Celebrating Spring: Imbolc / Candlmas: Ephemera

imbolc snowdrop-4026893_960_720

It’s nearly that time. Half way between the Winter solstice and the Spring Equinox is the beginning of spring. It’s called Imbolc, or Candlemas by many Churches.

And, so the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonderful, 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, to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Friend.

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 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. It is awesome that such a person can unite us in deep spirituality, if we let that deep spirituality take hold.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and wells; she is the patroness of sweet water. Water is the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire 9a symbol denoting Brigid), 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, and 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.

If you’re interested in making a St Brigid’s cross, do click here.

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 garden or in your window-box.

Blackberry. Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.
Ginger. Ginger revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayers for Imbolc & Brigid

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)

And

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

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

And

For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For lengthening days
And sunlight’s warmth upon the soil
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For a snowdrop’s beauty
Reflecting its Creator’s artistry
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. A link to his page here.

And, so this Imbolc or Candlemas my encouragement is for you to celebrate it and give thanks to the Source of All. If you want ideas about celebration meals to mark the festival please see here.

Meanwhile, the Green blessings of the season be you and those whom you love. Tadhg.

 

 

The Burning Bowl Ritual: The Year’s End

20191227 BURNING BOWL RITUAL

As we come to the end of the year, you might find the Burning Bowl ritual useful.

‘Attachment is the source of all suffering.’ Buddha

Many of us (if not all of us) have things that seem to cling to us and hold us back. Attachments.  It could be something that some have said to us, or unfortunate events that we’ve experienced, inappropriate reactions, uninspiring thoughts, outdated ideas that have served their purpose in the past but which now serve no useful purpose, or negativity etc. All these seem to cling to us, and other things, too,  and can hold us back from being who we are meant to be.

Our reactions to life events, if we’re not careful, can become something like a weight that clings to us, that weighs us down, but it is so subtle sometimes, or we’re so used to the same actions and reactions, that we are hardly conscious of it.

‘The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather’. Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets.

This is where the Burning Bowl Ritual can prove to be useful.

It is a form of ‘letting go’ ritual which can be performed in a group setting or by an individual, and what follows is the rationale behind it, its purpose, along with some resources that you can use or adapt, as needed.

If it is time to release that which is holding you back (and there are ‘seasons’ so there is no pressure to perform the ritual as a ‘must do’ at this time), then do read on.

A Burning Bowl ritual is a transformative ritual.

It is traditionally performed on New Year’s Eve or other meaningful holidays or dates. There’s some flexibility here, and so, with the end of the year coming up you might like to move the ritual around by a few days (or more). It is a good way to release that which we’re clinging to and which is unhealthy: the past, negativity, or pain, of dealing with old resentments, hurt, grudges, regrets, or suffering. It is a another step on the adventure of becoming who you really are, and embracing the benefits now.

However, as you prepare or, indeed, perform the Burning Bowl ritual it is important to try to be in a positive, peaceful mood.

In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. – Deepak Chopra

It’s a celebration of the end of all that is holding us back, and the release into something new.

Step-by-Step Guide

Essentially, you start by writing what you want to let go of, and then you’ll burn that piece of paper. But, there’s more. So for this you will need:

• Paper
• Pen
• Matches or a lighter
• A safe, burn-friendly surface (like a metal or glass bowl, fireplace, etc.)

Safety
Do not burn something valuable out of spite, like legal documents, photographs, or something that could be important to another person. It is a symbolic act, and so writing on a small piece of paper will suffice.

Also avoid burning something that is highly flammable or something that can cause you harm, and any burning should take place in a safe area outside. Ensure you, others and the environment are safe,

Use a large enough unburnable bowl or a container (like metal), and do be aware of your environment or surroundings. Ensure no harm.

Intentionality
Throughout the burning ceremony, remain calm and grounded in your intent. The ceremony should not be performed to shake away anger or frustration. There is no ‘wrestling’ with negative emotions or feelings – it is a ritual of serenity.

You might like to think or voice out loud your intentions, such as:

• I am peaceful
• I am grounded
• I let go of attachments
• I find peace when I let go

The Four Quarters
For those that like to acknowledge the four quarters, the cardinal compass points the abovementioned could be recited as you face, first phrase to the west, the turn and recite the second phrase to the north, the third to the east, and the fourth to the south. The reason for ending facing the south is that symbolically south represents fire (the main element in this ritual), but you can start or finish at other cardinal points as you feel are appropriate.

When your intentions are clear and focused, you can determine what you want out of this ceremony.

Grounding
Here, you can sit down or stand firmly with both feet on the ground for a few moments until you feel present and grounded. As negativity or tension releases from your body, let it pass. Stand quietly in prayer or meditation, while you honour your commitment to change.

Writing & Burning
Write down what you’re ready to let go of on your piece of paper. It could be a word or a phrase that sums up that which is holing you back. It may be best just to spend a minute or two doing this, and avoid writing more than a few words. Being succinct is good.

‘Nothing releases like forgive. Nothing renews like forget.’ Ray A Davis

Now that you have listed what you want to let go of, hold it for a few minutes. Read it, reflect on it, but try not to react negatively.

Now, it’s time to burn. Light the piece of paper on fire or throw it, carefully, into the pre-lit burning bowl. Watch it burn, take a few deep breaths, and you might like to rub your hands together for a final release  of the attachment you just let go of.

In burning that piece of paper, you have symbolically ended any power that attachment had over you, and have embraced that which is positive and which is about to come (or, its already there, depending on your viewpoint).

So…
By burning away clinging, negative attachments, you can free yourself from any regret, sorrow, or pain, and look forward to a brighter future. Let the burning ceremony allow you to sense a feeling of closure, that will allow you to move on.

So, as we come to the end of the year, and if it feels like the right time, and you feel its right to let go of attachment, do try a burning ceremony.

But…
But, if you’re performing the ritual indoors where an open flame may not be appropriate or safe, and the same may apply if you live in the city, then do adapt the ceremony.

If a (literal) burning bowl is inappropriate or unsafe, then after you have written what you want to release on paper you might like to ‘feed’ it through the shedding matching,  or rip it into little pieces and put it in the rubbish/garbage bin (in small enough pieces that no one can read it), or write it on rice paper and watch it dissolve in a bowl of water (and in a very symbolic action, it occured to me that you might substitute ordinary paper for toilet paper, write on that, and afterwards flush it down the toilet! How symbolic is that?).

‘When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.’ Kahlil Gibrán, Sand and Foam.

The abovementioned are a few ideas for a Burning Bowl ritual, an ending to that which is holding us back.

Earthing
This ritual, like any other ritual moves us from ‘mechanical time’ to the realm of sacred-time, sacred space. In ‘returning’ it is important to mark that returning occasion with a physical action. If outside and having faced the four quarters then you might like to walk about a little. If indoors, then a small hand clap to mark your return is sufficient. Some small, token, physical action is important to end the ritual.

But, There’s More
Within the next couple of days, in time for the first day (or few days) if the new year, I’d like to mention the White Stone ritual which is a way, after releasing that which was holding us back, will move us on it a positive and life-affirming way (and for which one or two white stones that can fit in the palm of your hand may be needed – but as always, do improvise).

 

The Elements: In Praise Of Fire

20190906 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF FIRE

Sitting by that hearth as a child I was mesmerised by the ‘ghostly’ flickers of orange, red and yellow as flames danced around the lumps of coal.

Occasionally a plume of blue or purple, ignited coal-gas, would prevail for few seconds and catch my attention. The coal would splutter, and shift, and settle as lumps of coal would disintegrate. The fire would hiss and crackle, and emit heat – so much so that, that, as I usually sat too close to the fire, one side of my face would be red for a while and hot, and the other seemingly cold. But, they were wonderful childhood memories of the hearth and of fire.

It is no wonder that the ancients and some today believe fire to be alive. The mythical and elemental salamander, often depicted as a typical salamander in shape, is elemental fire.

What follows, then, is research and words of liturgy (usually indented, below, that you might like to use and/or adapt) on the fascinating subject of the element of life-giving fire, that I hope with enthral you and inspire.

‘The most tangible of all visible mysteries – fire’. (Leigh Hunt)

Since the beginning of humankind fire has held many in awe, and much myth surrounding its ‘finding’ abound in many cultures. Remember Prometheus in Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gives it to humankind? Or the story of dragons, flying serpent-like creatures in many Celtic tales who gifted mankind with fire and with speech.

As regards fire, the rekindling of  fire in ancient times was problematic, and it was probably because of that that Abraham carried live coals with him when offering a sacrifice (Genesis 22.6, The Book). Others, especially travelling tribes would have done the same. In those times, sometimes, children were made to ‘pass through the fire’ as a sign of dedication (and not sacrifice) by some tribes.

In the beginning, some fourteen billion years ago, there was nothing. Then, about 13.8 billion years ago, the universe erupted into being and the temperature of it, for a brief moment,  was an astounding one billion degrees Celsius (though, it you still work in Fahrenheit then it was 1.8 billion degrees). Fortunately, it cooled down, and as we know from science energy is never lost or destroyed, but is changed, transformed, and so that energy is still around to day.

‘Fires from the beginning of time empower you right now – this instant. What you are thinking and feeling…is possible only through the cosmic fire. (‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon’, Brian Swimme)

The energy of the cosmos, from the Big Bang, continues. Not just in each star that we can see and not see, not only within the molten core of our home planet, but it is within each one of us, within everything that exists.

But fire is not always destructive and negative. In some cases, it is used as a purifying process or to signify truth, sometimes it is used to herald a theophany, and sometimes to talk about love and burning desire.

‘To love is to burn, to be on fire.’ (Jane Austen)

And, to ancient and latter-day Chinese people and those who practice Qi Gong, yang is the fire within and also the positive energy that circulates around the body, with its ‘chief’ organ being the heart.

It is no wonder that many cultures revere or hold a special place for fire in their community or home. Indeed, in many Celtic or Druidic ritual, fire is one of the main elements:  many face the southern compass point  in ritual to commemorate not just the season of summer, but also fire.

Blessed be you Light of Life,
Source of the sacred flame within each of us,
Light which the darkness cannot put out.
I rise up with you this day/I rest with you this night.

(The Celtic Wheel Of The Year. Tess Ward

The Carmina Gadelica – a compendium of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, literary-folkloric poems and songs, proverbs etc gathered in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909, and recorded by Alexander Carmichael Gaelic-– speaks of smooring the fire in the hearth.

Many translate smooring as smothering the fire before one goes to bed, but it really means subduing the fire when rekindling the fire was a challenge (but, please, do safely smother any fire you light at the end of each day or as necessary). Smooring in that older sense meant that embers could easily be kept and rekindled the following day, and according to Carmicheal the following prayer would be used when smooring (or maybe used by us as we smother a fire or candle flame after (ritual) usage.

I am smooring the fire
as the Son of Mary would smoor;
Blessed be the house,
blessed be the fire,
blessed be the people all.

(Carmina Gadelica, compiled by Alexander Carmichael)

Or

I will smoor the hearth
as Mary would smoor;
The encompassment  (encircling) of Bride (Bridget) and of Mary,
on the fire and on the floor,
and on the household all.

(Carmina Gadelica, compiled by Alexander Carmichael)

And so, that childhood memory of the hearth returns to me. Happy days. Ofcourse, the circle has turned many time since then. Endless smooring and rekindling has taken place, and those around the hearth in my childhood, then, save one, have ‘gone ahead’ and been transformed. But, the memories and good times, and their words and example remain. The words of our Elders and loved-ones, though they may not be physically present, can positively  burn within our hearts and rekindle kindly action within us, even today.

That ancient and noble fire of love and truth, of light and encouragement continues on, in you and I.

‘Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames’. (Rumi)

 

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.

Firefall 2018: Poem, Hymn, Liturgy

201800518 FIREFALL 2018 POEM HYMN LITURGYFire!

This Sunday it is fifty days since Easter and in the calendar of some that makes it Pentecost. To others, it’s about five weeks to the summer solstice – a time when I hope to be joining my Christian/Celtic-Druidic Brethren and Druids (and others) at Stonehenge – and it’s a time of preparation and looking forward. A time of celebration.

Respecting others’ traditions, it struck me that fire is the common thread here.

‘The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.’ Ferdinand Foch

Fire, blessing, newness, power, understanding, outpouring, gratitude, regardless of our many and splendid, varied and awesome traditions and interpretations it is a time of remembrance and celebration. A time of praise.

Fire fell at that first, new, Pentecost some two thousand years ago, and fire was important to ancient and is important to latter-day Celts and Druids, and others, as we are in the season of summer, whose cardinal representative (compass) point is ‘south’, and so the element is fire.

Fire.

What we have in common ‘lifts’ us out of the mundane-only way of thinking and propels us to a higher plane, an objective way of understanding and perceiving, a new way of looking at the world around us in all its splendour and its people.

Fire transforms. Are we not all in need of (ongoing) transformation? Certainly our economic system is as we see it hurting the world, our political systems and policies are as many suffer unfairly, and many would say we as individuals are in need of that fiery transformation.

‘Love in its essence is spiritual fire.’ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Spiritual experience, regardless of our spiritual pedigree, takes us higher and higher, and as we look around the dross that is burned off – one usefulness of fire, albeit sometimes painful – we see what is left behind, and what really matters – and for all of us that can be a surprising and humbling experience.

‘Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.’ Ayn Rand

I believe we are all, individually, locally, globally in need that fire, today. Pentecost and/or the summer solstice are wonderful events to give gratitude and to seek (another, or further, or greater awareness of that) infilling. With that in mind I wrote:

Oh, Sun of Righteousness for All
as on that ancient day
when you looked upon us,
you smiled on humankind
and let your fire fall.

Let your fire fall,
let your fire fall,
let your fire fall on us, today.

Oh, Benevolent Sharer of All
shine your light and understanding now,
newness in mind, and body,
and in spirit, too.
Whisper long-sought words of wisdom to all.

Let your fire fall,
let your fire fall,
let your fire fall on us, today.

Oh, Power Behind It All
may we know the heat of pure desire.
To be, to do, to act in love, authentically,
May our hearts and minds be open
to hear your enlightened call.

Let your fire fall,
let your fire fall,
let your fire fall on us, today.

In a world of long shadows,
grant us, yet another fire-fall.

 

Summertime & The Livin’ Is Easy: With Beltane In Mind: 1 May 2018

20180429 SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING IS EASY WITH BELTANE IN MINDThe start of summer is almost upon us. I know for many in the UK, the question might be ‘Was that Spring?’ But, it’s true, summer is almost upon us (in the northern hemisphere).

On 1 May our hearts and minds dwell upon May Day, or Calan Mai (as it is known in Wales). Down the centuries it is has always been a sacred day, and in latter centuries it has been a holy day by the Church, but now its celebration is somewhat ‘muted’. Such is modern life where much has become ‘vanilla’, and this seems acceptable to many. But, not you.

To the Celts and latter-day Druids it is known as Beltane, a dynamic day, and is the start of the season of summer, as the circle turns. It is a time for giving thanks and for celebration. It was a time of May Fair days where farmers and traders all gather in towns to sell their wares.

’Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date.’. William Shakespeare

In previous years in the UK many household fires would be doused and ceremoniously re-lit on Beltane. Special bonfires were kindled on this day. Rituals would be performed to protect people and cattle. Yellow flowers, such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn and gorse would be used to decorate houses, and would be especially placed at doorways and over windows.

Even today, in the UK some villages celebrate with fairs, Morris-dancers etc, and I remember at school (not that many years ago) seeing the May Pole in use. In some villages Jack-In-Green and others would march through the village, a representation of the Green Man, a symbol of fertility (whose face appears in some Churches throughout the UK and elsewhere).

[For a recounting of my green angel/green man dream of some years ago, please see here.]

The traditional name for 1 May for those in Ireland, Isle of Man, and Scotland etc translate as ‘bright day’ or ‘shining fire’.

Sweet May hath come to love us.
Flowers, trees, their blossoms don;
And through the blue heavens above us
the very clouds move on.

(Heinrich Heine)

Ah fire. In days of old some would jump through the fire. Didn’t we do that as children, young men, as a dare, just for fun, for the thrill? Or was that just me? To latter day Celts ‘jumping through the fire’ meant purification and protection. [But, please don’t try this yourself]. Some would walk around the fire or bonfire sun-wise (or deosil, pronounced ‘joss-all (though pronunciations vary)), that is clockwise. In so doing they would send out well-wishes as they walked, or prayers for nature, the greening of the country, for food and a future good harvest.

Beltane, then is one of the four fire festivals marked the turning of the seasons. Two of the fire festivals, Samhain and Beltane, were considered to be male, and Imbolc and Lughnasadh were female. Each was celebrated for three days – before, during and after the actual day.

Oh, the summer night,
has a smile of light
and she sits on a sapphire throne.

(Barry Cornwall)

So, how will you celebrate Beltane, this year?

There is no time to plan, but maybe that’s a positive thing. Enjoy what you’re doing even if you’re working that day. Find time to pause and meditate upon nature, its bounty and give thanks – even slowing down and purposefully eating part of your lunch is ideal. Maybe light a candle and send out a well-wish, light, love, gratitude or say a prayer for a few minutes? Such events need not be long or complex. How about sharing a bottle of fruit juice, wine or a mineral water with a friend in the cool of the evening that day? Maybe, pouring out the first small amount on the earth as a sign of thankfulness, a libation to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves. Or saying a few heartfelt words or words written by others, see below.

I am sure you can find some form of short and profound celebration to usher in this wonderful season of summer, Beltane.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Beltane, Tadhg

 

Appendix:

Bless, O threefold true and bountiful,
Myself, my spouse, my children.
Bless everything within my dwelling and in my possession,
Bless the kine* and crops, the flocks and corn,
From Samhain Eve to Beltane Eve,
With goodly progress and gentle blessing,
From sea to sea, and every river mouth,
From wave to wave, and base of waterfall.

[The Beltane Blessing (part), Carmina Gadelica
(*old word for cows)

Or

Praise to you, [Whitsun] fire,
leaping and sweeping through this unjust world of mankind,
purifying with a passionate Spirit,
and warming us like that fiery orb above us.
Your fiery power rising upon each of us, blesses us,
and alights on us, declaring we are not alone.
You whisper that we are one.
Blessed are you [Whitsun] fire,
desiring life in all its fullness for the whole earth.

[Adapted, but based on a prayer by Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year]

Celtic Thought: Beltane Fire, Reflections.

20170427 BELTANE FIRE REFLECTIONS CELTIC THOUGHTBeltane (1 May) is almost here, that time of celebration as we usher in a new season: summer.

For many it probably doesn’t feel like summer, or even spring at the moment – it’s about the temperature of the inside of a fridge in London at the moment as temperatures have plummeted over the last few days. But, summer is on its way.

Beltane, then, marks the entry-point to summer, and summer (as with the southern compass point) is associated with fire. So, here some words on the seasonally-apt theme of fire.

‘Fire is the most tolerable third party.’ ‘Henry David Thoreau

Beltane, along with rituals of old to protect cattle, crops and people, was also a time of celebration involving a community bonfire. Think of Druids of old around a bonfire, ancient and latter-day Celts, or St Patrick and other Christians celebrating the coming of Light. Bonfires have long been associated with this time – though there is no reason why you can’t celebrate the event in a special way, if at home on that evening, with the lighting of a symbolic candle.

But, it’s a time of fire.

‘Beltane is a wonderful time for expressing who you truly are.’ Carole Carlton

There is an intimacy about fire. Figuratively, we might describe a couple deeply in love as burning with passion, with fire in their hearts for each other. For those burning with ambition (pun intended), we might describe them as having fire in their belly.

‘Desire is a bonfire that burns with greater fury, asking for more fuel… ‘ Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Fire is alive.

At school, albeit many, many years ago, I well remember learning about the seven processes that underpin all life.

Firstly, living things move to find food, and fire moves especially rapidly during forest fires, house fires to find and consume material for fuel.

Living things undergo respiration – they need oxygen. Fire ‘breathes in’ oxygen, and needs it to sustain its energy. Starve a fire of oxygen and it dies.

Exodus 19:18 ‘Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire…’ Exodus 19.18a, The Book

Sensitivity is another process of life as it detects changes in its surroundings. Fire also is sensitive to its surroundings, as it responds to the materials it encounters, favouring some and moving away from others eg wood and water, paper and metal etc).

Fire, like living cells, grows. The more fuel fire finds, the larger and more expansive the flames.

That naturally bring us onto nutrition. Living cells, animals, trees, plants etc need food to live, and fire is no different. Take away its fuel source and it dies.

Reproduction? Yes, just as life reproduces itself, so does fire. In many rituals one candle is initially lit, and from that many others are lit (with the former being diminished in any way). Fire can make umpteen copies of itself – forming ‘offspring’ of its own kind.

I smoor the hearth
as Mary smoors it.
The vigilance of Brighid and Mary
be upon the fire and upon the floor
and over the whole household.

{Celtic prayer)

And finally, something that is not spoken of in polite company is excretion.  Living things excrete. Explore a landscape after a fire, look into a hearth when a fire has died, or has been smoored, and ash is the result. Ash, the excretion left behind by the fire.

Fire is alive.

Fire is intimate. If you’re fortunate enough to have an open fire, a hearth in the living room, a wonderful and deep meditation is to just sit and gaze at it for an hour without artificial light.  As a child, and even today, I meditate in such a way whenever I can. I heartily recommend it. The fire draws you in. It invites you to cosy up, relax, douse all other thoughts and to look deeply into it. And then, a myriad of ‘liquid’ fire shapes erupt, dance about, grow, are diminished and then disappear, only to be replaced by other fantastical, yellow, orange and red ‘ignitic beings’ who dance in their place. Shapes appear, heat is felt, thoughts amble and time is ‘consumed’ in a pleasant and wonderful way. And then one looks around. The rest of the room looks darker, cooler if not colder and altogether different. It’s then, and only after the event, that you realise that such a deep mediation took you into that liminal realm, that altogether-other place, sacred space, and what some would call a ‘thin place, a caol áit (pronounced ‘kweel awtch’).

Communion. Connectedness. Caol áit. Candle?

Beltane is a time of the new season of summer, whose element is fire, and it is a time to celebrate in large ways and small, to light a bonfire or candle, but a time to draw aside, consider the intimacy of the fire-season and celebrate – to mark the occasion is some joyful, positive, pleasant and memorable way. Do something special this Beltane.

‘We are all born with a divine fire in us. Our efforts should be to give wings to this fire and fill the world with the glow of its goodness.’ Abdul Kalam

Cosmic Fire [Within]: A Poem & Liturgy For Beltane.

20170425 COSMIC FIRE WITHIN POEMBeltane, celebrated on 1 May, is fast approaching.

The wheel turns, as the Earth continues to circle the sun. As it turns, and east is represented by the element of the wind (and we’re moving away from that), then due south is represented by fire, and we’re moving toward that.

Due south, the time of the summer solstice is the height of that season and element, so Beltane is south-east. Not quite east, not quite south. It’s a ‘moving into’ time’, as we move south-ward. In Wales and Ireland, and other Celtic countries Beltane is the beginning of summer, or at least the summer season represented by fire (even if, weather-wise, it doesn’t quite feel that way), and so many – perhaps yourself – will light candles and bonfires to welcome the wonderful event of Beltane, and usher in a new season.

Beltane is the time for dancing around maypoles (a popular event at primary school, but maybe not so now). It is the season of maturing life and deep found love, and the time of making vows, handfastings and other commitments. In Wales, Beltane is also known as Calan Mai. I’m afraid those words, themselves, don’t have a deep meaning, and they just mean the first day of May. However, the event itself is very significant and is a wonderful time of celebration.

My encouragement to you, then, is the celebrate the event in large ways or small, but to celebrate it is some significant way (that is unique to you).

With Beltane and fire in mind, here’s a poem, a Beltane liturgy that may be of use. It will form part of my Beltane celebrations.

Cosmic Fire [Within]

Before time itself,
when matter was but a dream in the Divine mind,
in the cosmic explosive crucible
of the furthest reaches of space,
fire roared.

Before life was formed,
when cosmic radiation coalesced
into a myriad of starry forms,
as the universe expanded,
fire grew.

Before humanity arose,
when the universe was oh-so-young and innocent,
the Source of All
planned that you should be here, and
fire moved.

Before this present time,
before you even knew that you are ‘you’,
energy was planted in all the elements.
Visible only to those who have eyes to see.
Fire hid.

From the very start,
it was ordained, that one place for the element of fire
to reside, to enliven and to empower,
was deep in the very core of humanity’s being, in your
heart.

Praise be to you Brother Sun, Sister fire.
Visible and invisible are you.
Felt and yet unknown.
Through you we can shine like a myriad stars in the sky.
A return to the beginning.