A CountDown To Alban Hefin: Celebrating The Sun

20180528 COUNTDOWN TO ALBAN HEFIN CELEBRATING THE SUNFor many people today, and certainly in ages past the four compass points were important to daily life and ritual. Those four points represent winter (north), spring (east), summer (south) and autumn (west). Tonight I have the sun, summer, fire, the south in mind as we are in the season of summer and are racing toward the summer solstice.

The summer solstice, Thursday, 21 June 2018 is the time of the longest day of the year, and a time to consider the sun. In Wales that event is lovingly known as Alban Hefin, which means ‘The Light of the Shore’. That event and the shoreline are mystical times and places, liminal, they are ‘thin places’, a meeting of two realms, places and times where things happen.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I seldom see you seldom hear your tune.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister Moon)

Midsummer’s day is also celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches as a feast day, celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, who was the herald to the (incarnated) Light.

And so, the following then has summer and the sun in mind, in general and might6 be useful to you now, and then over the next couple of weeks more articles will appear with the summer solstice in mind, and with ideas of how to celebrate that time in action and ritual.

On midsummer’s eve many people stayed up all night (or perhaps even more woke up early the following morning) to watch the sun rise on the longest day of the year. Candles were carried, bonfires were lit on hilltops and aromatic herbs were thrown into the fire.

‘This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath.’

(Margaret Atwood)

It was thought that if sick cattle or any poorly people passed through the smoke of that bonfire they would be healed, whilst others might chose a ‘tame’ part of the bonfire and jump across it to ward off bad luck and/or to seek an abundance that year in fertility of the land etc.

Don’t worry If you’re not attending a bonfire celebration, a token and just-as-meaningful candle can be lit as a focal point for to think of the summer solstice and to celebrate that time. Ritual ideas, words and ideas will follow over the next week or so.

But, to whet your appetite the amazing words of that mystic, Hildegard of Bingen spring to mind.

’I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond
The beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters,
And I burn in the sun, moon and stars.’

(Hildegard of Bingen)

The summer solstice is a dual celebration: on one hand there is much revelry and enjoyment because it is the longest day of the year and the sun is in its ascendancy, but it is also the time when days start to grow shorter, nights longer and the darkness begins to grow. Yes, the circle turns, and the great cycle continues. Tempus fugit.

Although not the summer solstice tonight, there is nothing to stop us celebrating the sun (especially, but not only, in the season of summer) and giving thanks to That Which Is Greater Than Us for it, and so, tonight, I lit a candle.

In the middle of one of the busiest cities on the planet, in my small city garden (okay, a yard), occasionally interrupted by ambulance sirens,  a small oasis of calm ‘blinked’ into existence for a few minutes. On this occasion I didn’t move in ritual, but I revolved the candle in its arrow-marked ‘saucer’: first ‘aiming’ it at the west and pausing, then slowly turning it to face north, then east, and then slowly, and reverently turning it so that it ended facing the southern compass point; the south, representing fire,  the sun.

I closed my eyes and spent a few minutes in silence, aiming not to produce a thought, but just to revel in that inward solitude as best I could, and in the light that the candle was giving out.

And then, quietly I gave thanks using an adapted prayer of ancient Hebrew origin as a basis for my words. Intentionality is all-important.

‘Praise to you, Oh Source Of All, that the celestial heights, the messengers and other hosts, the sun and moon and shining stars should praise you, and here I am, praising you, too, for everything. Sun of righteousness, thank you’.

(Ancient Hebrew prayer adapted)

I sat there for a few more minutes, in silence, and then extinguished the candle flame. The little flame, creating so much light before was dark was gone, and the darkness closed in.

I sat there in the darkness, with the occasional ambulance siren wailing in the distance, a helicopter flying quickly overhead, and despite the busy-ness of others, it was awesome. This oasis of quietness and light slowly, and very slowly,  ‘folded up’, and it was gone (or was it?). And yet, in darkness that surrounds me now, the sun’s light yet blesses someone else with its vitality and abundance.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I now do see you, I can hear your tune
So much in love with all that I survey.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister moon)

 

Sleeplessness & The Ancestors: Celtic Thought

20170727 SLEEPLESSNESS AND THE ANCESTORS

I mentioned yesterday that my doctor – ever-so cautious, but I’m not complaining – has loaned me some kind of electronic sphygmomanometer, the machine that measures my blood pressure, and this one bleeps and whirrs every half hour (for a day). And then the  ‘cuff’ around my bicep contracts for a minute, and then relaxes…for another thirty minutes. See here. It’s like an old Star Trek ‘tricorder’.

Well, having got off to sleep quite quickly tonight, it woke me up with its bleeping and whirring. Before I had fully woke up, it was as if an invisible assailant was gripping my arm as the ‘cuff’ contracted and squeezed my bicep. Or, it could have been the house bwg or (from Welsh to English, the boggart), See here. Every house may have one, according to my late Welsh grandmother.

But, alas, it was the digital sphygmomanometer doing what a programmed digital sphygmomanometer should do. But, at 2.33am, in the morning?

And so, I’m awake. I’m sitting in the study, in the dark, waiting for ‘sleep’ to revisit me. Right now, I’m wide awake. Oh, so wide awake. At times like these, I always believe there’s a reason for such unexpected alertness. Could it be an angel’s prod, an elemental speaking in hushed tones, the Companion, or something else that is calling, and prompting me to wake up and now stay awake? I gaze around the dark room. Well, almost in darkness – I lit a few candles on ‘the table’ a few moments ago.

I’m not sure if you have such ‘the table’ like this, or call it something else. It’s the focal point of this room, and perhaps, spiritual-energy-wise, the focal point of the house. It is changed from time to time to reflect the seasons or what’s on my heart, but right now it displays photographs and ‘memory-prodders’ relating to some of my family that have ‘gone ahead’ and whom I still love very much.

Love wins, every time.

In Christian Churches, in a few months time, All Soul’s Day will be celebrated. Sadly, such ritual services, along with others, such as Ascension Day, magnificent and full of meaning that they are, are ‘minimised’ or even forgotten in many places. In the Eastern and Orthodox Churches such ancestor commemorative services happen five or six times a year! Wonderful. And ofcourse, to ancient and latter-day Celts, Celtic-Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids and others, such rituals may happen more frequently. I like that very much.

As I gaze at ‘the table’ I wonder if it is ancestor-worship? For some, it may be, and I don’t judge them. For others, and for me, at least, it is a revering of those who have ‘gone ahead’, being mindful of their lives, and giving thanks that if it were not for them that I (and you, with your respective ancestors and family-tree) would not be here now. A profound and sobering thought. And, one not lost to the ancients.

How much our society has lost in its ‘advancements’.

The UK £2 coin has an inscription on it, that is so relevant here. The edge inscription has written on it: ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’. It comes from a letter written letter in 1676 by Sir Isaac Newton to his fellow-scientist Robert Hooke, acknowledging the debt he owed to other scientists, where he wrote: ‘if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’.

Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes [standing on the shoulders of giants]

We are indebted, all of us, to those that have gone ‘ahead’ of us – family and friends. Some of them we might have known, but others, who ‘passed on’ before we were born, may have had no direct effect on us, but would have had a secondary effect on us, still, because of their influence down the ages on successive generations….they would have influenced one person, that person would influence another and so on, right up until we we born, and even after. Just as you will have an effect on the next generation (of children, friends, the wider family, neighbours, clients and others) and on future generations to come.

We have all benefitted from the ancestors, and future generations will look back at us as their ancestors, and my prayer is that they will be grateful.

You are not alone. You are part of the cosmic human web. The Church of old called this ‘scala naturae, or the ‘ladder of being’. Others know it as the Great Chain Of Being.

And, so I’m looking at ‘the table’ displaying some of my ancestors, thinking that I would like to display more photographs of them, and will do so in time for All Soul’s Day later in the year.

And, I was grateful for that thought. Perhaps that had been why I was so alert: to plan for a future ancestor-thanking ceremony and to give gratitude to the One who has blessed me (and you, with your ancestors of the ‘blood’ and/or ‘life-devoting-because-of adoption kind) down the ages.

But, there’s more. The next thought was: Stopping talking about, Tadhg, and do it, and not just for yourself, but for others, too!

And so, at 2.40am in the morning I decided on the ‘Nike principle’ of ‘Just Do It’. In addition to writing here, and I so enjoy that, and hope and pray that you get something out of it, too, but in addition, I’m going to ‘test the water’ and organise (planning now, and for two months or so ahead) a number of workshops and (actual) rituals along the lines of practical, and ‘earthed’ Celtic, Christian-Celtic, Druidic-Celtic and Druidic spirituality, in London and nearby.

‘All things work to the good..’ it says in one ancient sacred text, and how right that is.

Now there’s, a thought. And now its 2.50am and, yes, ‘sleep’ is revisiting me, and unless further paragraphs follow this, you will know that I eventually got back to sleep – after what was a useful ‘interruption’.

Blessings, Tadhg