Ritual & More Cosmic Consequences

20170525 RITUAL AND MORE COSMIC CONSEQUENCES AT NEW MOON1There is a new moon tonight, and being a new moon I’m afraid you won’t see much, if anything at all. It may be best, like many of the ancients did of old, to declare that tomorrow is the night of the new moon as then a sliver of the moon, forming a wonderfully bright arc will be evident, hanging  in the southern sky. Yes, for the next couple of days all this lunar activity will be viewable only from the southern hemisphere (and, maybe from equatorial locations).

New moon’s, seen or not, however, are a great time for ritual.

‘Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the Infinite.’ (Algernon Blackwood)

As an aside, and for the astronomers amongst you, tonight or tomorrow’s new moon will be lunation (number) 1168. [That’s 1,168 new moons since they were formally recorded and counted in astronomical almanacs.  Lunation 1 occurred at 02:41 UTC, on 17 January 1923.]

However, more exciting, is the view that new moon’s are seen by many as a time of ‘energising’, of new strength for projects, and of new beginnings, a time for rituals, as it the first day of the new lunar month.

‘…humans do have a remote control, granting us more power than we’ve ever imagined’. (Richard Rohr).

Yesterday, having mentioned the ‘inner’ effect of ritual, and the way it changes us – and that might be what is needed, as in coping with a traumatic event, or making vows of initiation or betrothal etc – I wanted now to explore ritual further. Ritual has far reaching  ‘ external’ consequences, and perhaps, more so at the time of the new moon. True, ritual has an ‘inner’ effect, but there’s more. Mae mwy (as we say in Wales)

Ritual has an external effect, too, as we enter liminality, that sacred time-space, what Richard Rohr calls ‘access[ing] the bigger field’.

We might all be aware of the First Nation peoples of America and their ritual dances for rain, but what about other peoples and ‘tribes’ and their rituals for averting a future calamity, sending light to a ‘darkened’ corner of this world, seeking protection for oneself or another, seeking healing for another, invoking energy through a fire ritual, giving a blessing by the sprinkling of water, a funeral ritual or prayer to commend a loved-one ‘into’ Bliss? All these are rituals with an external and far-reaching effect.

Personally, I do believe ritual and liturgy, founded on intentionality, has an effect. I’ll go out on a limb and say that this is because it doesn’t really depend on us. The power and effectiveness comes from the Source of All, and we are vital and necessary intermediaries.

Some may want to perform a ritual that prescribes a desired outcome in great detail, others are more vague, and some leave the ‘how to’ to the Source of All. That’s okay. I have no ‘challenges’ in performing a solo or group ritual to effect a distant (and sometimes, requested) outcome. Infact, I would encourage you and others to do so, as you feel led, to perform rituals for other places and lands, other people, drought areas, the precious eco-system and (against) animal extinction etc. All much needed.

Can I prove an outcome is as a result of my (or someone else’s) ritual? No, I can’t.

‘Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true.’ (Scientific American, 14 May 2014)

Those that undertake ritual practices do so because they, we, believe they have an effect – seen or unseen, immediate or delayed – but, nevertheless, they have an effect. Not all share that belief. If for one moment we, or they, believe that if it has no effect, then why do it?

That begs the question: if ritual and those other practices have an effect, then why’ do’ anything else, as all work is unnecessary? And, if we believe ritual has no effect then why do it, but rather why not only concentrate on doing a physical work or task, instead? Ritual or work?

Here’s a way forward.

‘Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.’ (St Augustine)

The two options need to be held in ‘balance’ or tension. One without the other is ineffective.  Personally, I believe that ritual is effective and work or a task to lead toward it, is necessary too.  And so, we can adapt St Augustine’s wise words to read: Perform a ritual as though no work would accomplish it; work towards an outcome as though no ritual would accomplish it.

It’s both ritual and work!

‘Ceremonial observance adds lucid layers — depth, dimension, drama and distinction — to our lives…When we set aside the quality time and claim the psychic space for ceremony, when we assume the authority to do so, we are able to transform our perceptions, our perspectives, our experiences, and in the process, our reality.’ (Donna Henes)

Note: Photo, above, used by kind permission of Pennie Ley, Copyright holder. All rights reserved, 2017

Encountering Silent Teachers: That Ancient Oak Tree / Coeden Dderw Hynafol

20170517 ENCOUNTERING SILENT TEACHERS

Go out, go out I beg you
and taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
with all the wonder of a child.
{Edna Jaques]

Near the perimeter of my garden in north Wales, before you reach the rivulet which is the unannounced boundary of my garden, just 20 yards/meters short of it is a wonderful, old, somewhat gnarled oak tree, standing slightly apart from other trees. Of all the trees in the garden, it is the oldest and most majestic, commanding respect from all.

My grandmother called it ‘coeden dderw hynafol’ (pronounced ‘goh-dun dare-ooh hin-af-foll’, which is Welsh for ‘ancient oak tree’, and that’s what I’ve always called it.

Interestingly, the word Druid, also comes from that Welsh word, dder, pronounced ‘dare-ooh’, for oak, and shows the high esteem that that tree was, and still is, held by them.

Oh, coeden dderw hynafol is a sight to behold. Even when ‘speaking’ to it in English, I’ve always addressed it, as though by a title, by its name in Welsh. I want to be respectful, after all.

Whether one believes that it has a dryad, an associated elemental, a spirit (or a spirit in the metaphorical or romantic sense), or wishes to personify or anthropomorphise this splendid tree, that is beside the point in many respects. It (still) has a presence, a nobility about it, and as it creaks and ‘moans’ in the wind it seems to ‘smile’ and declare to me and others that it was here long before we were born, and…and, yes, it will be here long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

It is a tree that evokes awe and humility in equal measure.

And so, there I was…nothing on tv….slowly walking, barefoot, toward coeden dderw hynafol at some time shortly after 11.30pm. There was hardly any light, the air was damp and cold – such is springtime in north Wales at this time of night – and the faint outline of  coeden dderw hynafol was etched, flat, without three dimensions apparent, against the dark, cloud-filled sky. The clouds seeming somewhat low and moving briskly, caught by an easterly wind.

I sat on the log just under the outstretched arms of the coeden dderw hynafol, and waited. The wind picked up and it started to rain, and the desire to run back indoors and avoid the rain was almost overpowering. Almost.

‘Only when we stop…do the stones begin to speak’. Mark Nepo

I love the rain, and though there was part of me that didn’t relish the thought of getting drenched, the ‘dominant’ inner voice was content just to let nature take its course. Any, why not? And so I sat on that log, gazing at coeden dderw hynafol and got drenched. Fortunately, there was no one around, and neighbours live some distance away,  so no one noticed my apparent foolishness.

Coeden dderw hynafol creaked, and groaned as it swayed in the wind, ‘moaned’ as the wind caught the top of its branches, and it provided only momentary shelter from the rain – its leaves now conveying downward all the rain it had ‘collected’. But, I will let you into a secret: it felt wonderful.

As I sat there with rain running down my forehead, onto my nose and running off the end of it, this ancient oak tree taught me: that regardless of what forces impact upon it, it stands. When buffeted it moves just a little, is pliable, and doesn’t stand so rigid that it breaks. Oh no. It ‘gives’ just a little. The noise it made wasn’t a cry of pain, but a delight that it was ‘dancing’ to the tune of the wind. And the rain it collected and which fell down on me was like the effect of a shaggy dog shaking itself to get dry and soaking everyone else in the process – something which ‘includes’ me, rather than excludes me, and which can bring on a wry smile. It was as though there was some giant, invisible aspergillum ‘flicking’ holy water on me, and blessing me. And it was comforting.

‘For a true contemplative, a green tree works just as well as a golden tabernacle’. Richard Rohr.

Now drenched, I realised that whatever life sends us, we are in control of our reactions and have the ability to come through the storm. As I sat there I could have been angry at being drenched, and angry that that oak had not provided sufficient cover to keep me dry. However, positive thoughts flooded my mind like warm honey. Coeden dderw hynafol had, in its own way ‘instructed’ me that I (and you, so ‘we’) have the resources to face adversity, and though we might ‘bend’ a little and feel the wounds, we will prevail. Coeden dderw hynafol also blessed me with the rain it had collected and which was now falling on me at quite a pace. It was a though this ancient friend was blessing me with holy water and including me. To be befriended by an oak tree is an amazing thing.

‘We inter-breath with the rain forests, we drink from the oceans. They are part of our own body.’ Thich Nhat Hanh

Soggy, cold, drenched but feeling blessed, I headed back to the house. I hadn’t gone too far when I stopped. It seemed wrong just to walk away. And so I stopped, and as mud oozed between my toes, I turned, and for just half a minute gave my silent thanks to coeden dderw hynafol, nodded and acknowledged my indebtedness to the lessons it had taught me that night.

Ofcourse, some might say it was crazy and puerile to regard that tree in such a way. A tree is just a tree, they might say. But, it didn’t (and doesn’t) feel like just a tree, in its presence. Ofcourse, if people regard it as just a tree, I would add that something deep still stirred within me, and I learned invaluable lessons.

However, I’d like to add that it is more than just a tree to me. There is more. Mae mwy, as they say in these parts, there is more. Coeden dderw hynafol is a silent teacher, and if you and I give ourselves time to draw aside and be still (wherever we are), each day we can learn something from these (and it may not be an oak tree) silent teachers that cross our life-paths.

‘And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play with your hair’. Kahlil Gibran

Beneficial Celtic Lifestyle: In Praise Of Urtica Dioica Or Be Nice To Nettles!

20170509 IN PRAISE OF URTICA DIOICA CELTIC LIFESTYLEI’m about to commit a gross error. Yes, for some the humble Stinging Nettle is a weed. There, I’ve said it…..the ‘w’ word. But, only to get that out of the way, right at the beginning.

The definition of a weed, is essentially, any plant that you don’t want to grow!

At the far end of my garden, in the wilderness of north Wales, well, actually just over the unmarked and unannounced boundary of my garden, is a rivulet. On the far side of the rivulet there are ancient trees, shrubbery of all sorts and gorse bushes. Indeed, that wilderness starts just before you leave my otherwise human-cultivated garden, and I like that.

To have some wilderness apparently ‘encroaching’ into my garden, actually reminds me that I’m very much the ‘guest’ in this wild and ancient countryside, and that is extremely humbling.

And so, therefore, in my garden, there is about one-fifth of the land, at the far end which isn’t human-cultivated, and so it grows wild, and that’s where there are some rather nice, wonderful and much under-rated stinging nettles. Yes, I’m happy with them there, and I’m pleased they are growing there…and so by definition they are not weeds! I’m pleased about that, too, especially as the humble stinging nettle gets bad press.

nettleAs a Druidic-Christian I am enthralled, in awe, captivated and even mesmerised at times by nature; dear wild, green, profligate, the absolute ‘fecundaceousness’ of nature.

My encouragement to you, then, is to take time in forests and wooded places, and if in the city, to visit parks, and in the UK to visit ‘commons’, those places where parts, if not all, are ‘overgrown’ and nature is wild, and then look out for stinging nettles, and appreciate them. Really appreciate them.

‘When the nettle is young, the leaves make excellent greens; when it grows old it has filaments and fibres like hemp and flax. Chopped up, the nettle is good for poultry; pounded, it is good for horned cattle. The seed of the nettle mixed with the fodder of animals gives a lustre to their skin; the root, mixed with salt, produces a beautiful yellow dye. It makes, however, excellent hay…And what does the nettle need? very little soil, no care, no culture; except that the seeds fall as fast as they ripen, and it is difficult to gather them; that is all. If we would take a little pains, the nettle would be useful; we neglect it, and it becomes harmful. Then we kill it…My friends, remember this, that there are no weeds…there are only bad farmers.’

Victor Hugo

I accept that Stinging Nettles, like other plants that some people would prefer not to grow, can spread rapidly and need cutting back from time to time, but they are wonderful plants.

Yes, I cut back that part of the garden, and prune trees in that area, periodically, always ‘asking’ beforehand. It would in discourteous not to do so! For some, ‘asking’ is necessary, especially for those for whom elementals inhabit such areas. But, even if one relegates such a belief to a romantic or metaphorical concept, ‘asking’ is still necessary, I believe, as it puts things into perspective: In cutting back undergrowth, I need to ensure that I am sympathetic to nature, to the wildlife and insects that live in and off of such plants, and am not reckless. ‘Asking’ ensures that I am not ‘doing my own thing’, but am in empathy with nature around about me. It encourages and enhances reflection, and that cannot be a bad thing, and encourages ‘oneness’.

The week, 21-27 May is, traditionally, ‘Be nice to Nettles’ week.

Did you know, for instance, that the Stinging nettle is called Urtica Dioica, which comes from the Latin meaning ‘two houses’. This refers to the fact that both the male and female flowers are normally carried on separate plants. Don’t you find that interesting?

It is also possible that the term ‘nettle’ is derived from ‘Noedl’, old English, meaning a needle – referring to the stinging mechanism in the nettle leaves.

That’s the thing about Stinging nettles, they do indeed…..sting. For the chemists amongst you, you may like to know that the plant, which is covered in tiny hairs, when touched break off and ‘transform’ into needles that can inject several chemicals: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid into the skin. Yes, they sting, and so I wouldn’t advise you go too near. However, if you do get stung, it is said that the leaf of a (nearby) Dock leaf will quell the pain.

butterfly1Did you also know, that Stinging nettles are much loved by butterflies, such as Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies, as well as attracting aphids which are necessary in the food-chain for birds.

‘Butterflies are like angels kisses sent from heaven.’ Malia Kirk

If you have a garden, could you ‘allow’ a small section just for the stinging nettle (or other wild plants), and if you live in an apartment, why not be ‘wild and reckless’, avant-garde and radical and grow a stinging nettle in a pot? Okay, others may find that strange, but now you know different. Now, you know the value of that plant to nature and butterflies, specifically.

Did you also know Stinging nettle tea (and you can always ‘pop’ into a tasty additional tea bag to improve the flavour) is said to have beneficial health properties (of the complementary kind!). Stinging nettle has been used medicinally since at least 3 B.C. And, in medieval times, it was used to treat pain in joints, as well as act as a diuretic.

Today, many use Stinging nettle tea as it is seen by some as a diuretic (water-reducing), and is regarded by many as an analgesic (pain-reducing), paradoxically, and as a depurative (cleansing the body of toxins, and is therefore beneficial to the kidney and liver).

tea1If you want to enjoy a cup of stinging nettle tea, I’d suggest you buy some, say, from Holland & Barrett (rather than make some from the raw plant, unless you’re a qualified herbalist), and if taking prescribed medicine do check with your doctor or health practitioner – there are a few ‘contraindications’ depending on what other medicines you’re taking. But, what a wonderful way to start and/or end the day with Nettle tea?

In ending this, and it could be that you’re (still) not enamoured with the wonders of the Stinging nettle though I can’t imagine why – they are truly wonderful – then, my final encouragement is to urge you to look again at the awesomeness of nature, and especially those parts which mankind has designated as a burden or unlovely. See with a beginner’s mind, become as little children as one commentator on humanity said, and treasure nature in all its beauty – Stinging nettles, as well. Be nice to nettles, please. Brother Nettle, as St Francis might have said! That seems a (more) enlightened, aware, Celtic (Christian), Druidic and Pagan approach. What do you think?

Happy planting, Tadhg.

20170509 IN PRAISE OF URTICA DIOICA CELTIC LIFESTYLE

Power-Blessing 102: The Source: [2/4]

20170503 THE SOURCE 2OF4 BLESSINGYesterday we briefly looked at the definition of blessing and intentionality, both vital starting places, and essential on our journey into the realm of power-blessings (see here).

Today, we look, briefly (and it is only a brief overview of a vast theme), at the energy behind such blessings, what it is, and why and how it can be visualised.

‘Your longing desires to take you towards the absolute realization of all the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your heart; it knows your eternal potential, and it will not rest until it is awakened. Your longing is the divine longing in human form.’ John O’Donohue

There is a school of thought that says the universe is a ‘vast sea of energy’. Not just ‘up there’ and out in the furthest reaches of the galaxy and beyond, but also in the space and locations we inhabit, and, indeed, the matter out of which we are made.  All of it is energy of one sort or another.

Connectedness.

That means that we’re part of the universe and have access to its power. But, there’s more. Ken Wilber calls us ‘holons’. A holon (Greek: ὅλον, ὅλος, holos, meaning “whole”) is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. The word was used by Arthur Koestler in his book The Ghost in the Machine (1967).

Part and yet whole/all.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25;40b, The Book

We have our own intrinsic energy some say, and others might say the whole lot is ‘borrowed’ and comes from somewhere else, but it seems that we can share that energy, and it can be depleted, and be refilled. Refilled, from where? Opinions abound about ‘external’ sources.

Our energy? Another energy?

Some might not put too time into wondering where this source is, so long as the cycle of energy use, depletion and refilling is accomplished. Others, might say it comes from Universal energy, those who are from a sylvanic persuasion might say the energy comes from elementals or nature around us, others might say it comes from somewhere else, such as from angels or other benevolent beings of importance to the individual).

In each of these, if pressed, one would get a ‘picture’, or at last a good description of the source. Ofcourse, imagination comes into play here. Those who believe in a Universal energy store-house might picture a galaxy or the vast reaches of space, elemental energy-users might imagine a welcoming forest or forest inhabitants, an elemental and so on.

External and yet, internal.

‘The most important matter for a practitioner is to be able to break through the veil of the material plane in order to enter the ultimate dimension and see the interconnection between us and all other phenomena in the world around us.’ Thich Nhat Hanh,

So, when I put forward an ‘Ouranic store-house’ of energy ‘above’ us, and I do, I’m using picture-language, imagination and metaphor to describe something that, as those others already mentioned have found, is difficult to put into words, and we may well be describing exactly  the same thing in different ways. So, please don’t be upset if you have a different view to me – we can still learn from each other, and support each other.

It’s metaphorical.

Ouranos is Greek for the sky, or some would say heaven (and therefore, the Source, for me, is God. However, the use of the word ‘God’ is much overused in our society, so I go ‘further’ and would say the Source is the Christ – who manifested ‘himself’ initially 15 billion years ago, and works also through the universe, nature, events etc), and for me this is apt. That’s where, I believe, all real power and energy comes from. That’s my metaphor.

Ofcourse, the more I describe that sore-house ‘place’, the more inaccurate my description will be. Who can sum up the infinite vastness and majesty of spiritual places, such as heaven, using mere words? Rhetorical question. If we can imagine it, it must be much more.

But, (somewhat cheekily) I’d like to declare that I visualise that heavenly or ouranic store-house of energy as a wonderful meadow, tall with ripe corn, just waiting to be harvested by anyone that needs or wants it, and the Field-Owner is happy with you and I harvesting its energy – infact, it is grown for that specific purpose.. Now, ofcourse, it is more that that, but maybe on this occasion an insufficient ‘picture’ is better than none? Metaphors really are important.

What if earth
Be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein
Each to other like, more than on earth is thought?’
John Milton, Paradise Lost

However, you describe it, I do believe we can ‘tap’ into that energy to fill (or refill) ourselves with the express purpose of passing that energy, those power-blessings on to others. There are a number of ways to ‘tap’ into that energy, such as one (or maybe a mixture) of the following

  • meditation (kataphatic)
  • good works
  • visualisation/imagination
  • intentionality
  • ritual (and you might like to get an inkling of power-ritual in this article poem – click here)
  • liturgy
  • prayer
  • meditation (apophatic) etc.

So, for instance, in using ritual I unusually use my imagination and enter, liminally, into that blessing-place; and also physically might wear something special, or light a candle or ring a bell  to signify the entering of sacred space. All metaphors – but important because they declare intentionality. Never diminish the imaginal (realm) or (physical) ritual, or liturgy. They open and close the path to amazing energy, and are the ‘carrier waves’ of power-blessings (as we will see tomorrow).

So, such energy comes from that store-house, for me it’s an ouranic store-house, but it’s more! Energy sounds so impersonal, just a matter of physics and mathematical equations, but I believe it’s more.

Personal.

Whether one accepts the idea of an Ouranic store-house, Universal store-house, elemental store-house etc, I do believe it’s more than just being zapped with energy. The Giver is Personal, the Power is Personal, it’s deeply experiential and meaningful, and our use of it as a conduit to other people, animals or nature etc is Personal.

That has repercussions when seeking that energetic infilling or refilling ourselves and using it for others. Responsibility is not a word that many like, but with tremendous power, responsibility is needed.

‘Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? [We are like] children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness…we should all be wearing crash helmets.’ Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone To Talk

How to exercise that power, the ways and how to do so responsibly is the theme of tomorrow’s article/blog.

 

Celtic Thought: Are We There Yet? [Connectedness In A ‘Disconnected’ World]

20170424 ARE WE THERE YET CELTIC THOUGHTI’m sure you asked the same or similar question when you were a child. Maybe, like me, you were in the back of the car, drifting in and out of sleep, journeying back home, and during those waking moments you would ask nearest adult, probably several times, the question, ‘Are we there, yet?’.

Now, as an adult we might rephrase that question, and apply it to other instances, but essentially we often ask that same type of question, whether it applies to a physical journey, a task in hand, repayments left on the mortgage, our place in the universe or in relationship to the Source.

And, where it matters most, say, in relationship to those cosmic, huge questions, those last two questions mentioned above, the answer could be…is, an outstanding, ‘yes!’. Surprised?

There is a school of thought that says we’re on Earth, and space starts a few miles above us. Point a telescope upward and you’ll see stars.

I asked a child family-member, ‘Would you like to go into space?’ They, ofcourse replied with a resounding, ‘Yes’. And, I replied, ‘Well, you already are!’. Naturally, they were a bit disappointed, having a childish understanding of what I was on about and really hoped that somehow they could be ‘catapulted’ above the Earth’s atmosphere – but, as regards their understanding, it’s okay, because they are a child!

‘Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another.’ Plato, The Republic

As you probably know I’m an amateur astronomer, and the proud owner of a 12 inch telescope. Point it 180 degrees to the east at night and you would see a myriad of stars, Point it in the opposite direction and you’ll see just as many stars. Stars to the left, to the right, stars above and below. Yes, we are in space. Not separate, not different, but in space in one glorious feat of connectedness. Part of the universe, already. It’s just that some don’t think that. It’s true, but they don’t get it! Ego confuses the issue. But, in essence if we asked the question, ‘Are we there, yet?’ ‘Ofcourse we are!’, is the reply.

‘The wonder is, not that the field of stars of so vast, but that man has measured it.’ Anatole France

We’re included, not excluded.

There is a theological view that we’re separate from the Source of All. And, if we like those renaissance paintings where God is depicted as above and maybe sitting on a cloud, and humanity is below, then we can be forgiven for thinking that we’re separate. God up there, us down here. However, one commentator whom I shall call ‘The One Who Knows’ prayed a prayer to the Source along the lines of,  ‘That they may be one, even as we are one’. Taking that at face value, then we’re already one, already connected. Yes, we’re already there and always have been, essentially. It’s just that, existentially, some don’t know it. Ego confuses the issue.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being…’ Acts 17.28, The book (part)

We’re included, not excluded.

Ofcourse, the same could be said of people (that we’re essentially separated from others), or nature (that we’re somehow so different as to be separate from it), and so on. Is it so, or do we just think that? Included and part? Or Excluded and separate?

And, if we believe  we’re separate (even when we’re not) it could mean, and I would suggest it does mean, that we’re mistaken to the point that we’re are not (fully) exercising the Source-given responsibility, and not utilising loving-energy toward each other and nature around us, in what we think and say and do, that we should be exercising. Egoic limitations then abound.

‘Unless one’s philosophy is all-inclusive, nothing can be understood.’ Mary Ritter Beard

But, what do you think?

Tadhg’s Ephemera & More: The Growing Moon: 11 April 2017

20170410 THE GROWING MOON 11 APRIL 2017 EPHEMERAFull Moon
Spring is truly here, and this month’s full moon takes place on Tuesday, 11 April 2017, in the constellation of Scorpio, the latter being seen, traditionally, as a water element.

This full moon rises around sunset, and sets around sunrise. This is the only time in the month when the moon is in the night sky all night long. The rest of the month the moon spends some time, at least, moving across the daytime sky.

‘The moon was reigning over their world, glowing its full splendour to all those willing to look up.’ Irina Serban

To the ancient and latter day Celts and Druids, such as myself, this full moon is known as the Growing Moon. Others regard/regarded it as the Seed Moon, the Pink Moon, the Awakening Moon, or the Egg Moon. Whatever we call it, this is a wonderful time of the month, and a time to sit, gaze up and ponder at our Earth’s wonderful companion smiling down at us.

On This Day: 11 April
1814 Napoleon surrenders unconditionally, and is exiled to the island of Elba.
1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act.
2015 President Obama meets Raul Castro, the first meeting between USA and Cuban heads of state since the Cuban Revolution.

Further Ahead
On the evenings surrounding April 20, Mars, that red planet, traverses across the sky and will pass close to the Pleiades star cluster, the Seven Sisters. After the sky darkens, they should be visible as a faint group of seven stars to the naked eye, as several dozen stars within a binoculars’ field of view, and with a telescope you might see several hundred stars.

The name Pleiades comes from Ancient Greek, and is probably derived from plein (‘to sail’) because of that star cluster’s importance to the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea. The name was later mythologised as the name of seven divine sisters, whose name was thought to be connected to their mother Pleione.

Also, look out for the annual Lyrids meteor shower which runs from 16 to 25 April, and which peaks before dawn on Saturday, 22 April.

‘The moon will guide you through the night with her brightness, but she will always dwell in the darkness, in order to be seen.’ Shannon L Alder

Soon, Earth Day
This year, Earth Day, occurs on Saturday, 22 April. Details of how you can get involved in a practical way can be viewed at the Earth Day website here.

And/or you can read their webpage and send out some positivity, good-energy, prayers and maybe hold an appropriate ritual, or meditate silently upon the Earth, extending love and peace to it and all its wildlife, and give gratitude.

‘And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair’. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Also, in doing this by yourself or with others, you might like to consider turning off all lights and unnecessary household equipment to stop or reduce your electricity usage for an hour (refrigerators/freezers etc exempt), and, perhaps, spend that time in darkness, or use a candle for light for your meditation, ritual etc.

May you have a blessed full moon celebration. Tadhg.

Ephemera: The Celtic Month Of The Alder Tree [18 March – 14 April]

20170315 month of the alder tree EPHEMERASpring is in the air, and this Saturday, 18 March sees the start of the next Celtic tree month. It’s the start of the month of the Alder Tree.

Essential data
Month: Alder Tree
Dates: 18 March – 14 April
Common name: Alder, common alder, black alder, European alder
Celtic name: Fearn (pronounced: fair-un).
Scientific name: Alnus glutinosa
UK provenance: Alder is native to Britain and is also found throughout Europe as far as Siberia.

About the tree
The alder tree is noted for its important  relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni. This bacterium is found in the root nodules. The bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with sugars, which it produces through photosynthesis. Symbiosis.

As a result of this mutually beneficial relationship, alder improves the fertility of the soil where it grows, and as a pioneer species, it helps provide additional nitrogen for the successional species which follow it.

I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree.

Joyce Kilmer

The alder tree is conical in shape, and mature trees can reach a height of around 20m and live for about 60 years. The bark is dark and fissured and is often covered in lichen. Twigs have a light brown spotted stem which turns red towards the top. Young twigs are sticky to touch.

The tree’s leaves are purple or grey leaf buds form on long stems and the 3–9cm long dark green leaves are racquet-shaped and leathery to the touch, with serrated edges. The leaf tip is never pointed and is often indented.

Flowers are on catkins which appear between February and April. Alder is monoecious, and so both male and female flowers are found on the same tree. Male catkins are yellow, whilst the female catkins are green and oval-shaped.

Usage
The Alder tree provides good wood for building materials. The sap, leaves and bark of the alder were all used to make dyes; green from the leaves, red from the sap and brown from the bark. The dyes were often used to tan leather. Wood of the alder is flexible and resistant to the rotting effects of water, and, so very good for building materials in a temperate climate.

Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.

Robert Frost

The alder tree’s root system is often submerged in watery areas. In such places, the ancient Celts observed that the roots served as as intricate shelter system to fish, specifically trout and salmon.

Myth
The alder tree is generally seen near streams and riverbanks, and it’s for that reason that the ancient Druids called this tree ‘The Water King’.

The alder tree, and this month, is said to be associated with enthusiasm, courage, spiritual maturity, giving, risk-taking and adventurousness.

Although, primarily associated with the element of water, the alder tree gracefully crosses into the realm of air and fire, also. For instance, ancient legend indicates the wood of the young alder tree was traditionally used for crafting whistles, pan flutes and recorders. Note the air element, here. Within the realm of fire, the alder’s colouring transmutes into a fiery orange after it is cut, indicating to the Celts that the alder secretly harbours a sacred flame within. As if to prove this point, the wood makes a pristine grade of charcoal, and was perfect for steadily hot conditions utilized to forge fine Celtic weaponry.

In Irish mythology the first man was said to have been made from the alder tree. It is also considered a tree of the fairies, protected by the water fairy-folk but also representing fire and earth. Some believe faeries like to dance under these trees, especially, when they are flowering.

The trees along this city street,
Save for the traffic and the trains,
Would make a sound as thin and sweet
As trees in country lanes.

And people standing in their shade
Out of a shower, undoubtedly
Would hear such music as is made

Upon a country tree.

Oh, little leaves that are so dumb
Against the shrieking city air,
I watch you when the wind has come,—
I know what sound is there.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Celebration
If you wish to celebrate, I’d recommend an evening celebration on Saturday evening, though ancient tribes (and some, today, still) would celebrate the evening before, reckoning that the new day started the evening before (from our point of view). So, you might want to celebrate Friday evening.

Celebration can take many forms. At home, it could be lighting a candle in honour of the alder tree and the One behind it; and/or gazing at a picture of an alder tree and then gently meditating, or recitation of a favourite tree-honouring poem. Outdoors, if you have an alder tree nearby, you might like to visit it, gaze at it, and dwell there for a few minutes, giving thanks for nature in general, trees especially, and the alder tree in particular. Whatever you do, my encouragement is to keep it simple, keep it tree-honouring, and take time just to think, meditate and ponder on the wondrous alder tree. And, enjoy it.

Harmony Of The Elements: Celtic Thought

20170302-harmony-of-the-elements-celtic-thoughtAs we’re in the season of spring, the main element of our focus of this time is air. But, that’s not to ignore the other three elements – and apologies to those that hold to three elements in total (as I’m a ‘four element’ man in the main, though maybe in actuality I’m a ‘five element’ man, with the fifth being of a different order, but that’s for another time).

And, just for a few minutes, as I’ve had more opportunity to travel by bus recently – blessed be the #72 bus route – and marvel at the joined-up service in London, my thoughts were led to think of harmony, and especially about the harmony of the elements. Their connectedness.

For some time I’ve fallen into the habit of ‘dealing’ with the elements individually as the wheel turned and one season led into another, and missed out, I think. It’s easy to do. So, here’s a few thoughts about the presence and balance of the elements as it occurred to me journeying around London, today.

Of course, acceptance of elements within everything goes back a long way and permeates many cultures. Empedocles, the Greek philosopher, scientist and healer of the fifth century BC, believed that all matter is comprised of four elements: earth, air, fire and water. And, this was a common belief, upheld by ancient Celts, Druids and others, and (depending how you perceive things and the circumstances) by latter-day ones, too, and poets and story-tellers, also.

I can do no better than include, here, the words of Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, who currently lives in the Dordogne region of the south of France, who wrote:

‘If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.

Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper.

When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist. ‘ Thích Nhất Hạnh

In that example, Thích Nhất Hạnh writes that in a sheet of paper, a newspaper that we might read on the way home from work, that their is a cloud ‘in’ the paper. And, also, their is the presence of the elements of: earth (in the form of paper from trees of the earth),  air (as trees ‘breathed’ that in), water (in the form of rain which fell from the sky and fed the trees), and fire (because it was the sun whose light and heat nourished the tree to grow tall and strong).

All elements are present in ‘things’, but maybe depending on the item, and/or circumstance, and/or our perception at the time, one comes to the fore. There is, therefore, a wonderful balance and equality (even an equality of deference at times) between the elements. All present. All working together. All in harmony. What do you think?

The Elements: The Wind Whispers

20170215-the-wind-whipers-poetry-and-liturgySince the celebration of Imbolc or Candlemas, usually the first few days of February, we’ve moved into the season of spring. Sometimes, local weather patterns prevail for a time to give a wintery feel, but rest assured spring is on its way. [Except for my antipodean friends. Sorry].

For ancient Celts, Christian Celts, Druids and those of many other ancient tribes, the cardinal point for spring is the east. So, my recommendation is that, for any ritual or recitation you make to celebrate the season, you face the east – unless you have a fixed custom, of course. For me, at this time, I like to start three compass/cardinal points ‘back’, and so as I work my way through a recitation at each compass point in a clockwise fashion, I end, for this season of spring, by facing the east. East represents spring time.

And the main element of spring is air/wind.

Here’s a poem entitled ‘The Wind Whispers’, about this season of spring and its main element:

– oOo-

I hear your voice on the sound of the wind,
and I hear you call out my name
deep within.

With no companion to my mood
I walk, but know
that in my solitude
I must bow to the wind that buffets me so.

Tonight was the first spring thunder
in the mighty rush of rain.
And the earth, like a child that knows her poems by heart,
declares, yes, that it’s spring once again.

And so I part the thrusting branches
and come  beneath
the blesséd and the blessing trees,
that look upward at God all day
and lift their leafy arms to pray.

Beneath a canopy of stars,
of broken branches showing the scars
of many winds and so much strife,
this is life.

Yes, the wind whispers to us all.
Its words carry across the tree tops, and it sings.
And, back comes the wind full strength with a body-blow
dandelion-pixabay-smalllike that of angel-wings.

Praise be to you my dear Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and now serene,
I hear your voice…and I hear you call out my name,
welcoming me, and those of my kin.

-oOo-

This is a ‘found poem. That is, a new poem fashioned from, and/or based upon the thoughts and words of others that have gone before. In this case, this poem written by me, was prompted by some great words penned by:  Rudyard Kipling, Sara Teasdale, St Francis of Assisi, Joyce Kilmer, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendell Berry, and Douglas Malloch.

 

20170215-the-wind-whipers-poetry-and-liturgy

Celtic Thought: In Praise Of Urban Trees (Or ‘The Sentinels Of Parson’s Green’)

20170213-in-prasie-of-urban-trees-celtic-thoughtIt sometimes feels easier to be embraced by the simple beauty of nature in rural areas. Even if the ‘Rockies’ or Yr Wyddfa (Mt Snowdon in north Wales, in my rural neighbourhood) are some way off, a small copse here or there, wayside flowers or a tree branch shed in a storm and providing a much needed seat for me, affords a remembrance or connection with the Great Outdoors.

And yet I’m now in London (UK) for a while, in an area that hosts almost 200,000 people, where the ratio of people per street is phenomenally high compared to rural Wales. I love Capel Curig. And for other reasons I love this part of London: a borough which nestles alongside the River Thames; jam-packed with a kaleidoscope of awesome, diverse  people; sporting a number of cafés – great places for avid book-readers, like me; and with a number of open, green spaces.

It sometimes feels like it takes more ‘work’, but perceiving nature in this place is possible – if only for the fact that nature itself really is ubiquitous, and we may, for the most part in urban areas, merely be unware of it.

‘The trees are God’s great alphabet:
With them He writes in shining green
Across the world His thoughts serene.’ Leonora Speyer

Not far from where I live (when in London) is Parson’s Green – a small area of open space, triangular in shape – was it a plague pit in medieval times? And it has great, green open area, with high trees from another era, and two public houses (it used to be tree) at its edges. It is a most wonderful, magical area, busy but with a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. Yet many miss its beauty in their rush to nearby Parson’s Green (London) Underground Station.

It is a magical area. A small oasis of beauty, a swathe of green in a sea of grey.  A ‘garden’ of solitude surrounded by a cacophony of sound. And in the centre are its two tallest trees. I first saw them as a boy some years ago, and they are still as tall, if not taller, than ever. They are the ‘guardians’ of this place, nature’s sentinels, and some might say they are its senior dryads. I rarely pass that way without a slight head-nod of respect to them.

There is something so sure and dignified in a tree’s presence. The Celts had a refined sense of worthy wonder of trees. For them many trees were sacred. Near their holy wells there was often either an ash or oak tree.’ John O’Donohue

These two trees are giants.

And that’s interesting, the myths from different cultures about two giants. In Roman times the myth of Gog and Magog (which are names that appear in ancient text) was ‘imported’ to Britain and quickly became the ‘protectors’ of London. Even today a few old buildings in Central London sport effigies of Gog and Magog, and at the Lord Mayor’s annual procession it is usual to see larger-than-life effigies of them on vehicles in the procession. In Greek mythology the Aloadae were two giants who were presumptuous enough  to attempt to storm the home of the gods by piling three mountains – Olympus, Ossa and Pelion on top of each other. Goram and Ghyston, too, are legendary giants in the folklore of the Bristol area. And, Fulham (this borough in question) had its own myth of two giant sisters who, it is said, built the churches on either side of the River Thames [see here].

‘Oh Trees, Trees, Trees…wake. Don’t you remember it? Don’t you remember me? Dryads and hamadryads, come out, come [out] to me.’ C S Lewis

Yes, these two tall trees amongst dozens of others, are giants, sentinels of Parson’s Green, in the heart of London.

And, for those who pause in their rush to and fro from home to the train station, and vice versa, the wildness of nature, the green-goodness, the magic of this place,  even a dryad or two, it’s spiritual presence and giftedness-from-the-Source-of-All may be revealed to those who takes time, are aware, and pay their respects.

‘The groves were God’s first temples.’ William Cullen Bryant

If ever you have the opportunity to move through Parson’s Green, or indeed in some other urban area where nature reminds us of it’s presence, then temporarily forget  about the busyness of the day and allow yourself to be transported into the realm of sacred space, sacred time, where the imaginal re-imposes itself and where Green-Spirit can embrace you in that ‘thin place’.

Something to do? If you’re in a built-up area, seek out a green space, find a tall tree, be aware, take time, be still, pause, and enjoy the view, the tree’s presence, and the One-Behind-It-All.

‘Only in the pauses between things, in the brief contemplative spaces of just being, can we catch a glimpse of love itself.’ Gerald G. May