Journal: Cancer And The Green Angel

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Journal excerpt: I’m coming up the my ninth [re-]birthday! I really am!

Nine years ago, last May, I went for extensive hospital tests (so we’re talking about May 2007), and as I sat on the end of the bed the oncology consultant returned to the room. He said,’ I’m guessing , Mr Gardner, you’re a person who likes to be told things quickly’. I nodded. He was professional and yet sensitive, and then said, ‘You have oesophageal cancer’.

The rest of the day was a blur. I can only describe it as total soul loss. It was as if I was disconnected from reality, that my being had received a hefty kick n the backside and been propelled a mile alway; and as people spoke to me, it was as if I was at the far end of tunnel, struggling to hear, struggling to comprehend, struggling to reply.

Sleep came late that night, as I thought about that awful news and further tests they were to do, and later, my memory was jolted to a dream I had had just weeks before.

Did you know God speaks through dreams – ancient sacred texts are full of such events. That some chemical discoveries (benzine?) were found when a scientist had (night) dream. And, that we’re continually in a light-sleep, daydream state throughout even our waking moments (but the physical events of the day ‘crowd out’ that dream-like, imaginative  state. It’s the way we’re wired up! To have dreams.

So, there was this angel, all green. Absolutely green. Green eyes, green skin, green clothes. Everything was green. So much green, that it was difficult to know where his body stopped and his unusual clothing started. He didn’t have any wings, but I just knew I was in the company of an extraordinary being. He must have been about 6ft 6 inches, well over 2m high and ‘solid’; he was built like a Olympic wrestler. And, there he was, standing in my garden as I looked out the living-room window. I have to admit I was somewhat confused and perplexed.

A dream it may have been, but I was aware. I knew what was going on. In that dream I was thinking and reasoning to with myself, and an internal dialogue was taking place about my next course of action. The very next moment I was in the garden, and just a few feet away from the angel. He started to walk away, as if to leave.

Immediately, my mind went into overdrive as I sought to delay him. The only thing I could think, was to ask him a question, to ask him if there was anything he needed.

‘Water,’ he said.

Immediately, I found myself in the kitchen, reaching for a glass and started to fill it with water. Even then, I was thinking of how to prolong this extraordinary encounter, and so I only half filled the glass. Surely, I thought, that won’t quench his thirst, and he’ll stay even longer.

I went back to the angel in the garden, and he took the glass of water, and drank. He turned slightly and started to leave. Again, in my dream I was reasoning how to make the most of this encounter. I knew I had enough time, probably, only for one question. I thought to myself, should I ask, ‘Is there a God’, but I had answered that one myself – after all, here’s an angel, a messenger from God. Still moving towards the garden wall as if to leave, the angel stopped monetarily, probably anticipating my one and only question.

‘What is God like?’, I asked. He replied, ‘Love(ly)’.

The reply was more of a ‘feeling’, an experience, rather than just words, and so his reply could have been ‘love’ or ‘lovely’. I like to think that in that Otherworldly, brief encounter where experiences are as important as words, and maybe, more so, that it was both of those words, and more! And, then the angel vanished.

I woke up, and over the next few weeks and months researched the Green Angel, and found that he appeared in the writings of at least two or three cultures, is a messenger of Life itself, and in Islam has an association with water, the water of Life.

I’m recounting this dream because it meant something to me, and still means a lot to me. There’s just a little bit more to this encounter. Timing.

This dream occurred a few weeks before that shocking diagnosis of cancer, and – the sceptic that I was, then – had it occurred after the diagnosis I would have explained it away as the mind trying to ‘comfort’ itself. But, it happened before all this, and was given at that time for me to ponder upon at a later stage, that is, at the time of diagnosis.

Some may discount dreams as the random firing of nuerons, or this dream as the result of a piece of undigested cheese laying in my stomach, but to me, it meant something profound, something reassuring. Howver, tough the time was ahead (and it was ), I took some comfort and strength from that dream. I knew that what would happen, would happen, and there was life beyond this.

Celtic Wisdom: Thin Places #2: How [Not] To Avoid Them

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In the last article on the theme of ‘thin places’, we noted that they are places, times or events where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted, and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God, the Source of All, That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves. Numinous encounters.

These ‘caol áit’ as they’re called in Gaelic (pronounced ‘kweel awtch’) still exist, and you can experience them.

The link to that prior article on ‘thin places’, which will give you an overview, is: here:

But, there’s more.

Though, there is no gap between us and the Divine, the Divine is ubiquitous and the Celts never accepted the separation that occurs because of dualism, anyway; it seems we do need to take time to draw aside to encounter the numinous in our busy schedules – so, maybe ‘thin places’ are opportunities for us to draw near to that which is already there. That said, they are special places, times or events, nonetheless: they are ancient-future numinous opportunities.

But, there is so much more. Here’s an opportunity to go deeper.

’Wisdom sits in places.’  An Apache proverb

So, here’s part two about ‘thin places’; and how to avoid them, in the hope that you will do the opposite, and so, encounter them.

So, here’s seven ways how [not] to avoid a ‘thin place’. You should:

1. Only consider logic:

We live in ‘scientific’ times, where each week some new discovery advances our knowledge. These are great times to be alive. Why, even as you read this a NASA craft has just arrived at the planet Jupiter after a five year mission. And so, it’s easy to dismiss that which is ancient and ‘unscientific’ as a illogical nonsense. So, only consider logical happen-stances.

‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’ Albert Einstein

2. Keep busy:

We’re all far too busy. Ofcourse, it maybe necessary to ‘switch off’ the awareness ‘radar’ when shopping, or servicing the car, taking the children to school, or travelling to work etc. That’s to be expected. Easier still, to remain in that mode all day and miss something. So, keep busy, and focussed on the practical and mundane chores all the time. Do not visit mountain-tops, forests, groves, standing-stones,  especially

3. Not [day]dream:

Many believe a dream is just a random ‘firing’ of neuron cells in the brain, an irrelevance, with no bearing to reality. Maybe, it’s the result of an undigested piece of cheese? [A merit mark to you if you know where that reference comes from].  As an Anamcara [Celtic word for ‘soul friend’], I believe dreams are important in telling us something, and the imaginal ‘area’ is of paramount importance, as did Carl Jung.  And, didn’t God speak to several people, as recorded in the Book, in dreams? However, don’t dwell on dreams too much, and try not to rest and day-dream. Don’t meditate.

Jacob encounters a ‘thin place’. ‘Jacob left Beersheba…When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it….When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”’ Genesis 28:10-16 (part), The Book.

4. Only look in ‘special ‘places:

Ofcourse, ‘thin places’ occur in sacred places where people have worshipped for hundreds, if not thousands of years. That could mean that you’re likely to encounter ‘thin places’ in old cathedrals, ancient stone-circles, groves etc. I’ve witnessed them in Pitlochry in Scotland, in Capel Curig in north Wales, and Waterloo Station in London etc. But, you’re probably hundreds or thousands of miles away from those places. So, you should only think that ‘thin places’ occur on the other side of the planet, and not at the end of your street, and that you could not possibly encounter one.

Eric Weiner of the New York Times experienced a ‘thin place’ when he visited the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, and visited a bar [ie a pub, public house].

5. ‘Compartmentalise’ your life:

There is a school of thought that says God, the Source of All is always neat and tidy, ‘squeaky clean’ and precise, like a Victorian pedant. Cleanliness (or orderliness) is next to Godliness, they would say. Compartmentalise, they say, make good use of your time, because the devil finds work for idle hands. Very efficient. Be efficient. So much so that you develop a regime of ‘This is ‘me time’ and ‘This is ‘God’s time’. Compartmentalise your life. The former is when you do things that you like. And the latter is when you allow God to show up, or you go to church, or give the Source of All permission to ‘do stuff’. So, compartmentalise your time.

Timothy Joyce, a Benedictine monk from Massachusetts, thinks that a lot people like to keep things separate. Nice and tidy. “These are heavenly things” and then “those are earthly things.” I do that on Friday or Saturday or Sunday – but Monday through Thursday I do this. We compartmentalize. We put walls up. And we miss out on something more than this. “The ancient Celts,” Joyce continues “believed that the other world was always close to us and became apparent in the ‘thin times’ and ‘thin places’ in which the veil that usually obscured them was lifted.”

6. Dismiss idle thoughts:

If you have an extraneous thought – one ‘straight out of the blue’ – and are not sure of its origin, dismiss it immediately. It could be something negative, it could be ‘just’ imagination, and it might ‘move’ you in some way. Dismiss it, lest you go ‘deep’ spiritually, and you’ll be fine. Similarly, with any feelings that seem to sweep over you. Dismiss them. Who knows what they’ll lead too. Play safe.

‘You say God speaks to you, but it’s only your imagination.’ These are the words spoken by the inquisitor to Joan of Arc during her trial for heresy. ‘How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination?’ Joan replied.

7. Not seek encouragement from others:

Don’t seek out others and their experiences of ‘thin places’. Be sceptical. There are some strange people on the planet, and you don’t want anyone to think you’ve lost it. No, much better to keep things to yourself, and not enquire of others.

Any more?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’m sure you have more ideas on how [not] to avoid ‘thin places’. Please let me know.

And finally…

Remember, this article, apart from the inserts/quotes is written in a negative form in the hope that you will do the opposite, and so, encounter ‘thin places’.

Meaningful Myth: The ‘treasure’ buried in Arthurian legend

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I love stories. I love myth. What about you? Reading stories and myths from antiquity is like uncovering gold.

At the heart of each tribe, or even a modern nation, is a myth (or several).

Myth, to many people, in the modern sense is something that is not true; but in the academic and real sense a myth is any story that is recounted to tell the founding story of a nation, or it is something that is re-told over the centuries because it is of paramount importance to that tribe or nation, true of not.

With such stories, or myths, one has to dig deep to uncover the ‘treasure’ they contain, and apply their meaning, the moral, and cosmic relevance to each one of us today.

We have forgotten our foundational myths.

We suffer from ‘founding myth amnesia’ or relegate myth or legend to the same level as the latest Hollywood movie; or worse, because of ‘improved’ story-lines and computer animation, modern stories and movies seem to take precedence. Those old stories and myths, in books, stay on the shelf collecting dust. Until, one day….

So, sit back, get comfortable, hold onto the sides of the chair, let your thoughts wander and read this short, adapted, story that touches earth and The Other, in a cosmic mystery that will take us further (I hope) on our journey.

Expect the unexpected in myth.

Enter Sir Percival. Now, there’s someone from a myth that can teach each one of us a thing or two.

Percival, before he was a knight, had a strict upbringing. As a child and youth he was told what to do, told not to ask questions, not even to talk in the presence of adults, and was told to work hard.

His life centred on being a ‘doer’, not a ‘thinker’. If he lived today, he would have been told inaction means you have no spine. Work, action, and more work means you’re a man, an adult, are taking responsibility. And so, he grew up knowing only that.

It seems our society lauds such action, rather than waiting, thinking things through. Our politicians and company executives want more for less,  greater action, less responsibility, and so we end up a ‘fracking’ mentality.

Pecival would have been at home, here. If you have a crowd of people, and an ‘action’ person speaks, and a ‘let us think about this’ person who speaks, in all probability the ‘action’ person will be seen as the strong one, and the ‘thinking, let us wait an see’ and reflective person will be seen as the weak one; and not many want to be seen as weak. Reflection, going deep, are seen as dirty words, today.

So, Percival grew up, and got his wish of being a knight. But, a night is a man of action, and   needs a quest. Soon, Percival encounters the Fisher King. The latter is, or rather, was a mighty King, but he had sustained a dreadful wound and was slowly dying. In some strange way the King and his Kingdom were connected; and so as the King was dying, so was his Kingdom.

Isn’t that the same today? Maybe, many wouldn’t adopt the ‘leader to nation’ mystical connection (though I do), but we do reap what we sow (that’s Biblical), and a nation inherits the benefits or ‘fall-out’ of its leaders’ policies (and I understand this, too). It’s one aspect of connectedness.

Sir Percival, the knight, now in the court of the Fisher King sees (or is it a vision of ) a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boys carrying a candelabra, and finally, he witnesses a beautiful young girl bearing an elaborately decorated cup, the holy grail, which he understand to be the cup that the Christ used at His last supper on earth. He believes that that holy grail will heal the King, and so heal the land. And, he immediately leaves for his quest: to find the holy grail, and bring it to the King, for healing to take place.

Decisiveness, might, strong-willed, a flexing of those ‘muscles’, and off a youthful Sir Percival goes. What will he find? What will he do? Will he be successful? The story, this myth (of which there are many variations, and this is but one), continues:

Sir Percival over a number of months, the duration of his quest, encounters rogue knights and vanquishes them. No holy grail! He meets up with all sorts of witches, goblins, even hob-goblins and defeats them, but still no holy grail. Battered, bruised and a little bloodied, he valiantly fights against a dragon and defeats it. [I do wish he hadn’t done that to a dragon. A wyvern, yes; but not a dragon. It’s a well-known mythological fact that dragons are wise and fairly friendly (though you wouldn’t want to upset one), but wyverns are wild and nasty.]. So, he defeats a dragon, just, but still no holy grail. And, so the story continues.

There is so much action here. Sir Percival’s story would make a great movie, and has done, several of them! Each one, ‘jammed-packed’ with sweaty, bloodied action…each one missing the point. We now fast-forward:

The Fisher King is very close to death, his Kingdom is in ruins about him. Sir Percival has still not found and brought the holy grail to the king.

The story is almost finished, and from our ‘action’ dominated society this seems too early an ending, too abrupt, unfinished, even. But, there’s more:

Sir Percival is told that his quest was, indeed, futile. The holy grail wouldn’t have saved the King or the Kingdom. But, asking three questions would have healed the King and the Kingdom.

Sir Percival’s upbringing had worked against him. Being taught to hold his tongue, to keep quiet, to ‘do’ and not to ‘think’, had been his downfall, and the King’s, too, as a consequence.

So, what are the three questions that Sir Percival should have asked of the King, right at the beginning?

Sir Percival was told that he (only) needed to ask three questions in the Fisher King’s presence, and then the King and kingdom would have been healed, and these questions were:

What ails thee, dear King?

Whom does the grail serve?

How can I, as a knight, assist thee?

So, had Sir Percival asked those three questions the King (and Kingdom) would have been healed, and the story ends there, and so you must draw your own conclusion about the outcome.

There are many theories about this myth, and of course some have added to it, or ‘strained’ interpretation is bizarre ways. To many, the grail was Christ’s cup, others (more recently) have said it is a box of bones, a severed head or even the (representational) womb of Mary! These are interesting, but, personally, I think they miss the point, and miss the meaning that has been there for centuries.

Uncovering the deep meaning of this myth, reveals and amazing truth. Treasure awaits.

This is a myth that we can all benefit from as individuals, and that nations (such as the UK in its current political turmoil) can benefit from, too.

It is clear that asking questions is good, but there’s more.

These questions, that Sir Percival should have asked, are ones borne out of love.

It was love that would have saved the King and his Kingdom in this myth. And, we should show love. Anything else is ‘window-dressing’.

Love wins, every time. It’s love!

Tadhg’s Journal: Clackitt’s wood, and nothing happened

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Excerpt from Tadhg’s journal: I just couldn’t get back to sleep last night. At about 2.20am I awoke, and no matter how hard I tried to relax, meditate or just remain there and slowly ‘drift off’, sleep just wouldn’t return. I went downstairs and read a book for an hour. It was an awesome book, one of my favourite authors, but that didn’t help.

My body and mind felt alive, too full of energy and activity to sleep.

I know you’ll think it strange, but at times like those I often think something is imminent. Call it an ‘inner voice’ that you can’t quite hear, an angel that wants an encounter, the Voice, the Source, God, fate, the Spirit, bat khol, an elemental passing nearby, or some unease within the psyche. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t let sleep come to me.

And, so in jeans and t-shirt (and shoes of course, but no socks) I went for a walk. Clackitt’s Wood is near where I live in north Wales, and it has always been the source of inspiration and comfort to me from when I was a lad. And so, I walked there.

The air was cool to cold, fresh you might say, and though I couldn’t see them, the clouds above me ‘felt’ thick and ‘menacingly’ low.  The wind ‘howled’ above the tree-tops which swayed, but I felt nothing, being shielded by those very ancient, wooded guardians.

With a flashlight in hand, I ambled along, slowly. There was, after all, no rush. The trees looked colourless and ‘flat’, like wallpaper draped on an invisible wall just thirty feet or so in front of me and to my sides.

Otherwise, it was pitch black. I actually loved it. No one, apart from me, was out and about. Ancient stories of elementals and cryptids (mythical creatures) sprang to mind. There is usually a moral behind such stories which is what I love about them.

Would such a story reveal its meaning to me? Nothing.

I passed a large lake. It was so still, so dull-looking as my flashlight light sped across its surface. It looked like a huge, lifeless oil-slick. There are stories here, about the afanc, a monstrous creature that resembles an aquatic bull, an alligator or a toad the size of a car, or was it a mixture of all three? However it was described in ancient times, it was said to be blood-thirsty and would devour unsuspecting travellers by running out of the water at them,  only to return with its ‘dinner’ within the space of a few seconds. But, no afanc tonight. No hungry monster.

I was jolted out of that ‘romantic’ and story-centred other-worldly view of everything, abruptly. It started to rain. It was only a light, refreshing shower at first, and then a few seconds later the heavens opened and it poured down. There was nothing I could do, but inwardly smile and get outwardly soaked. A moral there? One didn’t surface.

I had been walking for well over an hour, and I had started to head back to my cottage, Ty Gwin, as it got lighter. Bit by bit, fairly quickly, the ‘flat’ forest appeared to gain some depth, colour was returning to the trees but still only wishy-washy pastel shades, and animals scurried about as the forest ‘woke up’. Would I see something that could be taken as a ‘sign’, a source of inspiration to make my midnight jaunt worthwhile, however deep or shallow I interpreted it? But, nothing.

I went inside the cottage, soaked, aching, cold, miserable and feeling somewhat dejected. Did I mention I was soaked through? I had searched for inspiration and found nothing.

I like poetry, and on the kitchen table was an old, falling-apart, well-thumbed book of poetry my grandmother had given me. The book was open, and revealed this poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez:

I have a feeling that my boat has struck,
down there in the depths, against a great thing.
And nothing happens!

Nothing…Silence…Waves…

Nothing happens?  Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

As I dried out, ofcourse, after reading that, I felt I had learned the lesson, had found some kind of inspiration.

Things happen to us, deep things, things that we cannot see. And, just because we can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean they’re inconsequential. I do not believe in just a ‘clockwork’ universe and even science now talks of bizarre happening at the quantum level. Mae mwy, there is more.

I rested my head on my arms, and my arms rested on the kitchen table. I awoke some hours later at 9.05am, to a ray of sunlight that had just pierced the kitchen window. And, it was almost like an audible voice, but located in my head and not to the left or right of me, in that half sleep-half awake realm, that said, ‘You placed yourself in the path of what might be, and for a seeker, that is sufficient.’

I wished I could have learned that lesson by not having an interrupted sleep, or by not having to for a long night-time walk and getting soaked to the skin in the process, but it was not meant to be.

Sometimes, we actually do have to do things, that might not ‘pay off’ ninety-nine times, but which puts us on the path, in the way of, and opens us up to that one-in-a-hundred encounter with the Other; and that makes all the other seemingly non-productive journeys and activities all the more worthwhile. That was the lesson I had learned, and it was worth it. God, the Source, faith, perseverance…and more!

Did you know #3

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Did you know #3. This ‘Did you know’ has a decidedly mythical tone to it. So, did you know…

…the Boggart, a mythical UK ‘household spirit’, of old, that indulges in playful pranks in the house (like moving your keys, pulling the blankets off your bed as you sleep and so, is active, even today), can change and become malevolent if you don’t feed it, and

…the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland was first ever recorded when St Columba commanded it to stop pursuing  a swimmer in AD 565, and

…there is a church in Chesterfield, the church of St Mary and AllSaints, with a twisted spire. It is said that when it was built wooden beams, which had not dried out, were hastily used, and as they dried the spire twisted. However, others say that when the church was completed, a young couple of virgins got married, and the devil who was flying by was so shocked to see such a pure couple in church, that he stopped, rested on the spire and his weight twisted the spire, and

…in the 13th Century, the king of England, Henry III, used to let his pet polar bear go fishing in the Thames, and

…the lakes of Llydaw, Dinas and Ogwen in Wales, are amongst those that claim to contain the magical sword of King Arthur, Excalibur, and

…the afanc was a monstrous creature that, like most lake monsters, was said to prey upon anyone foolish enough to fall into or swim in its lake. One of the earliest descriptions was given by the 15th-century poet Lewys Glyn Cothi, and

…in the 1830’s, in the smog-filled streets of Victorian London a man or ‘monster’ roamed about attacking ladies. He was described as a fearsome man, with clawed hands, eyes that resembled ‘red balls of fire’, resembled the devil, and was said to be able to escape pursuit by jumping to ridiculous heights, and was known as Spring-Heeled Jack, and

…that it was reported in several London newspapers around 1859, that the sewers of London were full of monstrous pigs that would one day free themselves from their subterranean home and run riot through the city, and

…that Scotland has its own yeti, ‘bigfoot’? The Am Fear Liath Mòr, that is the Big Grey Man, is said to be extremely tall, is covered in short hair, and in the fifteenth century was called Wudewas, the ‘wood men’. So, do avoid Scottish summits after dark, and

…the Ceffyl Dŵr, water horse in Welsh folklore, appears and offers walkers a ride, but jumps back into the water and drowns the rider. Don’t climb on the back of a stray horse – especially one that appears to be soaking wet even when it’s not raining, and

…there is an urban myth that should  Big Ben, in London, ever strike thirteen, then the four vast lions at the foot of Nelson’s Column will come to life, and

…there is a London superstition about the famous ravens at the Tower of London. If the ravens ever fly away, it is said the Monarchy will fall, and with it, England itself. Interestingly, someone in authority takes this seriously, as the ravens wings are ‘clipped’ so they cannot fly, but only hop, and finally

…it is said that it is (still) illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament, London, in a suit of armour.

Ephemera for the month of June 2016

04 ephemera 6Ephemera: The month of June 2016: Here’s a brief overview of the month ahead, highlighting some astronomical events, and some special days to celebrate and/or to ponder upon.

1 June. Mars was, in actuality, closest to the Earth on 30 May, but it is still very close, today – look south. It will be even closer in about twenty-four months time.

‘If a June night could talk, it would probably boast that it invented romance.’ Bernard Williams

4 June. St Edfrith was born and educated in Ireland, became a monk and trained as an artist, scribe and calligrapher. He was probably responsible for illuminating the Lindisfarne Gospels which took him over two years to complete. He became a bishop in AD698. He died on this day, his feast day, in AD721. He is buried at Durham cathedral.

5 June. New moon today.

7 June. Ramadan begins.

‘All June I bound the rose in sheaves, Now, rose by rose, I strip the leaves’. Robert Browning

9 June. St Columcille, aka Columba,was born in County Donegal, Ireland about AD521. Columba was a poet, who had learned Irish history and poetry from a bard named Gemman. There are many legends about Columcille finding strange islands and tribes, of being able to see the future, healing people, and subduing wild animals. My favourite is recorded by Adomnán (the ninth abbot of Iona). He writes that Columcille rescued a swimmer who was being pursued by a huge monster in a Scottish lake.  Columcille bravely intervened and commanded the monster, thus : ‘Thou  shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.’ The foul beast fled, terrified, much to the amazement of the tribe of onlooking Picts who promptly glorified God. The location? Loch Ness. Yes, this is the first record of the Loch Ness monster, in AD565.

Columcille died on this day (his feast day) in AD597.

15-16 June. The Lyrid meteor shower peak today. Look east (well, east-south-east) towards the star Vega, in the constellation Lyra.

16 June. Pentecost. Also called Whitsun(day) in the UK. See Acts 2 in the Book.

‘Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June’. Al Bernstein

19 June. Father’s Day in the UK.

19 June. Also, it’s World Sauntering Day (and more about this wonderful activity on Tadhg’s blog nearer the date).

20 June. Full moon today, viewable in the Southern Hemisphere, in the constellation Sagittarius. To ancient and latter-day Celt this month’s full moon is known as ‘the moon of horses’.

20 June. It’s also Summer solstice at 10.34pm UTC. It’s the longest day of the year (or shortest for those in the Southern Hemisphere). If you’re celebrating, most will do at sunrise the following morning, on 21 June. Hopefully, I’ll be at Stonehenge, then, and sunrise there is at 4.43am local time.

To ancient and latter-day druids and others, this is a special time. Trees have always played a large role in Midsummer festivities and trees near wells and fountains which were ‘dressed’ with coloured cloths (and still are in several places in England). The Oak tree has always been very significant at Litha. The Celtic name for Oak is ‘Duir’ which means ‘doorway’ – relevant, as on this day we are crossing the threshold, entering the doorway into the second, waning part of the year.

‘There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter’. Billy Connolly

24 June. ‘Take your dog to work day’ apparently, in the UK and USA.

27 June. The Boötids meteor shower peak today, in the constellation Boötes.

Bestiary: B is for bansidhe

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B is for bansidhe: If you’re ever woken up by a wailing, a mournful, skin-crawling cry in the night, beware. It could be the bansidhe [pronounced ban-she], a supernatural being, mentioned in Celtic folklore.

The bansidhe [ban meaning ‘woman’, and sidhe meaning ‘fairy’] is someone, it is said, to be avoided. Appearing, usually, as an elderly woman, somewhat ugly, dressed in rags, this fairy-woman, looking almost indistinguishable from a normal adult, is someone whom death follows. Those who hear her, it is said, can expect a death in the family.

Opinion is divided as to whether the bansidhe is the bringer of death and is therefore to be feared, or is merely the messenger who announces impending death and so provides an opportunity to those who hear her, to brace themselves and to be prepared (and in which case the bansidhe has received bad press), and it is this, latter, definition that I believe to be more accurate and one that I favour.

It is said that in 1437, King James I of Scotland was approached by an banside, who foretold his murder at the instigation of the Earl of Atholl. And, in 1807 two of the sentries stationed outside St. James’s Park in London witnessed the bansidhe it is said, and promptly died of fright

The bansidhe, though, is a changeling, a shape-shifter, and may also appear in a variety of other forms, such as that of a crow, a stoat, a hare or weasel, or similar.

The Welsh counterpart, is the gwrach y Rhibyn (that is, the ‘hag of Rhibyn’), an entity who resides in fog and near water. With the ‘ch’ sounding like a throat-clearing sound, similar to the sound at the end of the Scottish word ‘loch’, it is pronounced ‘gor-arch ee rib-inn’.

The Time Of The Thaumaturgist #3

03 tnott word face pexels TIME 111 SML wristwatch copyEpisode 3: The air, as I stood in my garden, had a slight ‘bite’ to it, but the sun was shining against the side of Ty Gwyn, my oh-so-white-walled cottage near Capel Curig in north Wales, and though this was decidedly still ‘coat weather’, the day promised better things. It was 6am, and I had ‘greeted’ the new day, filled my lungs with fresh air, and the sun rays had beat against my skin, and my bare-feet felt the cold, wet grass underfoot. Bliss.

It was time to head back inside and have breakfast. My attention was arrested.

Having left the side door ajar – no one really uses the front door in rural areas – I noticed a set of wet boot prints evident on the stone doorstep. Bootprints? I was barefoot! I wasn’t expecting visitors, not today and certainly not at this early hour.

Gingerly, I crept inside the cottage. That door leads directly to the kitchen. And there he was! My ‘visitor’. I didn’t know his name, but twice now he had visited me in the past, and twice had he disappeared just as quickly. A real mystery.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Before I could say anything, he turned around in the chair, and supping a cup of tea, raised his eyebrows and nodded in the direction of the kitchen table, to indicate that he had made me a cup on tea.

HOME

‘Make yourself at home,’ I said sarcastically. ‘I knew you were going to say that,’ he replied, ‘and I have, but make yourself at home, too.

‘But this is my home,’ I said indignantly. Without a seconds pause, he spoke: ‘Oh, but it’s not. Not really. You and your kind, humankind, are passing through. Home is elsewhere. You asked me to remind you of that the last time we had a cup of tea together, knowing that you’d forget….and you’ve forgotten, haven’t you?’. He continued, ‘Mae mwy, there is more!’.

‘I really don’t know who you are,’ I said, ‘and I really don’t understand it when you say ‘there is more’, so why not just tell me who you are, and what your business is with me…please?’, I pleaded in exasperation.

‘Okay, it’s time for experiential theology 101. Are you ready? If so, take a seat, and relax’, the Visitor said.

‘Always,’ I replied, and sat down on the opposite side of the kitchen table to him, sipped a really well-made cup of tea, and closed my eyes, placed my hands on the table, palms down, and relaxed.

‘I’m just going to rest my hands on your hands, and when I do you will experience a glimpse of ‘home’,’ he said, ‘And, the sequences of events you will experience will seem bizarre and out-of-order, and it’ll only be in retrospect that you’ll even begin to make sense of them. Whatever happens, for the glimpse to be meaningful, you must not open your eyes until I tell you too.’  With my eyes closed, I nodded. A few seconds later I felt the palms of his hands rest on the top of my hands.

THE GLIMPSE

‘Only a glimpse,’ he said. His voice seemed to trail off into the distance and I only faintly heard the last syllable.  Immediately my whole body was encompassed in what I can only describe as ‘tangible love’. It was like taking a very warm shower but not getting wet, it pervaded every cell in my body with a ‘cosmic hug’, and it caught my breath. My eyes were closed, but I could feel tears of joy run down my cheeks, and I could hear myself laughing, as though someone had told me the funniest of jokes, a real hearty laugh that went on and on. The more I tried to stop, the more I laughed. My head was swimming, and my body jolted as though I was on a helter-skelter, but I could feel the kitchen chair beneath me. Laughing, disorientated, feeling warm, I was cocooned in pure, unadulterated love.

With my eyes closed, I shouted, ‘That’s enough!’. He calmly, and with an air of authority, he said’, There is more, so much more. Keep your eyes closed. Do not try to make sense of this now. This is but a glimpse, and a necessary glimpse. You’re doing well. Hold on!’.

With all that going on, I turned my head from left to right – my eyes remaining closed – and I ‘saw’ events from my life, as if in a picture-book where the pages had been rearranged and were out of order. I saw my wedding day, followed by my first day at primary school, my last day at secondary school, then I saw the time when the consultant sat me down and told me I had oesophageal cancer, followed by scenes of my birth, my first day at theological college, leading my first baptism service, I saw what happened yesterday, and more. This was followed by scene of an argument with a good friend that happened last week, then I saw the day that I first moved into the cottage near Capel Curig many years ago, and other events too, all in quick succession. A jumble of pictures, an anachronistic montage of two to three seconds worth of action for each stage of my life, followed by the ever-increasing sounds of others talking, some laughing, some crying, and smells, the smell of fish frying, of spring flowers, of the wind in my face, the taste of a salty ocean, and the smell of death, all mixed together, all connected and yet disconnected from the actions I saw.

It suddenly went quiet. You could have heard a pin drop.

Quiet, except that I could hear the sound of my own breathing. Heavy, laboured, exhausted. I couldn’t feel the Visitor’s hands on mine, and I opened my eyes. I wasn’t in the kitchen any more. I was in a majestic, grand, hall. It had no lights whatsoever, but I could see. I turned to my left, and there was the Visitor. He looked different: seven feet/over two meters tall, see-through almost, and emitting a wonderful radiant yellow light. He looked at me, and smiled the most loveliest of smiles and exuded peace. ‘You see me as I really am. What do you think?’ he said.

I could only fall to my knees, having been totally overwhelmed by the love and grace that swept in waves from this being of light. ‘You are so handsome, and so perfect and so powerful, ‘I said.

He laughed, and put his hand under my chin, as I knelt before him, to urge me to stand. He spoke: ‘I want you to see yourself as you really are, you and your kind, humankind; what you call humanity are really the ‘Great Ones’ whom my kind gladly serve, all nine billion of you. Look in the mirror, powerful being that you are’.

I looked. I saw a being three feet/one meter taller than even the Visitor. I too, was almost see-through and emitting a brighter, golden light. There was more. I felt so powerful, so free, and felt unlimited, and yet so connected to the Source, to others, to nature, to everything. The same, but separate!

Then, a swirling light appeared as if from nowhere, and it got closer, and closer, and there was a noise like a thousand tornadoes, but I wasn’t afraid. Almost as if knowing what to do, I grabbed the Visitors wrist and walked toward the light. ‘Ah,’ the Visitor spoke, ‘Now you’re beginning to remember, aren’t you?’.

The swirling light moved right through me and him, and I found myself in what could only be described as a café. No one there acted as if they could see me, as if I was just an unobserved observer – and I was , but I could see that I was standing in a 1920’s’style classical café with the smell of great coffee filling the air. Seated at tables were similar translucent beings emitting golden hues, some emitting red hues, or a blue light, and a myriad of other colours. And, on the far wall there was wide picture window that looked out on to deep space, then it changed to a forest scene, then it showed a huge white, pulsating light that exuded grace, and then back to depict a deep-space scene! Incongruent.

I knew this place. I had been here before. We all had. Before birth. Pre-life. I smiled at the Visitor. ‘Brace yourself. It gets even more confusing’, he said.

He was right. At one table nearby, were three beings all  emitting a golden light, so much so that their light’s brilliance connected them in one, huge, golden ball of light, of love, of connectedness, of authenticity. I knew one of them was me. There I was drinking coffee in some kind of celestial café. The other two beings: one I just seemed to know was my mother who had ‘passed on’ just over two years earlier. The other was my father who was still alive in London. ‘But, how….?’, I gasped. I looked at the Visitor somewhat confused. He guessed my real question.

He spoke: ‘By the physical realm’s standard your mother passed on two years ago and yet here she is, alive. Your father, by earth’s standards is still ‘down there’ and alive, but here he is, and with you at that table, too. You see, ‘down there’ and ‘up here’ is all the same, in reality. They are just metaphors, and notions of placement will only take us so far spiritually. Humankind just think there’s a separation. Whilst you’re all ‘down there’, you’re all also ‘up here’ –  you never really left this place. All three of you together, without separation, even when you ‘get back’ to Earth, you’re all still here. If you want to think in ‘time’ terms, imagine that those three people at that table  – you, your mother, your father – sitting at that table, just popped down to Earth for a nano-second, as do all of humanity, a whole life-time on Earth is really the time, here, that it takes for  a blink of an eye, and there you all are, ‘back’, enjoying each others company for all eternity. And why the café? It’s a glimpse, a metaphor of heaven, but not the whole thing.

‘But, why do we all visit Earth?, I asked.

He spoke again: ‘All of humankind was in this place, is in this place and will always be in this place, but it is beneficial for each of you to visit the Earth. You see, you all agree to go. You discussed with the Source, what you would do ‘down there’, how it would benefit you and others, the jobs you would get, who you would fall in love with, who you would meet – or meet again, because the ones you meet ‘down there’ you’ve already met ‘up here’, and then you discuss with the Source how you will exit the Earth and return home (though, remember, you never really left).’.

JUST WHO ARE THE GREAT ONES?

He continued, ‘And once you’re birthed on Earth you forget, when in that physical realm – but remember, you’re also here with your loved-ones. And then it all begins. You don’t remember your mission, you forget what will happen to you, when ‘down there’, you don’t understand the illnesses and misfortunes that affect you and others, and you don’t know why the Source would take loved ones away from you. It’s a mystery to you, there, but not so here.  And all that I’ve shown you and said to you applies to all of humankind, all of the ‘Great Ones’. But, there are two things each person should know:  though it is a mystery it is all worthwhile, and though it makes no sense whilst you (think you) are on Earth (only), it will one day make complete sense when you’re here (but, you never really left). But, there’s something else all should know. Though you forget how your life will unfold and what will happen to you on Earth, any course of action you take ‘down there’…well, you cannot go wrong. So, don’t worry too much if you’re on the right spiritual course or not. All shall be well’.

He concluded, ‘It’s time to go’.

I took hold of his wrist, and that swirling light re-appeared and came towards us, so bright and so loud. As we stepped through into the light I looked back at those three golden,  tall beings of light. In just the last two seconds of perception, as that cosmic café seemed to melt away, one of the beings stood, looked in my direction and bowed a low bow. I cried. I knew that that being was me in bliss. It was strange to witness myself as another, and yet be connected at the same time. I knew it was the same for every man, woman and child on earth, those that had gone home and those that were yet to come. All in bliss. All safe. All part of the Source and yet distinct. All light-beings, all love, all powerful! I knew that what I had just witnessed was witnessed by all of humanity if they could only but remember just their own personal glimpse of bliss in whatever form it manifested itself.

HOME AGAIN

My body jolted. I nearly fell off my chair. The Visitor had given me a right-hook, a powerful punch to the right side of my jaw, almost knocking me off my chair.

‘What did you do that for?’ I shouted in anger, and in a fair amount of pain.

‘It’s the quickest way to ‘wake’ you,’ he said calmly. ‘If none of that made sense, it will do in time. But remember, it was only a glimpse, it was a metaphor of what really is, and, yes, there is more.’

I sipped my cup of tea, turned to put it in the microwave to re-heat it, as it had gone cold. I noticed the clock on the microwave showed 6.56am. Had that ‘visit’, which seemed to take just five minutes, really lasted over fifty minutes? I turned to ask the Visitor, but… he’d gone.

I was left with more questions than before, but I knew he’d be back. After all, mae mwy, there is more, for us all!

The Sacred Grove

02 SACRED GROVE copy

As a man lost in the forest in the dark,
I stood in awe,
ever so quiet and said nothing.

In the sacred grove of the ancient Celts I had happenchanced,
and was now humbled by the Presence.

I had stumbled into the peace of wild things,
creatures who dance at night in the oak shades with elementals.

If you listen intently, you can hear them laugh.
The heart’s laughter is immeasurable.
Lift up your heart.

If you feel deeply you can almost reach out and touch their love.
Love is always too much.
Allow yourself to love sincerely, expecting nothing in return.

If you disclose your inner self,
surrender, and share what is happy or good within,
it will but come back ten thousandfold.

As a man lost in the forest in the dark,
I stood in awe.

How can we find such ‘thin places’?
Only your soul has a map.
Search for it, and you will find it within and without.

–oOo–

Inspired by several lines of poetry from Wendell Berry, John O’Donohue, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and the Book.

The Time Of The Thaumaturgist #2

02 tnott word face pexels TIME 111 SML wristwatch copy

It was a bright and sunny day, albeit a somewhat chilly March day in London. Walking briskly toward the café before leading a service at St Chad’s later on, I couldn’t help but notice the scarves wrapped tightly around the necks of passers-by, hats of every colour being worn, and that, others were walking, like me, briskly to generate some body heat. It was a very chilly day. It was one of those ‘no cloud, blue sky, but ‘don’t-stay-outside-too- long’ days that occur around this time of the year, here.

COFFEE-OLOGY
As I opened the café door, the comforting aroma of freshly-brewed coffee filled my nostrils, there was the familiar murmur of indistinct chatter, and warm air enveloped me like an invisible, comforting, almost tangible ‘welcome-back’ hug. A drip, due to the change in temperature, hung on the end of my nose and tickled (and, yes, I left it there, well, at least for a few seconds to enjoy the experience), and my stomach churned in anticipation. This place was my second home….well, third home, but it’s a long story.

Moving toward the only place that was free – a place on the bench, communal table, in the centre of the café, I disrobed and hung my coat and scarf, and knitted hat of many colours (avec un pompon) on the back of the chair, as did everyone else (that is, on their own respective chairs), except the guy sitting opposite me. He, busy typing on his iPad, oblivious to everyone around him, and seemed not to have any outer layers on his chair, and was dressed in an unseasonal open neck, thin cotton-like shirt and shorts! No scarf. No woolly hat. No outer coat.

As I sat down, I caught the eye of the barista, who smiled and nodded a knowing nod, and who started to prepare the usual latte for me, with an oh-so-welcome warm croissant. My stomach ‘groaned’ in expectation, and I pulled out my IPad from my backpack, placed it on the table, to check my emails.

Twenty-five emails!

Oh boy. As I trashed most of them – and answered the remaining few, I was caught by surprise. I had trashed twenty ‘buy this’ type of emails, but the figure ’21’ appeared in the trash folder.

‘There is more?’, I questioned, out loud, though I had intended to say it only to myself.

‘Mae mwy*,’ came the reply from the shirt and shorts guy, opposite.

That phrase! Could this be the ‘shadow man’, who had used that phrase before; the one who described himself as being ‘like an angel’, and who had saved that elderly woman’s life by knocking her down and (only) breaking her ankle? It sounded like him, but it was such a brief encounter before, and it was some weeks ago. [[Previous episode, #1]

I wasn’t entirely sure if it was him. But, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end as he spoke, and though I was in a warm café, an icy chill now enveloped me just for a second or two.

‘Pardon?,’ I said.

‘Mae mwy*, it’s Welsh for ‘there is more’, he said in an exquisite Welsh ‘valley’ accent. ‘It’s what you said in English,’ he said, and smiled.

‘Rw i’n dy ddeal di!**’, I replied in my north Wales ‘wilderness’ accent [which means ‘I do understand you!’], and smiled a somewhat sarcastic smile, widening my grin just a little more than usual, raising my eyebrows, and tilting my head.

He continued typing on his IPad, as did I.

THEOLOGY
A few minutes later he spoke again. ‘What do you see, Tadhg?’.

Having finished my emails, and closing the iPad into the add-on keyboard, I smiled, and now had some time to engage this mysterious, unseasonally-dressed guy, and, perhaps, find out if he was, indeed, the ‘shadow man’ I had encountered some weeks earlier.

‘So, what do you see, Tadhg?,’ he said again.

‘Well. I see the latte and croissant the barista has just brought over!’, I replied.

‘That’s a good start’, he said. I wasn’t sure now if he was being sarcastic.

He continued, ‘I know you know that there are three ways of perceiving reality as your type perceive it, but sometimes it’s just good to pause and take it slow and really know. It’ll help you in the future, for what is ahead.’

‘Do you know, you have me at a disadvantage. I really don’t know what you mean. What is my type? What does the mean? What is going to happen in the future? How will this help me?’, I quizzed him.

‘It sounds bizarre, Tadhg, so I’ll take it slow’, he said, and now I knew he was being sarcastic, paying me back for my sarcasm to him, earlier. ‘We’ve met before. Your kind, which includes all the people in this café, and indeed all the people on the planet have been around, in another form, for some time before physical birth. Think, ‘big bang!’. It’s just that you can’t remember it now in this form, well, at least for a little while, but one day you will, when you’re home again. And your type? We call you ‘the Great Ones’, and if you need more information, as a book-lover, check out C S Lewis’s ‘The Great Divorce’ which will explain more about the phrase and your kind, and your kind’s amazing status’.

He paused as if to let me digest that information, and then continued, ‘Knowing that all that happens in the future is something you’ve agreed to, and you have (before birth), will get you and your kind through some tough challenges ahead in this life. And knowing, that ultimately, all roads lead home will spur you on, will assure you all, immensely. You will draw strength from that. All planned. All agreed by you. A touch of telluric-amnesia, perhaps. And then, finally, back home.’

‘But there’s more’, he said, rather pleased with himself that that was the umpteenth time he had used that phrase. There’s the three ways of seeing things! I know you know about that, but now must know that. Go deeper!’.

I was intrigued. Slightly uneasy that those to my left and right might hear the conversation, which was an odd conversation to say the least, but, as if by magic, they seemed oblivious to me, the strange guy and the conversation.

I looked at the croissant on the plate, paused, then bit into it, chewed and sipped the coffee, and kept both in my mouth, momentarily. I know. An awful habit to mix the two in my mouth, but so wonderful. Bliss! Before I could swallow, he continued.

‘There are three ‘depths’ or realms to everything, including your croissant. Firstly, there’s the shallow, surface understanding. Taking the croissant as an example, I’m sure you can tell me it’s composition by analysis, where it came from by pointing to the map, how it was made, and the marks of a good and bad croissant. You like warm croissant, don’t you?’, he said, without pausing for an answer. ‘That’s first level perception. The senses. The physical. The visible realm.

‘The second level of perception and second realm’, he said, ‘is the intelligible realm, the invisible realm, and understanding of that comes not by the senses but by the mind, by reason and imagination. I’m sure you can tell me about the goodness of that croissant, and the effect it will have on your body, and what that means. Bread is life. You know that. It’s reasonable to believe that. It’s about going deeper’, this man of mystery said, and who now had my full attention.

‘But, there’s even more,’ he continued’, the third level of perception and reality is the ‘why? and beyond’. The spiritual realm. The fact that you need it, to eat, to live, and have been given it, and by whom is a mystery, that is beyond reason, and can only be merely accepted and enjoyed. It’s why each time you eat, first thing in the morning, whether it’s a cereal breakfast at home, or this croissant this morning in this café, you pause and pray the HaMotzi*** blessing over it each time’.

‘Hold on,’ I interjected’. How do you know that? It’s true I do say that blessing over whatever I eat first thing in the day, sometimes at home, sometimes here in the café, sometimes under my breath so as not to attract attention in a public space, and sometimes just in my head. But how do you know that?’.

‘Ah, each time you do that, he replied, ‘I’m right there, invisibly, right by your side joining in, in gratitude, to the Great Provider. I never miss an opportunity for giving gratitude. You know, If your kind in their current state, when they pray, could see the awesome vicarious power you spur into action and mingle with, the magnitude of that pure and loving energy that you invoke and direct, the ripples that permeate from you that affect both space and time itself, the interest of the Great Provider who is always near you (all) and yet draws closer still in awe of you all, you would pray a lot more, and a lot more confidently. I wish your kind could glimpse just for a second the power of it now, that you were all once aware of, when you where at Home, before birth, and see what I see.  It’s a powerful gift given to all from the Great Provider. This is the third and deepest level of perception and of reality, and you need to be aware of it, really aware of it, the power of Spirit, and use it in the days of transition ahead. You and your kind.’

With that, he picked up his iPad, walked toward the door, as I tried to fully recall what he had just said. His words were going over and over in my mind. He opened the café door to leave. I knew I had the opportunity of asking only one question before he left.

‘Will you be back?’, I asked. ‘Of course’, he replied, ‘Mae mwy, there is more’.

–  oOo –

 

*     Mae mwy [pronounced ‘may moy-oh’] roughly translates as, ‘There is more.’
**   Rw i’n dy ddeal di [pronounced ‘RRoo een duh theh-arll dee’] roughly translates as ‘I do understand you!’.
*** The HaMotzi blessing is, ‘Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth’, and is said by Tadhg before eating cereal breakfast or croissant each day. He loves liturgy and ritual, and sees it as a conduit to that third realm, that third level of perception.