Alban Elfed, The Light Of The Water. Autumn Equinox 2018

201808920 ALBAN ELFED THE LIGHT OF THE WATER AUTUMN EQUINOX

‘That orbed continent the fire, that severs day from night.’ William Shakespeare.

On the outskirts of a rather common spiral galaxy, there is a small solar system consisting of nine planets (actually eight planets now as the International Astronomical Union decided in 2006 to call Pluto a ‘dwarf planet,’ reducing the list of ‘real planets’ in our solar system to eight). However, astronomers are now hunting for a (true) ninth planet which they suspect may be lurking on the very limits of the solar system.

But, there’s more.

The third planet in that system is (our) Earth and it continues to move around the Sun in its orbit, and bit by bit its tilts by 23.5 degree relative to its orbital plane. This means in summer (in the northern hemisphere) the Sun is high in the sky. And six months later, when the Earth is half way around its solar orbit (on the other side of the Sun), the sun is lowest in the sky at midwinter.

‘Sunshine is Nature’s hug and spirit breath to the earth.’ Terri Guillemets

At the time of Autumn equinox the Earth is tilted half way between those two extremes and night and day are equal length, and from thereon nights get longer. Perfect balance.

For the astronomically or astrology-minded, the morning of the autumnal equinox is when the sun, from our viewpoint and against the backdrop of the stars and constellations, moves into Virgo.

Time flies. Would you believe the Autumn Equinox (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) is fast approaching. Infact, it is this Sunday, 23 September 2018.

‘Oh, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.’ Roman Payne

But there’s more.

The observance of the Sun is not only confined to the physical sciences, but to the realm of the nature and the Spirit. For many it is much more than a mass of hydrogen and helium. It gives life to the planet. Not too close to burn, not to far away to freeze, the Earth is within that ‘Goldilock’s zone, and that is surely no mere co-incidence. There is a deeper, spiritual dimension that many in our fast-paced society ‘forget’. But, not you.

‘The sun does not follow its appointed course without having been so ordained.’ Statius

For ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, particularly of Welsh extraction, but not only, the Autumn Equinox is known as Alban Elfed – the Light of the Water. Very apt as the dominant compass point for Autumn Equinox is west, and west, as a cardinal point for Druids and others is represented by one of the physical elements: water.

Others dear to me may know this time as (just) the autumn equinox, the Second harvest, or Mabon. But, around the world and by different (faith-)groups it is known by different names and is celebrated in different ways. But each, in their own way, pause and turn to contemplate the Sun and celebrate.

If you’re not going to a ceremony this weekend, the following might be useful to know, and some of these events might be adapted and used by you for your own Autumn equinox celebration.

‘The rich sunset makes the most sterile landscape enchanting.’ Eliza Cook

Japan marks the equinoxes – both of them – with a period called Ohigan, and the Japanese Buddhist belief is that the land of the afterlife is due west, and during the equinoxes, the sun sets directly west. The equinoxes are symbolic of the transitions of life. And so, this week for them it is a time to visit the graves of one’s ancestors, to spruce up the grave sites, and to leave flowers on them. It is also a time of meditation and a time to visit (living) relatives.

Some Wiccan rituals for Mabon include building an altar with harvest fruits and vegetables, meditating on balance, gathering and feasting on apples, offering apples to That Which Is Bigger Than Us, sharing that food, and counting one’s blessings.

China and Vietnam celebrate the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, which is on the full moon nearest to this equinox. It is celebrated with the many festival activities, plus gazing at the moon and eating moon cakes. On the theme of food, in the southern parts of the USA, those who celebrate Chinese and Vietnamese customs would eat Moon Pies instead of moon cakes.

 ‘But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…’ Malachi 4:2a

The Christian church replaced many early pagan equinox celebrations with Christianized observances, such as Michaelmas, which falls at the end of September. Traditionally, at such times in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, was eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes: ‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, want not for money all the year’.

In Scotland, St Michael’s Bannock, or Struan Micheil (a large scone-like cake) is also made. This used to be made from cereals grown on the family’s land during the year, representing the fruits of the fields, and wass cooked on a lamb skin, representing the fruit of the flocks. The cereals was also moistened with sheep’s milk, as sheep were  deemed the most sacred of animals.

‘By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.’ Helen Hunt Jackson

A regular number of people attend the autumnal equinox at the Kokino megalithic observatory in the north-western town of Kumanovo, 43 miles north of Skopje, Macedonia. The 3,800-year-old observatory was discovered in 2001 and is ranked as the fourth oldest observatory in the world, according to NASA.

In Soria, a city in northern Spain, revellers hold torches or candles as they parade the city near the ancient Celtiberian settlement of Numantia, which was famous for its role in the Celtiberian War.

And, people light candles after sunset during the autumn equinox celebration at the Neris River waterfront in Vilnius, Lithuania.

‘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 to balance my need for outgoing and restoring this day.
(With thankfulness for my going out, restore to me my rest this night).’

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year: Celtic And Christian Seasonal Prayers).

And so, the circle turns, the planet tilts and the sun, as faithful as ever, shines upon us and bathes us in its light and warmth. Alban Elfed is a wonderful time, and a great event to mark the year’s progress in some meaningful way.

How will you celebrate this Autumn equinox? You might like to try some of the abovementioned idea. Or, perhaps, this Alban Elfed you might find time, maybe in the evening, to recollect good events during the last year (and even make of list) and to give thanks in some small way.

Expressing gratitude can done be in a number of ways, so do choose one that you’re comfortable with: maybe lighting a candle and praying a gratitude prayer to the Source of All, inviting friends around for a harvest meal, meditating for a short while on the bounty of nature, reciting a relevant poem or expressing yourself in a simple ancient ritual, or in some other way.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Alban Elfed, Tadhg.

 

 

Activity For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20180315 ACTIVITY FOR ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOX

 

Dragons And Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Words For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Blessing (adapted)

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Personal Renewal

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

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

Alban Eiler Song: Nature’s Smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, Finally….

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

Appendix

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

 

 

Haiku #7: Vernal Equinox[ology]: Ephemera

20170320 vernal equinoxolgy EPHEMERAAs you may know, I’m fascinated by the traditional haiku – short Japanese poems consisting of three lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five; and somewhere in the haiku there is usually a seasonal reference (called a ‘kigo’), however oblique.

It’s the Spring equinox today, and time to celebrate the time of equal day lengths and equal night. I also love liturgy and ritual, and so have penned three haiku to celebrate today and to use this evening as liturgy in part of my ritual for the ocassion.

And, so, here’s some words, in the form of haiku, to mark the season, the turning of the Circle, and in praise to the One behind it all.

Equal nights for owls,
And days for soaring eagles.
Vernal equinox.

Ascendant light, now.
The night but bows for six months.
Perfect harmony.

Celebrate, candle!
Mark the Circle’s turning, well.
Oh, Veriditas!

You might have your own unique way of celebrating this time, but if you want to use (and adapt) any, or all, of the haiku above, please do so. But, however, complex or simple your ritual and liturgy is, my encouragement is to do something today (or even tomorrow) to celebrate this wonderful day – so light a candle, meditate, plant a seed (or, perhaps donate a small amount of money to a tree-planting charity), or pause in gratitude as the Circle turns. Praise be to the Circle-Turner.

 

Liturgy For Alban Eilir, The Spring Equinox [Monday, 20 March 2017]

20170316 litrugy for alban eilir EPHEMERAIt’s now only a short time until the Spring equinox happens, 20 March – that time when day and night are of equal length, and thereafter we move slowly toward summer when the sun climbs higher and days lengthen even more. In Wales Spring Equinox is a ‘magical’ time, and is known as Alban Eiler, which means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’.

To celebrate this wonderful event, here’s some words that you might consider using and/or adapting as a Liturgy For Alban Eiler, for your own celebration

Earth Blessing:

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

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

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

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

(facing east)
Lord of the elements, ‘Three-Personned’ God, we praise you.

For Personal Renewal

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

End Of Day Liturgy

Praise to you, Mother-Labourer of All,
who has birthed all creation and who re-creates.
I/We rest now with you,
Maker and loving Sustainer of all your children, and
I/We ask you to enfold me/us,
and all those on my/our heart/s.
Amen.