Things That Go Bump In The Night: Random Thoughts & One View On Meditation

20170712 THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT 1You could be forgiven, especially after my (likely) encounter with the Gwrach y Rhibyn early yesterday morning, for thinking that a night in the woods would be out of the question. Oh, but you don’t know me.

In north Wales I live in a rural and relatively remote area, and I love it. It is a complete contrast to city life and my time spent in London. Here, near Capel Curig, I can relax, breathe easily and walk lightly upon the earth. It’s a great place – even when peering out of the living room window at lush, grey-green mountains in the distance – to let thoughts meander. And, tonight (the evening of 11 July, 2017) thoughts, for no seeming reason, were rife.

There was only one thing for it – a hike (albeit a short one this time) and a night under the stars. I have my favourite nearby places and haunts to camp, usually about an hour’s trek away from where I live, but last night a walk into the forest lasting about ten minutes would put me in thick forest, and would suffice. And, ‘awalking’ I went.

‘The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.’ Haruki Murakami,

And, after erecting the tent under a deep blue-black, clear sky and a ‘starry, starry sky’, sometime shortly before midnight, those rampant thoughts raced even more.

Alone.

Firstly, the Gwrach y Rhibyn – the witch, that hag of the mist and portent of death! Fearful of the Gwrach y Rhibyn? No, when told numerous stories of that hag I was always taught to have a healthy respect for such beings, or if you’re not too sure whether such beings exist then insert the word ‘stories’ for ‘beings’. And, so I was taught to have a healthy respect, but no fear. However, as I sat there, outside the tent I can assure you that my eyes were wide open and I was alert. One cannot be complacent. I’m reminded of those people that rear lions from cubs and then invite a fully grown male lion into their house. I like reading about such events, but to me that’s one step too far.

Healthy respect.

If I encountered the Gwrach y Rhibyn out there, in the open, that’s okay…but to invite her into my house, where she could ‘turn’ and then I would have the problem of removing her, is quite something else. But, I’m not a fearful sort of person. Not silly, or ‘over brave’, but not fearful. I told you my thoughts were racing that evening. So, a healthy respect for the hag of the mist is good. But, all is well. She’s not here.

Other thoughts continued to flow like boats on an ocean. And, so it was an opportunity to meditate. There are different ways that word ‘meditate’ is used, and different forms of meditation, and for some of my friends the word and process is anathema, and it confuses me why they should think that.

Open mindedness.

The ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids are an imaginative lot. If you read some stories of old you get the impression of a myriad of shape-shifters and ‘magical’ things happening. Why, even dear St Patrick was said, at one time, to have shape-shifted into a deer to escape danger. And there’s at least one reference in the Book to a talking donkey. And, don’t even get me started on selkies and kelpies. Did these actually happen or where did they occur in the imagination of someone’s thoughts? And, does that really matter? They happened!

Joan of Arc at her trial: I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.
Robert: They come from your imagination?
Joan: Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us. (Scene I)

Those inner workings of the mind are important, and meditation is all-important. Bearing in mind different forms of meditation and interpretations of the word, here’s one definition: meditation is the ability to objectively hold a thought at arms-length, metaphorically’, and analyse it. It’s the one I was using last night in the forest, as I held each thought at arms-length and inspected it.

Analysis.

Meditation isn’t about letting your mind go blank (and so you don’t need to worry if anything will ‘crawl’ in that vacant slot (even if such negative things exist)). Right then, last evening, there was no probability of my mind going blank. As I sat there, quietly, a large number of thoughts moved through my mind, like boats endlessly sailing across the ocean.

Thoughts such as: What would those Christian friends (who don’t know if my Druidic tendencies) think of me if they knew? What would my Druid friends (who don’t know of my (Christian) theological degree and ordination) think of me if they knew? What should I do now about the possibility of moving house after Christmas? Should I re-paint the outside of my house? Should I take up Ben’s challenge (after I ‘thrashed’ him at chess) of a wrestling match? Actually, that one is easy to answer. Self-preservation kicked in.

‘Each flying thought, a flying thought pursues.’ C B Langston

But, other thoughts, for no real reason, raced though my mind, like speedboats on the ocean. Infact, very much like ocean-liners on the ocean. Meditation, in the form I was practicing that night, was very much like peacefully gazing out to sea and looking, intently, only on the distant area where the sea ‘touches’ the sky. Focussing on that area, you’re then aware of vessels passing in the nearer field of view but you pay them no attention. I’m sure you’ve done that, in reality, when on the beach. And, that for me, was last tonight’s meditation. Not focussing on all distracting thoughts, except for the one that I wanted to analyse.

Objectivity.

Each thought – about the Gwrach y Rhibyn, what some of my Christian friends might think of me, what my Druid friends might think of me, and Ben’s challenge – was analysed. This is not to say they worried me, nor that  I had to work through them, frantically. Quite the opposite. This form of meditation is all about focussing on one thought, holding it at arms-length, and objectively analysing it from all possible angles. ‘Well, I didn’t know I had so much emotional baggage attached to that thought’, and ‘Why do you, dear thought, keep returning, and you seem bigger than before?’. And, ‘This is a powerful thought…only If I grant it that power’, or ‘That’s an interesting thought, but I’ll come back to you later, dear one’, and so on.

We, each, have that power to hold thoughts in an objective way, and as with any muscle, the more we do it, the more it grows. The more we say to ourselves we cannot do it, it’s too hard or give up, so the faculty reduces. You are not your thoughts. You are more!

‘You are more than your thoughts, your body, or your feelings. You are a swirling vortex of limitless potential who is here to shake things up and create something new that the universe has never seen.’ Richard Bartlett

And so, as I sat there, and it was gone 2am before I turned out the torch’s light, I had systematically worked though a number of thoughts – many which you will never know about.  And, that may be a good thing. After all, What would those Christian friends (who don’t know if my Druidic tendencies) think of me if they knew? What would my Druid friends (who don’t know of my (Christian) theological degree and ordination) think of me if they knew? You can see the irony here, I’m sure: those few detailed admissions here, that genie is now out of the bag, for all to see. But, I’m that kind of guy. And, I trust you, anyway!

Between friends!

As, I laid there, and with sleep descending quite fast, I heard a rustle in the undergrowth nearby. That thought was nipped in the bud quite quickly, analysed within seconds and dismissed. If that was the Gwrach y Rhibyn, she had better not come between me and my sleep! Oh no! Needless to say, after what seemed only a few minutes I opened my eyes to the most glorious yellow and bright sunrise, and assumed, after all, that it wasn’t the hag of the mist. But, it makes you think! And, there I go again!

A Close Encounter With The Gwrach y Rhibyn?: Tadhg’s Journal

20170711 A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE GWRACH Y RIBYNYes, I was awake very early this morning, and having coffee in the garden looking toward some of the wonderful distant mountains that comprise north Wales. This is ancient land – the land of ancient Celtic Christians and Druids, and a myriad of others whose wisdom and presence still, wonderfully, permeates the land and air.

For this time of the year – the day time temperatures have dropped over the last few days – the air temperature this morning was ‘fresh’…but the coffee was piping hot. Bliss.

As I looked into the distance the green-grey colour – mountains mainly of slate and usually grass-covered – became lighter, more diffuse and paler as the early morning mist played on them. Clouds hung low in the sky. The air was still, somewhat ‘heavy’ as though a storm was approaching, birdsong was quiet except for the odd screech. Indeed, distant thunder rumbled. Or, it could have been the wind ‘rumbling’ around mountain valleys. It’s difficult to tell when the sound is some way off, muted and intermittent.

This morning, however, more than ever, I could palpably feel the rawness, wildness and ‘dangerousness’ of nature pressing in, in all its beauty. It was quiet. And yet there was a seeming expectation that there was more. A foreboding.

‘So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and…all the people who were in the camp trembled.’ (Exodus 19:16 part, The Book)

Sound became muffled, except for that raucous and occasional ‘unearthly’ squawk. Was it, infact, a bird? I had heard that sound before, but had never identified what made it – but that was when out on some evening or night-time walk, and always low as in the undergrowth and not high up in a tree.

Was it a bird? A wounded animal moving about in nearby undergrowth? It was now closer to me than ever before. All was quiet apart from that noise. ‘Clumps’ of mist moved across the garden – quite thick, but moving quite quickly – and as I gazed at the mist, my mind and imagination wandered. A bird, a wounded animal, or could it be the Gwrach y Rhibyn?

My grandmother used to tell me stories about the Gwrach y Rhibyn (pronounced ‘goo-rach ee ribb-in’. But the ‘ch’ in that second syllable is sounded like the ‘ch’ in loch, that is, a back-of-the-throat phlegm-clearing sound). Those words translate as ‘the witch of Rhibyn’. I had a wonderfully imaginative childhood! (And, it still goes on).

My grandmother always concluded those stories by saying that when you encounter the Gwrach y Rhibyn or the like, never fear or show fear, always be respectful and always learn with your ‘eyes wide open’. Such happenings she would say, always have a positive learning ‘message’ to impart to us.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
a vital breath of more ethereal air.

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

The Gwrach y Rhibyn was always depicted as an old hag, an ugly witch, sometimes with thick leathery wings, but always, so the story goes, the portent of misery and death. Rather like the wailing of the Irish bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’), or even the Cailleach from Scottish and Irish mythology.

She certainly got about – her name changes depending on the culture, but her reputation always remained the same. She was someone to avoid. Embraced in early-morning (or was it storm) mist my grandmother’s description of the Gwrach y Rhibyn as the hag of the mist made me shiver (or was the air temperature dropping even more?).

I sat there, now with limited visibility, the ‘thing’ that was squawking or screeching was even closer, but shrouded in mist. I was calm because I didn’t believe I was in any danger, but wary at the same time. Nature, the unknown, this mystery or was it the Mystery, was palpable, powerful, big, raw and wild, and so close, but (I believed) benevolent.

‘Live free, child of the mist – and with respect to knowledge we are all children of the mist.’ (Henry David Thoreau)

I sat there, transfixed (almost), in heightened awareness (and yes, everything did seem brighter) for some twenty minutes. Watching. Waiting. Listening. Observing. The periodic squawking or screeching seemed to be moving away into the distance now, further into the mist. Soon, the mist began to clear. I could see some distance now, and then, just then, out the corner of my eye I spied a dark shape some three hundred meters away, but only for a second or two! As I looked again, all I could see were the usual trees and boundary hedges. ‘Nothing untoward’, as my grandmother would say.

Was that’ shape’ the Gwrach y Rhibyn come to harass? Just a trick of the light? My imagination? Was the screeching of ‘something’ in the mist, a bird? I wish I could tell you, but I can’t. What I can say is that as I sat there embraced by that early morning mist (and I do believe it applies to us all), I experienced the unknown and the wildness of nature that was palpable, and I experienced it as an inclusive and yet powerful force, but also as an humbling experience.

‘A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born’ ( Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

There are some things we just don’t know. And there are some things we will never know. And there are some things we are not meant to know. That ‘event’, this morning, whatever is was, was one such event. And, you know what? I’m content with that ‘visitation’. I learned something vital about myself. I believe we all do in those infrequent but  amazing ‘encounter-awakening’ situations.

 

The Rainbow Blessing [Celtic Poem, Liturgy & Blessing]

20170710 RAINBOW BLESSINGWe live in a universe full of vibrant colour, and though we can only see part of the spectrum, what we can see is wonderful in its beauty.

We can witness the yellow radiance of the daily new-born sun as it rises above the horizon, to the deep red colour of evening and sunset. Grass, trees, flowers, a superabundance of insects and animals, nature arrayed in all its beauty is set before us in a blaze of colour, to gaze upon in awe and for us to be blessed.

The following, then, may be used as a poem for yourself or as liturgy in a ritual, and as a blessing to you and others:

Title: The Rainbow Blessing

May the blessing of the red sun as it sinks below the horizon be yours.
May the blessing of orange, the colour of flame and hearth be yours.
May the blessing of the wild, green earth and all life be yours.
May the blessing of the blue sea and wind which calls forth waves upon it be yours.
May the blessing of indigo, the twilight colour of change and coolness be yours.
May the blessing of violet, the colour of majesty and might be yours.
And may all the colourful blessings of the God Of The Rainbow be upon you and yours, now and always.

Blessings, Tadhg

 

 

Tadhg’s Ephemera: The Moon Of Calming [9 July 2017]

20170707 TADHGS EPHEMERA MOON OF CALMING 9 JULY

It’s that time again – a full moon is imminent.

I love this time of the month, as that heavenly face looks down upon us all. Whatever our differences, tribal allegiances, wherever we find ourselves, that silvery, wonderful face looks upon us all, without judgement.  It’s a time to draw near, to offer gratitude, to celebrate the new moon just as the ancients would have, and it’s a time to ponder in awe, and draw strength.

‘The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.’ Jean Ingelow

The next full moon is on Sunday, 9 July 2017 at 5.07am UTC, in the constellation of Sagittarius, but at that time in the early morning it will be very low in the sky from the UK’s viewpoint, so it may be best to view it Saturday evening, toward midnight or after.

Data

This full moon, to some is known as the Rose moon, or Mead moon, or the Hay moon. To ancient and latter-day Celts and Druidic-Christians like myself (and others) it is known as the Moon of Calming.

‘And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years’. (Genesis 1:14, The Book)

Pluto is nearby this full moon, but the bright star very close to the moon – almost touching it – is 56 Sagittarii, an ‘orange giant’, which is some 204 light years away.

Light leaving 56 Sagittarii some 204 years ago and arriving today, entering your retina, as you look at it now, left that star in 1813 – and during the year of 1813:

  • Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was published anonymously in London;
  • there was a three week raid by the British on Fort Schlosser, Black Rock and Plattsburgh, New York (Sorry, America);
  • Robert Southey becomes Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom;
  • one of my favourite philosopher-theologians, Søren Kierkegaard, was born;
  • and Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi, the Italian composer was also born that year.

An alternative view if that, is that all those above events, if it were possible to view them from the star 56 Sagittarii, would only just now be arriving, and that’s what any alien there would ‘see’ and understand of our planet – as it was 204 years ago. Such are the vast distances of space. However, light leaving the moon would take just 1.3 seconds to reach your eye!

‘The day, water, sun, moon, night – I do not have to purchase these things with money.’ Plautus

Liturgy

The following might be useful in your celebration of this full moon, in gratitude to The One Beyond The Moon. These are two liturgical poems or prayers that I’ve come across:

Oh Divine Presence,
bless to me/us the lustre of your signs and wonders,
traces of our final home in land and sea and sky.
As you have made the mark of a human face in the heavens
may I/we see the imprint of your family likeness in every living thing
that your blessing might radiate
each day and each night,
until heaven and earth are One.

(Tess Ward, adapted)

and

I call on strength
from silver moon.
I call on strength
from every sandy strand.
I call on strength
from mountain peak.
I call on strength
from moorland bleak.
I call upon the Spirit
providing strength from here.

(Adapted from David Adam’s book ‘Tides And Seasons’)

I wish you all – whether you have a full moon meal, a party, a full moon ritual, or just take the time to light a candle and/or gaze at the moon in awe and gratitude – I wish you all a wonderful Moon of Calming occasion, and many blessings.

‘We are going to the moon that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself.’ Anaïs Nin

(Thank you  to Pennie Ley for letting me use one of her wonderful photographs (copyrighted, 2017)  for the ‘header’ to this article.)

 

 

Tadhg’s Ephemera: The New Month Of The Holly Tree [8 July – 4 August]

20170706 THE CELTIC MONTH OF THE HOLLY TREE

This Friday is the last day of the Celtic month of the Oak, and Saturday, 8 July is the start of a new month – but remember the ancient Druids and Celts, and many other ancient peoples, too, started their new day in the evening. So, you can celebrate the new month this coming Friday evening if you wish, or Saturday evening.

The upcoming new month is the Celtic and Druid month of the Holly, and it’s a wonderful month.

About The Tree

Common Name: Holly
Scientific Name: Ilex aquifolium
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Miscellaneous Information: The name ‘holy’, which probably derived from the Prot-Indo-European language for ‘prickly’, came to us through the Old Norse word ‘hulfr’. In German it’s hulst, French it’s houx, and Welsh as celyn.

Mature trees, can grow up to 15m and live for about three hundred years. The bark is smooth and thin with numerous small, brown ‘warts’, and the stems are dark brown. Its leaves are dark green, glossy and oval in shape, with younger plants have spiky leaves.

The holly is dioecious: male and female flowers occur on different trees. Flowers are white with four petals. Look out for its bright red berries and shiny, leathery leaves that usually have spiny prickles on the edges.

Love is like the wild rose-briar;
Friendship like the holly tree,
The holly is dark when the rose briar blooms,
But which will bloom most constantly?

(Emily Bronte)

The tree is native in the UK and across Europe, north Africa and western Asia. It is commonly found in woodland, scrub and hedgerows, and especially in oak and beech woodland.

Holly provides dense cover and good nesting opportunities for birds, and its dry leaf litter is used by hedgehogs and other small mammals for hibernation.

The berries are a vital source of food for birds in winter, and are also eaten by small mammals such as wood mice and dormice.

Holly wood is the whitest of all woods, and is very heavy, hard and fine grained. It can be stained and polished, and is used, sometimes, to make furniture or used in engraving work. It is also commonly used to make walking-sticks. Holly wood also makes good kindling, and burns with a strong heat.

Mythology And Symbolism

For centuries, holly branches have been used to decorate homes, especially in winter. In the Christian tradition the bright red berries represented the blood of Christ, and was a reminder at Christmastime of the Christ’s impending crucifixion and that new life springs from that.

The Holly and the Ivy
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly wears the crown.

(Traditional carol)

For ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, the tree was also seen as a fertility symbol and a charm against witches, goblins and the devil. It was thought by many to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.

It is said the oak tree attracts lightning, but the holly tree repels lightning, and so it was often planted around homes for protection from lightning strikes, and for this reason it is viewed as a symbol for protection. But, please don’t shelter under one, nor any tree, in lightning storm!

Interestingly, science has actually discovered the distinct leaf-shape of the holly acts as a natural repellent for lightning’s electricity, allegedly, making the holly’s protective significance more than just lore, perhaps.

I’ll bid the hyacinth to blow,
I’ll teach my grottos green to be;
And sing my true love, all below
the holly bower and myrtle tree.

(Thomas Campbell)

As the ‘ruler’ of winter, the holly is also associated with dreams and the subconscious. Druids would often invoke the holly energy for assistance in dream work.

In Celtic mythology the Holly King was said to rule over the half of the year from the summer to the winter solstice, at which time the Oak King defeated the Holly King to rule for the time until the summer solstice again.

In heraldry, the holly represents truth.

Celebrating The Month Of Holly

However you would normally celebrate a new Celtic month, it would be a good idea, perhaps, to:

  • spend some time contemplating on a holly twig, if you’re able to buy some, or print out a photo from the internet of holly, and have that on your table near a candle, and
  • think about the various associations that holly has: fertility, protection, the blood of the Christ, and what this means to you and others – always good to know what others believe, even if you have a deep-seated belief, and
  • perhaps use some of the quotes above in your time of celebration (which can be incorporated into a meal or similar, or token meal), but make it a good time of celebration as we move into a new month, a new start.

And, there’s also a full moon too, this weekend, so that is also something that can be incorporated into your new month celebration – but more about the upcoming new moon, tomorrow.

Blessings, Tadhg

 

 

Happy Band Of ‘Amphibians’, We: Celtic Thought On Authenticity

20170705 HAPPY BAND OF AMPHIBIANS WEIt’s noon here, and I’m in the garden overlooking the distant hills and mountains of north Wales, and it’s idyllic. I’m munching away on the thickest and most mouth-watering tomato and cheese sandwich you can ever imagine, and there’s the obligatory book and a steaming cup of delicious coffee on the table, too. The weather is wonderfully hot, especially hot for the UK. It’s bliss. I’m in that ‘place’!

I took a telephone call, and that ‘pulled’ me out of the soporific, wonderful, state I was in. It happens. The ‘place’ seemingly ‘evaporated’.

The caller said I needed to make a major legal decision, and I made it. Reluctantly. I would have preferred more time, but that can be a luxury, sometimes. The caller acting on my behalf was pleasant enough, and knowing where I was and what a beautiful part of the country this is, ended their call by wishing that they had such a genteel lifestyle as I had.

And that got me thinking. Always a dangerous thing to do. Do they really know me?

How often, when we get snippets of information do we fill in the ‘gaps’ in a glorious and imaginative fashion, albeit not a very realistic one?

‘The problem is that perception is reality.’ (John Rowland)

Here’s some examples from tv, myth, history, and my life:

I loved those old Robin Hood tv series, and the latter-day ones, but honestly, would Robin Hood really have had all his teeth, would Maid Marion’s dress be so white and her hair so coiffured?

As a student of various ancient spiritual texts, it’s easy to think that Luke the physician ran around Palestine wearing a white coat and with a stethoscope, when probably, he was more akin to an ancient herbalist.

We fill in the gaps, and somehow don’t quite make the leap as regards context and that imaginative inner ‘time travel’ back to those former days to understand what life was really like in only partially complete. Well, unless we really, really, really try!

One of my heroes from English history is Oliver Cromwell. A brave and noble man, many believe, and his statue is outside the Houses Of Parliament in London. But he’s painted with a wart or two on his face, and he wasn’t always noble. To our Irish brethren at that time, and to the Leveller’s of his day he was ruthless, and he killed so many of them.

Be careful when filling in those information gaps!

We see paintings, some of them online, about ancient Druids and Celts, Celtic-Christians and others from yesteryear, and we ‘see’ them depicted through twenty-first century eyes, and in doing so we miss much. Their wisdom surpasses ours, but in many respects their knowledge and (sorry to bring this up) their personal hygiene probably left a lot to be desired. Yes, even Jesus had goat dung between his toes, probably.

We fill in the gaps, and unknowingly factor in modern-day living and thoughts. Authenticity is the goal.

It’s easy to ‘see’ the ancients’ lives though ‘rose-tinted spectacles’. And this goes on even today. Remember that phone call I mentioned earlier, where the person wished for a genteel life such as mine?

What I wanted to say to them was: I want to be honest with you. I’m an ‘amphibian’. And, you are, too! True, I have times of luminous awareness, liminality and can almost ‘feel’ angels at play around me, like you. At other times, I don’t. Then, I have to shop in the supermarket and compare prices, nurse a burnt finger – yes, I burnt my finger on the cooker cooking a nice piece of fish, today – and have to ‘wrestle’ with tax forms, ‘official’ phone calls that demand urgent action, and the world seems to press in so tightly. On those occasions I don’t feel so ‘sagely’ and ‘genteel’. On top of that, in my life, I’ve had cancer (leading to three cycles of chemo, an oesophagetomy and radio-therapy), also had an unrelated thyroidectomy, two broken ribs last year, and now I’ve got a burnt finger.

I’m a work in progress, that’s what I wanted to tell them. And, I know you’re the same as me – the details may change, but we have a share in that ‘common human predicament’.

Those ancients were great people, of that I’m sure, but they had tough lives, and were people of their time. I look around at Church folk and Druids, and Celts and Pagans and others today, and whatever untroubled lifestyle they may ‘exude’ (intentionally or accidentally), I know better. I know that they, like me, you – us – have had (and still have) tough times in our life. Those who are closest to me know my foibles, and I know theirs, and you know what? I love them even more!

But, that’s what makes us all human. That’s what makes us fascinating.  And, that means I can relate to you, bless you, and you can relate to me and bless me.

We’re all journeying together, you and me, today, and those of yesteryear, on one conga-line dance from here to eternity.

‘…know that something softer than us but just as holy planted the pieces of
Himself into our feet that we might one day find our way back to Him. you
are almost home. (Anis Mojgani)

As a sat there, having ended that ‘phone call, and munching on that sandwich – and it was so delicious – the thought that ran through my mind was: authenticity.

The ancient Celts and Druids were a ‘gritty’ people, living in tough times, in touch with nature in all its green and yes, its brown and soggy bits, but they were an authentic ‘breed’, and don’t we love them for that? I want to be authentic, too, and my prayer, wish, energy-sending ‘push’ for you is that you, too, are authentic. Warts and all. For then I can relax in your company, and you can take me as I am, and I will take you as are you are, and we’ll journey onward together toward Caer Wydyr

‘Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.’ (Zen quote).

Being an ‘amphibian’ human is all right. And the journey is a good one.

Time To Sit And Be Still: Celtic Reflection On Nature

20170704 TIME TO SIT AND BE STILLBack home now, and in my garden in Wales there are just over a dozen wonderful trees. From spring onward they erupt, joyfully with their ‘hands’ raised in praise and extending skyward, in the most delightful and different shades of green as they sprout leaves.

Wonderful trees. I love trees.

This morning, as the sun was just rising, I walked past two silver birches (betula pendula), a horse chestnut tree (aesculus hippocatanum), two ash trees (fraxinus excelsior), and two English oak trees (quercus robur), but didn’t quite make it to the end of the garden to name them in this article. I like to familiarise myself with trees, especially, but plants and wildlife in particular, and know their latin names.

‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.’ (John Muir)

Names are not just convenient ways for us to differentiate between different objects. Names are responsible for the differences between all things on this earth. Names have power.

As I stood there, looking at those other trees, I whispered their name – not their lain name, as I was ‘naming’ them only as I passed the trees and ‘greeted’ them. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to ignore those wonderful trees, and so I collectively called them…Kin.

‘Perhaps we are here in order to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window…to say them more intensely than the Things themselves ever dreamed of existing’. Rainer Maria Rilke

Reverence.

There is a school of thought that says that we are separate from nature. We think we’re separate, and act accordingly, we treat nature in an inferior (and, badly in many cases) because we see it as other, different from us, and ‘distant’.

Nature is wild. It doesn’t conform to our straight city lines. It must be controlled, at least that is the current thinking. Many have a(n ancient Greek) dualistic idea about this. For them, there is nature and humankind. Separate.

Dualism sadly dominates the current thought in our culture, and it is difficult to step outside it. But not impossible.

‘All the big problems of the world today are routed in the philosophy of separateness and dualism.’ (Satish Kumar)

And so, there is another school of thought, and the dualists will roll their eyes at this, that says we are all connected. There is a oneness in creation (like a luminous web, for those who have eyes to see it), and, though we might think we’re separate, we’re not.

Illusion.

I like that idea of connectedness. Rather than the duty to subdue nature, we have a responsibility to respect it’s raw, ‘natural’ wildness and to extend reverence to it. As I stood in the garden this morning I was overwhelmed but the lush greenness of that wild and wonderful place.

‘Green is the colour of relentless desire. Even from under earth smothered with concrete or tarmacadam, the green (grass) blade will rise’ (John O’Donohue)

Green is the colour of life, new life, energy, vitality, youthfulness, growth and maturity. It is the sign that life abounds, that there is hope, and for Druids and Celtic-Christians (and for those who know the history of our once-agrarian community) it is a sign that the cycle of life continues, that new life is here, and, yes, that leaf-fall is not far away. Circularity.

Nothing can really stop ‘green’ advancing. Trees asleep in the winter, ‘chomping’ away silently on the leaf-fall of the previous autumn, suddenly wake up and spring forth without reference to humankind. Weeds, too!

I like the idea of the cycle or circle in nature. It’s how we can, and in agrarian times had to mark the seasons. How sad that many do not recognise nature’s cycle today, or the moon’s phases – something which current Druids and Celtic Christian do, and those of old, those ancient Hebrews (and especially the Psalmist) did. In not marking the passing of the seasons we are poorer for it. Be encouraged to observe the seasons – odd though it may be to our ‘find-anything-in-the-local-supermarket’ mentality, and as odd as it may appear to others, it puts us back in touch with nature. Try it!

Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind’s
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.

(Wendell Berry)

Cycles for the annual seasons. And, perhaps a larger cycle for humanity, too. One creation story, tells that the earth was formed in epochs, and the formation of the Garden, and that the last addition to the Garden was humankind. There, our fore parents were placed in a lush and vibrant green forest. Time went by and access to that Garden was lost – or could it be that we just think we lost access to it. Could it be that some with their nature-based ritual or ‘science’ or intuition are catching glimpses of the Garden as it ‘breaks through’ momentarily?

At the end of that creation story – of things yet to come – humankind eventually draws near to a wonderful green rainbow. Green, again. The colour of life, new life and hope. Circularity. Restoration. Elemental.

Viriditas.

And so I observed those wonderful trees this morning. Not separate from them, but connected to them, and sharing space with them in this garden, and the Garden. Truly, we are all embraced, whether we know it or not, by the God of Green Hope (see Romans 15:13, The Book (‘The Message’ version)).

Whether you live in a rural area or the city, nature abounds. The city may have its humankind-constructed monoliths, but nature displays its love and plenitude in green fecundity in city parks, small gardens or window-boxes, weeds between the pavement stones, and a myriad of animals (such as mice, urban foxes, a myriad of birds etc) and insects – is it ‘flying ant time’, yet? How do they know when to come out, and all together?

Nature is wonderful, even in the city.

‘Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow! Grow!’. (The Talmud)

‘Go elemental’.

 

Through A Glass Darkly: A Celtic Perspective

20170703 THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY PERSPECTIVEDoes Channel 4 tv station still use the ‘4’ logo that is made up of disparate parts that change the whole of the logo depending on how you view it? And, as the camera moves around it, the jumble of parts suddenly becomes the number ‘4’, but only for a second or two, and then it’s just a jumble again as the camera moves on.

‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.’ 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Book

Perspective is all important.

I once ‘accidently’ got into a discussion with someone who wanted to convince me that the sun and moon were the same size, because during a total eclipse the moon exactly covers the face of the sun. I talked to them about perspective, and that the sun is much larger than the moon but much further away, but to no avail. Perspective fail!

‘A group of blind men heard that a strange animal that they had never encountered before, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form.

Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, to know more about this strange animal’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it.’ In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, ‘This being is like a thick snake’.

For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk.

Another blind man who had placed his hand upon its side said, ‘The elephant is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope.

The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.’

Each had a different idea about what the elephant really looked like. None were actually wrong, but neither had any of them an idea of the totality of what an elephant looked like. (Ancient Indian parable.)

This morning – yes, I’m still in London – I was out in my little garden looking at a site in the distance that’s about to be developed, and I gave thanks that, for a short while, I can see the River Thames as it flows nearby. The view is wonderful. But, there is part of me that, right now, would prefer to gaze a the green-grey mountains of slate and granite of home, Wales.

But, what we see and how we relate to it, depends on us. Doesn’t it?

Someone with me in London might like the ‘buzz’ of the City, others might not like the noise. If in Wales, some (like me) might revel in the majestic beauty of nature, but others might not be able to ‘acclimatise’ to the much slower ‘country time’.

This got me thinking. How we ‘see’ things affects what we regard as them being ‘of value’. Perspective is very important.

If I look at a tree, and I have axe in my hand, and as a Druidic-Christian see the tree as an ‘ensouled’ being or as having the Creator’s stamp on it, or as a panentheists (as I am, just like the early Christians) believe that that tree ‘inhabits’ God, then I will regard it differently than if I just saw it as a materialist might, as kindling.

So, in London, as I gaze upon that building site, it could be just a mess, or I could see it as an opportunity to create a product or service that will serve people, and in this case, might actually improve the local environment and be wholesome (and holy). It is then something much more ‘noble’ that a mere a bricks and mortar development.  In Wales, perhaps it’s easier to appreciate nature, or could it be that there’s so ‘much’ of it (in its wild state, because nature also  ‘inhabits’ the cities, too) that its easy to be complacent and unappreciative? And so, we still need to looker (more) intently, perhaps?

And, what about when we talk theology or chat about spiritual things, or the deep and profound things of life? Are we so immersed in twenty-first materialism that we only glance at the surface? Don’t answer immediately, please, because those ‘spectacles of materialism’ have an uneasy way of slipping over our eyes even without our noticing.

I’ve been to two funerals recently. The first was unbelievable tough on me (and close family) to endure, the other was tough to endue, but our perspective on these major events of life change depending on how we look at those events. The materialist, attending that funeral, might see a box, a coffin, a casket and nothing more. Someone else might have a hope of more, of new life as one is ‘absorbed’ into the earth. Others, such as myself, even in grief, separation and tears might ‘see’ (in their mind’s eye) that person in heaven, also known as the Summerland or Caer Wydyr (in Welsh, the glass fortress), and might confuse others by talking of pre-life (which happens to be one of my favourite themes) and that we’re all ‘there’ now (but that later point is for another time)!

But, what does this all mean?

It means, perspective will be different to different people, depending on their (our) location, inbuilt views, learned views, expectations (limited or otherwise), ‘tribal views’, and once we accept a multiplicity of views – metaphorically peak over the edge – then our voyage of discovery really takes off. There’s always more!

‘I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’ John 16.12, The Book

So, be ‘open’! Step outside the cultural ‘norms’, move toward the edge – become an ‘edge-walker’ – have you ever noticed how all the interesting things, development, maturity and growth all happen at the ‘edges’? – and have a peak at a possible alternative, and maybe ‘more real’, viewpoint.

‘I live my life in widening circle that reach out across the world.  I may not ever complete the last one, but I give myself to it. I circle around God, that primordial tower. I have been circling for thousands of years, and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?’ (Rainer Maria Rilke)

There’s more. There is always more to experience, more to discover, more to understand (differently). More, that catches us by surprise and challenges ‘old’ limitations. There’s more. Mae mwy (in Welsh)

[Note: The painting in the ‘header’ in today’s article is called ‘Escaping criticism’, and was painted by Pere Borrell del Caso, 1835-1910, a Catalan painter. He was well-known for this kind of optical illusion style of painting which is called trompe l’oeil, French for ‘deceive the eye’.].

 

The Spider & The Monk. A Story About Persistence.

20170629 THE SPIDER AND THE MONK PERSISTNCEI was at Speakers’ Corner, in central London recently. It’s a place, where on a Sunday afternoon, orators assemble to explain their philosophy, talk about anything they want, and rant. Yes, some of them, unfortunately, rant. Not all.

That Sunday I learned a lot.

I listened to a ‘northern poet’ who had attracted a crowd of about fifteen people as he read and read and read the most captivating of his, original, poems. An amazing northern, droll, no-nonsense accent. I listened to someone else who shared about their being abducted by aliens. Fascinating. And I talked to another about their belief of chem trails, and yet another who spoke of global calamity this August, or was it September? I can’t remember.

‘I choose to fill my days with what I’m passionate about, and live with purpose.’ Ann Curry

I learned that some people are well-meaning, but could be wrong.
It’s a great place to spend an afternoon. Most speakers are ‘inviting’, most are at the very least entertaining, but some aren’t.

After they had finished speaking to the crowd I spoke to some of the speakers one-to-one. They shared several attributes in common: they were passionate about their belief, they spoke well, and most of them listened intently.
I learned that the best speakers also listen.

There were others at Speakers corner who were not so ‘inviting’, they were repelling.

‘Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another…’ James 4:11a

It breaks my heart to say this, but of the six Christian speakers there, five were of the ‘repelling’ kind. As a Druidic-Christian I am aware of the disparity between the love of the Christ and that love in our lives, and like most people, I admit that there’s a ‘gap’ and work on it – and where that’s not possible there’s always grace. However, those five group were shrill in what they had to say.

‘When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger.’ Chinese proverb

For the first time in Christian company (for a long time) I felt like an outsider. Without knowing much about me, they hurled their brand of belief at me without really listening to me – apparently anyone who doesn’t think like them is going to hell. Me included! Inwardly I wept. Is that the kind of reception Mr and Mrs Public get from some Christians? So unloving.

I learned that for some their ego-dominance over others is paramount. So sad.

I remember a story of a monk who was travelling by a calm stream, and he saw a spider in distress floating on the top of the water, dying. He stopped, stooped down and reached out with his hand, cupping the spider, and gently putting it on the dry water’s edge. The spider bit him. The monk left the spider and went on his journey.

The following day the monk was walking by that very stretch of the river, and saw the spider in distress in the water. He stopped, stooped down and reached out with his hand, cupping the spider, and gently putting it on the dry water’s edge. The spider bit him.

On the third day the monk was walking by that very same stretch of the river, and, again, saw the spider in distress in the water. He stopped, stooped down and reached out with his hand, cupping the spider, and gently putting it on the dry water’s edge. The spider bit him.

‘Why did you do that?’, the monk asked.
‘It’s what we do!’, the spider said emphatically.
‘But, why do you keep rescuing me day after day?, the spider enquired.
‘It’s what we monks do’, came the reply.

It seems that, at Speakers’ Corner at least, there are those who ‘rescue’ and there are those who ‘bite’. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that that view is wider than just Speakers’ Corner in London.

Some ‘rescue’. Some ‘bite’. It’s global. All, unless they’re aware,  keep on doing what they do, or at least ego-believe they should do.

I learned that the Biblical view of being aware of wolves in sheep’s clothing is, indeed, true. It’s just that, as I responded with inclusivity, peace, acceptance and love I was called the ‘wolf’ by those Christians, who saw themselves as loyal sheep. Apparently, not all that glistens is gold; not all those who claim the truth are speaking the truth!

I learned that some ‘sheep’ bite (but they probably aren’t ‘sheep’ at all…but that’s between them and the Source of All).

If you’ve come across such Christians – and such egotism occurs in all spiritual beliefs and religions (and I’ve found it even in Druids). Oh yes, wherever you find people and people-groups, everywhere you will find such unthinking ‘cutting-to-the-core’ attitudes and remarks. Then, if you’re trailing light and love, working in a way that is good and wholesome (whether or not the ‘crowd’ understand you) keep on doing good and don’t respond negatively, nor stop. That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves has given you that work, that task, that ministry to do and no one can do it quite like you.

‘Energy and persistence conquer all things.’ Benjamin Franklin

Why should you keep doing good – rituals, prayers, energy-working, light-working, acts of kindness and service, paid work, voluntary work etc – in the face of such ‘biting’ negativity and opposition…

“…Of Great Worth”: A Story

20170628 OF GREAT WORTH A STORY TO MAKE YOU THINKIt seems most of my deep thoughts take place around sipping coffee or waking up at sunrise, and especially so when they both coincide. Today, then, was not unusual in that respect. Sitting at the garden table, drinking coffee, as the sun rose, I reminisced.

I was thinking of one of my grandmother’s, the one that used to live nearby when I was a wee lad in north Wales. I now know that she had had a tough life, but never seemed to go without, was always quite able to make ends meet by ‘recycling’ and darning – does anyone darn socks any more?. She lived on ‘slender means’. The world was different then, people (especially in Wales) were much poorer, and yet possessed in greater amounts a community spirit, a contentment and a resilience to meet come-what-may with a defiant smile, and they loved and laughed. My grandmother was always singing, always quite jolly, and always had an opinion. Ah, the older Welsh generations.

All this got me thinking, especially as she loved to tell stories, of a story I heard some time ago about ‘worth’, which always buoys me up, and I’d like to re-tell it here especially for you. You know how much I love stories and story-telling.

‘There is a story of an elderly lady reminiscing, thinking back to when she was a child. She said: Oh, I remember that it was pouring with rain and I was allowed to play in the house rather than the garden that day. I was enjoying myself so much, that I got a little careless and broke an old vase – a family heirloom – that stood in the corner. It had been there for years.

I knocked it accidentally, and it fell to the floor, and smashed into a thousand pieces. I screamed out loud. In shock? In terror (at what my mother’s reaction would be)? In fear? In disappointment (that I could be so careless)? I screamed. I cried.

My mother rushed into the room. Alarmed. Worried. My mother looked at me, then looked at the smashed vase, and then looked back at me. Her face changed. Her face appeared relieved, and then a smile appeared upon it.

I ran to her crying. She opened her arms and gave me a huge hug. Before I could say I was sorry, she spoke. ‘Thank God. I thought you were hurt’, she said. With tears in her eyes she consoled me, and it was that day that I realised that I was the family treasure, and to my mother, of great worth.”

I don’t think I can add to that story, except to say that it applies to you, to all of us. Never doubt that you are of great worth, and are much loved by That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.