event on if it feels right.
By prearrangement it might be best, to have several people primed and able to sit alongside, or move to those who become tearful.
Comforting words, could be used:
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ John 14:1-3
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30
One of my favourite uplifting poems (and it can be adapted) is by Henry Van Dyke, entitled ‘I am standing by the seashore’.
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;
“Here she comes!”
Other comforting words can be found in the writings of Seneca, ‘In the presence of death’; ‘No man is an island’ by John Donne; ‘The unknown shore’ by Elizabeth Clarke Hardy etc
Ofcourse, the abovementioned is but an outline, and will need adapting for a larger group or for yourself, if you want to celebrate the life of a loved-one at this time, in a solitary manner. Adaption and sensitivity is important.
Perhaps the final corporate act would be closing music, as mentioned earlier, proceeded by an announcement to those that wish to stay, to stay for refreshments and conversation, are encouraged to do so. As regards the latter it would be good to have several mature and sensitive people on hand to draw alongside those taking up the offer of refreshments, and to engage in polite conversation. For some attending, even that, may be too much. But some may welcome it. Additionally, it might be good to have other people available that could go deeper still, only if requested, and then comforting words and prayer can be offered.
Even then, it is imperative for those on hand to know their role is to hold space, to draw alongside the bereaved person, and that listening is absolutely necessary. Many of those who are bereaved will appreciate you and others listening to them. Our role is not to ‘fix’ people, but to be there for them.
‘Grieve for me, for I would grieve for you.
Then brush away the sorrows and the tears.
Life is not over, but begins anew,
with courage you must greet the coming years…’
I love this time of the year. It’s getting much colder – below zero degrees Celsius in London, and the nights are getting longer. Sunset is now much earlier – about 3.55pm in London (and 3.44pm in Scotland) and over the next couple of weeks the sun will set a few minutes earlier as we move towards the Winter solstice.
My ‘inner child’, never very quiet, goes into ‘overdrive’ at this time of the year. The veil between Here and There, The Other ‘thins’; it’s a liminal time; the nights are longer and stories abound – but in many cases we call them evening movies on tv.
It’s a time of myth and story, of ‘earthy’ food, and drink, and revelry; of communion with families and others; and whether we believe wholeheartedly or ‘romantically’ in the fae, elementals, angels, woodland myths, those ancient stories of the Christ-child etc, no one can deny that this is a ‘magical’ time of the year, a profound season when we remember great events, and pause, ‘look up’ and gasp in awes at all that is!
With that in mind, some time ago I wrote the following poem:
Into the void
His word went forth.
What was not. Is!
Light and life accompanied His utterances
and in response, nature danced in the song of creation.
He formed the man of clay, and the woman who is the mother of all life.
And they, too, danced in the light of the morning.
Night has now come, and is far spent,
and the man and woman crane their necks and gaze upwards.
And their words go forth into the vacuum, that is space.
‘Is anyone out there? ‘.
Out of the void another sound is heard.
This time, a baby’s cry echoes in some dim and dusty street of old.
And in the darkness of the world, words of hope are once more heard.
‘My children. Did you think I would leave you as orphans to stray in the night?
I am with you, evermore! ‘.
Wishing you and those whom you love bright blessings of this wonderful season. Tadhg.
Praying for those who died in London on Friday, for their families and friends, and for first-responders and brave members of the public.
And so, my two guests arrived for an ‘at home’ at my place in the centre of London – a small, informal dinner cooked by me for them as they celebrated their first wedding anniversary. I had officiated at the handfasting sometime back so it was good to see them again, this time for a meal.
What follows is a journal entry of an evening of ‘myth and magic’, of touching ‘That Which Is Larger Than Us’, and of our growth, maturity and transformation.
‘What if the task is simply to unfold, to become who you already are in your essential nature—gentle, compassionate, and capable of living fully and passionately present? How would this affect how you feel when you wake up in the morning?
Alistair and Aideen arrived promptly that evening (a few days ago) and over the starters we all talked about our previous week’s workload, life in general and got to know each other more. There were laughs and smiles, and more. ‘Mae mwy’ as they say in Wales, ‘there is more’. There is always, and much more for the open-minded, intentionally adventurous, and the curious.
Yes, liminality descended.
Liminality is that state of ‘inbetween’ or crossing over. Imagine it as a doorstep or a bridge between Here and There, between us and The Other. It can be those times and events when we see a sunset and it takes our breath away, we witness a baby’s unfocused smile and our soul leaps within us, or it can be times of fellowship with each other when ‘something’ seems to be changed and we are ushered into a different state of being – one that we just accept, as the more we think about it the more we ‘slip’ out of it.
Yes, communitas arose.
Liminality also can bring about a state called ‘communitas’. Communitas according to Victor Turner is a relatively structureless sense of group identity and being (large or small groups) which is based on relations of equality and solidarity.
As we talked and laughed, liminality descended and communitas arose, unplanned by us, but expected and greatly felt. Transformation is constant, but without understanding it, for a short while we all moved into a ‘higher gear’, such is liminality that moves us from chronological time into sacred-space.
As we ate, talked and laughed we shared stories, and I shared some quotes, too, to guide the evening is towards a meditative outcome, slowly.
‘Every day, sometimes when I am doing my meditation practice and sometimes when I am working at my computer… or sharing a meal with friends, I turn my attention to my breath and visualise myself on some inner plane of the imagination turning my face toward That Which Is Larger Than Us – the Great Mystery.’
The main course was still about twenty minutes away, before it was ready and the conversation turned to meditation and The Great Mystery. I mentioned the concept of apophatic mediation. Both Alistair and Aideen expressed an interest, and within a few minutes (as it was an ‘at home’ and not a workshop) I outlined that way of meditating, and suggested the best way forward was to try it for, say fifteen minutes.
Apophatic mediation is a ‘tool’ or a way of mediating, of going deep into The Great Mystery, of touching our ‘inner core’ through the use of no thought, no ‘pictures’, no dialogue (that is the opposite to kataphatic meditation and visualisation techniques).
And so, as we sat still, my guests closed their eyes, breathed slowly. Background music played – Om chanting by monks, at 528Hz. For some, especially those new to this form of meditation it may be best to use ones imagination of walking from where you are into a forest which is ‘next door’, and walk deeply into at as the forest gets darker, and then jettison the ‘picture’ or imaginative ‘forest’ and just rest, just be. Kataphatic meditation can give way to apophatic meditation. Alistair decided to do just that.
Slow, ethereal music or chanting is best for this, as it doesn’t prompt the mind to discover rhythm or words, and 528 Hz or thereabouts is a useful pitch. It has been called the ‘DNA repair’ frequency or the ‘Love’ frequency’, so-called as it is thought to reside at the heart of everything, connecting your heart, your spiritual essence, to the spiralling reality of heaven and earth..
‘When we surrender when we do not fight with life when it calls upon us we are lifted and the strength to do what needs to be done finds us.’
For fifteen minutes we all mediated, silently to: an OM meditation chant [click here].
Afterwards, we chatted about the experience. In many respects they declared that they had been present, had been in the company of their core, that which some call the virgin point (le point vierge) and experienced That Which Is Larger Than Us, that which some call God. Words failed them, as the experience is experiential (only), to be individually savoured, and is really beyond words!
All three of us heartily tucked into the next course, and laughed and joked. Sometimes serious, sometimes frivolous, as friends do.
Aideen expressed an interest in kataphatic, imaginal visualisation. I spoke by way of an introduction to it – highlighting the fact that one can use it in various ways – as a tool of discovery where outcomes are interpreted, as a way of understanding ourselves at a deeper level (that which we call the good parts and the ‘shadow (a source of strength, nevertheless), as a form of guided tour of events to meet a need ie to answer a question, to obtain healing, or to ‘interview’ ones higher self and other characters (which many would call pictorial representations of ones psyches, though others would think differently), and in many other ways that may lead to our growth, maturity and transformation.
Aideen wanted a ‘word’ (or words) to guide her for the following day, and Alistair wanted similar for project he was working on at work. For Aideen I suggested a visualisation where, after closing her eyes and relaxing, I spoke words for her to imagine, inwardly, a visit to the Library – a cosmic Library with a friendly Librarian who would point to a relevant book. It took only about ten minutes, but Aideen was very good at using her imaginal powers and, still in the moment, spoke the words written on the spine of the book: ‘Stronger than you think’.
A veritable word of encouragement. Aideen opened her eyes, and recounted how that was just the words she needed to her as an important decision was pending.
‘Within each of us there is the heart of a lion, the courage to simply be who & what we are regardless of others opinions or our own fears. Sometimes this courage has been buried beneath years of shaming that may have been so implicit or insidious that we breathed it in, unaware of how it separated us from knowing our own beauty of being’.
Alistair was also eager to try kataphatic imaginal visualisation. For him, I outlined the process but, once he was in the moment, as agreed, led him (using my voice) into the Great Hall of Cledon. I mentioned that the moment he was in that Hall, a hall full of the noise of the conversations of a myriad of people, one word of phrase would stand out.
The Cledon is a message delivered to you through an unknowing stranger. It could be a word from a song on the radio that gives an answer to a problem you’ve been mulling over, or you may overhear a snippet of a conversation of two people walking past you, and which applies directly to the circumstances in your life.
Alistair, deep in that visualisation, whispered that he was in the great hall and the doors were closing behind him. His hands immediately gripped that table. Still with his eyes closed, and still in that moment, he then gently laughed. He whispered. ‘As soon as the doors closed, all the people faced me, and all the voices spoke the same words. It was as loud as the noise of a jet engine, and knocked me over’.
‘My invitation, my challenge to you here, is to journey into a deeper intimacy with the world and your life without any promise of safety or guarantee of reward beyond the intrinsic value of full participation.’
Once out of that moment, and with his eyes open, Alistair mentioned the words. He said, ‘It’s a mystery what the words mean, but the shout of ‘The donkey and the angel’ was stupendously loud. I mentioned that in many cases, the working out of the words given might take days or weeks, but when it did happen you would know – the memory of it could come back at an appropriate time and it would make sense. However, in this case I did ask Alistair to consider the ancient story of Balaam and his donkey. The latter whose progress was impeded by an angel.
We then tucked into the desert, followed by more laughing, talking and merriment.
The evening progressed, and my guests would soon be leaving. I mentioned the idea of coming back from sacred-space into chronological time – it was a though we had been in a ‘magical, mythical, timeless realm’ (and I actually do believe that is the case, as regards liminality), and were now returning to the mundane (as if anything is really mundane).
One way to do that is through ritual, another way is through action such as eating food (as we had done), and one way I do it (without the need of pomp and ceremony, but with physical action) is to use two fingers from each hand to do a drum-roll on the table for a few seconds. I gave them an example, but need not have done more, as both Alistair and Aideen joined in, and we all laughed heartily. Was that drum-roll just fun? Was it necessary? I believe it was both. Fun because we laughed and it brought us closer together, and to some it may have been silly; necessary as it brought us ‘back to earth’ and effectively ‘grounded us’ – guarded us against the effects of being in that realm whilst operating in this.
May the dreamer and poet and pirate be awake within in us… loving the adventure of looking for the treasure as much as we love finding the inner gold that guides us.’
Alistair and Aideen left, but have booked for another session in December using different aspects, ‘tools’ and scenarios of apophatic and kataphatic mediation.
[I normally change names used is articles, but in this case both Alistair and Aideen were happy for their names to be used, and additionally asked me to state that they really do recommend this form of transformational event. I will include information about future events that you might like to join as a group, couple, individual, soon, both here on this blog and on Facebook]
All indented quotes above are by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
In an age where mystery seems to have retreated, here’s an opportunity to do what the ancestors did: to re-connect at this time of the year when the veil between Here and There is ‘thin’.
This will be an evening to share, to hear, to do, and to be transformed. If you’re in/near London do contact Tadhg by email [email: email@example.com ] to find our more and/or book. You are invited! Limited to 20 people, and pre-booking and an adventurous spirit are essential.
‘What is the one message that only you can give? It’s your story’. J R Rim
It was a cold, dark, December’s evening. The café had shut to the general public an hour ago, and a few changes were made – a few festive lights added, a few unlit candles placed on tables, a few symbolic items, ‘tools’ or conversation pieces were placed on the tables, and food was placed on the corner table – in anticipation for the Telling Place event 2018 (and so, if local, there will be another this year, so do please read on… but please read on anyway as it was a wonderful event).
Ah, the Telling Place event: a place of myth, ‘magic’ and imagination.
‘Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.’ Don Miguel Ruiz
The clock chimed 6.45pm and the doors were unlocked, and within minutes several people ambled through the door, out of that cold night, and into a café that was warm, bedecked with Christmas lights, albeit rather subdued lighting, and expecting the unexpected. The café can hold about twenty people and it soon filled up with expectant ‘adventurers’
“Welcome. Welcome to the Telling Place”, Tadhg said cheerfully.
The ancients knew the value of story-telling, when they met together at Telling Places. There, fragments of memory were woven together, and ‘bits’ become ‘whole’, and all added to the complete story. Everyone was included. Fragments of memory, separate and ‘isolated’ were re-membered. The opposite of dismembered. ‘Re-joined’. Put back together again. And in community, too.
‘We keep stories alive because to re-member is to put broken pieces back together. We keep learning from stories how to make things whole.’ Mark Nepo
The ancients, those Celts and Druids, ancient Hebrews, Christians, and others, of old, knew of the benefits of stories. They would regularly meet around the village fire, in the evenings and tell stories that were, perhaps sometimes of individuals around the fire, or of ancient heroes and their ancestors, or of stories of cosmic proportions eg creation stories and/or of the tribe’s origin.
But, what about us? In this part of the twenty-first century there is a great need for that kind of event, and this Telling Place fulfilled that requirement wonderfully.
“Tonight, is a time of listening, a time of sharing a story (whether something from your own life-story that is not too personal and which can be shared), or a story that you have heard and which means a lot to you. Stories of dark and light, endings and beginnings, down and up, of people and places. Stories to make you think. Stories and a few activities, yes a few activities that you will be invited to join in, that make you go ‘oh’, or ‘awwww’. Stories of myth, ‘magic’, and imagination.”
But, there’s more.
“There will be stories about myth – those fictional and some-times factual foundational accounts on which we base part or all of our life. Stories about ‘magic’. Not the conjuring sort of magic, but the kind that some would call a numinous event, a peak experience, a transformational event. Come expecting to be changed. And, there will be stories of the imagination, and here there may be some pleasurable and non-cringe-making activities you will be invited to take part in. More will be explained as the evening goes on.”
“But, for now relax.”. A short time was given over for people to amble and introduce themselves to four other people in fifteen minutes – no mean feat – as they tucked into some delightful food from the smorgasbord and filled their glasses with various chilled fruit juices. Everyone talked enthusiastically. A hub-bub ensued, sounding rather like the friendly drone in a bee hive.
‘The imagination of early childhood has no limits. This is why children are fascinated by stories. A story has permission to go anywhere….The child rarely experiences the story as an observer. The child enters the story, it experiences the drama from within.’ John O’Donohue
Now back at their tables, everyone settled down. Tadhg explained as he went along, and opened the Telling Place officially.
A candle was lit, and in doing this simple ritual, Tadhg explained that it was as though we had been pulled out of physical time, as a group, and into sacred space-time, and were propelled back in time to engage with the Ancestors in story. Or, was it that they had joined us? Or was it more than just seeming so? Was it happening in actuality? However, we understood it, he explained that this was to be a meaningful time of remembering.
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…
Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
Juan Ramon Jimenez
“This remembering”, Tadhg continued, “is called anamnesis: a remembering that makes the original event present to the believer. In a very real sense, ritual negates time and space. The Passover Seder, for instance, starts with the question, ‘How is this night different from all other nights?’ Ritual, then, brings the participant, that’s us, into that timeless realm of the sacred in which the time and space that separates us from the original event, or which separates us from the Other, just disappears.”
“It’s not just remembering. It’s a re-experiencing and a re-connectedness to that former event – in this case story and the Ancestors. Anything less that that, is merely mimesis, an imitation or re-enactment. This is more”
Several people shared stores. Two shared stories from their own life, stories of challenging times and of overcoming. Two other shared stories, fables, that had meant a lot to them and which were well received by all. The evening continued well, with each person giving support and praise to others, as well as receiving it. It was so uplifting. Awesome.
Tadhg lit another candle.
At this point he explained that, at the end of the year it was a good time to review the positive and the not-so-positive events of the year, and to deal with them. He suggested that each person takes two pieces of paper. One would, if that person so wished, would be displayed on the wall later and would contain one or two positive highlights of the year. It would be a form of written gratitude to the Source of All. The other piece of paper, would be private, and would highlight negative points and negative thoughts and actions that had happened during the year. People wrote feverishly. A few minutes later each person put the gratitude sheet on the wall; each person took the sheet of negative thoughts and actions and, at Tadhg’s suggestion, symbolically dealt with them by placing them into the shredder machine.
Tadhg said a few words…ensuring that that negativity was truly gone! Dealt with. Gone for good!
‘You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors.’ Toba Beta
More stories were shared. Tadhg lit another candle, and talked about remembering those who had gone before us – to remember them with joy. He talked about how our ancestors would have used this time to celebrate the lives of the Ancients, and of Modranicht, called “the Night of the Mothers” or simply “Mothers’ Night”. Everyone had been asked to bring a copy of a photo of a deceased relative that they wanted to honour, and some also shared stories – many quite witty stories that made many smile, and all uplifting – about loved-ones that had passed-on.
Later, Tadhg lit another candle. This time, as some time had elapsed and the evening was drawing to a close, he asked each person to close their eyes, to meditate, and to use their imagination.
“If you would, imagine that this room is filled with your Higher Self, or an elemental, a goodly spirit, an emissary from the Source of All, from the Universe, an angel or fae perhaps. Don’t worry about what they look like but imagine they have a message for someone in the room – not you – but for someone else, and it’s one word, or two, but no more than three, and it’s uplifting. “
As people thought deeply, used their imaginations and opened themselves up to the Other, the haunting melody of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ by Enya played in the background.
‘The sacred soul delivers the message of life.’ Lailah Gifty Akita
“You can imagine them speaking this to you” , Tadhg said, “or writing it down, or them giving you a book with this word or words as the title. Now, when you have it, open your eyes and write it down on a piece of paper.”
Everyone wrote something, and everyone shared the word, two or three, not knowing who it was for. Although Tadhg said those present may want to share any word spoken that was relevant to themselves, others, he said, might just quietly like to ponder upon a word heard that they felt was relevant to them, quietly in their heart.
The event closed with the extinguishing of the candles, as Tadhg explained that each of us were now moving back into mundane time. He suggested we all stand, and applaud – applaud each other for making the evening such a joy, applaud the Other and The Invisibles present for being present, and applause as a form of ‘grounding’.
One by one, people left. That evening tears were shed, smiles were witnessed, and many were transformed. Each had had an encounter with the Other. In the distance, as car doors opened and closed, the hushed whispers of ,‘See you at next year’s Telling Place’, could be heard.’
‘I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?’ Zhuangzi
[Another Telling Place event is planned for Saturday, 14 December 2019 in Fulham, London (starting at 7pm and finishing at 9pm. And, you are invited. Suggested donation is £10, but no one should be deterred by a lack of funds. Come anyway! If interested or if you require further information, please contact Tadhg by 1 December by email: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future.’ Elie Wiesel
Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.’ Helen Keller
Ever since the clocks went back an hour there has been an increasing expectation of the event. The nights draw in, the temperature drops, and parts of the UK have even had a dusting of snow.
Anticipation just hangs in the air as autumn gives way to winter, or is my ‘inner child’ even more overactive than usual? As I sit in the Magic Café in Fulham, London I read and drink coffee, and talk to friends that come and go. There’s much talk about politics and the impending election, which way to vote, should one vote tactically, and what of the future. There is a sense that the very soul of the nation is at stake for generations to come.
‘Pause. Listen for the whispers of your Soul. Soul quietly flows through every part of you.’ Nancy Lankston
And yet, without minimising such day to day concerns about politics, for in many cases it is within the mundane that myth, magic and miracles take place, there is more.
Yes, the Celtic Advent is here.
Celtic Advent is always 15 November to 24 December, Christmas Eve, and it was a time of fasting and preparation that mirrored Lent which was celebrated in the lead up to Easter. But, I’d like to suggest something a bit different.
Whether you are a Christian, Celt, Druid or of some other belief, or a blend of two or more, this is a good time to prepare in the lead up to Christmas or the Winter Solstice.
Advent for many, is a time of pondering the cosmic significance of darkness, a turning of the great Circle and the seasons change, a time of personal preparation, a time to go deeper, a time of expectation.
It is at this time of the year that nature seemingly dies. Death is something the ancients didn’t fear, and this time of the year for them would be a time of remembrance and storytelling as regards the ancestors. What about us?
‘Praise to you Keeper of those I love and can no longer see.
I have entrusted to you the care that was mine once to give,
the embrace that was mine once to feel,
the story that was mine once to share.
Praise you for the love that I can never be separated from.
For even with the last fallen leaf and the flowers gone,
those I have loved are not under the earth,
they are here in my heart, they are here.’
Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year
And then, the season moves on and culminates in a time of joyful commemoration as Light wonderfully enters the world at the time of the Winter Solstice and/or Christmas.
As the days grow darker, it’s Light that we look forward to.
‘Counsellor of my soul, you quicken my soul’s progress this Winter day by the strength of your example. I look forward to your light to help me discover the track of the day’s question’. Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional.
There are some who will set themselves, at this time, the task of reading more sacred text, or of attending an extra service, of spending a little bit more than usual, of adding an extra home ritual or prayer to their list or prayers – and all of these are wholesome, good and proper for you, if you feel ‘called’ to do one or more of them.
You might like to consider reading a page a day of a book you read some time ago, or use the links below once a day to set your day up with an uplifting word or thought for the Celtic Advent.
In the busyness of life, maybe the last thing we need is to be more ‘busy, busy’. Oh, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype from the tv, the newspapers and radio, but once we’re aware of being ‘pulled along’ by the increasing flow of the pace of life at this time of the year, we’re in with a chance of doing something about it. So, perhaps it maybe best to use this time to slow, reflect and take on board on a thought for the day (see below)?
‘Be aware of the ancestral teachers, the grandparents and elders of the spiritual traditions, whose footsteps have kept the pathways open.’ Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional.
And, so in this cafe, having just packed away the Halloween decorations ten days or so ago, they’re now unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations. And, as I sit here pondering the darkness, as I look through the cafe window onto a cold, dark blue sky’d city street, I look forward, in anticipation and expectation to Light entering the world, and what that means personally for me, for you, and others.
‘These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community’s past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.’ Brian McLaren
To paraphrase some, this Celtic Advent was created for you and your benefit, and not the other way around.
My encouragement is for you to celebrate the start of the Celtic Advent with a meal – and yes, some will know that in ancient times it was a time of fasting, and if you’re called to do that, then do it, but also to take the time to ponder upon the themes of darkness and Light. So far as possible, slip beyond the rational (not into irrationality, but towards the arational, beyond rationality) for a while.
As regards, the celebration I’m thinking of an Celtic Advent celebration some time into the season and maybe couple it with a ‘telling place’ experience: a time of imagination and story, perhaps at the Magic Cafe one evening. Time to reflect. Time to go deeper. Time to encounter the imaginal and be transformed. Time for community. You’re invited. Are you free? Details soon.
If you’re interested on taking on one ‘extra’ thing, such as a thought for each day, for this season, here’s some links that you might like to dip into daily during this season:
BBC Radio 4 Thought For The Day: Here
A Forty Day Pilgrimage through the Advent Season with Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Saints: Here
Celtic advent calendar: Here
Contemporary and Ancient Celtic Blessings: Here
Meanwhile, many blessings of the Celtic Advent to you and to those whom you love. Tadhg.