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).

 

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.

 

Hymn For The Full Moon: ‘Rising Moon, So High…’ [Hymn, Poem, Liturgy]

20170801 HYMN FOR THE FULL MOONIn just over a week there will be a full moon. I know that to ancient and latter-day Celtic-Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids and others the full moon was and is significant. Some, today, may focus more on the new moon, but for me, it is the full moon (and without judging others) that is important for ritual and celebration, or for just taking time to pause and gaze up at it in awe.

To ancient Christians the full moon was significant, it being the indicator, even today, of when Easter should take place. Indeed, there are several Psalms which heap praise on the moon and the One behind it, as do current-day Celtic Christians, Druids and others. We, each may have different ‘theologies’ but each one of us gazes at the same moon, the Earth’s faithful ‘companion’ in wonderment at its splendour.

On several occasions in the recent past I’ve used old Gaelic tunes to new words to celebrate the major seasons, and today I’ve used an old English ballad that goes back at least 350 years – Scarborough Fair, see link below – to the following words penned by myself. If you wish to use the tune for a full moon ritual for your group or for yourself, please check the tune’s link. Or, perhaps, without the tune you might like to consider reading it as liturgy or poetry.

Rising moon, so high in the sky.
Your silv’ry light is seen far and wide.
You circle the earth for all to see-ee.
Your fulsome face does smile at me.

Mighty full moon, oh stay for a while.
Shining so warmly, your wisdom descends
to friends, to lovers, you are the ice-breaker.
Reflecting the light of the Moon-maker.

Your beauty touches my heart and my soul.
Oh, thou great moon so close and so bright.
In you I become but a child
bathed in your light, your light so mild.

Praise to you, our dear Sister Moon.
In heav’n you shine so precious and fair.
We celebrate this time of full moon.
Praising the Source, the Three in One.

The tune is: Scarborough Fair (click here for the tune). When you click on that link there is a short musical preamble, and then the tune starts at 12 seconds into video and ends at 47 seconds, and that tune can then be repeated four times for the four verses above.

Notes:
v1 was inspired and based on words of the first part of Dvorak’s ‘Song to the moon’ from the opera, Rusalka.
v2 was inspired and based loosely on words of Rumi’s ‘Behind the beauty of the moon….’
v3 was inspired by  William Henry Davies’ poem entitled ‘The Moon’
v4 was inspired by a few lines from St Francis’ ‘The Canticle of the Sun’, also known as Laudes Creaturarum, and Psalm 81:3 (The Book,), and ends with the ‘Trinitarian/Three-realm formula.
Photograph, above, copyrighted and used by kind permission of Pennie Ley (click here). Bless you.