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.

 

 

The Caim 1: Personal Experience

20180608 THE CAIM 1 PERSONAL EXPERIENCEMany times in the (distant) past my time of prayer or ritual-liturgy time more resembled a shopping list of wants with the word ‘Amen’ or ‘So be it’ tacked onto the end of it. I really wanted something more, something deeper, something more meaningful. I wanted to spend more time with the Source Of All, to ‘see’ afresh, in my mind’s eye.

CAIM 11

The caim was one answer.

This evening I went into the study, closed the door and ensured I wouldn’t be disturbed. I made a space in the middle of the room and marked out a circle of about 5-6ft diameter, with pebbles. and lit a candle.

Tonight I was to use the caim to send healing-power to a friend in need, and what follows is a personal account of one use of the caim, among many.

With no other light the candle-light is soft and soothing, and so encourages a meditative state. By lighting the candle I marked this time as different, special, and the beginning of something new. Sacred-space time.

The caim is a profound ‘circling’ prayer or ritual-liturgy

It was used by Celts of old, and by others. It is still used in various forms by latter-day Celts, some Churches who value its benefits, and by some wiccans, pagans, light-workers, mystics and fellow-druids friends known to me. Individuals as well as groups. Yes, it can be used by anyone who knows the value of prayer or ritual-liturgy.

As I stand in a candle-lit the room, I quieten my mind, and relax.

After a few minutes, I point to the floor.

I have already marked out a circle with small pebbles, and, as I point (and sometimes use a staff), I slowly turn my body, revolving 360 degrees. I like to start by facing east usually, but the choice is yours.

I start off facing east and end up facing east. I also like to turn deosil, clockwise, to begin the caim.

The word caim is gaelic, and it has to do with ‘protection’ or ‘sanctuary’; it is derived from the root word meaning ‘circle’, to bend, or turn, and this becomes apparent when you start forming the caim.

Many, today, use a minimalist three-stage approach to the caim at least in the beginning of their caim practice. This is:

  • making a caim and
  • using a prepared ‘set’ prayer, or liturgy, or creative visualisation, and
  • closing the caim and an act of ‘earthing’ it.

My eyes are closed now, and in my mind’s eye I’m imagining that inner journeying to a comfortable and safe place, a place that is full of power and potential. I slow my breathing, quieten my mind, and over the next few minutes enter a state of ‘rest’. I’m journeying toward the Source of All.

Sometimes I like to visualise that I’m in a wonderful forest and enter a clearing that is well-lit. A kataphatic approach. Other times I try not to visualise at all, and that is an apophatic approach. The caim is adaptable.

That inner space that I entered is liminal space. For me, I call it the imaginal realm, as in our culture, when one talks of ‘the imagination’ it is perceived as a place of pure fantasy and unreal. However, the imaginal realm is real. It is a place of peace, power, and potential.

CAIM 12

It is an intermediary space, the gap between the physical realm (which we can all relate to and understand – it is the place of the body) and the ouranic realm (the place of the spirit, where all that is good and holy originates).

I feel safe, I feel ‘cocooned’ from all that is happening in the world about me. I am at peace within this circle.

Tonight I am using creative visualisation – mind pictures and symbolic action instead of words.

If we accept that there is place of Bliss which is, symbolically, a higher plane, then we could all usefully use some of that power.

And so, I raise both my hands above my head for about a minute, and visualise the blossom of golden trees in that higher realm, and the pollen of golden plants blowing in the gentle wind and falling on me. It is power from on high. Not my power, but power belonging to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Source Of All who gladly shares it with us.

By raising my hands I seek empowerment from beyond, from the Universe, from The Source Of All.

Whilst in that circle, the caim, each of us in that place are intercessors.

Empowered, I now lower my hands now. And wait for a minute or two.

I then change position.

Now, I hold my hands, gently, in front of me, as though I’m holding something. In that imaginal realm I am holding something – a invisible power-blessing of healing. I move my hands and mould it, and shape it, and imagine it to be the size of a football.

We can even use the caim to send a power-blessing to world event that has happened that has caused a major upset, or it could be a prayer or ritual-liturgy for a future event, the locality, a sad event somewhere else on the planet, or it could be an ecological need. Whatever the need is, the caim is a good spiritual ‘tool’.

And then, having moulded and shaped that power-blessing, I ‘push’ that power-blessing, symbolically, in the direction I’ve imagined that that person or event to be. In this case I am visualising a friend in need of healing who is in Singapore.

You don’t have to be geographically accurate in your aim of the power-blessing – it’s the intention that’s important. And, it is the Source Of All who delivers.

I use my body to sway back and forth, gently shifting my weight on one leg and then the other – rocking backward and forward just a little, and with my hands in front of me I move them as though I’m gently pushing something. No physical effort is really required in this pushing movement. It’s symbolic.

I do this for a minute or two, thinking of the person in question and their need, knowing that the Source Of All will work through this caim.

If it helps, you might even like to vocalise who, or for what, the power-blessing is for, and the desired outcome. ‘Help [name],’ or ‘Heal [name] etc.

And, as I stand there I sense the power-blessing leaving me and journeying to the person in need….and it arrives immediately. There is no time delay.

You might imagine the desired effect already taking place, even though it may take some time in the physical realm to come about in actuality. You might have in mind what a solution for that person is and you might be specific in visualising it; or, you might not want to be specific as to what a solution might look like and leave it to the Source Of All to work out.

And now, I lower my hands. And relax. The power-blessing has gone out. I give gratitude in my heart to the Parent of Lights, for enabling me to be a conduit of healing energy.

But, there’s more.

As I stand, and continue to face the direction that that power-blessing was sent. I wait for a minute or so. With my arms out, at shoulder height, I wait. I breathe deeply several times in anticipation, believing that what was sent out, comes back now, energetically – although it may work its way out in my life in a different way to that original power-blessing, and over time. But, I do believe it comes back as a ‘gift’ so that we also benefit.

What we send out, comes back in one form or another.

I inhale to, metaphorically, and with my arms open wide, embrace and accept the return energy-blessing. It’s here.

I give thanks to the Source Of All for the power-blessing that has gone out and which is effective, and now returned without any diminishment.

Now it’s time to return to physical reality – the realm of the senses.

As I stand there, I allow my breathing to return to normal, slowly open my eyes, perhaps not focussing on anything in particular, but just ease myself back to that former state.

With my eyes open, I point to that circle of pebbles. Slowly I turn my body through 360 degrees. I like to face east, and so face east once I’ve gone full circle. But, I move in the opposite direction this time – anti-clockwise (or widdershins) – to close the caim.

And then I wait for another minute, and leave the circle.

I extinguish the candle and collect up the pebbles.

The caim is a spiritual ‘tool’ for you to use – one amongst many – and not a magical formula that won’t work unless you get it absolutely right. It is intentionality that is all important. Adapt it, and use it to best serve you needs, and that of others.

That’s it. Well almost.

CAIM 13

Having sent out a power-blessing, there is always some work to be done, to joyfully work towards making the prayer, that ritual-liturgy come about in the physical realm. It needs to be ‘earthed’.

For instance, if you’ve prayed for someone to get though their exams, the action now needed might be that you give them some verbal encouragement, rather than, say, feeling as though you need to spend days teaching them to make the energy-prayer come about. The Source of All will deal with the latter; our part is to ‘earth’ the caim in this physical realm with a symbolic, associated act.

Having prayed for that person’s health, I’ve just emailed them and arranged to meet them socially and in that way I might cheer them’.

If someone is not well, we don’t need to feel responsible for their healing as the Source of All (working through medical practitioners etc) will have that in hand, but maybe a get-well card from us could be sent to them to buoy them up, and encourage them. That’s ‘earthing’, and the action doesn’t have to be something that the person in question knows about!

Or, if we’ve used the caim, say, for someone to grow spiritually, we might plant a seed in our garden; if we’ve used the caim to send someone a blessing, then we might blow a kiss in their direction. It’s a symbolic action, and it’s usually best done in secret.

The caim, then, is versatile, and several times over the next two weeks we’ll return to it, and look at how it can be used for ecological purposes, for healing, giving blessings to people and/or animals, or projects, for protection etc, and how it can be adapted for group settings and more formal settings.

Meanwhile, do try the caim, and let me know your experience, please.

20180608 THE CAIM 1 PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

A Walk In The Rain & More: Deep Thoughts…

201800514 A WALK IN THE RAIN AND MOREThe weather has been unusual of late. Very hot for days and the quite cool, dry for a time and then raining all day. Today started off sunny and then clouds tumbled from the mountains to the valley floor. And yet each valley, here in north Wales (and elsewhere) has its own micro-climate, and it is truly amazing. Unpredictable many times, but amazing.

‘For we know in part and we prophesy in part…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 13.9-13.12 Part, The Book

Balance? For thousands of years before the imprint of humankind was found in these valleys, there was a balance in the weather – slate-grey mountains ‘carpeted’ with lush grass, lichen and a myriad of insect life because of rain.

I weed and steward the small patch of earth called my garden, but nature does a far better, far richer, and far grander job of tending the ‘gardens’ that form vast undulating, majestic valleys, here.

’I’m stunned at how the choreography of fate is exquisitely disguised as chance.’ Mark Nepo

It rained recently, and I got caught out in it. Clearly, even being a native, I only know ‘in part’ what the weather will do, though I do pride myself on ‘reading’ the signs (and usually that is sufficient to predict something of what the weather is about to do).

Who am I to grumble? The Clerk of the Weather knows best, and watered that valley. I’m a cheery soul, but that on that particular occasion, far from home and sopping wet, it didn’t make me chuckle. Was it chance? An Intelligence? Fate? However, as I walked home, now seemingly a few pounds heavier wearing rain-sodden clothes and feeling colder, it reminded me of some awesome words of St Francis of Assisi.

Misreading (of the weather and its purpose)? Perhaps it wasn’t that I’d upset God (as if the Source of All works in that arbitrary way) or annoyed the genii loci or the fae as some here might have told me, that opened the skies; perhaps it was ‘just right’ and in that valley, out walking, I was ‘in the way’.

‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.’ John Muir

Nevertheless, the rain was a ‘quiet teacher’ to me on that occasion and I learned that it didn’t really matter who caused it, the result was the same, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Traversing the copse that leads to my garden and house, I couldn’t but help notice how much ‘brighter’ things looked, leaves glistened as if polished, the air seemed lighter, sounds clearer, and there was that lovely smell of rain on otherwise dried earth – petrichor. St Francis’ words continued to echo in the labyrinths of my mind, and a lightness from somewhere in my being bubbled up – but only very gently. Hardly noticeable.

And then my feet were firmly striding the rustic-style paving stones that stretched the length of my lawn, and I had to admit the rain was just what the lawn needed. It was a vivid green, looking great, ‘washed’ and baptised from above, and even those weeds seemed glad – ofcourse they were.

‘A weed is but an unloved flower. Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Perspective? And then into the house, through the kitchen door at the side (as very few use the front door here; and you can tell a friend because they, too use the side door that, here, leads into a small boot room and then into the kitchen. Peeling off my sopping wet clothes, and sitting in the kitchen to finally dry off, that earlier gentle bubbling from deep within became a full laugh. And I laughed heartily.

So I got caught in a downpour, a rain storm. Many people are far worse off than me, and in many parts of the world lots would be extremely grateful for several hours-worth of rain for washing (and now I was feeling washed and great), for drinking and cooking with, and for their fields and crops. In that simple rain shower there was more going on – visibly and invisibly, at the macro level and at the micro, cellular level; and perhaps in other realms unknown to us the rain was having a beneficial effect (even if I (or you) were (or are) unaware of it). I laughed even more. Nature is wonderful. Status? I suddenly felt humbled.

Awareness. And then, St Francis’ words tumbled fully to the front of my mind.

Such love does,
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,
I have to wring out the light
when I get
home.

(St Francis of Assisi)

And, as I sat there, drying off, it came to me: that Which Is Bigger Than Us is present in the world, and in nature such power and wisdom is known and the mystery celebrated; that there is pain and suffering, and much inconvenience (in rain showers etc) and that mystery is usually (and eventually) accepted; and that come what may, in some way the Source of All makes all things, ultimately, beautiful and new, and there is much that is beyond our understanding.

‘Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.’ Roger Miller

And then, having dried off and put on a new set of clothes, as happens in the valleys, the sun started to shine and there was not a cloud in the sky. Nature is absolutely wonderful (and has a sense of humour, methinks).

 

Summertime & The Livin’ Is Easy: With Beltane In Mind: 1 May 2018

20180429 SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING IS EASY WITH BELTANE IN MINDThe start of summer is almost upon us. I know for many in the UK, the question might be ‘Was that Spring?’ But, it’s true, summer is almost upon us (in the northern hemisphere).

On 1 May our hearts and minds dwell upon May Day, or Calan Mai (as it is known in Wales). Down the centuries it is has always been a sacred day, and in latter centuries it has been a holy day by the Church, but now its celebration is somewhat ‘muted’. Such is modern life where much has become ‘vanilla’, and this seems acceptable to many. But, not you.

To the Celts and latter-day Druids it is known as Beltane, a dynamic day, and is the start of the season of summer, as the circle turns. It is a time for giving thanks and for celebration. It was a time of May Fair days where farmers and traders all gather in towns to sell their wares.

’Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date.’. William Shakespeare

In previous years in the UK many household fires would be doused and ceremoniously re-lit on Beltane. Special bonfires were kindled on this day. Rituals would be performed to protect people and cattle. Yellow flowers, such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn and gorse would be used to decorate houses, and would be especially placed at doorways and over windows.

Even today, in the UK some villages celebrate with fairs, Morris-dancers etc, and I remember at school (not that many years ago) seeing the May Pole in use. In some villages Jack-In-Green and others would march through the village, a representation of the Green Man, a symbol of fertility (whose face appears in some Churches throughout the UK and elsewhere).

[For a recounting of my green angel/green man dream of some years ago, please see here.]

The traditional name for 1 May for those in Ireland, Isle of Man, and Scotland etc translate as ‘bright day’ or ‘shining fire’.

Sweet May hath come to love us.
Flowers, trees, their blossoms don;
And through the blue heavens above us
the very clouds move on.

(Heinrich Heine)

Ah fire. In days of old some would jump through the fire. Didn’t we do that as children, young men, as a dare, just for fun, for the thrill? Or was that just me? To latter day Celts ‘jumping through the fire’ meant purification and protection. [But, please don’t try this yourself]. Some would walk around the fire or bonfire sun-wise (or deosil, pronounced ‘joss-all (though pronunciations vary)), that is clockwise. In so doing they would send out well-wishes as they walked, or prayers for nature, the greening of the country, for food and a future good harvest.

Beltane, then is one of the four fire festivals marked the turning of the seasons. Two of the fire festivals, Samhain and Beltane, were considered to be male, and Imbolc and Lughnasadh were female. Each was celebrated for three days – before, during and after the actual day.

Oh, the summer night,
has a smile of light
and she sits on a sapphire throne.

(Barry Cornwall)

So, how will you celebrate Beltane, this year?

There is no time to plan, but maybe that’s a positive thing. Enjoy what you’re doing even if you’re working that day. Find time to pause and meditate upon nature, its bounty and give thanks – even slowing down and purposefully eating part of your lunch is ideal. Maybe light a candle and send out a well-wish, light, love, gratitude or say a prayer for a few minutes? Such events need not be long or complex. How about sharing a bottle of fruit juice, wine or a mineral water with a friend in the cool of the evening that day? Maybe, pouring out the first small amount on the earth as a sign of thankfulness, a libation to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves. Or saying a few heartfelt words or words written by others, see below.

I am sure you can find some form of short and profound celebration to usher in this wonderful season of summer, Beltane.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Beltane, Tadhg

 

Appendix:

Bless, O threefold true and bountiful,
Myself, my spouse, my children.
Bless everything within my dwelling and in my possession,
Bless the kine* and crops, the flocks and corn,
From Samhain Eve to Beltane Eve,
With goodly progress and gentle blessing,
From sea to sea, and every river mouth,
From wave to wave, and base of waterfall.

[The Beltane Blessing (part), Carmina Gadelica
(*old word for cows)

Or

Praise to you, [Whitsun] fire,
leaping and sweeping through this unjust world of mankind,
purifying with a passionate Spirit,
and warming us like that fiery orb above us.
Your fiery power rising upon each of us, blesses us,
and alights on us, declaring we are not alone.
You whisper that we are one.
Blessed are you [Whitsun] fire,
desiring life in all its fullness for the whole earth.

[Adapted, but based on a prayer by Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year]

Extreme Gratitude: Post-Pneumonia Thoughts

20180426 POST PNEUMONIA THOUGHTS

‘It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.’ Eckhart Tolle

Some of you will know that I’ve been absent from the ‘net for a while, and articles and posts haven’t appeared for a little over three weeks. Although I’m home now and resting – and will be back to normal next week as regards the posting of articles etc – I’ve spent a couple of weeks in hospital.

What I thought was flu, and jokingly referred to as man-flu to a few friends, got much, much worse,  and turned out to be pneumonia (and a collapsed lung).

I’m much better now, as the antibiotics ‘kicked in’ very quickly, the UK NHS ‘free at the point of need’ health system and its staff were absolutely wonderful (and yes, I even liked hospital food), and the Source of All was evident all around me. The hospital did find an ‘anomaly’ at the base of one lung and I have to go back for tests, so I’d appreciate your prayers, well-wishes, light and love for that, please.

It is interesting, hospital stays. In one sense I was completely helpless, in the hands of doctors, nurses and other specialist staff, whose expertise in that field far exceeds mine. And yet, there I felt a ‘call’, a sense of urgency and priority to ‘do’ something, or at least to be positive and intentional in my slow ‘climb’ back to wellness.

Did you know, that, sadly, some twenty-nine thousand people die in the UK every year because of pneumonia.

‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…,’ Psalm 23.4, The Book

Do angels’, elementals, good-spirits exist?

Oh yes. My stay in hospital, if there ever was any doubt (and there wasn’t) confirmed that they do exist, albeit in disguise. Throughout the day and night, nurses worked. I saw them. Doctors and student-doctors visited me, prodded me, cared for me and others. Other staff, those who cooked the meals, and those who kept the bays/wards clean and tidy were relentless in showing their love. All of them are, to me, angels, elementals, good-spirits in disguise, sent by the Source of All.

‘Love flows richly into all things; she is greatly exalted from the depths up to the stars and most loving toward all things, for she gave the highest king the kiss of peace.’ Symphonia (Songs) 25, Hildegard of Bingen

My spirit was buoyed, my heart was cheered, and slowly my body began to recover. Love flowed in Bay D, in the David Erskine Ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, and beyond, as countless hospital staff worked hard in their works of service to the infirmed. Grace, love in action, was ubiquitous and palpable.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

John O ‘Donohue, Beannacht/Blessing,

And so, I’m now at home, resting. I would ask that you remember those who succumbed to pneumonia and are now ‘home’, praying for them and their loved ones here on earth. And also, perhaps, send light and love, and well-wishes to those known to each of us who are having a tough time at the moment. And, please remember that ‘anomaly’ in one of my lungs.

Prayers, well-wishes etc work. Such intentional positivity does have an effect, perhaps more than we can know on this side of that ‘thin veil’.

This is somewhat different to my usual posts, but I wanted to share with you what had happened over the past few weeks, to let you know that I am thinking of you, and to request your prayers etc for myself and others. I do appreciate your well-wishes.

In your prayers and well-wishes, in your intentionality, and in the rituals that you might do, you do have a positive effect, perhaps with unknown outcomes and far beyond our imaginings, but you do have a positive effect.

‘Do not despise the day of small beginnings…’ Zechariah 4:10a, paraphrase, The Book

And so I give thanks to the Source of All for healing, for my nearly being back to good health and continuing journey toward full health, and for being surrounded by spiritual-kin, loving friends and fellow-sojourners, good people, full of love and light, of which you (as you read this) are one, and are similarly prayed for by me. Extreme gratitude.

Light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

Celtic Advent: Cosmic Thoughts At The Café

20171104 COSMIC THOUGHTS AT THE CAFE CELTIC ADVENT

Ever since the clocks went back an hour there has been an increasing expectation of the event. The nights draw in, the temperature drops and the anticipation just hangs in the air. And now, as I sit in the ‘Magic Café’, boxes marked ‘decorations’ are brought from a room at the back of the café to the main area, and they huddle in he corner.

Yes, the Celtic Advent is just around the corner.

‘Advent: the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when
you’re running yourself.’ Bill McKibben

Depending on which calendar you follow, or which group you listen to, the Celtic Advent starts on 16 November (though in common with those ancient people and tribes the ‘day’ starts the evening before from our reckoning, and so it starts on the evening of 15 November). Others will point out that that 15 November is the first day (and so it actually starts on the evening of 14 November). Confused? Please don’t be: it means you get to decide.

Advent is a time of pondering on the cosmic significance of darkness, a time of personal preparation, a time to go dpeeper, a time of expectation, and then it culminates in a time of commemorarion as Light wonderfully enters the world. As the days grow darker, it’s Light we look forward to.

‘Pause. Listen for the whispers of your Soul.
Soul quietly flows through every part of you.’  Nancy Lankston

There are some who will set themselves, at this time, the task of reading more sacred text, or of attending an extra service, of spending a little bit more than usual, of adding an extra home ritual or prayer to their list or prayers – and all of these are wholesome, good and proper for you, if you feel ‘called’ to do one or more of them.

In the busyness of life, maybe the last thing we need is to be more ‘busy, busy’. Oh, it’s easy to get caught up in he hype fom the tv, the newspapers and radio, but once we’re aware of being ‘pulled along’ by the increasing flow of the pace of life at this time of the year, we’re in with a chance of doing something about it.

‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).’ Mark Twain

There are some who don’t feel called to attend this service or that, or to read extra sacred text, perhaps they want to take time to stop and pause, and to go ‘deeper’. If this isn’t quite you, if you are in the ‘let’s do extra’ group, then I would suggest you find those people. Sometimes doing things differently, even for part of the time, is exactly what we need, spiritually.

Ofcourse, if you’re cooking a turkey roast for the family celebrations or are working right up to the eleventh hour, it’s not easy, or even proper to pause right then. But, somewhere in our busy schedule there are opportunities to slow down, pause, and to look forward to Light entering the darkness, however we interpret that phrase. Sometimes, we can re-adjust our calendar to spend more time ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.

I promise not to legislate for you, as you celebrate the Celtic advent, and I hope you wont legilsate the way I should celebrate it. To do so (or to become too busy) misses the point. To so do means that we’ve jumped out of the great invitation to be part of that cosmic event to erroneously, metaphorically, take a snap shot of it – and once we do that we have a wonderful ‘picture’ of the event from the ‘outside’, but we’re not part of it. So, really experience it this year.

And, so in this cafe, they’re unpacking boxes. And, as I sit here pondering the darkness, as I look through the cafe window onto a cold, dark blue sky’d city street, I look forward, in anticipation and expectation to Light entering the world, and what that means personally for me, for you, and others. And yes, ten mintes later I’m helping the cafe owner untangle a boxful of decorations. Perhaps, there is nothing wrong in the ‘doing’ or the busyness of the season so long as we make time for the real meaning of the season, don’t legislate for others and don’t ‘beat ourlsevlse up’; and pause to give ourselves long enough to consider the deeper meaning of this Celtic Advent.

I’ll be celebrating the start of the Celtic Advent on Friday eveing, 10 November (even if that means adding a few extra days in the lead-up to Christmas). For me this will mean a more leisurely approach, even more time to pause (sometimes), and go deeper, and being the start of the weekend the ‘pressure’ is off, and I can relax and enjoy the moment, the meal cooked for family and friends, to tell and listen to heart-warming stories, and ponder, maybe looking at a lone candle shining in the darkness as a metaphor for the occasion.

‘These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community’s past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.’  Brian  McLaren

To paraphrase some, this Celtic Advent was created for you and your benefit, and not the other way around.

My encouragement is for you to celebrate the start of the Celtic Advent with a meal – and yes, some will know that in ancient times it was a time of fasting, and if you’re called to do that, then do it), but also to take the time to ponder upon the themes of darkness and Light. As regards, the celebration I’m thinking of an Celtic Advent celebration meal at my London place, to start the season. You’re invited. Are you free?

 

Tadhg’s Ephemera: The Harvest Moon & Rhiannon (Poem)

20171004 TADHGS EPHEMERA HARVEST MOON AND RHIANNON POEM

In ancient Welsh stories, myths, Rhiannon  was a personification of the moon – much as we might talk about the man in the moon, or Chinese people might talk about rabbit in the moon.

In Japanese folklore, a fox, a rabbit and a monkey are accosted in the woods one evening by an old man. Hungry, the old man begs the animals for some food. The monkey gathered nuts, the fox stole some fish, but the rabbit — who ate only grass — had nothing to offer. When the other animals teased the rabbit, he offered himself as a meal and hopped onto the old man’s fire. Deeply touched, the old man gave the rabbit immortal life by placing him on the moon.

A quant story, a good myth, and one that makes us look up at the moon, and wonder.

So, this Thursday, 5 October sees the October full moon in the constellation of Pisces (though it’s on the cusp with Cetus). The moon rising above the horizon in the east, from a London aspect, just after 7pm.

‘God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.’ Genesis 1:16, The Book

In medieval England this full moon was known as the Blood moon; and to ancient and latter-day Cherokees (so I’m told), it is known as the Harvest moon, to Celts, Celtic Christians and to many of my Druid brothers and sisters it is known as the Harvest moon.

Some time ago I wrote a poem about the full moon:

Like a silver penny stitched onto the dark fabric of the sky,
placed there by the Friend, she shines and takes no rest.
Smiling upon all, faithfully she rises, and moves oh so slowly from west
to east, undiminished.
Ashen light.

Upon all humanity she gazes, and
upon bowed sheaves of corn in lonely fields.
Upon lowing cattle, and a myriad of creatures,
upon sleeping trees with relaxéd arms, she peers.
And, upon valleys deep and mountains high,
this harvest moon is illumined in all her glory,
this night.

Affecting artists, musicians, lovers and humbled souls,
and those who momentarily upward gaze in awe,
she influences cells and seas alike, and vast ocean tides.
The moon is within us all, bright,
and that inner journey, is the enlightening, exhilarating ride.
Inner light.

Tonight, Rhiannon in all her fullness smiles and dances for the Friend;
and the Friend smiles back, and dances, too.
And, you?

Interestingly, 5 October is the feast day of St Murdoc, known as the last of the ancient bard and who lived as a hermit near a lake in Argyleshire, Scotland – and who was famed for compiling the Scottush Menology (Calendar of Saints) in the 8th century.

And on 5 October, King Alfonso VII recognises Portugal as a Kingdom (1143), Spain declares war on England (1796, but we’re friends now), the Jarrow march sets out to London (1936), and the Beatles released their first record, ‘Love me Do’ (in 1965).

A busy time, then, this Thursday in world affairs, today and in the past. And yet, my encouragement is to find time to pause and look up at the smiling moon, and to give thanks. Maybe our prayer, in a world that might be decribed in many places as fractured with wars, rumours of wars, and many killed and injured in Las Vegas and other places, is that the moon, and the Moon-giver, would spill her beauty and smile on a thousand Earthly races, and for peace to prevail.

Sending blessings to you and yours for peace at this time of the full moon.

Tadhg

 

Twitter Addendum: And, in mentioning busyness, my plans for a pilgrimage to Iona and Skye, in Scotland are gathering pace – I start out on that journey this coming Saturday or Sunday, and would appreciate your well-wishes, light, love and prayers.

If you want to follow my progress do check this page, TadhgTalks (and you’ll find a twitter ‘cartouche’ there with all the latest updates, if you go to the generic page – click large banner photo at the top of the page – rather than an inidivually themed page). Or, you can check my twitter page, direct, daily here. Once there, you’ll also get the opportunity to register to ‘follow’ and receive updates. Let’s stay in touch.

 

Calas: A Brief Outline: Third Element

20170927 A BRIEF OUTLINE ABOUT CALASDepending on how you look at it, there are three, four or five Celtic/Druidic elements. Sometimes it’s best not to try to logically systematise them into one all-encompassing ‘theology’, but rather view the number of elements as being three, four or five depending on circumstances, our need and view at the time.

In classical thought, the four elements earth, water, air, and fire were proposed by Empedocles

Ofcourse, if you’re taking school or college exams you may not get rewarded for talking about the elements in such the way those ancient Celts and Druids did, but it is good to allow this classic and ancient view to run parallel with modern thought.

‘The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.’ Gloria Steinem

After all, when I was at shool we were told that there were only five bodily senses, and yet I read recently that there are, infact, twenty-one senses, including the sense of time, proprioception (the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts) and equilibrioception (the ability to keep your balance and sense body movement in terms of acceleration and directional changes) etc.

Some time ago we looked at nwyfre (pronounced noo-iv-ruh) an old Welsh word for ‘sky’ relates to life and consciousness.(See here)

Nwyre could be seen as represented by air.

‘You already are in the eternal flow…’ Richard Rohr

Then, recently we looked at gwyar (pronounced goo-yar) meaning ‘blood’, which relates to movement, flow, change, transformation. (See here)

Gywar could be represented by water.

‘We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not’. Heraclitus

Then the middle, and so far, missing ‘element’ in this list is calas.

Calas (pronounced cah-luss) comes from an old Welsh word, ‘caled’, and it means ‘hard’ or ‘solidity’, and refers to the physicality of a substance. Calas could be represented by earth.

‘Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. Khalil Gibran.

To the ancients calas, though they will have called it by another name, solidity (rocks) or earth (soil) played an important part in ritual.

There is a great story in ancient text of a man called Nehemiah who, converting from his old religion and going back home, takes a huge amount of soil with him so that he can be reminded of his new-found faith and worship the One on ‘sanctified’ soil. He believed calas, solidity, was important.

There is another ancient story of Jacob who slept on a rock, using it as a pillow (and I’m assuming it was just at the right height so his head didn’t ‘drop’ as he slumbered, rather than being soft). But, the next morning he awoke after having a revealing dream, and immediately set about using that rock as a large stone on which to place others and form a pillar to mark the occasion. Yes, to the ancients earth and rocks, megaliths, stone circles, dolmens and barrows were important markers, to mark important times and events.

Ofcourse, in these modern times, many don’t accept the importance of calas, solidity, of hallowed earth and special rocks. or do they?

Underneath the Speakers’ chair in the House of Commons in London, is the Stone of Scone (sometimes called the Stone of Destiny) which some believe to be the very stone that Jacob used as a pillow.

For many years it was housed in Scotland, until AD1296 when it was ‘captured’ as spoils of war and relocated to England, where it remained. A rectangular, old stone, and yet prized by both the English and the Scots, and used in the coronation of British monarchs.

A very special stone, indeed. In 1951 the stone was stolen by four Scottish students, and found some four months later, but was what was found the real stone or a copy? Theories abounded that what was returned to the Speakers’ chair was a mere copy, and the original stone remained in Scotland, thus fooling the English.

However in 1996 the stone under the Speakers’ chair was finally returned, by Parliament, to Scotland. So, did the Scots get a copy that was under the Speakers’ chair (if indeed it was a copy of the original made by those students) or did they get the original? And the one now in the House of Commons, is that a copy or was it the one that was stolen, and therefore the original. Has a double bluff taken place? It’s like that old tv program called ‘Soap’, where by way of introduction the narrator lists all the tangled and complex relationships of the characters in the soap, and then asks the viewer, ‘Confused? You will be!’

Sometimes it’s better not to know, and sometimes it’s impossible to know, but rather to believe. But, it does show that, even today, though they may use other words, or might not even use the word at all, calas (solidity), whether some admit it on not, is still very important.

With these three elements –  nwyfre, gwyar and calas – we can ‘understand’ the physical nature of an object, it’s inner qualities, and the movement or flux between them. Without being controversial – you know me – it might be worth considering the idea of the Roman Catholic idea of transubstantiation. Even if one doesn’t accept the idea, it is clear to those that do and others, that there is a physicality or outward appearence to the bread, and inner quality, and an intangible movement from one to the other. All three elements interacting! Just a thought to think about (and without any stress).

With the three elements (and maybe one or two others to consider in the future) we can describe that which is around us, but we make a mistake if we think these elements are impersonal. They are alive, and are mutiple ’eminations’ of the one Source.

Could it be that we ‘swim’ through God?

The Tylwyth Teg: Celtic Mythological Creatures

20170829 THE TYLWYTH TEG MYTH AND MEANINGI’m still in London, and though I love the vibrancy of the city and the wonderful mix of people, and yes the cafés , too, I’m missing the wonderful wilderness that is north Wales, especially as today is a somewhat cloudy, yet too-humid-to-be-in-the-city type of day.

But, I’ve located myself in a corner of Bishop’s Park, at the end of a path that leads nowhere and which nestles against a rather fine small lake with a myriad of ‘bullrushes’ and metre-high lake grasses growing along its sides which afford some kind of seclusion. Few venture this way because the path just ends abruptly. But for me, today, it’s wonderful. I’ve been reading for about an hour, and as I sat on a park bench under a willow tree I began to doze a little, and think about the book I was reading.

The book mentioned a creature, the subject of many a story of yesteryear, told by my grandmother, and one that both intrigued me to find out more and yet made me a little apprehenive. I was very young at that time.

It was the story of the Tylwyth Teg (pronounced ‘ter-loo-ith tehg’). It means the ‘fair folk’, and it was the name given to the fae, the fairies of Wales; a name given to them to placate them as they were sometimes responsible for some minor mischief.

Frequenting watering areas, they were said to be small in statue, have golden hair and dress in white. When happy they would spend their time singing and dancing, especially where there was water. Like this lake!

With that book on my lap, and the heat making me sleepy, my eyes half-closed, and I revelled in that half-awake and half-asleep state, not wishing to ‘travel’ too far in either direction. The grasses around the lake end swayed to and fro, some grass strands seemed distrubed by something and bent ,and returned to their almost-upright state. I could detect no animal and I didn’t want to open my eyes fully to be too analytical and come out of that liminal, half-way experience. But, no small insect could make that kind of ‘assualt’ on lake grass, either.

Maybe it was the Tylwyth Teg?

Ofcourse, that’s what they’re called it Wales, but they are ubiquitous and are known by different names. And, they love water – ponds, lakes, puddles and even the water pipes, sinks and showers in your house. You probably have encountered the Tylwyth Teg, or may have one in your house, even without knowing it.

Signs that a Tylwyth Teg is close, according to my late grandmother,  was confusion amongst people, maybe an argument starts for no reason, the loss of keys and spectacles, and just a myriad of odd happenings that are unexplained. Like long, metre-high, pond grass bending for no apprarent reason. It’s their way of having fun.

Each culture in history has its creatures of the unknown, myths and monsters to avoid. To the Greeks it was Scylla and Charybdis – two mythical sea monsters noted by Homer, and to be avoided at all costs. To the ancient Jews it was the Behemoth – a sea monster of gargantuan proportions. And to the Welsh it was, or is, the Tylwyth Teg. Interestingly, have you noticed that water is a common theme throughout?

In that half awake, half asleep daze, and with the heat of the day at it’s hottest, I ‘travelled’ further one way and dozed off completely. The book felt to the stone path with a thud and I woke up with a start. Nothing had changed, and yet something had changed. The  lake grass was still. I had ‘jumped out’ of liminal space and time, and was back in ‘ordinary’ time (as if there is such a thing), and no one or thing was disturbing the lake side now.

As I sat there, having retrieved the book, it occured to me the meaning and value of stories about the Tylwyth Teg. We live in a world, which in many senses is very predictable now that we have a vast amount of scientific data, number-crunching computers and the internet that means I can witnesss things on the other side of the planet in a second (which, when I was a child would have taken hours by wires and radio waves to arrive on the black and white tv set).

And, yet there is a lot we don’t understand. Things seem to go missing around the house, upset or illness or ‘bad’ fortune just seems to come out of the ether, and its as if there’s an invisible hand at work. My grandmother, ofcourse, would say it’s the Tylwyth Teg.

You may not believe in the Tylwyth Teg (or whatever they are called locally) but I draw comfort from those old stories. For they teach that however much we think we know, there is more. However much we plan, some plans will go awry. However much we want always to be happy, life has a habit of ‘kicking us in the solar plexus’ and upsettting us. We always want good news, but sometimes it’s not so good. Ofcourse, life is a mixture of events and emotions, oh but how the tough ones sting. The other lesson the Tylwyth Teg teach us is that mischevoius as they are sometimes, the can be positive and beneficial to – good and sometimes not-so-good, just like some life-events. At the end of the day, we can reason that sometimes we are not at fault. ‘Do you best, and what doesnt work out is the fault of the Tylwyth Teg’, my grandmother would say.

So, who was bending that lake grass and threw my book on the stone path? Ah, a passing Tylwyth Teg, ofcourse.

I’m not sure what is happening in your life right now. But sometimes, just sometimes (and discernment needs to takes place here), sometimes it isn’t our fault but a nearby Tylwyth Teg. And even then, don’t really get upset with the Tylwyth Teg, as its in their nature to be playful or mischiveous, and they’re not always like that, and what seems bad today has a habit of changing…especially when the Tylwyth Teg gets bored of being mischievous or leaves. Take heart. Things change.

 

 

Haiku #10: Harvest Celebration With Alban Elfed In Mind

20170828 HAIKU 10 HARVEST CELEBRATION ALBAN ELFEDIn a few weeks time it will be Alban Elfed (which is Welsh for ‘the light of the water), and it is the second and final harvest of the year (for those of us in the northern hemisphere. It’s one of my favourite times of the year.

It will then be the time of autumn equinox (so I’ll come back to that in a few weeks). Then we’ll be celebrating the time of equal day and equal night, and have in mind water as water is the ‘dominant’ element for the season, and the westward-looking compass point is the ‘dominant’ point on the ‘wheel’ for that time. Oh. it’s a great time to indulge in deep thought, ponder nature’s provision and extend gratitude.

As you may know, I’m also fascinated by the traditional haiku – those short Japanese poems consisting of three pithy lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five. And here’s a few haiku (which can be viewed as several stand alone poems, or one of several verses) with Alban Elfed in mind. The Haiku, below, can be used in liturgy for that time or (just) as poetry for the season.

Nature’s circle turns,
and night and day are balanced.
Time for heartfelt thanks.

Water, that gives life,
often taken for granted,
appreciated.

The earth’s provision
at this bless-ed harvest-time,
for all people, stored.

Easterly winds blow,
renew our spirit’s within.
Congruous lifestyle.

Warming sun of all,
now, in this season balanced.
Sun of righteousness.

Nature’s circle turns,
and with gratitude given.
Source of All be praised.

The verses can be viewed as one poem with several verses, and if used in Celtic, Proto-Christian or Druidic liturgy/ceremonies you might like to consider facing the cardinal compass points as you read/recite it: Verse two, for instance, is about water, the dominant element for this season and so one would face west; verse three one would face north for the element of earth; verse three is about air/wind and so one would face east; and verse four is about the sun element and so one would face south.

But, whatever you do, and however you celebrate this time, my recommendation is that you take ‘time out’ to reflect and/or so something special and appropriate to give gratitude for the earth’s awesome bounty.