I thought a word search – with you and I finding the up or down or diagonal words from Celtic or Druid words – might be fun of the twelve words on the right list from Druid to Alban Hefin for the summer solstice, or bandraoi as the female Druid, or dorchau pen (head wreath) etc.
Word Search Puzzle #1: Celtic & Druid: English & Welsh I’ve fondly looked of word searches over the last six months, and I think using them can be useful for all/most of us, as well as them being fun, and doubly for me because of aphasia by my myself.
So, do let me know if you like the word search, please. Maybe you can find out how many minutes and seconds if might be take you to see twelve ‘competitions’ it might take you (to yourself) or letter an email to me so we’re not competitive.
The Ceremony Of The Night Of The Long Shadows To honour our ancestors at this time of Samhain
Friday, 30 October 2020 at 8pm (UK Time) Online Live-streaming via Tadhg’s FaceBook
For this ceremony you may need:
Three candles (though one may suffice)
One or more photographs of loved ones who have passed-on
Bowl of water
You might wish to use several photographs of many loved ones, or one photograph of one or two family-members that have passed-on, as representatives of all your ancestors. If taking such photographs to a physical ceremony do ensure you take only copies of the photograph/s to the ceremony, and not the original photographs. If participating at the ceremony at home, so display any photographs, safely.
The beginning/opening and closing/ending of this ceremony follows the usual style. The middle section is ‘the Work’, below, is especially about the honouring of ancestors, as it is Samhain.
This ceremony is will be broadcasted on Friday, 30 October 2020, at 8pm UK time, via livestream, Tadhg’s Facebook. Do check his facebook beforehand as it might be necessary for you to initiate a friends-link to view it, His link is at: https://www.facebook.com/tadhgjonathan.gardner
The Purpose Today we honour of ancestors at this time of Samhain. This is not to worship them, but to respect and honour them, and to remember them, too.
You might have one or two people in mind, today, who have passed on, recent ancestors; or you might have have ancestors from far back that you want to honour them by name or in general; in addition I would encourage you to also honour all ancestors of all times and space, who are the family of humankind in that realm and who are connected to us, and vice versa.
And so we will use this time to look back at that tree of life, to look at us, and to look ahead of those who are yet to come, who at one time, in the future, we also look back at us.
This ceremony may stir our emotions as we think of those whom we miss, but it is also about giving thanks for the life of our ancestors, those who are now in Bliss, and it is also about consoling each other and lifting each other up. Life continues in a different form.
And, so let us honour of our ancestors.
On Rising The Source of All is Spirit, and those who worship the Source of All must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24, The Book, paraphrase)
Calling The Quarters Calling the Quarters, as we turn in sequence to face the four cardinal compass points, helps us to become fully present so we can deeply connect to the world around us, and create safe and sacred space for us all.
Facing East Guardian of the East, Oh Ancient One of the air, we call upon the Spirit to be with us today. Come charge this circle with the power of the wind. All: We welcome you.
Facing South Guardian of the South, Oh Ancient One of the fire, we call upon the Spirit to be with us today. Come charge this circle with the power of the flame All: We welcome you.
Facing West Guardian of the West, Oh Ancient One of the waters, we call upon the Spirit to be with us today. Come charge this circle with the power of the tides. All: We welcome you.
Facing North Guardian of the North, Oh Ancient One of the earth, we call upon the Spirit to be with us today. Come charge this circle with the power of the land. All: We welcome you
From the centre, perhaps adopting the orans posture Guardian of all, Oh Ancient of Days, we call upon the Spirit to be with us today. Come charge this circle with your power. All: We welcome you.
Call For Peace The call for peace is an affirmation that there is peace amongst us, now; and that peace is offered to the world though not all embrace this, today, but one day will do so.
Is there peace in the East? All: There is peace in the East.
Is there peace in the South? All: There is peace in the South.
Is there peace in the West? All: There is peace in the West.
Is there peace in the North? All: There is peace in the North.
Throughout the entire land there is peace.
THE WORK: SPECIFCIALLY FOR SAMHAIN
It is said that if each generation is measured at about twenty-five years, and we have an idea in our mind of a five hundred span of time, then each of us has over two million ancestors. In thinking of our immediate ancestors or our family ancestors, do also think of the way that each one of us is connected to the global family of humankind.
The Three Form Honouring We look back, and remember and honour those who have gone before us. That is, those of our generation or the previous generations. We look at the love and actions that many ancestors made to bring us to this time and maturity, and we are indebted to them.
For some we might remember good things and send love, and yet for some we might remember those who have passed on but who were unkindly to us and others. Let us be honest in remembering our ancestors in Bliss.
And so, let us remember all our ancestors, too.
We remember and honour them. All: We remember and honour them.
[If you have one or more candles, do light one (or the only) candle here to remember and honour our ancestors. If you don’t have a candle, don’t worry, as I’ll light candle(s) vicariously, for you. We will also pause and meditation at this time.]
In the flow and ebb of life, we too stand in the tree of life. From our viewport we look back to those who have passed on. And, yet we look upward and ahead of those who are yet to come. Could it be that those future generations are looking back to us, and will, because of our love and action today, will honour you and I?
We remind and honour each other. All: We remind and honour each other.
[If you have two or more candles, do light the second candle here to remind ourselves or honour each other. If you don’t have a candle, don’t worry, as I’ll light candle(s) vicariously, for you. We will also pause and meditation at this time.]
We have looked back in honouring our ancestors, reminded each other of our part in that tree of life, but also look ahead for future generations. With expectation and love we send well-wishes to those who are yet to be born, even as they may be looking back from their viewpoint. We send love and well-wishes to those yet to come.
We think ahead and send love to those yet to come. All: We think ahead and send love to those yet to come.
[If you have a third candle, do light the third candle here to think ahead of those yet to come. If you don’t have a candle, don’t worry, as I’ll light candle(s) vicariously, for you. We will also pause and meditation at this time.]
“The sacrifice our ancestors gave yesterday Gave us today and our tomorrow” (Stephen Robert Kuta)
“My ancestors offer me bliss, love, and light. I gratefully receive that which is for my highest good…” (Amy Leigh Mercree)
Remembering Our Ancestors In A Spiritual Exercise Of Writing [If you have tissue paper and a pencil you might like to write a few happy memories to one or two ancestors on the tissue paper, or you might like to write a few lines as if writing a letter to some one or two that have passed on.
Or, you might like to write names on the paper.
Once you have done that, then pause for a moment as you meditate, and then put the paper in the bowl of water to dissolve the paper.
If you don’t have paper or pencil, you can use this time to think, in your mind, what you would write on the paper, and imagine using that bowl of water to dissolve that paper.
Music will be played, now, for about two minutes or three minutes, as you do this.}
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders [us]…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 part)
“You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors.” (Toba Beta)
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” (Khalil Gibran)
As we close, we remember that Samhain is a time of liminality, a place of a special threshold; it is a ‘thin place’, a sacred time where we draw near to our ancestors. And yet, they are never far from us, and they live, forever, in Bliss.
This time is a reminder for all of us, that the Friend, the Universe, God, is embracing all who have gone before us, who is embracing us today, and who will embrace all of those who have yet to come.
“I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me that I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God.” (Meister Eckhart)
Closing The Quarters Facing East Guardian of the East, Oh Ancient One of the air, we thank you for your presence with us today. All: We thank you.
Facing South Guardian of the South, Oh Ancient One of the fire, we thank you for your presence with us today. All: We thank you.
Facing West Guardian of the West, Oh Ancient One of the waters, we thank you for your presence with us today. All: We thank you.
Facing North Guardian of the North, Oh Ancient One of the earth, we thank you for your presence with us today.. All: We thank you.
From the centre, perhaps adopting the orans posture Guardian of all, Oh Ancient of Days, we thank you for your presence with us today.. All: We thank you.
Final Blessings We bless our ancestors, in Bliss, embraced by the Friend. We bless each other, our global family of humankind, secured by the Friend. We bless those yet to come who are known only to the Friend. And, We bless the Friend, the Universe, God who is always with us. Bless you each.
Samhain (pronounced ‘so-uhn’) is a wonderful festival ‘oozing’ with ancient Gaelic tradition and ‘magic’. Something you can participate in, wherever you are. It marks the end of the third harvest and the end of autumn, and it marks the advance of the season of winter. It is the start of the dark period, winter and the underworld, when our thoughts go to those whom we love who have passed-on.
‘Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.’ (Ezra Taft Benson)
It’s when, in rural communities, surplus cattle were culled, and their meat stored for the depths of winter.
It starts on the evening, at dusk, on Saturday, 31 October, but don’t forget that we’ll have a Facebook live-streaming event, a ceremony to celebrate the event, called Them Night Of Long Shadows, to honour the ancestors. More details about this will follow in a few days.
But, here’s some suggestions to whet your appetite, and to start thinking of Samhain. Samhain is a cross quarter day, indeed it’s the first of the year as it starts the Druid and ancient Celtic new year. It is a moon festival (as opposed to sun festivals, such as the solstices and equinoxes when time is measured by the sun’s elevation etc)
Winter advances: ‘ Since ancient times this time was seen as a feast of the dead, and the modern idea of Hallow’een ‘sits alongside’ it. Hallowe’en? The name comes from ‘all hallows eve’. When Christianity arrived in Celtic countries, and the church discouraged fortune-telling, and magic etc, a day of celebration of all the Saints of the Church was instituted on 1 November.
The wind is full of a thousand voices They pass by the bridge and me.’ (Loreena McKennitt, ‘All Souls Night’)
Many of our hallowe’en traditions, such as bobbing for apples which were originally part of the foretelling of the future, and the baking cakes containing “lucky tokens” also originated at this time, and survive to this day. In addition, and an import from America, it is a time for children (or all ages) to visit door-to-door dressed as something with a ‘deathly’ theme to it, to ‘trick or treat’.
A time to take stock Samhain, then, was a time when farmers would take stock of their animals – which would live, and which would be killed, and a time to finally gather in (any) residual harvest; a time when local and tradition rituals would be enacted eg bonfires, and embers of these would be taken home as a form of protection; young men would run around the villages boundary with torches, again, for the villagers’ protection, as that night, many believed that the veil between this world and the world of the dead was ‘thin’, and something might (or did) come through for a while. It’s a time for the imagination to run riot, and for stories to be told.
‘Somewhere in a hidden memory Images float before my eyes’. (Loreena McKennitt, ‘All Souls Night’)
Whether you believe this factually, ‘romantically’ or not at all, the stories of that night, retold around a bonfire, perhaps, intrigued men and women, and (no doubt) frightened (hopefully in a ‘nice’ sense) many a child. Even today, the tv ‘lights up’, innocently, with many horror movies at this time of year to keep adults ‘mesmerised’. It is a ‘thin place’, this time.
Taking stock? A ‘thinning’ of the veil between here and the other, ensures that this night, the evening of 31 October, is a feast, a celebration, a time of deep thought, a reflecting of the life of those that have gone before us.
Even in its simplest form – depending on your theology – it is a time to think about the ancestors, how they contributed to make us the person/people we are today, and to give thanks. A time to remember the ancestors in different, honouring ways. For me, reflection, thinking about the ancestors and the giving of gratitude to the Source of All predominates at this time.
Do something Others will indulge in ritual, and though each may have a different way to acknowledge this feast, I enjoy the variety, enthusiasm and intentionality that my Christian, Celtic Christian, co-Druids, Wiccan and other friends put into this festival. I have my own way, my own ritual to mark this time, and it may be that you do, too.
My advice to you is: Do it! Be honest to yourself, be sincere and intentional, be joyful about it, but in some way (large of small, complicated or simple) observe the time, and make it something good, and wholesome, and memorable.
Enjoy the feast A bonfire might be out of the question, but how about lighting a candle, at least for 10-20 minutes and thinking of your ancestors in a joyful and honouring way? They’re home. You might now be able to run around then edge of a village, but how about an evening walk, a silent walk of gratitude? Elementals? Here’s your opportunity to find our more about them – an evening when their activity is said to increase – and you can find a lot about them on the internet, but don’t make it only ‘book-learning’. Why not go for a county walk, or a walk in the park, or alongside a riverbank, and meditate in some way, to ‘day dream’ and reflect? And, then perhaps, later, treat yourself to a meal, a glass of wine, a warm coffee as you gaze at the cold night sky, and yes, even watch a good, scary movie?
Ofcourse, you might like a ritual of some sort or recite relevant poetry, or sing a song, and here’s a poem/song I penned some time ago. If you join the Facebook live-streaming event you might even hear me sing it.
The Circle is turning, autumn becomes winter.
The Circle is turning, autumn becomes winter.
The Circle is turning, autumn becomes 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, (and) autumn becomes winter.
The Circle is turning, (and) autumn becomes winter.
The Circle is turning, (and) autumn becomes winter. And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.
If you’re ‘brave’ enough to sing it, there’s a delightful melody (the tune of Fear a Bhata (The Boatman), a traditional Gaelic piece of music to accompany you)), but if you want to hear me sing it, just join me for that Live-streaming Night of Long Shadows Ceremony – details soon.
Or, you might like to read (and recite) Rabbie Burns’ poem ‘Hallowe’en’, part of which is:
Upon that night, when fairies light On Cassilis Downans dance, Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze, On sprightly coursers prance; Or for Colean the rout is ta’en, Beneath the moon’s pale beams; There, up the Cove, to stray an’ rove, Amang the rocks and streams To sport that night;
And, finally, you might like to recite the following traditional Scottish prayer:
From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggedy beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us
However you celebrate it, do make it something spectacular and memorable. More about Samhain will appear here, as we think about The Long Of Night Shadows event, denials how to view it, and to print out a liturgy if you wish to participate.
The Om Mantra, also sometimes spelled Ohm or Aum is considered the sound that created the universe in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. In the Book of Genesis all that was created was created with a few words; and the Logos is the Principle that formed everything and continues to keeps in active, is known as the Word. The aborigines of Australia speak of song-lines, the song-paths which were sung by their primordial ancestor-spirits who walked across the landscape, singing its land-forms into being. For aborigines, even today, those songs are ongoing and need to keep being sung to ensure ongoing maintenance of the environment.
On a Detroit evening, from her apartment on the tenth floor, she lit the candle and said a few words. Tongue-tied, the words came out as a jumble, but she knew what she meant to say, and Angels, whose interest had piqued by this short liturgy, drew ever closer unbeknown by her, and their smile radiated in the spiritual realm.
In his house on the suburbs of Canberra, he walked around the room three times carrying a candle, walking deosil (pronounced ‘joss-all’, and meaning, clockwise, sunward) as a blessing. As he did that and uttered one word, ‘Peace’. And as he did, so did the spirits of the place, the genii locorum, assembled and gazed in awe at this saining (a Scottish inspired version of a blessing invoking protection, similar to ‘smudging’), and graced the area.
And scientists, and ancient and latter-day mystics talk of the sound within all matter, of vibrations at the cellular and atomic level, that keeps all matter together and gives each part of intrinsic uniqueness.
A group of druids gathered on a windswept hill in north Wales, barely sheltered by old oak trees, invited the ancestors and goodly spirits, and recited an elaborate liturgy, and unbeknownst to them a myriad of entities, almost as old as the earth, came closer, surprised at the confidence and power of that group.
It is said the words have power, and rightly so. Within humankind we can choose to exercise words as positive tools to encourage and build up others, to assent to small and lofty projects, and with a two words a couple can consent to marriage. Or, we can choose to utter negative words to end projects, to humiliate others, and end friendships and relationships, and dishearten someone so much so that they slink away crestfallen. It is for that reason that Thich Nhat Hahn recommend we only use ‘loving speech’, to each other’s and to all creation.
A group of children were playing between two trees, imagining that the arched trees were portals to another planet or dimension. And, as they jumped between the trees they would gleefully shout out ‘abracadabra’. As they did, so benevolent elementals from afar strained to hear their laughter, and blessed the children having fun.
The Druids and ancient Celts, in a less hurried world and who realised the non-separation of the Here and the Other would have had a better idea of the power of words, something that we are only re-discovering.
In ‘The Tibetan Book Of The Dead’, that in that in-between state of life and death, the bardo plane, we are each thought to review our life, and are cleansed. Many suggest that the two phrases often heard there are, ‘I love you’ and I forgive you’, and though the wayfarer may think that days have elapsed, rather, only a few minutes has past. So, profound is the significance and power of those two phrases.
You know I love liturgy, and at any event I can, would encourage you to join in with me. There may be a ritual, an action to do, but words… oh words to recite meaningfully, and when we do these things I do believe the Universe delights in us.
At the end of her liturgy, in her Detroit apartment, she wondered in her confusion of a few uttered words would render the ceremony ineffective. She need not have worried. Those Angels observed silently, and smiled approvingly. It was intention that was all-important.
Our words are powerful and effective, but it is the meaning behind that matters most. If we are worried about getting a bit tongue-tied and how that may effect our ritual, then we’ve ‘lowered’ our efforts to something like a Harry Potter spell, if that were possible, and missed the point.
As the sun set of that house in the Canberra suburb, the man wondered if such a simple liturgy – of just one word – was enough. If he could have peeked into the invisible realm he would have seen the spirits of the place retiring having marvelled at his actions and powerful word.
The power is not in quantity of words uttered. And, if faith is important, it is the One Behind It All whose faith in us, which is all-important.
And as two Druids drove home from north Wales they talked and reminisced about the wonderful ceremony, but each realised that simple or elaborate, what was most meaningful was that each had done his or her part, and those silent, invisible ancient entities approved.
And what of those children playing in that make-belief portal to another world? They all grew up, for that playfulness took place some fifty-five years ago.
One of those children now grown up, sat in front of his iPad and typed these words, ‘Even in innocence, in the playful games of children words are powerful. Little did those children realise, but this one now knows, that perhaps their ‘magical’ word to usher them into another planet or realm may have been more powerful than they could have expected.
‘Abracadabra’ rather than sounding like a nonsensical word to some, is a word of energy. It comes from the Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke), and ‘abraq ad habra’ means ‘I create as an speak’. Even in our innocence, my friends and I, invoked the power of the Universe and it joined in our childlike games and blessed us. Such is the benevolence of Creator And Sustainer Of All Things.
In all that we do, with solo ceremonies or together, do take to heart the words and rituals that we do. Ofcourse, take them seriously, plan well, but enjoy them, and never ensure that our words and actions at those times lose their innocence. Never recite by rote. It is better to keep it simple if needed, powerfully succinct, but if it need to be longer, never to ensure that we forget that we are ‘dancing’ with the Unseen who approves greatly.
Did these behind-the-scenes actually happen or were they the product of a fertile imagination? Who knows? I would like to think they happened, and that they illustrate a truth about our status and intentions about words. I would like to suggest that the spiritual realm is deeper and wider that we have hitherto imagined. And, that we are being invited to co-operate in having an effect in profound and yet invisible ways. One thing I do know, is that…
…words are powerful, and that the benevolent Universe is listening and inviting us to draw closer, in love.
There are stories from antiquity that are still, oh so very relevant to us, and speak to us across the great distances of time. Here’s one from the time of ancient Celts and Druids, that tells of the way the Universe can benevolently ‘nudge’ circumstances in our favour, as it did for one young man.
Do bear in mind that to the ancient Celts and Druids the Hazel tree mentioned in this story was/is associated with ultimate wisdom.
The story goes, that:
…a young boy called Fionn, after his father died, was brought by his mother to a poet named Finnegas to be tutored and learn all he could, so that young Fionn could eventually join a group of well-renowned Irish warriors.
But, in order to join that mighty band of warriors, a man needed to have great wisdom and, yes, a knowledge of poetry. Finnegas the poet taught Fionn all he knew, and Fionn grew to be a fine young man.
Finnegas often talked wistfully about the myth of the salmon of knowledge. The salmon of knowledge was a fish that swam through the rivers of Ireland and nibbled at hazelnuts that dropped into the river (hence the ‘knowledge’ connection), but it was elusive, and so very difficult to catch. Anyone who caught it, however, and was first to eat that particular salmon would gain all the wisdom of the world.
Many months later as Fionn was studying, he heard Finnegas calling him frantically from outside. Running to the river, Fionn saw that the Finnegas had, indeed, caught the salmon of knowledge!
Finnegas the poet instructed the young man to cook the salmon, slowly, for him to eat later, but warned him not to taste the fish at all – Finnegas knew that this was the salmon of knowledge, and wanted that knowledge for himself, and not for the young man.
The young Fionn did as he was told and began cooking the fish over a crude fire. He watched it carefully so as not to burn it, and occasionally turned the fish, which was on a skewer, so it could be rotated and cooked evenly,
Some time later, Fionn saw that the fish was about to fall into the fire and ash. Immediately, reaching out, he grabbed the fish to push it back on the skewer, and in the process burned his thumb.
Without thinking, Fionn stuck his thumb in his mouth and sucked it to soothe the burn. Guess what? Several flakes of that salmon was ingested by Fionn.
When Finnegas the poet saw what Fionn had done, he grew very sad. Ultimate knowledge! He knew that he would never gain all the knowledge of the world that he desperately sought after, but, eventually, he grew to be happy at the thought that Fionn had gained that wisdom and he believed Fionn would be the greatest warrior the Fianna, that band of Irish warriors, had ever known.
And, indeed that was the case. Fionn grew to be leader of that mighty band of warriors, and became a great leader in Ireland.
And, that’s how Fionn obtained great nowledge, and is yet another example of how the Universe, the Great Spirit, the One Behind It All can so work things on our behalf, too. This was read at Tadhg’s Thought For The Day on Tuesday, 8 September 2020 at his live-streaming Facebook broadcast.
We can look around at creation and marvel, and stare in awe from the nearest and smallest seed or snowflake, wonder at the majesty of water (a lake, the sea etc, especially as we’re in the season of autumn and it’s corresponding element is water), and gaze at the furthest, brightest and most mysterious star we can see in the sky, and feel so small.
What is the Maker of All like? Who created all that we can see, and indeed all that we cannot see (now that we know the the majority of the universe is some form of invisible energy)?
This is not about the Creator’s physical appearance, but His and Her character and benevolence (but both pronouns do an ‘injustice’ to the One – such is the limit of our language. However, to use ‘it’ is worse, as that’s impersonal and my understanding, experience and theology accepts the Universe as entirely personal, and not a ‘thing’).
Our ancestors, those ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans, early Hebrews and Christians, and tribespeople (then and now) would not have ‘suffered’ from that notion of a/the dichotomous god/God, nor with the separation between the spiritual and the mundane, but would have been so closer to nature to realise that connectedness in their daily lives. We, because of the current zeitgeist of materialism‘, might need a little coaxing and encouragement – hence (this) liturgy and poetry.
When we look around and we’ll feel separated – a modern, and sadly all-too-common feeling – it is good to be reminded that we are not separated. When we feel lonely, it’s good to know again that we’re never alone. And, when, in this time when many rant that the Universe is unfriendly and conditional, it is good to ‘feel’ the opposite, to see the Truth – that the Universe is on our side and wholly benevolent.
The following was penned recently – written as liturgy (which can be added to, and incorporated to liturgy already written elsewhere by Tadhg) to underline the Universe’s unconditional love for each of us, or it could be read as poetry that we can recite and take to heart at any time. But, it underscores our status in creation, and hopefully, gives us heart in a time in which many are in need of (inclusive) hope, love and acceptance.
Liturgy of Acceptance
On the day we looked up, the face of the Mighty Three looked down, and had compassion. The Great Spirit saw us and replied, and love, unconditionally was poured out in abundance.
On the day we cried out, the Voice from Above spoke. Sublime whispers could be heard, promises of care and protection were made, which said, ’I will not leave you as orphans, but will come to you’.
On the day we remained silent, unable to speak, and felt lonely, the Mysterious One came, visited us, and we saw an outstretched arm, an invitation to each of us to take hold, and dance in that Eternal Dance of the Divine.
The Source of All, the Prodigal One, the Universe, The Friend is our friend, indeed.
‘Water, water everywhere…’. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
From the beginning of this month we moved, ritually, into the season of autumn (from a northern hemisphere viewpoint). Lughnasadh (1 August, though some opinions may differ by a few days) was the first day of the season.
That date was also the festival of the first harvest (wheat, barley etc), and half way through this season is Alban Elfed or Autumn Equinox (22 September) which is the time of the second harvest (soft fruits etc), culminating in Samhain (31 October), which is the third harvest of the season (of berries and nuts).
But, there’s more.
For the season of autumn the compass, cardinal point is west; and the predominating element is water; and water is the theme of this short article.
’We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?’. Anonymous
In our groves, faith groups or solo rituals and practices, it is good to be reminded, especially in this water-orientated season, of this precious liquid. It is a necessity for life, is the object of our gratitude for it, and the source of our sheer wonderment that it occurs on this planet, and in such abundance – this is surely the ‘blue planet’.
Water is sacred.
It can teach us about Life and it can teach us about life (note the capital L and lower case use of the letter – to denote Life in all its mystery, and life in the ‘small things’ of our daily life), or is there no real division?
‘Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.’ Lao Tzu
In our rituals we might spend some time pouring some water from a jug into a bowl, and meditating of the wonder of water. Or, we might pour water into a cup, at some point during our ceremonies, to sip ad savour cold water, and meditate upon it. Or we might pour some out onto the garden (or window box or potted plant) as a libation – a sacred ‘thank offering’ to the Great Water Giver.
’A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.’ – Lucy Larcom
Whatever you do, be encouraged to do one, or more things, water orientated in this ‘water’ season. If you’re fortunate to have rain (in these exceptionally hot and dry days), wrap up safely, grab a raincoat and/or umbrella and go for a walk – all the time appreciating the cool rain, and maybe, purposely getting wet to enjoy the moment. Even more reason to give gratitude.
’All water is holy water.’ Rajiv Joseph
In our liturgy – the spoken parts of our ceremonies – you might find the following poem (or is it a prayer of gratitude) penned by me a few years ago, useful, as part of the ritual.
But, there’s (even) more.
In our very being, the ‘exterior’ composed mainly of water, and in our spirit and soul, as well as our bodies, we are intrinsically connected to water, in actuality as well as a metaphor, of life in all its sacredness.
The vast oceans, that which sustains life on Earth,
which move at the behest of the moon,
the rolling tides that contains a myriad of sea-life, from plankton to the behemoth,
that which quenches the world’s need,
and from which all nourishment is assured,
acknowledgement is given.
From clouds you pour out rain upon the Earth, and enrich it.
Mighty lakes appear from which ancient forests of growing trees are fed,
and daily bread is produced for our table.
An abundance for many,
and a veritable gift from the Great Water-Giver.
It soothes and it heals.
For when an angel’s wing sweeps
across the surface of the Pool,
then healing takes place, and there is restoration.
It’s cleansing power, daily, washes the body,
and restores vitality.
A clean start. A refreshing start. A new start.
All is washed away.
And, in it celebration commences,
in appreciation, in sport, in swimming and in children’s’ play.
It quenches the soul, it nurtures the spirit;
and from those who are aware,
springs of sanctifying water flow,
and outward pour,
to friends, to enemies,
to those near, and to those far away.
Whether we have much, or little,
may the words, “Come, all. Drink. Share”, be on our lips.
Praise to the Great Water-Giver.
Note: Apologies for the wrong symbol for water used in the ‘header’ photo. The triangle should, infact, be pointing down to represent water in the four classical symbols. Pointing up represents air. Mea culpa!
Would you believe… it is almost three years since my last visit to the wonderfully idyllic isle of Iona. I need to go back, and would recommend it to everyone, to visit at least once. Here are:
some recollections which you may like, and
words that I wrote at the time (indented), and
an idea for a lockdown Iona meditation-experience for you.
Off the western coast of Scotland, Iona is a small island steeped in myth and ‘magic’, and the whole island is, I believe, a ‘thin place’ – a place where Here and the Other are oh so close. When the wind howls you can hear the ancestors call, when the sea gulls screech on the beach, the Machair (pronounced ‘makker’) you can discern angel-song, and in the quietness you can hear the echo of ancient elementals whispering.
Having parked the car at Oban, it’s a fifty-minute long ferry ride to the Isle of Mull, a coach ride across Mull, and another ten minute ferry ride to the isle of Iona. I arrived at Iona’s port, Baile Mòr being the only one having stepped off the ferry onto the quayside .
I hear a multitude of voices call as with once voice.
Above the the noise of the waves and wind,
the Ancestors voices cry out, ‘Welcome’, to all pilgrims.
The Abbey is a special place, as well as the Nunnery. The weight of history presses in, and myth, shy at first, reveals itself to those who a patient. But, there’s more. History is important, and on this island it is fascinating, but only to revel in the history is to not hear those ancient voices that speak without ceasing.
My favourite ‘thin places’ of ‘thin places’ were St Oran’s Chapel, and the Sithean, and the Machair.
Smaller that the Abbey, and a more humble a building, St Oran’s Chapel sits alongside the Abbey but radiates extraordinary power. There, with no other people around me, I lit a candle for both my parents who had passed on (my Dad about six months earlier, and my Mother two years before that); and I lit another candle, vicariously, for people from around the planet who wanted a candle lit for themselves or for a loved one.
Longer than this candle burns
is the memory of those whom we love.
Their light continues on
and their love reaches us even today.
Before you get to the raised beach area, the Machair, is a mound about fifteen feet high and with a fifty foot circumference. You cannot miss it. You can see it a long way off, and on top of it you get a good, commanding view of the view. This is the SitheanMòr or the Fairy mound, also known as Cnoc nan Angeal, that is the Hill of the Angels. Before Columcille set foot on it, it had been used by Druids for a millennia. It is a place of Encounter. The Druids gained the Wisdom of the Ages there, and Columcille (or Columba as he’s also known) conversed with angels. I couldn’t help but stand on the top of the mound, too.
Atop this high place,
you are called to both finish and start.
One liminal door closes, dear pilgrim, but another liminal door opens.
Go, with the Ancestors’ blessings.
And, from there, a two minute walk took me to the beach, the Machair. The sky was mainly grey cloud, the wind howled, the waves, some thirty foot high, crashed to the distant rocks. To say it was fresh was an understatement. It was bracing, it was a fierce storm, it was one of those wonderful-to-be-alive moments. And, there was more. This, too, is a ‘thin place’ of a ‘thin place’. As I stood, windswept on that beach, in the storm, paradoxically, there was a calmness; in the noisy waves there was a silence beyond all sound; and in the remoteness of the beach – there was no one seemingly about, apart from me – it felt like a thousand invisible, ageless, witnesses crowded in.
What we see is a fraction of what is.
With a seeing beyond seeing,
we glimpse the Universe as it is, alive and full of love.
We see the communion of the ones that have gone before us.
We are never alone.
The sun was sinking below the western horizon, and I made my way back to where I was staying for the week. That was then, but what of now? Your invitation! In the light of some others organising lockdown and virtual ‘tours’ and retreats on other themes, I wondered if you would be interested in an creative-visualisation. hour-long visual-meditation of an encounter on a ‘virtual’ Iona experience? I will send details, if you are interested, if you email me, at: email@example.com
The Call is always present, calling those it wills.
Sometimes loud, sometimes softly,
sometimes in the wind, or Sun, or water, or earth.
Sometimes the call is in that imaginal realm,
but is no less real.
Open your eyes of your heart. It is calling you.
The next full moon is almost upon us. And here is:
some facts about this full moon
a moon-related tale form ancient Wales
We know, scientifically, that without the moon, the Earth would be a very different place than it is today, and that it is unlikely that it would have been able to sustain life at all. Just a coincidence that we have a moon of such magnitude?
We know the Earth is is that ‘Goldilock’s Zone’, of just being the right distance from the Sun to harbour life. Too close and the surface of the Earth would ‘fry’, too far away and it would be too cold for life. Just a coincidence?
I cannot accept that it’s just a coincidence. The One Behind It All was, and still is at work, and so as you and I see the next Full moon, let us gaze in awe and silence at the marvel, that is the Moon, and The One Behind It All, the Universe, The Source, Love, The Friend, or any other suitable Name we wish to utter.
Facts & Lunation
The next Full moon tomorrow, Monday, 3 August 2020 at 4.58pm (from a UK viewpoint for this article) in the constellation of Capricorn.
This Full moon marks the midway point of Lunation #1207. A lunation is the astronomers’ name for the lunar month (of approximately 29 1/2 days), and starts with each new moon. This system of moon counting was invented by Professor Ernest W Brown in 1933, and he started the count with lunation number 1 at the first new moon of 1923. And the count has progressed from there, so we are now at the midway point of lunation 1207. For the inquisitive amongst you that might be asking what about the counting of lunar months before 1923 from a later perspective? The answer is, astronomers give them a negative number working back from the last new moon of 1922 which would be lunation -1.
“Harvest moon: around the pond I wander and the night is gone.” Matsuo Basho (1644-1694, Japanese poet)
Infact, this Full moon may be disappointing low in the sky, and won’t drift above the horizon until about 9.15pm, reaching its highest point at around midnight. If it’s a clear night, do look to the right of the moon (and up a little) and you might be fortunate enough to see the planets Saturn and Jupiter nearby in the constellation of Sagittarius.
”But even when the moon looks like it’s waning…it’s actually never changing shape. Don’t ever forget that.” Ai Yazawa
To some, this full moon is known as the sturgeon Moon, the Dog Days Moon, but I like to think of it as the Grain Moon or Corn, the Harvest Moon, that being so relevant to the Lughnasadh celebration yesterday or last Friday, the first harvest of the year.
Others might call it the Dispute Moon. The reason for it to be called the Dispute Moon is many and varied, and may simply be so because, as autumn and winter approaches, one’s survival centred on the good-will of others, and the upcoming months wasn’t a time when disputes should be started or continued.
There is an ancient Celtic story that Cerridwen, the Welsh muse or goddess of inspiration, mentioned in the Black Book of Carmarthen, is a personification of the Moon.
”She used to tell me that a full moon was when mysterious things happen and wishes come true.” Shannon A. Thompson
True, there are stories of Cerridwen in daily life, living near lake Bala (and having stayed at Bala I can highly recommend that area of Wales) and giving birth to a son and a daughter. Sadly, it is said that her son, Morfan (also called Afagddu) was ugly and so she compensated by making him wise by using magic. But, these things never run to plan.
There is also a view that, alternately, or perhaps as well as having an earthy life, Cerridwen was the Moon personified. Her name, from Welsh to English can be interpreted (depending on how you divide her name) as being ‘fair’ and ‘loved’, or ‘crooked white one’. The latter, I hold dear, as it does sum up the shape of the bright crescent moon hanging in the sky, appearing stooped or crooked. And, doesn’t the Moon inspire and invoke other-worldly wisdom? Dear Cerridwen. Dear Morfan.
So, if ever there was a time to celebrate, maybe with bread and something alcoholic, the full moon, in the wake of the first harvest of the year is such a time, as you gaze in awe up to out celestial companion. It’s a wonderful time to say a word or a prayer, raise a toast or offer a libation to the One who inspires us all, or just look up in silence and ponder the Moon-maker, The One Behind It All, The inspirer.”
It is a beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the Moon.“ Galileo Galilei
May the blessing of the Moon-Maker shine on you and all whom you love, and make you holy. Blessings, Tadhg
It’s nearly time for our celebration of Lughnasadh, or first harvest – Lughnasadh is the Irish Gaelic for ‘the commemoration of Lugh’ which was prevalent event in England in former years. If you live in England think of the area in London called Ludgate formerly called Luds Gate. This time, for some, is also called “Lammas”, from the old anglo-saxon – their word for loaf mass, a mass where the first loaf of bread of the harvest is consecrated.
a very brief outline of Ludhnasah, and
a hymn for it penned by Tadhg, and
a few verses about John Barleycorn from an ancient, mythical folk tune, and there’s more.
at the base of this article is your invitation to view/participate in our ‘live streaming’ Lughnasadh ceremony online, on Tadhg’s Facebook page, on Friday, 31 July 2020 at 8pm (UK time) though the event takes place in the northern hemisphere on 1 August (or the evening before). Do feel free to print this ‘article’ at home, for your personal use, as some of it will be used in the ceremony
In an agricultural society the begin of the harvest was a natural occasion to celebrate and to give thanks to the Divine for Its gifts. And, there is no reason in our technological society why we, too, should give thanks to the Lord of the Harvest, the Great provider.
This time of the year would, for our ancestors, have been a time of great joy, as the times grow darker. They would have started storing food for the winter.
But, the idea of celebrating harvest, giving thanks, storing for the winter goes back, goes back way before the times of the Church, way before even the Celts and Druids of the UK, and many thousands of years before that – and so it truly is an ancient and cosmic-celebratory time which no one religion, faith or tribe can lay exclusive ownership, which is entwined in our ancient and later day tribes’ survival and the honouring of That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves, the Great Provider.
Some time ago, with Lughnasadh or Lammas in mind, and with the idea of giving gratitude to the One Behind It All, I wrote the following Hymn For The Harvest:
HYMN FOR THE HARVEST
Lord of the harvest we come to you,
we thank you for the ripened grain
(for) the circle turning year by year.
Great provider of all humankind,
we thank you for the sun and wind,
the earth and all life-giving rain.
Surely, surely, you are good, The God of Green Hope, good to all. The Sacred Three, The Three in One.
Nature once in vernal green enrobed,
gives up its bounty, gifts for all
(and) prepares to sleep as autumn comes.
On our table you supply our bread,
We share with all, for all to be fed,
And joy in our heart at what shall be.
Surely, surely, you are good, The God of Green Hope, good to all. The Sacred Three, The Three in One.
Inspired by: Lord of the Harvest, Hymn by Joseph Anstice, 1836
To the tune of Siuil a Ruin. Link for that tune is here.
‘Green hope’ a reference to Romans 15:13, ‘The Message’, The Book.
THE STORY OF JOHN BARLEYCORN
It’s about this time of the year that many will recite, or sing the mythical song about John Barleycorn. Now, there were many variations of the song, and some have come down to us today. It’s mythical in that it’s a foundational story and was the very centre of peoples lives if we go way back.
How far back?
The first known written copy of the song appears in a manuscript penned by George Bannatyne in AD1568 (parts of the song are indented below). He was a wealthy merchant from Edinburgh and included the song of John Barleycorn in a collection of several poems, songs and other writings which he seems to have committed to paper as a simple amusement.
However there is some speculation that it was known and sung hundred of years earlier, and others think it goes way back to our civilizations’ tribal beginnings.
Why is it so profound and important?
John Barleycorn, could be seen as a symbolic figure; a poetic personification of the barley; the corn itself. Taken at this level the song describes the process of preparing the ground, sowing the seeds, watering and waiting for the crop to grow, followed by harvesting, threshing and milling. Finally, the products of brandy and bread made from barley are extolled for their virtues as staples of the diet of early agrarian peoples and upon which laborers, craftsmen and lords alike depended for their sustenance.
There were three men come out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn should die.
These are the first indications that the story in the song has its origins in a religious or magical ritual actually enacted in the pagan, agrarian past. If such is the case, then it would be reasonable to assume that the role of John Barleycorn would have been played out by a real person for the ritual – what we would call an enacted parable, today. And, that role-play is, indeed, acted out, today.
Did you notice that there are three men and that they come out of the west?
Why three? Why from the west?
The number three has been clearly demonstrated to have religious or magical significance in most human cultures around the planet since ancient times. The image of the Triad was adopted in later centuries by the Christian Church as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. In agrarian England – think of the triskelion or triquetra – it was originally ascribed to the worship of the Earth Goddess, who was represented in three aspects as a young maiden, a life-bearing mother, and a wise old crone.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that in the earliest Celtic writings and myths, the male heroes frequently set out in groups of three to undertake their sacred quests. It’s more than just a song – its about the cycle of life and humankind’s progress in it.
And, ‘The West’ was a euphemism for the ‘otherworld’ or ‘faerieland’ – the mystic isle across the western sea where myth and magic were commonplace, immortality could be found in the dwelling place of the gods.
Why they would come to kill him?
They let him stand till midsummer
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John he growed a long beard
And so became a man.
They let him stand until midsummer day. He grew a beard and became a man. In the ancient pagan cultures, midsummer was the most important festival of the year, celebrated as the longest day, the victory of light before the long descent into Winter darkness.
This song is about the cycle of death and rebirth was of tremendous and practical importance to our agrarian ancestors.
John Barleycorn grows a long beard. In part, this is a simple reference to the ‘bearded barley’ which has long hair-like strands coming off the ear of corn when it is ripe for harvest.
They hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him most barbarously.
They hired men with the sharp pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart.
They wheeled him round and round the field.
When his time had come, John Barleycorn was sacrificed, his broken body was dragged through the fields to ensure future fertility.
John Barleycorn is the personification of barley, and because our ancestors life depended on it, he was the personification of life itself – life that grew from a seed, was cutdown and harvested and we benefited, died, only to return to life the following year.
YOUR INVITATION TO OUR LUGHNASADH CEREMONY FRIDAY, 31 JULY 2020 AT 8PM (UK TIME) INVITE & DETAILS OF HOW TO VIEW
If you haven’t already ‘friended’ Tadhg on his Facebook page, please see below.
Live-Streaming Video instructions: To view this inlcusive, participative, live-streaming video, you need to be a FaceBook friend of Tadhg’s as that it where the ‘broadcast’ can/will be seen. So: If you’re already a friend, or you’re been able to see many of the morning ‘Thought For The Day’ broadcasts via my Facebook site then you’re good to go.
If you’re new, not on Tadhg’s FaceBook friend’s list, or are not sure, do check here. If don’t see many previous videos there, or if you can’t gain full access to read that Facebook webpage then you’ll need to become a Facebook friend.
To become a Facebook friend: press the ‘friends’ link on Tadhg’s Facebook site – that link in the paragraph above. He will accept as soon as he can, and, when he does, please try the link again to see if you can gain full access, in readiness for the ‘broadcast’ on his FaceBook page. If you still can’t get access, or if there’s any ‘challenges’, please email him, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.