Star Light, Star Bright: Celtic/Druidic Astronomy For All

20181130 STAR LIGHT STAR BRIGHT

I have always been interested in looking up and the night sky, and pondering. Don’t you find it fascinating and both humbling to look up at the vast numbers of stars in the night sky and see a ‘sea’ that goes on (seemingly) for ever? What is out there? Why does it exist? How is it that we can comprehend it (albeit in part)? What is our purpose? From the time of being a wee lad, I’ve looked up and wondered.

‘Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust,’ said Lawrence Krauss.

Look up!

It was a cold 1st December evening, and I was about seven years old (and so this is a recollection of some years ago). My dad had encouraged me, a budding amateur astronomer even at that tender age, by buying me a telescope the Christmas before, and I treasured it.

And, peering out of the window of my grandmother’s cottage on a freezing, cloudless, clear December evening I couldn’t wait to go outdoors and gaze at the night sky once more.

And, once outside, between them, my grandmother and dad, on that night like many others, would point out the constellations, significant stars and the planets, and I was in awe. They knew so much. They shared so much. And, both of them would turn the event into something that was educational, challenging and fun.

‘Look up there, dear Tadhg, what do you see?’, my grandmother said pointing to the north-eastern horizon. I can remember laughing and saying, ‘I can see ten bright stars and they look like the letter ‘H’, like rugby goal posts’. I was always encouraged to use my imagination.

‘Exactly,’ my dad said, ‘but to some people, to the ancient Greeks, that constellation looked like to men fighting. It’s called Gemini which means ‘twins’. And. as I looked they did look like two ‘stick’ men side by side’, fighting.

Ofcourse, others such as ancient Druids used their imagination and saw something slightly different’, my grandmother said.

She went on to explain that when those ancients looked up at those stats they saw Gwyn and Gwyrthur, the sons of Greidawl who seek the hand of the lady in red, Creudyladd. I looked, and they did look like characters that the ancient Celts talked of.

Look up! Be encouraged to look up at the night sky. If you’re in the northern hemisphere then the constellation Gemini (or Gwyn and Gwyrthur) rise above the north-east horizon at dusk, climbing high in the south-eastern sky ay midnight, during this time of the year.

Interesting isn’t it, that regardless of our faith background and ‘tribe’ we are comfortable with Greek myth, from an astronomical point of view when naming constellations, and yet to many, local and ancient myth seem unfamiliar and odd, and perhaps to a minority to be resisted.

‘Now check that one, son’, my dad asked me as he pointed to another constellation. I knew the constellation he was pointing to. It was Orion. ‘Use your imagination’, he said. And I did. I remember laughing and saying it looked like a butterfly, or a bow tie (not that I had many occasions to wear a bow tie on many occasions as a wee lad – but there were one of two weddings where I did), but I knew it was Orion the Hunter. My dad continued, ‘..and to the ancient Celts and Druids that constellation is Herne the Hunter’.

Many years later I was to find out, born to Euryale, a Gorgon, and Poseidon/Neptune, the god of the sea in the Graeco-Roman tradition.

Did you know, that the earliest depiction of the constellation of Orion is prehistoric? On a mammoth ivory carving found in the Ach valley in West Germany there is the outline of the constellation dating back about thirty-five thousand years ago.

‘The heavens declare the glory of God..’ Psalm 19.1a, The Book

Did you know that Herne is, allegedly, a resident spectre and keeper of Windsor Forest in Berkshire, England, whose most notable feature is that he has antlers. It is said he often appears riding on horseback, accompanied by other wild huntsman.

Look up! If you’re interested in seeing the Constellation Orion (or Herne the hunter), at this time of the year, it will rise above the southern horizon at about 8pm (London time) and climb higher in the south-eastern sky as the night passes. You can’t miss that constellation’s brightest star (infact it’s the brightest star in the night sky), Sirius, which is four hundred and sixty-three light years away. So, light leaving there in AD1555 would only now just be reaching your eyes as you look at it.

It was getting even colder, and I think my grandmother and dad were eager to get me indoors and in the warm, but (even then) my interest was piqued and I could be quite persuasive, and I persuaded them to explore just one more constellation.

This time I pointed out a group of stars unknown to me. My dad explained that that constellation was Perseus. He said that he was one of the great heroes of classical mythology, the son of Jupiter and Danae, and was best known for his killing of the Gorgon Medusa. My grandmother explained, ‘Or, to the Welsh, Perseus was really the hero Llew Llaw Gyffes, who was the child of Arianrhod. He was killed but, at the moment of his death, his soul transformed into an eagle, and he still appears in the night sky for all to see’.

It was now freezing cold, and so we all headed back home, to listen to some more stories by my grandmother at the hearth.

Look up! Persus or Llew Llaw Gyffes can be seen in high in the night sky, now, in the east.

My love for the night sky still persists, and I would encourage you to pause and look up at the night sky…and be in awe. There is great wonderment there, myth, ‘magic’ and great understanding. If we only’ stop and stare’, as the late Welsh poet W H Davies penned. ‘Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.’ Sarah Williams.

 

An Encounter With Nwyfre In London? [Revisited]

20181127 AN ENCOUNTER WITH NWYFRE IN LONDON

There is a forest not far from where I live in north Wales, old and dense; it is ancient and just walking in it one can feel the weight of the ages there. I love it. And there, after a long, winding trek through the thick forest is a small clearing, stands ‘Y goeden mellt’, the much-loved Lightning Tree. (See here). It was there that I first had an experience of ‘it’ and was able to put a name to ‘it’.

But, I’m still in town, still in the city, still in London, and won’t be back in Capel Curig for at least another few days. And yet….deep in my spirit there’s a restlessness. There are several places where I’ve experienced Nwyfre (pronounced ‘noo-iv ruh’) , and one of those it when in the presence of that Lightning Tree.

Yes, that ‘it’ was, and is, Nwyfre.

Nwyfre, isn’t life, but is Life! It is the activating, animating, creative force that flows through nature. Traditionally, and literally, it has to do with the wind and the sky. If you can imagine fast flowing, light clouds, low in the sky, say, or the wind ‘howling’ of the tops of trees, then that’s evidence of Nwyfre. But, it’s more than just an atmospheric phenomenon – to those with deep awareness, insight, enlightenment, to those who are poets and those who might have a ‘romantic’ inclination, it’s more.

There is always more.

‘Time and attention are the most precious gifts we can give.’ Rob Liano

Nwyfre, at its deepest and most profound, and I would say its most real level, is: Spirit, and the connectedness of everything because of Spirit, and the flow of energy (love etc) between everything. And, rather than an ‘it’, Nwyfre is personal (and can be referred to as ‘he or she’, and preferably as ‘he and she’ (such is the cumbersome limitations of out language). Nwyfre is the Welsh name known to the Welsh, ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, and others. Nwyfre is known by other names by different ‘tribes’, and perhaps the most well-known (locally, and to Christians) is that Nwyfre is referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, also known as the Counsellor, Intercessor, Revealer, Teacher, Spirit of Life).

And so, feeling a fair amount of ennui last evening, I went for a walk along the banks of the River Thames in the heart of London. It was late and the air was now cold, very cold, and the wind was howling over the rooftops of nearby high-rise buildings, making a wailing sound like some kind of invisible bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’). Oh, the wind moaned a deep, mournful, relentless groan.

I felt small in comparison to the power of the wind that raced across city rooftops and shook the trees. I felt separated, as something of a different order altogether to that barometric pressure that moved noisily, and yet invisibly, nearby. And yet, I felt connected, contentment, a oneness. That’s Nwyfre!

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with… the Spirit.’ John 3:8a, The Book

Gazing at the river, only dimly lit by street-lighting, I breathed in – air. Nwyfre! The same wind that blew high above me, that howled across the rooftops, that had come from unknown parts in its journey to who knows where, was now in my lungs and coursing through my veins. I ‘discovered’ that I am no longer separate because of Nwyfre! That which was outside, is inside me. And as I exhale, that which was inside me is now outside. We are encompassed by Nwyfre. Cocooned. Connected. Congruent.

‘The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.’ Carl Sagan

Walking now, to keep warm – it seemed colder than ever, and the fog was moving in – I ‘discovered’ also that I no longer felt that small. Nwyfre! Not separated, not small, but deep in my soul I knew that we are all connected. Connected and powerful. Our status is such that we have great power and great opportunities to do good.

I experienced that at Y goeden mellt’, the Lightning Tree in Wales on many occasions when surrounded by that deep forest, and in solitude; and now in the heart of London – surrounded by ‘mountains’ of bricks and mortar, and ‘trees’ of ‘street furniture (is what the Council call lampposts, traffic signs etc), and in a ‘forest’ of eight million souls  – I experienced Nwyfre once more.

I ‘discovered’ a third fact. And this one that affects you, wherever you are. You too, can experienced that connectedness of Nwyfre. In thinking of spiritual experiences many think of out-of-the-way and difficult places to visit, but that doesn’t have to be only that way. Where you are, right now, is as special, and as sacred, and as holy as Y goeden mellt, and so is every place, too.

‘Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.’– Margaret J Wheatley

In the heart of London I experienced the connectedness of Nwyfre, and wherever you are, you can too. Ofcourse, if our minds are too busy, or if we’re distracted, then we’ll miss the invitation of Nwyfre. It seems we have a choice. Nwyfre, metaphorically, opens the door, issues an invitation with a ‘silent call’, as deep calls to deep, but we must walk through that door (or not).

‘When you make a choice, you change the future.’ Deepak Chopra

It was now bitterly cold, and as I headed home – about a four minute walk from where I was at that point, I looked at the lights in those high-rise apartments, the glow of tv screens ‘playing’ on curtains and the apartments’ ceilings, and the general busyness of the metropolis, and felt saddened that unwittingly some had made a choice, and had missed the opportunity of encountering Nwyfre. And, the really sad thing is that they never even knew that they had already made a choice to not walk through that metaphorical door.

‘When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.’ William James.

The abovementioned was written two years ago, and has been slightly amended/adapted, and is still relevant, and contains some truth, I believe, and also it’s relevant because I am back in London for a while, it has got decidedly cold over the last few days and for the first time this year (post summer) river-hugging fog has appeared and has rolled into surrounding streets, and it enshrouds everything, and it is wonderful to see, so otherworldly, and arresting. Pause for deep thoughts.

‘You can’t outwit fate by standing on the sidelines placing little side bets about the outcome of life… if you don’t play you can’t win.’ Judith McNaught

Nwyfre is ubiquitous. And, there’s even more…Nwyfre is inviting you.

 

All About Mistletoe: Meaning, Myth & ‘Magic’

20181124 ALL ABOUT MISTLETOE

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

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

It is a most wonderful shrub.

Botanical View: Science & Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mythological & Historical View: Ah, Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Today: You & Me

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

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

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

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

So, what to do today?

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, many blessings to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

Full Moon: Poem: Thy beauty makes me like the child.

20181121 FULL MOON THY BEAUTY MAKES ME LIKE A CHILD

Ah, the winter nights are drawing in, and evening descends earlier and earlier (in the northern hemisphere). At last, in London and elsewhere in the UK the temperature is dropping to the seasonal norm, and I love it. It, at least feels natural, as the warm weather is now ‘shelved’ by nature and current daytime temperatures reach about the same as the interior of my fridge. Oh, I hope it snows!

With the earlier nights, colder temperatures and crisper air, comes the delight of clearer skies to overserve those wonderful winter stars (such as the constellation Orion, one of my favourites), and the moon.

‘Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.’ Dale Evans

This time of year is a liminal time, and an air of ‘magic’ can pervade our life if we but let it. Christmas and the Winter Solstice draw near, and doesn’t our spirit, deep within, dance as we think about truly celebrating that time? And sitting at the beginning of the Celtic advent is a forthcoming full moon.

Some time ago I wrote a poem about the full moon. You know I love full moons, and so this poem could possibly be recited or meditated upon by you at the time of the impending full moon – Friday, 23 November 2018. The poem ‘sits’ roughly within the style of  ‘found poetry’.

Here’s my poem:

Above the tower – a lone, twice-sized moon
breaks upon the city’s domes.
‘Art thou pale for weariness of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
dreaming serenely up the sky?’

Slipping softly through the sky,
pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon,
so tremulously like a dream,
to keep me company.
Thy beauty makes me like the child.

Thou silver deity of secret night,
yours is the light by which my spirit’s born.
She’s the mistress of the night, and
all love to be out by the light of the moon.
It mesmerizes lovers and dreamers.
A ghostly bridge ’twixt heaven and me.

‘Found poetry’ according to Wikipedia ‘is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.’

The abovementioned poem uses ‘borrowed’ and adapted phrases from: Dylan Thomas, Sara Teasdale, William Henry Davies Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Louis Stevenson, Linda Ori, Siegfried Sassoon and others.

I hope you enjoy it. Many blessings, Tadhg.

Ephemera: Full Moon: The Dark Moon, Meaning & More

20181120 EPHEMERA FULL MOON DARK MOON 23 NOVEMBER 2018

’The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.’ Jean Ingelow

I love full moons. I know many like the energy and vibrancy of the new moon, but for me it’s the full moon in its radiant glory and power, that charming smile that gazes down upon us all, and the brilliant energy that beams in the darkened sky, that makes me pause in wonderment.

And, the next full moon in November takes place in the early hours of Friday, 23 November 2018 (at 5.39am using UK times), though it will appear full the evening before and later that day.

It will be in the constellation of Taurus, and a couple of days later it will be sitting only 1.5 degrees from Aldebaran, that bright reddish star that marks one eye in the triangular face of Taurus the bull.

To some Celts and Druids (and that includes me) this was, and is known as the Dark Moon. To others it is known as the Tree Moon, the Beaver Moon and the Hunter’s Moon. In medieval England it was known as the Snow Moon.

‘And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.’ Hafiz

The Moon has, in some quarters, had bad press over the years, and infact even from ancient times myths and ‘magic’ have abounded about the moon and its relevancy and effects upon humankind. Here’s four interesting ‘facts’:

One: The Roman goddess of the moon was Luna, and it’s from her name that we get the terms lunacy and lunatic, an ancient belief that the moon was responsible for causing madness – something which we carry over into our modern day language.

It was also thought that sleeping in the light of a full moon could make a women pregnant, and the full moon was when werewolves turned from their human form into their lycanthrope stage, and the latter, ofcourse, is a well-loved theme of Hollywood.

’When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained… Psalm 8:3. The Book

If all of this makes you fearful of the full moon, then the term you need to know is: selenophobia.

Two: There is evidence, as we know, that the moon was very important to the ancient Celts and Druids. The Welsh goddess Arianrhod is viewed by many as being a lunar deity. It is thought that her name means ‘silver wheel’ – an obvious reference to the moon as it speeds wonderfully across the sky. Cerridwen is another possible Welsh deity with lunar connections. Her name means, ‘bent white one’ and this, too, is likely to be a reference to the crescent moon as it hangs in the sky.

’The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.’ Ming-Dao Deng

Three: The Earth’s oceans are massive, and yet the moon exerts a twice-daily gravitational surge on them: even over the size of relatively smaller bodies of water such as the Great Lakes of the USA, this tidal effect can be measured in inches. Scale that down even further to human size and the effect is minuscule, but theories abound that, for example, the Moon’s gravitational influence on the water in our brains can cause us to be affected by the moon in some way. Unlikely, but you never know!

’We are going to the moon that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself.’ Anais Nin

Four: Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon where the brain tries to make recognisable shapes where none exist – the face we see looking at us from the moon could be said to be an example. Just a ‘trick’ of the mind, pareidolia, or maybe something more?

Talmudic tradition says that the image of Jacob is engraved on the moon, and ancient Chinese tradition says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chango’e has been living on the Moon for 4,000 years. It is said she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband and consumed a double dose of it. She is also accompanied by a small group of ‘moon rabbits’ that live on the Moon, an image that human mind has perceived through the centuries, in the face of the Moon.

‘When the storm is over and night falls and the moon is out in all its glory and all you’re left with is the rhythm of the sea, of the waves, you know what God intended for the human race, you know what paradise is.’ Harold Pinter

Celebration: So, this full moon – as the Circle of the Year moves ever onwards, as seasons change– whatever our belief, it’s time to give thanks to the ‘silvery face’ that smiles down upon each one of us, regardless of our circumstances, and time to give thanks to the One who is behind it and sustains it for our benefit.

Why not Light a candle this full moon and spend a few minutes meditating upon it, or walk in the moonlight (and perhaps see your moon-shadow) and bask in its light, or raise a glass of wine (or fruit juice) in its honour, or say a silent prayer to the Moon-Maker.

O Divine Presence
Bless to me the lustre of your signs and wonders,
traces of our final home in land and sea and sky.
As you have made the mark of heaven in a human face,
may I see your imprint of your family likeness in every living* thing
that your blessing may radiate
each day and each night,
until heaven and earth are one.

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year. Tess Ward)

* [My preference, being an animist, is to say ‘every created thing’]

Do pause in your busy schedule and just gaze upward to the moon (or where it may be, if cloudy). My encouragement would be to do something, however simple, however brief, to celebrate this most wonderful full moon, and be thankful.

Blessings to you and yours at this time of the Dark Moon, Tadhg

 

[Many thanks to Pennie Ley for the use of the moon ‘header’ photo above. Copyrighted]

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

20181117 ALL ABOUT IVY MEANING MYTH AND MAGIC

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

(Charles Dickens)

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

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

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

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

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

(Charles Dickens)

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

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

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

(William Cowper)

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

But, there’s more.

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

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

(Danu Forest)

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

But, there’s even more.

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

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

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

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

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

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

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

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

(Miranda July)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Charles Dickens)

Table Talk: One Day In November. [Elementals/Angels, Life, Quantum Physics, Dogs’ Souls & More]

20181114 TABLE TALK ONE DAY IN NOVEMBER

Have you ever thought about ritual and the need to go to certain locations, ever wondered about quantum physics, whether dogs have souls and other gnawing questions? Seven people did!

It had been a couple of months, but a few of us met earlier today in a local café, and as we ate croissants or pain au chocolat, and imbibed various types of coffee with seasonal syrups we sat back and talked about those lofty themes. We all aired our views, asked our question, all learned something from each other, and laughed a lot. It was a great time of deep and meaningful fellowship.

‘Learning life’s lessons is not about making your life perfect, but about seeing life as it was meant to be’. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

There was no set agenda, and what follows is a record of our ‘table talk’, albeit a brief outline of what followed.

Someone asked: So, is it important to go to specific places to perform a ritual?

Tadhg replied: Ah, the answer is no and yes. But I don’t think you would be happy with me if I left the answer just there.

In one sense, it isn’t important to go to a specific place to perform a ritual, because you could perform it, as a group or by yourself, anywhere, even in your house.

On many occasions I’ve used the caim and other ritual, and used visualisation with it, using my imagination to imagine being at that place in my mind. If intentionality is important, and it is, then a ritual in a substitute place, will suffice and be effective. So, if sending light and love to an area in need or of concern to you, to say, Chengdu in China, or to California, USA, or Jaipur in India, one doesn’t need to visit. A ritual, time set aside, somewhere else,  with time to visualise and imagine deeply is just as effective.

‘Ritual is able to hold the long-discarded shards of our stories and make them whole again. It has the strength and elasticity to contain what we cannot contain on our own, what we cannot face in solitude.’ Francis Weller

Having said that, there are times when it may be good to go to specific places, physically. For instances, I’ve been invited to a wedding, and to support the bride and groom I will attend, physically. And, it would be bad banners to stay away.  Other Druidic and Christian, and other faith celebrations do sometimes mean physical attendance is needed to show support, to give ‘out’ to others, and to ‘receive’ from them. For the benefit of others.

I went to Maen Lli in Wales to perform an Earth-Healing ritual, and in that case, I felt it necessary to actually go there to do that ritual, in part because it would mean something even deeper to me (or to others looking on). It was a kind of pilgrimage. So, it was mainly for my benefit in that case. But, being there, on that occasion, meant so much more.

Someone asked: So, what then are the important ‘ingredients’ to ritual, at the essential and deepest level?

Tadhg replied: Two major ‘ingredients’ are intentionality and sincerity, and those attributes I do believe, can change things.

In the strange, infinitesimally-small world of quantum physics/mechanics it is scientifically accepted that matter, at its deepest level, acts differently when it is observed by humans compared to when unobserved. The Universe changes the outcome depending on human input. Also, Carl Jung talked about the collective unconscious and the way it affects humankind, and perhaps in some way we are adding or changing this in some way by ritual at the deepest level.

‘If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.’ Attributed to Richard Feynman

I think it is not too great a step to imagine a changed outcome when ritual (done with intentionality and sincerity) is employed. Ofcourse, the outcome may be subtle, it may be delayed or work its way out in a way that we cannot perceive, but I do believe ritual (prayer etc) changes things.

Someone asked: Each of us sitting around this believe different things – some minor difference and some major. How do you reconcile this?

Tadhg replied: It could be that we’re closer to a unity of belief than we thought. For instance, which one of us holds the same kind of belief that we held, say, ten years ago?

I hope there has been some change because that denotes growth and a maturing. Anything else means no growth! So, our commonality is that we’re all on a journey the same journey, experienced in different ways. And, maybe we’re all at differing stages of development? And, that’s the area for fundamental comparison. It’s good to discuss with others their belief and ours, as in part, that’s how we grow together, if done in love – but if we discuss our individual changes and growth then we understand each other and the Universe a bit more than we would otherwise have done. Then, our task could be to build each other up, further, along our chosen paths.

’In essentials, unity; in differences, liberty; in all things, charity.’ Philipp Melanchthon

Also, where we have differences maybe they could be because of different words used, or seen as different metaphors of the same thing? You might see an angel, I might see an elemental, others might see a ghost? Who is to say what is more accurate?

What we can say is that each of us saw something awesome, unusual and other-worldly.

I might talk of the soul, others might use the term psyche, and yet others might use the word ‘atman’. A Jewish person talking of God’s bounty might refer to the miracle of manna and quail in the desert, whereas a Christian might refer to the first miracle at Cana – the changing of water into wine by Jesus. Others might tell the story of Brighid changing bathwater to beer to quench the thirst of weary travellers. All declare the provision of the Source of All.

‘The longer we listen to one another – with real attention – the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.’ Barbara Deming

We have more in common, and a closer affinity to each when we understand our fundamental beliefs, than we can at first imagine.

Someone asked: Do animals have souls?

Tadhg replied: That’s an interesting question. You will find a huge amount of research on this. Many mainline Christian denominations and many Jewish groups, and others, are adamant that only humankind have souls.

Rabbi Moses Cordovero,  a leading mystic in 16th-century, recognised that animals do have some kind of spiritual energy, which he calls nefesh heyuni, but his view was that it was not a soul in the conventional sense. Once the animal dies, nothing survives.

‘A Druid is likely, then, to acknowledge a tree, river or stone to have spirit, or soul, or consciousness. This consciousness is as different from human consciousness as a stone’s nature is different from human nature.’ Druid Network

However, Plato on the other hand believed that animals and plants possess souls, and he’s quite convincing, as were some of the saints of old.

It’s noteworthy that St Francis Paola called his pet animals by their names even after their earthly lives had ended. He apparently believed they continued to exist after their deaths. And let’s not forget St Francis of Assisi who preached to animals and creation for a reason. Why preach to them if they have no soul?

‘That is why such a person never ceases to pray also for the animals… that they may be preserved and purified’. St Isaac.

I am convinced that all animals, plants, indeed all of creation possess a soul and continue on – they live, they die or change and continue on, made new; and that’s part of my Druidic Christian (or Christo-Druid) belief.  I have no misgivings in blessing animals or any part of nature, or organising a ritual for animals’ healing etc, and have done so in the past, and infact I consider it a joy to do so.

‘And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Revelation 21.5a, The Book.

Someone asked: Earlier you mentioned ritual, and visualisation, but what about actions, what about action or work. Aren’t they necessary.

Tadhg replied: Another good question. Once you’ve experienced a ritual, or visualised or made a prayer request, there is usually a need to ‘do’ something allied to the ritual, visualisation or prayer.

If for instance I am concerned about the plight of those caught in the California fires and who need shelter, after a ritual, visualisation or prayer for them I might be led to ‘do’ something. Now that could be something connected with that situation and might involve sending money to the American Red Cross, but it could be something loosely connected with it, such as planting a tree (or sending money to a tree-growing charity) so that each time you look at, or think of, that tree you’ll remember those caught in the California fires.

‘You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons… When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.’ Kahlil Gibran

So, action or work may be needed, but it need only be loosely connected with what the ritual, visualisation or prayer was about, and it can be a token action and something achieved within minutes. Don’t ever feel you need do so much that is becomes a burden and troublesome. You may not be called or able to resolve the issue. Small efforts can reap huge benefits.

Conclusion: Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends in that café. Do stay in touch, do sign up to receive notifications of future articles. Also, the thought occurred to me to have ‘open’ or limited-number café events in London so that you might be able to savour the experience of ‘table talk’ if in/near to London?

Would you believe this is the 500th article I’ve written. Thank you for reading this, and for being loyal and reading my previous articles. Do stay in touch, even if it’s to say ‘hello’.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

The Work Of Re-Membering In An Age Of Forgetfulness

20181112THE WORK OF RE-MEMBERING

There are many stories that I can recall and will tell over the months ahead, as I have been doing, tales from my childhood of some meaning, stories told to me by my grandmother, stories that you might like to hear, but there are some stories I cannot tell.

Will you remember me
like the circled stones,
like the secret hills,
where you walk alone,
where the wind can speak ,
my other names,
like the air you breathe.
Will you remember me?

Roseanne Cash (Singer, and eldest daughter of the late, great, country musician Johnny Cash)

It’s not that I want to keep them to myself, but those are the stories where I only have a partial recollection. If I told them it would be like telling a joke to a friend but forgetting the punchline. Then, the reason for telling that joke, or for me telling that story to you will fail miserably because of insufficient data.

‘Apathy takes root when I refuse to remember that which I can ill-afford to forget.’ Craig D Lounsbrough

My memory, then, for those stories is faulty. I can only think of bits and pieces. Fragmentary. I cannot remember them in total.

The opposite to remember or re-member isn’t to forget, it is to ‘dis-member’. Those fragmentary pieces of story-data mean the story is dis-membered, and it’s in pieces, and cannot fulfil what it was originally designed to do.

Yes, the opposite to re-member is dis-member.

To dwell initially on the word ‘dismember’ is an interesting place to start. We all have an inkling of a dismembered relationship: the relationship that, in many ways, is in tatters between humankind and nature, between nation states, within nation states, between family and friends, and even within our own psyche. It is, some would say, sadly, ‘the human condition’. This is not to be overly negative, but it is what it is to be human (and being human is good), and it isn’t always the over-riding way things are.

‘I remember you-ooh
You’re the one who made my dreams come true,
A few kisses ago.

Frank Ifield (released in 1963, and I can remember it!)

If we forget our stewardship to nature, nature will be torn apart (or dismembered). If we forget our duty to one another we will disrespect others (and see them as ‘less’ than us). And, if we forget who we are, we will have a low opinion of ourselves and trouble may ensue as regards what we think, say about, and do to ourselves. Doesn’t much of advertising dwell on this today – you’re better if you buy our product, ‘this is the best a man can get’ etc. All examples of dis-membering.

But, the opposite to dis-member is to re-member.

To re-member, is to ‘repair’ that which is torn apart, broken, or dismembered. It is a putting back together again, to make whole. Remembering needs to take place, and taken to heart.

About two weeks ago I was in a wooded area of Plymouth attending a wonderful Samhain ritual. It was a time of remembering. In an age where many have forgotten about those that have ‘gone ahead’, our ancestors; when many have forgotten about the bounty of nature and the changing seasons; and when many have forgotten about That Which Is Bigger Than Us, a group of passionate and caring people, held a ceremony to re-member! Effectively they stood in a fragmented society, and in liminal space, a ‘thin place’, lived up to their calling of the work of re-membering that which was dis-membered.

‘The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living’. Marcus Tullius Cicero

Today (11 November 2018) is Rembrance Day in the UK and in Commonwealth nations, when many remember the time of the end of the Great War and all those that gave their lives in that, and subsequent conflicts. Some know it as Armistice Day. This article isn’t about those who sacrificed their lives in the defence of freedom, laudable though it is, and it is interesting to note that at his speech today the French President warned of the rise in nationalism and its dire consequences if we don’t remember, as a self-declared nationalist, who had forgotten the horrors of nationalism sat within earshot. If we don’t re-member the past, we will dis-member the present.

‘Man is a messenger who forgot the message’. Abraham Joshua Heschel

Today, we re-membered.

This evening, I was at a small church, that had a deeply-moving communion service. At one point Scripture was recited. It was that part I especially like – the anamnesis, a kind of -reliving the moment as if transported ‘there’ – when the words, ‘Remember this…’ were spoken. Though we are many, we are essentially one, though seemingly dis-membered, in that act of receiving bread and wine together, and taking it to heart, in a deeply spiritual and effective way, we were re-membered. Re-joined. Made whole.

A couple of years back I had a ‘stall’ at the London area Festival Of Mind, Body and Spirit, and so too the year before, when I had met Samantha who was visiting and was/is a very spiritual author, and a good one at that. I saw her last year and as she came up to the ‘stall’, I greeted her by name. ‘Hello, Samantha, it’s really is good to see you again’, I said. ‘Ah, you remembered me!’, she said and smiled.

Re-membering is required, and when we do remember people great things happen. Friendships start. Parts of a relationship are put back together. The member parts become one!

If we forget about nature, we dismember it, and one of the consequences of that is global warming. If we re-member nature, good things can and do take place. If we forget about people we effectively dis-member them or any relationship we had. But, if we re-member people then the potential is there for a thriving relationship. If we forget about ourselves and who we really are, then we dis-member ourselves and don’t function as we should. But if we re-member who we are – remember our Source-given status and calling – then we function as we should.

‘For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost’. Frederick Buechner

One of the reasons I am a self-declared Christo-Druid or is it a Druidic-Christian is that both ‘camps’ remember, or, when they take it to heart, they re-member’.

In any religion or belief system it is easy to operate at the surface-level, and doesn’t the world like that? It might be Winter Solstice or Christmas Day, but if I only go for the ‘externals’ then I miss the true meaning of it. Much better to go for the externals (so I’m not against giving gifts) and take to heart the deep and real meaning, or re-member it. Not just remember it, but re-member it: put the whole thing together as one and not just consider the parts of the festival I might like.

And, it is for that reason that I like it when people join small groups, groves, thriving churches and other groups, and are passionate about what they believe, because in a fragmented society they will  have a positive effect, because they are doing the valuable work of re-membering. That’s their calling, its our calling, isn’t it?

‘Remember your connection with the cosmos. Remember your connection with the infinity and that remembrance will give you the freedom.’  Amit Ray,

All About Holly: Now The Holly Bears A Berry…

20181109 ALL ABOUT HOLLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was she asking permission?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the holly bears a berry
as red as the blood

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

Now the holly bears a berry
as black as the coal

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

Now the holly bears a berry
as white as the milk

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

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

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

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

 

Deep Calls To Deep: When The Caim Becomes Kything

20181107 WHEN THE CAIM BECOMES KYTHING

And so, they called to the Quarters. In a forested area, about thirty people, firstly, faced and addressed the east, then turned to face the south, then the west and then, finally, the north. Through ritual, through intentionality, a circle of power had been formed. A type of caim now existed.

’I live my life in growing orbits which move out over this wondrous world. I am circling around God, around ancient towers and I have been circling for a thousand years. And I still don’t know if I am an eagle or a storm or a great song.’ Rainer Maria Rilke

The circle is important. Within the circle of the caim there is power and potential: things happen. Sometimes the caim can be a physical circle in which a practical ritual takes place, usually for a group. On many occasions the caim can be used by just one person, and then the caim starts with a physical circle and then as one mediates one goes on an ‘inward’ voyage.

The caim has many uses, and have been the theme of previous articles. See here for one example.

And so, on this occasion of a solo event, I wanted to go ‘inward’ to bless someone in a special way. The way of blessing is many and varied, and usually there is no need for elaborate ritual, but on this occasion the decision the person in mind, a dear friend, was to make was so important to them that I felt I wanted to do a little more.

And so, the caim sprang to mind.

The caim can be a simple but powerful, and effective ‘circle’ ritual that moves one ‘inwardly’ to that inner sacred place, that place of communion, le pointe vierge – the virgin point, that which is at the centre of our being at a point of ‘nothingness’, untouched by illusion.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field, I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi

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

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

Once in that ‘inward’ meditative state, in my mind’s eye I visualised a protective ‘bubble’ around me, in a ‘sea’ of stars, unseen to others. The caim is a circle, but in three dimensions it can be viewed as a sphere, a ‘bubble’.

‘When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.’ Matthew 6:6, The Book

In that secret place I imagined this friend as outside the caim ‘bubble’ I was in, and a short distance away. And then, as I looked in that direction, to my surprise, I imagined them to be in a similar ‘bubble’. Astounding. Could it be that at times when we intend to use the caim for others, that our spirit can communicate with their spirit, and at such times their spirit (unknown to them) is also embraced with a caim, a bubble, a ‘shield’ of power and potential for them (even if they are physically unawares)?

Not wishing to be distracted from sending power, light and love to assist this friend in their impending I wondered briefly. Usually, I wouldn’t let any other thoughts distract me at a time like that, but on this one occasion I did allow thoughts to flow.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the second world war. Seeing the horrors around him, he was sustained by the loving connection he felt between his wife and himself. Though physically separated by thousands of miles, he felt a close, spiritual connection. In that concentration camp he wrote:

‘As my friend and I stumbled on for mile, slipping on icy sports, supporting each other time and time again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise’. Viktor Frankl

In that caim I saw my dear friend though many miles away, in that imaginal realm, which some may believe to be real, whilst others may believe it is unreal. I believe the former. And, my friend, too, inhabited a caim, a circle. Viktor Frankl’s experience was indeed a spirit-to-spirit presence, and I do believe that the caim can, in some cases, also be used in such a way – for spirit-to spirit encounters of the imaginal kind.

Have you ever been in someone’s company and come away knowing more about them than what they have just spoken about?

Have you felt that you have got close to someone, closer that just words have permitted, but at a soulish or spiritual level?

And, have you had the experience where you may have met someone for the first time, or perhaps have known them for some time, and just knew that words were not needed, and just basked in a knowing silence?

These are examples of the kind of encounter I’m referring to. A spirit-to-spirit, deep calls to deep, encounter. Kything?

Roger Gerard calls this kything. Kything, then, is like spiritual intuition involving another person. It is a going beyond being present to their body, emotions, mind, to something altogether deeper, more mysterious and fundamental. When you kythe you are in touch with the spirit or soul of another. Some may say this encounter is very real, others would say it is metaphorical. I believe the former. But in any case, if it is metaphorical and viewed as not real in substance , and we view the encounter as a prayer or well-wishes etc, isn’t intentionality the all-important factor here? If so, in either case is it is acceptable, and still worthwhile, and remains a powerful strategy.

Later, I continued with the caim and sent energy, light, love, power, and prayer to that person in need, seeing them in my imagination, and in a new and vital way because of this caim event.

But after coming back to physical space (but do we ever leave that sacred space/time?) and ‘grounding’ myself, and opening my eyes, I couldn’t but help think further about kything and its benefits to you and I, and will write on it further, soon.

‘With kything, you may also work through forgiveness for a past offence even I that person is no longer physically accessible, either because of…distance…or refusal to meet.’ Louis M Savary and Patricia H Berne