Ephemera: Harvest Full Moon: 24 October 2018: Meaning, Myth & More

20181017 EPHEMERA FULL MOON 24 OCTOBER 2018

There’s a full moon comping up.

We live in a remarkable universe. The solar system we inhabit sits on the outer spiral arm of the Milk Way galaxy, and the sun is an even-tempered star. We are on a planet that is within the ‘goldilocks zone’, that is, not too close to the sun to bake, and not too far away to freeze and make known life impossible. Ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others of old could only look up and gaze in wonder.

And yet the wisdom they possessed can teach us so much.

The planet tilts throughout the year, just enough to distribute temperature and ensure seasons; and we have a moon that, in astronomical terms, is very large compared to the planet (and because of that, some call it a companion planet, or a binary planetary system), and which harmonises with the Earth and ensures tides and weather systems. A wonderful stellar symbiosis.

It’s that moon, or rather the impending full moon on 24 October 2018 that we look at.

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?’ Unknown

The next full moon is on 24 October, and is known by some as the Hunter’s moon, or the Blood moon. To many Celts, Druids and others, myself included, it is known as the Harvest moon. It rises above the horizon (from a UK viewpoint) at about 6.20pm in the east on that evening, and climbs to its highest point at about midnight (and will be south-south-east by then).

This awesome Harvest moon will appear on the cusp of the constellation of Aries the Ram, and close to it (but maybe too small to be seen unless you’re using a telescope) is the planet Uranus which is about nineteen astronomical units away from us – one astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun – so it is nineteen times further away from us that we are from the Sun. Amazing.

‘The white light of the moon is infinitely gentle with the dark. It insists on no awakening or disturbance of colour except for the occasional illumination of the breaking wave…the rhythm of the tides…the red rhythm of the blood’. John O’Donohue

There is an ancient story about Arianrhod (pronounced ah-ree-ahn-rhohd), which is Welsh for ‘silver wheel’ or ‘silver disc’ and Arianrhod was, to those ancient Welsh tribes, a goddess, the personification of the moon.

One of many stories about Arianrhod, and perhaps not a noble one, forms part of the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Welsh myths, some dating as far back as the Iron Age.

This story tells of the goddess Arianrhod, daughter of a goddess, and niece to the Math the King of Gwynedd. She is forced to step over a magician’s rod to prove her virginity, and as she does so, she immediately gives birth to two sons; one called Dylan, the other who is eventually named Lleu.

Arianrhod is enraged at the humiliating virginity test that she had to endure and directs the anger she has for the men-folk towards one of her sons.

She places three curses over Lleu during his life: He shall have no name except the one she gives him. He shall bear no weapons except ones she gives him. He shall have no wife of the race that is now on the earth.

Her brother cleverly manages to trick her each time, dispelling all of her curses placed upon Lleu. Arianrhod then retreats to her castle Caer Arianrhod, and was later drowned when the sea reclaimed the land.

The sunken ruins of the island on which she is said to have lived, Caer Arianrhod, can be found off the coast of Dinas Dinelle, in North Wales. On a low spring tide this ancient relic can sometimes be viewed from the shore.

Many of you will know that I am an amateur astronomer, and so the moon especially is dear to me. But, I think I’m also a romantic and like to look beyond ‘the veil’, and about a year ago I wrote the following poem about Arianrhod.

Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
She befriends.

Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
A blessing.

Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.

And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.

So, this full moon my suggestion is for us to pause and gaze in awe at the moon, to revel in the thought that without it life on Earth would be very different and the planet might not have been inhabitable, and to ponder upon the One Who Flung Stars Into Space and give thanks. For me, as is my custom I will do the aforementioned, and ‘toast’ the moon and show gratitude to the One Behind It All with a sip (or three) of some really nice wine (and maybe pour some out as a libation).

Those ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others can teach us so much, and perhaps at this full moon we can pause and appreciate nature in its fullness, and be connected to those that have gone before us. Wisdom.

 

[The moon and star facts and header photo above are cited/used only because of my astronomical interest, a sky-map to locate the moon and planets relative to the constellations and using astronomical, scientific symbolism.]

There Were Giants…: A Timeless Myth To Ponder Upon

20181008 THERE WERE GIANTS

Those who are acquainted with ancient myth will know that it was common for people to regard the original inhabitants of their lands as giants. In these Isles stories of giants in Celtic and Druidic accounts abound in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and, yes, in England, too.

The memory of early struggles for land or survival is preserved in mythology and the heroes of old, those who were wise and possessed long-lost knowledge became giants in the popular mind, so some have said. They probably were large and powerful men and women, and their physical strength and stature became exaggerated as their deeds passed into legend, at least that is the theory from our modern perspective. But, suppose there were really giants?

‘There were giants on the earth in those days…’, Genesis 6:4a, The Book

If giants existed what does it tell us about our place in the universe, our status, or the creative act of the Source of All? Did they exist in the physical realm or in the imaginal And, does that matter? Both are real, aren’t they?

At the very least, it must make us pause, think and wonder.

My grandmother was a great person for story-telling and that, it seems, has passed to me. On one occasion, after careful research I uncovered a local story, a myth, that related to an inner city borough in London. Yes, even in the heart of a bustling city like modern-day London the stories and myth of old echo, still. Hardly heard under the cacophony of sound of cars and lorries, tv and radio, there is a still small voice of the Ancient Story-teller still telling stories to those willing to listen.

The story or myth, uncovered, and which I told to my children some years ago, went like this:

There was a time when two giant sisters lived nearby this house in London. On this side of the River Thames there lived a huge, tall and powerful woman, and her giant sister lived on the other side of the river.

As time went by they decided that they would do something that many people, in future years would remember them by.

Penhill giant is a giant found in English folklore and legends. The giant lived in a fortress on Penhill in Wensleydale, Yorkshire. There are general legends and tales about the giant which claim the giant ate flocks of sheep and terrorized maidens in the local area.

The two giants decided to build two churches, and by this people would remember them: one church would be built on this side of the River Thames, and one on the other side of the river. The challenge that they had, was that, to cut the bricks for the building, they only had one hammer between them. A giant hammer, ofcourse.

The work was laborious and slow, as they had to throw the hammer across the wide river whenever one of them wanted to fashion a brick. This was relatively easy for them, even though the river at that point is wide, because they were giants!

And so, over the years they would call out to each other, when they wanted the use of that one hammer.

The giant sister on this side of the river would shout out, ‘Full home’ when she needed the hammer, and the giant sister on the other side of the river would shout, ‘Put nigh’ when she needed the hammer.

At last the two sisters completed the two church buildings on either side of the River Thames, nearby. They were proud of their achievements, and rightly so.

‘Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly! Its tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are close-knit. Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like rods of iron.’ Job 40:15-18, The Book

Sadly, the names of the giant sisters is lost to us, and even the story of the two giant sisters is known only to a few (and perhaps, a few more people if you’ve read as far as this).

What is remembered, is the call that they made to each other when they wanted that one hammer. Yes, on this side of the river the shout was ‘Full home’, from which the borough (it is said in myth) got its name, Fulham. Whilst the borough on the other side of the river (and now connected by a wonder bridge) is called Putney, from that giant’s ancient cry of ‘put nigh’. And so, the story ends.

Ofcourse, it is an old story, a myth, and many would dispute it, but doesn’t it make you wonder? Stories of giants abound in these Isles (and, indeed, around the world), and now here’s a story of giants of old, right here in London.

Yes, if giants existed in former days, what does it tell us about our place in the universe, what about our status, and what about the creative act of the Source of All? At the very least, it must make us pause, think and wonder. Surely?

The two giants, guardians of London were called Gog and Magog. Myth has it that they were the last two survivors of the sons of the thirty-three infamous daughters of Diocletian, who were captured and kept chained to the gates of a palace on the site of Guildhall.

However they got there, we do know that by the reign of Henry V they were carved effigies, huge giants guarding the gates of Guildhall. In 1554 these effigies appeared in the Lord Mayor’s Show and were pulled along on carts. And, modern effigies of Gog and Magog, guardian giants of London still feature in the annual Lord Mayor’s Show  each November. See here.

It makes you think, doesn’t it?

 

Tales From The Heart(h): The Fae. Mystery & Meaning

20180930 THE FAE MYSTERY & MEANING TALES FROM THE HEARTH

We all love stories. The Ancients, ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans and others also loved to tell stories and parables, and within them, and sometimes they can be the simplest of stories, we can find unspoken secrets and deep truths that benefit and enrich us. Buried treasure awaits the discerning reader.

My grandmother loved to tell me stories. One day, and I must have been about five of six years old, after a long day of playing with friends in the Welsh countryside, after the evening meal, I sat close to the hearth, nestled against her rocking-chair and got comfortable, ready for another story of hers that would transport me who knows where.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world…’. Albert Einstein.

She said: There was once a young man who lived by himself in a cottage. It had a thatched roof, a big grandfather clock in the hall, a huge hearth, and in the garden there were so many roses near the house and so many trees at the far end of the garden. Just like this house.

I wondered. Could this be the very house in the story? My childhood imagination ran riot.

She continued. One night, on a night just like this one, the young man heard a noise outside the kitchen door. It was a well-known fact that for country-folk the usual entrance to a house was through the kitchen door and not the front door. The young man opened the kitchen door.

He couldn’t see anyone in the dark, and called out, ‘Who’s there?’. Was he startled?

Oh yes. From the ground, yes the ground a melodic voice replied, ‘It is room that we need to dress our children.’ The young man opened the door fully, and in walked a dozen fae (fairies), incredibly small – about five inches high – and each carried a tiny baby in their arms.

They began to search for an earthen pitcher with water and settled by the hearth with its roaring fire; they remained in the cottage for some hours, washing their infants and adorning themselves. Just before dawn they went away, leaving some money for the young man on the hearth as a reward for his kindness.

After this the young man used to keep the hearth burning all night long, left a vessel of water on the hearth, and bread on the table, each day. He knew he should remove everything made of iron before going to bed, and he knew that these visitations were a secret between him and the fae.

I wondered: would there be any money on the hearth tomorrow morning?

‘To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.’ Oscar Wild

My grandmother said, the fae would often visit the young man’s cottage at night, and after each visit he found money left for him on the hearth. It happened so often that he was able to give up working, and he lived quite comfortably on the money which he received in return for his hospitality from the Fair Folk.

Some years later he took a lovely young lady from the village to be his wife. Once she had married him she became concerned that the money he seemed to have in abundance was from foul means. But he refused to tell her, and, ofcourse, this made her more inquisitive.

‘I’m worried that you don’t get it honestly,’ she said to him. The young man tried to convince her that there was nothing dishonest about his means of livelihood. She gave him no peace. ‘If I tell you, they’ll never come back and I’ll never get any more money’, he said.

‘Ah,’ she said, ‘then it’s the fairies.’ He admitted that it was the fae, and being somewhat annoyed at revealing the fact, he promptly took himself off the pub for a pint of the finest beer and a smoke of tobacco.

When he returned home that evening, he tended the fire, put out a vessel of water and left bread on the table, but the next morning the water and bread was still there. And, there was no money.

His wife was sitting in the garden, and called to him as she had spied the fae leaving, but by the time he arrived they had gone – never to be seen again.

Sometimes, my grandmother said to me that it shows that hospitality is important, the good deeds are rewarded, and that it is best to keep a secret (unless it is a harmful one).

‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ The Book, Hebrews 13:2

Ofcourse, to many people the fae are just make-belief stories. But, perhaps they live on in the just-as-real imaginal realm, and perhaps cross-over into this realm when someone truly believes in them. Or, perhaps the real meaning is in the story about the fae. A moral? What do you think?

Interestingly, in a few day’s time one (or more) of the Cottingley fairy photographs is to be auctioned.

About five photographs were taken in 1917 by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England. And the photographs showed the girls in the company of the fae. Sir Arthus Conan Doyle and others were convinced the photographs were real and used the photographs at various public events. Public reaction was mixed; some accepted the images as genuine, others believed that they had been faked.

I wonder? Fake photographs or not?

‘Wonder is the heaviest element on the periodic table. Even a tiny fleck of it stops time.’ Diane Ackerman

Many years later the girls, now much older, admitted the photographs were fake, and were cut-outs propped-up with hatpins. However, there’s a twist, as one of the women then changed her mind and said that at least one of the photographs were real evidence of fairy visitation. You can read more about that here.

There is an ancient belief in the fae, especially in Wales and Ireland, but also elsewhere. The ancients Celts and Druids believed in them (or similar) though descriptions and their names may have changed. But, it seems to me that many people believed in the fae because of the Cottingley photographs and many more wanted to believe. There is a real spiritual hunger and a desire to look behind what we think is real to see the realm beyond. Real or not, the photographs point to a longing for them to be real. I do believe my grandmother believed fervently in the fae. And, what of the meaning behind the story of the fae? Wise men and women, sages throughout the years have told stories and parables to illustrate a truth. It makes you wonder. Doesn’t it?

Could it also be that the photograph(s) about to be auctioned in the UK are part of the same (or similar)  story  that my grandmother told, or just a co-incidence?

‘Never stop wandering into wonder.’ Suzy Kassem

I wonder.

 

Rivers: Nature And Supernature. The Power & The Myth

20180908 RIVERS NATURE AND SUPERNATURE

Where is a body of water things happen. It’s not just that humankind sometimes uses oceans and rivers to (artificially) mark out territory at a superficial level, and things happen because of that. But, it’s deeper. There’s more.

As you know I’m in Hay On Wye, just inside the country of Wales, and chuckled to myself last evening as I walked the twenty minutes to the shop. To get there I crossed over a bridge over the small but vibrant Dulas Brook. It’s a wonderful Brook.

’It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things.’ Nicholas Sparks

Momentarily I stood there and looked down, and pondered the fact that half of me was in England, and half in Wales. I know, sometimes my inner child runs rampant – but, what not?

I was in no particular rush,  and so sat down beside the brook, away from the road, and enjoyed the solitude. 

Water, bodies of water, rivers and lakes have played an important part over the years in the belief system of many religions and faith groups. 

Millions of Hindus, with ashes over their bodies, plunge into the River Ganges in the hope that their sins will be washed away. The ancient Hebrews believed  that the Pool of Bethesda would heal them when it’s waters rippled declaring the presence of an invisible angel. And, many Christians bathe in the River Jordan for a blessing. The latter, ofcourse, use blessed or holy water in christenings and on other occasions when it is ‘flicked’ at the congregation. And, who can forget the old story, and one of my favourites, of dear Brigit turning bath water into beer!

’he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the [blind] man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam”. So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.’ John 9: 6b-7, The Book

Cleopatra, it is said knew of the healing properties of the water of the Dead Sea, and many today bathe in it, (or buy its water for home use) in the hope it will heal them (and indeed some say it may have some beneficial effect for skin ailments etc  because of its high salt content). But, there’s more.

Ah, water.

As I sat there and gazed into the Dulas Brook and with the sun setting, I wondered of the number of ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others that have done the same. Wales is that kind of place. It is a land of mystery and magic, where ancient voices can be heard in the wind and the energy of bygone ritual flows through the earth. Water, it seems, invited, and the Giver of Water moves through this land.

The ancients believe water could heal. And, at Buxton in Derbyshire is the ‘well’ that was flowing before the Romans invaded England, and which was used by Druids and others for healing. It was originally called Aqua Arnemetiae meaning. ‘the waters of the goddess who lived in the sacred grove. Know it is known as St Anne’s well.

Healing?

The ancient Celts and Druids told of stories where the Otherworld is reached by going under the waters, such as pools, lakes, or the sea, or by crossing the western sea. In Irish Immrama tales, a beautiful young Otherworldly woman would oftenapproach the hero and invite him to go away with her, as she sings to him of this happy land. He follows her, and they journey over the sea together and are seen no more.

A gateway?

Could Dulas Brook be a gateway to Annwn, the OtherWorld in Welsh mythology, that place of eternal youth and where disease was unknown?

The ancient Celts and Druids (and others) also believed that around water, such as lakes, rivers and brooks, elementals inhabited the area. Many still believe this today, and stories abound of good and not-so-good events around, or involving, water.

The spirits of watery places were honoured as givers of life. Sequana, it is said, seems to have embodied the River Seine at its spring source, the goddesses Boann and Sionnan give their names to the rivers Boyne and Shannon, and the ancient name for the River Marne was Matrona ‘Great Mother’.

Could there be a correlation between the River Lugg, just a few miles away, and Lugh? In the past I’ve dismissed it, but now I’m seriously considering the link.

It makes you think.

And, as I sat there gazing into the Dulas Brook I could see how water and the human imagination could ‘connect’ and deep thoughts take place. Ofcourse, many might dismiss such thoughts,  but what if imagination, like water, houses mysteries that defy rational explanation? What if we are surrounded my the miracle and magic that is water, but are oblivious to the fact?

Just a body of water? I would venture that when we gaze upon a lake, river or ocean there is much more than the eye can see. 

’Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’ Albert Einstein

 

 

And The Moon Steps Lower…: Ephemera: 26 August 2018 Full Moon

20180822 EPHEMERA AND THE MOON STEPS LOWER 26 AUGUST 2018

Yes, it’s nearly the time of the next full Moon. Infact, this Sunday, 26 August 2018 sees the next full moon, rising above the horizon (from a UK perspective) at about 8.22pm and reaching its highest point in the sky early on Sunday morning (at about 2am). Looking south, it will be in the constellation of Aquarius, the Water Bearer.

And the moon steps lower,
quietly changing
her luminous masks, brushing
everything as she passes
with her slow hands
and soft lips…

(Harvest Moon by Mary Oliver)

This full Moon swings to the south of the antisolar point, and so it is south of the Earth’s shadow, so there is no eclipse (partial or total) of the full moon. In fact, all the full Moons for the rest of 2018 dip south of the antisolar point and ‘beneath’ the Earth’s shadow. For the technically-minded this full Moon (month/cycle) is designated as Lunation number 1183 (that is, 1183 new Moons since Professor Ernest W Brown started counting new Moons, beginning with the new Moon of 17 January 1923).

‘She used to tell me that a full Moon was when mysterious things happen and wishes come true’. Shannon A Thompson.

To ancient cultures, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Druid and others the Moon was significant in their calendar, farming, rituals, daily life etc.

To some, this full moon is known as the Fruit Moon, the Women’s Moon, the Sturgeon Moon, the Corn Moon, and to some, especially (ancient and latter-day) Celts, to myself and others, it is the Dispute Moon. The reason for it to be called the Dispute Moon is many and varied, and may simply be so because, as autumn and winter approaches, one’s survival centred on the good-will of others, and the upcoming months wasn’t a time when disputes should be continued. Survival might have depended on keeping ‘short accounts’ and getting along with one’s neighbours.

‘Sometimes the night can be your best therapist. For the Moon is free, and always there to listen’. A Y Greyson

Ah, the Moon. There is an ancient Celtic story that Cerridwen, the Welsh muse or goddess of inspiration, mentioned in the Black Book of Carmarthen, is a personification of the Moon. True, there are stories of Cerridwen in daily life, living near lake Bala (and having stayed at Bala I can highly recommend that area of Wales) and giving birth to a son and a daughter, Sadly, it is said that her son, Morfan (also called Afagddu) was ugly and so she compensated by making him wise by using magic. But, these things never run to plan.

There is also a view that, alternately, or perhaps as well as having an earthy life, Cerridwen was the Moon personified. Her name, from Welsh to English can be interpreted (depending on how you divide her name) as being ‘fair’ and ‘loved’, or ‘crooked white one’. The latter, I hold dear, as it does sum up the bright crescent moon hanging in the sky, appearing stooped or crooked. And, doesn’t the Moon inspire? Dear Cerridwen.

As you gaze up at the full Moon, do pause and meditate and make this full Moon (and/or new Moons) an important part of your life, and, say a word or a prayer, raise a toast or offer a libation to the One who inspires us all. The Moon-maker. The One Behind It All. The inspirer.

‘What was most significant about the lunar voyage was not that men set foot on the moon, but that they set eye on the Earth’. Norman Cousins

No information about the moon would be complete without the amazing announcement, in the last day or so, of finding water at the polar regions of the Moon.

Back in 2008/9 India’s first Moon probe, Chandrayaan 1, with a Moon mapping instrument on board from NASA, orbited the Moon for about a year, and returned valuable data. That data, in a new study led by Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii and Brown University, was reviewed and showed a distinctive ‘signature’ which, they say, can only be water ice.

That find may not herald life on the Moon, but it may make mankind’s future exploration of the Moon and of space, our journey to the stars, easier. An amazing find.

‘The Moon is our local port opening to the universe; in the future, it’s through that port we will sail our ships to the coastless oceans’. Mehmet Murat Ildan

 

‘Tis Mystery All’. Living With The Unknown In An Age Of ‘Must Know’

20180804 TIS MYSTERY ALL LIVING WITH THE UNKOWN IN AN AGE OF MUST KNOW

I’m in London and it’s still hot – heatwave weather. Earlier I took myself off to the local park and that’s where I am now. In the bustle of a busy city, I’m sitting in the shade of a mighty oak tree, with a coffee nearby, a good book, and eyes that are half closing in the heat of the day, as my mind begin to wander. I wonder…

‘Hamlet: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ William Shakespeare

It is on hot, balmy days that much musing takes place. Have you noticed how, in ancient text, in those hot lands of old that Divine contact usually took place near or under trees, where men and women were resting from the day’s heat and perhaps were more ‘open’ to the numinous.

‘Then God appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre in the heat of the day, while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men standing nearby…’ Genesis 18:1-2a, The Book

It was many years ago, and I suppose I was six or seven years old at that time, that my grandmother told a story to me one evening. We were at the far end of her garden, sitting in the shade of an old, mature, gnarled oak tree, an oak tree unlike the many others in her garden. Quite similar to this oak tree in this city park. It, too, was a hot August evening. My eyes were half-closed, then, and my imagination ran riot.

She told the story of ‘the lights’ in the wood, which she described like fire-flies, but as she would say, ‘there’s more to it than that’, or just ‘there’s more’. She said that several years ago she had been walking in the nearby woods once evening and out the corner of her eyes she spied several lights in the distance, gaily dancing. Luminous green orbs they were. She said she wasn’t afraid as she seemed enveloped in an almost palpable peace. As she drew near, she said, the lights just disappeared. I was enthralled. Even at that young age it got me wondering.

She went on to say that they might have been the spirits of the place, or tree spirits, and as she said that she winked at me. Was that a ‘knowing wink’ meaning that I should take what she had said to heart? Or was it a ‘make your own mind up’, kind of wink?

‘One day you might find out…but then you might not’, she said enigmatically. ‘It’s the journey that counts…’. Perhaps, nature or the One behind it all gives us a periodic ‘wake up’ call?

’Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ Hebrews 1:1, The Book

That was then.

Now, I know that the ancient Celts, Druids and Romans did have a belief in the spirits of the place, protectives spirit, the genii loci as they called them. They had a deep and abiding belief in such a spirit in each location with its own perspective and mannerism. Today, we might laugh at such a notion, but admit that, at times, we do ‘feel’ at home in certain places, but then dismiss it as nothing more than an emotional feeling. A shallow view of the genii loci when compared to our ancestors.

But suppose the Celts, Druids, Romans, and not forgetting my grandmother, suppose they were right, and our disbelief is nothing more than twenty-first century ‘distancing’ and scepticism?

I also remembered, at that time, her saying that the lights might, indeed, be the Will-O-The-Wisp. And as I look back now I wonder if that was what I saw, once.

’Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.’ Neil Armstrong

About eighteen months ago I wrote that a few years ago I went for a night stroll in the local woods. I can’t remember now if it was a problem getting to sleep or being woken up in the early hours and unable to get back to sleep. But I went for a walk. Then I wrote: My thoughts were then interrupted by a brilliant bright yellow-green light, visible some 200 feet away through dense forest. The mysterious light had piqued my interest, and once again my heart rate quickened. I sat there watching it. It made no noise. It never seemed to move. After about fifteen minutes of sitting there, wondering what it could be and not drawing any logical conclusion, I got to my feet and slowly moved towards the direction of the light.

Then, the air was colder than ever, the fog masked the exact location of the light until I got to within about fifty feet of it. At about forty feet from it – and the light source seemed about eight foot wide – it went out! No sound! No light. I stopped. After a few minutes I carried on walking, gauging my steps so that I’d have a rough idea of walking some forty feet. After forty feet, I stopped. I must have been right on top of the light source, and for the next few minutes looked around for evidence of what had caused the bright light – but I could see nothing untoward. A mystery.

So, now I’m wondering: Will-O-The-Wisp or dryads?

’It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.’ Antoine Rivarol

Years ago, under that oak tree, my grandmother pondered if it could have been the Will-O-The-Wisp or a dryad, that is, a tree spirit, or the spirit of the place. Who knows?

Perhaps somethings are just too mysterious. Interestingly (as I was then sitting under an oak tree, as I am now), there is much to say that trees, and especially Oak trees have a spirit associated with them. When you think oak, think dryad or a similar term, drys. And, as regards the oak tree, think Druid. Drys signifies ‘oak’ in Greek, and dryads are specifically the spirits of oak trees, whilst the dryads of ash trees were called the Meliae.

’There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.’ Aldous Huxley

So, as I open my eyes fully on this still-oh-so-hot London day I am now no nearer solving the challenge: Did I witness a dryad, the Will-O-The-Wisp, the Canwyll Corff [pronounced can-noo-will-korf] that is, the ‘corpse candle’ (see here), or something else? Was it in this physical realm or in the imaginal? Did it have a specific meaning or was it a ‘nudge’ just to prompt me into a state of awareness?

Maybe, the ‘message for me and perhaps you, is that we might need to wonder (more)?  To have a beginner mind as Buddhists say, to be born again and again and again, to see through the eyes of a child maybe needed? It’s the journey that is important, and as we journey onward it is perception, wonder, mystery and awe that, perhaps, we can open ourselves to, and profit from (more).

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’ William Blake

My grandmother, always ready to listen (as well as tell stories), would often conclude her stories by saying to me, ‘Now, what do you think, dear one?’

 

Overcoming Fear At Y Goeden Mellt: Status, Power And Right-Thinking

20180720 A LESSON IN OVERCOMING FEAR AT Y GOEDEN MELLT

It’s interesting the memories that spring to mind when one looks at old photographs and the stories they remind us of, of what they  can teach us (even years later).

I’m looking at a photo of me when I was, perhaps, aged about seven or eight, taken a mile from where I lived, and still live. In that dense old forest where the photo was taken, stood Y goeden mellt, a special-to-us (then) children. It was an old, gnarled, twisted, yet majestic tree – Y goeden mellt was our childhood name for the tree. In English we called it ‘the Lightning Tree’ (See here).

On one occasion, at about the time that that old photo was taken – oh, so many years ago – having misjudged the time I was walking alone in that area at twilight. I was a very confident child, usually. Always, ‘at home’ in the forest. Infact, I loved the forest, and still do.

But on that occasion a little seed of doubt was sown in my mind. The sky grew darker, perhaps a storm was coming. The trees seemed somewhat taller and formidable. Sounds in the forest undergrowth seemed amplified and eerie, or certainly unnerving to a wee lad as I was then. There are lots of myths about elementals and others in the forest, stories that my grandmother would tell me. Always, she would say that there was no harm to be had from them if one respected them. Oh, I was a respectful boy.

But, still….

On that occasion, I can remember my mind went into ‘overdrive’ and I quickened my pace toward home, our little cottage called Ty Gwyn (that is, the White House due to its brilliant white exterior) in the wildness of  Capel Curig, north Wales.

It grew quite dark, and the wind started to blow strongly, and so, as a wee lad, I broke into a trot. It was as if there was a voice in my mind which said, ‘Run, little boy. I’m on your tail.’ It didn’t seem a friendly voice.

I started to run, dodging the branches of low trees, almost instinctively, turning this way and that. I had never been fearful of this area of the forest, but on that one occasion that had changed. ‘I’m closer than ever, and I’m coming to get you’, the voice seemed to say. I ran faster and faster. Now, quite fearful, I was colliding with some small twigs and would find out later that I sustained some small bruises on my bare arms and legs.

‘I’m all around you, little lad. Behind you, to the sides, and yes, in front of you’, the voice in my mind seemed to say. With my heart beating faster and faster, and sweat upon my brow I ran even faster, and then stopped.

Even at that age I realised that if this animal or ‘entity’ was all around me, then stopping, standing still was probably the best course of action. My heart was racing. Could it be a wild animal? A bear? (such was my fertile imagination as a child). Perhaps it might be that hag, the Gwrach y Rhibyn (see here). Similar stories of mythical and supernatural creatures occur in ancient Celtic, Druidic and Hebrew-Christian thought and/or writing, and elsewhere. Leviathan? Scylla and Charybdis? Grendel in the story of Beowulf? Spring-heeled Jack in more modern times? Monsters?

I stopped. Waited. With my heart beating fast, still, I looked around. Everything seemed brighter, my senses were more alert, everything louder, and I waited. And, I waited. And,……nothing. No monster!

Words of my dear Christian-Celtic-Druidic grandmother permeated my mind. ‘You have nothing to fear, except fear itself’, she would say. I was reminded also that somewhere in ancient text it was written ‘Do not fear’, written some 366 times. Though my child-body was reacting – heart beating fast, quick breaths, sweat on my brow and cheeks – I was determined to stand still and be intentional about not fearing. Slowly my body conformed to my inner state.

In the years that followed that childhood event I read about the story of Milarepa. He was a clever man. So clever that many people shunned him and thought him weird. He was a hero, one of the brave ones, albeit a loner, for he lived in a cave, well away from people. And, yet in times of stress and trouble some sought him out for advice and encouragement.

One evening returning home to his cave, Milarepa found it full of nasty spiritual entities. They were eating all his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. He believed that they might be a projection from his own mind, yet he was anxious and confused as to how to get rid of them.

Later, it occurred to him that one way forward was to teach them about oneness and how they were a projection of his mind. And, so he sat down and spoke to them about compassion. Little happened. He got angry with them. They laughed at him and carried on.

Then he sat down on the floor of the cave and said, ‘Well, I’m not going to leave and I guess you’re not, so I suggest we all live here in harmony’. As he said that, all of them disappeared. Except one!

Milarepa saw that this spiritual entity, or rather, his mind’s projection, was particularly nasty-looking. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but slowly approached that entity and stopped just in front of its bloody, sharp-fanged mouth. He surrendered himself to the situation and said, ‘If you want to eat me, here I am’, Milarepa said to it. Immediately that nasty spiritual entity left him.

It is said that Milarepa discovered that when resistance is gone, so too are demons or nasty spiritual entities, or mind-projections or negativity.

And, so I stood there in the middle of the forest. Nothing came for me. Nothing bothered me, and so I purposely, intentionally, walked slowly (as if to prove a point, as best an eight year old can). It took me another ten minutes to walk to Ty Gwyn. My grandmother, I discovered, was right: show respect, don’t resist, and do not fear.

I got home. My grandmother noticed the few, small cuts and bruises on my arms and legs. She asked, ‘So what was pursuing you that made you run so fast, judging by those cuts and bruises?’ I can remember myself looking up at her and replying, ‘I thought something was, but…when I stopped I couldn’t see anything after me. So, I then walked home’.

‘Good man’, she said. I remember thinking that she called me that, even though I was only 8 years old, but I felt encouraged. I felt as though I was ten feet tall. It felt good.

In the tough times that we all inevitably face – and perhaps are facing now – it seems to me that we all need a timely reminder of our status and power. To realise who we are – much loved by The Source of All, the Universe, The One behind It All. And, a reminder of our power – I can do all things….’ it says in ancient text. Meanwhile: And, as my grandmother used to say: Please, do not feed the fears.

 

 

Cantre’r Gwaelod, The Welsh Atlantis?: Stories From The Heart(h)

island CANTRER GWAELOD THE WELSH ATLANTIS STORIES FROM THE HEARThWe live in a mysterious universe, and on an even more mysterious planet. That mystery opens up and yields its treasure to those who are fortunate to have eyes that see and ears that hear, as it says in ancient sacred text. Mystery is ‘shy’ and only the respectful may gaze upon her.

Hy Braesil, as mentioned recently in an article, is a mysterious island that appears and disappears, allegedly, off the coast of north-west Scotland. Rather like an oceanic Brigadoon – a Scottish village that is supposed to appear for one day per century in Scotland, and which was the theme of a 1947 musical and a movie some seven years later – it is an elusive place and is yet another mystery to encourage you to visit these ancient Celtic kingdoms.

And so, as I sit here in London, in my small ‘town garden’ (a backyard?) with a glass of cold mineral water in my hand (I really like the effervescent kind), and with my eyes half closing, I begin to relax even more.

My mind ‘circles’ around the idea of water, and my imagination starts to ‘dance’, and it’s as though I’m transported back in time to grandmother Rhianwen’s cottage. There, as a wee lad,  I would sit beside the hearth in the evening, and she would tell another story. She was a seanchie, a Celtic story-teller, and a good one at that. I loved hearing her timeless, mysterious and deep stories. Stories full of meaning. And, the memory of them, even today, is pure gold.

‘There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.’ G K Chesterton

‘There was a time’, my grandmother said, ‘when there was a great city off the western coast of Wales, an island-city, but it had sunk beneath the waves some time ago’. Perhaps seeing my alarm at this she added, that it all took place in the seventh century, and so allayed my fears.  Something like that, she assured me, wouldn’t happen to Capel Curig as we’re inland, and the sea is some twenty-eight miles away. That relieved my childhood concerns, and she continued.

Her rocking chair creaked as she gently rocked back and forth, the fire in the hearth was ‘baking’ one side of my face, and so I moved from the side of the rocking chair to face her. ‘The great city’s name was Cantre’r Gwaelod’, she said. ‘It was a good mile off the mainland coast, and could be reached on foot at low tide. Then it’s gates would open, only to close as high tide approached’.

O dan y môr â’i donnau
Mae llawer dinas dlôs

Beneath the sea and its waves
Are many cities fair

But, on that particular evening one of the watchmen, whose task it was to close one of the sluice gates as the tide came up, got careless’, she said. ‘His name was Seithennin. He was madly in love with the King’s daughter, and when she got married to someone else he couldn’t bear the thought, and spent too much time in a tavern, got even more careless, and got drunk.’

‘A storm arose that night, the sea crept higher and higher, and lapped at the city wall of Cantre’r Gwaelod, but Seithennin was unaware. All the other city sluice gates had been closed, except for one – the one that Seithinnin was in charge of. He was in a deep, drunken stupor in the tavern.’

‘He was awoken abruptly by screams, and staggering out into the street, he could see water rushing toward him at great force. Sadly, Seithinnin lost his life that night. Some of the city people made it to the mainland, but the city was flooded and sank beneath the waves.’

Aeth clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ô’r golwg dan y dwr.

The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Vanished beneath the water.

My grandmother could obviously see that such an unhappy ending was perhaps too much for me, and added, ‘But, the city of Cantre’r Gwaelod was, and is, a special place. And some say a magical place. Even now, especially when a storm arises off the western coast, there are some who say they have heard music and singing, much merriment, and churchbell sounds coming from Cantre’r Gwaelod, miles out to sea.

A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn canu dan y dwr.

And the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ringing beneath the water.

It seems’, she said and smiled, ‘that life goes on there and is eternal now, even though many on the mainland can’t see it or hear it. But some can! Yes, Cantre’r Gwaelod is a place of mystery, and some would say magic.’

Hyd fedd mi gofia’r tywod
Ar lawer nos ddi-stwr,
A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn canu dan y dwr.

On sand till the grave I’ll remember
Many a peaceful night
And the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ringing beneath the water.

Did Cantre’r Gwaelod actually exist? Was it a myth full of meaning? Does it matter if was a tangible place or is a spiritual place only? Sometimes, isn’t it enough to just accept mystery?

There is no solid, reliable evidence of the physical kind of this Welsh Atlantis ever having existed. But, we’re talking about Wales, and the whole of that realm is liminal, a place of mystery where anything can happen to those who look gently upon the landscape. Sometimes, the most we can hope for are imaginal-prompts, peripheral fleeting glances  or spiritual ‘glimpses’.

In 1770, a Welsh antiquarian scholar William Owen Pughe said that he witnessed sunken dwelling places about four miles off the coast of Ceredigion. And in 1846 The Topographical Dictionary of Wales described a feature of stone walls and causeways beneath the shallow waters off Cardigan Bay. Even today there are those who will tell you that they have heard the sound of many conversations on the wind that blows from that part of the sea, or have heard the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod.

Years later, as I sit here, now, in my little garden on a balmy London evening, with my eyes now wide open and with a now empty glass in my hand, that story heartens me. It tells us that that life goes on, seen or unseen, it goes on in another realm – a place of eternal peace. Okay, Seithennin was distraught and got careless in that story, and perhaps one moral from it is that we should not neglect the day of small things (tasks), as it says in ancient sacred text, for such tasks may have the biggest effects.

‘Sin is behovely’. The Lady Julian of Norwich

But the story also assures us that we are altogether very human and that’s not a bad thing, and as humans we will sometimes make mistakes, but through them the Universe, the Source of All is able to turn them around to the benefit of all, and they become blessings.

Yes, the voice of grandmother Rhianwen, who ‘borrowed’ the words of Julian of Norwich on many occasions and reiterated them in a north Welsh accent, continues to echo in my mind, even now, and even here in London: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’.

 

[The poem extracts in Welsh with an English translation, above, are from Clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod (The Bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod), a poem by John James Williams (1869-1954) who was a pastor and a poet. J. J. is his bardic name.

Dragons And Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Cailleach And You. A Cautionary Celtic Tale For Today

20180214 THE CAILLEACH AND YOU A CELTIC CAUTIONARY TALE FOR TODAYYes, I’m awake so very early in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. On those few occassions this happens I know it’s time to observe something, to be aware of something, to know that there is something to learn and to make time for the experience. And so I headed to the garden.

As I sat there, in the distance I could see the green-grey colour mountains near Capel Curig, north Wales, mainly of slate and usually grass-covered or moss covered, with the latter prevailing at this time of the year. Indistict white clouds, that became mist hung low over the mountains, and the cotton-candy-like mist ‘rolled’ down the mountains’ side onto the low land, part of which, though some few miles distant from those mountains, formed the end of my garden. Mist enncroached. The feeling was quite delightful, very ethereal, other-worldly, and sound was muted. Liminal space.

Sound was muted that is, except in some high gorse bushes about forty feet away. There a noise could be heard, and with the wind now picking up and changing direction, it sounded like someone moving about in the gorse and occassionally letting out a low moan.

‘Only the wind’, or ‘Nothing untoward’ my grandmother would say to me when I was a wee lad.

As I sat there, with the sun just about to rise, but masked by thick cloud, looking at the gorse expectectantly. I remembered how my grandmother would tell me the story of the Gwrach y Rhibyn (pronounced ‘goo-rach ee ribb-in’. But the ‘ch’ in that second syllable is sounded like the ‘ch’ in loch, that is, a back-of-the-throat phlegm-clearing sound). See here for details.

However, this morning as I sat there, pondering how wonderful nature is, and what (or who) might be ambling around in the gorse bushes, another of my late grandmother’s stories sprang to mind.

She would tell the story of the Cailleach (pronounced ‘kie-lich’. But, again. the ‘ch’ in that second syllable is sounded like the ‘ch’ in loch, that is, a back-of-the-throat phlegm-clearing sound ) from Scottish and Irish mythology. And like the Gwrach y Rhibyn, the Cailleach was always described as an ugly old hag. Story-tellers of yesteryear didn’t mince their words. To those that are only partially acquainted with these type of stories, she was usually someone you would want to avoid, or so they would say. My grandmother, however, knew better, and though she always advised caution, she would always says such visitations can be a blessing, and the Cailleach (or Gwrach y Rhibyn as she’s known in Wales) should always be treated with respect.

Here’s the story my grandmother used to tell of the Cailleach:

The was a time when Niall Noigiallach and his brothers were travelling all together. Some time had elapsed, and they were thirsty. The began to search for water, and happenstanced upon a cottage with an ancient spring well in its garden. It was guarded by a hideous hag – the Cailleach. Her only demand for water from the well from these men was…a kiss.

Fergus and Ailil, repelled by the hideous look of the old women refused to kiss her. They returned from the well empty-handed, and still very thirsty.

Fiachra, another of Niall’s brothers, visited the well, and also saw the Cailleach guarding it. A kiss was demanded by her, and slyly Fiachra gave the old crone a mere peck on the cheek of a kiss. Did it suffice? No, the Cailleach wasn’t impressed, declared that that wasn’t a proper kiss, and with a frown sent him away empty-handed.

Niall went last, visiting the well and met the ugly hag. She demanded a kiss, and Niall gave her a kiss…..and a kiss that she wouldn’t ever forget.

While his brothers were thirsty and cold, Niall had his thirst quench with the most delightfully cool and pure spring water, and was warmed after accepting a invitation to the hearth of the ugly hag’s cottage for the night. In the morning the Cailleach  woke Niall, and before his very eyes she slowly transformed into a beautiful maiden. She gave Niall more water and told him that, because of his noble action he would also have the kingship of Ireland.

An old tale, but one that embodies great truth and wisdom. My grandmother was telling me to never despise anyone because of their differences, and to be hospitable to all. We might say, ‘never judge a book by its covers’ or ‘do not judge by appearances; a rich heart may be under a poor coat’, as they say in Scotland. Or, ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13.2 The Book). The ancient Celts, Druids and others of old (and, still today) extended hospitality to all, and in that there is much love, wisdom and truth. Orthopraxis.

And so, I sat there for some time gazing at the high, thick, dense gorse bushes. Was it an animal scurrying about or the Cailleach? Who knows?

I couldn’t help but stand as a mark of respect, move half way to the gorse bushes, stand, bow my head momentarily, and (because no one else was about and would think me mad, because no one else would even know about this experience….well, apart from you, dear friend, and I trust you) I quietly said, ‘Whoever you are, you are most dearly welcome here’. I waited, the scurrying stopped, and then I turned back and walked slowly to the house.

Now inside, I peered at the gorse bushes through the window and wondered. ‘Was it the Cailleach?’ I don’t know, but whoever I meet today I will welcome them as though they were the Cailleach in diguise and who might give a blessing to me today, and I would commend the same to you. Wherever you are, you might encounter the Cailleach in disguise, and if you treat her (or him) well, you, too, might receive a blessing.