Earth Hour 2018: A Joyful Response

20180319 EARTH HOUE 24 MARCH STEWARDSHIP MEDITATIONSoon it will be the time of Earth Hour 2018.

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. That event saw over million homes and businesses turn their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change that year. Now, Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and annually encouraging individuals, communities, and businesses to turn off all non-essential electric lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm on a specific day towards at the end of March, as a symbol of commitment to the planet.

‘Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.’ Jonas Salk.

The ancient Celts, Druids, ancient Hebrew tribes, first century Christians and others were Earth-focussed, in-touch with the seasons and the land, and knew that their livelihood depended on the Earth’s bounty. Somewhat removed, now, in modern society it is easy to forget our inter-connectedness and dependence upon the Earth, and a feeling of helplessness can overtake us.

What can we do?

Earth Hour this year will be on 24 March, and so all of us can participate in large ways and small, and all are encouraged to turn off all non-essential lighting and other non-essential power-consuming devices, wherever we are on the planet from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm (our) local time. A symbolic easy-to-do act just for one hour.

Below are some ideas, quotes, liturgies/poems and memories etc that have been used, and that you might like to use, adapted, or which can be used as prompts to encourage each of us to do something symbolic for the planet, this Saturday, and live simply for one hour, and joyously. The latter is important, as it shouldn’t be seen as an arduous task or a chore, but as a profound time, an enjoyable time in the main.

Blessing:
And so, before eating, by candlelight, we used the following as a blessing:

‘All praise be Yours, my God, through Sister Earth, our mother
who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
various fruits and coloured flowers and herbs.
[St Francis of Assisi]

Meal:
We wanted to meet as friends and have a simple meal together. Just bread and soup in gratitude of the immense bounty of the Earth that we often forget. A simple meal in good company was perfect.

As a centre-piece on the table, as a reminder of why we had gathered was symbolism to represent the elements (five in this case, but you might have less or more), and so we had: a flower to represent earth/soil/rock, a small bowl of water, a joss-stick to represent air, a few candles to represent fire, and a small clay wild goose (an ancient Celtic representation of the Spirit).

We ate, we laughed, we enjoyed the occasion immensely. Ofcourse, afterwards you can supplement the time with music and/or singing.

Meditation:
Bathed in the light of a few candles, each member of the group was asked to close their eyes and imagine a scene. Initially, the co-ordinator asked the group to visualise the Earth as seen from space, blue, cloudy, majestic, full of life, a planet set in a sea of stars. One by one each person described what they had imagined.

After a short pause, the co-ordinator, asked each member of the group to visualise one distant land, perhaps seen on tv, full of animals and vibrant nature, and to describe it, and one by one each person did in just a few words. The co-ordinator summed up with a few words of gratitude to the Source of All.

After a sort pause, each person was asked to imagine an element of nature from their local neighbourhood, some to be thankful for. Each shared, and the co-ordinator summed up with a few words of gratitude to the Source of All.

Then, the co-ordinator asked each to imagine one scene where the Earth was ‘distressed’, through pollution or over-farming, through the loss of natural habitat, the further extinction of species, and each member shared what they ‘saw’. The co-ordinator summed up with prayerful words.

Lastly, the co-ordinator, asked each to imagine the Earth as it was when they started this meditation – a wonderful blue planet set in a dance amongst the stars, and to ‘flood it’ with our thanks, well-wishes and good-thoughts.

Sharing-time:
We shared prayers and poetry in a circle of fellowship lit by the light of one candle. Each invited person was asked to bring some prayer or relevant poem to share, and after each recitation a few minutes of silent meditation and reflection ensued. One such prayer was:

Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you,
who herself unmoving, harbours the movements
and facilitates the life of ten thousand creatures,
while resting contented, stable, tranquil.
Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you.
(Old Celtic Blessing)

A variation of this, one year, was to ask those attending to prepare a piece about their favourite mountain, or animal, flower, tree, ocean or river, as a way of giving thanks.

For instance, one person talked at length about trees and their connectedness, and how they actually ‘communicate’ with a beneficial and ‘joined up’ root system. Something similar was televised recently with Judi Dench, and can be seen on Youtube, here.

Another person shared about a written piece (and a short video) wolves and what remarkable animals they are, and something similar can be seen here.

Another shared a short video about Snowdonia – my favourite, and I admit to a slight bias here, see here.

Eucharist:
We shared a simple breaking of bread and wine in the home. One person blessed the bread and wine, and we passed the bread around. Several minutes later, the wine was passed around (and as we also wanted to think about the Earth, on many occasions the wine was substituted with unfermented red grape juice). And then several read relevant verses from the Bible, such as:

‘In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.’ Psalm 95.4 The Book.

All very simple, easy to plan and expedite. Very profound.

Baraka:
On this occasion, with lights off and the tv turned on, we watched part of the video ‘Baraka’. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. It is a wonderful series of profound clips and ethereal music that is nature-based, deep and spiritually moving, and highlights  our interconnectedness with all that is around us. It can be seen on Youtube, here.

Conclusion:
How will you commemorate Earth Hour? Whatever you do, by yourself or in the company of friends, my wish is that you do something simple, symbolic and joyful to mark the event, which ofcourse, is a prompt for us all to have a greater regard for the planet thereafter.

Blessings of Earth Hour be to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

Activity For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180315 ACTIVITY FOR ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXIt’s coming ever closer. Spring equinox, is on 20 March 2018. In Wales, Spring equinox is known as Alban Eiler, which means ‘the light of the earth’, and it’s a time of new life, restoring energy, and re-birth. Having looked at words (liturgy/poem and song) and myth associated with it (that is, dragons) over the last few days, I’d like to suggest some activities for you to consider as part of your celebration of the Spring equinox, and as a way to give gratitude to the One behind it all.

Go Outside
Go outside, purposefully: Whatever the weather on the day of the Spring equinox, whyspring tree eye 11 not go outside, find a green space, and take a long, leisurely stroll, spend some time surrounded by wild nature. It could be a short trip to a forest or wood, a wide open space, or even a city park. And then sit there, and as you sit there, observe all that is going on around you – even those things that we might consider interruptions. Even then, nature ‘shines’ through in large ways and small. Relax, be at peace, be aware and give thanks. You might want to find a tree that catches your attention, sit under it or near it, and take time to meditate.

‘To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.’ Kahlil Gibran

Share A Breakfast
Whether you cook it yourself or meet in a local cafe, why not share breakfast with a few friends to mark the occasion? It can be seen as a great time of friendship, of making or renewing friendships, or ‘mending bridges’ as regards estranged friends etc.

‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares’.  Hebrews 13.2 The Book

To make it even more special you might like to simply start the time and conclude it with a relevant poem, a short prayer or even a time of silence to think deeply about the Spring Equinox, and of new life returning. It is a liminal time.

‘Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.’ John Muir

Plant Something
If you have a garden you might like to plant a tree. There, or if you have a window-box because you live in an apartment, you might like to plant a few seeds. You might even buy one of those tomato grow bags, for instance – then not only do you see tomatoes grow and enjoy that miracle, but you get to eat the tomatoes, too! Or, you might consider sending a small donation to one of the wonderful charities that plant trees on your behalf, such as: the Woodland Trust. Which is also a great way to commemorate the passing-on of a loved one.

‘The earth laughs in flowers.’ e e cummings.

Consider Wildlife
Additionally, you might like to think of a way of giving thanks for wildlife, yes, in urbanspring wolf areas as well as rural areas. Feeding birds is one consideration, but there are other ways. How about planting bee-friendly flowers such as Lavender (Lavendula), rhododendron, or heather (Calluna) etc. All great ways to celebrate new life, and preserve nature under threat.

With the re-introduction to the UK of the beaver, you might like to mark this time of the year by supporting the work of a wildlife charity – perhaps the ‘Rewilding Britain’ charity who amongst of things, are considering a project to ‘rewild’ part of the UK with wolves (a remarkable animal which was, sadly, hunted to extinction here some three hundred years ago).

Home Sacred Area
If you have a sacred area or special table within your home, you might like to consider changing it a few days before the Spring equinox, so that you’re ready for it. You might like to place some small spring flowers on it (or photographs of flowers).

You might like to represent the five elements – perhaps a feather to represent air (for theSPRING bird-3196077__340 east), a candle to represent fire (for the south), a small bowl of water to represent water of the west, and a rock or sand or soil to represent earth (for the north). How you represent the fifth element will depend on your philosophy or theology, but for me, the Spirit or Awen is represented by a wild goose (‘Ah Geadh-Glas’ as it’s known in Scottish Gaelic), and so I’ll display a photo of a wild goose on the sacred table.

Positive Affirmations
If you wanted to make a new year’s resolution, but didn’t, then the Spring equinox is a great time to commit a positive affirmation to your heart, and maybe to paper, too, as a reminder, and then ‘go for it’.

‘ To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer.’ Henri Nouwen

And finally….
These are just a few suggestions, but in other ways, large ways and small, my encouragement to you is to find a way, another way, perhaps, to mark this wonderful time, and celebrate, and give thanks to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

20180315 ACTIVITY FOR ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOX

 

Dragons And Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180313 DRAGONS AND ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXWith the Spring equinox, 20 March 2018, still in mind, a time of balance between light and dark (equal night and day lengths), this time of the year is a timely reminder to celebrate the life-energy returning to the earth, of re-birth, of new beginnings, especially with Easter just under three weeks away . In Wales, Spring equinox is known as Alban Eiler, which means ‘the light of the earth’.

In Iran, the festival of ‘No Ruz’ begins just before the Spring equinox. The phrase means ‘new day,’ and this is a time of hope and rebirth. Usually, a lot of cleaning is done, old broken items are repaired, homes are freshly repainted, and bright flowers are gathered and displayed indoors. A spring-clean!

In ancient Rome, a ten day celebration in honour of Attis, son of the great goddess Cybele, around this time. A pine tree, which represented Attis, was chopped down, wrapped in a linen shroud, decorated with violets and placed in a sepulchre in the temple, involving a ceremony with blood. Sacrifice!

And in old England, Wales, and other cultures around the world, the two equinoxes of the year were known as Dragon Days, and these wonderful creatures were celebrated in fairs, processions and in general merriment. Here the dragon, or representations of it (especially, but not only in Chinese and Japanese cultures) were carried through streets,  to carry the Fire energy into the inner realms, to activate the fire within. It is said the dragon goes underground for the winter, but surfaces in the Spring. The dragon, then, is also an ancient energy symbol representing Earth energy, dynamism, fire, will and courage!

And who cannot but be amazed at the intricate dragon designs by (latter-day) Celts and druids.

‘I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind….’. John Lennon.

Yes, dragons are associated with the Spring equinox (and the Autumn equinox).

Dragons also capture the public’s imagination in many fantasy books and films, appearing in the 2010 film ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ to the more adult-oriented ‘Game of Thrones’ books, and to ‘The Hobbit’ book and movies.

Did you know, the ancient Japanese believed quartz was formed from the ‘solidified’ breath of the dragon. To them quartz represented power, perfection and purity.

And, even in God’s own country, Wales, the dragon appears on the national flag. There, the story is told that long ago a Celtic king wanted to build a castle at a particular location, but for a variety of reasons was continually thwarted. He was advised to sacrifice a young boy (who turned out to be Merlin). Merlin warned the king that his chosen site for a castle was above an underground lake where two dragons lay sleeping. The king’s men dug down and did find two dragons (one red, one white) who started to fight fiercely. The red dragon triumphed and was said to represent the king’s people, thereafter. And, ofcourse, a representation of that dragon appears on the flag. A myth? Well, in 1945 in an excavation of that area, Dinas Emrys, the site revealed evidence of a lake and a fortress dating back to that Celtic king’s time. Food for thought, eh?

Yes, dragons are associated with the Spring equinox (and the Autumn equinox).

Did you know that in Chinese and Japanese cultures to have a dragon statue or picture or painting in the house was said to bring immense good fortune.

And, as nature blossoms at this time of the year, what can be more awesome than spending (more) time in sunlight and in forests. Not only, then is the pineal gland stimulated (physical action), leading to well-being; but there is a (greater) spiritual connection (a spiritual action) in and through nature. Some call the interaction and feeling of more vital energy between these two, dragon fire!

If you want to find out more about much-misunderstood dragons, and especially the difference between them and wyverns, do check an earlier article by Tadhg, here.

‘People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.’ Ursula Le Guin,

 

Words For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180310 WORDS FOR ALBAN EILER 2018 CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXThe Circle is turning, and in less than two weeks it will be the time of Alban Eiler as it’s known in Wales (which, translated from Welsh, means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’), otherwise known as the Spring equinox.

That day, Tuesday, 20 March 2018, is when the length of day and night, light and dark are of equal length, and thereafter we move slowly toward summer (in the northern hemisphere) when the sun climbs higher and days lengthen even more.

Alban Eiler is a time of balance, the half-way point in this season of Spring, and time to celebrate. And more so in ‘old’ cultures and farming and earth-based communities such as the ancient Celts, Druids and middle-eastern cultures of yesteryear and others, and even today where the acknowledgement and tracking of the seasons is vital to life and well-being.

In Wales, the grey and rugged, majestic mountains take on a grey-green hue now, and upon closer inspection many wild, spring flowers erupt in a joyful profusion upon them – and some flowers are ‘protected’ in Wales so that their exact location is a secret. And, springtime it maybe, but it (still) rains a lot if north Wales and clouds are a constant feature, but it is spring and ‘green’ makes another timely re-appearance, and everything changes, and, yes, it’s time to celebrate.

To celebrate this wonderful event, here’s some words and a song that you might consider using and/or adapting as a liturgy for Alban Eiler, for your own celebration. Ofcourse, you might like to use them (only) as poetry to supplement your litugy or non-liturgical ‘quiet time’ in marking the event, and that too is good. So do feel free to use some of the words below, adapting to suit your outlook or requirements.

Earth Blessing (adapted)

As Spring flowers grow and buds appear on many trees, this can be a time of reflection. After a long winter, Spring unfolds at the behest of the God of Green Hope, and blesses the Earth with a wonderful bounty, and so it’s a time of extreme gratitude, as well.

(Facing east)
Blessed be the One who crosses boundaries,
who is evident in the lengthening day,
in the turning of the Great Circle, and
who is felt in the soft, refreshing Spring wind.

(Facing south)
Blessed be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature,
Viriditas,
who makes plants grow and flower,
and the trees to prepare for blossom, and
who warms the earth as the sun rises higher in the sky.

(Facing west)
Blessed by the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep,
who waters the earth, and calls to the deep;
and the deep joyfully replies and stirs to life, and
who changes the slow, icy brooks into life-laden babbling streams.

(Facing north)
Blessed be the One who speaks to the earth,
and from the rocks new life appears,
who showers the earth with rain from your storehouse of abundance, and
who blesses the earth, which, in turn, blesses us.

(Facing east)
Lord of the elements, ‘Three-Personned’ Life-Giver, we praise you.

For Personal Renewal

For those celebrating by themselves, or indeed, in groups, a time of personal in-filling or ‘energising’ may be desirable, and the following may prove useful.

Lord of Springtime, Lord of All,
refresh us and awaken our senses.
Cleanse us inwardly,
and dispel the dust of resistance and old habits,
and fill us with your love and grace,
that the blessings you give us, we can give back to you
in eternal praise.

Alban Eiler Song: Nature’s Smile

A time of celebration wouldn’t be much of a celebration without a song. The following (and yes you can recite it as liturgy or read it as poem to complement what you might be doing to celebrate this time) is a song which can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’. It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re intrested in the tune that ‘works’ with these words, do check the link of Siuil a Ruin (as sung by Anúna) here.

And, Finally….

Meanwhile, the blessings of Alban Eiler be to you and yours, Tadhg.

Appendix

Technical stuff follows regarding the tune: The first few seconds of that video/music, on the above-mentioned link, is a preamble, and the tune for the first verse is from 16 seconds in, to 30 seconds; the second verse’s tune is from 31 seconds to 47 seconds; and the chorus’s (non- italicised above) tune is from 45 seconds to 58 seconds. It is best to use the above-mentioned timings/tune again, as a repetition for the abovementioned song’s next two verse and chorus, rather than let the video play on beyond 58 seconds. If all that is confusing, don’t worry, as I might even be persuaded to sing it for you. Do contact me, in that eventuality. But be warned, I am no John Denver!

 

 

At Cnoc nan Angeal Or Sitheon Mor: Lift Your Heart Into The Wind

20180219 AT CNOC NANA ANGEAL OR SITHEON MOR FOUR MONTHS ONIt is difficult to believe that it was four months ago that I was on the Isle of Iona, the Isle of Druids, an island frequented by Columcille, also known as St Columba, over a millennia and a half ago.

With a longing to go back there, I set foot on Iona after a long gap of many years, and it felt like a home-coming. The desire to go there, was not a superficial visit to mark it as one more item ticked off my ‘bucket list’, but I believe the response to a deeply-ingrained inner longing etched onto the fabric of my soul. Have you been so called?

And on, or about this day four months ago I was walking around a grassy mound near Iona’s south-westerly beach.

This mound probably some fifty feet across and thirty feet high, is easy to overlook. And yet, it is so significant. It is known as Cnoc nan Angeal or The Hill of Angels, and to some it is also known as Sitheon Mor or the Hill of the Fae (the Fairy Hill).

However we view it, whatever we call it, it is a place of deep connection, another ‘thin place’ on an island that is itself a ‘thin place’.

I walked around the base of this mound, for no other reason than to ensure that, having entered the paddock by climbing a small fence, that I wasn’t sharing the field with a hefty Angus bull that might become angry at my intrusion. I was safe. There was no bull.  And knowing that, I climbed the small hill, paused and could then go ‘deep’ into matters spiritual and inhabit the place. What a privilege we all share.

‘…a ‘thin place’, the palpable presence of the Other in this place, time or event’

Columcille, it is said, often climbed this small hill to commune with angels. Others before him stood on that very hill-top, where my feet now pressed, and spoke with elementals, the fae and others. It is a place of energy and light, a place where the unexpected can occur, and if a place can exude peace and love, then Cnoc nan Angeal or Sitheon Mor can.

But, why was I standing there?

A Calling! A longing to do so, an echo from some distant land that I used to know, and to which I will return. We will return. Within each of us there is a longing etched into our very souls, woven into the very warp and weft of our being. A longing of self-discovery and transformation, a longing to know our true identity, a longing to ‘find’ our task in life, a deep longing to ‘be’.

‘We are homesick most for the places we have never known.’ Carson McCullers

This longing is there in all of us. Maybe it is buried under the weight of many years of material living and busyness. It’s time to revisit that longing. Such longing may be long-forgotten, bedazzled by the ‘bright lights’ of self-imposed habits that now seem to be ‘creaking’ or collapsing. The longing is still there. Can you hear longing, deep within you, calling out to you?

As I stood, four months ago, on that hill top where Columcille stood, I heard the wind and the birds, the nearby sea pound coastal rocks. I felt the wind, and rain and sea-spray, and then there was nothing. No-thing. And yet, everything! Without the need for dictionary or translator, as I stood there, windswept, alone (or was I?), and I was immersed in the song of the ages, and my soul sang back!

Perhaps, communing with angels or the fae or others, at that location (and indeed everywhere else), isn’t about hearing an audible voice or receiving a memorable instruction, but maybe it’s about being true to that calling, and true to ones innermost self?

‘You were created to be free; within you there is deep freedom.’ John O’Donohue

Four months ago I stood atop that hill, but not without some effort. Could it be that we need to ‘work’ at spirituality. Not in the sense of doing this or that to earn ‘points’, but in the sense of opening ourselves up to the moment, to surrender (and that’s not a word that many like), and to have a certain intentionality to enter into that moment. At other times it may take trauma or calamity to ‘open the eyes of our heart’. Other times, it may be purposely drawing aside. Then, we step out of our daily, materialistic, mechanical routine, and in doing so, we, at least for a while, enter into sacred time/space, and ‘be’, and encounter our longing, and recognise it as a dear friend.

‘Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.’

(David Whyte, The House of Belonging)

On that mound, I ‘returned’ to the beginning, and in the cold and the rain, the wind and salt-spray, the notion that I had been here (you have been ‘there’) all the time embraced me like a warm hug. It felt like a palpable hug. An angel? An elemental? A fae? I didn’t need to know. I didn’t want to know. To be there was sufficient. I can live contentedly with mystery knowing that, even if I am unaware, it is unfolding. That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves has our best interest at heart.

As I sit here typing now in hindsight of what happened all those months ago, and as you sit there reading this, are we all not ‘already there’? Isn’t longing knocking, still? And yet, there is ‘room’ to take hold of it, embrace it, dwell fully in the longing that longs to be known? Be aware.

‘Longing is a constant companion…It often comes in a dream. It may call from the trees outside. It often quickens at the hearth within our homes, and beckons us to come closer.’ Frank MacEowan

Oh, it was easy to scale that small hill, tick the box of ‘seen it, done it, and go onward….’, but isn’t there a wonderful need for all of us to pause and let the longing in us to be recognised, develop and come to fruition? Just ‘be.

Pause. Relax, and let that which is deep within ‘speak’ to you. The words may not be audible, and you may come in the form of a dream or an impression, a memory-flash, an indescribable yearning for that which is Other; and it may be immediate or it may ‘unpack’ itself over a number of days; or it may even be an inclination that becomes more noticeable over time as you look back.

‘If you think you’re hearing something
And you can’t think what it is
If you feel a quiet longing
Lift your heart into the wind.’

(Cyndi Lauper, Kindred Spirits)

 

Time To Celebrate Spring: Imbolc, Brigid’s Day, Candlemas

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMASYes, it’s that time again. The circle, the wheel of the Earth continues to turn, and nature’s cycle ushers us, once again, into spring. It’s time to celebrate. Here’s some ideas of how to celebrate the event with a meal, ritual and words (liturgy). Really celebrate!

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

Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came out from their winter dens may, it is said by some, be a forerunner of the North American idea of Groundhog Day.

For others, this time of the year is known as Brigid’s Day (a healer, whose example to us today is one of unbridled hospitability), or Candlemas, a time of rededication and purity, and the lighting of candles. Nevertheless, however you regard it, it is the first day of spring, and time to celebrate.

Meal
And because it’s a celebration, what follows are a few ideas of things you can incorporate into you main meal of the day (or other meals, as you feel appropriate).

You might like to do the whole meal as an Imbolc or Spring celebration, or just one part of it. I’d suggest the latter, especially if this is the first time you specifically celebrate the event, and in any case, it’s usually the small things that are most significant. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, expensive spread, after all it’s intentionality that is important.

pixabay imbolc bread 232On a number of occasions I’ve had a normal meal, and ‘focused’ on part of the meal to celebrate the event, and bought a special bread for after the meal. A remembrance of bread being a staple food, the Bread of life.

So, try something different, experiment by adding something to your main meal, say, that you may not usually buy.

Meal Preparation
Whether it’s a meal for yourself or a few others, too, preparation can be fun, meaningful and easy to accomplish. If you’re not usually into formality or table lay-out I’d suggest having just one or two additional elements.

Candles! I love candles, and I’d suggest the simpler the candle setting, the better. One candle, lit, on a table looks great. Go for ‘minimalist’ approach if you wish – it can, in many circumstances, make it even more meaningful.

pixabay candle ereeBecause the sun would still be low in the sky and light in the evening would be dim, and because early Romans believed candlelight would scare away evil, and because Jesus is the light of the world, candles were specifically used (for all or some of those reasons) at this time – hence in many churches they celebrate this time as Candlemas.

Later, as you gaze upon that lit candle, remember, the sun rising higher in the sky and Spring returning, new life, a ‘chasing away’ of the dark and light dawning, and ponder on growth, good things, and hope. Give thanks to the Source of All.

Nature on display! I really like those displays that contain berries and fir cones etc and they look great as a table display. Or, hwo about a small bunch of inexpensive spring flowers! Both can look great, and act as a great reminder of gratitude to the earth, to nature.

For this event, celebrate with foods that honour the earth, hearth and home, such as milk products vegetables, bread etc, and these are incorporated in the suggestions below.

pixabay man sun 4544Breakfast: Imbolc is about milk – think of baby ewes being born and their mother’s milk flowing to nurture them. It’s a time of fertility, new life. So, why not try something different, milk-wise to pour over your breakfast cereal

Whether you eat this meal focussing on Imbolc, or Candlemas, or with Brigid in mind, whether you eat it by yourself or with others, it’s a great way of remembering the bounty of the earth, all those that have been involved in bringing it to your table, and ofcourse it’s a great time of expressing gratitude to the Giver of All. Take time to ponder.

Words & Ritual
Throughout the meal, maybe between courses, or at the beginning and at the end, it’s good to pause, to give thanks. As you light the candle or gaze upon the lit candle, some may like to recite a poem or prayer at certain times. Here’s some words that you might like to use or ponder upon:

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

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

Or,

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 The Book

Or,

Praise to you, Oh Caring one,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
feisty, pure and natural
with your white singular unbroken focus,
Maid-Mother to us all,
praise to you.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

Finally
Do plan a great event, enjoy it, and take your time. We all rush around far too much, and here’s an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the simple, natural things in life as we yet again mark the season’s change, and give thanks.

Wishing you and yours blessings at this time of Imbolc, Spring, Brigid’s Day and Candlemas. Tadhg

 

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMAS

 

 

Reflections On A Puddle: A Quiet Teacher At Drws I Fyd Arall

20180125 REFLECTION ON A PUDDLE A QUIET TEACHER AT DRWS I FYD ARALLI am back in Capel Curig in north Wales for a while. I’m outside, and have walked the relatively short walk from my little cottage, Tŷ Gwyn (pronounced ‘tee gwin’, meaning White Cottage or White House), to an area that, for years, has been known to me as Drws i fyd arall. It’s raining hard – the ‘gift’ of storm Georgina that is sweeping across the United Kingdom.

Soaked, I sit on a felled log. It’s still about half an hour before sunrise.

‘Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down…’ Isaiah 45;8a, The Book

And I feel wonderful, expectant, in awe at the two, old, trees in front of me. I sat there looking at these two trees, so different to the others around them, as these two trees had grown in a way that they bowed towards each other to form an arch. As children we noticed this, and I and my friends had called these two arched trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world’. Such was the imagination of us children that we played endless games by jumping through the arched trees, and in our minds eye believed that we found  ourselves in strange new worlds. Star Gate, the tv series, was still many years in the future. We got their first!

For more about Drws I fyd arall in previous articles, see here, and here.

And, now I’m sitting in the middle of this delightful forest, in suitably rain-proofed attire, and though its cold and there’s a great wind – I’m protected from that wind by the high trees around me – but not so from the rain. It’s raining even harder, and I love it.

By my feet, raindrops converge into puddles, multiple puddles and some of them quite deep, and as the puddles fill up with rain some of them join together to form even large puddles around me; and for a moment I am mesmerised by the sight of the rain splashing on the forest floor and into puddles, and by the soothing, continuous, hypnotic patter of fresh, cold, wonderful rain.

‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ Loren Eiseley

As I gaze at the large puddle in front of me, joining with another, and then being  ‘syphoned off’ into a larger deep depression on the ground inches to one side, I spied that water takes on the shape of that which it fills, and reshapes itself umpteen times, yet it still remains water.

‘I find inspiration in the movement of water. Sometimes I think about the journey the water has travelled, reconnecting me to the larger cycles of nature.’ Janet Echelman

How we could learn from water. If you’re like me, it is oh-so-easy to take on board the opinions of others sometimes; to be caught off guard and to be affected by their bad words and actions, and perhaps want to metaphorically strike back; or be adversely affected by ‘bad’ situations. Water is not changed by what it fills. It changes shape, but remains faithful to its nature. It loses nothing. How we could learn from water.

‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue

Mark Nepo talks of this sort of awareness of nature. He calls them ‘quiet teachers’, for that is what they are: nature opening itself up to human awareness for the connection, which surely already exists, to be made understandable (at least in part) to us, in a quiet, authentic manner

And so this puddle, this ‘quiet teacher’, a puddle at Drws i fyd arall taught me that water adapts to fill the ‘shape’ of its surroundings, but remains faithful to itself.

And, in a ‘flash’ as I sat on that felled tree, I realised that, as humans, we are should (or perhaps, are encouraged, is a better way of putting it, to) adapt to situations in our daily life, albeit some tough events, or situations brought on by ‘difficult’ people, and yet remain faithful to our ‘humanness’, our core. It is possible to adapt and not take on board the negative ‘stuff’ around us.

And then, I experienced another ‘flash’ as if lightning had filled the sky: it dawned on me – our body and soul may be seemingly affected, but the lesson of this ‘quiet teacher’ was that that need not be the case, but it came to me that our soul, our being, our very essence is never affected by it at all – we just think it is. There is something in us that ‘higher’, still. And from ‘that place’, a place of Love, we can have compassion on others, and bear tough situations come what may.

I had to sit on the felled log for some time to ‘unpack’ those two ‘flashes’ of thought(s) from Beyond.

‘…the work of compassion: to embrace everything clearly without imposing who we are and without losing who we are.’ Mark Nepouiet

The Curious Incident Of Brigid And The Bathwater: A Profound Story For Today

20180122 THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF ST BRIGID AND THE BATHWATER...The circle continues to turn. Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day, or Candlemas, as some call it, comes ever closer. Spring is in the air.

‘O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?’. Percy Bysshe Shelley

If we’re still in the season of winter, and we are (and, it started on 31 October, marked by the festival of Samhain, also called All Saint’s Eve by some, and progressed to its ‘height’ with the winter soltice, we’re now coming to the end of that season). Imbolc, 2 February (or a day earlier than that to some), marks the end of winter, and is the first day of spring.

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

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

And with 2 February in mind, our thoughts turn to Brigid of Kildare. Brigid is viewed in differing ways, by different people. To some Brigid is an ancient Celtic goddess. The goddess of fire. Indeed, a sacred fire burned in Kildare in ancient time, as was kept burning by priestesses. In this way it was thought herds would be protected and harvests would be plentiful. To others, Brigid is a saint, and at the time of Candlemass, candles are blessed (and lit by some), and Brigid is remembered as one who symbolises motherhood, new birth, the springing forth of seeds and, in the recent past, some would bless (even) agricultural tools on that day. It’s spring (or nearly, so), after all.

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

Yes, you know I like stories, and here’s another about Brigid.

Brigid was known for her hospitality. For the weary traveller no expense was spared by her.

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

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

Brigid was deeply concerned, and it is said, immediately sprung into action. At the back of some nearby buildings she found an old bath, full of dirty bath water. She put her hand into the bathwater and blessed it. As the attendant drew off pints from that bath they found that it had changed! No longer dirty bath water, but the finest, freshest and coolest beer you could ever imagine, which was served to all.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Brigid’s Cloak: A Profound Story For Today

20180118 BRIGIDS CLOAK A PROFOUND STORY FOR TODAYIt’s late. I’m still in London, but now things have settled down somewhat I’m able to slow down (even more). Earlier today, in a huge supermarket nearby I spied jars of Horlicks lined up at eye level, just calling to me, almost. I had never noticed them before. Horlicks, if you’ve never had it, is a delightful malt drink, usually in powder form and was something that many children grew up drinking. So far as I know it’s extremely healthy.

It’s even later, and I’m on an oh-so comfortable sofa, and having added hot milk to that Horlick’s powdered malt drink, it now resides in a cup just a couple of feet from me. Lights are low. And as I sip it, in my mind’s eye I am immediately transported back – memorywise – to my early childhood days. Amazing how a simple taste can remind us of past things and pleasant events.

I’m reminded of a time, about this time of year, but many years ago. I was sitting in my grandparents’ cottage in Wales. I must have been about seven years old. It was late in the evening, then, and I had positioned myself, comfortably, near the hearth. The main living area of the cottage was partially lit and the fire’s orange glow bathed everything in a warm, restful, flickering, other-worldly light.

My grandpa had just given me a hot cup of Horlicks, as my grandmother started to tell another of her wonderful stories.

As I sip from a cup of Horlicks now, I’m reminded of that story from yesteryear – and it’s all the more poingnant as it was then coming up to St Brigid’s Day, and so it will be again in about two weeks from no. Some (myself included) call it Imbolc (pronounced various ways, but I quite like ‘ih-mulk’), and many call it (now) Candlemas.

As I sat there all those years ago, my grandmother told a story about Brigid of Kildare (in Ireland). The story went something like this:

Dear Brigid approached the King of Leinster with a request for some land on which to build her monastery. She thought deeply about the location, and felt led to build it in Kildare. There, it would be near a lake where water was available, and in a forest where firewood would be plentiful, and also near a large, lush area just right for the growing of crops. Self-sufficiency.

However, the King refused her request.

Brigid wasn’t deterred by his refusal. Rather, she thought about it, prayed about it, and made her request again to him, but this time she added, ‘I would respectfully ask the King to grant me as much land as my cloak will cover.’

Seeing her small cloak, the king laughed out loud, and then granted her request.

Brigid then removed the cloak that was on her back, and gave instructions to her four helpers each to take a corner of the cloak and walk in opposite directions – north, south, east and west. They did this. And, as they did this the cloak began to grow, and grow, and grow. It was soon the size of a large table cloth. And, they carried on walking. And soon it was the size of a living room carpet. And, they carried on walking. And, soon dear Brigid’s cloak had spread across many, many acres of land. She now had sufficient land to build her monastery.

The King was greatly dismayed, but also amazed at this seeming miracle. The King realised that this woman was truly blessed, and had great power. The King was impressed and supported Brigid’s work with money, food and gifts.

My grandmother ended the story, summing up that Brigid was indeed a clever woman, one in touch with great power from the Source of All (that which some call God), and that the story tells us that we do, indeed, live in a world of abundance, but sometimes we need to ‘see’ things differently, and trust in the timely provision of what we need.

That story of dear Brigid (St Brigid to some) made a big impression on me then and throughout the years: I believed then and still believe that we do live in a world of natural abundance and blessing, and Brigid and this story about her is one that we can take to heart and draw strength from.

 

Imagination: In Between Are The Doors…: A Thought

20180111 IMAGINATION IN BETWEEN ARE THE DOORS

‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.’
(Albert Einstein)

With the candle lit, and sitting crossed-legged, I waited. Eyes gently closed and breathing being slow but regular, I waited a little more. Slowly I started to relax and the sense of mechanical time receded into the distance. Intentionally, I moved deeper within.

Liminality approached.

Gradually my thoughts stilled – oh there will always be a stray or nagging thought, or two, or three, but the way to deal with them is to spend no time or energy on them, but to ignore them. If you pay heed to them, even mentally note them and ‘file’ them for later attention you have ‘stepped out’ of this special time of Encounter. Just let the thoughts go.

Liminality, the ‘threshold’ is the ‘gap’ between Here and There. It is a wonderful place, accessed here by the imagination, and sometimes unwittingly visited when we relax and daydream (or dream). It is a place of peace, power and potential. A place of Encounter.

‘You say God speaks to you, but it’s only your imagination.’ These are the words spoken by the inquisitor to Joan of Arc during her trial for heresy.

‘How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination?’ Joan replied.

This time, one of many, I was to use a kataphatic approach. Using mental pictures and symbols, I imagined a spiral staircase ascending before me. It had a rich, red stair carpet that felt thick underfoot.

The event was a guided event but not directed – that is the outcome was not scripted, and in this way I was hoping for a word of information, of direction. Ofcourse, sceptics and those firmly entrenched in twenty-first century thinking will question this approach, but it seems to work, at least for me, and so I commend it to you – even if you try it only because you’re curious or you think it might be fun to do.

Did you know that Friedrich August Kekulé, the German chemist, told of two dreams he had at key moments of his work. In his first dream, in 1865, he saw atoms dance around and link to one another. When he awoke, he immediately began to sketch what he saw in his dream. In another dream, in which he saw atoms dance around, then form themselves into strings, moving about in a snake-like fashion. This dream continued until the snake of atoms formed themselves into an image of a snake eating its own tail. This dream gave Kekulé the idea of the cyclic structure of benzene.

And so, I found myself at the top of the staircase, and pushing the large oak door open, I was in the corner of a large room, a hall, a library, infact. Just the right place to find a word of guidance, information. I could smell the dust of old books and the smell the polish used on the two dozen long wooden tables, which spanned, almost, the breadth of the library. Books ‘hugged’ all the walls, and huge frosted windows high up, tinted yellow, let in the light. The room was bathed in an other-worldly sunlight glow, or warming yellow. My heart leaped.

To my left and about twenty feet away, sat three librarians . They were indistinct  and glowing a deep yellow. Angels? Elementals? Was this Library a representation of Heaven, The Other Place, or Caer Wydyr (the Glass Fortress, as they call it in. Wales)? Apart from those three librarians and me, there was no one else in the room.

Was this a dream, a day-dream, a vision or the rambling thoughts of neurones ‘firing’ randomly in my brain brought on by the digestion of too much cheese? Or, was it a deep encounter? To consider that at this point would have ‘broken’ that ‘connection’ and allowed rational thought to overpower this experience. Right now, it didn’t matter to me. I was enjoying this experiential encounter.

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

I wandered around the Library, occasionally stopping and exploring the bookshelves to see if anything significant manifested itself. What was the word for me? Nothing. After what seemed like many minutes I found myself near the Librarians’ desk. One of them beckoned to me. Still indistinct, and glowing yellow, and without a word being spoken, I was handed a large, dusty, ‘dog-earred’ book. I took it, bowed (for some reason, but odd things like that can happen in such experiences), and turned to a long table behind me to explore the book.

I came into this liminal realm for a word of information, and believed the book would assist. As I was about to open it I was aware that the three Librarians were now behind me, peering over my shoulders. Benevolence. I was cocooned in the yellow glow they were emitting and a peaceful warmth like honey seemed to ‘pour’ over me. It made me laugh heartily for no reason.

I looked at the cover of the book, it read: The Count Of Monte Cristo. I had read that book at school many years ago, so it wasn’t on my mind and there was no reason for it to appear in this event, but this was a guided event, and not directed, and so events can seemingly take on a life of their own. But it it my belief that The Guide of All does permit encounters in this manner and prompts ‘from a distance, if ‘we have ears to listen’, if we are receptive. After all, Joseph was ‘spoken to’ in a dream. I have no doubt that the  Source of All speaks, similarly, today in dreams, in the physical realm, through others, through nature.

I gradually leafed through the pages of that book, and at page 12 I felt the Librarians draw back as though they had done all that was necessary. Near the very top of page 12, a word leaped out at me. ‘Patience’. That was my word. That was for me. I knew it. In the busy-ness of all that had happened to me over the last few months, and which was now (thankfully) drawing to a close, the word I needed was, that I was to have just a little more patience (and for a little longer).

‘Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full.’ (Rumi)

For that second time in that event I laughed inwardly. I turned to thank the Librarians. But, as soon as I had said the words ‘thank you’, I was ‘back’, and the Library had gone! The dream, day-dream, vision was gone. I was  conscious of sitting cross-legged in a dark room, and of the flickering candle in front of me, aware of mechanical time, and noticed now many thoughts crowding in. I had left that liminal experience, sacred time/space (and a type of ‘access’ I would commend to you) and was, indeed, back from that imaginal realm and firmly in the sensible realm (that is, this realm of the senses). Back, but different. Changed.

‘ Love is patient and kind…’ (1 Corinthians 13:4a, The Book)

Patience was what was commended to me, and a word that I took to heart, and would apply (more so) in my daily life. I extinguished the candle but sat there for some time, dwelling on that encounter which to me, (still) means a lot.

‘Imagination creates reality’. (Richard Wagner)