The Elements: In Praise Of Earth

20191002 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF EARTH

As the days shorten and nights becomes longer, we’re moving towards winter. Already in the UK mornings, evening and nights are becoming much, much colder, and the midday sun sits ever lower in the sky.

Winter is that time of nature’s rest, even death, and plants and insects die; and even then there is a paradox that life is ‘home’ and active deep in the ground, and some of it is dormant and ‘sleeping’ deep in the womb of the earth, the soil that we tread so blithely .

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

(In the bleak midwinter: Christmas carol)

As winter approaches, here’s a few words of a seasonal introduction; the primacy of story, memory and ritual at this time; a new song; and something for those of an inquisitive nature and interested in a simple but profound scientific experiment centred on nature at this time of the year.

STORY, MEMORY AND RITUAL

With naked trees and animals saving warmth and energy, and many species dying off for the winter (until a new generation emerges) there is a silence that descends at this time – a primordial silence.

Human voices can predominate as animal noises momentarily reduce, and it is no wonder in nature’s silence that our ancestors warmed themselves around tribal fires and recited stories of old.

‘The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.’

(Wendell Berry)

Many of those stories might have been tribal histories, and who hasn’t on a winter’s night, especially at Christmas and the New Year reminisced about relatives that have moved abroad or who have ‘gone ahead’ to that heavenly realm? It is a time of story and of memories.

The landscape, cold and bare, also shares its memories if we ‘look’ deeply. We might see a tree taller than it was, a plant thicker, and the ‘scars’ on tree barks, that still tell their story to those that stop and look. Nature has a memory.

Story, memory and ritual come to the fore at this time.

The following can be incorporated into your Samhain celebration. Samhain starts the evening of Thursday, 31 October and runs for twenty for hours (but there is nothing to stop you celebrating it over the weekend).

The following can be used at (or about) the time of the Winter solstice in December, too, or indeed at any time during the season of winter. Use the following, adapt it, enjoy it.

This is a time to reminisce, tell stories, to remember that death is part of the cycle and new birth is ‘on its way’, and it’s a time of celebration (and yes, even mirth).

Here, then, are some wonderful words that can be incorporated into your seasonal ritual/liturgy:

‘If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up like rooted, like trees’. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

And,

‘We come from the earth and return to it, and so we live in agriculture as we live in flesh. While we live our bodies are moving particles in the earth, joined inextricably both to the soil and to the bodies of other living creatures’. (Wendell Berry)

And

‘The vines that are tended by the Divine Gardener’. (Catherine of Siena)

And

Spirit of the Abundant Earth,
allow me to live in the knowledge that
I am of the earth, from the earth, and returning to the earth.
Blessings of the earth be upon me.

(Christine Valters Paintner, Book: Water, Wind, Earth & Fire, part)

SONG: THE DAYS ARE COLD (A WINTER’S SONG)

The following song can be sung to the old, traditional Scottish tune, ‘The Water is wide”, and hails from the 1600’s. If you want an idea of the tune, do check here. (The tune for each of the three verses below is a repetition of the first forty-seven seconds of the link’s tune).

The days are cold
And night comes soon.
The circle turns
As in days of old.
Nature does sleep
And the winds do howl.
And my eyes do weep
Through the cold air now

The snow falls harsh
Upon the land.
There is a light
Within and without.
We raise our hands
To the Source of all.
And nature responds
with elementals call.

The days of change
Are here again.
Our voices raise
To the loud refrain.
We wish you peace,
We wish you well.
All nature sings
Winter’s farewell.

Tune: “The Water Is Wide”
Words: Tadhg Jonathan

THE QUADRAT
FOR THOSE OF A SCIENTIFIC OR INQUISITIVE NATURE

If you want to get an overall view of what wildlife is present in your garden, local park or nearby wild area eg forest etc even at this time of year, either because of your concern about the biosphere, sheer interest in the local environment, or out of general curiosity and personal interest, then you (and any children) may be interested in making and using a quadrat.

’It is apparent that no lifetime is long enough in which to explore the resources of a few square yards of ground.’ (Alice M Coats)

A quadrat is a merely a hand-made frame, maybe made out of thin cane or similar, and is generally one metre square (three feet by three feet in size approximately), with the four canes tied at the intersections to form a simple square.

Once made, it is a great way to sample a large area by concentrating on a small area. On suggestion is that, once in an area of wilderness, you randomly throw the quadrat (safely and gentlt), and see where it lands. If you want more information about quadrats, please see here.

Then, depending on your time, you can have endless hours of fun surveying plants, wildlife and insect life within the randomly selected area of that frame.

The idea is to explore and catalogue so do be careful not to destroy anything, nor cause too much of an upheaval to that area as you gently brush aside grass and plants or dig a little (and if you, inadvertently disturb anything,  do ensure you return it to its former state as much as possible, so that no one would ever know you had been there).

You might like to take a pen and paper to record results, and/or a camera, too, to take a photograph of anything interesting. With that in mind you might also like to record the scale of something found so you might like to take along a rule(r) or a coin  for comparison sake and lay the specimen alongside it  or it alongside the plant etc – a two (UK) penny coin is 25.9 mm wide (so close to one inch you can call it an inch) as you photograph specimens.

Don’t forget this is an adventure, and experiment, and it is also fun and respectful of nature – so record only, and so, no take-away specimens, please.

’Our world is a web of interdependencies woven so tightly it sometimes becomes love.’ (Tim Flannery)

If you want to email me a copy of your notes and findings (with the date, time and rough location of the one square metre quadrat, I will most certainly be pleased to look at them.

For the mathematically-inclined, if you know the total area of the garden, park or wilderness area in square metres, you can, roughly, multiply your findings by that total amount to gain a rough idea of the numbers and variations of wildlife in that total area.

But, I find just checking and recording what is alive in that one square metre to be fascinating and profound! Have fun!

‘The land is a mother that never dies.’ (Maori Proverb).

 

Harvest Home: Alban Elfed / Autumn Equinox

20190911 HARVEST HOME CELEBRATING ALBAN ELFED AUTUMN EQUINOX

It seems as soon as September had arrived, the weather began to change, at least in the UK. Aside from a warm spell predicted in the next day or two, the temperature is dropping. As soon as September arrived so the morning and evening temperatures dropped. There was, and is a distinct chill in the air early in the mornings and late evenings.

Introduction

Autumn equinox is soon. Ancient Celts and Druids, ancient tribes, and ‘aware’ people today will be celebrating.

’Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.’ (J K Rowling)

What follows is an outline of that festival, the time of the second harvest, and some ideas about how to cherish the season, and ideas and liturgy to celebrate it as a group, with your family, or by yourself.photo of chocolate cupcake with berry toppings on white ceramic plate

Autumn equinox this year is on Monday, 23rd September.

Although it is on a Monday, in common with the ancients who started their day the evening before (us), many, I suspect many will be celebrating the event on the evening of Sunday, 22nd September (though there is nothing wrong in celebrating it on the Saturday or any other nearby date).

The days are becoming shorter and the days longer, and at autumn equinox (or Alban Elfed, the light of the water, as it is known in Wales) approaches. The nights and days are equal length, in perfect balance, but night will ‘win’ and increase as winter approaches. Darkness will prevail, at least for a time.

This is a time to celebrate the bounty of Mother Nature.

The arable crops like wheat, barley etc have all been collected, and now, as the circle bowl of fruitsturns, it is time to harvest the fruits of the vine – blackberries, apples, and grapes etc.  It’s a time of transition, a time of thankfulness to the Great Provider, the Source Of All, the One Behind It All.

‘Autumn is the season to find contentment at home by paying attention to what we already have.’ (Anon)

So, how might you practically, celebrate the event?

Ideas

Cherish the changing season of nature: Why not escape to the countryside if you can, or visit the local park or check those nature programs on tv to appreciate the changing colours of nature, to allow time to reflect and to give thanks. Why not take a flask of soup, a sandwich, and just gaze at the awesomeness of nature, something that we take for granted.

Hold your own Eisteddfod: In the Welsh tradition an Eisteddfod is a time to celebrate the three red cherriesbardic arts: poetry, music, song, dance, and so on.  Here’s an opportunity to appreciate those cooler evenings  before the winter sets in. Why not get some friends together, have people share their own stories of life or stories they have appreciated, stories and songs, and open the wine (or fruit juice) and serve up pizza. Just an idea. Or, if for one reason you’ll be alone at this season’s event, read some apt poetry to yourself, and have a special meal to celebrate the time. It’s time to celebrate, rejoice and reflect.

’Autumn… the year’s last, loveliest smile.’ (William Cullen Bryant)

Adopt an abandoned site: Why not consider adopting a site that has been neglected or that nobody else cares about. Restoring (or ‘wilding) such spaces abandoned and damaged is one of the things we can do as a spiritual and sustainable practice of work.  You could consider working alongside a local environmental group or maybe plant a tree by subscribing to one of those ‘plant a tree’ organisations, or something less grand but as profound, starting a window box?

Liturgy

Here’s an opportunity to have your own ritual to celebrate the festival. You might like toblueberries on white ceramic plate add the following to what you have planned, or use the following as you have a meal (ie between courses), perhaps accompanied with autumnal poetry.

Blessed be you, Balance-Holder,
unafraid of the dark from which all newness must begin,
giver of light that draws us on and out into fullness.

Help me/us to balance my/our need for outgoing and restoring this day

(or)

With thankfulness me my/our going out, restore to me/us my/our rest this night.

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year, Tess Ward. Adapted)

And,

In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows’ flight and moonlight rays

Response: We see the Creator’s hand.

 In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls frost’s first kiss

Response: We see the Creator’s hand.

(Faithandworship.com)

And,

At the autumn equinox
may we recognise and give thanks for
the blessings of the summer harvest
and the fruits of our gardens.

As we mark the equinox in either the northern or southern hemisphere
let us wonder at the Mystery that is Life
and open ourselves to the blessings
of both dark and light.

(Brigidine Sisters)

And, the (series of) Haiku, below, can be used in liturgy for that time or as poetry for the season.

Nature’s circle turns,
and night and day are balanced.
Time for heartfelt thanks.

Water, that gives life,
often taken for granted,
appreciated.

The earth’s provision
at this bless-ed harvest-time,
for all people, stored.

Easterly winds blow,
renew our spirit’s within.
Congruous lifestyle.

Warming sun of all,
now, in this season balanced.
Sun of righteousness.

Nature’s circle turns,
and with gratitude given.
Source of All be praised.

Wishing you and all those whom you love the bright blessings of Alban Elfed and the One Who Is Greater Than Us.

 

20190911 HARVEST HOME CELEBRATING ALBAN ELFED AUTUMN EQUINOX

Celebrating The First Harvest 2019

20190725 CELEBRATING THE FIRST HARVEST

Harvest? Here are a few words about the first harvest of the year, its background and history, and its importance to you and I, and there are  few suggestions about how we can celebrate it.

I can vividly remember as a wee lad, so this is going back a few years, the time when, each year, there would a ‘buzz’, a hubbub, a huge excitement at primary school like no other. Apart from Easter and Christmas, Harvest was such an important time. At school, many of our lessons, especially art, focussed on a harvest theme. And within a day of two the school hall and classes were festooned with drawings, painting and items all made by pupils  with harvest time in mind. Then, bread, corn dollies and garlands decorated the hall, along with parcels of food for the elderly. Wonderful memories.

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand… (Hymn by Matthias Claudius, Translated by Jane Montgomery Campbell, and one of my favourite, seasonal, hymns at primary school.)

And guess what? Yes, it’s nearly that time, again.

I can’t wait for the ancient Celtic and Druid festival of Lammas, also called Lammas-Day or the season, Lammastide, or Lughnasadh. In Wales it is known as Gŵyl Awst. It traditionally starts on August 1st, and it is the first harvest in the calendar. It is such an important occasion. So important that many, latter-day and Druids, ancient cultures and others celebrate two (and sometimes three) harvests each year. This harvest is the grain harvest.

Although many churches celebrate (one) harvest, now, one Sunday in September, that type of harvest celebration service is fairly recent: it began in 1843, when Revd. Hawker, then the Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, revived the ‘forgotten’ and ancient service of Lammas, as a once-a-year (new) service. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for that.

However, if we view that September harvest as the second harvest, a harvest of berries, applies, and wine, then… there’s more. It will soon be the first harvest, the grain harvest.

The Celts originally called this time, ‘lughnasadh’ (pronounced ‘loo-nas-sah’) after the ancient Gaelic deity, Lugh. But, it seems that believe ‘travelled’, and many believe the area in London now called Ludgate, is a derivation of Lugh.

‘In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.’ William Blake

But many call this harvest Lammas , after the Anglo-Saxon festival of hlaefmass – loaf mass. And it’s from that word that we get the word Lammas! It was the grain harvest, hence the reference to bread, and the baking of bread to celebrate the season.

So, my late grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, would bake bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack. Bara brith , is pronounced ‘barrah-bri(d)th.’ And, it’s now available in many of the larger supermarkets in the UK.

Lammas, then, is a time of giving thanks to mother nature for all her grain produce, gratitude to the Source of All, the Lord of the Harvest, and a reaping of what has been sown. In previous years it was a time of fairs, trade and much merriment.

With the reaping ended, the last sheaf of corn would be made into a Corn Dolly, which was meant to embody the ‘spirit of the season’ (in much the same way as we might display holly around the house at Christmas), or to represent the ancient corn goddess. The Corn Dolly could, though not always, be made in the form of a miniature human, but it could also be an intricate spiral pyramid, or a miniature sheaf etc. Other designs could include animals, agriculture tools like scythes and shepherds’ crooks, or objects with a Christian significance such as bells or a cross.

How will you celebrate Llughnasadh or Lammas this year? To celebrate this first harvest you might like to choose a time during the first weekend in August, perhaps a few hours one evening?

Perhaps, you might try you hand at baking a special loaf of bread that you can share with family and friends. Or, if not, buy a granary loaf of some kind to share with them. Coupled with a nice wine or non-alcoholic fruit juice it can be a timely reminder, lasting just a few minutes, of giving gratitude to the Great Giver. A communion?

But, you might like to go for a walk in the country or city park, and pause, and as you sit there gazing, meditate and give thanks, silently for a few minutes.

You might like to recite a formal liturgy that can be said by you and meal guests, or by yourself, in which case the following may be of use (to use as it is, or adapt):

Blessed are you, Fruitful One
giver of abundance and plenty,
giver of resources when stocks are low.
Grow my faith in your providence…

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

(Facing north)
Remembering the element of earth,
the land on which I/we tread,
from which all things grow.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to pause and imagine earth energy from which all things grow within yourself and your connection to it, flowing to you and others)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of air,
the energy of the mind and wind,
from which the seed is spread and planted.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the energy of the air surrounding you and sustaining all life, breathing deeply and slowly as you so. Air! Breath! Life!)

(Facing south)
Remembering the element of fire,
the spirit of creation, and destruction and new life,
the sun’s life-giving warmth.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the fire of the setting sun that fuels all creation and which reflects your spirit)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of water,
the energy of emotions,
that grew the crops that nourish me/us.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to think of swimming in the ocean or a pool, remembering that wonderful cleansing and rejuvenating feeling, and give thanks)

[You can vary any of this, and indeed as you work through the compass points, to start, you might like to start at another cardinal point other than north.]

(Tadhg Jonathan)

And/or,

Generous One of the Harvest,
walk alongside those who have sown in tears,
who have scattered seed without hope,
on land not of their choosing.
Come close to those who weep this day.

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

Thou thyself my reaping,
each ridge, and plain, and field,
each sickle curved, shapely hard,
each ear and handful in the sheaf,
each ear and handful in the sheaf.

(Book: Carmina Gadelica)

And so, this Lammastide, as it has been since I was a child, I’ll be baking several bara brith, and sharing one – yes, the breaking of bread with family and friends – in a simple, ‘after meal’ remembrance ‘feast’, remembering all the good things that have happened this year, and giving thanks, in silence and humility, to the Source of All for the harvest, for life itself.

Maybe, next time you’ll join me?

 

Ephemera: July 2019 Full Moon: The Moon Of Calming

20190712 EPHEMERA JULY 2019 FULL MOON MOON OF CALMING

One of the aims of these articles is to inform (about nature and our place in it, and how we relate to others), to encourage action (and to know our power, ‘calling’ and responsibility to nature and the universe, others, ourselves in the three realms: physical, soulish/imaginal and spiritual), and to inspire (to ‘know’ our place in the universe and to ‘grow into’ what we once were and will be (or ‘are’ but seemingly not so, just yet). To that end, it is always a joy to mention an upcoming event.

This article outlines:

  • the name of this month’s moon and full moon details
  • the Hungry Ghost Festival
  • the impending lunar eclipse
  • fifty years since the first moon walk
  • links to celebrate this upcoming full moon.

‘Your imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.’ Albert Einstein

Yes, it’s almost that time again – the time of the next full moon. I love them. This one will be at its fullest on Tuesday, 16 July 2019 at 21.38 UTC/UK time, in the constellation of Sagittarius.

This full moon is known by some as the Ripe Corn Moon, the Crane Moon, the Mead moon, and to many ancient and latter-day Celts/Druids, such as myself, it is known as the Moon of Calming.

Others call it the Full Thunder Moon, as about this time of year frequent thunderstorms roll in during early summer. Thunderstorms are more likely to form in fairly humid environments during summer because of the moist, hot air rising from the ground to the higher and colder parts of the atmosphere. Storms. Thunder. Lightning. Hence, this full moon’s name for some.

 ‘Barn’s burnt down / Now I can see the moon.’ Mizuta Masahide

And, about the same time as this full moon, some in China, will be celebrating the Ghost Festival. This is the day when is it thought the all ghosts return to visit the living (though research also shows some celebrating this mid August) – and so it may sound very much like a Hallowe’en celebration.

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

However, those that celebrate the Ghost Festival also offer food to their ancestors and relatives, as well as burning joss paper, chanting of scriptures, and floating lotus flower-shaped lanterns on rivers and lakes. A great time of celebration and remembrance. Something from which we can learn?

But, there’s more.

There is a partial lunar eclipse that evening – starting at 21.02 UTC/UK time and finishing at 23:59. At greatest eclipse, the moon will be in Sagittarius and just seven degrees east of Saturn. The eclipse in its entirely will be visible from most of Africa, the Middle East, and western India. South America will see the later stages of the eclipse after moonrise, and Australia and Southeast Asia will see the eclipse set while in progress. The UK may be able to see some of the eclipse at moonrise, but the moon will be low and very close to the south-eastern horizon and not rise more than fifteen degrees above it. Sadly, none of the eclipse will be visible from North America.

But, there’s even more.

‘Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon’. Paul Brandt

Amazingly, on 16 July, 1969, some fifty years ago from the date of this upcoming full moon, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida bound for the moon. On 20 July mankind landed in the moon.

The first human, Neil Armstrong, set foot on the lunar surface on 21 July 1969 at 13.32 UTC/UK time.

Confession time. I seem to remember that on that date I was watching a school swimming competition. Swimming wasn’t one of my strong sports at school and so I was cheering on my school ‘house’ representatives in the swimming team – the ‘house’, one of four, was called Jarvis, named after one of the founding HeadTeachers – think of Gryffindor in the Harry Potter movies and you’re almost there. Aged about fourteen years, a few of us, perhaps six, one by one sneaked into an adjoining room and listened to a small radio a friend had brought in. Unbeknown to the teachers we listened in attentively for an hour or so. It was worth missing the swim-sports day, and Jarvis, for the record, didn’t do well in the swimming competition.

Surely, this time is a great time to celebrate that fiftieth anniversary as you look upwards at the moon (or at the stars if the moon is not visible where you are at this time, and ponder upon mankind’s achievement.) Time to give thanks, and marvel at our place and potential in the cosmos.

‘That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind’, Neil Armstrong.

And, finally: Why not use this full moon to pause, ‘re-charge your batteries’, meditate and give thanks to the Source of All?

Some might like to use this time to perform a ‘releasing’ ritual – to release me from all that is holding me back. Full Moon’s are a great time to start new projects and rekindle intentionality. You might like to try the following, too – for more information and for liturgy etc, see here and here.

‘The moon is a silver pin-head vast, That holds the heaven’s tent-hangings fast.’ William R Alger

 

Ephemera: June’s Full Moon. The Moon Of Horses

20190615 EPHEMERA MOON OF HORSES JUNE 2019

The next full moon is almost upon us, and you know how I love the full moon. There is something mystical, ‘magical’ and calming about the Moon as it brightens and glides higher into the sky. No wonder the ancients paid particular attention to the Moon and each month it ushered in. This one will be in its fullness on Monday, 17 June 2019, in the constellation of Sagittarius, low in the south-southern-eastern sky in the northern hemisphere.

Some will know this full moon as the Strawberry moon, to me and the ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids it is the Moon of Horses, to Wiccans many call is the Dyad Moon, and the Chinese people call it the Lotus Moon. In the southern hemisphere where the seasons are switched this full moon is known as the Oak Moon, Cold Moon, or the Long Night’s Moon.

The moon is a silver pin-head vast, that holds the heaven’s tent-hangings fast. -William R. Alger, ‘The Use of the Moon’

The moon was so important to ancient cultures, and even so today to those who understand, or revere nature and the old ways. But, whatever name you call it, the full moon is a time for celebration: perhaps by walking in the light of the full moon (and have you ever seen your moon-shadow?) and pondering its awesomeness, raising a glass of wine to its glory, meditating on the Moon-Giver, or reciting liturgy or a poem in its honour.

Here’ such a poem I wrote some time ago:

Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
She befriends.

Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
A blessing.

Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.

And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.

The ancients loved their stories (and perhaps we still do, but do so through going to the cinema, watching a movie on tv), and here’s a few mythical and magical stories from ancient times, though not notably Celtic or Druid in essence but still entertaining and through-provoking, about the moon.

There is a very interesting Chinese myth about this woman who was said to live on the moon. There are several variations of the myth but the essential story is that she and her husband were once immortal beings but were made mortal because of their extremely bad behaviour. They then attempted to regain immortality through the use of a pill but Chang’e became greedy and took too much of the it, and ended up floating up to the moon where she remained stuck over time. She is the subject of much Chinese poetry and is one of the central reasons for celebration each Autumn during the Chinese Moon Festival.

‘We are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side.’ Kahlil Gibran

A much happier couple-based mythological story about the moon comes from Africa. It says that Mawu is a moon god who is forever linked in unity with the sun goddess Liza. It is believed that lunar and solar eclipses are related to the lovemaking times of this celestial couple. This myth is clearly about the power of the moon, the sun, the sky and love and desire.

Selene and Luna are the names of the Moon Goddess in Greek and Roman mythology respectively. In these myths associated with these goddesses, the goddess is paired with the god of the sun. He travels throughout the day and she takes over the journey at night. She is typically considered to be a passionate goddess who takes many lovers and who represents the desire associated with the moon.

‘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, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony.

Wishing you and yours the blessings of the Moon-Giver at the time of this full moon, Tadhg

 

 

Ephemera: The Bright Moon: Full Moon

20190516 EPHEMERA THE BRIGHT MOON 18 MAY 2019

There’s a full moon soon, and you know how I love full moon’s, and use these events for some kind of ritual and/or celebration.

The next full moon is this Saturday, 18 May 2019, rising around sunset from a UK vantage point, above the head of the constellation of Scorpio.

To some this full Moon is known as the Milk Moon or Planting Moon. To those of Medieval England and Wicca it was/is known as the Hare Moon. Whilst Celts and many Druids Of yesterday and today know it as the Bright Moon.

The Moon is most happy
When it is full.
[Hafiz]

And, as we head towards a full moon, here’s an opportunity to look at the physical moon in awe from a scientific point of view; to marvel at it from a deeply spiritual point of view, too; and to think about how to celebrate this wonderful event.

The Physical Moon
Did you know: The Moon is shrinking! Yes, as its interior cools, a new NASA study suggests that the change is shrinking, and as it does it triggers moonquakes.

Nasa said only a few days ago that the Moon is about 150 feet (50 meters) smaller than it was – though this shrinking has taken place over the the last several hundred million years or so. So, you won’t see it shrink, but its enough for any brittle fissures on the Moon to collapse and cause the Moon’s surface to rumble.

The ‘Magical’ Moon
But, the Moon is more than just a rocky satellite to the Earth. As you gaze up at the full Moon, and see that eternal face smiling down, the Moon does hold a certain romantic charm, some would say ‘magic’.

The moon is the reflection of your heart
and moonlight is the twinkle of your love.
[Debasish Mridha]

Whenever I can I like to celebrate the time of the full Moon. Sometimes it’s just a case of going for a silent walk, even in the city, to ‘bathe’ in its light. Sometimes it’s just lifting up a nice glass of red or white and drinking to its glory, or meditating on the Moon-Giver.

Full Moon ‘Releasing’ Ritual
Sometimes, there is a ‘releasing’ ritual I like to do at this time – to release me from all that is holding me back. Full Moon’s are a great time to start new projects and rekindle intentionality. You might like to try the following, too.

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

As with any ritual, it is an outward sign and activity of an inward occurrence. It can be done outdoors on the night of the full moon, but equally, it can be done indoors, and it can be adjusted to make it even more meaningful to you.

So, find a quiet place, and:

1. Light a candle (to denote entering into sacred space/sacred time). If you want, you can place crystals, power-rocks and other positive-tools around you. On occasions I’ve opened the Bible to the place where it mentions the Moon and Sun. Opening a book, sacred to yourself is one way of making this a special occasion, and declaring that you’ve entered sacred space and sacred time.

2. De-clutter your mind of thoughts, clear your energy. This can be done by imagination, and so why not close your eyes, and visualise that you are standing under a silver waterfall that cascades down from the Moon. As you so do, in your mind’s eye, imagine that all negativity being washed away.

3. Take a few deep breaths to ‘center’ yourself, to move deeply within your being, and then ‘ask’ what it is that you wish to be released from. What is it that is holding you back? What is your limiting belief? What no longer serves a positive purpose in your life. In your mind’s eye, write it on a piece of paper. Wait for a short while.

4. As you breathe in, think of that piece of paper with that limiting belief written on it, and as you breathe out, imagine that that piece of paper moves into the candle and is burnt up. It no longer exists. Do this several times. [Remember, this is all taking place in your imagination, so please don’t use that physical candle and actually set fire to anything you have with you!].

This type of breathing in/out with visualisation is like tonglen, in reverse.

5. After a short while open your eyes, fully enter this ‘realm’ by gazing gently at the candle for a few minutes. There is no rush. And then, to denote a closing of that sacred space/sacred time, blow the candle out and/or close any sacred book. Wait for a few minutes. Doing things slowly, here, is good. To ‘ground’ yourself completely you might like to walk around just for a few seconds.

6. Ofcourse, this is a ritual, an outward sign or action of an inward occurrence, and you will still need to ‘do’ the necessary things in the physical realm to bring about a releasing of what is/was holding you back, to ‘earth it’, and to work towards a positive outcome.

7. You might like to keep a journal of your experiences in that ritual, what you ‘released’ and what you intend to do to ‘earth it’ and work towards releasing negativity, and what you’ll do in working towards positivity, detailing actions and how you felt at the time. It’s always good to look back, weeks, months or even years later.

Poem
Sometime ago I wrote a poem about Arianrhod, the personification of the Moon. You might use it as a mediation as you gaze at the upcoming new Moon, or as part of a more formal liturgy or ritual you might perform in honour of the Moon and/or the Moon giver.

To read the poem ‘Arianrhod in all her splendour ‘, please click [here].

And finally…
At this time of the full Moon, much light and love to you and those whom you love, Tadhg.

‘I arise today through the strength of heaven, light of sun, Radiance of moon, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.’
[John O’Donohue,]

 

[The header photo for this article is copyright protected, 2019 by Pennie Ley, and is used with permission. Kind regards to Pennie]

 

 

Beltane 2019: FireFall (Start Here)

20190412 BELTANE 2019 FIREFALL START HERE 1

May is fast approaching. And with it comes Beltane, which officially marks the beginning of summer. It’s one of my favourite festivals – full of joy, thanksgiving, expectation, laughter and more – and it is an ancient Druidic ‘fire festival’, though many others will be celebrating something similar in different ways around this time. What follows is an outline of the festival and a few words that you might like to ponder upon or use as you celebrate the event.

Deep peace of the running waves to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.

Celtic blessing.

Beltane is celebrated on Wednesday, 1 May 2019 (though some might note that the day, if we follow the lead of ancient cultures, starts the evening before), but many will be celebrating it the previous or following weekend. It’s a time of joy and thankfulness at nature’s growth, fecundity and bounty, so do enjoy it, whenever you celebrate it.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ James 1:17, The Book

Beltane comes from the Celtic word/s ‘belo-tenia’ which means ‘bright fire’ or ‘lucky fire’, and as it is held on 1 May, it is known in Wales as Calan Mai (literally, ‘the first day of May’). There, on Nos Galan Mai or May Eve, many would gather hawthorn branches and flowers which they would then use to decorate the outside of their houses, celebrating new growth and fertility.

‘Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.’ Kahlil Gibran

There is a myth that if you wash your face in the morning dew before sunrise on Beltane that you will have a flawless complexion throughout the year. And if you are eager to ty this, then remember in the northern part of the UK on that day, say Inverness, the sun rises at 5.27am, but in the south, say, London, it rises at 5.33am. And, not forgetting the moon: there’s a new moon on 4 May 2019.

Blessed be you Source of All.
In your greenly greeting you return to the earth.
(To say upon waking) Your beauty cheers and renews as I rise up this morning
(To say at the end of the day) Your beauty cheers as I lie down to rest at this days end.

Tess, Ward. The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

Beltane festivities generally involved fire as this was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. Cattle were often passed between two fires and the properties of the flame and the smoke were seen to ensure the fertility of the herd.

Fire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalise. For instance, people, would leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year, and some would say a prayer as they did. It’s a wonderful time for handfasting, too!

Ofcourse, this time of year and such celebration are for Druids, Pagans, Wicans and others. Some areas still have the May Queen to represent the personification of Spring, and some have a straw man following, sometimes covered in greenery called Jack-in-the-Green to represent the Green Man. Some also dance around May Poles, and others look on in awe as Morris Dancers dance around in their inimitable style.

Blessed be you, O Living One.
The world is shot through with your radiance,
Reviving the earth, changing lives.
May I/we be aware that this day/night is charged with the splendour of heaven.

Tess, Ward. The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

But, others share this wonderful time of the year, as the Church, too, celebrates a ‘fire festival’, with the coming of Pentecost or Whitsun. It commemorates the time when the followers of the Christ, some two thousand yeas ago, were all together in one place and the Holy Spirit appeared to them as tongues of fire, hovering over them, to signify the outpouring of the Spirit onto all humankind.

More will follow regarding Beltane, but if you’re thinking of celebrating at home, now is the time to think about buying candles, small plants and other items to signify natures growth and abundance.

Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More (1)

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 1

Yes, I’m on the road again, as this time (on Saturday, 2 February) I’m heading to the New Forest, in England.

Odd that it should still be called The New Forest, as it has existed as woodland since the end of the last Ice Age, and its heaths were first cleared and cultivated  in small areas by  Bronze Age settlers . The area was formerly known as ‘Ytene’ the land of the Jutes (an Anglo-Saxon tribe). However, it was grouped together as a ‘new’ forest by William the Conqueror in AD1079, hence its name. The New Forest of AD1079. And, it’s a wonderfully rugged and wild area, the place where things can happen, and nature abounds.

And, that’s were I’m headed. The New Forest. Over the next few days I will meet friends and celebrate Imbolc, then the following day will lead a house blessing, and then bury a pebble and recite liturgy as part of my small endeavour to be involved, along with others, in healing the land.

But first Imbolc.

Yes, the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonder, major festival is almost upon us. It’s time to celebrate in large ways and small, in groups and by yourself. It’s intentionality that’s important, so I would encourage you to do something this Imbolc, and to enjoy it. It really is time to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Beloved.

Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February (but many will celebrate it on Sunday, 3 February this year)
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Spring Flowers, St Brigid’s Cross, Candles
Colours: White, Orange, Red

Imbolc, in the Celtic seasonal calendar marks the beginning of the lambing season and signals the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life. It is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit). She is one of my favourites.

About Brigid

Brigid, so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget, and rightly remembered and revered. To some she is a Goddess of healing, poetry, of fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. To others, a saint. What matters is that she is remembered.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and the wells, patroness of sweet water. Water the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire, are the instruments of the forge. Brigid is the goddess of the forge and smith craft. Heat and fire tempered by water. Perfect balance.

She is also said bring fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies.

Symbols of Brigid

With the coming of spring, the following are some symbols that you might like to consider in some form of quiet time, some form of meditation on that day, but there are also some ideas listed below of things that you can do, things you might like to bring into the house and/or put on your home altar, such as:

Snowdrops. The first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter.

Candle(s). Imbolc is a Fire Festival and fire of all kinds is associated with Brigid – the fire of creativity, the protective hearth fire, and her fire wheel – the Brigid Cross, which heralds her, according to some, as a Sun Goddess. A lit candle as you have your meal or as you gaze or meditate upon it, is a wonderful way to celebrate her and the return of spring, to give thanks to the One Behind It  All, the Source of All.

Brigid’s Cross. This is a traditional fire wheel symbol – found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection. A customer in the shop recounted finding a hearth in Ireland, in recent years, adorned with over 200 Brigid Crosses – 200 years in the life of a hearth and a family, overlit and protected by Brigid.
Brigid Doll. A very old tradition involved the making of a Brigid doll which can be included in ceremony and/or placed in ‘Bride’s Bed’ to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.

The Serpent. In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration – the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries. Paths of earth energy were called serpent paths and at Imbolc they are stirred from their slumber. And in the Hebrew Testament a bronze serpent is lifted up and all who gazed upon it were healed.

Sheep. Brigid’s festival is at the beginning of lambing – you might be fortunate to try eat ewe’s milk cheese!

The seed: From the seed new life sprouts. And you might like to consider planting a seed, or more. It need not be an expensive plant, but a packet of inexpensive seeds that you might like to grow on a piece of common ground, in your  your garden or in your window-box.

Blackberry: Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.

Ginger: revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayer for Imbolc & Brigid – honouring Brigid and Mary

Praise to you O Caring one,
midwife of our newness and growth,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
tend the fresh shoots of our emerging as we set foot this day.

(Tess Ward, Celtic Wheel of the Year 2007)

Stories about Brigid

Stories about Brigid abound, and in the past two have caught my attention. There is a story about Brigid and a miracle or magic regarding her cloak, but its a story of justice and plenty. Do read about it here

And there’s another story I like about Brigid. It’s a story about her concern and love for strangers and travellers, and the extraordinary lengths she went to, to meet their needs. It’s a story of generosity and a miracle or magic of plenty. Do read about it here.

Finally…

Imbolc and St Brigid’s feast day is a time of celebration, so be encouraged to spend some time outdoors in nature, and celebrating in some way indoors. Celebrate. Enjoy. Be intentional.

 

A New Moon Teaches…: Ephemera: New Moon: 7 December 2018

20181206 A NEW MOON TEACHES NEW MOON EPHEMERA

To the Ancients, Celts, Druids, early Christians and others, the sky held many mysteries, and from discerning the movements of planets and stars great events were foretold or forthtold. With that in mid: there’s a new moon due on Friday, 7 December (at 7.20am to be precise) though looking for it the following day will be just as rewarding.

‘A new moon teaches gradualness
and deliberation and how one gives birth
to oneself slowly. Patience with small details
makes perfect a large work, like the universe.’

Rumi

Viewing The New Moon
The new moon will be in the constellation of Sagittarius. Unlike the full moon, which has the face that is directed to us fully lit up, the new moon is dark – and so it’ll probably be the day after when a slight arc of light, a sliver of the moon is visible, when it will look majestic. Then, the moon will look like the letter ‘c’ in the sky.

However, because the moon at this time of the year and in that constellation will be right near the sun, and appearing to travel alongside it for a few days,  any observation will be difficult and will be during daylight hours.

Hawaiian Myth
We can learn a lot from the moon. Sometimes, especially when the new moon hugs the horizon, rather than look like the letter ‘c’ it can appear like the letter ‘u’. This is called a wet moon. It’s when the ‘horns’ of the crescent Moon point up at an angle, away from the horizon, so that the crescent takes on the appearance of a bowl or a smile. A wet moon occurs when the crescent Moon is low above the horizon and at a point more or less directly above the Sun’s (invisible) position below the horizon.

‘I never really thought about how when I look at the moon, it’s the same moon as Shakespeare and Marie Antoinette and George Washington and Cleopatra looked at’. Susan Beth Pfeffer

The terms wet moon originates from Hawaiian mythology, where it was thought that the Moon appeared as a bowl that would fill up with rainwater. The period when, they thought, this was most common, was 20 January 20 to 18 February, and this corresponds with Kaelo the Water Bearer in Hawaiian astrology. Hence the wet moon. Aslo, according to their mythology as summer comes, the crescent shape shifts, pouring out the water and causing the summer rains. After this, and once the bowl is emptied, it then dries out and rights itself, creating the ‘dry moon’. I find that mythology quite charming.

Cheshire Cat
However, this appearance of the moon looking like the letter’ u’ is sometimes called the ‘Cheshire moon’, because it resembles the smile of the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

However, less charming is the myth, that some adhere to, that the new moon summons Manticores to kill you. Manticores are mythical creatures rather like large lions, but with dragon wings and scorpion tails, and the kill, according to myth. The good news is, both moonlight and sunlight are fatal to manticores. Also, like vampires, manticores can’t enter your house unless you invite them in. But, it is just a myth.

‘When hope is fleeting, stop for a moment and visualize, in a sky of silver, the crescent of a lavender moon. Imagine it — delicate, slim, precise, like a paper-thin slice from a cabochon jewel. It may not be very useful, but it is beautiful. And sometimes it is enough’. Vera Nazarian

Other Cultures
But, there’s more about the new moon in other cultures.

The Islamic calendar has retained an observational definition of the new moon, marking the new month when the first crescent moon is actually seen.

And in Asia, new moon is the beginning of the month in the Chinese calendar. Some Buddhist Chinese keep a vegetarian diet based on the new moon and full moon each month.

Also, the new moon signifies the start of every Jewish month, and is considered an important date and minor holiday in the Hebrew calendar. The modern form of the calendar is a rule-based luni-solar calendar, akin to the Chinese calendar, measuring months defined in lunar cycles as well as years measured in solar cycles. Absolutely fascinating.

‘Each “way of thinking” has its own shape and colour, which wax and wane like the moon.’ Haruki Murakami

And, Finally…The Geminids
And, there’s even more. While you’re gazing upwards, it might be good, should you get a clear, dark sky over the next week or so, in the evening to look out for the Geminids meteor shower.  As the night progresses, the Geminids meteor rate will increase, hitting a theoretical maximum of about 100 per hour.

The best way to prepare to watch the meteor shower is: watch late at night with the naked eye. A telescope isn’t needed and will probably ensure you miss most of the display as they move rapidly through the sky.  Get away from city lights if you can. Give yourself a vantage point where you can look at a large expanse of sky – and the best way to do this is by laying down and just looking at the sky.

‘The moon is the friendliest of the celestial bodies, after all, glowing warm and white and welcoming, like a friend who wants only to know that all of us are safe in our narrow worlds, our narrow yards, our narrow, well-considered lives. The moon worries. We may not know how we know that, but we know it all the same: that the moon watches, and the moon worries, and the moon will always love us, no matter what’. Seanan McGuire,

Yes, the new moon does indeed teach us many things, one of the most significant being that it, the sky, the earth and everything (and that includes us) is the handiwork of the loving Source, the Source of All. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God…’ Psalm 9.1a, The Book

 

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.