Time And The Realm(s) Beyond: A Celtic/Druidic View Of Conflation

time a conflation

It’s January and I’m back at Capel Curig, north Wales, where my late grandmother’s cottage is situated. When I left the cottage the sun was just going down. Now it’s twilight, that ‘magical’ time when anything can happen. I’m walking deep into the forest, here.

We live in a world governed by time. To get to work, meet a family member, even to go shopping we schedule and mark such events by time, and see it as consecutive and linear. That idea seems to suit the way we perceive time for out twentieth century events. Time seems to ‘fit’ well around our human-centric activities.

A few minutes later, as I look up I see the wispy, crepuscular clouds, high above me, just losing their sunlit glow. And, then darkness closes in, fast, and the forest trees around me lose their three-dimensional setting, and ‘distance’ seems to be no more, as trees just look like dark brown paper cut-outs, ‘flat’ in the near distance.

Some may be thinking that it isn’t our activities that shape our view of time, but that time shapes us and affects us, but we’re not aware of it.

Current view: time is ever-advancing, continual and consecutive.

There was once an idea in astronomy that time continued in a straight, ever-advancing fashion until the expanding universe reached the point where it could expand no more, and then it would contract. At that moment, time itself would start to go in reverse (but anyone experiencing that reversal wouldn’t be aware of it). If that was happening now, you and I wouldn’t be aware of it. It would appear normal. Affected by ‘backward-running’ time, but unaware.

Current view: the sequence of events, linear time-wise, is necessary to tell a story or record events. Many admit that as things seems to repeat themselves that time is circular and not linear. Perhaps, it’s both. Things do seem to repeat themselves, but as the weeks and years advance, they do so with minor variations. Perhaps, it is both, and that time is, infact, the shape of a ‘slinky’ toy.

Walking on for half an hour or so I’m at an area where, as children, my friends and I played. Even now this place, Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) as we called it provokes fond memories and a current air of mystery. Drws i fyd arall was our childhood name for two ‘fused’ and arching trees in this clearing – Drws i fyd arall means ‘door to another world’ and was so named as our childhood imaginations ran riot. Was it just our imaginations that gave these trees their name, or was it these trees and this ‘magical’ area that ‘spoke’ to us and prompted us to describe it so?

Playing as a child with my friends here, happened some fifty-five years ago, but it doesn’t seem as though time has moved on. Logical, scientifically and empirically time has moved on, though. Experientially, and now as I stand before these two trees, my feeling, my intuition tells me otherwise. I believe the ancients, those Celts, Druids, Pagans and others would have held the latter, experiential, timeless view.

The ancient Greeks had two main terms for time: chronos and kairos. To them, Chronos was quantitative, and was time that measured hours and minutes. Think, ‘tick tock’. Their other word for time, kairos. Kairos is time, but it is qualitative. Think, ‘timely opportunity’.

At Drws i fyd arall was I experiencing both chronos and kairos, but ‘majoring’ and receptive to Kairos? There is part of me that baulks at the idea of describing peak experiences in that way, especially as I’m not a dualist, but a unitive thinker, and especially as those divisions are born out of ‘scientific’ thinking without trying to perceive things from those other time-less realms.

At Drws i fyd arall those distinctions didn’t matter. Me, and you if you were here, like our Celtic, Druid, and Pagan ancestors would, I think, have been immersed in the moment – having entered sacred space/sacred time. Outside of strict definitions of chrono or Kairos.

I sat down, looking at the two trees arching over, and in the almost-complete darkness, my eyelids beginning to half-close and it seemed the darkness began to play tricks, as I saw sparks and strands of light, flashes, that appeared and disappeared. One moment, there (and perhaps in my mind’s eye) was a scene of me with my friends when we were all about six years old (including sound), then another scene appeared of me as an older teenager, and then another set of images appeared, as if in front of me, of my friends and I aged about ten (when one of them fell out of a tree). And, so it went on. Seemingly, time-disjointed events, apparently  at random.

It was a few weeks later, recounting this incident, that I realised that if the author of these images were fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, then they may not teach in out twentieth century, linear, way. Why should they? They inhabit different realms, have different priorities, and perceive time in a different way.

Not all cultures in the world write from left to right, not all the books in the Hebrew part of the Book are in chronological order (but are in order of size), and some cultures never used the zero in maths or counted in base ten numerals (as some got to 8, and that was it. Our nine would be written as 11). Why then, should those we encounter from other realms not communicate and do things differently.

The three main scenes that appeared before me, upon reflection, seemed to be a group of my very young friends and I playing together, wonderfully oblivious to anything around us, but in community. The second scene showed me, alone, deep in thought and appreciating nature, and appreciating actions and consequences. The final scene was back, nearer in time to the first scene (but a few years on) and showed my friends concern (and mine) for a friends who had falled from a tree, and being concerned about him, and being concerned about the tree (though I suspect it was a concern that a branch we used to swing from was unusable now).

As an adult, if I re-arranged those scenes into chronological order then it would appear as disjointed stories, just lovely memories, and nothing more. In keeping the scenes in the way they were presented – ‘crazy timing’ from our point of view – they did, indeed, made sense, and delivered a ‘message’. Perhaps, something like this: initially we all might have be concerned about our group, ourselves or our community, and only look to our own group interests. Then we grow and look outward to the needs of others. And, third, the scene showed a ‘marrying’ together of community, outward concern and maturity, and bringing the two into harmony: perfect balance.

I left that clearing, somewhat confused then, but ‘unpacked’ the images and sequences, and they made sense – an otherworldly, ‘differently-timed’ sequence of events, but they contained a deep and profound meaning, all the more potent because I had to strip away twentieth linear-time understanding, and surrender to the moment.

Could it be, that for the author of these images, fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, time is perceived, as they communicate to us, in order of importance rather than chronological order? I think so. It’s for the same reason that dreams seem odd in that they usually don’t follow  sequential time, from our point of view, but appear random – or, perhaps are cast that way so that an overall message is conveyed rather than just a memory of events, as one might see on a holiday. The latter being great memories but rarely containing a profound meaning of other-worldly important. Time, then for them, would be conflated.

Jarod Kintz wrote: I had a dream about you. We were racing to be the slowest person on earth. You were winning which meant you were losing. You were gloating because you were a winner and I was taunting because you were a loser.

It is one thing to accept this conflation of other-worldly time and see it as different to linear time, it is another thing to, sometimes, to surrender to it and experience. There are sometimes, when the encounter is so ‘abrupt’ that we’re living that ‘nowness’ of time as we experience numinous events even before our cerebral faculties are aware (and that brings us back to dream encounters, where much of our logical cerebral brain cells are ‘asleep’).

In closing, I’ve learned to accept what these peak experiences give us, in the order they produce the event, as the sequence is as important as the contents, and may indeed, contain greater truths they want to convey. Think of those movies, where, after just a few minutes into the action, a subtitle appears and says something like ‘Fifteen years earlier’. Yes, the story is important, but the sequence – even if not following chronological order – adds to the message being conveyed. What do you think?

 

The Time Of Presence, Or A Permissible Walk In London: A Poem

THE TIME OF PRESENCE

It’s dark, it’s half past ten, right now
and around me shadows grow.
The city lampposts, try to cast their light.
Beaming radiant hope far into the night.
And, eight million people wonder what’s going on,
But no one knows.
This is the time of lockdown.

And yet we’re not alone, my friend
this is far from being the end.
In these strange days that we find ourselves in.
Elementals from above, descend,
and invisibly move amongst us,
so unknown, so quietly.
This is the time of new beginnings.

And so I walk fast, on and on,
past peopled houses in the night.
With our new time of self-isolation,
sweeping all across the nation.
There is one message we must never forget,
Forget, never.
This is the time, we’re together.

 

[With apologies to Simon & Garfunkel]

 

 

The Peace Of Wild Things: An Encounter In Thetford Forest

20191013 THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS AN ENCOUNTER THETFORD FOREST

I’m in the depths of Thetford Forest. Some distance behind me is the hustle and bustle of a myriad of people near the visitors centre, using the café, experiencing zip lining or bbq’ing. But for those willing to venture away from the ‘near wild’, the voices in the forest call out.

 ’Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth… they preach… the ancient law of life’

As I pick my way through the damp forest – yes, although the rain is light it has been, and still is relentless – I am surrounded by wonderfully tall, sky-hugging lowland pine trees, some less than two feet apart from its neighbours. The sun is still high in the sky, but it’s shrouded by the trees, and so I’m walking in a twilight state, and so am being careful with face-high branches and twigs as I weave left and right.

The going isn’t that easy. The mud sucks ones boots down and makes walking laborious, and moss, like a green carpet, underfoot and dead, wet leaves give an alternative challenge, that of accelerated locomotion just when you didn’t expect it. Sometimes, my ambling though dense forest alternates between ‘clod-hopping’ and sliding all over the place. Not a pretty sight, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought. I am life from eternal life’

The forest is alive. Even in mid-October animals scurry this way and that in the undergrowth, birds fly overhead, and there’s that wonderful pine, tree, somewhat dank undergrowth smell that is fascinating, distinctive and refreshing. I can’t resist but to frequently, look around, inhale deeply, and find some excuse to sit on a fallen tree. Yes, I know it’s wet, but I’m ‘armed’ and wearing a waterproof kagoule and waterproof trousers. It’s bliss. There is no such thing as bad weather: just inappropriate clothing.

And there, standing in the distance, obscured by undergrowth until I move closer, is Venus. The artist will tell you that this is a human-height sculpture placed in the forest to show off the skills of human ingenuity. The ecologist would encourage you to note the sculptures  ‘skin’ of forest colours, to denote life, and in this case to promote the idea of nature-appreciation, reforestation and more. But there’s more.

The forest is alive. And just as a bird might make a nest, a beaver make a dam, and a Fox make a lair, and  we would call it natural, so too, these sculptures evoke a deep spirituality that is, perhaps, natural for humankind. And so, it is fantastic to see the first sculpture of about ten.

It is almost as if the forest is pressing in to get a closer look at what humankind has done here, and it is a acceptable. Surrounded by elementals, dryads, some would say forest angels, there is a presence here, in the forest. And this sculpture ‘fits in’ perfectly.

 ‘A longing to wander tears  my heart when I hears trees rustling in the wind…’

And so I move on, exploring the forest. Something like a bright orange light, just for a split-second catches my attention to the right. I turn my head in that direction,  look intently, but… nothing. Nothing but dense trees and fern. A trick of the light? A reflection on the side of my glasses? Or the beckoning of a Guardian of the Forest? Whatever it was, it has got my interest and I move in that direction.

Ten minutes later I’m still walking and there in front of me are two more sculptures: David and Daphne.

‘When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me…Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent’

The two magnificent sculpture: David (as in, David and Goliath), and Daphne (who, and those who remember their Greek mythology will know, was turned into a Laurel tree, but Apollo made the tree into an evergreen tree thus conferring immortality upon her.

I sit here,  mesmerised at the two sculptures. Two thoughts  in my mind: David faced his monster and prevailed. Daphne succumbed and gave her life, and yet even then became immortal. Who says the forest cannot teach us anything? I may not have heard an audible voice as I sat on a wet log, but I do believe an elemental, a dryad, a fay, or an angel whispered into my  ears words too deep to hear as sound, but penetrating deep within the labyrinthine ‘corridors’ of the brain, where mind, body and spirit meld. Of course, you would expect me to say that: I’m an animist.

I spent another couple of hours moving through the dense undergrowth and tall trees, and encountered all the sculptures carefully placed throughout the forest, some ‘hidden’ so that only the most adventurous would find them, and reap the reward of encountering these Guardians of the Forest. As above, so below.

And then I headed back to the visitors centre, still with the hustle and bustle of many people enjoying the fruits and pleasures of ‘near wild’. I’m now sitting at a picnic table and am gazing back the way I had walked. Two hundred feet away from me, the ‘manicured’ grass gives way to the dense trees and I look on longingly, and yet I’m completely happy and satisfied. Green joy unbounded. It was a wonderful experience – to forest-bathe, to amble in dense woodland, and to encounter sculptures that evoke the deep spiritual centres within, and to meet…. well, to have met forest entities, known and unknown.

’Whoever has learned to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness’.

 

(All indented quotes above are by Herman Hesse, and from his book Baume: Betrachtungen Und Gedichte)

Ritual & The Dream: An Encounter At Twilight

20190129 ritual and the dream

I hear your voice on the wind
And I hear you call out my name
“Listen, my child,” you say to me
“I am the voice of your history
Be not afraid, come follow me
Answer my call, and I’ll set you free”

Brendan Graham, and sung by Celtic Woman (see here)

Even with my eyes closing, I saw her. In a clearing in a forest at twilight, she was there, dressed in a long white flowing robe. It was quite dark but I was able to see more and more as my eyes slowly grew accustomed to the darkness.

There was no one else around, and yet I could sense somethings or some ‘people’ nearby. It was like the heaviness of air pressure due to an approaching storm, but there was no storm. Like the energetic cacophony of a room, ‘noise’ made up of many voices but without being able to distinguish any one voice. It was like the faint echo of something that had been said but was said no more. And yet, a presence or presences, invisibly persisted.

Even with my eyes closed, I saw her in my mind’s eye. She lit a small candle and placed it at her feet.

‘What is the purpose of ritual?,’ a kindly, deep Voice enquired from the forest around the clearing. Without hesitation she answered, ‘It is to wake up the ancient mind within each of us, and to weave the personal and communal in such a way as to relate the local to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves’. Silence filled the forest once more. As I looked on and listened, it seemed the Voice had been edified.

‘What is the origin of ritual?’, another Voice enquired from the forest, the voice ‘hidden’ amongst the trees. It sounded feminine, evoking beauty, patience and youth, and almost encapsulated a laugh, gaiety as words tripped toward the woman. The woman turned to face the area where the Voice seemed to come from. ‘Rituals arise from the land and its guardians, and enter the imagination of all people, though some are unaware. They reflect the totality of our lives: the terrain, animal and nature in all its glory, the weather, stories and myth, individual and communal wounds, and hope’, she said. Silence filled the forest for some minutes. The Voice seemed content with now knowing that truth.

I moved closer to observe the woman. As she spoke I noticed she moved her hands as if ‘signing’ similar to that used for the hearing impaired, indeed her whole body was in motion when she had spoken. I was intrigued.

‘What is the benefit of ritual?’, yet another Voice asked from another part of the clearing, sounding rather like a child’s Voice this time, and making several attempts to get the sentence out. It seemed that the owners of these Voices were an inquisitive lot, eager to learn and enthusiastic with deep and searching questions. The woman, ‘signing’ and swaying gently, answered and said, ‘In ritual we become transparent and open to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves. It ensures that the tears of our souls, those deep wounds, sometimes forgotten or buried, and which we all experience are sutured and repaired’. The forest fell silent again.

Sometime past and no Voice spoke. In a somewhat trembling Voice the woman added, ‘And in ritual that which is within us shimmers and shines, and aligns itself with the Source of All’. She smiled in my direction. Then there was silence. I looked around to gauge where the next Voice might come from.

Suddenly a loud, booming Voice, very loud infact, but benevolent, came from behind me, but alarmingly close to me. ‘What does ritual provide?’, it asked. Without hesitation and very confidently the woman turned to face the Voice, looking at me and beyond me, and replied, ‘It helps in our transformation. Fear, grief, rage, shame, or worry, hopelessness, confusion, that borne by the individual, community or nation is transformed with the aid of That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves’. The forest fell silent once more.

After what seemed like an age, the women bowed to the four quarters, the cardinal compass points, picked up the candle and walked slowly toward me. As an observer I expected to ‘wake up’ at this point, or perhaps for her to pass right through me as if in a dream, but she stopped in front of me. Unnervingly I was aware for the first time that she was aware of me now, and had been all along.

She stopped and through my nervousness I spoke to ‘break the ice’ and to fill that silence with something. ‘You answered the Voices well, and instructed them in the essentials of ritual. You must be pleased?’, I said to her.

She smiled, half laughed and sat on a nearby felled log in the clearing, and invited me to sit, too, and she put the candle the candle on the log between us. ‘You have it all wrong, she said, the Voices are not students but the Teachers.’

‘So, you’re the student and they were testing you?’, I enquired. ‘You’re getting closer to the truth, but you’re not there yet,’ she said, ‘The Voices are indeed the teachers, and if you like I was their assistant, but the student is you and those that read what you write!’.

I thought about it, and drew a breath to ask a question. ‘There is more, but not just yet’, she said. She blew out the candle flame and the forest went totally black. Somehow I knew that she and the other presences, the Voices had left, and I was alone. After what seemed like many minutes, I opened my eyes, with her voice saying ‘There is more’, clearly echoing in my mind. Just a dream?

A few days later, I tuned the radio into a Sunday morning ‘thought for the day’ type of short program. The voice of an elderly gentleman could be heard. ‘And’, he said, ‘there is more… We need to build faith in ourselves as ritually literate people that can dress the wounds of suffering…’.

‘There is always more’, my grandmother used to say but in Welsh (which is: mae mwy). Perhaps those Voices (the bat khol, the Source of All, elementals, angels etc are speaking to us always, in our sleep and in our imagination, through our neighbours and other people, through the man on the radio program, and at other times, too, but, perhaps we seldom listen. Just a thought.

 

Dreams, The Gate To Eternity?

20180810 DREAMS THE GATE TO ETERNITY

Ancient cultures, Celts, Druids, Hebrew nations and others have long held great store in dreams. Perhaps, we can learn something from them?

That evening, as I sat alone reviewing the day, his depression weighed heavily on my heart. A myriad thoughts vied for space in my mind as I thought about that young man in need. As I slowly dozed off, I fell into a deep sleep and began to dream – one of those profound dreams that seemed to be lived in ‘real time’, a lucid dream.

I was in a thick, old, dense forest, walking towards what looked to be a clearing in the distance. I laboured onward, slowly and with considerable effort. As I walked on there was, indeed, a clearing that was well lit as if it had an encampment fire in the middle of it, except, there was no camp fire. Just a bright light without a visible source, lighting up the clearing and the perimeter trees, but not permeating further into the dark forest.

’Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.’ Khalil Gibran

I was standing near the centre of the clearing, and the plight of that young man, his depression was on my mind. Looking at the surrounding trees, the light played on them and I perceived creatures hiding behind many of the trees. Angels? Elementals? The Fae etc? No one at that time said a word but in my heart, as I looked around, I felt that these hidden creatures were of enormous power, and were hiding not because they were fearful of me, but because they were so powerful that they were fearful of doing me harm.

I stood there and ‘heard’ what one of them, or was it all of them, said. ‘Learn what you can about Juniper trees’. Still unable to speak, and standing there for what seemed hours, nothing more transpired. I awoke.

Over the next few days, I did some research, but even without trying too hard, synchronicity ‘kicked in’.

In ancient sacred text I re-read of a man named who had carried out, what he believed to be God’s will, but was running in fear of his life from a ruler. He laid under a Juniper tree and fell asleep, twice, and on both occasions was woken up and nourished by an angel. Later, having believed himself to be alone and retreating to a cave he had an encounter in the cave. A voice spoke and said, ‘What are you doing here’. I get goose bumps every time I read that account. The Voice was in the cave, too (and not outside), thus assuring Elijah he wasn’t alone. The Source of All never leaves us (even if we think the Source does). And, confessing his fear and depression that man received power and boldness from perceiving things differently. The circumstances may not have changed, but his outlook did change.

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

In some cultures, I found out that the Juniper tree is thought to be a guide and gatekeeper to the Imaginal realm, bringing humankind in contact with the powers and blessings of the Invisible realms. In Germany, I’m told the name for the Juniper tree is ‘wacholder’. It means the ‘tree of awakening’.

I found out that Juniper is used cross-culturally to bring blessings, and to make sacred. Thus, it is said, it can help one to listen more closely to our inner wisdom, uncover our true path, and connect more deeply with matters of the Spirit, bringing one in touch with the Sacred in your life. Truly, there was great wisdom to do as those creatures had tasked.

Over the next few days as I pondered on such things, and an assurance ‘tumbled’ across my spirit, and it seemed to me that that young man, currently depressed, was undergoing something much more profound and deeper than I had first envisaged. Something deeper than he knew, too.

Also, in the ‘cave’ he found himself in, he needed to know that he wasn’t alone, and so, so far as I possibly could, I drew alongside the younger man and ‘held space’ for him – walking along with him, without judgment, sharing his journey to an unknown destination. I knew that this was his current path, and that there was nothing I could materially do, except to be there for him. Sometimes the best aid we can give someone comes not in words but in the simple action of being there for them.

’ Perhaps the oldest working truth of self-discovery is that the only way out is through.’ Mark Nepo

Maybe there are some dreams that you have dreamed that were significant, or perhaps with hindsight you now see them as significant to you. Dreams can be very powerful wisdom-givers, for when we’re asleep we’re free from distractions and our barriers are lowered. And the Source of All, who communicates profound matters in metaphors and ‘pictures’ (as there is no other way) has our undivided attention. When asleep and dreaming we are (more) receptive to That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Truly, dreams can be very important.

After some months that young man’s depression lifted.

 

Alone With The Alone At The Machair: Poem

20171026 ALONE WITH THE ALONE AT THE MACHAIR POEM

This is one  of several poems inspired by my pilgrimage to those wonderfully ‘thin places’ of the Isle Of Iona (also known as the Isle Of Druids) and the Isle Of Skye – rugged and awesome islands off the west coast of Scotland.

This poem is based on thoughts, feelings and an encounter at the Machair. The Machair is a Scottish/Gaelic word for ‘fertile beach’, and is pronounced ‘makkah’. It is a delightful, part sand-part grassy coastal area on the Isle of Iona with a unique eco-system, and is a windswept and wild,  liminal place, a place of myth and magic, indeed. Things happen here. Visit, and you will not be unchanged.

The weather changes and the blue sea turns white.
Dark clouds speed from the horizon
to where I am standing, and the wind blows a gale.
The light dims.
The tide recedes as a mighty storm approaches.
And I wait.

There was a time when the Voice was heard
speaking words of peace, and love, and hope.
Now the age of neon shines
and a cacophony of sound fills the air.
And I wait.

For a moment I hear murmurs in the wind.
Could it be the sound of martyrs and monks of yesteryear?
Could it be angel-sound, or the gleeful chattering of the fae?
Perhaps it’s the  words of Druids of a bygone age?
And then it’s gone.
And I wait.

The waves crash against mighty rocks
and yet the rocks are unmoved, unchanged.
Gulls  squawk in the distance, but have moved inland.
The wind blows a mournful sigh.
A howling that increases and decreases in volume and pitch.
And I wait.

At the Machair
I am alone with the Alone. I listen.
Could it be that the Voice still speaks
words of peace, and love, and hope?
Love personified, prevails. Surely?
Doesn’t Wisdom cry out to all who listen to her?
I listen but shrill sounds fill my mind.
And I wait.

In a time of plastic
I yearn for that age of myth and magic.
And when all that matters, that is substantial and real
seems, oh so far away,
something calls to me to stop and look.
And in waiting,
I notice that,
ah yes, the tide is turning’.