Rivers: Nature And Supernature. The Power & The Myth

20180908 RIVERS NATURE AND SUPERNATURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, water.

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

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

Healing?

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

A gateway?

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

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

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

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

It makes you think.

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

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

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

 

 

At Mam Tor: Earth-Healing Ritual And More

Today, the weather was overcast and cloudy, and quite cool because of a northerly wind. It rained intermittently. Suitably attired with anorak, waterproof over-trousers and hiking boots, and water I headed to the hills. There was work to be done, and ‘adventure’ like the feel on the skin of an approaching storm was in the air.

‘Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday.’ Sarah Ban Breathnac

Today was the day when I was to undertake my first simple Earth Healing ritual which would involve saying a simple prayer of dedication as I buried a small Rainforest Jasper stone.  

Rainbow Jasper, some say is a ‘helpful stone to connect with Mother Earth and the energy of the natural world, and may be used in earth healing rituals.’ And, it can ‘aid you to make a stronger connection to the great forests and green areas of the planet, as Rainforest Jasper encourages you to have a deeper, more heart based love for the earth.’ Whatever your views on that stone are, at the very least it can,  and does act as a focal point for our concern and prayer  for peace and harmony on, and in the Earth.

Having travelled some ten miles, I stopped momentarily at the foot of the large hill – to me a mountain. How fitting that this Earth Healing ceremony and Rainforest Jasper should be buried at the top of this large hill (517m  or 1,696 ft in height), rightly called Mam Tor or The Mother Hill. Healing, Rainbow Jasper, Earth-Healing, connectedness at high places, the Feminine aspect of the Divine, it all fitted together. This was to be the place.

‘Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.’ Francis of Assisi

I advanced up the side of Mam Tor and was soon at the peak. A few people came and went, and as I sat on a boulder watching them and waiting for a lull in their coming and going, I prayed.

Reaching down I buried the small rock of Rainforest Jasper (about the size of my thumbnail) and simultaneously prayed under my breath, ‘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.’

I stood up, silent for several minutes looking at the awesome scenery. Here, some three thousand years ago (and verified by recent archeological finds) Celts lived at the top of Mam Tor. There and in this area are glimpses of Druid activity. And, not for the first time did another Druid stand at the peak of Mam Tor. The wind picked up and it was if I could hear the voices of the Ancients, those Celts who had lived here, Druids who had performed their rituals and others calling out in affirmation.

‘I heard your voice in the wind today
and I turned to see your face;
The warmth of the wind caressed me
as I stood silently in place.’ Author unknown

And so, I slowly picked my way down Mam Tor. Although requiring more effort to ascend Mam Tor it took longer to get down as I gingerly placed feet in foot holds and steps, so as not to tumble. I was in no rush, either. The scenery is wonderful and the whole area radiates with the ‘magic’ of the ages and liminality. Truly, this is a place where many caol áit (a Celtic/Gaelic word, pronounced ‘kweel awtch’ and which means ‘thin places’) exist. [See here for more information about thin places].

I then drove toward where I was lodging,feeling that my adventure for the day was complete. I felt as though what needed to have been done, the Earth Healing ritual, had been accomplished. And, yet those Welsh words that my grandmother would often use when I was a child rang in my ears, ‘Mae mwy’, ‘there is more’.

I drove for about twenty miles, about a days journey for our ancestors, and so still in the area of Mam Tor, and decided to stop and have lunch at a local pub at Birchover. 

The Source of All does have a sense of humour. The local public house (pub) was called ‘The Druid Inn’. And perhaps, not for the first time did another Druid imbibe in that establishment (or area). Though I hasten to add it was primarily the food that had led me to stop there, and any drink was non-alcoholic as I was driving. Nevertheless, the ‘co-incidence’ of the pub’s name hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Birchover, so I found out as I tucked into a steak and ale pie, is situated near a number of features of geologic and historic interest: there are numerous tunnels, several prehistoric and ancient carvings in caves, and a number of stone circles on nearby Stanton Moor.  Such stone circles and carvings was evidence, in many locals’ minds of ancient Druid ritual in the area.

Whoever you go in this part of the world there is mystery, but there’s more. It is everywhere, if we have eyes to see.

‘The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.’ Anais Nin

Truly, we are surrounded by mystery. We all live in the twenty-first century of technology and mechanical time, the hustle and bustle of busy jobs, and dualism that makes little room for meditation and deep spirituality, but take a moment to scratch beneath the surface and the legacy of the Ancients,  Celts of old and Druid’s appear in all its wonderment.

Underneath the carcophany of modern daily life The Source still speaks. The spirituality that we all crave is there, and it is just a heartbeat away. There is no separation, except that we we think. ‘Truly, I am with you, even to the end of the age’, said the Human One.  And it is so. Mysterious, and true. Mysterious, and comforting. (Just) Breathtakingly Mysterious. The Mystery.

 

Lessons From The Heart(h) Remembered

20180304 TALES FROM THE HEARTH REMEMBEREDMy grandmother, always having time to tell a good story, passed on some thirty years ago. Times flies. And yet, the legacy of her stories lives on in my memory and life. She was what many would call a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, and Gaelic for a story-teller], and she was a good one at that.

Even now there are times, in looking back, I can remember myself sitting by her chair, by the hearth, and as her sweet voice told yet another wonderful story, the fire would ‘roast’ one side of my face, making it red for some time after. I’d move to another position by the hearth, but as a small child, I would always ensure that I could hear every word she spoke.

Each of her stories encapsulated some nugget of wisdom, a lesson to be applied. And each was a lesson for an authentic Celtic lifestyle. Here’s three such lessons.

Un

They were a great times of hearing this consummate story-teller tell her stories of myth and ‘magic’. But they were stories, albeit stories that were so memorable and encompassed such deep truth that they were unforgettable. I can remember my grandmother telling me stories of Brigid. One story she told was of Brigid, the saint, who was also known as ‘Mary of the Gael(s)’, and who flourished around AD500. Brigid, then, turned bathwater into beer. Another story was of Brigid who was an ancient and timeless Celtic godess. And yet another story was of Brigid who was nursemaid to the Christ-child and so lived two-thousand years ago.

On one occassion, when I was a little older, I asked my grandmother, ‘But, which Brigid is the true one?’. Always one to answer a question with a question, she replied, ‘What do you think, little one?’.

‘I don’t know’, I replied after some time of thinking about my reply and getting confused in the process.

‘That,’ she said, ‘was the best reply. There’s an element for doubt. Room what ‘what could be’, and so then all the stories will continue to be told and enjoyed’.

‘When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger.’ Confucius

It was many years later that I understood what she meant. If we adopt the twenty-first century approach, the Greek dualist approach, the academic way of ‘squaring the equation’ and wanting a definitive answer, and treating ancient writings and stories as though they were science books, then one story must be true and the other two would eventually be forgotten as untrue, and their wisdom would be lost.

If we accept the non-academic approach, the poetic, and I would say that is the ancient Celtic and Druidic approach (as well as that of many other ancient cultures eg Hebrew), then we can accept all three stories, not be overly concerned that they don’t fit neatly into our modern understanding of time and place, and their ancient wisdom can and will benefit us as they get told and retold, as the stories unfold. Oh, but how we fall into the trap of being ‘so sicentific’ that we lose the meaning, the light and love on the journey to understanding.

Lesson: Look for the deeper meaning, and not sentence construction, academia or historicity as ancient wisdom needs a little effort sometimes to get to, and an open-mind. Look to the ancient writings, to the deep words of others, to those ‘silent teachers’ in nature eg the trees, flowers, animals, elementals, the environment etc.

‘…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.’ Matthew 13.45-46 The Book

Dau

On other occasion my grandmother would tell me stories that would ‘make my toes curl’. Scary ones, which as a wee child I would actually love to hear. Stories about the Cailleach (pronounced ‘kie-lich’), that ugly hag that wanted a respectful kiss, the Tylwyth Teg (pronounced ‘ter-loo-ith tehg’) a playful but misunderstood fae, or  The Gwrach y Rhibyn (pronounced ‘goo-rach ee ribb-in’) who was always depicted as an old witch, sometimes with thick leathery wings, but wasn’t so bad.

My grandmother’s stories were usually interactive, and she would insert a question or two throughout the story or at the end. She would say something like, ‘Now the Gwrach y Rhibyn is an awful sight to behold, but do you need to be frightened?’ I would shake my head, guessing that was the right thing to do, and say, ‘No’. And she would smile, and say, ‘Quite right, my dear one. The Gwrach y Rhibyn and others are sorely misunderstood and just want a little bit of respect. Just keep your distance, nod and be courteous to them, go on your way and all will be well’.

Lesson: In life, all is not as it seems. Treat everyone and everything with respect and you will prosper. Never be fearful. Always look for the ‘lesson’ in the event, realising that usually the ‘answer’ is in the ‘challenge’ or event. Be inclusive and welcoming to others, to circumstances etc. Welcome strangers, for by so doing some have entertained elementals unawares.

‘Do not judge by appearances; a rich heart may be under a poor coat.’ Scottish Proverb

Tri

One another occasion, and I was a little older by then, I asked a question of my grandmother, and she went silent, looked at me, and quite cheerfully said, ‘I don’t know the answer to that one’. Many years later I reminded her of that event, and she explained: sometimes life will be confusing and answers won’t be forthcoming. Sometimes, in this journey of life, we must accept that saying ‘I don’t know’ is the best answer. I pressed her further, and said, ‘Do you still think that’s true now?. She laughed to herself, looked at me, beamed a gorgeous smile and said out loud, ‘I don’t know!’. And we both laughed hilariously.

Lesson: Sometime in the journey of life, answers won’t always be forthcoming until we finish this journey. Until then, be content to enjoy the journey. It’s the journey and not necessary the destination that’s important. Keep forward-looking and not backward-looking. You’re not going in that direction.

‘The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.’ William Arthur Ward

Conclusion, Or Is It?

Thirty years on, and though my grandmother has passed on, her words of story and wisdom still ring in my ears. They are remembered. ‘Mae mwy’, she would always say.  Welsh, for ‘There is more’. And, there always is. Life is an amazing adventure, and the deep truths of the Source of All cannot be comprehended by knowledge, but only ‘glimpsed’ in metaphor, story, myth, poetry, intuition and music. And it’s enough.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. Albert Einstein

Mae mwy. There is more. The Great Story, which also incudes you and I, continues. There is always more!

The Saining Ritual For New Years Night

20171229 THE SAINING RITUALIt’s coming up to the end of the year, and the new year is just around the corner. This time of year always brings back fond memories for me, and one of the most vivid and joyful is that of the ritual of the sain.

And so, the hallway grandfather clock ticked loudly, in its countdown to midnight, as the old year passed away. All of us had gathered there, and waited.  My grandmother came out of the kitchen. In one hand she held a few twigs of juniper that had been soaked in water (and shaken to remove the excess water), and in the other she held lightly smoking juniper twigs to ‘smudge’ each room.

It was a family custom and one held by many in Scotland and Ireland, and quite a few in north Wales. Saining, or blessing was an old ritual, done especially at this  time of the year. In it we each ‘saw’ out the old year and ‘saw’ in the new, asked for blessing and protection for the upcoming year, and came together as one. It was a happy event.

And then the grandfather clock juddered, gears and cogs deep inside it ‘whirred’ and then it chimed midnight. With some reverence we walked, following my grandmother around the house. At each room my grandmother would open that room’s door (and leave it open), shake the juniper with water on it, say the (shortened) sain blessing (see below), allow the smoking juniper to let off its fragrance in that room (and, maybe give those twigs a bit of a shake), and then move onto the next room, as we all followed.

In each room , including the hallway and toilet, the ritual was the same, and the sain (or blessing) was spoken and repeated:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front,
The sain put by Mary on her Son.

And then, at about ten minutes after midnight we would be at the front door. That door would be opened, as we all stood outside, and the final sain ritual would be said. The person who had performed the ritual would imbibe a small glass of whisky, and in our family everyone else would then follow suit.

And then it was over. Talking and singing of that wonderful song ‘aud lang syne’ would probably take place, maybe accompanied by another glass of whisky for all, or we would all go back inside the house for more revelry (and probably a closing all the doors now as the new year had been ‘invited’ in, and each room had been blessed), and we wanted to keep warm

Happy times to remember; and a great ritual to perpetuate.

Saining is a old Scottish, Gaelic, Celtic word for blessing, protecting or consecrating, the word (or similar) is also used in Ireland and Wales.

Traditionally saining rites, done at the stroke of midnight, involved water, and/or ‘smugding’ with juniper twigs, and moving from room to room (and maybe field to field), and/or the recitation of a prayer or poetry. This role might primarily fall to the lady of the house, but that wasn’t always the case. Flexibility rules the day, here. The ritual might conclude with the person performing the rite opening all the windows and doors in the house to ‘let our the old (year) and let in the new (year) and might involve imbibing just a small glass of whisky. The ritual was varied and might not include all of the aforementioned, but it was always an occassion that all looked forward to, and was quite joyful, with all the members of the family following the one performing the ritual around the house etc.

So, this new years night, how about performing a sain in each room of your house – don’t forget the hallway or the ‘smallest room’.

You can use the abovementioned paragraphs as a template but do vary it to suit your needs: instead of ‘smudging’ with juniper twigs you might light a candle or use a scented joss-stick; instead of whisky, you might use fruit juice; you can use the saining invocation used by my grandmother (or the longer version , below, or choose something else relevant to your faith or belief or write something yourself. Enjoy it, and make it a memorable occasion as you celebrate the end of one year and the start of the new year.

The prayers used by many of old in this ritual are Christian-based, a historical/family fact, but they can be adapted or replaced; and indeed have been successfully adapted and replaced and used by friends of mine of other faiths and beliefs – and so whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Druid, Pagan etc, I would suggest the ritual of the sain to you as a wonderful ritual for you and/or your family and friends at this time of the year.

Ofcourse, saining doesn’t only have to be done at the turning of the year. It could be done when moving into a new apartment or house, on the anniversary of moving in, or maybe once or twice a year as you feel it’s appropriate to bless a place, or invoke protection or if you want to ‘lift’ a place energetically. Try it. Enjoy it.

Enjoy. Blessings of the Sain be to you and yours, Tadhg

Note: The complete version of the Sain, invocation of for protection and blessing, is as follows:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
Sain from death, sain from wound,
Sain from breast to knee,
Sain from knee to foot,
Sain of the three sains,
Sain of the five sains,
Sain of the seven sains,

From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
Sain of the seven paters, one,
Sain of the seven paters, two,
Sain of the seven paters, three,
Sain of the seven paters, four,
Sain of the seven paters, five,
Sain of the seven paters, six,
Sain of the seven paters, seven
Upon thee now.

From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front.

Be the helmet of salvation about thine head,
Be the corslet of the covenant about thy throat,
Be the breastplate of the priest upon thy breast,
To shield thee in the battle and combat of thine enemies.
If pursued, oh youth, from behind thy back,
The power of the Virgin be close to succour thee,
East or west, west or east,
North or south, south or north.

(Sain, From the ‘Carmina Gadelica’)

A Storm Is Headed Our Way: Tadhg’s Journal

20171207 Storms And Us

A Storm is heading our way. Storm Caroline is battering Britain, and the ferry services between Oban and the Isle of Mull, and Mull to Iona have been suspended. Radio bulletin

One of the things I like about London is the museums and art galleries, and cafes, and the exhibitions it hosts, and especially the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit. So many stands, and so many wise and wonderful people, and not a wrinkle in sight (on many of the exhibitors). I have a confession: I avoid those who have ‘answers’ and yet have no wrinkles and scars. It’s just me, perhaps, but I wonder what they have in common with me. I mean, their life is so blessed and worry-free?

When I’m staying in London there are a number of churches (and I’m not anti-church, as they are great institutions) that are nearby. But, I find it difficult to join in with many of them, as they all seem to have problem-free lives, and that bears little resemblance to my life at the moment.

Ah, when I was younger, I used to love reading those Superman comics (and I even had a deal with the local shop: if I bought three comics, read them and returned them in mint condition, then I could have a fourth one, free of charge!). Supeman, then was ‘immune’ to any kind of injury and you always knew he would triumph. And, even at that young age I realised that he had little in common with me.

Here is my confession, yes, another confession in just the space of a moment or two: I am not immune to the ‘storms’ of life. In my relatively short life I have been a single-parent family and am immensely proud of my two sons, have been a cancer patient and subsequent survivor by the grace of God (working through the wonderful NHS in the UK), a thyroid patient, had a year-long dreadful reaction to precscribed medicine and got through it, fell down and cracked two ribs a couple of years ago and healed, and now I’m facing a ‘storm’ over the administration of my late-Dad’s house, when it could have gone so well but for ‘forces’ beyond my control. It is tough going, and there are no easy answers.

I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship. Louisa May Alcott

It’s for that reason that I like stands at the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit with ‘real’ people on them, people with wrinkles or scars, or a ‘tough’ life-story to tell. I love genuine people. People, who like me, have and are facing life-storms. I like churches where I know the people admit their flaws and still have hope. Authentic people. Wonderful. And I like that story, where the Source of All, who was perfect, took on the shell of humanity and even though perfect died a messy death (and overcame it, demonstrably). Life, seemingly snuffed out, comes back more ‘alive’ than before. Love wins.

And it’s one reason I like those who call themselves Druid. In latter days it used to take forty years to become a Druid, and so feasibly you would never meet a Druid or Druidic leader under the age of about 60. They would have lived life to the full, known a few ‘storm’s and have a few wrinkles on their countenenace. Awesome. Ofcourse, for many groups it doesnt take forty years now, but I ‘warm’ more with older Druids in leadership because of their experiences

‘Storms make the oak grow deeper roots’. George Herbert

It has been said our response to challenges and negativty can go one of two ways: make us better or bitter. In my current stortm – and I cannot tell you how excruciatingly emotional and draining it is – I am choosing to use the painful experience to be better. This ‘storm’ is temporary. It won’t last. It will not bring me down to respond negatvily. I choose to learn from it. And, it is teaching me that I am surrounded by a myriad of supportive family and friends, and that is an amazing comfort.

‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.’ Vivian Greene

Perception is important. I might look at the ‘externals’ only, and I see painful events. But, I know I need to read what I have written here previously, and look deeper. For then, whether I can see it or not, or experience it or not, I know that things are not what they seem, and good is coming out of this. Love prevails.

‘Storm Caroline will last approximately 48 hours and move eastward’. Radio broadcast.

If you’re going through a ‘storm’ now, I wish I could wave a magic wand and rectify things. But, I am with you dear bother/sister for this journey albeit rough right now, and though we might weep now, we will laugh together tomorrow and through eternity. And, we have the Companion with us. Something now, somehow, is being wrought out of the present ‘storm’.

Meanwhile, there are no easy answers. Perhaps, there aren’t meant to be any easy answers, but that we are changed for the better (whether we know it or not) in the process, and there will be a time (perhaps in the next realm) where it will all make sense. Love prevails.

‘And the one sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:5, The Book

 

Magic Café Revelations: All Life-Stories Matter

20171121 MAGIC CAFE REVELATIONS ALL STORIES MATTER

I am sitting in a café in London, and it’s magic. I know this to be the case, as over the door it says in big bright lettering, ‘The Magic Café’, and it’s one of my favourite places to relax. As a regular I’ve got to know the other regulars that frequent this awesome place.

I’ve probably mentioned it in the past: there is the yachtsman, the Portugese lady, the journal lady, the nanny, and the taxi drivers. As I sit here today, I wondered if they had a name for me, or if the journal lady had written about me as she writes copiously at her table, right now, supping coffee and chewing on a croissant?

Each one of us has a story to tell.

I was once at a meeting where a speaker, originally from London and had spent a number of years in a remote corner of Africa, only to return and recount his story. After fifteen minutes or so he said that each one of us has a story to tell, and suggested that one by one – there were twelve us in this group – we might tell something of our story. It hadn’t got far, infact only two people had shared their story, when the third person said something like, ‘But you’re story is so much more important, so full of awesome events, that we would like to hear more’, to the speaker. And so the story-sharing came to an abrupt end. Disappointed.

‘A bruised reed He will not break.; Isaiah 42.3 The Book

As I sit in the Magic Café, now, I imagine what each of the regulars’ story might consists of. I can imagine, and do. I wonder in what way their lives are similar to mine, and their will be similarities. In what ways different, and there will be great differences. I wonder in what ways your life story and mine co-incide. It does! At the very least it co-incides as I write these words and you are reading them. Interaction. And, there’s more. In a spiritual realm my thoughts ‘flew’ as I write these word, and your thoughts ‘fly’ as you interpret them. Mingling.

We participate in each others story because of that interaction via the internet, via physically meeting or emailing or commenting, or even thinking about each other; and participate in each others story on a cosmic level which, right now might be more than we can conceive, but one day we will understand fully. Imagine that.

‘If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name’. Kendrick Lamar

But for now, I use imagination to understand the depth of our connectedness. And would suggest the same to you. Imagination is a spiritual gift even though we play it down, or use it just as a figure of speech. And, imagination, right now, fuels my desire, our desire to get to know each other (more). The more I think about, say, the journal lady in this café, sitting just a few feet away from me, the more inquisitive I am about her (in a wholesome way), and imagination does change things.

‘…we are talking about spiritual transformation, mediated by the imagination.’ Sandra M Levy

Using my imagination piqued my interest, and that in turn brought about a desire to know that person as a friend, and that in turn lead me to talking to her, and interacting on a verbal level (and more). Ah, she’s a retired doctor, and yes, she loves to journal. I know part of her story now, and she knows part of mine.

Each one of us has an awesome story to share, and unlike the third person in that group, mentioned above, your story is as great as anyone elses. And our stories connect us.

‘Your story is different from mine because of different experiences. Even so, somehow or other we fit them into a Big Picture, we develop a sense of how our own stories fit into a larger one…’ Sandra M Levy

Our individual stories connect us to each other because our stories form part of the chapters of the ‘big picture’ of the cosmos or the big Book, and in such a Book there are no incosequential stories, no inconsquential people. Your life story counts, and it’s writ large upon the universe. All life-stories matter. Share your story. It’s a good one.

But, there’s more…

 

 

A Walk In The Woods: Light That Yet To Us Is Dark

20171113 A WALK IN THE WOODS LIGHT THAT YET TO US IS DARK

A continuing reflection on that nocturnal walk in the woods, near Capel Curig in Wales: Last time (see here for that journal entry) I had ambled through the woods to two arched trees that seemed to form a doorway.

As children, I and my friends had called these two trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world. Such was the imagination of us as children, and an indication of the games we used to play. Even as an adult, I still call these two wonderful trees Drws i fyd arall, for that is what they are to me and to those who can see with a childlike spirit.

And so, I’m sitting on a felled log looking at these two remarkable trees. And, I wait. It’s now well after 1 am. I can hardly see. It’s dark. Against my hands and face, the temperature is, oh so cold. I’m alone, except for unknown, nearby animals scurrying around in the undergrowth. Otherwise alone. Or am I?

I’m in awe in this sacred place, at this sacred time. It is liminal. It is, to me, a ‘thin place’. And, I wait. And wait, some more.

An encounter?

Random thoughts vie for superiority. And in seeking to still them, or at least not give them prominence, I wait for an encounter. But, how to recognise an encounter?

There is an ancient story about a man on the run. Hiding, and in fear of his life he seeks an encounter with That Which Is Bigger Than Us, bigger than him. In his rational mind he assumes that the Source of All would come as a mighty wind, a huricane. A storm rages and rocks are shattered into pieces, but it is only a violent storm.

Then a most dreadful earthquake struck and the ground shook, but the Source of All was not encountered in that massive earthquake. And then, a huge fire arose. Whether it was a volcano spewing forth magma or fire from a cleft in between rocks on the ground that opened up, is lost in antiquity. But we do now that the Source of All was not encountered in that great and ferocious fire. The story then goes on to record that the seeker hid in a cave. And it was there that That Which Is Bigger Than Us, bigger than him was encounter. There in that cave, with the fugitive, was the Source of All manifest as an almost silent voice. Ofcourse, that was how this person encountered on that occasion, but isn’t the Source of All present in all things.

The Source: Manifest to us in somethings; present in all things. And that ancient story concludes, neatly, with an encounter of hope, but of one that defied that man’s expectations. Perception is important.

And so I sit in the dark of the night and wait. And it seems that nothing happens.

We travellers, walking to the sun,
can’t see ahead, but looking back the very light
that blinded us shows us the way we came.
Along which blessings now appear, risen
as if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
by blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
that blessed light that yet to us is dark.

(Wendell Berry)

And as I sit here on this felled log, I think long and hard: We come with our preconceived ideas of what an encounter with the Source of All should be like. And yet, isn’t there part of us that knows the Source of All is beyond our reasoning, and all we can do is but catch a glimpse. Not a thundrous word from the Source of All, but a still small voice that suffices. And it happens at times. We know, deep down inside of us, that we cannot force an encounter, but can only put ourselves in the ‘flow’, and know that the Source of All is the one who initiates it. And the Source does initiate. Our intentionality, though, is all important here.

And, how would we recognise an encounter? In one sense that seems to be the most important of questions, and yet it isn’t. If That Which If Is Bigger Than Us determines an encounter is good for us, then the Source of All will ensure that it is comprehensible to us. Not too much to overwhelm us. Not too little so that we will miss it. But enough, to satisfy. And so I wait.

‘…in the light of the ordinary day, we come
to the space between ourselves,
the narrow doorway, and pass through
into the land of the wholly loved’.

(Wendell Berry)

And, after what seems to be an hour, I look at my wristwatch and almost three hours has passed by. [And indication of an encounter, even if not felt or remembered.] In doing so I am ‘pulled’ back into mechanical time – time measured in hours and minutes at the spin of a wheel or the oscilation of a crystal – and I leave sacred time-space, that otherworly experiece that is fleeting and seeemingly fragile.

And I walk back home. Slowly, with the flashlight dancing on the trees and shrubbery, I pick my way back to the path, and the thought comes to me. I’ve encountered. And so have you. When lovers meet there is a time when words mean nothing, when words just get in the way, and their presence, being in each others company, is everything.

Tonight, and perhaps (now) as you read this, we can understand and know that we can encounter wherever we are, if we go beyond rationality as we understand it. This is not to say we should be irrational, but perhaps arational. The latter being outside and above rarionality. How else can we encounter the Divine? Anything else limits us.

So here’s my question to you: Bearing in mind our set or usual patterns of prayers or rituals, or habits, are we too rigid, too limiting in our expectations? How open are we to encounter That Which Is Bigger Than Us (or the Source, or which ever ‘name’ you’re confortable with), not on our terrms, but on the Source’s terms?

‘It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, the sacred’.
(Denise Levertov)

 

The Wind Blows Where It Wishes: Priorities On Iona

20171107 THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES PRIORITIES ON IONA

I was recently fortunate enough to spend some time on the Isle of Iona. Here’s one reflection as I look back: I’m on the beach, near the water’s edge, and I’m looking out to sea. Grey clouds hang in the sky, and there’s a gale blowing in. There’s no one about, no one except a few squeaking seagulls flying high above me. And, it’s wonderful.

The sun is hidden by thick clouds so much so, that it is impossible to locate its position. The sea air is salt-filled and damp. The air is cold, crisp, and fresh. Mighty waves  crash loudly against nearby rocks with ferocious and unbridled power. It is nature wild and rugged, and it’s beautiful.

I’m alone. I’m standing on the Machair, (pronounced ‘makker’), the ‘raised beach’ on the westward side of the Isle of Iona – which is part of Scotland’s remote islands of the Inner Hebrides.

Yesterday when I was here my thoughts were calm, my mind quiet. Not so today. Thoughts come and go as I ponder on priorities. Any yet, it seems right to let the thoughts come and go, to let them surface and not to stifle them.

‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ William James

There are two thousand acres of island behind me, and a population of less than one hundred and fifty souls. In front of me there is nothing but sea. Just open water, wind-swept turbulent ocean. There is nothing for two thousand miles – I expected it to be more – until one encounters Nain, a town on the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, which has a population about 1400 people. Each with different priorities to the small community here, and both Nain and Iona with different priorities to those who live in cities, and different priorities to me and you. Connected, but seprate, and each of our priorities all equally important.

Priorities?

That’s the main thought that runs endlessly around in my mind, as I stand on this isolated beach. What really is important? What actually lasts?

Right now, some of my friends in response to those questions, I think, would say action is important. I do believe, sometimes, that that is so. Others would say prayer or ritual is important, and I do believe there are occasions when that is right. Others would tell me that right doctrine is all important, and that less than that displeases God. Doctrine and what we believe may be important, at times, but right here, right now all of the aforementioned seems relevant to me. Right now the wind blows where it wishes, and another voice, underneath the murmur of the wind, whispers to my spirit albeit with  great clarity.

‘The end of all my labours has come. All that I have written appears to be as much as straw after the things that have been revealed to me.’ Thomas Aquinas

It is a disconcerting fact to know that what I think is important, may not actually be important. That what I think pleases God, elementals or Spirit maybe not actually please God, the elementals or Spirit, and that others may be closer to the Source than me or you. To my embarrassment, in the past, I have put myself in a position of believing I knew the truth as though it was all-important, only to realise that I knew very little. None of us do, in cosmic terms, know that much. And the comforting thing is: we’re not expected to. Knowledge will take us so far; wisdom will take us much further. Bu, there’s more.

The idea that at the end of time we all face an intelligence test, a right doctrine test or some other rest, to ensure that we’ve been on the right track is an error. What then is our priority for now?

What should our priority be? However we interpret it, however we work it out in our daily life, at home, at school, at work etc, whatever we do, there is an underlying priority and ‘force’ that seeks primacy. Yes, we can still work hard, pray, write and recite liturgy and doctrine etc, but what is our priority on the cosmic scale? There’s more!

It’s love!

Whatever we do love should surely be its foundation. Anything less than that, just makes us a hardworker, a liturgist, a ceremonialist, and probably condemnatory others, as though we have the monopoly on what is right and wrong. The wind blows where it wishes, and it is for me to understand that. I am not the door-keeper admitting others that conform to my doctrine; rather the Source, the Wind, Spirit is the one who ‘admits’, and the Source is inclusive and welcoming to all. The Wind blows where it wishes. I do believe the Wind is blowing in your life.

‘The power of Love, a force from above, cleaning my soul…’. Gabrielle Aplin

What is my priority? To keep up with the Wind, or rather the One who rides on the back of the wind. And not to keep up as if to exert myself in some frantic way, but rather to hold out my arms, as I stand on this windswept beach, as though my arms were mighty sails on a boat, and to revel in the knowledge that wherever the Wind blows is where I want to be. Isn’t that the same for you? And the depth of care for each one of us behind the Wind is love. Love.

The wind has picked up on this beach, and the storm comes ever closer.  I might like to think I am in control, but the weather doesn’t obey me, and the Source is not at my behest, either. It is easy to fall into thinking that. The Wind blows where it wishes. And, so far as is practicable (as we all have commitments to honour) what a joy to be known as Windswept – to allow ourselves to be blown about by the Wind, the Spirit and to enjoy the journey, to know Love and extend love to others. How we work that out is for each one of us to work on, as it will be different depending on events that present themselves to us – but when opportunity to be open to the Spirit occurs, to experience Love and to pass love on, we will know.

Suddenly my priorities don’t seem that important. Another voice can be heard under the murmur of the wind, and it calls to me, it calls to you, wherever you are. I am on a windswept beach on Iona, but there is no distance between each one of us – we’re all connected – and no distance of separation for the Wind, for the wind blows where it wishes.

‘The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.’  Victor Hugo

 

 

Into The Mist: Preparations For The Journey

20171002 INTO THE MIST PREPARATIONS FOR THE JOURNEY

After a long absence I finally heeded the call to return to Iona (and then onto Skye) on a short pilgrimage.  Time to reconnect. Time to return, briefly, to where it all started. An opportunity to ‘recharge my batteries’, and to hark the words of the ancestors, that great cloud of witnesses.

Go into the mist.

And now plans are taking shape. It’s so close to the start of the journey, that it’s important for me to concentrate, to prioritise and think about what resources I need and to get them in place, and to be passionate about this excursion. It’s one of those times where total commitment is needed.

I saw you dancing last night on the roof
of your house all alone.

I felt your heart longing for the
Friend.

I saw you whirling
beneath the soft bright rose
that hung from an invisible stem
in the sky,

So I began to change into my best clothes
in hopes of joining you.

Even though
I live a thousand miles away.

And if
you had spun like an immaculate sphere
just two more times,

Then bowed again so sweetly to
the east,

You would have found God and me
standing so near
and lifting you
into our arms.

I saw you dancing last night near the roof
of this world.

(Hafiz)

In today’s busy world it’s easy to give up, to kick plans into the ‘long grass’, or listen to others who don’t share the same spirit and commitment to the journey as you.

Don’t give up. Be encouraged.

Ofcourse, the journey may not be a physical journey for you right now. It could be your life-journey or part of it, a new venture, and what you do, what or who you ‘are’, what your calling is, and how you daily live that out.

For me, for a physical journey to Iona there are a number of considerations: check the car is up to the journey (and it is), pack appropriate clothes, maps and a compass are needed, thermos flask, flashlight, appropriate shoes, waterproofs, as well as thinking ahead about where I’ll stay, and more. All, very practical, all very necessary, and liable to become a chore…but I’m not going to allow that, for this is an awesome adventure into the ‘mist’. And, you’ll be pleased to know plans are well underway and I’m getting there.

For the life-journey the things we need in place are wholly different and will change from person to person, and depend on the calling that we’ve each received. But in each case, maybe there are some common questions that can act as hints as to what you and I require for our shared-but-different life-journey.

What is the one thing you do that brings you to life?

What do we require as essentials for our life-calling and working it out each day? Time? Opportunities to research and study periodically? ‘Tools’ such as a musical intrument, stones/palmstones, a book of liturgy, a staff, drum, a labyrinth, incense/’smudge stick’, water, candle etc? Time to mediate and ‘recharge our batteries’, to centre ourself, time to mix with others for mutual support, energy and encouragement, and to socialise? Yes, time to relax – ‘down-time’, however we define it, is important. The list goes on.

You will know what you require; you will know what’s ‘missing’.

And, so it is that in a few minutes I’ll return to preparing for my journey, first to Iona, and then onto Skye in Scotland – did I mention I start that wonderful journey this coming Sunday? I aim to still right articles each day – deo volente – and I hope, still, to hear from you, from those that read articles and comment.

Yes, I’m going to take you with me. Okay, maybe not physically – there are too many of you and some of you are twelve thousand miles away – but, yes, I aim to take you with me. That will be achieved by daily articles, and my new twitter account. And, it will be achieved because, in some strange and mystical way, we’re already connected!

Let’s stay in touch!

Hopefully, my twitter account is working properly now – but if it isn’t I’ve got a few days to sort out the ‘bugs’.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

(Composer: Richard Gillard Copyright © 1977 Scripture in Song/Maranatha!Music)

But, whatever happens right now – and ofcourse I’d encourage you to do this – you can go to my twitter page online via the link-button on my FaceBook site at any time (about half way down the left-hand column, I think), and once there, there should be a ‘follow’ button. If there isn’t  follow button, you’ll still be able to read updates whenever you return to that page.

Or, you can go to my twitter account now, by clicking here.

You should also be able to see live updates in the twitter ‘cartouche’ in the righthand column of this page on TadhgTalks (though it appears only on the generic page – available by clicking the large banner-photo at the top of the page, and the page which shows several posts. It won’t appear if you go straight to a particular post – so it you’re here and are seeing only one post – this one – please click on the banner photo at the very top to see several posts and then you’ll see twitter updates as they happen in the right-hand twitter ‘cartouche’). Any ‘challenges’ please email me.

I’ve also got a dedicated UK mobile telephone for you to use, to say hi, for queries or well wishes etc – for voice or text – and the provider is giffgaff (free giffgaff to giffgaff calls, I believe).

The mobile number is: 07743 956981

I’d love us to stay in touch, and more so as the time of my trip to Iona draws near and when I’m actually there – and would value your daily good-thoughts, light, love and prayers etc

‘Friends…they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.’ Henry David Thoreau

But there’s more, and it concerns you. If you’re well advanced in your life-journey and realise your calling, please email me. I’d love to hear from you – iron sharpens iron, and we can learn from each other.

If you’re not quite sure – and it could be that you’re at a junction in life, that another ‘season’ is starting or about to start for you (and it feels like you’re in a ‘mist’), and you would like some good-thoughts sent your way, please contact me. What you have, by way of thoughts about spiritual and practical ‘tools’ that work for you (or, that you require), do let me know as will assist me over the next few weeks in formulating how TadhgTalks can further assist you and others, and enable us to work together. You can comment here in all cases, or email me at: tadhg@tadhg.cymru

‘The mist becomes a visible cloak that conceals that which is ordinarily seen, while another invisible cloak is removed, making that which is usually invisible visible.’ Frank MacEowen, The Mist-Filled Path

Now, where’s my sun factor 40 sun cream?

‘Thin Places’ In The City: Poem

20170929 THIN PLACES IN THE CITY POEM

Atop a high mountain or in the dark valley below,
in the corner of your room,
or in the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre,
may you find a ‘thin place’.

It is a place, or time, or event so unique, so full of wonder, so sublime.
A place where Heaven and earth collide,
and the diaphanous veil of separation is unusually thin.
A time where you can almost feel angelic wings beat against your cheeks,
and see the Divine smile shining through.
An event where your heartbeat quickens,
and you experience the mystery of the Other in the ‘mundane’.

A ‘thin place’ is a threshold, a limen, a holy bridge,
a door to the Throne Room, slightly opened.
It is a moment in time and space,
in which we can dwell, and dance, and move, if aware.

A ‘thin place’ is an encouragement, a sacred invitation to draw near,
to approach barefoot, in humility, in reverence and awe.
It is both seen and unseen.
Invisible we see you!

May you, in the wilderness of the countryside, or the city,
find a ‘thin place’ today, and be blessed.