Samhain 2: The Ceremony Of The Night Of The Long Shadows

The Ceremony Of The Night Of The Long Shadows
To honour our ancestors at this time of Samhain

Friday, 30 October 2020 at 8pm (UK Time)
Online Live-streaming via Tadhg’s FaceBook

For this ceremony you may need:

  • Three candles (though one may suffice)
  • Safety matches
  • One or more photographs of loved ones who have passed-on
  • Bowl of water

You might wish to use several photographs of many loved ones, or one photograph of one or two family-members that have passed-on, as representatives of all your ancestors. If taking such photographs to a physical ceremony do ensure you take only copies of the photograph/s to the ceremony, and not the original photographs. If participating at the ceremony at home, so display any photographs, safely.

The beginning/opening and closing/ending of this ceremony follows the usual style. The middle section is ‘the Work’, below, is especially about the honouring of ancestors, as it is Samhain.

This ceremony is will be broadcasted on Friday, 30 October 2020, at 8pm UK time, via livestream, Tadhg’s Facebook. Do check his facebook beforehand as it might be necessary for you to initiate a friends-link to view it, His link is at: https://www.facebook.com/tadhgjonathan.gardner

THE OPENING

The Purpose
Today we honour of ancestors at this time of Samhain. This is not to worship them, but to respect and honour them, and to remember them, too. 

You might have one or two people in mind, today, who have passed on, recent ancestors; or you might have have ancestors from far back that you want to honour them by name or in general;  in addition I would encourage you to also honour all ancestors of all times and space,  who are the family of humankind in that realm and who are connected to us, and vice versa. 

And so we will use this time to look back at that tree of life, to look at us, and to look ahead of those who are yet to come, who at one time, in the future, we also look back at us.

This ceremony may stir our emotions as we think of those whom we miss, but it is also about giving thanks for the life of our ancestors, those who are now in Bliss, and it is also about consoling each other and lifting each other up. Life continues in a different form.

 And, so let us honour of our ancestors.

On Rising
The Source of All is Spirit, and those who worship the Source of All must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24, The Book, paraphrase)

Calling The Quarters
Calling the Quarters, as we turn in sequence to face the four cardinal compass points, helps us to become fully present so we can deeply connect to the world around us, and create safe and sacred space for us all.

Facing East
Guardian of the East, Oh Ancient One of the air,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the wind.
All: We welcome you.

Facing South
Guardian of the South, Oh Ancient One of the fire,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the flame
All: We welcome you.

Facing West
Guardian of the West, Oh Ancient One of the waters,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the tides.
All: We welcome you.

Facing North
Guardian of the North, Oh Ancient One of the earth,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with the power of the land.
All: We welcome you

From the centre, perhaps adopting the orans posture 
Guardian of all, Oh Ancient of Days,
we call upon the Spirit to be with us today.
Come charge this circle with your power.
All: We welcome you.

Call For Peace
The call for peace is an affirmation that there is peace amongst us, now; and that peace is offered to the world though not all embrace this, today, but one day will do so.

Is there peace in the East?
All: There is peace in the East.

Is there peace in the South?
All: There is peace in the South.

Is there peace in the West?
All: There is peace in the West.

Is there peace in the North?
All: There is peace in the North.

Throughout the entire land there is peace.

THE WORK: SPECIFCIALLY FOR SAMHAIN

It is said that if each generation is measured at about twenty-five years, and we have an idea in our mind of a five hundred span of time, then each of us has over two million ancestors. In thinking of our immediate ancestors or our family ancestors, do also think of the way that each one of us is connected to the global family of humankind. 

And, so…

The Three Form Honouring
We look back, and remember and honour those who have gone before us. That is, those of our generation or the previous generations. We look at the love and actions that many ancestors made to bring us to this time and maturity, and we are indebted to them.

For some we might remember good things and send love, and yet for some we might remember those who have passed on but who were unkindly to us and others. Let us be honest in remembering our ancestors in Bliss. 

And so, let us remember all our ancestors, too.

We remember and  honour them.
All: We remember and honour them.

[If you have one or more candles, do light one (or the only) candle here to remember and honour our ancestors. If you don’t have a candle, don’t worry, as I’ll light candle(s) vicariously, for you. We will also pause and meditation at this time.]

In the flow and ebb of life, we too stand in the tree of life. From our viewport we look back to those who have passed on. And, yet we look upward and ahead of those who are yet to come. Could it be that those future generations are looking back to us, and will, because of our love and action today, will honour you and I?

We remind and honour each other.
All: We remind and honour each other.

[If you have two or more candles, do light the second candle here to remind ourselves or honour each other. If you don’t have a candle, don’t worry, as I’ll light candle(s) vicariously, for you. We will also pause and meditation at this time.]

We have looked back in honouring our ancestors, reminded each other of our part in that tree of life, but also look ahead for future generations. With expectation and love we send well-wishes to those who are yet to be born, even as they may be looking back from their viewpoint. We send love and well-wishes to those yet to come.

We think ahead and send love to those yet to come.
All: We think ahead and send love to those yet to come.

[If you have a third candle, do light the third candle here to think ahead of those yet to come. If you don’t have a candle, don’t worry, as I’ll light candle(s) vicariously, for you. We will also pause and meditation at this time.]

“The sacrifice our ancestors gave yesterday
Gave us today and our tomorrow” 
(Stephen Robert Kuta)

“My ancestors offer me bliss, love, and light. I gratefully receive that which is for my highest good…” 
(Amy Leigh Mercree)

Remembering Our Ancestors In A Spiritual Exercise Of Writing
[If you have tissue paper and a pencil you might like to write a few happy memories to one or two ancestors on the tissue paper, or you might like to write a few lines as if writing a letter to some one or two that have passed on. 

Or, you might like to write names on the paper.

Once you have done that, then pause for a moment as you meditate, and then put the paper in the bowl of water to dissolve the paper.

If you don’t have paper or pencil, you can use this time to think, in your mind, what you would write on the paper, and imagine using that bowl of water to dissolve that paper.

Music will be played, now, for about two minutes or three minutes, as you do this.}

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders [us]…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 part)

“You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors.” 
(Toba Beta)

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
(Khalil Gibran)

As we close, we remember that Samhain is a time of liminality, a place of a special threshold; it is a ‘thin place’, a sacred time where we draw near to our ancestors. And yet, they are never far from us, and they live, forever, in Bliss.

This time is a reminder for all of us, that the Friend, the Universe, God, is embracing all who have gone before us, who is embracing us today, and who will embrace all of those who have yet to come.

“I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me that I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God.”
(Meister Eckhart)

CLOSING

Closing The Quarters
Facing East
Guardian of the East, Oh Ancient One of the air,
we thank you for your presence with us today.
All: We thank you.

Facing South
Guardian of the South, Oh Ancient One of the fire,
we thank you for your presence with us today.
All: We thank you.

Facing West
Guardian of the West, Oh Ancient One of the waters,
we thank you for your presence with us today.
All: We thank you.

Facing North
Guardian of the North, Oh Ancient One of the earth,
we thank you for your presence with us today..
All: We thank you.

From the centre, perhaps adopting the orans posture 
Guardian of all, Oh Ancient of Days,
we thank you for your presence with us today..
All: We thank you.

Final Blessings 
We bless our ancestors, in Bliss, embraced by the Friend.
We bless each other, our global family of humankind, secured by the Friend.
We bless those yet to come who are known only to the Friend.
And, We bless the Friend, the Universe, God who is always with us.
Bless you each.

Time And The Realm(s) Beyond: A Celtic/Druidic View Of Conflation

time a conflation

It’s January and I’m back at Capel Curig, north Wales, where my late grandmother’s cottage is situated. When I left the cottage the sun was just going down. Now it’s twilight, that ‘magical’ time when anything can happen. I’m walking deep into the forest, here.

We live in a world governed by time. To get to work, meet a family member, even to go shopping we schedule and mark such events by time, and see it as consecutive and linear. That idea seems to suit the way we perceive time for out twentieth century events. Time seems to ‘fit’ well around our human-centric activities.

A few minutes later, as I look up I see the wispy, crepuscular clouds, high above me, just losing their sunlit glow. And, then darkness closes in, fast, and the forest trees around me lose their three-dimensional setting, and ‘distance’ seems to be no more, as trees just look like dark brown paper cut-outs, ‘flat’ in the near distance.

Some may be thinking that it isn’t our activities that shape our view of time, but that time shapes us and affects us, but we’re not aware of it.

Current view: time is ever-advancing, continual and consecutive.

There was once an idea in astronomy that time continued in a straight, ever-advancing fashion until the expanding universe reached the point where it could expand no more, and then it would contract. At that moment, time itself would start to go in reverse (but anyone experiencing that reversal wouldn’t be aware of it). If that was happening now, you and I wouldn’t be aware of it. It would appear normal. Affected by ‘backward-running’ time, but unaware.

Current view: the sequence of events, linear time-wise, is necessary to tell a story or record events. Many admit that as things seems to repeat themselves that time is circular and not linear. Perhaps, it’s both. Things do seem to repeat themselves, but as the weeks and years advance, they do so with minor variations. Perhaps, it is both, and that time is, infact, the shape of a ‘slinky’ toy.

Walking on for half an hour or so I’m at an area where, as children, my friends and I played. Even now this place, Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) as we called it provokes fond memories and a current air of mystery. Drws i fyd arall was our childhood name for two ‘fused’ and arching trees in this clearing – Drws i fyd arall means ‘door to another world’ and was so named as our childhood imaginations ran riot. Was it just our imaginations that gave these trees their name, or was it these trees and this ‘magical’ area that ‘spoke’ to us and prompted us to describe it so?

Playing as a child with my friends here, happened some fifty-five years ago, but it doesn’t seem as though time has moved on. Logical, scientifically and empirically time has moved on, though. Experientially, and now as I stand before these two trees, my feeling, my intuition tells me otherwise. I believe the ancients, those Celts, Druids, Pagans and others would have held the latter, experiential, timeless view.

The ancient Greeks had two main terms for time: chronos and kairos. To them, Chronos was quantitative, and was time that measured hours and minutes. Think, ‘tick tock’. Their other word for time, kairos. Kairos is time, but it is qualitative. Think, ‘timely opportunity’.

At Drws i fyd arall was I experiencing both chronos and kairos, but ‘majoring’ and receptive to Kairos? There is part of me that baulks at the idea of describing peak experiences in that way, especially as I’m not a dualist, but a unitive thinker, and especially as those divisions are born out of ‘scientific’ thinking without trying to perceive things from those other time-less realms.

At Drws i fyd arall those distinctions didn’t matter. Me, and you if you were here, like our Celtic, Druid, and Pagan ancestors would, I think, have been immersed in the moment – having entered sacred space/sacred time. Outside of strict definitions of chrono or Kairos.

I sat down, looking at the two trees arching over, and in the almost-complete darkness, my eyelids beginning to half-close and it seemed the darkness began to play tricks, as I saw sparks and strands of light, flashes, that appeared and disappeared. One moment, there (and perhaps in my mind’s eye) was a scene of me with my friends when we were all about six years old (including sound), then another scene appeared of me as an older teenager, and then another set of images appeared, as if in front of me, of my friends and I aged about ten (when one of them fell out of a tree). And, so it went on. Seemingly, time-disjointed events, apparently  at random.

It was a few weeks later, recounting this incident, that I realised that if the author of these images were fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, then they may not teach in out twentieth century, linear, way. Why should they? They inhabit different realms, have different priorities, and perceive time in a different way.

Not all cultures in the world write from left to right, not all the books in the Hebrew part of the Book are in chronological order (but are in order of size), and some cultures never used the zero in maths or counted in base ten numerals (as some got to 8, and that was it. Our nine would be written as 11). Why then, should those we encounter from other realms not communicate and do things differently.

The three main scenes that appeared before me, upon reflection, seemed to be a group of my very young friends and I playing together, wonderfully oblivious to anything around us, but in community. The second scene showed me, alone, deep in thought and appreciating nature, and appreciating actions and consequences. The final scene was back, nearer in time to the first scene (but a few years on) and showed my friends concern (and mine) for a friends who had falled from a tree, and being concerned about him, and being concerned about the tree (though I suspect it was a concern that a branch we used to swing from was unusable now).

As an adult, if I re-arranged those scenes into chronological order then it would appear as disjointed stories, just lovely memories, and nothing more. In keeping the scenes in the way they were presented – ‘crazy timing’ from our point of view – they did, indeed, made sense, and delivered a ‘message’. Perhaps, something like this: initially we all might have be concerned about our group, ourselves or our community, and only look to our own group interests. Then we grow and look outward to the needs of others. And, third, the scene showed a ‘marrying’ together of community, outward concern and maturity, and bringing the two into harmony: perfect balance.

I left that clearing, somewhat confused then, but ‘unpacked’ the images and sequences, and they made sense – an otherworldly, ‘differently-timed’ sequence of events, but they contained a deep and profound meaning, all the more potent because I had to strip away twentieth linear-time understanding, and surrender to the moment.

Could it be, that for the author of these images, fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, time is perceived, as they communicate to us, in order of importance rather than chronological order? I think so. It’s for the same reason that dreams seem odd in that they usually don’t follow  sequential time, from our point of view, but appear random – or, perhaps are cast that way so that an overall message is conveyed rather than just a memory of events, as one might see on a holiday. The latter being great memories but rarely containing a profound meaning of other-worldly important. Time, then for them, would be conflated.

Jarod Kintz wrote: I had a dream about you. We were racing to be the slowest person on earth. You were winning which meant you were losing. You were gloating because you were a winner and I was taunting because you were a loser.

It is one thing to accept this conflation of other-worldly time and see it as different to linear time, it is another thing to, sometimes, to surrender to it and experience. There are sometimes, when the encounter is so ‘abrupt’ that we’re living that ‘nowness’ of time as we experience numinous events even before our cerebral faculties are aware (and that brings us back to dream encounters, where much of our logical cerebral brain cells are ‘asleep’).

In closing, I’ve learned to accept what these peak experiences give us, in the order they produce the event, as the sequence is as important as the contents, and may indeed, contain greater truths they want to convey. Think of those movies, where, after just a few minutes into the action, a subtitle appears and says something like ‘Fifteen years earlier’. Yes, the story is important, but the sequence – even if not following chronological order – adds to the message being conveyed. What do you think?

 

Surrounded By A Great Cloud Of Witnesses…Thoughts About Samhain 2018

20181102 GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES THOUGHTS ABOUT SAMHAIM 2018

I’m back at Capel Curig in north Wales just for two or three days. The weather is changing, and the mornings and evenings are particularly cold, and I love it.

At this time of year, mist rolls off the mountains in the distance and as you walk about so water droplets cling to the skin and clothes almost unawares. It’s a wonderfully refreshing experience: in essence I’m walking in a cloud of a myriad water particles.

Near the end of my garden is an old gnarled elder tree. It lives up to its name. It must be the oldest tree around here by far, it is an Elder elder. Underneath its branches there’s a bench seat, and that is where I am now, with the sun about to rise, sitting, embraced by a cloud, somewhat cold but enjoying it, pondering the last few days.

‘For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone….Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life’. Herman Hesse

The sacred elder tree is, by some, thought to be the home of the Elder Mother, and as guardian of the tree she is a type of genius loci, the spirit of the place. In Germany the elder tree is also sacred and associated with Frau Holda, who, it is said, brings the souls of unborn babies from that place where they initially reside, to soon-to-be-pregnant mothers, and looks over and protects both. I like that idea. Each one of us still has the Elder Mother or Frau Holda looking out for us, or perhaps she is known by another name to some? Our guadian angel, perhaps?

Yes, the elder tree is a gateway, a prompt, between realms and is about life.

It is said that sleeping beneath the elder tree might result in access to the other realm(s) in dreams, though in Ireland caution was employed as it was said that, sometimes, one could be physically transported by the fae – yes, bodily ‘away with the faeries’!

But, I’m not sleeping, just meditating deeply, day-dreaming about the last few days, and the happy memories I have. I’m content.

With my eyes half closed, and now quite warm (layers, always wear layers when it’s cold), and being quite comfortable on a well-worn bench seat, with the tree trunk forming a back rest, I go even deeper into my thoughts, and the physical world seems, momentarily, less of a priority.

Ah, wonderful thoughts bubble up, and my heart really does leap for joy.

Samhain is the end and the beginning, and the last year has been wonderful. That’s not to say it has been one long peak experience for me, for family and friends I know. It has been a challenge in part. Some of you will know that what I joking called ‘man flu’ last March turned out to be pneumonia, which resulted in eleven days in hospital. A tough, painful time, but joy, real joy. Our joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances but on our response. True, I’d rather not repeat that experience of pneumonia but I learned from it, and was introduced to the wonderful UK NHS ‘free at the point of need’ health care service, and the ‘angels’ who staff it. A cause for joy!

‘Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day’. Henri Nouwen

Looking back, a time of reflection can be very cathartic, but Samhain is also about looking ahead. The year ahead will, no doubt have its ups and down for you and me, but my prayer is that we seek out the good and learn in all things, and respond with joy.

Deeper thoughts bubble up as I sit here. Samhain is that time when we think of the ancestors, that time when the veil is unusually thin and the Other Realm is palpable. In days of old, and as a great story-telling time around the village or camp fire, many would be told of spirits crossing over, and it’s from there that we get children (and adults), at Halloween, dressing as Frankenstein, zombies or ghouls. Yes, Hollywood has a lot to answer for, but its fun. But, at this time my mind wanders to the ancestors.

‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ Rumi

In my imaginal state I think of all my ancestors. To call it the family tree is apt, because that is what is must look like – and if we form branches, then those that went before form thicker branches, and the trunk and even the roots. We’re here because of them. Co-incidentally (if such a concept exists) the elder tree behind me groaned as a sudden gust of wind caught its high branches. And, then my thoughts turn to my late parents – my dear mum and dad, and Colin my brother who died at birth, and grandparents and others who have ‘passed on’, and I am flooded with gratitude for them all. I am comforted knowing that they, and others, are in the Summerlands, in Jannah, in Valhalla or Fólkvangr, Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress), or heaven.

Ofcourse, from my understanding of theology the ancestors are always with us – but ceremonies and times such as Samhain are useful reminders.

And, still my mind wanders. Ah, Samhain celebrations.

A week ago I was in the Portsmouth area for a meeting, and it was my privilege and joy to witness a Samhain celebration, there. One always hopes that in going somewhere new, in passing through, one is always included in a ritual, and that certainly was the case there.

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight…’ Hebrews 12.1a, The Book

I was greeted by a wonderful group of people at Hilsea Lines, was encouraged to fully participate (as much as I wanted), and witnessed an awesome, moving and great, relevant celebration, with people who were passionate about what they were doing – and when one or two needed prompting, others were supportive and loving, and a little bit of laughter ensued, but, ’laughing with’ and not ‘laughing at’. In my mind, as I recollect that rather cold day, last Sunday, I experienced warmth and love, inclusion and acceptance. And, yes, one could feel the ancestors there, looking on, joining in. It was a wonderful, deep, thought-provoking celebration.

Just as we are connected to our ancestors, so we are connected to each other.

‘When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.’ John Muir

And so, with the sun peeking above the horizon, I open my eyes, and walk back to Ty Gwin, my little cottage, for breakfast. As I do, so that cloud of water droplets collects in my hair, on my skin, and on my clothes, so much so, that by the time I enter the boot room of the cottage, ‘I’m fair soaked’. Surrounded by invisible droplets of water in that cloud that I walked though I got wet. As we go through life, and Samhain is a good reminder, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, the ancestors. We are all connected in space and time, and in ‘realmic’ ways we can only now imagine.

Wonderful Samhain, All Souls/All Saints Day.

Alone With The Alone At The Machair: Poem

20171026 ALONE WITH THE ALONE AT THE MACHAIR POEM

This is one  of several poems inspired by my pilgrimage to those wonderfully ‘thin places’ of the Isle Of Iona (also known as the Isle Of Druids) and the Isle Of Skye – rugged and awesome islands off the west coast of Scotland.

This poem is based on thoughts, feelings and an encounter at the Machair. The Machair is a Scottish/Gaelic word for ‘fertile beach’, and is pronounced ‘makkah’. It is a delightful, part sand-part grassy coastal area on the Isle of Iona with a unique eco-system, and is a windswept and wild,  liminal place, a place of myth and magic, indeed. Things happen here. Visit, and you will not be unchanged.

The weather changes and the blue sea turns white.
Dark clouds speed from the horizon
to where I am standing, and the wind blows a gale.
The light dims.
The tide recedes as a mighty storm approaches.
And I wait.

There was a time when the Voice was heard
speaking words of peace, and love, and hope.
Now the age of neon shines
and a cacophony of sound fills the air.
And I wait.

For a moment I hear murmurs in the wind.
Could it be the sound of martyrs and monks of yesteryear?
Could it be angel-sound, or the gleeful chattering of the fae?
Perhaps it’s the  words of Druids of a bygone age?
And then it’s gone.
And I wait.

The waves crash against mighty rocks
and yet the rocks are unmoved, unchanged.
Gulls  squawk in the distance, but have moved inland.
The wind blows a mournful sigh.
A howling that increases and decreases in volume and pitch.
And I wait.

At the Machair
I am alone with the Alone. I listen.
Could it be that the Voice still speaks
words of peace, and love, and hope?
Love personified, prevails. Surely?
Doesn’t Wisdom cry out to all who listen to her?
I listen but shrill sounds fill my mind.
And I wait.

In a time of plastic
I yearn for that age of myth and magic.
And when all that matters, that is substantial and real
seems, oh so far away,
something calls to me to stop and look.
And in waiting,
I notice that,
ah yes, the tide is turning’.

 

To Be Here Is Immense: Celtic Thought About Life & Time

20170822 LIFELINE TO BE HERE IS IMMENSEI’m sitting on a somewhat rickety bench seat in Fulham cemetery, in central London. It’s about mid-day and it’s August, and its overcast and cloudy. A wee bit humid, too, and it could threaten to rain, but so far it’s dry.

I’m alone.

There are parts of this cemetery which are more recently used than others and consist of fairly ‘well-manicured’ lawns. The part of the cemetery where the bench seats are – their are three of them – are in the oldest part of the cemetery, and the least used part now, and there nature is ‘wilder’. I like that area. That’s where I am.

With many tall trees and overgrown shrubs around me, the noise of nearby buses and other traffic is hardly noticeable. It’s like being in another place. Another world. It is, after all, known as ‘God’s acre’.

It feels as though I am alone. And yet…

As I sit here it feels as though things have always been this way. But, each one of us had an arrival date, each one of us navigates our way through a myriad of days, and as the names and dates on the gravestones reveal, there will be a time when we will all ‘move on’.

There is a Presence in this place. I don’t feel alone anymore.

Some might say this Presence are the souls of the departed here, others might say it’s angels or the Source of All. Still others may talk of dryads and elementals. Who knows? Whatever we call that Presence, and I think there’s room to ponder there, we’re acknowledging two things: the Presence connotes life (or should that be Life) and the paradox of this place; and that each one of us can, if we’re not distracted or too busy, be aware of the Presence.

‘To be here is immense’. Rainer Maria Rilke.

Almost in front of me is a large gravestone listing three members of the same family. The husband died in 1903, his wife died in 1908, and oh, that dear woman’s mother died two years after her. These three have gone from our sight, but the Presence is a ‘guarentee’ that life goes on, albeit in another form. Gone, but their memory lives on. It lives on in my mind as I have just read the gravestone. But, there are others alive today that came from their ancestral line, just as these three people came from their parents’ ancestral line.

‘In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.’ Robert Frost

None of us is alone.

We are all part of that which has gone before, and we all contribute to those who are yet to come (or those who are here now and maturing, or contribute in a myriad of ways to others’ lives now, if not genetically). Like runners in a baton race – receiving and giving.

We can metaphorically look back at the ancestors with gratitude, look forward with anticipation and hope, and look around us, today, with wonder and awe…..perhaps at the very fact, that we can actually do that!

‘To be born is to be chosen. To be created and come to birth is to be blessed. Some primal kindness chose us, and brought us through the forest of dreaming until we could emerge…’ John O’Donohue.

As I sit on this wooden bench it’s easy to forget the marvel, the miracle, that is Life. As I gaze around at wild nature, but it’s the same wherever we are – or wherever you are – the fact that we are aware of those who have gone before us, those we know now, and can envisage those who might yet come, that we can look around us and be aware ‘is immense’.

And yet, ‘amnesia’ sets in, and we can so easily forget our part in that long ancestral line or the calling of the Presence to ‘be’, and to ‘do’. Then, the visible seems to overpower the invisible, our hurried present seems to ‘crowd out’ the Presence…except in those still moments of solitude when the Presence, or angels, or dryads or elemental or the ancestors, or whatever our theology ‘permits’, still cry out to us. I have a hunch that the Originator of this ongoing message is more concerned about us hearing the message than debating who is, or what is, or what the Originator looks like.

‘We are a continuum. Just as we reach back to our ancestors for our fundamental values, so we, as guardians of that legacy, must reach ahead… And we do so with a sense of sacredness in that reaching.’ Paul Tsongas

The wind is picking up, and it’s time for me to leave. I stand up slowly, momentarily aching somewhat from sitting in a less-than-anthropometically designed, old bench seat, but it was wonder…and, I cannot leave without pausing for a moment and giving a nod of my head. To do less seems disrespectful to the Presence, and to others, such as the ancestors. Life is sacred. Life goes on. There will never be a time when you won’t be!

‘You are the fairy-tale told by your ancestors’. Toba Beta

 

Sleeplessness & The Ancestors: Celtic Thought

20170727 SLEEPLESSNESS AND THE ANCESTORS

I mentioned yesterday that my doctor – ever-so cautious, but I’m not complaining – has loaned me some kind of electronic sphygmomanometer, the machine that measures my blood pressure, and this one bleeps and whirrs every half hour (for a day). And then the  ‘cuff’ around my bicep contracts for a minute, and then relaxes…for another thirty minutes. See here. It’s like an old Star Trek ‘tricorder’.

Well, having got off to sleep quite quickly tonight, it woke me up with its bleeping and whirring. Before I had fully woke up, it was as if an invisible assailant was gripping my arm as the ‘cuff’ contracted and squeezed my bicep. Or, it could have been the house bwg or (from Welsh to English, the boggart), See here. Every house may have one, according to my late Welsh grandmother.

But, alas, it was the digital sphygmomanometer doing what a programmed digital sphygmomanometer should do. But, at 2.33am, in the morning?

And so, I’m awake. I’m sitting in the study, in the dark, waiting for ‘sleep’ to revisit me. Right now, I’m wide awake. Oh, so wide awake. At times like these, I always believe there’s a reason for such unexpected alertness. Could it be an angel’s prod, an elemental speaking in hushed tones, the Companion, or something else that is calling, and prompting me to wake up and now stay awake? I gaze around the dark room. Well, almost in darkness – I lit a few candles on ‘the table’ a few moments ago.

I’m not sure if you have such ‘the table’ like this, or call it something else. It’s the focal point of this room, and perhaps, spiritual-energy-wise, the focal point of the house. It is changed from time to time to reflect the seasons or what’s on my heart, but right now it displays photographs and ‘memory-prodders’ relating to some of my family that have ‘gone ahead’ and whom I still love very much.

Love wins, every time.

In Christian Churches, in a few months time, All Soul’s Day will be celebrated. Sadly, such ritual services, along with others, such as Ascension Day, magnificent and full of meaning that they are, are ‘minimised’ or even forgotten in many places. In the Eastern and Orthodox Churches such ancestor commemorative services happen five or six times a year! Wonderful. And ofcourse, to ancient and latter-day Celts, Celtic-Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids and others, such rituals may happen more frequently. I like that very much.

As I gaze at ‘the table’ I wonder if it is ancestor-worship? For some, it may be, and I don’t judge them. For others, and for me, at least, it is a revering of those who have ‘gone ahead’, being mindful of their lives, and giving thanks that if it were not for them that I (and you, with your respective ancestors and family-tree) would not be here now. A profound and sobering thought. And, one not lost to the ancients.

How much our society has lost in its ‘advancements’.

The UK £2 coin has an inscription on it, that is so relevant here. The edge inscription has written on it: ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’. It comes from a letter written letter in 1676 by Sir Isaac Newton to his fellow-scientist Robert Hooke, acknowledging the debt he owed to other scientists, where he wrote: ‘if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’.

Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes [standing on the shoulders of giants]

We are indebted, all of us, to those that have gone ‘ahead’ of us – family and friends. Some of them we might have known, but others, who ‘passed on’ before we were born, may have had no direct effect on us, but would have had a secondary effect on us, still, because of their influence down the ages on successive generations….they would have influenced one person, that person would influence another and so on, right up until we we born, and even after. Just as you will have an effect on the next generation (of children, friends, the wider family, neighbours, clients and others) and on future generations to come.

We have all benefitted from the ancestors, and future generations will look back at us as their ancestors, and my prayer is that they will be grateful.

You are not alone. You are part of the cosmic human web. The Church of old called this ‘scala naturae, or the ‘ladder of being’. Others know it as the Great Chain Of Being.

And, so I’m looking at ‘the table’ displaying some of my ancestors, thinking that I would like to display more photographs of them, and will do so in time for All Soul’s Day later in the year.

And, I was grateful for that thought. Perhaps that had been why I was so alert: to plan for a future ancestor-thanking ceremony and to give gratitude to the One who has blessed me (and you, with your ancestors of the ‘blood’ and/or ‘life-devoting-because-of adoption kind) down the ages.

But, there’s more. The next thought was: Stopping talking about, Tadhg, and do it, and not just for yourself, but for others, too!

And so, at 2.40am in the morning I decided on the ‘Nike principle’ of ‘Just Do It’. In addition to writing here, and I so enjoy that, and hope and pray that you get something out of it, too, but in addition, I’m going to ‘test the water’ and organise (planning now, and for two months or so ahead) a number of workshops and (actual) rituals along the lines of practical, and ‘earthed’ Celtic, Christian-Celtic, Druidic-Celtic and Druidic spirituality, in London and nearby.

‘All things work to the good..’ it says in one ancient sacred text, and how right that is.

Now there’s, a thought. And now its 2.50am and, yes, ‘sleep’ is revisiting me, and unless further paragraphs follow this, you will know that I eventually got back to sleep – after what was a useful ‘interruption’.

Blessings, Tadhg