Beneficial Celtic Lifestyle: In Praise Of Urtica Dioica Or Be Nice To Nettles!

20170509 IN PRAISE OF URTICA DIOICA CELTIC LIFESTYLEI’m about to commit a gross error. Yes, for some the humble Stinging Nettle is a weed. There, I’ve said it…..the ‘w’ word. But, only to get that out of the way, right at the beginning.

The definition of a weed, is essentially, any plant that you don’t want to grow!

At the far end of my garden, in the wilderness of north Wales, well, actually just over the unmarked and unannounced boundary of my garden, is a rivulet. On the far side of the rivulet there are ancient trees, shrubbery of all sorts and gorse bushes. Indeed, that wilderness starts just before you leave my otherwise human-cultivated garden, and I like that.

To have some wilderness apparently ‘encroaching’ into my garden, actually reminds me that I’m very much the ‘guest’ in this wild and ancient countryside, and that is extremely humbling.

And so, therefore, in my garden, there is about one-fifth of the land, at the far end which isn’t human-cultivated, and so it grows wild, and that’s where there are some rather nice, wonderful and much under-rated stinging nettles. Yes, I’m happy with them there, and I’m pleased they are growing there…and so by definition they are not weeds! I’m pleased about that, too, especially as the humble stinging nettle gets bad press.

nettleAs a Druidic-Christian I am enthralled, in awe, captivated and even mesmerised at times by nature; dear wild, green, profligate, the absolute ‘fecundaceousness’ of nature.

My encouragement to you, then, is to take time in forests and wooded places, and if in the city, to visit parks, and in the UK to visit ‘commons’, those places where parts, if not all, are ‘overgrown’ and nature is wild, and then look out for stinging nettles, and appreciate them. Really appreciate them.

‘When the nettle is young, the leaves make excellent greens; when it grows old it has filaments and fibres like hemp and flax. Chopped up, the nettle is good for poultry; pounded, it is good for horned cattle. The seed of the nettle mixed with the fodder of animals gives a lustre to their skin; the root, mixed with salt, produces a beautiful yellow dye. It makes, however, excellent hay…And what does the nettle need? very little soil, no care, no culture; except that the seeds fall as fast as they ripen, and it is difficult to gather them; that is all. If we would take a little pains, the nettle would be useful; we neglect it, and it becomes harmful. Then we kill it…My friends, remember this, that there are no weeds…there are only bad farmers.’

Victor Hugo

I accept that Stinging Nettles, like other plants that some people would prefer not to grow, can spread rapidly and need cutting back from time to time, but they are wonderful plants.

Yes, I cut back that part of the garden, and prune trees in that area, periodically, always ‘asking’ beforehand. It would in discourteous not to do so! For some, ‘asking’ is necessary, especially for those for whom elementals inhabit such areas. But, even if one relegates such a belief to a romantic or metaphorical concept, ‘asking’ is still necessary, I believe, as it puts things into perspective: In cutting back undergrowth, I need to ensure that I am sympathetic to nature, to the wildlife and insects that live in and off of such plants, and am not reckless. ‘Asking’ ensures that I am not ‘doing my own thing’, but am in empathy with nature around about me. It encourages and enhances reflection, and that cannot be a bad thing, and encourages ‘oneness’.

The week, 21-27 May is, traditionally, ‘Be nice to Nettles’ week.

Did you know, for instance, that the Stinging nettle is called Urtica Dioica, which comes from the Latin meaning ‘two houses’. This refers to the fact that both the male and female flowers are normally carried on separate plants. Don’t you find that interesting?

It is also possible that the term ‘nettle’ is derived from ‘Noedl’, old English, meaning a needle – referring to the stinging mechanism in the nettle leaves.

That’s the thing about Stinging nettles, they do indeed…..sting. For the chemists amongst you, you may like to know that the plant, which is covered in tiny hairs, when touched break off and ‘transform’ into needles that can inject several chemicals: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid into the skin. Yes, they sting, and so I wouldn’t advise you go too near. However, if you do get stung, it is said that the leaf of a (nearby) Dock leaf will quell the pain.

butterfly1Did you also know, that Stinging nettles are much loved by butterflies, such as Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies, as well as attracting aphids which are necessary in the food-chain for birds.

‘Butterflies are like angels kisses sent from heaven.’ Malia Kirk

If you have a garden, could you ‘allow’ a small section just for the stinging nettle (or other wild plants), and if you live in an apartment, why not be ‘wild and reckless’, avant-garde and radical and grow a stinging nettle in a pot? Okay, others may find that strange, but now you know different. Now, you know the value of that plant to nature and butterflies, specifically.

Did you also know Stinging nettle tea (and you can always ‘pop’ into a tasty additional tea bag to improve the flavour) is said to have beneficial health properties (of the complementary kind!). Stinging nettle has been used medicinally since at least 3 B.C. And, in medieval times, it was used to treat pain in joints, as well as act as a diuretic.

Today, many use Stinging nettle tea as it is seen by some as a diuretic (water-reducing), and is regarded by many as an analgesic (pain-reducing), paradoxically, and as a depurative (cleansing the body of toxins, and is therefore beneficial to the kidney and liver).

tea1If you want to enjoy a cup of stinging nettle tea, I’d suggest you buy some, say, from Holland & Barrett (rather than make some from the raw plant, unless you’re a qualified herbalist), and if taking prescribed medicine do check with your doctor or health practitioner – there are a few ‘contraindications’ depending on what other medicines you’re taking. But, what a wonderful way to start and/or end the day with Nettle tea?

In ending this, and it could be that you’re (still) not enamoured with the wonders of the Stinging nettle though I can’t imagine why – they are truly wonderful – then, my final encouragement is to urge you to look again at the awesomeness of nature, and especially those parts which mankind has designated as a burden or unlovely. See with a beginner’s mind, become as little children as one commentator on humanity said, and treasure nature in all its beauty – Stinging nettles, as well. Be nice to nettles, please. Brother Nettle, as St Francis might have said! That seems a (more) enlightened, aware, Celtic (Christian), Druidic and Pagan approach. What do you think?

Happy planting, Tadhg.

20170509 IN PRAISE OF URTICA DIOICA CELTIC LIFESTYLE

Tadhg’s Ephemera: The Bright Moon. Full Moon On 10 May 2017

20170508 BRIGHT MOON 10 MAY EPHEMERAIt’s that time…the time of Spring, pleasant weather, the time of the full moon, and when many consider this is a good time for releasing what is holding them back and working on new commitments, both in spirit and love, committing to an engagement, hand-fasting or marriage, or making some other commitment.

‘The world’s favourite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May.’  Edwin Way Teale

Essentials
On the evening of Wednesday, 10 May 2017 there is a full moon in the constellation of Libra (on the ESE horizon at 8.05pm from a London, UK perspective and rising gently to it’s ‘highest’ point that night just after midnight when looking southward).

This full moon is known as the Bright Moon.

Still others, though, such as other Celts, Celtic Christians, Druids and Pagan friends may refer to it as the Grass Moon, the Milk Moon or the Flower Moon.

‘Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.’ Psalm 89:37, The Book

It’s well and truly spring (in the northern hemisphere) and a time for growing plants and flowers,  and so, aptly, May is named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. And, doubly so, at this full moon in May.

Myths About The Moon
There are a number of myths about the moon, as these are:

Ancestor offerings: In some Chinese religions, offerings are made to the ancestors on the night of a full moon.

A full moon makes you ‘crazy’: Ever since ancient times, full moons have been associated with odd behaviour, sleepwalking, or violence . The words ‘lunacy’ and ‘lunatic’ come from the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna, who was said to ride her silver chariot across the dark sky each night. In England, in the  18th-century those on trial for murder could seek a lighter sentence on grounds of lunacy, if the crime occurred at the time of full moon. Also, the book,  ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, was said to have been inspired by the strange , and yet very true, case of Charles Hyde, a London man who committed a numbers of crimes, all at the time of the full moon.

Even the BBC News reported, a few year ago, reported  that some British police departments have decided to add extra officers on nights with crime increases that occur at the time of a full moon (though there are many that think this may have to do with the response to opportunistic crime and more light at night be available for foul deeds because of the full moon).

Aliens on the Moon: In the 1820s,  Bavarian astronomer Franz von Paula Gruithuisen recorded that he had spied alien cities on the moon with his telescope. He called them Lunarians, and though many people derided his finding, he did at least have a modest-sized moon crater named after him.

Even today, there are those who believe their are aliens on the moon, maybe on the side of the Moon which doesn’t face Earth, and some believe images, from Chandrayaan-1 (an Indian Moon probe) appear to show a series of lava tubes snaking under the surface of the Moon, as it made by an intelligence, with thousands of scatted, perhaps, connecting caves.

It makes you think!

Full Moon ‘Releasing’ Ritual
This is a releasing ritual, releasing you from all that is holding you back. As with any ritual, it is an outward sign and activity of an inward occurrence. It can be done outdoors on the night of the full moon, but equally, it can be done indoors.

So, find a quiet place, and:

1. Light a candle (to denote entering into sacred space/sacred time). If you want, you can place crystals, power-rocks and other positive-tools around you.

2. De-clutter your mind of thoughts, clear your energy. This can be done by imagination, and so why not close your eyes and visualise that you are standing under a silver waterfall. As you so do, in your mind’s eye, imagine that all negativity being  washed away.

3. Take a few deep breaths to ‘center’ yourself, to move deeply within your being, and then ‘ask’ what it is that you wish to be released from. What is it that is holding you back? What is a limiting belief? What no longer serves a positive purpose in your life. In your mind’s eye, write it on a piece of paper. Wait for a short while.

4. As you breathe in, think of that piece of paper with that limiting belief written on it, and as you breathe out, imagine that that piece of paper moves into the candle and is burnt up. It no longer exists. Do this several times. [Remember, this is all taking place in your imagination, so please don’t actually set fire to anything you have with you!].

This type of breathing in/out with visualisation is like tonglen, in reverse.

5. After a short while open your eyes, fully enter this ‘realm’ by gazing gently at the candle for a few minutes. There is no rush. And then, to denote a closing of that sacred space/sacred time, blow the candle out. Wait for a few minutes. Doing things slowly, here, is good.

6. Ofcourse, this is a ritual, an outward sign or action of an inward occurrence, and you will still need to ‘do’ the necessary things in the physical realm to bring about a releasing of what is/was holding you back, and to work towards a positive outcome.

[Always concerned for you, I would ask that you do take appropriate professional advice if your ‘releasing negativity and embracing positivity’ in this ritual (and afterward) concerns money, land, health, relationships etc]

7. Keep a journal of your experiences in that ritual, what you did to ‘earth it’ and work towards releasing negativity and working towards positivity, detailing actions and how you felt at the time. It’s always good to look back, weeks, months or even years later.

Let me know what happens, if you wish.

‘May and June.  Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights.  The discussion of philosophy is over; it’s time for work to begin.’ Peter Loewer

Gardening
Being a concerned about  nature, my suggestion is: that for those wishing to cultivate and benefit from nature, even a window box if you live in a city and haven’t got access to a garden, how about planting:

For shady, north-facing locations: English daisy, Fern (maidenhair, tassel, Boston, asparagus, Impatiens. Pansy, Parsley, Snapdragon.

Sun-liking, south-facing locations: Lavender, Marigold, Miniature rose, Rosemary (which is particularly good at attracting bees. We definitely need to look after bees).

‘May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.’ Fennel Hudson

And Finally…
…Wishing you a blessed May full moon, Tadhg

Power-Blessings 104: Mutual Support…In That Field Beyond: [4/4]

20170505 MUTUAL SUPPORT 4OF4 BLESSINGWe’re all different. We live in a world were the rights of the individual and individualism are writ large. And, though we enjoy many freedoms because of it – or am I just believing that because, like you, I was born into such a time as this – it can be rather solitary as an ‘aware person’, a mystic-Christian, a Druid, a hedge-witch, an ‘edge-walker’, or however you and I describe ourselves.

‘Be different. Be original. Nobody will remember a specific flower in a garden filled with thousands of the same yellow flower, but they will remember the one that managed to change its colour to purple.’  Suzy Kassem

At the end of this week of looking at Power-Blessings, we now turn our attention to looking at encouragement and, indeed, further encouragement to maintain, grow and advance the good work that we have been ‘called’ to do; to explore mutual support; to take it all one step further.

It would be easy to list good books, links to other websites and talk about ‘how to do…’ this or that, but I won’t. Each person reading this will be different, maybe so different (and that is a blessing) as to render all that irrelevant. But, it is important, I think, to share good practice (even if it is a different ethos or way of working to our own personal approach) because then we can learn from each other and adapt what we share to serve our local purposes.

‘Those who love peace must learn to organise as effectively as those who love war.’ Martin Luther King Jr.

A loose organisation, at least (unless you’re already part of one of the many, useful, groups of the internet that do provide support to ‘aware persons’,  mystic-Christians,  Druids, hedge-witches, ‘edge-walkers’ etc) may be beneficial. If you’re not part of such group, and I do recommend joining at least one that is closest to your work, then I’d like to hear from you. It’s all about mutual support – even if it’s a periodic email…but I’d suggest there’s more we can do.

‘Make connections; let rip; and dance where you can.’ Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard writes about Holy the Firm, in her book of the same name, and describes it as  substance that medieval alchemists and mystics etc were interested in. It’s a substance, they thought below earth, minerals, salts, and it acts as a bridge between the material and the spiritual world. Opinions vary as to whether it is a purely physical substance or a spiritual one, as it is between both! Perhaps, the thrill is in not knowing, and accepting it as ‘and/both’ (rather than our scientific age’s obsession with ‘and/or’). It’s like a sacred gap!

The late Thomas Merton (a Trappist monk), Cynthia Bourgeault (an Episcopal priest, teacher, author and retreat leader) and others talk of ‘le point vierge’ (‘the virgin point’, though it  sounds better in French, and is usually referred to in French). They describe it as the point, deep within each of us, were we can meet the Source of All in a real, and experiential, and experimental way; beyond pictures, beyond ideas and without metaphors intimately….in the post-ritual-activity stillness..’. It’s like a sacred ‘nothingness’; that is, no thing!.

This idea is taken up by Rumi, and precedes the above mentioned by many centuries. He wrote, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass [even] the world is too full to talk about.’ It’s like a  sacred beyondness.

‘An important part of response to divine love, once it has been received, is to pass it on to our neighbour in a way that is appropriate in the present moment.’  Thomas Keating (Trappist monk)

So, how can we assist each other, encouraged each other  and grow, mature and advance our work. I’d suggest:

  • we share best practice by email, and
  • we support each other by meeting with like-minded people (and I’m currently thinking of what I can do with this idea, so do keep reading the articles here over the course of this month as ideas and events are formed and planned, and
  • we can energise each other, perhaps by setting aside, a time each month (maybe part of a ritual, or indeed the whole of a ritual) to think of each other, specifically, and to send positive energy, well-wishes, power-blessings, light etc to each other…but intentionally, named, visualised, specific.

What do you think of this, as a initial practice?

In thinking about that last idea and developing it here, in the work that I do, I want to set aside time just for you! Whether we call that space place between the physical and spiritual realm by the name ‘Holy, the Firm’, or as ‘le point vierge’ or as a celestial field far beyond our ideas of right and wrong…or as the Caim (my term and practice, here, for entering that ‘gap’, liminal space, sacred space etc).

‘Life is a full circle, widening until it joins the circle motions of the infinite.’  Anaïs Nin

In essence a Caim ritual is about forming a circle (or think of an energy bubble in your mind’s eye), visualising the harvesting of celestial energy, moulding it, and sending it, and being prepared for reciprocity, and the latter is a moving into that still-point, le point vierge etc). Ofcourse, it’s more than that (but, if you’re interested in the idea of finding out about a (simple) Caim, please see here and here).

So, I’m resolved to perform a Caim each new moon for you!

But, to make it personal and meaningful I’ll do that (only) if you email me and ask me to do so, and in so doing I’d ask for you do to similar for me. Ofcourse, your background, ‘tribe’ and beliefs will be different to mine, and therefore any ritual you do may be very different to mine…but I don’t think that matters. Infact, I’d expect that, and see it as a blessing of our ‘kaleidoscopic’ diversity and intentionality.

So, are you up for it? (If so, just email me, so that everything is confidential, and will be kept confidential. Email: tadhg@tadhg.cymru

Whether or not you do….you still have my gratitude on getting this far with this article, and receive a blessing from me right now to empower you (even more so) in the good things that you are doing.

‘I am a living member of the great family of all souls; and I cannot improve or suffer myself, without diffusing good or evil around me through an ever-enlarging sphere. I belong to this family. I am bound to it by vital bonds.’ William Ellery Channing

 

Power-Blessings 103: The Joy Of Responsibility : [3/4]

20170504 RESPONSIBILTY 3OF4 BLESSINGIt was a dark and  stormy night. It was late November, it was seven o’clock on a cold and wet, rather inhospitable Wednesday evening, as I entered a large hall belonging to a faith-group, ready to deliver a talk to a group. I was told to be prepared to address a group of 60-100 people, and so I was ready.

When the time of the talk arrived, it was clear that the rain, the cold, the inhospitable weather, the fact that the nation’s favourite ‘TV soap’ was being aired on (and the series was at the point where a major cliff-hanger was about to be revealed), and a major football match (soccer, to my American friends) was about to start, had taken their toll on the attendance figures in this hall. I stared from the front at seven people.

I wasn’t upset, as I do believe the people that could benefit from the talk were there. It wasn’t even that my ego needed ‘massaging’. But, a change had to be made to my plans.

With a group of 60-100 a talk could be given from the front, with say, questions at the end. All rather formal, pre-planned, and somewhat ‘distancing’, but probably the best and most proficient way to deliver a talk to 60-100 people. But, not to seven people.

Be prepared to be ‘underwhelmed’.

How we conduct a blessing depends on the circumstances, even the number of people involved. In taking that talk as an analogy, we have to adapt. What would work in some circumstances, will not work in other circumstances. We need to be aware and adapt.

‘The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.’  Mark Twain

In that talk, rather than stand at the front and deliver it in the style of a monologue from a distance, I got the few people to form a circle, rearranging their chairs and including one for me, and we turned the event into a dialogue. I delivered the talk but paused occasionally and included everyone by asking open-ended questions, by making it informal, and more ‘cosy’. It worked.

How we deliver a blessing will change.

Over the last couple of days we’ve looked briefly at what a blessing it, initially looked at intentionality (see here), and then looked at examples of the source, or the Source of power-blessings (see here). So, when to bless, and how to bless, and the responsibility that follows it are just as  essential, and a few thoughts about this follow.

If a person asks for a blessing, then you can gauge how to deliver that blessing. If you’re in their home, it may just be a whispered prayer, or if they’re used to and expecting something more vocal then it could be a moderately loud blessing, set words or improvised prayer-blessing.

In a formal setting, such as in a service or ceremony it may be also more ritualised, with physical actions appropriate to the circumstances.

‘Create inclusion – with simple mindfulness that others might have a different reality from your own.’ Patti Digh, Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally

But, never inappropriate, and do anything never likely to embarrass the one being blessed. Even if it means, and it may be  good idea, to explain what you intend to do, so that their are no surprises as the ceremony unfolds.

After all, we want to be inclusive, and not exclude or ‘distance’ people.

In a café I might see someone nearby, someone unknown who I feel may benefit from a blessing. In such cases I’d probably visualise a power-blessing going from me to them, perhaps as a ball of light – about the size of a golf ball. Why not? Visualisation is important, as it is part of intentionality which is all important. If that ball of light is a metaphor, and I believe it is, then it could be an imagining of an actual happening, and I believe it is. Faith.

It may be okay to send someone a blessing incognito…but not always.

There are times, especially if you know the person and you would like to bless them, to ask, first, and really listen to them. It may be awkward for them, they may be unfamiliar with blessings, and to launch into blessing them without their consent may not only upset them, it may put an obstacle between you and them (and that’s the exact opposite of what a blessing should do), and you may be left half-way through blessing them and look faintly ridiculous. Ofcourse, we want to act responsibly, and there is no pressure – or shouldn’t be. Do watch out for the ego!

There are times when it’s best to ask to bless someone.

‘Never allow your ego to diminish your ability to listen.’ Gary Hopkins

Oh, I know several people, especially at formal gatherings when dozens of people are expected, do like to dress up for the occasion. And, why not? If it’s appropriate and ‘adds’ something to the occasion it may be something to encourage others to do, or to do, yourself!

To give a blessing, means first, create a space and to enter into liminality (to cross over that ‘threshold’), and to do that requires preparation and an act of significance. In terms of many churches this may involve the officiant entering the chancel or at least a raised platform, the dais; for Druids and others it may be casting a circle and entering it; for others it may be the donning of ceremonial clothing. All denote the movement into liminal space, sacred space, the ‘blessing-space’. But, it’s done in such a way as to be appropriate and helpful. But, what if you haven’t got your special attire or ‘tools’ (and for this, some use a small bell or incense, candle etc, depending on the formality of the setting)? What then? Ofcourse, you can still bless, because in essence..

…It’s best to keep it simple, anyway.

In blessing responsibly, we might be led to pray for people at a distance, perhaps for people in other lands, for endangered species of animals, for some area of the world where calamity has taken place. Then do it. Do it in an appropriate way – which will be different depending on whether you’re at home or at a public event and are scheduled to bless, depending on whether it is an event with small numbers or large, and whether it’s formal or informal. Adapt. Always try to be inclusive, and involve others. It’s not just ‘theatre’.

‘When everyone is included, everyone wins.’ Jesse Jackson

Be encouraged to bless.

But, it may be a lonely task. In many cases you may have questions that go unanswered, may not see the end result of your blessing (and that’s okay, really), or you may find that much of what you do is behind closed doors (and, that too, is okay, as it’s only the ego that wants to hog the limelight). Known or unknown, whether you have blessed a thousand times or are endeavouring now to do your first blessing, it’s okay. The power behind a blessing comes from far beyond, and it isn’t our power that is the force behind it, anyway – and that’s awesome to comprehend. The Source provides the power behind an energy-blessing. And, that means, that usually, it’s best to bless and leave the outcome to the Source, and not be too ‘prescriptive’ about what we’d like to see.

‘Spoken words have power beyond measure.’ Debasish Mridha

We, then are much like conduits, placing ourselves in that power flow from the Source, as intermediaries – and their are benefits to us.. We are like conduits. Whatever happens when we give a blessing – and, don’t expect those we’re blessing will necessarily ‘feel’ anything (it might happen, it might not), the blessing is effective (maybe, in some positive way unknown to us) because it depends on the power-source, and that’s not us, but the Source of All. Always, positive.

It’s not about us. It’s about the Source. What do you think?

So, what’s stopping you?

‘If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.’ John O’Donohue

Tomorrow, having mentioned that blessing another, others, events, animals, the planet etc can be a lonely exercise or ‘calling’, we’ll look at further encouragement, ‘teaching’ and mutual support. How can we assist each other?

Power-Blessing 102: The Source: [2/4]

20170503 THE SOURCE 2OF4 BLESSINGYesterday we briefly looked at the definition of blessing and intentionality, both vital starting places, and essential on our journey into the realm of power-blessings (see here).

Today, we look, briefly (and it is only a brief overview of a vast theme), at the energy behind such blessings, what it is, and why and how it can be visualised.

‘Your longing desires to take you towards the absolute realization of all the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your heart; it knows your eternal potential, and it will not rest until it is awakened. Your longing is the divine longing in human form.’ John O’Donohue

There is a school of thought that says the universe is a ‘vast sea of energy’. Not just ‘up there’ and out in the furthest reaches of the galaxy and beyond, but also in the space and locations we inhabit, and, indeed, the matter out of which we are made.  All of it is energy of one sort or another.

Connectedness.

That means that we’re part of the universe and have access to its power. But, there’s more. Ken Wilber calls us ‘holons’. A holon (Greek: ὅλον, ὅλος, holos, meaning “whole”) is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. The word was used by Arthur Koestler in his book The Ghost in the Machine (1967).

Part and yet whole/all.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25;40b, The Book

We have our own intrinsic energy some say, and others might say the whole lot is ‘borrowed’ and comes from somewhere else, but it seems that we can share that energy, and it can be depleted, and be refilled. Refilled, from where? Opinions abound about ‘external’ sources.

Our energy? Another energy?

Some might not put too time into wondering where this source is, so long as the cycle of energy use, depletion and refilling is accomplished. Others, might say it comes from Universal energy, those who are from a sylvanic persuasion might say the energy comes from elementals or nature around us, others might say it comes from somewhere else, such as from angels or other benevolent beings of importance to the individual).

In each of these, if pressed, one would get a ‘picture’, or at last a good description of the source. Ofcourse, imagination comes into play here. Those who believe in a Universal energy store-house might picture a galaxy or the vast reaches of space, elemental energy-users might imagine a welcoming forest or forest inhabitants, an elemental and so on.

External and yet, internal.

‘The most important matter for a practitioner is to be able to break through the veil of the material plane in order to enter the ultimate dimension and see the interconnection between us and all other phenomena in the world around us.’ Thich Nhat Hanh,

So, when I put forward an ‘Ouranic store-house’ of energy ‘above’ us, and I do, I’m using picture-language, imagination and metaphor to describe something that, as those others already mentioned have found, is difficult to put into words, and we may well be describing exactly  the same thing in different ways. So, please don’t be upset if you have a different view to me – we can still learn from each other, and support each other.

It’s metaphorical.

Ouranos is Greek for the sky, or some would say heaven (and therefore, the Source, for me, is God. However, the use of the word ‘God’ is much overused in our society, so I go ‘further’ and would say the Source is the Christ – who manifested ‘himself’ initially 15 billion years ago, and works also through the universe, nature, events etc), and for me this is apt. That’s where, I believe, all real power and energy comes from. That’s my metaphor.

Ofcourse, the more I describe that sore-house ‘place’, the more inaccurate my description will be. Who can sum up the infinite vastness and majesty of spiritual places, such as heaven, using mere words? Rhetorical question. If we can imagine it, it must be much more.

But, (somewhat cheekily) I’d like to declare that I visualise that heavenly or ouranic store-house of energy as a wonderful meadow, tall with ripe corn, just waiting to be harvested by anyone that needs or wants it, and the Field-Owner is happy with you and I harvesting its energy – infact, it is grown for that specific purpose.. Now, ofcourse, it is more that that, but maybe on this occasion an insufficient ‘picture’ is better than none? Metaphors really are important.

What if earth
Be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein
Each to other like, more than on earth is thought?’
John Milton, Paradise Lost

However, you describe it, I do believe we can ‘tap’ into that energy to fill (or refill) ourselves with the express purpose of passing that energy, those power-blessings on to others. There are a number of ways to ‘tap’ into that energy, such as one (or maybe a mixture) of the following

  • meditation (kataphatic)
  • good works
  • visualisation/imagination
  • intentionality
  • ritual (and you might like to get an inkling of power-ritual in this article poem – click here)
  • liturgy
  • prayer
  • meditation (apophatic) etc.

So, for instance, in using ritual I unusually use my imagination and enter, liminally, into that blessing-place; and also physically might wear something special, or light a candle or ring a bell  to signify the entering of sacred space. All metaphors – but important because they declare intentionality. Never diminish the imaginal (realm) or (physical) ritual, or liturgy. They open and close the path to amazing energy, and are the ‘carrier waves’ of power-blessings (as we will see tomorrow).

So, such energy comes from that store-house, for me it’s an ouranic store-house, but it’s more! Energy sounds so impersonal, just a matter of physics and mathematical equations, but I believe it’s more.

Personal.

Whether one accepts the idea of an Ouranic store-house, Universal store-house, elemental store-house etc, I do believe it’s more than just being zapped with energy. The Giver is Personal, the Power is Personal, it’s deeply experiential and meaningful, and our use of it as a conduit to other people, animals or nature etc is Personal.

That has repercussions when seeking that energetic infilling or refilling ourselves and using it for others. Responsibility is not a word that many like, but with tremendous power, responsibility is needed.

‘Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? [We are like] children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness…we should all be wearing crash helmets.’ Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone To Talk

How to exercise that power, the ways and how to do so responsibly is the theme of tomorrow’s article/blog.

 

Power-Blessings 101: Intentionality: [1/4]

20170502 INTENTIONALITY 1OF4 BLESSINGImagine in your minds eye,  thousand of  priests each Sunday morning, in their own locality invoking a blessing upon their congregation; or, in a small room an older person saying the words, ‘bless you’, to someone who has just done them a favour by visiting them; or a Christian praying for someone who is sick and who then utters those words of blessing at the end of the prayer; or a Druid in a grove, deep inside a forest uttering a blessing for nature in general and for an endangered species in particular. Each utters a blessing, and each believing it is necessary, even essential. And, it is!

We may not ‘see’ the effect of their blessing, but I do believe blessings are effective, and one day we will realise this. Perhaps, that day is today?

A ‘working’ definition of a blessing could be: an act of conferring on another person or object or event, some form of energy, or favour, or vital force that is person-related and full of power, with the intention of effecting some kind of change for the better. It’s a consecration. It’s effective. It’s something that is enjoyable and beneficial to all (and not just the person, animal or event being blessed).

‘A blessing is an invitation from one person to another to enter into and share this world. It is the opening of a door so we can enter this world together.’ David Spangler, ‘Blessing: The Art And The Practice’

If you think of a blessing in terms of some form of ritual and liturgy, then it takes place in time and space in the form of an action. But, it need not only be confined to this – a blessing could take the form of blessing others by assisting others with your skills and talents, drawing alongside them and giving them your time, giving them something physically, even smiling at someone to lift their spirits etc. All these are actions! But, there’s more.

‘A blessing is the passing of spirit between us. It’s a slash in the flesh of the ego…’, David Spangler, ‘Blessing: The Art And The Practice’

There are so many ways to bless, but perhaps the ritual and liturgy (action and words) is a good place to start, as that’s the channel it can flow through, initially. Subtle energy.

It flows though us, but I’d like to suggest that it originates elsewhere. Yes, each one of us has an inherent worth and power, and so we have an ‘energy store’ from which to bless people, animals and creation, the world and events, but there’s more. That’s not all of it.

We have access to a veritable infinite store-house of blessing-energy, and so we can view ourselves as a conduit calling upon that huge reservoir of blessing-energy, tapping into some and conferring it on others, moving it around, dealing with obstacles,  and overcoming them, of being filled up with that energy, depleting it, and then, in turn, ‘topping it up’. Such blessing-energy flows, and is quite ‘circular’!

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
‘Who touched me?, Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’
But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ Luke 8:42b – 46, The book

There are a number of reasons why someone may not want to bless, whether they’re thinking of a time of ritual and liturgy, a time of prayer, of uttering the words ‘bless you’, or being involved in some action. Some may feel they’re out of their depth, others that they’re not qualified and maybe then defer to another, whilst others might feel its presumptuous, or maybe, they’re not quite sure what a blessing really is and how to confer a blessing. We can always find reasons not to bless. The ego can be quite good at ‘getting us off the hook’.

However, each one of us can bless! Even a novice, a beginner, with no formal experience can bless. And, if you feel uncomfortable, initially, or feel you’ve made a mistake…don’t worry. Intentionality, is of paramount importance here. The fact that you wanted to bless someone, an animal or part of creation, or an event, I believe, means a blessing was conferred. The Source of All honours our intentions.

‘What will you do with your one precious, wild life?’, Mary Oliver

Ofcourse, once you start, most people want to know more about how and when to bless, more about that huge and infinite store-house of blessing-energy etc. And, that’s where the next few articles may come in useful, and a few one-day workshops planned over the next few months will benefit some (and more about these will follow later in the week).

Suffice to say, if you’ve got this far in the article, I’d like you to take the next step, commit to reading the other articles that will follow, here, on this fascinating and essential theme, and start to wonder how you can be (more) involved in the blessing other people, animals and creation around us, and events etc. You have a vital role to play, that no one else can undertake. Only you.

If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more…you give away, the more…you will have.’ John O’Donohue

How do we prepare for blessing others, what is this infinite store-house of blessing-energy and how can we access it, what is reciprocity, how can we support each other? It continues tomorrow…and throughout this week.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Blessing, But Were Afraid To Ask*

20170428 BLESSING 0 BLESSING‘Bless you’, I said.  ‘But, I haven’t sneezed’, was their reply.

And so, for some, that’s the limit of their understanding of when a blessing is initiated, or perhaps an indication of their level of their uncomfortableness or embarrassment at being blessed.

Have you ever been asked to bless? As a Druid, Celtic, Christian, Pagan, or, of another faith or belief, have you ever been asked, or bypassed the request, or felt uneasy about it?

It may feel odd to receive a blessing in daily life; it may seem strange to  bless or want to bless another person. But, blessings are great events full of meaning, power, pathos and convey favour, love, understanding, acceptance, promise and, well…a blessing!

And yet, we are reluctant to bless, aren’t we?

‘When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness… all the good things.’  Maya Angelou

It is such a simple thing to utter those words, and yet we refrain, perhaps thinking it too easy. At other times, we be reluctant because we think it too complicated or disqualify ourselves, deferring to others – thinking, ‘They have a qualification, a title, and office, and so they are best placed to bless others’. Too simple.  And, we miss out blessing others, and miss out on being blessed. We seem to place obstacles in our path, close the door, and find reasons not to bless.

Perhaps there’s a middle route?

‘See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.’ Rev 3:8b, The Book

Who can bless? This is an easy one to answer. You can! We identify ourselves in so many ways, and usually materially, but then we live in a very materialistic world. We might identify ourselves by the work we do, our familial status, age, our social status or, perhaps, our income. Very seldom do we say, I am myself. I am spirit. I am soul. There is a holiness in me. Therefore, I am someone who can bless’. [Excerpt from David Spangler’s book, ‘Blessing: The Art And The Practice’]

I really do believe we live in a time when there is a great need to bless people, local and world events, etc eco-nature concerns, events, workplaces, homes, projects and endeavours etc. It’s time to ‘send out’ those blessings, and in return to realise we, too, are blessed. Whether we are Druid, Celtic, Christian, Pagan, of another faith or belief, I do believe (more) blessing is needed at such a time as this, and so all of the articles on TadhgTalks next week will be on blessing in one way or another. I’m excited about that, and would encourage the same in you. You are called! Needed! And, have that capability and energy, and will be blessed, too.

‘The most important matter for a practitioner is to be able to break through the veil of the material plane in order to enter the ultimate dimension and see the interconnection between us and all other phenomena in the world around us.’ Thich Nhat Hanh,

It is so important that we know the value of blessing, how to bless in formal ways and informal ways, to bless and be blessed in the process. It is not just a duty and a joyful one at that, it’s more. It’s your birth-right and a calling from another realm.

‘Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. John O’Donohue

Next week, we’ll consider exactly what a blessing is, the source of it/them, the ‘how to’ (using the Caim, imaginal ‘tools’ etc), the reasons for blessing, and the reciprocal nature of blessing-energy. Yes, you can benefit, too.

 

* Well, perhaps not everything.

 

Celtic Thought: Beltane Fire, Reflections.

20170427 BELTANE FIRE REFLECTIONS CELTIC THOUGHTBeltane (1 May) is almost here, that time of celebration as we usher in a new season: summer.

For many it probably doesn’t feel like summer, or even spring at the moment – it’s about the temperature of the inside of a fridge in London at the moment as temperatures have plummeted over the last few days. But, summer is on its way.

Beltane, then, marks the entry-point to summer, and summer (as with the southern compass point) is associated with fire. So, here some words on the seasonally-apt theme of fire.

‘Fire is the most tolerable third party.’ ‘Henry David Thoreau

Beltane, along with rituals of old to protect cattle, crops and people, was also a time of celebration involving a community bonfire. Think of Druids of old around a bonfire, ancient and latter-day Celts, or St Patrick and other Christians celebrating the coming of Light. Bonfires have long been associated with this time – though there is no reason why you can’t celebrate the event in a special way, if at home on that evening, with the lighting of a symbolic candle.

But, it’s a time of fire.

‘Beltane is a wonderful time for expressing who you truly are.’ Carole Carlton

There is an intimacy about fire. Figuratively, we might describe a couple deeply in love as burning with passion, with fire in their hearts for each other. For those burning with ambition (pun intended), we might describe them as having fire in their belly.

‘Desire is a bonfire that burns with greater fury, asking for more fuel… ‘ Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Fire is alive.

At school, albeit many, many years ago, I well remember learning about the seven processes that underpin all life.

Firstly, living things move to find food, and fire moves especially rapidly during forest fires, house fires to find and consume material for fuel.

Living things undergo respiration – they need oxygen. Fire ‘breathes in’ oxygen, and needs it to sustain its energy. Starve a fire of oxygen and it dies.

Exodus 19:18 ‘Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire…’ Exodus 19.18a, The Book

Sensitivity is another process of life as it detects changes in its surroundings. Fire also is sensitive to its surroundings, as it responds to the materials it encounters, favouring some and moving away from others eg wood and water, paper and metal etc).

Fire, like living cells, grows. The more fuel fire finds, the larger and more expansive the flames.

That naturally bring us onto nutrition. Living cells, animals, trees, plants etc need food to live, and fire is no different. Take away its fuel source and it dies.

Reproduction? Yes, just as life reproduces itself, so does fire. In many rituals one candle is initially lit, and from that many others are lit (with the former being diminished in any way). Fire can make umpteen copies of itself – forming ‘offspring’ of its own kind.

I smoor the hearth
as Mary smoors it.
The vigilance of Brighid and Mary
be upon the fire and upon the floor
and over the whole household.

{Celtic prayer)

And finally, something that is not spoken of in polite company is excretion.  Living things excrete. Explore a landscape after a fire, look into a hearth when a fire has died, or has been smoored, and ash is the result. Ash, the excretion left behind by the fire.

Fire is alive.

Fire is intimate. If you’re fortunate enough to have an open fire, a hearth in the living room, a wonderful and deep meditation is to just sit and gaze at it for an hour without artificial light.  As a child, and even today, I meditate in such a way whenever I can. I heartily recommend it. The fire draws you in. It invites you to cosy up, relax, douse all other thoughts and to look deeply into it. And then, a myriad of ‘liquid’ fire shapes erupt, dance about, grow, are diminished and then disappear, only to be replaced by other fantastical, yellow, orange and red ‘ignitic beings’ who dance in their place. Shapes appear, heat is felt, thoughts amble and time is ‘consumed’ in a pleasant and wonderful way. And then one looks around. The rest of the room looks darker, cooler if not colder and altogether different. It’s then, and only after the event, that you realise that such a deep mediation took you into that liminal realm, that altogether-other place, sacred space, and what some would call a ‘thin place, a caol áit (pronounced ‘kweel awtch’).

Communion. Connectedness. Caol áit. Candle?

Beltane is a time of the new season of summer, whose element is fire, and it is a time to celebrate in large ways and small, to light a bonfire or candle, but a time to draw aside, consider the intimacy of the fire-season and celebrate – to mark the occasion is some joyful, positive, pleasant and memorable way. Do something special this Beltane.

‘We are all born with a divine fire in us. Our efforts should be to give wings to this fire and fill the world with the glow of its goodness.’ Abdul Kalam

Tadhg’s Journal: ‘The End Of The World’ Or ‘And I Will Walk 500 Miles…’

20170426 CAMINO TADHGS JOURNALI’ve been pondering what to do. There’s a few things I need to do, somethings that I’d like to do, but one of my plans is, for later this year perhaps, one thing that I’d really like to commit to, is…

…to walk the Camino de Santiago. A pilgrimage.

Over the last couple of years the idea has been ‘bouncing around’ in my mind, and I’ve read umpteen books on it and read the journals of those who have walked it, seen a few videos about it, and even studied one of the few journey-planner books that ‘concertina out’ to show you the route, variations, places of interest on the map, and locations of pensiones (basic hostels for sleeping and for breakfasting along the way, which sounds really ‘rough’) and alternative accommodation (which sound much more ‘me’ and much more appealing).

‘Walking the Camino de Santiago taught me the wonders of physical challenge, the wonders of spiritual freedom, and the wonders of baby powder.’ Christy Hall

The Route: One of the most popular, and the one that appeals to me the most is the route that leads from St Jean-Pied-de-Pont near Biarritz, in the south-western corner of France, along the northern part of Spain to Santiago. Some would say it is traditionally Christian county, and Celtic and Druid land, Basque areas and more, and I dare say all of those and others have walked (and still walk) the Camino because it transcends mere nationality.

It takes about 30-33 days to complete as it’s  800km long, that’s 500 miles (hence the song title in this articles heading, words from that great (umm, well ‘well-known’) Scottish duo, The Proclaimers.

However, glutton for punishment that I am, I’d really like to travel further, at least for another 2-3 days, and arrive at the coast, at a place called Finnisterre, literally, ‘the end of the world’. So-called, because the Romans, from yesteryear, saw it as the end of their empire, the end of their world.

Why do it? I was going to say, ‘because it’s there’, and that’s part of the appeal. The other reasons are that it has a long history. It’s the journey that is really important, and not the destination. It  is deeply spiritual. Pilgrims have been walking that route for over a millennia and I’d like to be added to that number, and it’s a route that is full of pathos,  meaning and history and wonderful myth (and that’s something for another time); and usually, there are two main reasons for doing it.

‘A beginner’s mind and a backpack is all you need.’

When you arrive at the end of that pilgrimage, you take the paperwork (a sheet that has been ‘stamped’ at major points along the way) to the Pilgrim’s Office desk. They issue a certificate of completion. There are two types of certificate: one is in Latin, and is issued to pilgrims who declare that they did the Camino for religious or spiritual purposes. Your name will also be written in Latin. That’s the certificate I’ll walk for, and I’m eager to see how they ‘Latinise’ my name, Tadhg. The second certificate is for those who did it for cultural or historical purposes. This one is written in Spanish.

It’s usual, when it comes to declaring the walk for spiritual reasons  for some to dedicate the walk in memory of a loved-one, and that’s what I’ll do – in memory of my dear late Dad and Mum.

‘Connect with others, nature, and yourself. Throughout the Camino de Santiago, it is tradition to greet anyone you meet with a “Buen Camino.” Everyone becomes a part of your expedition, a part of your story…’

There is a great movie/DVD called ‘The Way’. It stars Martin Sheen as a doctor, Tom, who receives an urgent call from the French police regarding his son, who….well, that would be telling. It’s a great DCD, a good storyline and shows off some of the scenery and meaning of walking the Camino de Santiago, The Way Of St James. Here’s a trailer.

Well, this is my intention. My aim is to do it later this year. I would value your prayers, energy, positivity, and well-wishes for this event, as I want to make it special, and also want to ‘take you with me’, metaphorically, as I’d like to report about the journey on a daily basis as it happens. But, it’s not for a while yet. It’s an aim. And, so back to more Camino research, studying and planning for me.

‘Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking’. Antonio Machado

But, please start sending that much-needed energy. Regards, Tadhg.

Cosmic Fire [Within]: A Poem & Liturgy For Beltane.

20170425 COSMIC FIRE WITHIN POEMBeltane, celebrated on 1 May, is fast approaching.

The wheel turns, as the Earth continues to circle the sun. As it turns, and east is represented by the element of the wind (and we’re moving away from that), then due south is represented by fire, and we’re moving toward that.

Due south, the time of the summer solstice is the height of that season and element, so Beltane is south-east. Not quite east, not quite south. It’s a ‘moving into’ time’, as we move south-ward. In Wales and Ireland, and other Celtic countries Beltane is the beginning of summer, or at least the summer season represented by fire (even if, weather-wise, it doesn’t quite feel that way), and so many – perhaps yourself – will light candles and bonfires to welcome the wonderful event of Beltane, and usher in a new season.

Beltane is the time for dancing around maypoles (a popular event at primary school, but maybe not so now). It is the season of maturing life and deep found love, and the time of making vows, handfastings and other commitments. In Wales, Beltane is also known as Calan Mai. I’m afraid those words, themselves, don’t have a deep meaning, and they just mean the first day of May. However, the event itself is very significant and is a wonderful time of celebration.

My encouragement to you, then, is the celebrate the event in large ways or small, but to celebrate it is some significant way (that is unique to you).

With Beltane and fire in mind, here’s a poem, a Beltane liturgy that may be of use. It will form part of my Beltane celebrations.

Cosmic Fire [Within]

Before time itself,
when matter was but a dream in the Divine mind,
in the cosmic explosive crucible
of the furthest reaches of space,
fire roared.

Before life was formed,
when cosmic radiation coalesced
into a myriad of starry forms,
as the universe expanded,
fire grew.

Before humanity arose,
when the universe was oh-so-young and innocent,
the Source of All
planned that you should be here, and
fire moved.

Before this present time,
before you even knew that you are ‘you’,
energy was planted in all the elements.
Visible only to those who have eyes to see.
Fire hid.

From the very start,
it was ordained, that one place for the element of fire
to reside, to enliven and to empower,
was deep in the very core of humanity’s being, in your
heart.

Praise be to you Brother Sun, Sister fire.
Visible and invisible are you.
Felt and yet unknown.
Through you we can shine like a myriad stars in the sky.
A return to the beginning.