Blessing Creation: All Creatures Great And Small

20200116 ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

We live in an interconnected universe, where inanimate touches the animate, immaterial (in spiritual terms) touches matter, and the quality, depth and sacredness of life, to many people, is becoming all the more apparent and precious.

There is a need.

We can learn a lot from each other, and from creation. Those who have (or have had) dogs and cats as companions, will know we can learn a lot from animal-kind, especially.

’But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. In his hand [the Source of All] is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7, 8, 10. The Book

Which of us never climbed a tree when younger and enjoyed it’s ‘company’. Ah, trees!  Yes, we can learn a lot from trees, plants, too. And so, we are all connected to the whole of creation, to enjoy, to journey with and, when necessary, to protect. Yes, we have a responsibility to the environment – the garden in which we have been placed for a time.

Creation-kindness is important.

We can absorb much wisdom from ancient and current ‘tribes’: Celts, Druids, Pagans, ecologically-aware main-stream believers and others. Perhaps one place to start in in our intentionality to step up to the plate, and begin with understanding the needs of the hour and to respond with blessing, liturgy and well-wishes (prayer) etc to and for creation.

‘Blessed are you…Maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired Saint Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you…[Source of All], in all your creatures! Amen.’ The Blessing of Pets at Franciscan Churches. Part/adapted.

Over the next week or so, formulated ceremonies for blessing our companions at the birth or home-bringing, their birthdays, passing-on or for those animals who have passed-on some time ago, remembering them will be penned. There will be rituals and liturgy for them, and for the general environment in which we find ourselves – even in the city there is a need for blessing and well-wishing of flora and fauna for good things. And, then there is the wilder world in need.

Global. Local. Glocal!

But, for now, here are some general blessings and minor liturgy to get us started, that you might use for animal-companions (present or deceased) and for wild flora and fauna present in your local eco-community. As always do adapt the following words to best suit your requirements. The power and efficacy of the words lay in your intentionality and the Source of All who hears and expedites.

For all living beings:

Leader: Whatever living beings there are,
All: Either feeble or strong

Leader: Either long or great…
All: Either seen or which are not seen, and which live far or near,

Leader: Either born or seeking birth,
All: May all creatures be happy minded.

From the Sutta Nipata, 8:145-146. (Buddhist scripture)

And, for dogs (deceased):

With my hand upon his head,
is my benediction said, therefore, and forever.
Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
pretty collars make thee fine,
sugared milk make fat there!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail –
Hands of gentle motion fail
nevermore, to pat thee

Yet be blessed to the height
of all good and all delight
pervious to thy nature.
Only loved beyond that line,
with a love that answer thine,
loving fellow-creature

Elizabeth Barret Browning, from ‘To Flush, My Dog (Deceased)

And, for spiders:

Spider, your threads are well stretched.
Wily hunter, your nets ar well woven.
Spider, you are assured of abundant food.
Forest/nature), be propitious.
May my hunt/life be joyous as spider’s.

Pygmy blessing (adapted)

And, for frogs:

In am moonlit night on a spring day,
the croak of a frog
pierces the whole cosmos and turns into a single family.

Chang Chiu-Chi’en (Zen Buddhist poet)

And, for cats:

Then my best friend
on all the Earth
Sit upon my lap
not to be comforted
but to soothe.

Wizard of the heart,
my cat,
when the world fails,
or the day weighs,
with a wave of the tail
or soulful glance
makes the Universe
shine once more.

Magician, Arlene Gay Levine

And, for trees:

I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.

Though I am silent
There is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.

Woods by Wendell Berry

Specific ceremonies and liturgies will appear over the next few weeks to give thanks, to pray or well-wish for certain ecological needs, or as eco-caims using visualisation to send support to certain areas, as well as ceremonies and liturgies for specific types of animals. flora and fauna blessings in our local community and worldwide.

And, finally:

Blessed be you Tree of Life,
with your roots reaching down to the dark centre of the universe,
your leaves yearning towards the light beyond heaven.
Shelter me with all your creation as I rise up this day.

(alternative last line)
Shelter me with all your creation as I take my rest this night.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

 

Go To The Ant…: Imaginal/Animal Encounters

card 20200112 GO TO THE ANT IMAGINAL ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS

What does an ant, a dog, a wolf and a crow have in common? One evening in January they ‘converged’ in the imaginal realm in my (Tadhg’s) Quiet Room.

We like to think that we have great knowledge and wisdom, and it is true according to some, apparently, that the knowledge base of humanity in the last thirty years has exceeded that of the last thirty thousand years. Some might query that, and some might posit the idea that what we really needed  was wisdom. But, even putting that aside, knowledge-wise we have learned and lot, though we still have some way to go.

It is easy to dismiss the ancients and their tribal dances, their mythological (that is, foundational) stories and imaginations as primitive and irrelevant today, but if we do that, we miss a lot of knowledge that could be ours, and maybe miss even more wisdom that is within our grasp.

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

In my mind’s eye I ‘saw’ a tribal dance of several thousand years ago. Young and old sat around a fire, and one person entered the circle. He was wearing the antlers of a deer on his head, and he started to dance wildly around the circle, sometimes too close to those sitting, and far too close for comfort to the children who let out a half-mock, half-real scream or horror and delight. Like all children they loved to be scared.

And yet the children knew that moments before the appearance of the deer-man, the village elder’s adult son had left the group. He, ofcourse was the deer-man, they all knew it, but for this event they pretended to themselves it wasn’t him. Imaginations ran riot. The touch paper of the imaginal realm had been lit.

What was the purpose of this deer-man’s dance?

The following day there would be a hunt for one or two deer to feed the people of the small village, and the deer-man’s dancing, pursued by several tribesmen and one or two children with rounded-end ‘spears’ danced, too. In those days before powerpoint, this dance not only entertained, but informed all of the wily movements of the deer, the need to check which way the wind was blowing, the way the huntsmen should pursue the creature, and they did that by having a great knowledge of the deer or any other animal they wished to hunt for a purpose. Ofcourse, there may be an element of asking for the animals’ permission to hunt it, and what a wonderful way of respecting nature, seeking guidance from the Source of All, and limiting the numbers of animals hunted – the preamble (wonderfully) slowed things down.

Far from being primitive, it was a perfect and ritualised way of public education, of respecting nature, considering the One Behind The Hunt, and more.

We can learn a lot from such rituals, and from animals and creation around us, and to that end four people met with me (Tadhg) recently to do a modern-day equivalent event of that tribal dance and to glean some information from animals, using their imaginal senses.

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

For those wanting to learn from animals, to glean a word from them (not necessarily a spoken word but one received imaginally), and for those wanting to draw even closer, then spending time in a wilderness setting, becoming still and observing which animal makes its presence known to you, is one way to receive such a word. But, what of those in an urban environment? It may not be easy to visit a rural environment, what then?

Four people, led by me, met in my Quiet Room in the heart of London, to encounter their communicating creature, using their imaginal senses.

After a simple opening ritual – essential to show the moving of the group from ‘mechanical time’ to sacred-space’ time, the group closed their eyes, and I spoke some words to lead them into a deeper mediation – a daydream state that we all experience at one time or another, but one that would prove useful, now.

‘The individual imagination is not its own invention: its source is elsewhere’, and ‘We are from God and we carry in our minds and hearts the ripple of the Divine mind’. John O’Donohue

Kate
I asked Kate to open her eyes, and select a prompt card – each of the sixty-eight cards had a creature ‘painted’ onto it, and after selecting the card, I asked Kate to voice what creature it was, and then to close her eyes again, and to think about that creature’.

‘I chose the ant,’ Kate said. Having closed her eyes again, I encouraged her to imagine that the ant was coming toward her with a one or few worded message.

’ Go to the ant… consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Psalm 6:6-8 (part), the Book

In that imaginal realm, not to be confused with (just) the imagination, Kate described the ant’s vibrant colours, and like the prompt card she spoke of the plumes on its head like a regal crown. It seemed Kate’s ant was the size of a cow – such is the imaginal realm – but she said it was non-threatening  and rather amiable. Kate talked for about five minutes, prompted and gently questioned by myself to encourage deep thought, and then Kate went quiet. A few moments later she whispered the words ‘tireless effort’. That’s what the ant has inscribed in the soil with its mandibles.

I asked her to remain quiet and to keep her eyes closed, and to ponder further on those words, and moved on to the next person.

Ian
I asked Ian to open his eyes and to choose a prompt card. Ian chose and said, ‘It’s the dog card’, and I asked him to close his eyes, and encouraged him to use his imaginal senses to imagine an encounter with the dog. Ian pondered for a while, and described such an encounter  – which, like the prompt card looked very docile, and in Ian’s words the dog looked ‘rather foolish’ with some kind of headdress on, but the dog didn’t seem to mind. Was this an animal spirit encounter or (just) an imaginal encounter?

’Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen,’ Orhan Pamuk

Without further ado, Ian said that the dog was barking in his mind’s eye, but it was as if each bark it simultaneously uttered the word ‘faithfulness’ over and over again, but the impression of the dogs demeaner was that of foolishness. I asked Ian to remain with his eyes closed and to consider those two words.

Barbara
Barbara did as the other two, chose a card, and this time it was of a wolf. I asked her to close her eyes again, and to imagine an encounter with a wolf.

‘When one runs with the wolves, one must howl with the pack’. Leon Trotsky.

Barbara’s imaginal senses really peaked and she described in great detail a wonderful landscape. I asked what she could see, then what sounds she could hear, what she could smell and more? For the next few minutes Barbara was immersed in an inner, vivid and awesome landscape that was so alive to her that it was taking her breath away. Without further prompting Barbara described her inner encounter with the wolf. It spoke to her in the first person, perhaps an indication that this was Barbara’s higher self?

Barbra spoke its words, ‘Others opinions, pah!’, in a dismissive manner. I asked her to gently remain silent and to ponder on that phrase.

Michael
Michael was next. He, too chose from the prompt cards, and chose the crow card. Closing his eyes, he fell silent, and confided that he was finding it difficult to imagine a crow and  an encounter with one. I used a series of questions, and by answering them Michael built up a very details scenario, that some might say was laboured, but it worked!

‘Crows are incredibly smart. They can be taught five things on the drop.’ Robbie Coltrane

I then asked Michael to imagine walking along a country lane, turning a corner and disturbing a crow that flew right at him. Catching Michael by surprise. It worked; ‘What word springs to mind?’ I asked him quickly. He immediately replied with the word, ‘Unexpected!’.

Conclusion
I asked each to open their eyes, and after a few minutes we all spoke words of praise and encouragement to each other. It really was a fantastic, non-threatening and enlightening event for all.

I then shared impressions that I had gleaned as each person had encountered, and with each person then ‘unpacked’ their individual encounter.

Kate felt that the ant encounter and the words it inscribed in the soil, ‘tireless effort’ related to a new project at work she was considering. But, she said she had been apprehensive  about starting it, and kept procrastinating. She now felt that she had the resources and felt capable of doing it, and felt that the first part of the work would be the most difficult, but it would reap benefits as the work progressed. She felt her tireless effort at starting the project would be rewarded, and that she was quite looking forward to it now.

I worked with Ian to uncover the meaning of the words he had heard. ‘Faithfulness’ and ‘foolishness’. With some prompting questions, and after a short while, it became clear that Ian had been in situations where he felt his loyalty to his sports team had been hindered by a feeling of sports-inadequacy or ‘foolishness’. He knew he had to work through this.

He said he should work more on the faithfulness or loyalty to the team, and not worry (and the dog encounter was an encouragement here)  about perceived foolishness which was holding him back and probably didn’t exist.

Barbara needed no prompting, and proceeded to ‘unpack’ the meaning of her wolf encounter and the phrase, ‘Others opinions, pah’. This may have been because it was her higher self at work, as the animal did speak in the first person! She explained that, ‘whilst it is important to bear in mind the opinion of others, I (she said of herself) had been stifled by others opinions too much  in a specific setting, but felt now that I should move on and not take the others opinions to heart so much’, she said. She felt she needed to be more decisive.

She even said that it reminded her of a maxim she had heard once (see below).

‘A wolf doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of sheep’, anon.

Michael who had found it difficult in entering that imaginal realm earlier, now found it so easy to ‘unpack’ his encounter. ‘Unexpected’ was the utterance of the crow that flew at him in the imaginal realm, and he felt quite simply, that he should look forward to the future with expectation and hope, and to step out, imaginatively!

In each case, each person above had given their names to be used, and were happy to work in this group setting. I also work with individuals on a one to one basis. Also, the abovementioned is just a brief outline of that evening’s event – there was much much more that was revealed.  And, this was  one exercise or ‘tool’ amongst many of using ones imaginal faculties and going deep for a variety of benefits, used by Tadhg. Should you wish further information about one-to-one imaginal work do contact Tadhg, direct.

‘…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…’. Romans 12:2b, The Book

We concluded that evening with a closing ritual to declare an end to sacred-space time and a return to ‘mechanical’ time, a type of necessary grounding. Ofcourse, there was no deer-man, no tribal fires, no wild dancing, but the essence of using ones imaginal faculties was evident – something we use everyday without thinking about it, albeit here used to used in a specific, profound and enjoyable way.

Truly, imagination (and especially the imaginal) is more important than knowledge.

 

An Encounter With Vulpes Vulpes In London: Nature In An Urban Environment

20180619 AN ENCOUNTER WITH VULPES VULPES

Last night was one of those evenings where it occurred to me that I had been sedentary for far to long.

It was approaching midnight, and I had emailed a few urgent emails, completed a liturgy for an upcoming handfasting of two wonderful people, had watched the football on tv, and had just picked up a book to read. Sedentary, that the thought that occurred to me. It was if my whole body was experiencing restless leg syndrome and not just my legs, and it yearned for movement.

The best option seemed to be to go for a walk, and that’s what I did.

I’m back in the city, in my small ground floor maisonette in a central London borough, which nestles very close to the River Thames. I am surrounded by city parks, an abundance of wonderful cafes, and densely packed housing, And so, with the thought of movement in mind, I strode manfully out of the door at midnight.

’Solvitur ambulando.’ A Latin phrase meaning, ‘It is solved by walking.’

The streets, well at least the side streets, here, and not the main road in the distance, were deserted, empty of people and devoid of moving cars. It felt great to be in the city and yet have space to myself. Surrounded by thousands of people and yet no one in sight. Oh the people were there. Inside their houses, curtains drawn, and in some the light from the tv flickering away was perceptible, but only just, as I walked by.

I thought I might walk towards Parsons Green, and to get there I’d have to walk down a long, well-lit side street. It had now just gone midnight, and I was half way along that street, and it felt, unnervingly, as if I was being watched. I purposely stopped, looked around, expecting to see a stalker or some ne’er-do-well, but saw nothing. No one.

’Being a nocturnal creature myself, I often find myself in dark alleys or strange places late at night. If there were werewolves around, I’d be likely to run into them, being the night owl that I am.’ Dean Ambrose

I continued walking, and still the feeling of being watched persisted. I carried on walking and the line of cars parked either side of the road ended. I was passing by a school and the road marking prohibited parking at that point. I walked on about thirty paces further on, giving enough time for my stalker to be denied the shelter of parked cars, and I stopped, turned around in the most untimid manner I could muster, and faced my stalker. And, there he was.

Vulpes Vulpes.

Yes, my stalker, my ‘watcher in the night’, was a rather splendid, well-fed red fox. Fulham has many urban foxes on its street, and most can be heard, or seen, or smelled when they move about at night.

My companion was about twenty (human) paces behind me, and he too, stopped, and just looked at me. I didn’t move a muscle. Not afraid, but I didn’t want to scare this little chap away. I stopped for some time. He remained still.
Looking at me, his little head cocked to one side as if trying to solve a mystery of what I was doing. I felt the urge to do the same, but resisted it.

It is thought that there are about 150,000 foxes in the England. Here in London they scavenge their food from litter bins and so their food is usually an unhealthy diet of human food scraps, consisting of curry, chips, fish fingers and bacon butties, and as were near the Thames, maybe the odd water rat or two. Considered by man to be a nuisance, I have to admit that I am in awe of nature as it pushes back to reclaim, in part, the domain that was once solely its world. And, the fox is a particular favourite. I admit crows come a close second and they can be seen early morning and throughout the day in Fulham, but I love foxes, especially city foxes. And, this particular fox was still looking at me, and had sat down.

Did you know: The red fox is the most common type of fox, but there are about 47 different subspecies of red fox; Foxes belong to the dog family and use similar facial expressions and body postures to pet dogs, such as wagging their tails when greeting family members; Foxes have strong family ties. Young foxes often stay with their parents for a few years and help raise future cubs.

Having watched this wonderful beast for sometime I turned away and carried on walking. But only for a few paces. I stopped and deliberately turned. He had moved, about the same distance I had covered and had stopped when I had stopped, and was still twenty paces behind me. I laughed, and walked on and stopped. I turned and there he was. Twenty paces behind. I was nearing Parsons Green, and so stopped one last time, turned, and…he was gone. I felt a little loneliness creep in, having lost my companion and that feeling of being watched.

There are some who say that when humankind was in its infancy and we lived in peace with all animals, that communication between humans and animals, and vice versa, was possible. Others say that in that world of blurred boundaries, even shape-shifting was possible. Are these ideas true, or metaphorical or romantic? That’s a rhetorical question, as I don’t need an answer as I love mystery, and however we interpret those ancient-world notions, there is always something to learn.

There are some others who believe that animals that appear ‘out of nowhere’ and come unusually close to us are attracted by our inner being, our soul. Have you ever been somewhere and an animal or insect has come close, perhaps too close, and unexpectedly so, to surprise you?

Or, perhaps, they say, the animal companion (for a while) is a manifestation of our soul.

In Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy ‘His Dark Material’, Lyra Belacqua has an (external) animal representation of her (inner) soul which manifests itself as a red moth when she’s a child, but as a red-gold pine marten when she’s an adult.

Or perhaps an unexpected animal, the red fox in this case, is a messenger from That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves (and who cannot but remember those old Sunday School stories of Balaam’s donkey and its urgent spoken message?).

’We need another and wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals…We patronise them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form far below ourselves. And therein we err, and err greatly. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost…living by voices we shall never hear.’ Henry Beston

Being a man in this age, ofcourse I wanted to know. And so, I researched something about the red fox, and sadly discovered that they are generally hated as a terrible nuisance on city streets. Okay, I accept in January, or thereabouts, the cry of the vixen, can sound like a baby’s cry, and can be somewhat unnerving or alarming on city streets, and the result of all those curries they eat does make a mess on the pavement – and what an awful smell! But, they are wonderful creatures.

They have lost much of their habitat to humankind (and if truth be known it is us who are a nuisance to them, as they were her first), are they are sorely misunderstood, and present no real danger. I like the idea of nature ‘pushing back’ in the city, as if to say, ‘I’m still here, and I don’t mind sharing, but just share with me, too, please’.

Understanding wild creatures is one thing, but there’s more. There is a point where we can so draw near to them that we can sense them – and I do believe that being ’watched’ feeling I had, or the surprise you might have had when an animal or inset came unusually close to you, is part of an intuitive sensing and connectedness with that animal that we might experience in short bursts, but our ancient ancestors, druids, celts and others would have experienced it much more or perhaps all the time. Lucien Levy-Bruhl, a French philosopher, calls this ‘participation mystique’ (mystical participation) and it occurs beyond our logical, rational thought processes. It is like a ‘sense’ that we have but seldom use now , but it can be increased by usage, like a muscle, if we choose to exercise it.

Foxes, I believe, are a gift from the Universe, from That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and are a reminder that nature is abundant and beneficent, ubiquitous (even in the city) and to be enjoyed, and can be understood at a cerebral and knowledge-level, but also by that ‘sensing’, by taking hold of that mystical participation of deep connectedness at a soul level that our ancestors possessed.

And so, I’m almost back home, having completed my walk. I’ve walked for almost an hour, my fox-companion is nowhere to be seen, the streets are still deserted, but I am left wondering: just a chance encounter, a shape-shifter, an outward reflection of my inner soul, or a guardian of some kind who kept me safe from an otherwise dangerous event, or a messenger from Beyond? Thank God for Vulpes Vulpes.

What was the meaning of that encounter? No, don’t answer it. I want to revel in the mystery of not knowing cerebrally, as it brings me (and us) closer to the Mystery.