Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Awareness & Tea-Drinking

20190821 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED AWARENESS AND TEA DRINKING

We recently looked afresh at what we take for granted: at clouds and their beauty here and here, and then we looked afresh at deers and gnats and more in wild places and considered elements where we can be more aware of animals’ manoeuvres and there meanings, and learn from them, here.

And, now perhaps, it’s time to consider something that many will consider (at least the example) mundane (but hopefully, not enough to stop reading, as there is more, and I believe the following to be beneficial. Awareness and the mundane (as if anything can ever be considered mundane).

Time for the ancients, early Christians, ancient tribes, druids, celts and pagans of yesteryear was experienced differently to us. Now, if I use a mobile phone app to check  when the next bus arrives I calculate in minutes, to the minute, and on most occasions to app is accurate and usually never lets me down. Thank you London Transport and especially the bus drivers of Route 424.

Time-wise, we might want to hark back to those former days in totality, but that may not be possible – we have work to do, busses and trains to catch, places to go and most of us, therefore, work to the minute. But all is not lost. There are many occasions when we, like those ancients, can slow down, take a few minutes out of our busy schedules, pause and enjoy the moment.

My suggestion is, at least for each of us to consider a slowed-down event, call it a ritual, each day to enjoy slowing, deep thinking and appreciating life in all its fullness.

Perhaps, as I’m British, a cup of tea could be the physical metaphor or physical ritual to do this. Why not? If you’re not quite sure what to use to ‘slow time down’ and to ‘go deep’, perhaps a cup of tea is just what you need – doubly so if tea-drinking is not part of your normal day or custom. It’s not that tea is ‘magical’, its how we ‘receive’ it and appreciate it that matters. Slow! Deep! Meaningfully! With deep(er) awareness.

Just a cup of tea. Just another opportunity for healing.

And, so I make the tea. A tea bag in the cup or teapot? And if you use a tea pot, do you put one teabag in it and then one for the pot? When about, when putting the tea into a cup, do you put the milk in the cup first? It used to be said the milk would go in first to avoid the heat cracking the fine china cup. I’m using a mug. But you decide. They may be important decisions, to contemplate slowly, but once you’ve decided, do it slowly, with intentionality, with pleasure, with feeling and deep thinking. This, now, for me is more than just a cup of tea to slake my thirst.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

Is it just a cup of tea? No, it’s definitely  more!

In this simple act there is deep meaning. It is part of my life and yours (if you choose to make it so). It takes time – time that we will never get back, time that will never be repeated. It is a unique act for this time, and so, it is full of meaning. The meaning we give it. Ofcourse, we might gulp the tea down quickly, quench our thirst and there may be times when that is necessary, but not now.

Slowly do I reach out. Observing with my eyes the milk patterns swirling around on the surface. For some reasons I feel led to half close my eyes, and do so. Pehaps there are less distractions this way. Perhaps I am ‘seeing’ without seeing?

I note the cup’s temperature, the smell of the tea, and more. In reaching out I notice the cool handle of the mug, but it’s getting warmer. Even as I ponder, there is change. Heat is ‘creeping’ to the cup’s handle. The cold, smooth pottery is now quite warm to my touch. Everything changes? But, I’m in no rush. I’m enjoying the experience.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

And then, I lift the cup, bring my arm closer to my body. The weight of the tea means the cup slips, just a little in my grip, and so I tighten my grip.

Is it just a cup of tea? It could be – but to me, right now it is so much more. I could think about where the tea comes from, its processing, how vital water is in general, but right now I was to be ‘in the moment’. Deep thinking, perhaps beyond rational thought, and moving into that area of quietness is what I’m seeking. When people are first in love there is that period of chatter ie ‘whispering sweet nothings’ as they get to know each other, talk and laugh. But, there comes a point where, sometimes, chatter ceases and just being local to each other, in each other’s company is enough. Silence is then the order of the day, as it is now.

The fragrance increasing as the cup nears the lips.  So present.

I can smell the tea’s fragrance. It’s Assam tea- full bodied and strong, and it smells so rich. I am aware of the details, but I want to me even more aware. The awareness that is beyond words. The awareness of no-thought (or perhaps, the being present between thoughts. That gap of silence, where possibility dwells).

Noticing the bottom lip receiving heat from the cup, the top lip arched to receive the fluid within. Noticing the first taste of tea before the tea even touches the lips.

And then I raise the cup to my lips. It’s tea, but the thought of wine in a goblet runs though my mind. Careful not to burn my lips I blow a small stream of air across the tea’s surface. I know, I’m a big child at heart and this is not something that I would do if invited to the Savoy Hotel, but no one is looking and no one knows I’m doing it – no one except you, and I’m amongst friends.

I sip slowly. The strong and rich taste of the tea, even just a few drops ‘hit’ my tongue and my taste-buds go into action. From no-taste to a rich taste of Indian tea, the taste pervades my mouth. So different. So refreshing. Do delightful. Almost overpowering, taste-wise. So different.

The fragrance and the heat rising into the mouth. The first noticing of flavour. The touch of warm tea on willing tongue.

And, now I can taste not only the splendid flavour, but the tea’s heat on my tongue, inner cheeks and the back of my throat. my mouth is warming up, but. fortunately, it’s not too hot. It’s comfortable.

The tongue moving the tea about in the mouth.
The intention to swallow.

I want to swallow, but I don’t. Well, not immediately. To swallow immediately would be to do this by rote, unconsciously and without thinking. I want to go slow, to pause, to dwell in that moment. And, one of the best ways to do that is to linger here and not do what one would usually do. And so, like some tea-taster at the Twinings factory I ‘swill’ the tea around my mouth (and that’s probably another reason why I wouldn’t be invited to tea at the Savoy hotel), but the flavour of this tea is wonderful and I want to extract every last molecule of flavor.

The tea seems less hot and the flavour less flavoursome now, but this could be that my senses are ‘acclimatising’ to the temperature and the flavour. I so want to swallow, but pausing is beneficial.

I want to swallow the tea, but chose not too. Interestingly, I consider (now) which part of me was responsible for those two opposing thoughts? Did they occur in the same part of my brain, or from two different areas: the brain and the mind (after all there is a difference between those two. And oh, this thought occurred as I  drank tea. Imagine what you might discover doing this or something else, slowly?).

And so, I swallow that tea. Just one small gulp. It’s enough.

The warmth that extends down into the stomach.

I can feel the heat run down my oesophagus (well, actually it runs down a few inches of what is left of my oesophagus, down a modified stomach that resembles now an oesophagus and into what is left of my stomach – but you may not have wanted that information). But, I can feel the heat flow down and permeate my body in its very depths. It’s a heart-warming process – no pun intended.  And it’s an unusual experience when slowing down and focusing on the experience as if for the first time. Perhaps this newness is what the Buddhists mean by having a ‘beginners mind’ and seeing things afresh as if for the first time, over and over again; or what being born again (and again and again), means?

What a wonderful cup of tea.
The tea of peace, of satisfaction.
Drinking a cup of tea, I stop the war.

It was a refreshing cup of tea. But, so much more. There was the act of slowing, pausing, appreciating the moment and experience, being aware and ‘in the moment’, which may be thought of as all acts of gratitude to the Source of All. Why not?

It was time wells-spent, a time when I ‘stepped out’ of ordinary time and into sacred time, and would invite you to do the same. There was a peace there, deep peace. A deep satisfaction. A veritable communion is a tea cup. What a wonderful physical metaphor, a physical ‘parable’, what a deep and meaningful way to ‘step out’ of the busy-ness of our daily life.

It’s was an opportunity to ‘go deep’ and know more about life, the universe and everything, or could it just be regarded  as just cup of tea with no cosmic importance? You get to decide. But, you would probably need to try it, or something similar, first to come to a conclusion, and there is my encouragement to do it, and to seek deep(er) awareness.

For me, it was (and when I do it, it is) a profound experience – but sometimes it does seem odd, peculiar, a waste of time, but that is to be expected. Our ego is ‘disturbed’ when we do something different, step out of our twenty-first century comfort zone, but it’s worth it if we are serious about reclaiming our ancient rights and practices, and thereby mature, grow and are transformed.

 

[All indented quotes above come from ‘Healing Into Life And Death’ by Stephen Levine]

The Elements: In Praise Of Water

20190816 THE ELEMENTS IN PRAISE OF WATER POEM LITURGY

It’s been warmer than usual in the UK, and yet today and tomorrow the forecasters predict that over that short period we should expect a month’s rainfall, if it were a ‘normal’ month.

We take it for granted, misuse it as though we have too much of it, and yet without water life on this planet would perish. Another sobering thought, as take clean water for granted, is that two billion people are without clean water, and, sadly, each year 320,000 children die because of that.  If ever there was a need to consider giving a small amount of money to water aid charities (if able), then now is the time. But, whatever we do, you might like to consider the following as a poem, a prayer offering, or as part of your liturgy for the environment.

The following was written some time ago by me:

Water.

The vast oceans, which sustains life on Earth,
which move at the behest of the moon,
the rolling tides that contains a myriad of sea-life, from plankton to the behemoth,
that which quenches the world’s need,
and from which all nourishment is assured,
acknowledgement is given.

From clouds you pour out rain upon the Earth, and enrich it.
Mighty lakes appear from which  ancient forests of growing trees are fed,
and daily bread is produced for our table.
An abundance for many,
and a veritable gift from the Great Water-Giver.
Bountiful.

It soothes and it heals.
For when an angel’s wing sweeps
across the surface of the Pool,
then healing takes place, and there is restoration.
Health-giving.

It’s cleansing power, daily, washes the body,
and restores vitality.
A clean start. A refreshing start. A new start.
All is washed away.
And, in it celebration commences,
in appreciation, in sport, in swimming and in children’s’ play.
Joyfulness.

It quenches the soul, it nurtures the spirit;
and from those who are aware,
springs of sanctifying water flow,
and outward pour,
to friends, to enemies,
to those near, and to those far away.
To all.

Water.
Whether we have much, or little,
may the words, “Come, all. Drink. Share”, be on our lips.
Praise to the Great Water-Giver.

 

Celebrating The First Harvest 2019

20190725 CELEBRATING THE FIRST HARVEST

Harvest? Here are a few words about the first harvest of the year, its background and history, and its importance to you and I, and there are  few suggestions about how we can celebrate it.

I can vividly remember as a wee lad, so this is going back a few years, the time when, each year, there would a ‘buzz’, a hubbub, a huge excitement at primary school like no other. Apart from Easter and Christmas, Harvest was such an important time. At school, many of our lessons, especially art, focussed on a harvest theme. And within a day of two the school hall and classes were festooned with drawings, painting and items all made by pupils  with harvest time in mind. Then, bread, corn dollies and garlands decorated the hall, along with parcels of food for the elderly. Wonderful memories.

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand… (Hymn by Matthias Claudius, Translated by Jane Montgomery Campbell, and one of my favourite, seasonal, hymns at primary school.)

And guess what? Yes, it’s nearly that time, again.

I can’t wait for the ancient Celtic and Druid festival of Lammas, also called Lammas-Day or the season, Lammastide, or Lughnasadh. In Wales it is known as Gŵyl Awst. It traditionally starts on August 1st, and it is the first harvest in the calendar. It is such an important occasion. So important that many, latter-day and Druids, ancient cultures and others celebrate two (and sometimes three) harvests each year. This harvest is the grain harvest.

Although many churches celebrate (one) harvest, now, one Sunday in September, that type of harvest celebration service is fairly recent: it began in 1843, when Revd. Hawker, then the Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, revived the ‘forgotten’ and ancient service of Lammas, as a once-a-year (new) service. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for that.

However, if we view that September harvest as the second harvest, a harvest of berries, applies, and wine, then… there’s more. It will soon be the first harvest, the grain harvest.

The Celts originally called this time, ‘lughnasadh’ (pronounced ‘loo-nas-sah’) after the ancient Gaelic deity, Lugh. But, it seems that believe ‘travelled’, and many believe the area in London now called Ludgate, is a derivation of Lugh.

‘In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.’ William Blake

But many call this harvest Lammas , after the Anglo-Saxon festival of hlaefmass – loaf mass. And it’s from that word that we get the word Lammas! It was the grain harvest, hence the reference to bread, and the baking of bread to celebrate the season.

So, my late grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, would bake bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack. Bara brith , is pronounced ‘barrah-bri(d)th.’ And, it’s now available in many of the larger supermarkets in the UK.

Lammas, then, is a time of giving thanks to mother nature for all her grain produce, gratitude to the Source of All, the Lord of the Harvest, and a reaping of what has been sown. In previous years it was a time of fairs, trade and much merriment.

With the reaping ended, the last sheaf of corn would be made into a Corn Dolly, which was meant to embody the ‘spirit of the season’ (in much the same way as we might display holly around the house at Christmas), or to represent the ancient corn goddess. The Corn Dolly could, though not always, be made in the form of a miniature human, but it could also be an intricate spiral pyramid, or a miniature sheaf etc. Other designs could include animals, agriculture tools like scythes and shepherds’ crooks, or objects with a Christian significance such as bells or a cross.

How will you celebrate Llughnasadh or Lammas this year? To celebrate this first harvest you might like to choose a time during the first weekend in August, perhaps a few hours one evening?

Perhaps, you might try you hand at baking a special loaf of bread that you can share with family and friends. Or, if not, buy a granary loaf of some kind to share with them. Coupled with a nice wine or non-alcoholic fruit juice it can be a timely reminder, lasting just a few minutes, of giving gratitude to the Great Giver. A communion?

But, you might like to go for a walk in the country or city park, and pause, and as you sit there gazing, meditate and give thanks, silently for a few minutes.

You might like to recite a formal liturgy that can be said by you and meal guests, or by yourself, in which case the following may be of use (to use as it is, or adapt):

Blessed are you, Fruitful One
giver of abundance and plenty,
giver of resources when stocks are low.
Grow my faith in your providence…

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

(Facing north)
Remembering the element of earth,
the land on which I/we tread,
from which all things grow.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to pause and imagine earth energy from which all things grow within yourself and your connection to it, flowing to you and others)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of air,
the energy of the mind and wind,
from which the seed is spread and planted.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the energy of the air surrounding you and sustaining all life, breathing deeply and slowly as you so. Air! Breath! Life!)

(Facing south)
Remembering the element of fire,
the spirit of creation, and destruction and new life,
the sun’s life-giving warmth.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the fire of the setting sun that fuels all creation and which reflects your spirit)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of water,
the energy of emotions,
that grew the crops that nourish me/us.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to think of swimming in the ocean or a pool, remembering that wonderful cleansing and rejuvenating feeling, and give thanks)

[You can vary any of this, and indeed as you work through the compass points, to start, you might like to start at another cardinal point other than north.]

(Tadhg Jonathan)

And/or,

Generous One of the Harvest,
walk alongside those who have sown in tears,
who have scattered seed without hope,
on land not of their choosing.
Come close to those who weep this day.

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

Thou thyself my reaping,
each ridge, and plain, and field,
each sickle curved, shapely hard,
each ear and handful in the sheaf,
each ear and handful in the sheaf.

(Book: Carmina Gadelica)

And so, this Lammastide, as it has been since I was a child, I’ll be baking several bara brith, and sharing one – yes, the breaking of bread with family and friends – in a simple, ‘after meal’ remembrance ‘feast’, remembering all the good things that have happened this year, and giving thanks, in silence and humility, to the Source of All for the harvest, for life itself.

Maybe, next time you’ll join me?

 

Ephemera: July 2019 Full Moon: The Moon Of Calming

20190712 EPHEMERA JULY 2019 FULL MOON MOON OF CALMING

One of the aims of these articles is to inform (about nature and our place in it, and how we relate to others), to encourage action (and to know our power, ‘calling’ and responsibility to nature and the universe, others, ourselves in the three realms: physical, soulish/imaginal and spiritual), and to inspire (to ‘know’ our place in the universe and to ‘grow into’ what we once were and will be (or ‘are’ but seemingly not so, just yet). To that end, it is always a joy to mention an upcoming event.

This article outlines:

  • the name of this month’s moon and full moon details
  • the Hungry Ghost Festival
  • the impending lunar eclipse
  • fifty years since the first moon walk
  • links to celebrate this upcoming full moon.

‘Your imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.’ Albert Einstein

Yes, it’s almost that time again – the time of the next full moon. I love them. This one will be at its fullest on Tuesday, 16 July 2019 at 21.38 UTC/UK time, in the constellation of Sagittarius.

This full moon is known by some as the Ripe Corn Moon, the Crane Moon, the Mead moon, and to many ancient and latter-day Celts/Druids, such as myself, it is known as the Moon of Calming.

Others call it the Full Thunder Moon, as about this time of year frequent thunderstorms roll in during early summer. Thunderstorms are more likely to form in fairly humid environments during summer because of the moist, hot air rising from the ground to the higher and colder parts of the atmosphere. Storms. Thunder. Lightning. Hence, this full moon’s name for some.

 ‘Barn’s burnt down / Now I can see the moon.’ Mizuta Masahide

And, about the same time as this full moon, some in China, will be celebrating the Ghost Festival. This is the day when is it thought the all ghosts return to visit the living (though research also shows some celebrating this mid August) – and so it may sound very much like a Hallowe’en celebration.

‘The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.’ Jean Ingelow

However, those that celebrate the Ghost Festival also offer food to their ancestors and relatives, as well as burning joss paper, chanting of scriptures, and floating lotus flower-shaped lanterns on rivers and lakes. A great time of celebration and remembrance. Something from which we can learn?

But, there’s more.

There is a partial lunar eclipse that evening – starting at 21.02 UTC/UK time and finishing at 23:59. At greatest eclipse, the moon will be in Sagittarius and just seven degrees east of Saturn. The eclipse in its entirely will be visible from most of Africa, the Middle East, and western India. South America will see the later stages of the eclipse after moonrise, and Australia and Southeast Asia will see the eclipse set while in progress. The UK may be able to see some of the eclipse at moonrise, but the moon will be low and very close to the south-eastern horizon and not rise more than fifteen degrees above it. Sadly, none of the eclipse will be visible from North America.

But, there’s even more.

‘Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon’. Paul Brandt

Amazingly, on 16 July, 1969, some fifty years ago from the date of this upcoming full moon, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida bound for the moon. On 20 July mankind landed in the moon.

The first human, Neil Armstrong, set foot on the lunar surface on 21 July 1969 at 13.32 UTC/UK time.

Confession time. I seem to remember that on that date I was watching a school swimming competition. Swimming wasn’t one of my strong sports at school and so I was cheering on my school ‘house’ representatives in the swimming team – the ‘house’, one of four, was called Jarvis, named after one of the founding HeadTeachers – think of Gryffindor in the Harry Potter movies and you’re almost there. Aged about fourteen years, a few of us, perhaps six, one by one sneaked into an adjoining room and listened to a small radio a friend had brought in. Unbeknown to the teachers we listened in attentively for an hour or so. It was worth missing the swim-sports day, and Jarvis, for the record, didn’t do well in the swimming competition.

Surely, this time is a great time to celebrate that fiftieth anniversary as you look upwards at the moon (or at the stars if the moon is not visible where you are at this time, and ponder upon mankind’s achievement.) Time to give thanks, and marvel at our place and potential in the cosmos.

‘That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind’, Neil Armstrong.

And, finally: Why not use this full moon to pause, ‘re-charge your batteries’, meditate and give thanks to the Source of All?

Some might like to use this time to perform a ‘releasing’ ritual – to release me from all that is holding me back. Full Moon’s are a great time to start new projects and rekindle intentionality. You might like to try the following, too – for more information and for liturgy etc, see here and here.

‘The moon is a silver pin-head vast, That holds the heaven’s tent-hangings fast.’ William R Alger

 

Tadhg, On The Road To Norfolk: Land-Healing Ritual And More

20190704 TADHG ON THE ROAD THE NORFOLK 2.

Over the last year or so I have journeyed around the UK and have been involved in a one-person land-healing ritual, and it’s been amazing. I have been to several places – such as, deep in the New Forest and high upon the top of Mam Tor, to fairly crowded places to places devoid of people, remote and wild.

In each case I performed a small ritual, and in each case I buried a small rainbow jasper stone – about the size of a thumbnail. It’s a stone that is said to be a ‘helpful stone to connect Mother Gaia and the energy of the natural world…’, and it can ‘aid you to make stronger connections to the great forests and green areas of the planet’.

And so, yesterday, on a fine, sunny hot day, just outside Walsingham in Norfolk, I stopped,  revelled  in the silence and solitude, ‘centred’ myself and performed yet another earth healing rite.’

’To every people the land is given on condition. Perceived or not, there is a Covenant, beyond the constitution, beyond sovereign guarantee, beyond the nation’s sweetest dreams of itself’. Leonard Cohen

This ritual can be done anywhere on behalf of the earth or a particular locality without the need to visit. Visiting may be useful, but it is not essential. And the type of rock you bury, or perhaps vicariously bless at home, is one that is important and meaningful to you, so it need not be rainbow jasper.

And so, I recited and enacted the ritual. If I have to forgo any other part of the ritual (and the complete ritual can be seen here), the following seems to me to be the crucial part, and so as I buried the rainbow jasper rock, I said:

‘I bury this stone, Rainforest Jasper, for this land: for a deeper connection and harmony with nature and with plants, trees and animals, and with Mother Earth herself. The vibration of happiness and joy for life will flow outwards, throughout all life and carry strong energy for change and positivity to local communities. May all, everything, in this locality, be blessed by That Which Is Bigger Than Us.’

That done, I stayed there for an hour, basking under the shake of a huge oak tree that provided a welcome, cool, and amazingly large shadow. Birds chirped, field mice crawled through the undergrowth, bees buzzed and an assortment of crawling and flying insects abounded. It was the quintessential English countryside at its best. It was bliss. To misquote a much-loved film: Is this heaven? No, It’s Norfolk.

That was yesterday. Today was completely different. I do like solitude, to walk alone (as much as an elemental, angel-believing, animist can) and be a one with nature, but I also believe we are sociable creatures, and we and our beliefs need, thrive upon and mature with  the interaction of others. A time for solitude. But, a time for people-interaction.

And so today, I set out and drove to a place near Great Yarmouth for a delightful encounter. And it happened. Earlier today I met a friend that I had last seen when I was twelve years old, some fifty-two years ago. To say he, and I have changed in that time is an understatement. But, what a wonderful afternoon meeting him after all this time, and meeting his delightful wife. What a wonderful couple.

’The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart’. Elisabeth Foley

I learned at least one thing from that encounter – though we are totally different people, have led totally different lives, and as friends been apart for over five decades, we have so much in common.

He and he wife spoke of the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of life, as did I – the kind of life events  we all experience albeit in different ways. I learned that I have just met to wonderful people who are positive, life-loving, welcoming and inclusive, and who are, in their own way,  ‘making their way back home’. It was a joy to spend time with them. Similar occurrences have happened in my life with other people (who shall remain nameless to avoid embarrassing them). It’s like a ‘unnamable, spiritual osmosis’  takes place. That’s not to say such events always have to be overtly spiritual and talk about lofty themes, but that sharing, laughing, catching up on family and friends’ news, drinking coffee together and being there for each other, is what counts.

‘God comes to us disguised as our life’. Richard Rohr

For all the messiness of some people-interactions might cause us,  never shun company as if being a hermit, separate from others is more spiritual – unless, exceptionally you have been ‘called’ to that lifestyle (and even then, it is best to share that with others close to you). In many respects, we need each other.

And so, I’m back at the delightful cottage I’ve rented until tomorrow, and I’m reflecting on the last few days. Days of contrast, days of deep spirituality in the quietness of the countryside as well as in people-encounters.  And, as the sun sinks below a Norfolk horizon – and the landscape is so flat, it is time for gratitude, and the realisation that for you and I the adventure continues.

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’. Maya Angelou

 

Ritual: Body Prayer: Getting Started

20190522 RITUAL BODY PRAYER GETTING STARTED

I am, as you know, fascinated by liturgy and ritual. I use ritual a lot, value it, and would encourage you to try it, too. Experiment. Adapt. Be playful.

Ritual is, for me, a powerful and physical action, an enacted metaphor that can aid us. Here’s an outline of what ritual or right action can do, an account of an intriguing event in Capel Curig in north Wales some time ago, and some examples of body-physical movements you might like to try in your ritual, prayer-times, meditation etc. Here’s an opportunity to add deep meaning to what we do.

There is power in words. With a word all that is visible and invisible was made by the Maker Unmade. With our words we can encourage someone to new heights, and yes, with an unkind word we can destroy.

There is, indeed power in words. But what of actions? The common maxim is: actions speak louder than words. This is true, too!

Orthopraxy is one of my favourite words. Orthopraxy is all about how someone acts. Right action as opposed to right belief. And, its actions, particularly regarding ritual action that I believe is most beneficial to us.

Orthopraxy in ritual actions can physically demonstrate our passion and intentionality to ourselves, to others, to the Source of All. Our actions can denote a request, a blessing, an intention, or declare adoration. They inform, invite or dismiss, and maybe reinforce our words.

I saw a photograph in the newspaper of a president. There was no caption. A caption was unnecessary. The picture showed that is was pouring with rain – the kind that would soak anyone within seconds. And, there was the president with his wife in a rainstorm. He carried the umbrella and ensured his wife was the one to remain dry. He got soaked. No caption or words were needed. The picture exuded love. Right action.

Perhaps, it’s right action at the right time. What is appropriate one moment, maybe not be so the next moment. Awareness is needed.

Sometime ago I wrote: A warm feeling enveloped me. Palpable. And not only an external feeling, but internal too, pervading my whole being. And then, as has happened albeit infrequently in this place in the past, I heard the Voice once again. Some will say that it’s only imagination, but I can only say, to me, it was and is, more, oh much more.

From an interrupted, shallow sleep I awoke early, and walked into the night, as if called by a Voice deep within. An elemental? The Awen, An ancestor? The Deity, An angel? The Bat kohl, my imagination?

There is a story in an ancient text of a major battle, the battle of Rephidim. It is a short account of an unprovoked attack against Moses’ people. Fighting ensued and lasted all day. While Moses raised both his arms aloft, perhaps to encourage his people or perhaps in supplication, it was noticed that his people got the advantage over their enemy. When his hands dropped, the opposition gained the upper hand in the battle. Moses raised his arms, and once again his people prevailed. But, what about when tiredness got the better of him? No one can hold their arms aloft for any great length of time, and before long Moses’ arms began to feel the strain. As his arms became tired and started to drop Hur and Aaron placed themselves either side of him, and gave his arms the support they needed. No other words needed. Right action.

Perhaps, in ritual, our right actions are akin to charged physical metaphors that have a far greater effect behind the Veil that we can yet imagine? Metaphors always relate to something other (or Other).

One night, about three years ago, I woke up from a shallow sleep and went for a walk to this place, and this is what I wrote:

The air was cold and damp, the darkness seemed to envelope me, the trees ‘closed in’, and all was quiet. Nothing stirred. Nothing at all. And with some trepidation, into a forest clearing I slowly strode. A fallen tree provided a seat, and I sat, and waited.

The air felt ‘electric’ as though something would happen, like a ‘silent storm’ approaching. And I waited. And shivered. Waited. And got damp. Waited. And then from within, or without, almost undetectable, a quiet, loving, voice was heard. The Voice.

Rituals remove us from the ordinary flow of life and place us in sacred space. It’s for that reason that some might, say, light a candle at the beginning of a service or at home, or at the beginning of a prayer or time of meditation. Right action. This is a significant action for it declares our moving out of the realm of ordinary space and time and into sacred space and time. Action within rituals create their ‘magic’ and have their power through the mysterious and mystical vocabulary of symbolic re-enactment. Symbolic action either ‘allows’ things to happen or puts us in the right frame of mind to ‘see’ them and appreciate them. At the end of the service, mediation or individual prayer-time the candle flame is usually extinguished and we return to physical space (although the astute will know there is no real dualistic division). Right action.

Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:

“As above, so below,
there are things you should know.”

And so, I mention,
with your hands at your side, walk humbly,
take seven half-steps forward, it’s a journey of intention.”

“And now, raise your hands in simple ‘surrender’,
and point both to Heaven, that domain of awesome splendour.”

“Widen your arms, and so scoop, and harvest
pure energy, pure ‘gold’, and be prepared to be feel blessed.”

“Draw in that power, by folding your arms like an ‘x’ on your chest,
and feel its benefits, its warmth; you’re at peace, at one, ‘at home’, at rest.”

“Then stretch forth your arms, and mould with your hands
as if a ball, that ‘globe-like’ power-blessing from the ouranic meadowlands.”

“With one foot leading, and with knees part bent,
sway back and forth, in preparation for that ‘goodness’ to be sent.”

“In your mind, name the loved-one, the recipient, the friend,
and in your heart, see them, imagine them, to that end.”

“‘Push’ with your hands, that power-blessing from you to them,
and sigh the sound of the ages, the ‘so be it’, the ‘amen’.”

“And then, your hands drop to your side,
power has gone out; but there is no lack,
for the power-blessing that went forth, also comes back,
in another way and at another time, and so you, too, are blessed.”

Having done everything as directed, I stood there in awe. The air was cold and yet I felt warm, the night so dark but in my mind’s eye it seemed to glow. The Voice had gone. The Voice? An elemental? The Awen, An ancestor? The Deity, An angel? The Bat kohl, my imagination?

Ofcourse, there is no right or wrong way to use ritualistic action. It’s intentionality that counts.

But, I would encourage you to incorporate and/or adapt physical action into any ritual you do. This can involve the whole body, as above, or part. It’s also enjoyable and may make the ritual, prayer or special time even more meaningful.

The following is an outline – consider it like a dictionary or vocabulary of hand-signs for ritual – to encourage you to use them, adapt them or to form your own. Here’s three:

Acceptance: In the early stage of any group or solo event I need to ‘open up’, to accept power from Beyond. And so, with one hand I form an ‘acceptance’ hand: My elbow is bent at right-angles and one hand is in front of my chest, maybe about 9 inches away from my chest. The palm of my hand is upright, and fingers and thumb gently parted. I ready to catch ‘it’. Accompanied by a few words asking for energy and power from Beyond, out loud and prayerfully, I move my hand towards my chest, so that the palm of my hand ends up against my chest. Power sought by that open hand, symbolically, then accepted, and then indwelling.

Aid someone: With a person’s name in mind, an area in need, or a request for the Source of All to aid a part of the world in need, I bring that hand away from my chest, but only just. I ensure the palm is, again, upright. My other hand forms a fist and lays on that open-palmed hand so that the fist-hand  lays on it (so that the veiny back on the hand is facing up). Then, saying out loud the request, I move both hands, still together, away from my body about a foot. It’s as though a gift is on a plate and both move towards the one needing aid. The prayer request is symbolically ‘delivered’.

Thankfulness: It seems right to give gratitude to the Great Giver. With your fingers together, touch your chin with the fingertips (of perhaps the longest finger or two) of one hand. Let them remain there for a second or two (or three), and then bring your hand down, slowly, to naturally arc through the air, to stop in front of your chest so that your arm is at right-angles. That’s being thankful.

The abovementioned is the start of a ‘ritual vocabulary’. These three are from the Dictionary of British Sign Language. But, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make your own. Please let me know how it works for you.

 

Beltane: Fire And ‘An Geadh-Glas’, The Wild Goose: Some Thoughts

20190427 FIRE AND AN GEADH-GLAS THE WILD GOOSE

Beltane, that most wonderful time of the year and awesome festival, is almost upon us.

At Beltane, we open ourselves to the Source of All, and give thanks for youth, vitality, new life, fecundity and empowerment. Summer is here.

We too are remnants of the First Fire that ever since lights the heavens as well as the tiny fires that warm our brief lives. Our planet remembers this original heat deep within its core, as we do in our fashion.’ Peter London in ‘Drawing Closer To Nature.

It is the time of new beginnings. However old we are, this time of the year makes us feel young again, and at Beltane many will jump over the fires of vitality and youth and allow that life-force to enliven and heal them. Others. May, symbolically, use a candle, but nonetheless take part in that joyful celebration in groups and by themselves.

Commonly held on 1 May (or the closest Saturday or Sunday), it’s called ‘Calen Mai’ in Wales, that us, the ‘first day of May’.

Beltane is a fire festival.

And, for some, it is an opportunity to rekindle the Beltane bonfire ritual. This ritual goes back to early Ireland when the community would light a giant bonfire during the event and share burning logs with which to light their home. Similarly in Germany, during Beltane, German Pagans and others celebrate Walpurgisnacht, when a giant bonfire is lit, and celebrations take place much like May Day: dancing, ritual, bonfires, maypole dancing, drinking mead. Beltane is a good time for hand-fasting.

‘The day will come when after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for…. [the Source of All]… the energies of love. Then for the second time in history of the world [humankind[ will have discovered fire’. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I like to link Beltane with Pentecost Sunday (or Whitsunday), 9 June 2019. The New beginnings, empowerment, new hope, and fire of Beltane naturally lead onto my love of Pentecost Sunday.

There, some two thousand years ago a small group of rather insecure and confused men and women met in secret. Huddled together, afraid for their lives, this timid, disparate group would have all but disappeared into obscurity, except for an outpouring.

Suddenly the room, where that group had assembled, was ablaze with light and the noise of a mighty wind filled the place. Fire descended from heaven, we are told, and alighted on each person. To many, this was the birth of the early church is all its innocence and simplicity. It was certainly the start, a new beginning, a time of new hope and empowerment for this group and what followed, and the fiery metaphor could not be missed.

Yes, Pentecost Sunday is the Church’s very own fire festival.

It’s a time when we open ourselves to the Source of All, and give thanks for new life and new hope, for vitality, fecundity and empowerment. Whatever is the animating force of the universe – present in us and every living creature, and in water, wind, earth/rock and fire – this Living force was made manifest on that first Pentecost Sunday and continues to pervade all, today.

Abba (Father) Lot came to Abba Joseph (two desert monks) and said, ‘Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation, and contemplative silence, and according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what should I so?

The elder [monk]  rose up early and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said, ‘Why not become fire?’

The Church refers to this Force as the Holy Spirit. One other occasion this Spirit was said to descend like and dove, and literalist artists over the centuries have pained it as an actual dove. But, it’s a metaphor. Why, to the ancient Christian Celts the Spirit, this Personal, animating Force was known as ‘an geadh-glas’, the wild goose (or grey goose).

I once heard a sermon that had me ‘curling up’ with fremdschämen. [Fremdschämen is German term which describes the process of being vicariously embarrassed by someone else, especially when that other person is unaware that they have just embarrassed themselves]. I was embarrassed for the minister as he declared that those simple Celts had no awareness of a dove but knew all about wild geese in those windswept northern islands of Britain. Oh, how he had missed the point, I thought. It’s easy for us all to do that – as we gaze back at historical events wearing  ‘twenty-first spectacles’ it’s easy to assume and ‘get the wrong end of the stick’.

My feeling of fremdschämen sprung from the fact that those ancient Celts knew about doves, and knew about wild geese, and wanted to change the metaphor to something they could see daily in their environment, something they could relate to, and be reminded of as they went about their business. ‘An geadh-glas’, the wild goose, to them was a wonderful metaphor for this animating Personal Life force – wild, flying wherever it wanted, strong and powerful, and full of surprises. A wild goose ‘fitted the bill’ wonderfully in that environment. These ancients knew much more than we give them credit for.

Stole NEW IMG_3202

The Wild Goose Stole

And so, in some Churches, at this time, you will see walls and tables festooned with the colour red (red for fire, a fire festival), bedecked with dove symbolism, and in some, yes, in a few you will see ‘an geadh-glas’, the wild goose (animating Life-Force). And, it’s at this time – and you know I love ritual and symbolism – that I will enjoy wearing the red, ‘an geadh-glas’, the wild goose stole at some rituals and services at this time. Though it’s quite versatile and can be worn at other events and festivals. [As regards the stole, think of it as a (clerical) scarf where the two ends drape at the front of your body].

Wearing the wild goose stole, then, is an opportunity to remind people, graphically, metaphorically, as they look on (and a reminder to me, too), that this is a fire festival, and the wild goose is a metaphor for the embodiment of new life, new hope and new beginning, of Life itself.

And, this, very neatly brings us back to Beltane, that wonderful fire festival of empowerment.

May you and those whom you love have a wonderfully rich Beltane and/or Pentecost Sunday fire festival and celebration, and be blessed with new starts, new beginnings and empowered by the Fire-Giver, the Source of All, Tadhg.

20190427 FIRE AND AN GEADH-GLAS THE WILD GOOSE

Spring-Time Earth Blessing: Spring Equinox Liturgy

20190312 SPRINGTIME EARTH BLESSING LITURGY

Spring is coming. Acknowledging that in some places it seems to be delayed, it edges ever closer, however, as the Circle turns. The Spring Equinox is just a week or two away (20 March 2019 in the northern hemisphere).

In many pats of the UK Spring flowers grow and buds appear on many trees. It is a time of reflection, to think upon new life. After a long winter, Spring unfolds at the behest of the God of Green Hope, and blesses the Earth with a wonderful bounty, and so it’s a time of extreme gratitude, as well.

You know I love liturgy. Our breath is holy, our words of each person sacred and full of meaning; and the sentiment behind them, that of which we speak, are ‘metaphors’ of great meaning, and words of intentionality, and power.

Some believe the universe began with a word being spoken, others a song being sung, and the word and song continues to sustain all that is. Who, as a child never said the ‘magical’ word ‘abracadabra’ out loud? A word of great meaning? We may not have thought so at the time, but I’m told it comes from Hebrew or Aramaic and means, ‘I will create as I speak’. Yes, words have power.

And, with the Spring Equinox coming closer here is a form of words (penned some time ago and adapted), a liturgy that you can use (and adapt as necessary). It’s time to celebrate, to give thanks, to say words of power in response to the Spring-time promise of the Source of All.

Spring-Time Earth Blessing (adapted)

(Facing east)
Blesséd be the One who crosses boundaries,
who is evident in the lengthening day,
in the turning of the Great Circle, and
who is felt in the soft, refreshing Spring wind.

Response: Blesséd be the One who crosses boundaries.

(Facing south)
Blesséd be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature,
Viriditas,
who makes plants grow and flower,
and the trees to prepare for blossom, and
who warms the earth as the sun rises higher in the sky.

Response: Blesséd be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature.

(Facing west)
Blesséd by the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep,
who waters the earth, and calls to the deep;
and the deep joyfully replies and stirs to life, and
who changes the slow, icy brooks into life-laden babbling streams.

Response: Blesséd be the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep.

(Facing north)
Blesséd be the One who speaks to the earth,
and from the rocks new life appears,
who showers the earth with rain from your storehouse of abundance, and
who blesses the earth, which, in turn, blesses us.

Response: Blesséd be the One who speaks to the earth.

(Facing east)
(Together): Lord of the elements, ‘Three-Personned’ Life-Giver, we praise you.

 

In Praise Of Blue, Green, Grey: World Water Day

20190308 IN PRAISE OF BLUE GREEN GREY WORLD WATER DAY

As a concerned person, (in my case) a latter-day Celt, Druidic-Christian or Christo-Druid I am, like you, intensely aware of nature and its cycles around us, but know that that in many cases we take it for granted. Timely reminders are important, hence the usefulness of faith, natural, and stellar calendars to mark and note the changing seasons, the passage of time and important occasions.

World Water Day is an annual UN observance day (always on 22 March) that highlights the importance of freshwater.

The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be educational, theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature.

Some time back I wrote the following poem. Indeed, it was penned by me when at Dyffryn Ogwen, north Wales on 22 March 2016, World ‘Water Day’. Depending how you use it, the piece below could form part of a liturgy or prayer for that occasion (on that date or, indeed,  on any other), for a ceremony you might hold for World ‘Water Day’, or similar.

Although it may contain place-names that you may be unfamiliar with, they can still be included, if you wish, as locations of beauty to give thanks for, even if not witnessed (yet). But, please feel free to adapt.

Under the canopy of an oh-so-blue sky
I’m sheltered from the howling wind by spine-like mountains on either side.
The tempest may soar high above me, of that I testify
but all is at rest here, in this place, this hide,
this azure-domed valley, of Dyffryn Ogwen.

Surrounded by the life-colour. I shout, ‘Viriditas’.
It echoes the Deity’s handiwork of creativity and love.
Trampling underfoot lichen, moss and occasionally witchgrass
it harks back to an earlier day, a remembrance of
times of innocent, pure, green-childhood.

And onward, like time, to Afon Ogwen, that bountiful river of power and flow.
To stand, to meditate, and commune, and wait
and purposefully gaze upon it, and know
of the life-industry of former times, of Celts, of Romans, of purveyors of grey slate.

And I give thanks to you
The Source of all for blue, green, grey.

 

Playing With Dirt: Alternative Perspective On Ash Wednesday

20190301 PLAYING WITH DIRT ASH WEDNESDAY

Even as a Christo-Druid (or Druidic/Celtic-Christian) I admit it sounds bizarre, but letting someone smear ashes on your forehead while telling you that you are dirt is a good experience. And, though it isn’t as obvious, it is also a declaration of stupendous importance and of great news.

‘Technology and industry have distanced people from nature and magic and human values’. Laura Esquivel

There was a time when I would do it religiously. Yes, at school when I was a wee lad, at the time of Ash Wednesday, we would all have to line up, then kneel at the front of the church in groups of about twenty. The priest would walk about in all his robes, dipping his thumb into a plate of ashes and mark a cross on our foreheads. Our only thought was: let me be the third one, please.

That was then.

They were great days at school – although with hindsight it did so very much resemble Hogwarts!. To save time at those Ash Wednesday services and to save ash the priest dipped his thumb into the plate of ashes every third student, but it also meant that the third student would, fortunately for him/her, only get a few ashes, hardly visible on the forehead.

The student who was number one each time the priest’s thumb was dipped into the ashes, unfortunately from his/her viewpoint, would receive a huge dollop of black ash on the forehead, so much so that some of it would usually fall onto the cheek or nose. Wiping it off during the day – even with studies in the afternoon – was frowned upon.

‘There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability when you are trying to find answers’. Deborah Norville

Oh, when I left school I dismissed the ‘religious’ stuff as something that meant little to me. And, because of that I had little to do with the ritual behind it. It meant little to many of the teachers at school, too, and that thought ‘rubbed off’ on to me any many students.

That was then; this is now.

Fast-forward a number of years and now having attended a number of Ash Wednesday services, and led them, they mean something more, something much more. I’m never an advocate of blind or shallow ritual. But,…..?

But, what about meaningful ritual? What about ritual that touches the very core of your being? What about ritual that is deeply moving and seemingly opens us up to sacred-time, and ushers us into a ‘thin place’? What about ritual that is physical-metaphor or intentionality that ushers us into the imaginal realm of the Other, a place of peace, power, potential? Yes, now that is altogether very different to what I experienced at school.

What sparked this trip down memory lane?

Well, next Wednesday, 6 March 2019 is Ash Wednesday and many people will be receiving those ashes on their forehead. Ofcourse, some will receive them unthinkingly, some will ensure they don’t take them for a variety of reasons (and I do support those people, too, but would ask them to periodically ‘review’ their position as should we all, myself included); and some will receive those ashes on their forehead and for them it will be a deep and meaningful experience that is a liminal, threshold experience, a glimpse of the Other. And, that is the point of this article.

‘The only way we’ll know where we’re going is to look at the past and to remember who we were through ceremonies and rituals’. Laura Esquivel

And, so next Wednesday, a few of us will be in a busy London city street, and for those  unable to get to a church service, we’re bringing to them the ability to be blessed in the street, to receive ashes on their forehead too, as I, and the few others administering the ashes will also say to them: ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ In this sense it can apply to all, and that street blessing and ash-application wont be exclusively Christian, but will be open and available to all those who want a blessing and experience that ritual (perhaps for the first time).

It sounds like a negative but for those willing stop for a few minutes I would share that is extremely positive: it means we’re here in this form for a limited time and we’re encouraged to make good use of the time; we’ve come from dust, even star dust, we’re part of nature, and to that state of dust we’ll return; we’ve come from somewhere which some call heaven, and we’ll all return ‘home’. I find that immensely life-reassuring and positive, and love the depth of meaning to life that ritual can apply, and which many miss.

‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ 1 Corinthians 15,22, The Book

So, taking a few minutes out of our busy lives, and letting someone smear ashes on your forehead while telling you that you are dirt is an experience that I would heartily recommend.

And, no I wont be dipping my thumb into the ash for every third person blessed, but I will take ‘pity’ on them and will wipe the excess off my thumb each time before applying and blessing them. And if you can’t get to participate in such a ritual, then rest assured that evening I will be thinking of you, blessing you (as I do now; be blessed) and will apply ashes to myself vicariously so you benefit.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden…

Woodstock, Crossby, Stills & Nash