With Samhain In Mind: Words of Power & Might

20181012 WITH SAMHAIN IN MIND WORDS OF POWER AND MIGHT

With Samhain coming ever closer, that time when we, whether Christian (thinking of All Souls’ Night), or Druid, or Celtic etc, think of the ancestors and those who have ‘gone ahead’, and which also marks the beginning of winter, the echo from another age of tradition beckons us to pause, draw aside and to ponder deeply.

Here is another article, the second of a few in preparation for Samhain and winter, and this one includes relevant and lively liturgy that you might like to use in your own Samhain (group or solo) celebration, and it includes a song especially suited to the season.

‘Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.’ Hamza Yusuf

Samhain is a time to look backwards with gratitude, as we remember all those that have gone before us, and it’s a time to give thanks, and look forward.

Life, seemingly ‘defeated’, becomes alive once more (or undergoes a transformation, which appears to us as ‘death’). Nevertheless, the Circle turns, and what was (seemingly) dead is resurrected. It can be a tough time for some, so do be encouraging and supportive of them, but in essence it can be a time of great positivity, as we become (more) aware of the closeness of that other realm, and of the triumph of Life.

‘Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.’ Eckhart Tolle

With that in mind, you might like to consider using/adapting the following liturgy/prayers:

Early/Awaking Prayer:

Oh Hallowed Three In One,
as Autumn turns to winter,
may we see you more clearly in nature,
love your son-light more dearly today,
and follow you more nearly in all circumstances,
as the Circle turns.

Or

Ancestors’ prayer:

Maker of time and space,
who is in all things and yet ‘above’,
be with all souls this evening.
Be with those who have lived on earth and are now ‘at home’ in Bliss.
Blessings be to my/our ancestors.
Be with those who live on earth now and journey onward in differing circumstances.
Blessings be to them and me.
Be with those yet to come, who, also, are part of the great family of humankind.
Bless them, too.
Maker of all time and space,
in gratitude do all souls, past , present and future, praise you,
and bless you this night.

Or

Evening/Night-Shielding Prayer:

Hallowed Spirit come with compassion this night,
and look upon all souls.
Darkness falls at your behest,
and winter closes in,
and yet the Circle turns.
In the darkness the Everlasting light still shines
in our hearts.
A beacon of hope to all.

And then, there’s more!

However good your singing voice is, you might like to sing the following song (or use it as a poem or liturgy for your celebration). Remember, you don’t have to sing like the late, great Pavarotti or Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Don’t disqualify yourself. You can do it.

‘I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better’.  Maya Angelou

It is intentionality that is all important, and the Source of All smiles at our efforts and values them. So, deep breath, and dance as though no one can see you, and sing as though no one can hear you, and enjoy the ‘connectedness’ of the season.

Song: The Circle is turning

Verse:
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

Chorus:
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
The trees, they slumber, deep roots are dreaming.
I’m listening to the winter’s sacred rest.

Verse:
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The snow is falling, the earth is bless-éd.
The hope of spring, ye-et to come.

Chorus
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
The Circle is turning, we celebrate winter.
And nature sleeps, as the darkness falls.

The tune is ‘borrowed’ from a great and well-known traditional Irish Gaelic folk tune, Fear a’ Bhàta (The Boatman), see here for a link to the tune. It ‘fits’ the words quite well, but to give you a helpful prompt, for each verse and chorus above, the tune  starts at 10 seconds into the video and ends at 55 secs, with each verse/chorus, above, being a repetition of that.

‘No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.’ John Keating

Don’t worry about tune repetition, as many traditional Gaelic ballads were composed of simple, repetitive, but wonderful tunes.

And, finally…

If you want to (re-)read the first article in this Samhain preparation series and perhaps use that poetry in your own celebration, do check here: With Samhain In Mind: Winter Haiku.

Meanwhile, over the next two weeks there’ll be one or two more articles for Samhain and the start of the winter season to prepare you for an awesome celebration.

Much light and love to you and yours at this time, Tadhg

Alban Elfed, The Light Of The Water. Autumn Equinox 2018

201808920 ALBAN ELFED THE LIGHT OF THE WATER AUTUMN EQUINOX

‘That orbed continent the fire, that severs day from night.’ William Shakespeare.

On the outskirts of a rather common spiral galaxy, there is a small solar system consisting of nine planets (actually eight planets now as the International Astronomical Union decided in 2006 to call Pluto a ‘dwarf planet,’ reducing the list of ‘real planets’ in our solar system to eight). However, astronomers are now hunting for a (true) ninth planet which they suspect may be lurking on the very limits of the solar system.

But, there’s more.

The third planet in that system is (our) Earth and it continues to move around the Sun in its orbit, and bit by bit its tilts by 23.5 degree relative to its orbital plane. This means in summer (in the northern hemisphere) the Sun is high in the sky. And six months later, when the Earth is half way around its solar orbit (on the other side of the Sun), the sun is lowest in the sky at midwinter.

‘Sunshine is Nature’s hug and spirit breath to the earth.’ Terri Guillemets

At the time of Autumn equinox the Earth is tilted half way between those two extremes and night and day are equal length, and from thereon nights get longer. Perfect balance.

For the astronomically or astrology-minded, the morning of the autumnal equinox is when the sun, from our viewpoint and against the backdrop of the stars and constellations, moves into Virgo.

Time flies. Would you believe the Autumn Equinox (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) is fast approaching. Infact, it is this Sunday, 23 September 2018.

‘Oh, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.’ Roman Payne

But there’s more.

The observance of the Sun is not only confined to the physical sciences, but to the realm of the nature and the Spirit. For many it is much more than a mass of hydrogen and helium. It gives life to the planet. Not too close to burn, not to far away to freeze, the Earth is within that ‘Goldilock’s zone, and that is surely no mere co-incidence. There is a deeper, spiritual dimension that many in our fast-paced society ‘forget’. But, not you.

‘The sun does not follow its appointed course without having been so ordained.’ Statius

For ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids, particularly of Welsh extraction, but not only, the Autumn Equinox is known as Alban Elfed – the Light of the Water. Very apt as the dominant compass point for Autumn Equinox is west, and west, as a cardinal point for Druids and others is represented by one of the physical elements: water.

Others dear to me may know this time as (just) the autumn equinox, the Second harvest, or Mabon. But, around the world and by different (faith-)groups it is known by different names and is celebrated in different ways. But each, in their own way, pause and turn to contemplate the Sun and celebrate.

If you’re not going to a ceremony this weekend, the following might be useful to know, and some of these events might be adapted and used by you for your own Autumn equinox celebration.

‘The rich sunset makes the most sterile landscape enchanting.’ Eliza Cook

Japan marks the equinoxes – both of them – with a period called Ohigan, and the Japanese Buddhist belief is that the land of the afterlife is due west, and during the equinoxes, the sun sets directly west. The equinoxes are symbolic of the transitions of life. And so, this week for them it is a time to visit the graves of one’s ancestors, to spruce up the grave sites, and to leave flowers on them. It is also a time of meditation and a time to visit (living) relatives.

Some Wiccan rituals for Mabon include building an altar with harvest fruits and vegetables, meditating on balance, gathering and feasting on apples, offering apples to That Which Is Bigger Than Us, sharing that food, and counting one’s blessings.

China and Vietnam celebrate the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, which is on the full moon nearest to this equinox. It is celebrated with the many festival activities, plus gazing at the moon and eating moon cakes. On the theme of food, in the southern parts of the USA, those who celebrate Chinese and Vietnamese customs would eat Moon Pies instead of moon cakes.

 ‘But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…’ Malachi 4:2a

The Christian church replaced many early pagan equinox celebrations with Christianized observances, such as Michaelmas, which falls at the end of September. Traditionally, at such times in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, was eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes: ‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, want not for money all the year’.

In Scotland, St Michael’s Bannock, or Struan Micheil (a large scone-like cake) is also made. This used to be made from cereals grown on the family’s land during the year, representing the fruits of the fields, and wass cooked on a lamb skin, representing the fruit of the flocks. The cereals was also moistened with sheep’s milk, as sheep were  deemed the most sacred of animals.

‘By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.’ Helen Hunt Jackson

A regular number of people attend the autumnal equinox at the Kokino megalithic observatory in the north-western town of Kumanovo, 43 miles north of Skopje, Macedonia. The 3,800-year-old observatory was discovered in 2001 and is ranked as the fourth oldest observatory in the world, according to NASA.

In Soria, a city in northern Spain, revellers hold torches or candles as they parade the city near the ancient Celtiberian settlement of Numantia, which was famous for its role in the Celtiberian War.

And, people light candles after sunset during the autumn equinox celebration at the Neris River waterfront in Vilnius, Lithuania.

‘Blessed be you Balance-Holder,
unafraid of the dark from which all newness must begin,
giver of light that draws us on and out into fullness.
Help me to balance my need for outgoing and restoring this day.
(With thankfulness for my going out, restore to me my rest this night).’

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year: Celtic And Christian Seasonal Prayers).

And so, the circle turns, the planet tilts and the sun, as faithful as ever, shines upon us and bathes us in its light and warmth. Alban Elfed is a wonderful time, and a great event to mark the year’s progress in some meaningful way.

How will you celebrate this Autumn equinox? You might like to try some of the abovementioned idea. Or, perhaps, this Alban Elfed you might find time, maybe in the evening, to recollect good events during the last year (and even make of list) and to give thanks in some small way.

Expressing gratitude can done be in a number of ways, so do choose one that you’re comfortable with: maybe lighting a candle and praying a gratitude prayer to the Source of All, inviting friends around for a harvest meal, meditating for a short while on the bounty of nature, reciting a relevant poem or expressing yourself in a simple ancient ritual, or in some other way.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Alban Elfed, Tadhg.

 

 

Activity For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180315 ACTIVITY FOR ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXIt’s coming ever closer. Spring equinox, is on 20 March 2018. In Wales, Spring equinox is known as Alban Eiler, which means ‘the light of the earth’, and it’s a time of new life, restoring energy, and re-birth. Having looked at words (liturgy/poem and song) and myth associated with it (that is, dragons) over the last few days, I’d like to suggest some activities for you to consider as part of your celebration of the Spring equinox, and as a way to give gratitude to the One behind it all.

Go Outside
Go outside, purposefully: Whatever the weather on the day of the Spring equinox, whyspring tree eye 11 not go outside, find a green space, and take a long, leisurely stroll, spend some time surrounded by wild nature. It could be a short trip to a forest or wood, a wide open space, or even a city park. And then sit there, and as you sit there, observe all that is going on around you – even those things that we might consider interruptions. Even then, nature ‘shines’ through in large ways and small. Relax, be at peace, be aware and give thanks. You might want to find a tree that catches your attention, sit under it or near it, and take time to meditate.

‘To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.’ Kahlil Gibran

Share A Breakfast
Whether you cook it yourself or meet in a local cafe, why not share breakfast with a few friends to mark the occasion? It can be seen as a great time of friendship, of making or renewing friendships, or ‘mending bridges’ as regards estranged friends etc.

‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares’.  Hebrews 13.2 The Book

To make it even more special you might like to simply start the time and conclude it with a relevant poem, a short prayer or even a time of silence to think deeply about the Spring Equinox, and of new life returning. It is a liminal time.

‘Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.’ John Muir

Plant Something
If you have a garden you might like to plant a tree. There, or if you have a window-box because you live in an apartment, you might like to plant a few seeds. You might even buy one of those tomato grow bags, for instance – then not only do you see tomatoes grow and enjoy that miracle, but you get to eat the tomatoes, too! Or, you might consider sending a small donation to one of the wonderful charities that plant trees on your behalf, such as: the Woodland Trust. Which is also a great way to commemorate the passing-on of a loved one.

‘The earth laughs in flowers.’ e e cummings.

Consider Wildlife
Additionally, you might like to think of a way of giving thanks for wildlife, yes, in urbanspring wolf areas as well as rural areas. Feeding birds is one consideration, but there are other ways. How about planting bee-friendly flowers such as Lavender (Lavendula), rhododendron, or heather (Calluna) etc. All great ways to celebrate new life, and preserve nature under threat.

With the re-introduction to the UK of the beaver, you might like to mark this time of the year by supporting the work of a wildlife charity – perhaps the ‘Rewilding Britain’ charity who amongst of things, are considering a project to ‘rewild’ part of the UK with wolves (a remarkable animal which was, sadly, hunted to extinction here some three hundred years ago).

Home Sacred Area
If you have a sacred area or special table within your home, you might like to consider changing it a few days before the Spring equinox, so that you’re ready for it. You might like to place some small spring flowers on it (or photographs of flowers).

You might like to represent the five elements – perhaps a feather to represent air (for theSPRING bird-3196077__340 east), a candle to represent fire (for the south), a small bowl of water to represent water of the west, and a rock or sand or soil to represent earth (for the north). How you represent the fifth element will depend on your philosophy or theology, but for me, the Spirit or Awen is represented by a wild goose (‘Ah Geadh-Glas’ as it’s known in Scottish Gaelic), and so I’ll display a photo of a wild goose on the sacred table.

Positive Affirmations
If you wanted to make a new year’s resolution, but didn’t, then the Spring equinox is a great time to commit a positive affirmation to your heart, and maybe to paper, too, as a reminder, and then ‘go for it’.

‘ To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer.’ Henri Nouwen

And finally….
These are just a few suggestions, but in other ways, large ways and small, my encouragement to you is to find a way, another way, perhaps, to mark this wonderful time, and celebrate, and give thanks to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

20180315 ACTIVITY FOR ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOX

 

The Enchantment Of Snow: Tadhg’s Journal

20171211 The Enchantment Of Snow Lessons From Frozen PrecipitationComing down the stairs, with my eyes looking at my feet so as not to trip, I blended in with a myriad of other people beside me, in front of me, and behind me, all intent on leaving the underground station as quickly as possible. It was dark, it was damp, and dreadfully cold. It was Sunday evening, 10 December, and it was snowing in London – the first snowfall locally for the winter (apart from a five minute ‘snow storm’ last week). It had been rumoured that even the fountains at Trafalgar Square had frozen, so I heard.

Now at ground level, and at the exit barriers, for a moment, I was lined up with half a dozen other people who looked as though they were just about to run several furlongs in the 2.40 at Haydock Park. And then we were off. Through the barrier and homeward bound.

‘Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.’ Andy Goldsworthy

The street was busy. So many people.  Traffic noise blared. Traffic lights seemingly overly bright, glared; and the snow-laden wind howled and caught us all by surprise as we turned the corner. Gasps could be heard as a bitter and raw wind hit the face of an unsuspecting people. In the distance the Salvation Army, in their favourite annual spot, just outside the pub, could be heard singing Carols to a moving sea of people who seemed not to notice them.

The snow underfoot had become ice and my pace slowed, not wishing to fall and crack a rib as I had done this time last year.

I know, for many, snow can be a nuisance, but for me, right here, right now, it was amazing. I love it, and admit to having let my inner-child run loose. But, please: don’t stop me know. Nature in all it’s glory had bathed the city in a white dress as only nature knows, and it was pretty, it was awesome, and inviting. But, an invitation to what?

In the middle of the park, I stopped. And yet, as I remained motionless, I had the perception of moving.

The falling snow, caught in the yellow street lamps that were in a line at the path’s edge, looked like twinkling, falling stars. And, in a horizontal wind, the snow passed my face to the left and to the right, and it felt as though I was moving and tit was stationary.

Without moving it seemed as though I had stumbled into unfamiliar and alien territory. I felt like a stranger, lost, and unable to recognise any familiar landmarks around me.

Silence descended. The traffic noise seemed a million miles away, and the neon traffic lights’ glare seemed like lights shining below the horizon, and the hustle and bustle of people rushing to get home was now a distant memory. All was still.

‘The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?’ J B Priestley

Mechanical time had given way to another perception of time that seemed to flow and yet not flow. A still point. It was nature’s dance and I was included. ‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and (yet) there is only the dance’.

Could I, indeed, be moving through an unchartered part of space, a field of stars? Should my intention be to ‘bodily go’, or was that happening anyway?

Had I entered some kind of liminal access point, a ‘thin place’, a portal to another realm, unknowingly?

Had I stepped back in time? Certainly childhood memories of playing in the snow flooded my thoughts. Wonderful memories!

Had I stepped out of our world, into some altogether much more expansive , connected and mysterious?

‘A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky -unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.’ Susan Orlean

Was my imagination running riot – that faculty that children wonderfully indwell and many adults rarely visit. Was this the key to this odd out-of-time event?

I wanted to analyse, research, detail what was happening, but knew that had I done so I would have been catapulted back into mechanical time, and so I just revelled in this fleeting experience and enjoyed it. Have you encountered this? Have you encountered?

‘Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.’ Anonymous

And then, without any apparent reason, I was back. Back from where?

People seemed to appear as if from nowhere, traffic noise seemed louder now, lights brighter, and I saw where I was:  in the middle of snow-laden Parson’s Green on a cold, dark, dismal, snowy December evening.

I started to walk, albeit slowly, but roughly keeping apace with other people around me, thinking of what I would cook for dinner that evening, what presents I would buy, and who I had to telephone. Yes, I was back in the realm of mechanical time. And yet, in the back of my mind was the memory of that encounter, that place, that still point ‘of the turning of the world’.

We are all ‘edge-walkers’, straddling two realms (and possibly more). Someone once said, ‘Seek and you will find’, and that is so. Don’t look at the world except with physical eyes and ‘physicality’ is all you will see. Seek and delve a bit deeper, and the world opens up to us all, into an altogether mysterious and more wonderful place, and at this time of the year, ‘thin places’  and ‘magic’ abounds…if we seek them.

 

Poem: The Winter’s Light [Winter Solstice]

20171128 THE WINTERS LIGHT POEM

Winter solstice is coming nearer.

I do so love this time of the year. Dark evenings arriving earlier, the temperature dropping, and plans are made. That which we could take for granted now has to be planned. Heating system okay? Enough fuel? Enough salt for the paths, or enough food in the larder? Is my neighbour prepared? What about local wildlife? The season of winter is upon us. And, I love it.

So, one evening (or more) draw up close to the fire or a table lamp, or your favourite corner of your favourite room, making sure the tv is off and distractions are unlikely, and relax.  Contemplate on the turning of the circle as we move to midwinter, and the year just gone. Sometimes I find it’s best just to ‘rest’ at those times, in an attitude of gratitude to the Source for nature etc, and keep thoughts to the minimum. When lovers meet, their company is enough – words are unimportant.

The following poem may assist you in your contemplation of the season, and doubly so if you imbibe your favourite drink – for me, I’ve ‘re-discovered’ Horlicks malt drink, and I’ll be sipping that. Or, you might like to use the poem as part of your liturgy, as an individual, or for your family or (faith)group.

Winter solstice approaches.

The day is over, and night comes early.
Orion is higher in the sky now,
and imaginations are unshackled.
Above us the gods of yesteryear move across the heavens.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

The silvery December moon rises
and the face that smiled upon the Birth,
of yesteryear, also smiles on us.
Above us Rhiannon advances.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Wise ones seek the Truth,
and beings of light, lit their Way.
Angels? Fae? The Watchers? Elementals, The Others?
And, about us unnamed, invisible Companions guide us still.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

We dance together in the dark,
as the Circle turns, and yet
we dance joyfully and with purpose.
We celebrate the season, that is.
And, around us, in the darkness
we ‘see’ the Friend at work.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

And yet in the darkness,
there shines a Light.
And, in remembrance, we light this festive candle
to the Sun of Righteousness.
And, we declare to all, near and far;
peace and hope, light and love
be to you and yours.
Now, and forever more.

The trees are sleeping.
Deep roots are dreaming.

Winter solstice approaches.

Blessings of The Source of All be to you and yours at this time,
Tadhg

Celtic Advent: Cosmic Thoughts At The Café

20171104 COSMIC THOUGHTS AT THE CAFE CELTIC ADVENT

Ever since the clocks went back an hour there has been an increasing expectation of the event. The nights draw in, the temperature drops and the anticipation just hangs in the air. And now, as I sit in the ‘Magic Café’, boxes marked ‘decorations’ are brought from a room at the back of the café to the main area, and they huddle in he corner.

Yes, the Celtic Advent is just around the corner.

‘Advent: the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when
you’re running yourself.’ Bill McKibben

Depending on which calendar you follow, or which group you listen to, the Celtic Advent starts on 16 November (though in common with those ancient people and tribes the ‘day’ starts the evening before from our reckoning, and so it starts on the evening of 15 November). Others will point out that that 15 November is the first day (and so it actually starts on the evening of 14 November). Confused? Please don’t be: it means you get to decide.

Advent is a time of pondering on the cosmic significance of darkness, a time of personal preparation, a time to go dpeeper, a time of expectation, and then it culminates in a time of commemorarion as Light wonderfully enters the world. As the days grow darker, it’s Light we look forward to.

‘Pause. Listen for the whispers of your Soul.
Soul quietly flows through every part of you.’  Nancy Lankston

There are some who will set themselves, at this time, the task of reading more sacred text, or of attending an extra service, of spending a little bit more than usual, of adding an extra home ritual or prayer to their list or prayers – and all of these are wholesome, good and proper for you, if you feel ‘called’ to do one or more of them.

In the busyness of life, maybe the last thing we need is to be more ‘busy, busy’. Oh, it’s easy to get caught up in he hype fom the tv, the newspapers and radio, but once we’re aware of being ‘pulled along’ by the increasing flow of the pace of life at this time of the year, we’re in with a chance of doing something about it.

‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).’ Mark Twain

There are some who don’t feel called to attend this service or that, or to read extra sacred text, perhaps they want to take time to stop and pause, and to go ‘deeper’. If this isn’t quite you, if you are in the ‘let’s do extra’ group, then I would suggest you find those people. Sometimes doing things differently, even for part of the time, is exactly what we need, spiritually.

Ofcourse, if you’re cooking a turkey roast for the family celebrations or are working right up to the eleventh hour, it’s not easy, or even proper to pause right then. But, somewhere in our busy schedule there are opportunities to slow down, pause, and to look forward to Light entering the darkness, however we interpret that phrase. Sometimes, we can re-adjust our calendar to spend more time ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.

I promise not to legislate for you, as you celebrate the Celtic advent, and I hope you wont legilsate the way I should celebrate it. To do so (or to become too busy) misses the point. To so do means that we’ve jumped out of the great invitation to be part of that cosmic event to erroneously, metaphorically, take a snap shot of it – and once we do that we have a wonderful ‘picture’ of the event from the ‘outside’, but we’re not part of it. So, really experience it this year.

And, so in this cafe, they’re unpacking boxes. And, as I sit here pondering the darkness, as I look through the cafe window onto a cold, dark blue sky’d city street, I look forward, in anticipation and expectation to Light entering the world, and what that means personally for me, for you, and others. And yes, ten mintes later I’m helping the cafe owner untangle a boxful of decorations. Perhaps, there is nothing wrong in the ‘doing’ or the busyness of the season so long as we make time for the real meaning of the season, don’t legislate for others and don’t ‘beat ourlsevlse up’; and pause to give ourselves long enough to consider the deeper meaning of this Celtic Advent.

I’ll be celebrating the start of the Celtic Advent on Friday eveing, 10 November (even if that means adding a few extra days in the lead-up to Christmas). For me this will mean a more leisurely approach, even more time to pause (sometimes), and go deeper, and being the start of the weekend the ‘pressure’ is off, and I can relax and enjoy the moment, the meal cooked for family and friends, to tell and listen to heart-warming stories, and ponder, maybe looking at a lone candle shining in the darkness as a metaphor for the occasion.

‘These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community’s past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.’  Brian  McLaren

To paraphrase some, this Celtic Advent was created for you and your benefit, and not the other way around.

My encouragement is for you to celebrate the start of the Celtic Advent with a meal – and yes, some will know that in ancient times it was a time of fasting, and if you’re called to do that, then do it), but also to take the time to ponder upon the themes of darkness and Light. As regards, the celebration I’m thinking of an Celtic Advent celebration meal at my London place, to start the season. You’re invited. Are you free?

 

Thoughts About Gŵyl Awst, Or Harvest: Celtic Thoughts

20170728 THOUGHTS ABOUT GWYL AWST OR HARVESTYes, Lammas or Lammas-tide, or harvest as many churches know is almost upon us. I love this time of the year. Hard work for the farmers and rural farmhands, but their tireless labour is appreciated by us all.

Usually celebrated during the very first few days of August, you might want to consider celebrating it on the first day of August, or the following weekend, but I’d also suggest you might like to celebrate it at the time of the upcoming full moon (on the evening of 7 August).

It is, nevertheless, a time to be thankful for the earth’s bounty, and grateful to the Great Provider Of All for the last year.

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.)

It is called the first harvest, because there is a second harvest at the time of the Autumn Equinox. Others will also know this time as Lughnasadh [(the ‘commemoration of Lugh’), but I like to call it by its old Welsh name Gŵyl Awst.

Lammas, for the inquisitive amongst you, by the way, comes from the Anglo-Saxon festival of hlaefmass – loaf, and so it’s good to celebrate the time with a loaf of bread – home-baked or perhaps, something special bought from a local shop. Maybe eat this special bread after your main meal one evening, with lashings of butter on it, and eat slowly, savouring eat bite as an act of deep meditation, deep reverence and with deep thanks-giving. Rituals don’t have to be lavish and complicated. Simple ones, with intentionality goes a long way. Why not invite family and friends along?

So, my grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, make bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack.

Oh, this was my favourite type of bread as a child. A cross between bread and cake! The smell of baking bread over the hearth in her north Wales county cottage was heavenly, so inviting, and so impedingly-scrumptious. I can still remember the smell of that baked bread wafting up my nostrils, and my stomach rumbling in anticipation.

As a child, I knew I was in for a treat. There was, and is, nothing quite like freshly-baked bread, still piping-hot, and covered in lashings and lashings of real butter.

In Ireland, some of the mountain pilgrimages have survived. By far the most popular is the Reek Sunday pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick, which attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims each year. The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland established the custom of blessing fields at Lughnasadh.This time then, is a time of giving thanks by all to mother nature for all her fruits, gratitude to the the Lord of the Harvest, and a celebration using what has been sown.

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.

There’ll be more about the harvest and harvest celebration on Monday, but meanwhile don’t forget the harvest hymn, that you may want to sing, recite as poem or liturgy – see here for the Hymn For Gŵyl Awst.

 

Hymn For Alban Hefin [Summer Solstice 2017]

20170621 ALBAN HEFIN 1111The Summer Solstice, known to the Druids of old in the Welsh language as ‘Alban Hefin’ (which means ‘the light of the shore’) is almost upon us.

And to celebrate Alban Hefin, this Wednesday, 21 June 2017 at 5.24pm (UK time), I’ve written a poem, and have set it to music –  using a well-known and (personally) much-loved, delightful old Gaelic tune called ‘She moved through the fair’ – and so as well as a poem, it’s also a hymn for Celtic Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids and others who might like to use it at the upcoming wonderful event of Alban Hefin.

The words are below, and so, at this stage it’s a poem or liturgy. But, I might find a way and be ‘brave’ enough to record it and sing it ready for tomorrow’s post. Meanwhile, the tune (though the unknown-to-me musician/singer breaks into singing at one point – singing the original song – can be found at here to give you an idea of the tune. )

So, happy Alban Hefin to you and yours, and here is ‘A Hymn For Alban Hefin 2017’

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Unresting, unheeding
in beauty you shine.
Full of health and vigour
poured out like new wine.
For all humankind
your riches bestow
from heaven above
to the Earth below.

All life you create
in the circle of love.
And we celebrate
your end-less gifts.
Laud and honour
for-ever be,
to you Bless-ed One,
For-ever Three.

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Tune: She moved through the fair
Words inspired by: Light’s Abode, Celestial Salem, attributed to Thomas á Kempis

Cosmic Fire [Within]: A Poem & Liturgy For Beltane.

20170425 COSMIC FIRE WITHIN POEMBeltane, celebrated on 1 May, is fast approaching.

The wheel turns, as the Earth continues to circle the sun. As it turns, and east is represented by the element of the wind (and we’re moving away from that), then due south is represented by fire, and we’re moving toward that.

Due south, the time of the summer solstice is the height of that season and element, so Beltane is south-east. Not quite east, not quite south. It’s a ‘moving into’ time’, as we move south-ward. In Wales and Ireland, and other Celtic countries Beltane is the beginning of summer, or at least the summer season represented by fire (even if, weather-wise, it doesn’t quite feel that way), and so many – perhaps yourself – will light candles and bonfires to welcome the wonderful event of Beltane, and usher in a new season.

Beltane is the time for dancing around maypoles (a popular event at primary school, but maybe not so now). It is the season of maturing life and deep found love, and the time of making vows, handfastings and other commitments. In Wales, Beltane is also known as Calan Mai. I’m afraid those words, themselves, don’t have a deep meaning, and they just mean the first day of May. However, the event itself is very significant and is a wonderful time of celebration.

My encouragement to you, then, is the celebrate the event in large ways or small, but to celebrate it is some significant way (that is unique to you).

With Beltane and fire in mind, here’s a poem, a Beltane liturgy that may be of use. It will form part of my Beltane celebrations.

Cosmic Fire [Within]

Before time itself,
when matter was but a dream in the Divine mind,
in the cosmic explosive crucible
of the furthest reaches of space,
fire roared.

Before life was formed,
when cosmic radiation coalesced
into a myriad of starry forms,
as the universe expanded,
fire grew.

Before humanity arose,
when the universe was oh-so-young and innocent,
the Source of All
planned that you should be here, and
fire moved.

Before this present time,
before you even knew that you are ‘you’,
energy was planted in all the elements.
Visible only to those who have eyes to see.
Fire hid.

From the very start,
it was ordained, that one place for the element of fire
to reside, to enliven and to empower,
was deep in the very core of humanity’s being, in your
heart.

Praise be to you Brother Sun, Sister fire.
Visible and invisible are you.
Felt and yet unknown.
Through you we can shine like a myriad stars in the sky.
A return to the beginning.

 

Haiku #7: Vernal Equinox[ology]: Ephemera

20170320 vernal equinoxolgy EPHEMERAAs you may know, I’m fascinated by the traditional haiku – short Japanese poems consisting of three lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five; and somewhere in the haiku there is usually a seasonal reference (called a ‘kigo’), however oblique.

It’s the Spring equinox today, and time to celebrate the time of equal day lengths and equal night. I also love liturgy and ritual, and so have penned three haiku to celebrate today and to use this evening as liturgy in part of my ritual for the ocassion.

And, so, here’s some words, in the form of haiku, to mark the season, the turning of the Circle, and in praise to the One behind it all.

Equal nights for owls,
And days for soaring eagles.
Vernal equinox.

Ascendant light, now.
The night but bows for six months.
Perfect harmony.

Celebrate, candle!
Mark the Circle’s turning, well.
Oh, Veriditas!

You might have your own unique way of celebrating this time, but if you want to use (and adapt) any, or all, of the haiku above, please do so. But, however, complex or simple your ritual and liturgy is, my encouragement is to do something today (or even tomorrow) to celebrate this wonderful day – so light a candle, meditate, plant a seed (or, perhaps donate a small amount of money to a tree-planting charity), or pause in gratitude as the Circle turns. Praise be to the Circle-Turner.