Ready For Christmas/Winter Solstice: Thoughts For The Discerning

20181202 READY FOR CHRISTMAS READY FOR WINTER SOLSTICE

It will soon be Christmas, soon the Winter Solstice, and tv, newspapers and magazines are awash with ideas of what to do for the season. Here are a few ideas they might not have mentioned. Such as:

  • Yule clean(s)ing
  • Yule log (or light)
  • Christmas (tree) blessing
  • Giving
  • Home altar
  • Seasonal Music

More about these topics is listed below. You might like to try them as they might take you out of your usual tradition or ‘comfort zone’, and you might like to use (and adapt as necessary).

’When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ Anonymous

The ancient Celts and Druids, and others, knew that this time of year, Christmas, the Winter Solstice (Friday, 21 December 2018) was the longest night of the year—and that meant that the sun was beginning its long journey back towards earth. It was a great time of celebration, and for rejoicing knowing that soon, the warm days of spring would return, and the dormant earth would flower once more.

So, here’s some thoughts and ideas that you might like to put into practice.

Yule Cleaning
About now would be a good time to ‘de-clutter’, and dispose of anything you don’t really need, and the less physical clutter you have about the house, the easier it will be to function (better) on a spiritual level. You’ve heard of spring cleaning, well now it’s time for Yule Cleaning. There is someone out there that could appreciate that little something.

Ofcourse, if you (also) wanted to perform a simple ritual in each room about the house, a sort of Yule house cleansing of a spiritual kind, that would be good, too. And you can find an example of that by reading Gruffyd and Megan’s house blessing of two tears ago (but which is so relevant, and can be adapted by you), here.

Yule log (or light)
It started as a holiday celebration in Norway, and then on the night of the Winter Solstice it was common to put a giant log, the Yule log into the hearth to remember the heat of the soon to be returning sun and lighter evenings, when the Earth was, in the northern hemisphere, at its coldest and darkest.

‘The light shines in the darkness… John 1:5a, The Book

It could be that you don’t have a hearth and use an alternative form of heating, such as central heating. Don’t despair. I think, as an alternative to the Yule log, to remember the heat and light of the sun, you might like to set one of those (festive) battery-operated candle bridges on the window ledge or somewhere in the house. Any candle will do – but do be safe and keep naked flames away from children, pets, fabric etc.

Christmas (Tree) Blessing
Whether you use a real Christmas tree or an artificial one, how about setting aside some time to bless it or bless others using the tree as a focal point? You can do this alone, or with family and friends. It can take the form of a few words and/or a drink or two with mince pies.

As regards the blessing, how about this:

Source of all,
as the sun rises over the woods and sets upon the same,
bring your Yule blessings of good cheer.
As the fire rises (in the hearth),
Bless all with the warmth of your love.
As the gift is given in the quiet of the darkness
Bless me/us, and all I Know, with surprise of your nearness.

(A blessing (adapted) from The Celtic Wheel Of The Year by Tess Ward)

Giving
In many modern Celtic, Christian, Druidic and Pagan communities, an emphasis is placed on the idea of helping those in need. This can be done by donating clothing, canned goods, toiletries, books, and even pet care products to local groups, churches, groves etc, or to a local charity shop. Before you donate it, you might like to consider praying over it, invoking the goodwill of the Source of All on the unknown recipient, or send your personal light and love with it. Or, perhaps you could give a few hours of your time to those who might be lonely and feeling unloved. If that’s not possible, or you have mobility challenges, you can always remember those in need in prayer (and perhaps use the Caim).

Home altar
Yes, I am an advocate of that one special place in the home that can be a place of focus and quietness, a place of re-membering, a place energy and power: the home altar, although it’s known by various names.

‘Celebrate the idea that you don’t fit in. Find your own fit. Stay unique.’ Betsey Johnson

If you haven’t created one, or if you’ve had the same one for several months, now might be a good time to create one for Christmas and/or Winter Solstice. Sometimes the simplest ones are the best, but it can be a table or ledge containing items that are meaningful to you at this time and which bring to mind the season, and so it could have candles, mistletoe, holly, a crib set or a symbol to bring to mind your own spirituality.

‘May you be blessed
With the spirit of the season, which is peace,
The gladness of the season, which is hope,
And the heart of the season, which is love.’

(An old, traditional Irish blessing)

In the header photograph to this article you can see a table (top of my filing cabinet) in my office, and the seasonal altar that is taking shape. It’s meaningful to me, but yours may be very different – just ensure it is meaningful and pleasing to you.

On my altar right now I have a star and a crib set to remind me of the Nativity. That event is meaningful to me – the day the Source of All took on flesh. Amazing. I’ve also got three small Christmas trees (as I’m Trinitarian) as part of that altar, three candles to remind me of the three realms, and two candles at the back (to remind me that prayer or good wishes and action is needed, or to remind me ‘as above, so below’). I confess I do love candles. You’ll find them everywhere around the place, here.

Experiment, have fun, but make it meaningful to you.

Seasonal Music
Why not spend some time, maybe an evening, just relaxing and listening to seasonal music, and perhaps consider listening to some from outside of your comfort zone or from different spiritual ‘tribes’. This can be a form of meditation, and way to ‘encounter’, to ponder deeply about the meaning behind the season.

‘Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.’ Lao Tzu

I’ve selected three examples of seasonal music that I like a lot, and that you might like to consider listening to. Such as:

Christmas carols from King’s College, Cambridge [here].

Christmas carols by Libera [here].

Christmas carols by The Piano Guys [here]

And, how about Celtic/Druidic ‘home grown’  song for the season:

The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

The trees, they slumber,
deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber,
deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber,
deep roots are dreaming.
I’m listening to the winter’s sacred rest.

The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The hope of spring, ye-et to come.

The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

Words by me, Tadhg. The tune to this is an old, traditional Irish folk tune, Fear a Bhata (The Boatman), and the tune/video can be seen/heard [here]. The tune for the four verses above is the same, and is the tune on the video, played between 10 seconds and 56 seconds there.

‘My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.’ Edith Sitwell

Wishing you and yours the blessings of Christmas/Winter Solstice, Tadhg

 

All About Mistletoe: Meaning, Myth & ‘Magic’

20181124 ALL ABOUT MISTLETOE

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low…

We’ve looked at holly recently (see here), and then we looked at ivy (see here), and associated with this time of year, with Christmas and the Winter Solstice coming up, is mistletoe. And, we’ll look briefly at mistletoe from the botanical view, mythological and historical point of view, and current uses for Christians, Druids and others, with some ideas for yourself about its use.

It is a most wonderful shrub.

Botanical View: Science & Nature

From a botanical point of view mistletoe is fascinating. It is a semi-parasitical evergreen shrub, but caution is needed: mistletoe leaves, stems and berries are all poisonous.

Common name: mistletoe, also known as European mistletoe, European white-berry mistletoe, common mistletoe
Scientific name: Viscum album
Family: Santalaceae

Its scientific name aptly reflects its sticky nature – viscum comes from the Latin ‘visco’ meaning sticky.

Mistletoe has a positive effect on wildlife. The white berries of mistletoe aren’t usually sought out by birds as they often prefer those that are red, orange or purple. But, some will eat white berries. It is an important source of winter food for the mistle thrush, redwings and fieldfares.

Several species of insect are mistletoe feeders, such as the mistletoe marble moth (Celypha woodiana) and mistletoe weevil (Ixapion variegatum).

All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Mythological & Historical View: Ah, Mystery

There is a tradition that mistletoe can ward off evil. It was/is thought that mistletoe brought into the house at Christmas, or mid-winter when the days were darkest, or at the time of the New Year should be kept hanging for a full 12 months, and this would protect the house from negativity or  evil.

Ancient and latter-day Druids believe mistletoe to be sacred. It was at the Winter Solstice ( ‘Alban Arthan’ by the Druids) that, according to Bardic Tradition, the Chief Druid would cut the sacred mistletoe from the Oak using a golden sickle on the sixth night of the new moon after the winter solstice.

According to Pliny the ancient Druids would climb the tree to harvest it, cutting the mistletoe and let it fall naturally to be caught in a cloak before it touched the ground. If it did reach the ground it would lose its special properties.

Branches of mistletoe were/are then cut into many sprigs and distributed to the people to take inside their homes or hang the sprigs  over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe)…

And, ofcourse, that event which can be fun, lovely and/or embarrassing takes place: kissing takes place under mistletoe. But, why?

Well, there is an ancient Scandinavian custom that led to the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. This tradition went hand-in-hand with the Norse myth about Baldur whose mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal, and inanimate object promise not to harm her son. But Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant, and the mischievous god of the Norse myths, Loki, took advantage of this oversight. Loki tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear made from mistletoe.

According to a happier ending of that legend, Baldur’s mother wept tears onto the arrow which turned into white berries that she placed onto Baldur’s wound, bringing him back to life. Overjoyed at new life springing forth in her son, Frigga blessed the mistletoe plant and promised a kiss to all who passed beneath it. Now you know it is a positive symbol of new life, resurrection, and in many ways symbolises eternal friendship.

Also, when the first Christians came to Western Europe, although some tried to ban the use of Mistletoe as a decoration in Churches,  many still continued to use it! York Minster Church, in the UK, for instance, used to hold a special Mistletoe Service in the winter, where wrong doers in the city of York could come and be pardoned. And, many church buildings are gaily decorated with holy, ivy and mistletoe today, and look splendid, indeed. I love.

Today, mistletoe still has some interesting English connotations and traditions attached to it.

And Today: You & Me

The English town of Tenbury Wells, on the Worcestershire/ and Herefordshire border is famous for its annual mistletoe auctions. However, in 2004/5 the owners of the  market site in town said they were closing the site and leaving town. A small group got together to think of other ways to keep the mistletoe traditions alive and the result was the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival which now runs alongside the auctions.

Did you know that 1st December (or usually the first Saturday after the beginning of December) each year is National Mistletoe Day?

Another fixture is the Mistletoe Queen, crowned on National Mistletoe Day. She is the Head Girl of Tenbury High School and is accompanied by the Holly Prince, the Head Boy. A new tradition in the making.

No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

So, what to do today?

What to do with mistletoe in our faith groups and groves, or by ourselves?

Well, maybe cutting or buying some mistletoe to hang in our homes for tradition-sake and/or for protection is one suggestion, and you can always continue the kissing-tradition under it.

How about giving some mistletoe away to someone special, in the same way an ancient or latter-day Druid might cut springs of mistletoe on the sixth night of the full moon to give to others the following day – though I think, in the spirit of this, there can be great flexibility (and so if the intention is there, the moon phase need not hinder you from doing that noble deed).

At home, individually, or in our faith groups and groves, especially at the time of Winter Solstice or sometime over the Christmas period we can meditate upon mistletoe and/or recite some words which have meaning to you, or a classic poem (such as the one used here aptly called ‘Mistletoe’ (indented, above), and penned by Walter de La Mare).

Meanwhile, many blessings to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

All About Ivy: There’s More To It Than Meets The Eye

20181117 ALL ABOUT IVY MEANING MYTH AND MAGIC

Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o’er ruins old!

(Charles Dickens)

Much misunderstood, and the subject of myth and magic in the winter season, Winter Solstice and at Christmastime, Ivy is a wonderful ‘climber’ that has a story of mystery to tell from over a millennia ago. Ivy can be viewed from a botanical point of view, as a friend of nature, and as a plant of myth and magic. And, each is fascinating and spell-binding. So…

Botanical view
Ivy grows well throughout the UK and is native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa, and can be found in many habitats including woodland, scrub, wasteland and on isolated trees. It quite likes shaded areas, and can live in all but the most dry, waterlogged or acidic soils.

Common name(s): Ivy, common ivy, Atlantic ivy, English ivy, British ivy, European ivy
Scientific name: Hedera helix
Family: Araliaceae

It is an evergreen plant so its easily identifiable leaves can be seen all the year. It flowers in September to November, and fruits ripen in November to January.

But, there’s more to Ivy than meets the eye
Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
And a staunch old heart has he.
How closely he twineth, how tight he clings,
To his friend the huge Oak Tree!

(Charles Dickens)

It is a woody climber which can grow to a height of 30metres. It has two different forms – juvenile and mature. It climbs trees, walls and building, using specialised and adapted hairs which help it ‘stick’ to surfaces as it climbs.

There are many views as to whether ivy climbing on brickwork damages the brick. It seems its doesn’t crack or damage brick but exploits any cracks and damage that were  already there – but if you have ivy on your house etc it’s best to take professional advice.

As creeping ivy clings to wood or stone, And hides the ruin that it feeds upon, So sophistry, cleaves close to, and protects Sin’s rotten trunk, concealing its defects.

(William Cowper)

But, it is not a parasitic plant, and has a separate root system in the soil and so absorbs its own nutrients and water as needed.

But, there’s more.

Friend of nature
Some may be inclined to pull ivy off a tree fearing that it will harm the tree (though in individual cases it may need to be trimmed back), but Ivy growing on trees does no harm to the tree, and, indeed, it provides an abundant supply of food for insects and birds.

Ivy is the wild lady of the greenwood; she gathers us all together, entwinning and embracing.

(Danu Forest)

Nectar, pollen and berries of ivy are bountiful during autumn and winter when food is scarce. And it provides shelter for insects (especially hoverflies, wasps and bees), birds, bats and other small mammals.  It is also an important food plant for some butterfly and moth larvae. It’s a wonderful plant.

But, there’s even more.

Myth & More
As an evergreen plant ivy (along with holly – and we looked at holly recently: please see here) was seen as an especially powerful symbol during winter, and it was brought into the house to keep negativity and evil spirits at bay.

In ancient Rome wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around ones head was supposed to prevent one from getting drunk –  unlikely, I would think  – and the Roman god Bacchus, the god of intoxication, was usually depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grapevines.

However, Ivy was also seen as a symbol of intellectual prowess, then, and wreaths were used to crown the winners of poetry contests.

That headlong ivy!
Not a leaf will grow,
But thinking of a wreath,
Large leaves, smooth leaves.
Serrated like my vines, and half as green.
I like such ivy, bold to leap a height,
Twas strong to climb! as good to grow on graves,
As twist about a thyrsus , pretty too,
(And that’s not ill) when twisted round a comb.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

In ancient Greece wreaths were also given to winning athletes, and they were also seen as emblems of fidelity, and priests would present a wreath of ivy to newly married couples. Even today it is still often the custom for bridal bouquets to contain a sprig of ivy. Ah, sometimes the old ways and wonderful traditions live on, even unbeknownst to many.

English ivy also has a tendency to travel along the ground – and who hasn’t tripped in the matted roots system as it spreads over the ground. Sometimes, if its growth is unchecked it can travel from one plant to another, binding the plants together, and this binding ability sometimes has a deeply symbolic meaning.

But, like ivy, we grow where there is room for us.

(Miranda July)

Some early versions of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, refer to the ability of ivy to bind.

Here’s the story: Tristan, a Cornish knight went to Ireland to ‘claim’ Isolde, an Irish princess, as a bride for King Mark. During the arduous journey back to Cornwall, Tristan and Isolde drank a love potion made from ivy and fell madly in love. [But, please don’t emulate them in making or drinking any Ivy concoction as it’s poisonous, and so this story is for historical and mythological study purposes only). For them Ivy ‘binded’ them together.

In some other versions, Tristan and Isolde do die and are buried in separate graves by King Mark so that even in death they cannot be together. However, in that story, an ivy vine grew out of each grave towards the other one. The ivy vines, then, met and entwined around each others body, forming a loving and eternal connection. And, even when the King Mark cuts the vines they regrow and reconnect. Wonderful story.

For ancient Celts, Druids and medieval Christians, Ivy represented peace, perhaps because of its ability to bind different plants or even different kinds of plants together. And it is for that reason I would advocate you buying and bringing in some Ivy into your house, especially at the darkest part of the year when we celebrate the Winter solstice and/or Christmas.

It’s also for the reason of peace and fidelity that many Celts and Druids of old, and today (including me when conducting a handfasting or marriage ceremony) wear holly wreaths at some events – do see an earlier article where I did just that, which included the line: ‘‘You’ve got grass on your head, mister’.

Also, during the winter solstice, in years gone by, there was a tradition of a nominated boy wearing a holly wreath, and a girl wearing n ivy crown to symbolise the different sexes, the ‘battle’ between sun and moon, between dark and the barrenness of winter and light and the green fecund world, the endless turning of the circle. Yes, the ivy is a wonderful plant full of mystery and magic, and surely has a place in our homes this yuletide.

For the stateliest building man can raise,
Is the Ivy’s food at last.
Creeping on, where time has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

(Charles Dickens)

All About Holly: Now The Holly Bears A Berry…

20181109 ALL ABOUT HOLLY

There was a specific time of the year when, much younger than I am now, I would wistfully sit at a window in my grandmothers’ cottage, perhaps kneeling on a chair so that I could comfortably look out, and I would wait. At the time of the year when night came early, I would gaze, for hours, looking at the trees and nearby bushes shrouded in white, in a seeming coating of cotton wool because of the first snowfall. I wait to be told that I could go outside. Yes, I would wistfully look out of the window at that wonder, landscape-changing snow, and for a reason.

My grandmother was a patient woman, and as a wee lad of six years of age, I was anything but patient, but I waited, because I wanted my first encounter, that year, with December snow to be extra special.

And then, having wrapped herself in layers, and I had donned an outdoor coat, and wellington boots, and a woolly hat, she would lead the way, and hand in hand we ventured forth.

As she opened the outside door, the warmth of the kitchen gave way to an icy, cold, and very refreshing breath of fresh air. It took my breath away. We had stepped over the threshold and, as our feet made a ‘scrunching’ sound as we compressed snow underfoot, it was as though we had entered another, liminal realm.

It was an annual event: to collect holly for indoor decoration at first snowfall in December, and it was something that I liked to do, even at that young age. My grandmother was the one to wield the secateurs, and my mission was to collect the holly branches and twigs that she gave me, and to carefully transport them back to the cottage.

And the first tree in the greenwood
it was the holly.
Holly! Holly!
And the first tree in the greenwood
it was the holly!

At the farthest end of the long garden, near a brook that marked the boundary, there was usually a huge amount of holly to be had. My grandmother would take her time, inspect the holly as I waited beside her, and I admit I would be rather impatient by then. But, it was a though she was lost in thought for a time.

Could it be that my grandmother was saying a prayer before cutting off holly twigs?

Was she asking permission?

Was she thinking of which bit would best suit her need for decoration?

There are some today, and certainly in ages gone by, who would say a prayer before lopping off part of a tree. And, why not? We live in an age when loggers can fell many trees in an hour, but there is something precious in taking time in giving thanks to the Great Provider for what we harvest from nature, and that includes holly. To take time, to pause, to extend gratitude is vital.

There are some who believe that each part of creation has its own soul, and some who believe only humankind possesses a soul. But isn’t there something special in taking time to acknowledge that life exists in many forms, and though it might be necessary to take from nature, it is also right to consider, and ask? Soul or no soul, such a practice would guard against the thoughtless use and misuse of nature and her resources.

Ofcourse, my grandmother could have just been thinking which holly twig was best for the purpose of indoor decoration.

That tradition of holly cutting persisted for many years, and even as a teenager I would want to be involved. And, as time went by, I asked her what she was doing, each time she was about to cut some holly?

It seems my grandmother was doing all those things: giving thanks to the Source of All, seeking permission to cut holly and so ensuring that each piece of holly was considered from nature’s perspective, and also thinking about how best to usefully use that holly. It was a three-fold practice that was instilled in me from a certain age, and for which I give thanks.

And so, she cut the holly and I would carefully carry it back to the cottage. That evening she would further cut the holly, and she and I would fashion it and make holly wreaths, or place the holly over or around the hearth, and make ‘holly triangles’ to stand on tables, bookshelves and shelves, or near beds to ensure good dreams and/or a good nights sleep, or for wisdom.

From my grandmother’s stories at that time of year (about December) I heard about the Holly King and the vying for supremacy (ie the struggle between light and dark, the Oak King and the Holly King, and how summer gives way to winter, only for winter to give way to summer). The Holly King was ‘born’ each year but his role was that of a sacrificial king. He would live for a while, many would benefit, and then die, only to be born once more. A very liminal time, indeed.

Now the holly bears a berry
as red as the blood

Holly wreaths were also used during the ancient festival of Saturnalia, celebrated by the Romans on 17 December but, later changed to 23 December to coincide with winter solstice. At such times there would be much feasting, revelry, and gift-giving. Sounds familiar? Saturn was the Roman god akin to the ancient Celtic Holly King, and subsumed by some into Christmas Day celebrations and the awesome the story behind it: A child born to die (and wasn’t that the significance of the myrrh – an embalming oil, the symbol of death?). As well as being called the holly, its is also known as the hulm tree, the holy tree, and (with Easter in mind) Christ’s thorn.

Now the holly bears a berry
as black as the coal

Whichever account, myth or story you subscribe to, something awesome happened in ancient times, and it continues, even today! It is a great event that spans time and space, and even different cultures, religions and belief systems, albeit told in different ways; and it is one that enjoins the use of the holly in an annual ritual and celebration as the darker days of the year approach. Holly is that important as a reminder and more!

Now the holly bears a berry
as white as the milk

It is also said that carrying holly can rekindle desires, and hung over a bedpost it will rise the marital ‘life force’. Ofcourse, many would regard this as superstition, and yet still seek a kiss by raising a piece of mistletoe aloft! Ofcourse, it’s just for fun. Or, is it only fun? Is there something more?

Holly was, and is used by some, to seek protection. Brought into the house, the house and family would be protected. The same protection would be afforded by placing a holly wreath on the front door of the house. Oh, the things we do today even without realising it. But, don’t stop! It’s that time of the year.

And so, at that young age of six, I had enjoyed my first snow fall of that year, had been productively engaged in collecting holly (and later on, cutting – yes, there was an age I reached when I would be trusted to use the secateurs) and fashioning it into various ‘tools’ of protection etc and wonderful seasonal decorations to celebrate that time of the year (however I interpreted it then, and now).

Holly has many uses and many meanings, and though each person reading this may have his/her own view, it is without a doubt a versatile and ‘deep’, thought-provoking shrub, and full of ‘magic’, and at this time of the year it is a timely reminder of darker days ahead in winter, and that the circle turns.

 

Poem: Lights Will Guide You…[Revisited]

20171228 POEM LIGHTS WILL GUIDE REVISITEDWe live in a time when, perhaps, we need guidance more than ever. A map! A way forward! A path to follow. A light?

Guidance is at hand, but sometimes it ‘arrives’ in the mundane, the daily routine of life, in nature, in the elements (and elementals, unseen angels, through other people, a word here or there etc). However we define it, the miraculous is at work in the ‘large’ and the ‘small things of our life, and guidance is at hand.

Ancient sacred texts urges us not to despise the day of small things.  It is easy to do so, in the busy-ness of life. But, when the world was at its darkest, a light shone (and still shines) in the dark streets (of our minds), and the Light(s) will guide you home.

Maybe, sometimes, the guidance we so need can come through song? Why not? What is visible and invisible was called forth by a word, angels sang at the dawn of creation, scientists talk about the ‘music of the spheres’, nature ‘sings’ in the wind and the rain, and our live are like a cosmic dance danced to a tune that we hear deep in our spirit. Yes, I do believe guidance can come to us in a number of ways, and that includes words, song lyrics, poetry, music etc.

Is there something missing,
and you feel that there’s nobody listening?
Could it be that everyone of us is scared,
everyone of us is hurt?

Oh, I think I landed in a world I hadn’t seen,
where a wicked and wild wind blew down the doors to let me in.
Look up, I look up at night, planets are moving at the speed of light.
I hear you come nearer,
I hear you, but I don’t understand.

In your eyes, I drifted away,
and in your arms I just want to sway.
Oh, I think I landed where there are miracles at work.
Time just floated away.

Still I call it magic, a simple plot but I know one day,
good things are coming our way.
Christmas lights, light up the street.
Light up the fireworks in me.

Oh, angel sent from up above.
You know you make my world light up.
Yes, lights will guide you home.

You’re part of the human race,
and, all of the stars and the outer space,
are part of a bigger plan.

If you’d only, if you’d only say yes.
Under this pressure, under this weight we are diamonds taking shape.
Still, I call it magic.
You’re such a precious jewel.

This poem falls within the ‘Found poetry’ genre. According to Wikipedia it ‘is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.’ The abovementioned poem uses ‘borrowed’ phrases from Coldplay song lyrics.

Tadhg’s Thoughts: Night Is Now Far Spent [Or, ‘What A ‘Gritty’ Year That Was’]

20171224 NIGHT IS FAR SPENTI wanted to write my thoughts out, to put them down on paper, and promised myself that I wouldn’t undertake endless revisions. So, here’s my ‘end of year’ heart-sharing with you.

Oh, it’s nearly that time. Christmas Day approaches. I admit to being a big kid at heart – my inner child is always dominant, and more so at this time of the year. I love the fairy lights, the brightly lit shop windows, the Christmas trees with tinsel on it, the candles, the carols in the shopping mall.

And yet, issues requiring mature responses have raised heads. At least for me. And, especially this year.

Is it possible to allow ones inner child dominance: to be childlike and yet not be childish? I think so. I hope so.

‘…become like little children…’ Matthew 18:3b, The Book

It is a ‘thin place’ time of the year. For those in the northern hemisphere it is the darkest time of the year – and yet there, in the middle of the darkness, when the night is at its longest, there is an inbuilt hope of the days (now) getting longer. In the middle of winter, the trees are sleeping, and deep roots are dreaming of spring. Change.

When, in our lives things seem darkest, and it is never easy going through emotional and jarring events, there is hope that the light shines brightest in the darkest of settings. One bearevement, a ‘body-blow’ sustained this year by me, and on ongoing ‘judder’ regarding property  – which will be resolved in January – makes the going tough. This isn’t a rant, but an admission that I’m human. And if you’ve had an ‘up and down’ year then you’re human, too. And being human is good.

Oh, but how easily we can be ‘pulled out’ of that liminal, dream-like, spiritual state by jarring events, or sometimes by others…if we allow. But it is the latter that concerns me most, today.

‘The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.’ C JoyBell C

However we interpret or understand the Nativity story – it is a story that, when the Earth was at its darkest point, Light appeared. When forces of anger were arrayed, a child was born. And when ‘unlove’ seemed dominant, Love loved. Love can do no more, nor needs to do more, because Love always wins.

It is childlike to accept that Love wins? It is childish to believe that we are immune from hurt? It is a mature response, I believe, to know that Love wins, but that we may, unfortunately, be hurt sometime, somehow, but you, as a spiritual person know that you are not alone, and things change? I think so. I believe so.

‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. The Lady Julian

And so, at this time of the year, when its darkest on the face of the Earth (physically, maybe emotionally for some, politically for others, for me, for you etc), I will light a candle for peace, for hope, for Love, for you. And would suggest, that if you feel so led, to do the same.

It is a small ritual – and I love ritual for in it we place ourselves in the gaze of the Source of All – to align ourselves with the Light, with Love, with the Source of All, to allow that Power to soak through our very being, and to acknowledge that we are not alone. It as, after all, at this time of the year a time when we remember that the Power-Behind-The-Universe was ‘poured’ into human flesh. We are not alone. You are not alone. And, there is a Light that shines in the darkness.

And, I’m reminded of that Light by every brightly decorated shop window I pass, every Christmas tree with fairy lights on it and every candle I see, and I think of hope. of change, of Love.

And if, like me, you’ve had a tough year, my candle-lighting ritual will also be a prayer for you, to lift you up. You are included. You are not alone.

Into the void
His word went forth.
What was not. Is!
Light and life accompanied His utterances
and in response, nature danced in the song of creation.
He formed the man of clay, and the woman who is the mother of all life.
And they, too, danced in the light of the morning.
Night has now come, and is far spent,
and the man and woman crane their necks and gaze upwards.
And their words go forth into the vacuum, that is space.
‘Is anyone out there? ‘.
Out of the void another sound is heard.
This time, a baby’s cry echoes in some dim and dusty street of old.
And in the darkness of the world, words of hope are once more heard.
‘My children. Did you think I would leave you as orphans to stray in the night?
I am with you, evermore! ‘.

Blessings, Light and love be to you and yours this Christmas-time, Tadhg

 

[PS: In acknowledging that it was an ‘up and down’ year it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that I have learned a lot – experience is a good teacher – that I have experienced the love of friends (Christian, Druid, Pagan and others), and made some new and wonderful friends – ‘make new friends, but keep the ‘old’ ones, one is silver, the other is gold’ (says a child’s song), and it’s true. I was also deeply moved by my Iona pilgrimage, and am very appreciative of those, you, who read these articles and comment.  I am, and I hope you can look back at 2017 and say that, despite some tough times, we have been journeyed onward and been blessed, too. Love wins.]

 

 

 

Everything You Wanted To Know About Jolabokaflod

161222-jolabokaflodExcerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: I love words, and if you’re anything like me, you might be interested in a new one (to me) that I came across yesterday.

The word is: Jolabokaflod. It’s Icelandic.

Okay, so it may be too late to really honour it this year, but the people of that small, but great nation of Iceland have the right idea, especially from my viewpoint as a book-lover.

‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’  Jorge Luis Borges

They have something they call Jolabokaflod, and it means (Yule or) Christmas book flood!

In the few months before Christmas,  most books are sold in Iceland because of the upcoming event. Books are lovingly selected with family and friends in mind, bought months or weeks in advance (and the commercial side of things will hold events, fairs etc), and the books are then wrapped and stored, ready for Jolabokaflod.

And then on Christmas Eve it happens. Whatever you may have (additionally) bought for family and friends, Jolabokaflod happens, and you give a book to a loved family member or friend. Yes, it’s all about books. It sound wonderful. I know it’s not really rocket-science, and many people already do give books for Christmas gifts to be opened on that day, but the idea of a special day for it, is quite wonderful. Ofcourse, Jolabokflod could be used for us to reward those who served us throughout the year eg corner-shop owners, those who sweep our roads, postal delivery people etc. People we might not want to ‘officially’ buy a Christmas present for, but, nevertheless, want to say ‘thank you’, to.

‘Books are a uniquely portable magic.’ Stephen King

The idea then, is to open the wrapper of the book gift you’ve been given on Christmas Eve, discover the book you’ve been bought, and that evening curl up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and that good, or retire early to bed and yes, take that new book and maybe a box of chocolate with you, and indulge.

‘You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world.’ Dr Who

What a way to celebrate that liminal time – the time when all the Christmas preparations have been made (or of they haven’t, it’s probably too late now, so don’t worry) and Christmas Day isn’t quite here – and now you can relax in some well-deserved ‘me’ time.

‘Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.’ Mark Twain

Ofcourse, it’s really all about giving  books away, and if there’s not enough time this year to do that, I’m sure we’ll be excused just this once, if we buy one special book for ourselves, just to try out a sort of dry-run for next year’s Jolabokaflod. And, if you did that, what book would you treat yourself to?

Winter Solstice: A Liturgy For Alban Arthan 2016 [‘Lighten Our Darkness…’]

161220-alban-2016-celtic-litrugyYes, tomorrow marks, for those in the northern hemisphere, the shortest day, the longest night, the wonderful time of the Winter Solstice; or Alban Arthan as it is known in Wales.

The Winter Solstice is on Wednesday, 21 December 2016 , and many will celebrate as the sun rises  at 8.04am, in London, UK (albeit some 20 minutes later in north Wales).

In the Druidic tradition the name ‘Alban Arthan’, is Welsh for ‘Light of Winter’. And so it is time of merriment around the camp or village fire for  Celts, Druids, Welsh folk of old, a time to light candles in the darkest of times, and a time to acknowledge that deep in the earth the seeds of hope are becoming active, and that Light and spring are on their way. It is seen as a time of rebirth and renewal.

Some Druids believe this light to be the Light of the hero King Arthur Pendragon who  is symbolically reborn as the Sun Child at the time of the Solstice. Others see the Light belonging to the star constellation known as the Great Bear (or the Plough). Others have many varied beliefs. Some, myself included, acknowledge many viewpoints out of respect for others, but focus on this light as being the Light of the Christ-child at this time.

‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’ Leonard Cohen

It is a most wonderful event when you gather a group of people together, who acknowledge that something wonderful happened and symbolically happens again and again, and each respects the other’s view knowing that it differs, but also knowing that the occasion is bigger, much bigger than the individual or even the ‘tribe’ they hail from. Truly, awe takes over.

For Iranian people, many celebrate the night of the winter solstice as, ‘Yalda night’, which known to be the ‘longest and darkest night of the year’. It’s a time when all the family gather together, usually at the house of the oldest family-member, and celebrate it by eating, drinking and reading poems (especially Hafiz). Nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are also served during this festival.

‘I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.’ Hafiz

At this time, The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is celebrated, and it is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese people. Traditional food, such tangyuan are served – these are glutinous balls of rice (equivalent to our dumplings, maybe), and can be served in a savoury or sweet broth.

How will you celebrate it?

You might be part of a Grove, faith-group or ‘tribe’, but if you’re not then the following suggestions can be used in part or adapted as suits your requirements. A simple meditation of gratitude before breakfast, or a lighting of a candle and a few words would suffice.

Here are some ideas (from previous articles) that you might consider using:

The ‘Circle is Turning’ (Winter Solstice version)
A few words have been adapted for the song to be used at the time of the Winter Solstice. It is full of depth and pathos – click here for the tune. It ‘fits’ the tune (with a bit of manoeuvring) and starts at 11 seconds into the video. The poem/song:

The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

The trees, they slumber.
Deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber.
Deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber.
Deep roots are dreaming.
I’m listening to the winter’s sacred rest.

The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling,
the earth is bless-éd.
The hope of spring, ye-et to come.

The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning,
we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

– oOo –

Candle-lighting liturgy: Requirement: 5 Candles and a candleholder (Advent-style)

The following is recited, as the first candle is lit:

All: We walked in darkness, but you showed us the light. We pray for those that walk in darkness, that they, too, may see the light that shines in the darkness. (Based on Isaiah 9.2)

The following is recited, as the second candle is lit:

All: The light shines in the darkness, still. And the darkness did not comprehend it. We give thanks for the light that guides us. (Based on John 1:5)

The following is recited, as the third candle is lit:

All: You are the light of the world, and indwell us, so that we become a light in the world. We seek ways to live out that light in our life, in service to all. (Based on Matthew 5:14)

The following is recited, as the fourth candle is lit:

All: There will be no night there, because Your light will illumine us. We praise you for that great promise of light. (Based on Revelation 22:5)

The following is recited, as the fifth candle is lit:

All: Light from Light Eternal, born this happy morning, we greet you. (Based on a carol, based on ancient sacred text)

– oOo –

Prayer For the Winter Solstice sunrise

Standing. Recite, facing south:
In this time when it is darkest,
we offer gratitude for all that was and is,
and for all that is about to be born in secret.

Recite, facing west:
In this season of expectation
we draw near in unity and peace for all,
to offer praise and worship to the Spirit of all.

Recite, facing north:
At this intersection of time and space
when Heaven touches Earth,
we look forward in anticipation and hope
to the year ahead.

Recite, facing east as the sun rises:
Yea, Lord, we greet you,
born this happy morning.
Brother Sun, who brings the day and gives light
testifies to your birth, and re-birth in our hearts.

– oOo –

Meanwhile, however and wherever you celebrate the Winter Solstice this year, please accept my blessing, both to you and those whom you love.. Blessings, Tadhg

May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work
You do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal…

(John O’Donohue)

The Christmas Star. Views On It, And The Question: ‘Does It Really, Really Matter?’

161215-star-meaning-celtic-thought

I’m guessing there’s not much difference between us, and that at times you’ve been in a situation where you didn’t know the answer. But, there’s more. You’ve probably had a person who, then, expressed loudly their ‘answer’, and you just know that that’s definitely not the answer, but everyone eventually seems to be swayed by it, and you’re left confused by their reaction.

It’s not weak to say you don’t know.

christmas-cometI was on the edge of a conversation the other day about the nativity star! Was it an actual star conjured up by God? Was it a comet that just happened to have a synchronised orbit relevant to that awesome birth? Was it a conjunction of planets? Or, was it an inner light, available only to those who were aware? Everyone it seemed had an opinion, and the one that seemed to be the ‘winner’ in that debate  was the one who was the most passionate about it. But, when they asked me, I had to say, ‘I don’t know.’ I could see it etched painfully onto their faces – they thought this a soppy, weak and unreasonable position to take. But, I didn’t know the answer then, and I still don’t know now.

‘Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.’ Confucius

It’s not weak to say you don’t know.

christmas-ufo-untitledI did remind them that they had spent ninety minutes expressing their various view, but no time, at all, debating the meaning and consequences of the event, and those seem to me altogether more important. They didn’t agree, and then continued the debate that it could have been an alien spaceship! We truly live in a superficial age, and mistake noise for progress.

It’s not weak to say you don’t know.

As they continued to debate, now wondering if the star was a supernova, I was left, inwardly with a glimpse of reality: whatever the star was, it was the Universe’s way of indicating that it had poured the fullness of itself into human form, and a little, innocent bawling baby, at that; and that this had never been done in such a way, ever; and that somehow we (and, that includes you, as you read this article, are invited into experiencing that event in someway, even now).
It’s not weak to say you don’t know.

‘Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.’ George Bernard Shaw

christmas-telescope-937871_960_720After, two hours, the conversation changed, and they were none the wiser, but, sadly, they had also missed an opportunity to encounter the Incarnation in that small inner-London café in a real way, had they not been so loud, so busy, so ‘cerebral’, so superficial, and so dismissive of the ultimate meaning of that star.

It’s not weak to say you don’t know. Infact, I think in some cases it’s a position of being strong. For with that frame of mind, we’re open to all sorts of wisdom presenting itself, all sorts of encounters that we might have otherwise missed, and maybe even overlooked an Encounter (of being alone with the Alone).

‘Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere’ Psalm 84:10a, The Book

I can’t tell you what that star was. I would be telling an untruth if I appeared that definite. Whatever that star was, it’s meaning was significant to humble shepherds and mighty magi, sometimes called ‘wise men’ -and they’re usually represented as coming from several continents so the earth is represented. And, so I like to think they may even have been Druids (the root word of that being ‘wise’). No, it’s the meaning, and the meaning today that was, and is, important!

christmas-night-839807_960_720So, as you gaze into the sky as the winter solstice – be you Christian or Druid (or both!) – and as Christmas approaches, pick out the brightest star and ponder: whatever the Christmas star was, it meant that a one-off, unique and holy event had taken place, that light had shone in the darkness, and that light is never dimmed; and that we can be partakers of that event, even today.

It’s not weak to say you don’t know. I would suggest you allow this ‘not-knowingness’ to penetrate deep into your soul. Enjoy the mystery recounted and relived this month. It is a soul-adventure that is shy: it recedes when analysed. Maybe, the question never really was, ‘how?’, but rather, ‘why?’.

‘Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.’
(Christina Rossetti)