Greetings: Power & Praxis In Social Distancing

GREETINGS POWER AND PRAXIS IN SOCIAL DISTANCING

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost…’ Galadriel’s voice, The Lord of The Rings, J R R Tolkein

And so the priest raised a hand and conferred a blessing, sometimes both hands were raised; the parent or guardian would say goodbye to their small child by bringing the palm of their hands to their mouth, bring that palm forward just a little and blow, to blow a kiss in the child’s direction; my grandmother would pretend to put her hand too close to the open fire and frown, blow her hand as she shakes it as if it is burnt. Such is the power of this type of symbolism.

From the small sample of the three actions of hand symbolism mentioned there is the conferment of a blessing, the issuing forth of love, and a warning instruction to be careful. Symbolism – we take it for granted but it is powerful as a symbol, but so much more. There is power there!

In the clearing, in ancient England the Druid stood next to the table, the altar, and there to one side was the cauldron. Opinions differ to its usage, but some believe it could have been used to burn fragrant herbs to be used as an offering. Smoke and a wonderful fragrance would fill the air and denote that this was a pure place, a special time, a liminal place, a ‘thin place’. Interestingly, the tribes of the First Nations of America would, at that time, be using their smudge sticks, ‘saging’, in a similar way. And, yes in Scotland similar practices would take place, except there it was (and still is) called saining. Great symbolic ideas seem to come alive, move and are adapted by many, and they gain from it. We gain from it.

Why concern ourselves with symbolism now?

As you know I do like to hug, or at more formal settings I like a handshake, or a combination of the two which is known as the pound hug, the man-hug, the dude hug or one-armed hug. None of which can be done today, and for some months to come, because of the coronavirus and the need for no physical contact.

‘We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, what do we do? The world is changed. How do we use different hand and other  symbolism and actions to greet others?

Well, over the past few weeks there have been a variety of new options for greetings. The elbow to elbow tap is one, and some of the friendliest of people would do that with their right elbow to another’s right below, and then left to left. Others would tap their right foot against another’s right foot, and then left to left. And some combined the two so it became a little, comical dance. None of which can be done today and for some months to come because of the coronavirus, and the need to keep some social distancing (which, here in the UK is 2 metres apart, at least).

So, what do we do?

Below, are some fascinating alternatives from around the world, from ancient cultures and new, full of symbolism and power. There are many which can be used and adapted, imaginatively, to greet other people in this non-tactile period and so confer respect and act as a greeting from a distance (unless we’re in ‘lockdown’ in which case we shouldn’t be meeting people)… but these suggested symbolic greetings can also be used when communicating by video links such as FaceTime. Time to change. Time to experiment.

’Symbols are the imaginative signposts of life.’ Margot Asquith

Hand over the heart. The Bellamy salute was used in America, especially in respect to the flag when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It meant extending and  lifting the right arm just above the horizontal. Some may now think of this as the salute by Nazis and right-wing extremists. Not so, until the rise of Nazism in the second world war. But, around 1942 the Bellamy salute was superseded by placing the right-hand palm on the left side of the chest and over the heart to show love and respect to the American flag and for which is stands. What a wonderful gesture, and a good gesture to others we meet (online) to do the same as an initial greeting as we speak words of greeting, too. A heartfelt gesture?

For some, a variation of this might be a double tap over the heart with an open palm, to denote greeting. A heartbeat, perhaps, denoting the blessing of life? I think a double tap with a closed fist is acceptable too.

Bowing or head-nod. How many times have you crossed a busy street with bags of shopping, whilst a car ddriver has stopped to let you across. You say ‘thankyou’ but it’s unlikely the driver will hear you, and so in all probability you do a slight nod of the head in the drivers direction. That visual  ‘thankyou’ can also be used as a greeting. As is the case in countries such as Japan though the nod may be a bow from the hip upwards. That may be too formal for many of us, but the slight, brief head nod as a greeting seems special enough to be used.

It is customary when meeting the Queen of Great Britian for women to curtsey and for men to do that slight head-nod as she passes by. If you’ve seen the Queen move along a line of dignitaries you will see a myriad of curtsies and head-nods like pistons in and engine. However, there is a story, allegedly true, that Dennis Skinner, an MP (then) and not one for giving to respecting the office of the monarch, was determined not to head-nod as she passed by. It is said that the Queen, who occasionally stops to talk to some of the line of dignitaries, and having spied Skinner in the line, deliberately stopped to speak to him in the quietest of voices. His immediate and reflex action was to move his head closer to the Queen’s to catch her words to give a reply. Yes, the Queen in that one brief moment gained a head-nod of respect from Skinner even without him knowing it. Allegedly.

Hand wave. In British Sing Language the typical greeting of ‘hello’ is a simple wave of the hand. With the elbow bent and the hand brought up to shoulder level, you simply wave your hand. I believe in American Sign Language the right hand is brought up to the side of the head and the action resembles a military salute. Perhaps done with less formality and covering a shorter distance before the salute ends.

’As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelite were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalakites were winning…. When Moses’ hands grew heavy…then Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on each side’. Exodus 17:11-12 part, The Book

The ‘v’ sign. Popularised by the hippie movement of the 1960’s the ‘peace’ sign, which can be used in these weird times, consisted of making the letter ‘v’ with the index and middle fingers, the other digits brought together, and with the palm of the hand facing the recipient. Ofcourse, many will now that to do this sign with the back of the hand to the recipient is a grave insult. Odd that Winston Churchill, the UK’s wartime Prime Minister used it that way when addressing crowds of supporters and at rallying speeches throughout the country! Perhaps, intentional and directed at the enemy at the time?

The ‘vulcan’ salute is a novel one. One your right hand bring all your fingers together, thumb apart, and then separate the middle finger from the ring finger. You can say or mouth the words ‘Live long and prosper’, or even say that in the Vulcan language and then it would be, ‘dif-tor heh smusma’, but that may be taking things too far.

Used copiously by Leonard Nimoy who played the Vulcan known as Spock in Star Trek, and by many others since, its origin comes from ancient Hebrew. At a certain part in their ritual the Jewish Kohanim, the priest, would raise his right hand and make that sign. It resembles the Hebrew letter ‘shin’ which has three upward strokes and refers to the deity.

Double-handed heart. Cupping the fingers of the left hand to form the shape of a ‘c’, and doing the same cupping action with the right hand and bringing them together forms a heart shape. Maybe best used for those you know affectionately, rather then the CEO of your company during a teleconferencing session. To ‘add’ power to that symbolism the hand ‘heart’ can be moved several inches toward the recipient to show the act of giving.

‘I think that a symbolism is attached to particular images, becomes marked in the unconscious. To exorcise it, to rearrange it, to reshape it, to make it my own, involves unearthing it, describing it, deploying it in form, and then rearranging it [again].’ Sarah Charlesworth.

Namaste. This is one of my favorites and is used by many throughout the world and in the west. It’s simply bringing both the palms of your hands together, in front of your chest, usually with arms as close to horizontal as appropriate, coupled with the spoken word ‘namaste’ (pronounced nam-ass-stay), which means something like, ‘I bow to the divine within you’.

However, there are some symbolic actions of greetings that might not quite make assimilation into western thought. In one ancient Asian country, a ninth century cruel king had a black tongue. Monks, after he died, would poke out their tongues to greet people to show they were not the reincarnation of that callous black-tongued king, and that action of greeting passed onto the people, even today.

‘What I want to tell people is that you can mix the culture a little bit and it’s not always appropriation.’ Jain

I hope the abovementioned has given you a passion to take what is out there and adapt it appropriately to your need and sensitively depending on its origin. For thousands of years action and symbolism has passed from one tribe to another, one country to another, and each have shared their beliefs and actions, which , in turn, have ‘evolved’ over time. And, we are the better for it.  In the tough days ahead of temporary self-isolation and ‘lockdown’ because of the coronavirus we need a new ‘alphabet’ of symbolic greeting, and I do believe that societal journey, a remarkable one, has only just begun.

 

Fear Knocked At The Door [Cosmic Thoughts At Sainsbury’s]

FEAR KNOCKED AT THE DOOR

And so, I extinguished the single candle, symbolically showing that the ceremony was over. As I sat there, imaginally coming out of that sacred time-space into the mundane (if there is such a distinction) I clapped my hands. The latter, is grounding, and a good way to physically declare that ‘normality’ has been achieved.

Having tidied up, I picked up the shopping list and headed towards the door.

We are ‘amphibians’, of sorts. We live in the world of the physical universe where it’s necessary to be aware of time, to buy food and eat it, and yet we commune with the Beyond. Probably not at the same time, usually, but in one sense that demarcation is artificial and an illusion, and those who are aware of that joining of ‘the two rivers’ are best placed to experience liminality, a ‘thin place’, a peak experience, and go deeper.

’She was half human….half universe’ (A R Lucas)

But, we are ‘amphibians’ moving through two realms. Sainsbury, however, in these days of the coronavirus, was an experience that ‘brought me down to earth’. The long aisle which usually houses a glorious mix of vegetables on either side of the aisle, empty. Completely empty. I turned the corner, and entered the aisle where fridges on either side would normally house meat. Empty. Completely empty.

Some people ambled around with a single shopping basket, others meandered with those huge shopping trolleys full and overflowing with toilet paper, pasta, and bottled water. And not just one or a few of each products, but dozens!

’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …’ (Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens)

Shopping at Sainsbury’s was an experience. Some people were even tempered and moderate in their buying prowess. Others seemed to exude fear and panic. Electric tension filled the air.  They had that grim look of determination on their faces that declared that all should move out of their way as they charged towards the checkout with more than enough. Ofcourse, ordinarily, that wouldn’t have mattered, but these are extraordinary times. Their shopping trolley abundance meant that, perhaps, others with their shopping basket would go without.

As a species have the ability to dance with the gods, and yet some still persist in picking up the jaw bone of an animal to slay their neighbour, metaphorically. Now, I know people are frightened, scared of what might happen, but we have a choice.

Fear or hope? We need to choose well.

There is a story, a fable purportedly that comes from one of the American First National people. ‘One day a small child ambled towards their grandfather, and said, ‘Why is it that it feels like there are two dogs fighting within me, grandfather?’.

‘Indeed’, he said, ‘there are two dogs fighting within every person. One dog is crafty, wicked, greedy and violent. He looks out only for himself. The other dog looks out for all people. And, he is honest and kind, full of grace and generous. But, they fight.’.

‘So, grandfather,’ the small child said now rather worried, ‘which one wins?’

The small child’s grandfather replied, ‘Ah, whichever one you feed!’

We’re living through tough times at the moment, and we have a choice. It’s easy to be nice and loving, to declare our spirituality or religiosity to others when the going is good. But, the real test of our faith, our spirituality and love for humanity is how we react when the going is tough. It doesn’t matter how many Bible verses we’ve memorised or whether we can recount major parts of the work of Talisin, whether we wear a fish badge or the hammer of Thor if we don’t have a spirituality that is deeper than that, that looks at fear and replaces it with hope, and acts in a way that shows love to others whatever happens.

‘Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there’. (English proverb)

This article is an encouragement to you and myself not to give in to any fear we may experience – and we may, but to rise above it and to consider others as much as ourselves. We have a choice. Choose well.

These times are ‘…a test of our solidarity, our common sense and our love for each other’. (Angela Merkel).

It is difficult for each one of us, but it is the Golden Rule, and it’s logical, and it works, and it’s great to do and receive; that is to ;treat others as you would want them to treat you’.

And, so having bought a bottle of bleach (you can never have too much bleach), a jar of Marmite (you either love it or hate it), and having bought half a dozen small beers (someone said beer was a sign that God loved us), I headed towards the self checkout area, scanned the products, knowing that the green, amber and red lights on the pole would blink red. A sign for one of the shop assistants to come over, put a code in the machine to show I was of an age to buy alcohol. And, it blinked furiously.

She saw the red, blinking light. A stony-faced woman (the kind you would never play power with), tired and fed up, headed towards my direction. It had obviously been a tough day for her. She had probably had to deal with a myriad of impatient, complaining customers arguing over the last toilet roll in this massive supermarket.

‘It’s blinking red because I’ve bought alcohol’, I said. As she came closer I pulled out my driving licence and waved it in her direction, theatrically, and said, ‘Here’s my age ID’. She looked at my driving licence, looked at me – seeing me as a youthful sixty-five year old face – and laughed. I laughed too. Her stony-face and the angst of many angry customers simply melted from her face, disappeared into the Universe, and she cheered up. ‘I appreciate what you do,’ I said. She responded with a pleasing, ‘Thank you, that means so much to me’.

I am just like you, knowing that we often undervalue people who do the toughest of jobs. But, your mission and mine, should you and I choose to do it, is to treat others the way you would like them to treat you, tomorrow.

In AD 1416 at about the age of seventy-three Julian of Norwich passed on. She had spent most of her life as a deeply spiritual woman, wrote some great words and spoke out, about hope, in an age when institutions around her were negative, blaming the poor, and a plague killed millions of people in Europe. Like a beacon of hope in a dark, fearful, seemingly hopeless world, she reached out, bucked the trend, got into an awful lot of trouble for speaking the truth, and her words are as important today to us as they were then.

’All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. (The Lady Julian of Norwich)

These are tough times. Don’t feed the fears, please. It’s going to get better. We can do it. It’s not easy. We have a choice. We can do it – tomorrow is yet another opportunity to brighten someone’s day and be a beacon of hope and love. And, I believe that what we give out, comes back to us a thousand times bigger. So, get ready for a huge blessing.

 

The Caim Ritual: When Healing Is Needed: Coronavirus

THE CAIM CORONAVIRUS ACTION

Many are sick. The virus is spreading. Here is something you might consider doing. Ritual! Or, more specifically a caim ritual adapted to the need of the moment.

We are all aware of the coronavirus and the effect is it having. A few have written to me and asked for a simple ritual that can be conducted, in requesting a healing of people and the planet. The following ritual was conducted by me a few days ago, and you might like to use it in your ritual, quiet time or meditation time as a one-off or periodically. Do adapt it, as needed.

Introduction To The Caim: What Is It?

The caim is a profound ‘circling’ prayer used by ancient Celts and others over several millennia. It is still used by the discerning and those who know its power. 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. It is pronounced like the word ‘came’.

The rudiments of forming a caim are known to us, but much detail was not recorded or has been lost in the mists of time, but I like to think it was the former, and that those who used the caim of old, didn’t want to legislate the minutiae of what should be done.

The caim can be adapted, and has been adapted for the healing ritual that follows.

The Caim For World Healing In The Light Of The Coronavirus

You might like to use the following caim, either with your grove, church or group, or by yourself. It is a simple ritual that should take no more that ten minutes or so, and can be a stand-alone ritual or incorporated in a larger ritual you might have. It was used by me and a small group a few days ago.

The Caim Ritual 1: Preparation

It is preferable to have a time of entering into sacred space, and there are many ways of doing this – some have been mentioned in previous articles, but sitting quietly, meditating, perhaps lighting a candle is the simplest way. It marks an entering into liminal and sacred space and time – a place of power.

The Caim Ritual 2: The Threefold Prayer

On the central table lay a map of the world. Those present, as we all looked at the map, focussed on the plight of people affected by the coronavirus and its spread.

As the group remained seated, at a pre-arranged time designated people stood, moved nearer the table, to the space around it, and, one by one, spoke the following:

‘Let us think about all those at risk of catching the coronavirus, the general public and public service workers, that the virus may be eradicated’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

And, then:

‘Let pray and send good-thoughts to those who are have the coronavirus, that they may be quickly restored to full health’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

And, then:

‘Let us remember those who have passed-on, those now in the Place of Peace, acknowledging and honouring their passing-on, and let us remember those grieving at this time’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

The Caim 3: The Quarters

And, then I then moved to central table.

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face south, the place of fire. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the south, and seek the healing purity of fire at this time’. And, all faced south and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

After, a minute or so I encouraged everyone to stand.

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face west, the place of water. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the west, and seek the healing freshness of water at this time’. And, all faced west and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

And, then:

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face north, the place of earth/soil. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the north, and seek the healing abundance of the soil at this time’. And, all faced north and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

And, then:

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face east, the place of the wind. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the east, and seek the healing breath of the mighty wind of (the) Spirit’. And, all faced east and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

In facing the cardinal points I started with facing south. This ensured we ended up facing east, the place of the wind, especially pertinent bearing in mind the quote below (though you can vary the cardinal start point).

The words of ‘peace’ and ‘healing’ are intertwined. In the spiritual realm to seek or ask for peace is to seek healing; to seek or ask for healing is to ask for peace. Either word can be used. Or, you can use both.

The raising of ones hands, healing hands, is symbolic of sending a blessing and/or healing, and could be viewed as an enacted parable (something which the sages or prophets of old, as recorded in ancient sacred text, did). I like to think of each person being a conduit – receiving power from Beyond and disseminating it through their hands to the world (rather like the thought behind the powerful and meaningful dance of the whirling dervishes).

‘The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.’ John 3:8b, The Book (Contemporary English Version)

And, then:

And then, facing inward, facing the table as all raised their hands, I put a pebble of Larimar on the world map on the table, and said, ‘Great Spirit of All, heal the world of this virus’. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

Optionally. As we lifted hands this time, I asked that, those who wished to, to imagine a golden light moving from this place and encompassing the world – this is the healing light of the Spirit reaching all.

Now, Larimar is a special stone, known by some to have healing properties, and to associated with the elements of water and fire – both necessary for healing, both relevant to this ritual. The placing of the Larimar stone on the map is symbolic, so you can substitute something else for it. Other stones that you might use, instead, are agate, jade or quartz – or perhaps, something symbolic of healing and wellness such as soap or a tissue or even a vitamin tablet. This is not to belittle the ritual, but rather to work out a physical action of an inner and spiritual request, and place it on the world map. Or, you could write the word ‘healing’ on a piece of paper, and place it on the world map. Ultimately, it is intentionality and powerful symbolism that is important.

The Caim 4: Conclusion

We sat in silence for a while and ended the ritual, except that we were reminded that in all rituals, physical action follows. So, all were reminded to be vigilant and follow health officials’ suggestions of catching sneezes in tissues and binning the tissues, of not touching your face, and of handwashing with soap thoroughly at regular intervals. The ritual is in addition to the usual hygiene needed to ward off the coronavirus, and isn’t a substitute.

We concluded the ritual by grounding/earthing ourselves – that is I extinguished the candle; and all clapped, a physical action to denote a moving from liminal and sacred space and time to ‘ordinary time’ (as if there really is such a thing) and an action which many believe raises the power.

 

Celebrating Alban Eiler: Spring Equinox [Ephemera]

CELEBRATING ALBAN EILER

It’s spring, and the time of being half way through the season is fast approaching.

Yes, the Spring equinox (at least in the northern hemisphere) edges closer and closer, and this year falls on Friday, 20 March 2020. It’s a time of rejoicing as new energy is poured out and life in its fullness grows. Is it any wonder that the church in centuries gone by ‘overlaid’ Easter at this time of year – Easter Sunday, this year, being 12 April.

Blessed are you, Boundary- Crosser,
for breaking through the hard surfaces,
for coming in the quiet like the birdsong,
on the edge of night and day.

I wake into this day with you.
or
I lie down to sleep resting in you.

(Tess Ward, ‘The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

The stars in the sky mark the seasonal boundaries, and as the sun traverses the sky in a great circle throughout the year, it crosses boundaries, and ushers in, not just a new season, but new thought and vitality. Who doesn’t feel  (generally) more energised waking up on a March morning than, say, compared to  a December morning.

’Spring adds new life, and new beauty to all that is.’ (Jessica Harrelson)

Many groups will celebrate the event by nominating a spring maiden with a basket of flowers or eggs, or both. The eggs representing new life, and the fertility of the Earth and creation. Days are getting longer, the weather is warming up a little, and the seeds of winter can now shoot forth. It’s getting lighter!

In Wales, and to many others, the deep name of the Spring equinox is Alban Eilir, which means ‘The Light of the Earth’, as light and life take precedence. Not just animal life or plant life, but all life as many ancients, and Celts and Druids and others today. see life in all living things, from rocks and stones, to rivers and springs, plants and trees – all life is sacred.

’I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ (Luke 19.40, The Book)

The ancient Celts and others, even today (myself included) believed that the physical, spiritual and mental levels were intertwined, connected in perfect balance. And the Spring equinox (equinox meaning equal night) is the time of year when the days, in getting longer and longer, are equal in length to the night just for that one point in time (until later on in the year). After that,spring days are longer than the night, until midsummer.

So, do celebrate it. I know of few people that will celebrate it on the evening of Wednesday, 20 March as the ancients started their new days on the preceding evening, and a few groups/groves etc) will be celebrating it on the following Sunday.

‘The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also’. (Harriet Ann Jacobs)

With celebration in mind, below is a song (penned by me some time ago), and set to an old, memorable, Irish/Celtic tune. The words can be recited and used by you as a celebratory poem or spoken as liturgy, but if you use the words as a song it can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’, (click here for the tune – in that recording there is a musical preamble and the actual tune, which ‘fit’ the words below, starts at about fifteen seconds into the recording). It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Lord of the Spring we honour you,
we thank you for na-ture’s green,
(for) the Earth’s beauty no-ow seen.

Light and darkness dance together well,
in perfect, balanced humility,
in flower, plant and mighty tree.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

Sacred time as the moon rises high
New life comes from that which did die,
new birth comes to us in the by and by.

Wolf and lamb, lion and leopard, too
Shall live one day in sweet harmony
As nature moves , and the Circle turns.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

How will you celebrate Alban Eiler? I haven’t decided yet, but I may go for a long country walk and experience the elements – the wind and rain, sunshine, and rocky terrain. Or, go somewhere with a friend of two and experience ‘dragon energy’, those liminal places where we feel closer to the Other. Maybe have breakfast with them in a rural spot (but if you aren’t able to leave an urban environment you can still go for an early town or city walk, meet friends in the park and have breakfast in a local café.) I might make  small shrine of spring flowers – buying them rather than picking them (which may be illegal in many areas). Or, maybe I’ll sit quietly near a large, old and wise tree and meditate. I’ll let you know. But, I do intend to come back to the theme of the Spring equinox as we still have some time to explore its significance to us today.

[Note: The header photo is of one of the guardians of the Forest – one of a number of dramatic sculptures placed in Thetford Forest, which straddles the north of Suffolk and the southern park of Norfolk, in the UK. They are designed to promote understanding about the need to protect our woodlands and forests, and nature in general. Designed by Tom Piper MBE, and  sculptured by Lisa Wright, I visited these awesome sculptures last year, and they remain in place until the end of May 2020. See here for more details.]

Ooops! Apologies for having the equinox date wrong. Now corrected, Tadhg

You Are Dust, Stardust: Reflections On A Wednesday

STARDUST REFLECTIONS ON A WEDNESDAY

If you’re in the United Kingdom and hold to those old traditions and customs then you will know that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. The day before, Tuesday, commonly known as Pancake Day, was when, so it is said, in years gone by,  it was the day to use up the flour as Lent, a time of fasting, was about to begin. And what better way to use up that flour than by making pancakes, coupled with sugar, syrup and/or fruit, and lemon juice. As a wee lad I can remember trying to flip the pancake over as it cooked in the frying pan and usually (but not always) getting it right. Great fun and a good tradition that many, even today, experience.

But, yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day when, apparently, we are to remember the fact that we’re dust, animated dust, earth, or (poetically) clay! It’s a time of reflection, to consider our humility and frailty. And, what follows is a reflection on that!

We are (earthly) dust!

The ancients, living in a pre-industrialised, pre-scientific, pre-computerised age would have been more easily be able to reflect on this. It was there evident in their daily life: the cycle of birth, growth, death, re-birth etc. The changing of the seasons, growth from the soil, abundance and then decay as plant matter rotted and became fodder for the next year’s growth. All this would have been known to them, and death and dust would have been very familiar to them. As would their humility to the forces of nature, and their frailty.

‘…Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’
(Genesis 3.19b, The Book)

It might seem morbid to dwell on this, but we live in an age of scientific marvels and do things in such a way that the experience of witnessing the demise of those around us is minimised, that we can become forgetful that we are dust! We are frail creatures! And, we only have a limited time here! Even if we don’t uphold the Ash Wednesday tradition, I do believe there is some mileage in thinking upon it, and what it means to us.

But, you know me – there’s more – and life here is followed by a returning to something else that continues onward, which some call the Summerland, heaven, elysium, arcadia, valhalla, nirvana or Jannah.

But, it’s good to remember that we are dust and will return to dust one day, for then it will encourage us to use the time we have here even better than we might hitherto have done. In this form, we only have now! And, Ash Wednesday is a great time to reflect upon that.

‘In reality, we are all travellers – even explorers of mortality’, (Thomas S Monson)

However if you didn’t get around to reflecting upon that fact today, and maybe wanted to have some form of quiet meditation, or liturgy, or poem reading to add to the event, you can always do that tomorrow. It’s intentionality rather than the exact timing that is important.

But, there’s more.

But, there’s always a flip side to these ideas, and always a balancing thought. We are dust, and will one day return to dust, and so we’re encouraged to make good use of the time. But. It’s not all negative. Apart from the Summerland, heaven, elysium etc, we can view our ‘dustly’ composition in another way.

We are stardust!

Yes, many of you will know that I’m an amateur astronomer. Nothing pleases me more than gazing up at the moon and its phases, the progression of planets across the night sky, and the constellations that rise, like Orion denoting the winter months are here, and fall in the sky as the seasons change. They are are great way to mark the seasons, and something the ancients, our spiritual ancestors, would have been doing for several millennia, quite naturally. Unlike them, I’m be blessed with such ‘tools’ as a Meade LX200 12 inch telescope (computer controlled), a planisphere, and a star atlas. But, the awe of gazing up and looking back into the distant past is always, always thrilling, as it must have been to them.

We are connected!

In looking up, we look at the Universe and a myriad of points of lights which are stars and galaxies. But, in doing so, we often make the mistake as though there’s some invisible barrier between us and the Universe. Yes, we live on the Earth and have a biosphere that makes life possible, but anyone looking this way, say from Alpha Centauri, would see our sun as just another point of light in their night sky, and not differentiate it from the Universe.

‘We are stardust,
we are golden,
and we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden’

(Joni Mitchell, Woodstock)

In many senses, there is no barrier, no separation, and the idea that the Universe is ‘out there’ and we are ‘down here’ is an illusion – and probably one that our ego quite likes as it makes us feel different, and therefore special.

But, the greater revelation, I believe, is to consider that we’re so special that we’re no different, in essence, to the Universe and have a special part to play in it. We are stardust, we are in the Universe and the Universe is in us, and we are the conscious part of the Universe looking back to itself. We are the stuff of stars! Star dust.

‘We are stardust, in the highest exalted way,
Called by the universe, reaching out, to the universe,
We are stardust, in the highest exalted way,
Reaching out, to the universe, with these methods and tools of science,

We are part of this universe,
We are in this universe,
The universe is in us,
Yes, the universe is in us’.

(We Are Stardust, Symphony of Science. Hear the song/see the video here.)

There are different ways of thinking about our connectedness to the Universe. The ancients celebrated the season and they believed what happened ‘up there’ affects ‘down here’. I don’t think they were far off the mark. NASA regularly montiors the sun for sunspots and coronal mass ejections of plasma, for instance, and issues warnings about ‘space weather’ which can affect national and corporate satellites, GPS, and even national electric grids. Others, may have ritualized that connection as in the first few chapters of Genesis, and still others by telling the story of Indra’s web (see here).

And, so today, as you read this do remember you are dust: connected, cosmic star dust!

 

The Heroes Journey For You & I: Return To Innocence

THE HEROES JOURNEY RETURN TO INNOCENCE

Many will know that I love to return to the wilderness, and especially to the wilds of north Wales periodically.

What is it that calls out to me?

One can only be in awe of the grandeur of the Welsh landscape, the rugged environment, the grey-green of the slate-grass, the heaven-ascending mountains, fresh valley streams, and wet, ragged sheep ambling this way and that, near Capel Curig. The call of the ancients still echoes on the mountains and in the valleys, here, and I must respond.

We are all on a journey , a heroes journey, and sometimes to advance on that twisting, unpredictable adventure of life we need to retrace our steps. We need to revisit those places of the past, and perhaps see them anew for the first time. Like a pole vaulter preparing for the high jump, he or she needs to pace backwards before starting the fast run to propel them over the bar.

‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’ John Muir

I’m back. I’m back at Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’), two trees in a forest clearing named by my friends and I when we were wee lads and lasses, and we imagined the two arched-together silver birch trees was a doorway to another place. And, those Welsh words aptly mean ‘door to another world’.

Such is the imagination of children.

Back in this place it seems to me that there is a circularity to each of our lives. As I look at those two leaning-together trees, forming an arched ‘door’, there is a remembrance that is unchanging, and yet something has changed.  We can return to the beginning and learn, partly because our  circumstances may have changed, partly because the world has changed, and partly because we have changed. Same places, new discoveries awaiting.  As I look at those two trees, they seem much, much smaller. It’s me. I’ve grown physically bigger.

‘The stuff of our lives doesn’t change. It’s we who change in relation to it.’ Molly Vass

Physically bigger and stronger than I was when I first encountered these trees as a child, there is deep down an ‘electric’ energy that seems to speak inwardly, now. Inaudibly I hear the words,  ‘Wait, for there is now more for you to know’. Doesn’t that apply to all of us? I  believe so. There is more, and if we pause in our busy schedules knowledge and wisdom will be revealed. Even in the mundane, places that we visit infrequently, places that we visit on a daily basis, in rural areas and in cities, the Voice speaks constantly, and if we still ourselves we will hear the Bat Kohl (the Daughter’s voice), the voice of the Source of All.

If, as a young lad, I believed that these two trees was a door to another realm, at least in my imagination, I don’t think I was far wrong. Now I have a greater understanding and more words to describe it. Now, I can comprehend deeper things, and yet know we all stand on the horizon of expectation and greater wisdom,  and are moving forward.

There are ‘doors’ set before each one of us – doors of opportunity that we might walk through easily, say, at work; doors of relationship and commitment that might take some work; doors of adventure, always. And, other ‘doors’ that present themselves in a myriad of forms, and at odd, awkward or unexpected times that are of a different. Drws i fyd arall is such a door. They are ‘doors’ which enter our daily life and take our breath away or speak deeply to us of that which is Beyond. Each encounter, each liminal or threshold experience is different, but you will recognise it as something deep and spiritual when it happens. The Causer of Deep Things will ensure you notice the encounter.

‘What you seek is seeking you.’ Rumi

It might require some effort to put ourselves in the way of such adventures,  if we feel the need. But, if the Source of All wants an encounter, then it will happen. The event’s production and occurrence isn’t up to us, thankfully. However, I do believe it is important to draw to one side, and that may mean pausing, or meditation in a forest or our even in living room, to pray in a group or singly, to recite some liturgy or perform a ritual so that we are attentive and accepting of them when they occur. Such activities are not for the benefit of the Source of All, nor to appease the Source (and why ever would we feel the need to do that?). No, pausing, meditation, prayer, liturgy and ritual are for our benefit.

Those two trees, Drws I fyd arall are in front of me, and as I sit on a felled log, I half-close my eyes and listen, inwardly. The forest sounds seem to ‘retract’ into the distance, and even though I can still feel the damp air on my skin it means less to me that it did. And, I wait. And listen. And wait.

’Every particle of creation sings its own song of what is and what is not. Hearing what is can make you wise; hearing what is not can drive you mad.’ Ghalib

I can feel damp, dead leaves under my feet. The life of trees is circular. Leaves grow to catch sunlight for photosynthesis, and are discarded when the sun is low in the sky and the temperature  drops. Leaves then become an incumbrance to the tree. But, in shedding them, much needed nutrients are released by them into the soil as they rot, and are collected by the tree’s roots, and the tree benefits in other ways. And, the following spring, trees adorn themselves with leaves once more. The perfect economy of nature.

Behind me, I can hear the soporific sound of a babbling brook. I’d stepped across it an hour ago – and at this point in the forest it is less than one foot deep and not more than three feet wide.  It’s quite fast for it’s size, and it meanders through the forest without a care in the world – except to be a babbling brook, to flow, and to do what a babbling brook does. And, it moves exquisitely along its course.

’How can you follow the course of your life if you do not let it flow?’ Lao Tzu

And, as I relaxed and bask in the forest around me, high above I could hear birdsong. Sitting in the trees, I could pick  our several birds by their unique birdsong. It was beautiful.

Resting high above me, they sang songs of joy. ‘Our hearts are just small birds waiting’, wrote mark Nepo.

An hour later, I was back home. But, I just had to sit quietly and ‘unpack’ the encounter. Some encounters can take your breath away, metaphorically or physically knock you off your feet. Others are more subdued in effect, but nonetheless real. Do not let ego, or other people’s ego inform you that the subdued kind of encounter is of a lesser quality than theirs or of any other kind. An encounter, is an encounter, is an encounter.

What was the commonality between those three experiences of damp leaves, a babbling brook, and birds and birdsong? It may vary from person to person, and it may be that you have your own ideas. And, ofcourse, it could be that you are experiencing an encounter now in reading this, in which case do meditate deeply on the ‘message’ from Beyond, for you! Who is to say that in reading this you are not encountering?

For me, the ‘message’ was that trees do what trees do and there is a (circular) purpose to it; brooks do what brooks do and enjoy their meandering course through the forest, almost oblivious to everything else; and the birds in those ancient trees burst into joyful birdsong and are scattered, they fly away, when something ‘big’ takes place – a noise, a nearby predator etc. They wait until an opportune time.

Everything flows.

Everything has its place. Everything, including you and I have our place in the great cosmic dance of life, which is unending – it changes in many ways (just as we grow in stature etc), it is transformed, it moves (in unexpected ways), and it flows, and it is unending.

And now for the application. It is necessary to earth such experiences. A good, in-depth and internal experience, however meaningful, will stay there unless it is earthed, grounded, and worked out in our daily life.

How do I apply that encounter and the ‘message’ to my daily life? Major decisions lay ahead for me. It might sound too easy to say I will emulate the tree and shed what is unnecessary – but isn’t that the lesson here for me?. I believe so. We do need a periodic ‘spring clean’ to offload what is holding us back. What was good and beneficial then, might be a ‘boulder on our back’ slowing us down, now. Decisions need to be made – tough choices. And, doubts will creep in. That’s part of what it means to be human. We have the ability to reflect and be objective. And the greater the decision, perhaps, the greater the doubts. And, the greater the reward. Do not lose heart.

But, don’t be perturbed as if you are being singled out – and it probably will feel like it – but it’s common to all humanity especially when we face major challenges ahead. But,  I need to offload some things and travel lighter. The brook meanders this way and that way effortlessly. Perhaps, there are times when no resistance is needed. The concept of wu wei wu (Chinese words, pronounced ‘woo way woo’) is ‘action-no-action’, a free -flowing spontaneity, that is, that sometimes the best way forward is acceptance.

…The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going’. John 3.8b, The Book.

 I need to accept more of what is coming (but that’s not to say we cannot and shouldn’t make course corrections along the way – that too is part of our humanity). And, those chirping birds that rest in high and ancient trees, and then fly. I need, having rested, to trust in flight (more), and be borne on the high winds, to have faith, to travel to diverse encounters, adventures and happenings.

Don’t be afraid to be weak.
Don’t be too proud to be strong.
Just look into your heart my friend.
That will be the return to yourself.
The return to innocence.

(Song by Enigma)

And now, to action! ‘Allons-y’, as the French say. ‘Let’s go!’.

Energy Is Precious: Introduction

ENERGY IS PRECIOUS

We’re all aware of the promptings of the weather forecast. In general, a forecast of low (physical, energetic) pressure may mean rain is on the way, or snow in winter, especially in northern areas. And low pressure and high temperatures may indicate a thunderstorm. A high pressure forecast, well, that may indicate a clear and bright, sunny day ahead.

I’m walking along a city street, turn the corner and it suddenly feels as though there is a gust of wind, but no hair on my head moves. It feels like a sudden temperature drop, but outwardly everything remains still. Inwardly there is an air of disquiet that didn’t seem to be there a moment ago. Either I am imagining it, or something else is happening. This doesn’t feel weather-related.

There is (something) more.

It is said, in such circumstance, that I have become aware of the slight changes in negative and positive energy that are located in urban (and indeed, in all other areas). We often move though such city and rural landscapes unaware of these energy patterns, energy eddies and dissonant energy.

The ancients were much more aware of these things.

‘Energy is precious, use your energy to build not to destroy’. Constance Chuks Frida

The ancients were much more attuned to these energetic, spiritual currents of the landscape, and would be drawn to such places, or avoid them, depending on whether such energy was stable and positive, or unstable and negative.

In walking that city street I would describe it, inwardly, like a ‘cold shudder’, a perception of negative energy, and such negativity has its effect in the physical realm of humankind’s daily life, I believe.

Why is it, that in London knife possession in Lambeth is three times higher than neighbouring Wandsworth, and Hillingdon had twice as many knife crimes as neighbouring Ealing?

Why is it that Doctor’s are issuing more prescriptions in the county of Somerset than in neighbouring Wiltshire?

Why is it that of those reporting ghostly hauntings in this ancient isle of Britain, there are many more sightings in the northern UK counties except for the neighbouring eastern parts of North Yorkshire and south-eastern parts of Cumbria, and yet abound in London and Somerset. There may be many reasons, but perhaps that link with positive and negative localised energy may be one reason.

As I continue to walk these city streets I come to Speakers’ Corner, which for years was (and still is) an area where many come to freely speak, rant and argue the most outrageous things. Ever since an 1872, an Act of Parliament allowed free speech, when such freedom was lacking elsewhere. Suddenly it feels as though ice has taken up residence within..

Nine hundred years ago, what we now know as Speakers’ Corner in London had another name. It had a famous, or infamous, lonely tree in its midst known as the Tyburn tree – or more specifically the Tyburn hanging tree! The first hanging took place in AD 1195. Gallows remained there for several hundred years and thousands were hanged.

The ancients were much more aware of these things.

Could it be that the contentious speech and verbal dissention of Speakers’ Corner is an echo of those former times, the result of negative energy built up over centuries and affecting some people who visit it, even today? Could it be that those counties and London boroughs with high crime rates are affected by negative energy that has built up over the years and resulted in an increase of knife crime, which itself adds to that negativity for future years?

‘….many buildings and rooms because of the way they are built can become ‘energy traps’, places where subtle energies stagnate unless effort is made to keep an energetic flow going’. David Spangler

And if so, what of your neighbourhood?

Such negative energy eddies could be the result of years of verbal argument in an area or a household. Positive energy areas could be the result of areas where praise and good things had formerly taken place.

I would suggest that, without being alarmist, because if we’re aware of such negative energy, we can better deal with it.

Past misdeeds may form energy eddies that in time may usually dissipate as dissonant, unstable energy, but may grow to such a size that they are almost self-perpetuating and longer-lasting. The haunted house or feeling of dread as we move through an area, or a sudden loss of physical energy in our system, may, infact, be the result of such a negative energy eddy.

Perhaps to the aware person, such as yourself, you can recognise it when, should it happen, part of that negative energy eddy breaks off, and like a trail of fog, like a psychic pollution, as you move through it, follows you. Perhaps energy, negative or positive is ‘sticky’? In such cases, just being aware of it is enough to dissipate its negative energy. And, you yourself have energy!

‘You are energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Energy just changes form.’ Rhonda Byrne

And in any case, I do believe the ritual of the caim [see here] is of use to us, then.

I’m now leaving that area and walking through Hyde Park. Suddenly that inner ‘icy’ feeling lifts as fast as it arrived. The air feels warmer, my inner being feels relaxed and loved, and there is a peace around me.

It is reckoned that centuries ago pilgrims would rest here. Could their prayers and praise form a positive energy echo down the ages that can lift our hearts, even today? A positive energy eddy? In June 2008 many Druids gathered in Hyde Park and held a ceremony there. Could that positive energy that they left behind be what I was feeling, even today?

‘…we can change the world. We change it by means of a real energy that we ourselves have created. This is the most effective way… Thich Nhat Hahn

In our lifestyle, daily workings, in our rituals and ceremonies the accent is on positivity and in these ‘dark days’, more than ever there is a need for people, by their rituals, prayers and actions, in large ways and small, together and as solo people of faith, to reach out to a world that is crying out.

And now, I’m home. Writing this, meditating, and thinking ahead. The day has been long and varied. I feel tired, almost as if I have lost energy. And, that may be so. Speakers’ Corner, is a rather energy-draining place. But, I know what is needed to buoy my spirits, to add to my energy-levels. I know what is needed to energetically intercede for others, for huge areas, for nature. And, you can, too!

The aforementioned is just the beginning of this theme. As my Welsh grandmother used to say, ‘Mae mwy’, which means ‘there is more’. What about energy empowerment, energy loss, energy replenishment, our status and calling, energy residuality and (ofcourse) there’s more. More of this, over the coming weeks.

In a crowd, ‘…Jesus declared, ‘Someone touched Me, for I know that power has gone out from Me.” Luke 8.46, The Book.

 

The Curious Incident Of Brigid & The Bathwater: Imbolc/Candlemas [Re-visited]

20180122 THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF ST BRIGID AND THE BATHWATER...

The circle continues to turn. Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day, or Candlemas, as some call it, celebrated on (or near) 2nd February comes ever closer. Spring is in the air. It’s a wonderful time of the year.

If we’re still in the season of winter, and we (technically) are (as it started on 31 October, marked by the festival of Samhain, also called All Saint’s Eve by some, and progressed to its ‘height’ with the winter solstice) We are now coming to the end of that winter season.

Imbolc, 2 February (or a day earlier than that to some), marks the end of winter, and is the first day of spring. Yes, something, some change are in the air.

‘There is a delightful phrase in Gealic, ‘Ag borradh’, meaning that there is a quivering life about to break forth.’ John O’Donohue

And, if today is anything to go by – it was so relatively mild, weatherwise – spring is here, or is ‘just around the corner’. I could detect a slight ambient temperature increase today, a change in the prominent wind direction, you could almost smell it in the air. Something had changed. The circle continues to turn and this season is coming to an end.

And with 2 February in mind, our thoughts turn to Brigid of Kildare.

Brigid is viewed in differing ways, by different people. To some Brigid is an ancient Celtic goddess. The goddess of fire. Indeed, a sacred fire burned in Kildare in ancient time, as was kept burning by priestesses. In this way it was thought herds would be protected and harvests would be plentiful.

To others, Brigid is a saint, and at the time of Candlemas, candles are blessed (and lit by some), and Brigid is remembered as one who symbolises motherhood, new birth, the springing forth of seeds and, in the recent past, some would bless (even) agricultural tools on that day. It’s spring (or nearly, so), after all.

‘I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen’. Anne Lamott

Yes, and you know I like stories, and here’s another about Brigid. She was known for her hospitality.

For the weary traveller no expense was spared by Brigid.

On one occasion, going about her day, she came across some very tired, hungry and thirsty lepers. The plight of those dear people had already touched Brigid’s heart, and she made them as comfortable as she could. She ensured that they had had some food, but were thirsty.

One of those near to Brigid came to her and broke the bad news news: there was no beer for those thirsty lepers.

Brigid was deeply concerned, and it is said, immediately sprung into action. At the back of some nearby buildings she found an old bath, full of dirty bath water.

She put her hand into the bathwater and blessed it. As the attendant drew off pints from that bath they found that it had changed! No longer dirty bath water, but the finest, freshest and coolest beer you could ever imagine, which was served to all.

The lepers and others were delighted, and had more than enough to drink, and there was plenty of beer left over.

You will have to forgive me – flippant only for a moment or two – but isn’t Brigid the kind of person you would like at all your parties?

I know sceptics may ridicule the bathwater-into-beer story, but there are some deep and profound truths ‘buried’ in it, if we take time to discover them. The need to be hospitable, and the joy in being so. The fact that we live in a world of abundance. The ‘power’ that one good person has. The Universe (God, the Elements, The Source of All) is friendly. The power in a blessing etc. These are all wonderful truths that are ‘unpacked’ in this unusual and delightful story about dear Brigid.

‘Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems’. Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring is close.

However, you view Brigid, it may be good to give thanks for her example, for this season of rest, to look forward to the coming season of spring and the springing forth of plants etc, for growth, and perhaps to light a candle. Fire, however, you view dear Brigid, is a worthy symbol of her, and the lighting of a candle on her day a notable action to do.

And now, I’m off to do just that: Light a candle in remembrance of Brigid, think deeply on her example, say a few words (springtime poems and prayers), and seek to elements of her example to my daily life. Won’t you join me?

Celebrating Spring: Imbolc / Candlmas: Ephemera

imbolc snowdrop-4026893_960_720

It’s nearly that time. Half way between the Winter solstice and the Spring Equinox is the beginning of spring. It’s called Imbolc, or Candlemas by many Churches.

And, so the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonderful, major festival is almost upon us. It’s time to celebrate in large ways and small, in groups and by yourself.

It’s intentionality that’s important, so I would encourage you to do something this Imbolc, and to enjoy it, to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Friend.

Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February (but many will celebrate it on Sunday, 3 February this year)
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Spring Flowers, St Brigid’s Cross, Candles
Colours: White, Orange, Red

Imbolc, in the Celtic seasonal calendar marks the beginning of the lambing season and signals the stirrings of new life. It is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit). She is one of my favourites.

About Brigid

Brigid, so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget, and rightly remembered and revered. To some she is a Goddess of healing, poetry, of fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. To others, a saint. What matters is that she is remembered. It is awesome that such a person can unite us in deep spirituality, if we let that deep spirituality take hold.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and wells; she is the patroness of sweet water. Water is the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire 9a symbol denoting Brigid), are the instruments of the forge. Brigid is the goddess of the forge and smith craft. Heat and fire tempered by water. Perfect balance.

She is also said bring fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies.

Symbols of Brigid

With the coming of spring, the following are some symbols that you might like to consider in some form of quiet time, some form of meditation on that day, and there are also some ideas listed below of things that you can do, things you might like to bring into the house and/or put on your home altar, such as:

Snowdrops. The first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter.

Candle(s). Imbolc is a Fire Festival and fire of all kinds is associated with Brigid – the fire of creativity, the protective hearth fire, and her fire wheel – the Brigid Cross, which heralds her, according to some, as a Sun Goddess. A lit candle as you have your meal or as you gaze or meditate upon it, is a wonderful way to celebrate her and the return of spring, to give thanks to the One Behind It All, the Source of All.

Brigid’s Cross. This is a traditional fire wheel symbol – found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection. A customer in the shop recounted finding a hearth in Ireland, in recent years, adorned with over 200 Brigid Crosses – 200 years in the life of a hearth and a family, overlit and protected by Brigid.
Brigid Doll. A very old tradition involved the making of a Brigid doll which can be included in ceremony and/or placed in ‘Bride’s Bed’ to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.

If you’re interested in making a St Brigid’s cross, do click here.

The Serpent. In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration – the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries. Paths of earth energy were called serpent paths and at Imbolc they are stirred from their slumber. And in the Hebrew Testament a bronze serpent is lifted up and all who gazed upon it were healed.

Sheep. Brigid’s festival is at the beginning of lambing – you might be fortunate to try eat ewe’s milk cheese!

The seed. From the seed new life sprouts. And you might like to consider planting a seed, or more. It need not be an expensive plant, but a packet of inexpensive seeds that you might like to grow on a piece of common ground, in your garden or in your window-box.

Blackberry. Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.
Ginger. Ginger revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayers for Imbolc & Brigid

Praise to you O Caring one,
midwife of our newness and growth,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
tend the fresh shoots of our emerging as we set foot this day.

(Tess Ward, Celtic Wheel of the Year 2007)

And

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

And

For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For lengthening days
And sunlight’s warmth upon the soil
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For a snowdrop’s beauty
Reflecting its Creator’s artistry
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. A link to his page here.

And, so this Imbolc or Candlemas my encouragement is for you to celebrate it and give thanks to the Source of All. If you want ideas about celebration meals to mark the festival please see here.

Meanwhile, the Green blessings of the season be you and those whom you love. Tadhg.

 

 

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