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

 

Dragons And Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Words For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180310 WORDS FOR ALBAN EILER 2018 CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXThe Circle is turning, and in less than two weeks it will be the time of Alban Eiler as it’s known in Wales (which, translated from Welsh, means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’), otherwise known as the Spring equinox.

That day, Tuesday, 20 March 2018, is when the length of day and night, light and dark are of equal length, and thereafter we move slowly toward summer (in the northern hemisphere) when the sun climbs higher and days lengthen even more.

Alban Eiler is a time of balance, the half-way point in this season of Spring, and time to celebrate. And more so in ‘old’ cultures and farming and earth-based communities such as the ancient Celts, Druids and middle-eastern cultures of yesteryear and others, and even today where the acknowledgement and tracking of the seasons is vital to life and well-being.

In Wales, the grey and rugged, majestic mountains take on a grey-green hue now, and upon closer inspection many wild, spring flowers erupt in a joyful profusion upon them – and some flowers are ‘protected’ in Wales so that their exact location is a secret. And, springtime it maybe, but it (still) rains a lot if north Wales and clouds are a constant feature, but it is spring and ‘green’ makes another timely re-appearance, and everything changes, and, yes, it’s time to celebrate.

To celebrate this wonderful event, here’s some words and a song that you might consider using and/or adapting as a liturgy for Alban Eiler, for your own celebration. Ofcourse, you might like to use them (only) as poetry to supplement your litugy or non-liturgical ‘quiet time’ in marking the event, and that too is good. So do feel free to use some of the words below, adapting to suit your outlook or requirements.

Earth Blessing (adapted)

As Spring flowers grow and buds appear on many trees, this can be a time of reflection. After a long winter, Spring unfolds at the behest of the God of Green Hope, and blesses the Earth with a wonderful bounty, and so it’s a time of extreme gratitude, as well.

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

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

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

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

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

For Personal Renewal

For those celebrating by themselves, or indeed, in groups, a time of personal in-filling or ‘energising’ may be desirable, and the following may prove useful.

Lord of Springtime, Lord of All,
refresh us and awaken our senses.
Cleanse us inwardly,
and dispel the dust of resistance and old habits,
and fill us with your love and grace,
that the blessings you give us, we can give back to you
in eternal praise.

Alban Eiler Song: Nature’s Smile

A time of celebration wouldn’t be much of a celebration without a song. The following (and yes you can recite it as liturgy or read it as poem to complement what you might be doing to celebrate this time) is a song which can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’. It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Lord of the Spring we honour you,
we thank you for na-ture’s green,
(for) the Earth’s beauty no-ow seen.

Light and darkness dance together well,
in perfect, balanced humility,
in flower, plant and mighty tree.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

Sacred time as the moon rises high
New life comes from that which did die,
new birth comes to us in the by and by.

Wolf and lamb, lion and leopard, too
Shall live one day in sweet harmony
As nature moves , and the Circle turns.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

If you’re intrested in the tune that ‘works’ with these words, do check the link of Siuil a Ruin (as sung by Anúna) here.

And, Finally….

Meanwhile, the blessings of Alban Eiler be to you and yours, Tadhg.

Appendix

Technical stuff follows regarding the tune: The first few seconds of that video/music, on the above-mentioned link, is a preamble, and the tune for the first verse is from 16 seconds in, to 30 seconds; the second verse’s tune is from 31 seconds to 47 seconds; and the chorus’s (non- italicised above) tune is from 45 seconds to 58 seconds. It is best to use the above-mentioned timings/tune again, as a repetition for the abovementioned song’s next two verse and chorus, rather than let the video play on beyond 58 seconds. If all that is confusing, don’t worry, as I might even be persuaded to sing it for you. Do contact me, in that eventuality. But be warned, I am no John Denver!

 

 

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.

 

Liturgy For Alban Eilir, The Spring Equinox [Monday, 20 March 2017]

20170316 litrugy for alban eilir EPHEMERAIt’s now only a short time until the Spring equinox happens, 20 March – that time when day and night are of equal length, and thereafter we move slowly toward summer when the sun climbs higher and days lengthen even more. In Wales Spring Equinox is a ‘magical’ time, and is known as Alban Eiler, which means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’.

To celebrate this wonderful event, here’s some words that you might consider using and/or adapting as a Liturgy For Alban Eiler, for your own celebration

Earth Blessing:

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

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

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

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

(facing east)
Lord of the elements, ‘Three-Personned’ God, we praise you.

For Personal Renewal

Lord of Springtime, Lord of All,
refresh us and awaken our senses.
Cleanse us inwardly,
and dispel the dust of resistance and old habits,
and fill us with your love and grace,
that the blessings you give us, we can give back to you
in eternal praise.

End Of Day Liturgy

Praise to you, Mother-Labourer of All,
who has birthed all creation and who re-creates.
I/We rest now with you,
Maker and loving Sustainer of all your children, and
I/We ask you to enfold me/us,
and all those on my/our heart/s.
Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyce Kilmer

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Frost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upon a country tree.

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

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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

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

Tadhg’s Ephemera: The Moon Of Winds: 12 March 2017

20170310 moon of winds1 EPHEMERAIt’s that time again. I love full moons, and this Sunday, 12 March 2017 sees the  third full moon of the secular year.

‘You have to be able to appreciate these things. How many people can say it was a full moon last night and appreciate it?’ Sandy Miller

Moon: This full moon will be in the constellation of Virgo, on the cusp of Leo, and in close proximity to the Virginids – a timely meteor shower that seems to originate (its radiant)  from the constellation of Virgo. The moon’s brightness, however, may ‘overpower’ the meteors (expect about 5-10 per hour) and dull the spectacle somewhat.

To those of (medieval) England this full moon was/is known as the Lenten moon, to others it was/is known as the Chaste moon, or the Fish moon. To ancient and latter-day Celts, Christian Celts, Druids like myself, many know it as the Moon of Winds.

The full moon will be very near the bright star, Alaraph, sometimes called Zawijah. The name ‘Zawijah’ comes from the Arabic phrase meaning ‘corner of the barking dog’. That star is slightly larger and more massive star than the Sun, and is comparatively metal-rich (that is, it has a higher composition of elements heavier than helium).

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

Planets: And, a few days later, for those interested in the planets, there is a conjunction of the moon with the planet Jupiter in the very early hours of 15 March.

Story: There are a number of fables and myths about the moon. Here’s one story from the Buddhist tradition, and which is prevalent in China, Japan, South and North Korea.

This tale is about a monkey, an otter, a jackal, and a rabbit who decided to extend charity on the day of the next full moon, believing they would receive a great reward. At that time, an old man met them and begged for food.

When the old man asked the monkey for food, it gathered fruit from a tree and gave it to him. The otter collected fish and presented them to the old man. The jackal stole a lizard and a pot of milk, and gave them to the old man. When the old man encountered the rabbit, the rabbit was embarrassed and upset that he only knew who to gather grass and believed the old man wouldn’t welcome that as food. Immediately, the rabbit threw himself into a fire  – self-sacrifice, to provide the old man with some tasty food. However, the rabbit didn’t die, and wasn’t even burned!

The old man then revealed himself to be Sakra – the embodiment of the Universe or Heaven – and blessed the rabbit. In honour of the rabbit’s intention, Sakra drew the likeness of the rabbit on the Moon for all to see, for all eternity.

Though we look up at the full moon and see a benevolent face looking down at us, many Asian people see that rabbit. Interestingly, China’s first probe to land on the moon in December 2013 was called Yutu, translated as Jade Rabbit.

‘Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!’ Psalm 148:3, The Book

Celebration: You may want to celebrate this full moon. I do, and I’d heartily recommended it.  In many ways the best way to celebrate and/or give thanks is to go out and gaze in awe and appreciated the wonder of that full moon, and the One who made it, in the stillness of the night. But, in addition,  you might like to:

  • say a few words out loud or to yourself – perhaps one of the phrases/quotes in this article, in gratitude, or
  • remember a loved one who has passed-on, and bless them, and remember good things about them, or
  • send up good-thoughts or a prayer about an upcoming event or for someone known to you that might need energy, expecting the One Behind  It All to hear and respond.

Ofcourse, you might like to (re-)arrange a home altar, and indoors (or outside) have a more elaborate ceremony. There are some occasions when this is good, but don’t feel that you have to do something elaborate. In many cases I prefer simplicity – realising that elaborate and wordy ceremonies can sometimes detract from simple, dare I say ‘child-like’, wholesome and deep praise of the moment.

‘When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.’ Mohandas Gandhi

 

The Elements: The Wind Whispers

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

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

And the main element of spring is air/wind.

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

– oOo-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-oOo-

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

 

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

Ephemera: Imbolc: Liturgy & Ritual: Ideas & Resources

20170127-imbolc3-ephemeraThe circle is turning, and Imbolc is coming ever closer. that time of the ushering in of Spring, a new season, a new start – sometimes called St Brigid’s Day or Candlemas.

Having looked at the meaning of this festival in brief – see here, and having thought about ideas that you might like to do to celebrate Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day or Candlemas in a meal – see here, today (in this third instalment) we look at a few ideas regarding ritual and liturgy (words and deeds) to celebrate this wonderful event, for you to consider. Do adapt this to suit your circumstances, and make this a truly memorable ‘fire festival’.

Words

The following are a few poems or prayers that you might like to use in some form of rite (which can be elaborate, or used at the time of a celebratory meal (with words spoken either before, during or after), or  read them to yourself as you consider the turning of the wheel, and Winter becomes Spring.

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

And/Or

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).

And/Or

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Song of Solomon 2:11-12  The Book

And/Or

The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the [c]feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
‘Take courage, fear not..’

Isaiah 35:1-4a The Book

And/Or

Praise to you, Oh Caring one,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
feisty, pure and natural
with your white singular unbroken focus,
Maid-Mother to us all,
praise to you.

Tess Ward (Anglican Priest), The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

And/or

A sleeping world emerges to new possibilities,
weakening winter’s icy grip,
and birdsong and bleating lamb
announce to all the promise
that in due season
creation bursts into life.
And whilst leaves that fell in winter
lie upon the ground,
soon to feed the earth
in nature’s wondrous cycle
of death and rebirth,
within the tree is a stirring of new growth
For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth.

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. Used with permission. Click here to go to originating webpage.

And/or

We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For lengthening days
And sunlight’s warmth upon the soil
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For a snowdrop’s beauty
Reflecting its Creator’s artistry
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
We rejoice in the promise of Spring

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. Used with permission. Click here to go to originating webpage.

Deeds/Action

Imbolc is a great time to start new things, and as hinted above in ancient sacred text, Springtime is not only a good time to reflect, give thanks and look forward in hope, but it’s also a good time to ‘do’ something – for yourself and others. So, here’s a few activities you might like to consider:

Fire: An Imbolc tradition, being a ‘fire festival’ was to light a fire! Fires celebrated not only Brigid, and the returning power of the sun, and in the Christian calendar, Candlemas is the time when when candles were lit for Virgin Mary and/or to signify the Christ-child as the Light of the world. A brazier might be inappropriate now, but why not light a candle (or several throughout the evening celebration, a short time of reciting poems and/or prayers)?

Water: Imbolc was also a time for visiting a spring or a well, to both purify onself and bring fertility to our dreams. Indeed, Well dressing (also once known as well flowering) was regularly practised in rural England. Then, wells, springs or other water sources were decorated with designs created from flower petals. So, why not set out to visit a riiver, stream, or well, nearby? Make it a special occasion.

House Spring Clean: Now is a great time to spring clean your home, usually undertaken before Imbolc Eve. It’s a wonderful time to get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home and stagnating the energy. But, don’t see it as a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. Take your time. This, too, can be a holy acivity!

Trees: Why not plant, or fund the planting of a tree? There is a great need for each of us to be wise stewards of nature, and here’s an opportunity to do something practical. For a web charity link for a tree-planting/forests preservation group in the UK, see here.

Make Brigid’s Cross: This is ideal for those artistically included, and if you can’t find any rushes to ‘weave’ together you can use drinking straws (and it will still mean something deep as it’s the intention that counts). Details of making a Brigid’s Cross is here.

Conclusion

So, there you have – the third and concluding part of the Imbolc 2017 articles. I hope you’ve found this all useful.

Whatever you do, my prayers and thoughts are with you and those whom you love. May you (all) have a happy, deep and blessed Imbolc. Tadhg

 

Ephemera: Imbolc: Celebration Meal Ideas To Mark The Festival

20171016-imbolc2-ephemeraSo, Imbolc, that time of entering into the season of Spring is almost upon us [2 February], and here’s a few ideas to really celebrate that event, that festival in food, whether you’re thinking of entertaining for a few people or celebrating by yourself on that day, especially if you’ve never celebrated Imbolc before in this way.

Which day?
So, choose which time of the day (and I prefer evening), and then which day you’ll be timecelebrating Imbolc. Remember, some using the ancients’ way of reckoning the calendar would understand the start of Imbolc as happening on the evening of 1 February, by our modern view, rather than 2 February. Yes, to the ancients the new day starts in the evening (before). You get to chose.

But, it’s about celebration, so let’s plan to make it a time to enjoy.

Outline
And because it’s a celebration, what follows are a few ideas – not recipes – of things you can incorporate into you main meal of the day (or other meals, as you feel appropriate).

food-bread-1770432_960_720You might like to do the whole meal as an Imbolc celebration, or just one part of it. If in doubt, or if this in the first festival celebration, I’d suggest you plan part of the meal as a celebration. On a number of occasions I’ve had a normal meal, and ‘focused’ on part of the meal (to celebrate the event) and bought a special bread for after the meal. A remembrance of bread being a staple food, the Bread of life?

Also, because we’re all busy people I’ve suggested below, small but significant ways and items that can be shop-bought for convenience sake (though if you have time to bake and make, why not…but you don’t have to do that to celebrate and make the event really meaningful). But, to do that, buy a few special things (even if they cost a few pence more – quantities don’t have to be gargantuan. Just token meaningful foods, ‘treats’, maybe, if the item is really expensive!)

The suggestions below are just that: suggestions. They are ideas to try something different, to experiment with something that you may not usually buy, and may be ‘richer’ in fats etc, but it is a celebration and a time to enjoy the moving into a new season. So, do ‘splash out’ and enjoy yourself, and try the following food ideas (unless, ofcourse, you’ve been otherwise advised (medically) or have an allergy, intolerance etc to the foods suggested. In all things, do follow medical advice and common-sense).

So, that said…let’s prepare to party.

Preparation
Whether it’s a meal for yourself or a few others, too, preparation can be fun, meaningful and easy to accomplish. If you’re not usually into formality or table lay-out I’d suggest having just one or two additional elements.

Candles! I love candles, and though they can be expensive, I’d suggest the simpler the candle, the better. One candle, lit, on a table looks great. Go for ‘minimalist’ if you wish – it can, in many circumstances, make it even more meaningful.

candleBecause the sun would still be low in the sky and light in the evening would be dim, and because early Romans believed candlelight would scare away evil, and because Jesus is the light of the world, candles were specifically used (for all or some of those reasons) at this time – hence in many churches it’s Candlemas. So, candles are quite apt and meaningful.

Later, as you gaze upon that lit candle, remember, the sun rising higher in the sky and Spring returning, new life, a ‘chasing away’ of the dark and light dawning, and ponder on growth, good things, and hope.

flowersNature on display! I really like those displays that contain berries and fir cones etc and they look great as a table display. If, however, you have children who may think they’re edible, then how about a bowl of nuts and fruit (containing strawberries, oranges, apples, bananas etc)?  And, the latter are a great desert. Or, what about a small bunch of inexpensive spring flowers! Both can look great, and act as a great reminder of gratitude to the earth, to nature, to the Source of All behind it.

For this event, celebrate with foods that honour the earth, hearth and home, such as milk products vegetables, bread etc, and these are incorporated in the suggestions below.

Breakfast ideas
Milk: Imbolc is about milk – think of baby ewes being born and their mother’s milk flowing to nurture them. It’s a time of fertility, new life. So, why not something different, milk-wise to pour over your breakfast cereal?

milkYou might like to try full-fat milk instead of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk if one of the latter two are your normal diet. I know this seems like awful and unhealthy advice – but it’s a treat to celebrate the festival, and only for one day. I confess, for that day I intend to indulge (and for one day only I’ll be buying a bottle of Jersey milk. Great for coffee!). But, to encourage healthy eating you might like, instead, to try organic or lactose-free milk for the day? Whatever you do, make it special to you, try something different and really enjoy it.

How about yoghurt?
Fruit with cereal?
Fairtrade coffee?

How about free-range or ‘happy’ eggs for an omelette? Maybe, even a cheese omelette. It’s a great way to start the day.

Main meal ideas
For starters to a main meal you could have a vegetable soup to celebrate the event – to remember the simple, natural things in life – something cheese-based, or combine the two with cheese soup! Sainsbury’s stock some really nice soups, such as:

  • Spring vegetable soup,
  • Broccoli & Stilton soup,
  • Mediterranean Vegetable & Balsamic soup,
  • Tomato and Basil soup,
  • Tomato, Lentil & Red Pepper soup (my favourite) and others.

food-fishFor the main meal, this again, is personal choice. I’m not a vegetarian, but my special meal at this current time, and one that I’ll use as a main meal for this event is fish. I love lemon sole, and especially if that includes sweet potato ‘chips’ (or ‘fries’ to some, though these are even-cooked), onion rings, and lashings of mixed vegetables (to include peas, haricot-vert beans, broccoli, spring onions, and sweetcorn). And, maybe, a creamy white (cheesy?) sauce for the fish?

And For Desert/Sweet ideas
Also, for after the meal, why not put some cheeses out with those cracker-type dry biscuits, and some real butter? Okay, maybe some might go for some kind of lighter spread as we’re all cholesterol conscious, but enjoy it. You might like to try a few cheeses, such as:

  • cheddar
  • goats cheese
  • emmental
  • French brie
  • Roquefort
  • Camembert
  • Stinking Bishop (is a favourite, and recommended to try if you’re in the UK)
  • Caerphilly cheese (Last, but by no means least. Caerphilly cheese is a hard, crumbly white cheese that originated in the area around Caerphilly in Wales. I’m biased, I know, but I’ll be buying this.)

cheeseBread is also another great, traditional food to include in your Imbolc meal.. Use it with your sandwiches for lunch, maybe? It can be used in the main meal, throughout the meal, but I like to use it, especially at an event such as this, after the main meal (and with that cheese, later).

And then bread takes on an almost magical existence. For just a few minutes the bread is cut, a little butter or spread is added, each person takes a little, and all eat together. Communion? Eucharist. It ‘works’ even if you do this by yourself – as somewhere in the world others are doing the same and are ‘connected’ with you  in that act of ritual and reverence!

As you eat it by yourself or with others, it’s a great way of remembering the bounty of the earth, all those that have been involved in bringing it to your table, and ofcourse it’s a great time of expressing gratitude to the Giver of All. Take time to ponder.

But what type of bread? Because  time seems to run by so quickly, I usually buy some shop-bought bread, but I always seek out something rather special at times like this. I’d suggest:

  • wholemeal, organic bread
  • Irish soda bread
  • traditional Welsh bread, bara brith, or Irish barmbrack bread, and the latter is also sold in Sainsbury (both are favourites of mine, and have the consistency almost of a fruit cake which you can spread it with butter – especially warm butter, so it can rightly be regarded  as a desert, too!).

Finally
Throughout the meal, maybe between courses, or at the beginning and at the end, it’s good to pause, to give thanks, and look forward to the Spring, the season of growth and new opportunities in nature, and in our lives!

Some may like to recite a poem or prayer at certain times, and more about those ideas will be covered in tomorrows article on: ‘Your Powerful Imbolc Ritual & Liturgy: Ideas & Resources’.

So, plan a great event, enjoy it, and take your time. We all rush around far too much, and here’s an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the simple, natural things in life as we yet again mark the season’s change, and give thanks.

loveBut, do remember, the abovementioned are only ideas, and even if you cannot afford anything but the simplest of meals without the trimming of candles etc, the Source of All will not be overawed by your food or table display, won’t be looking to mark your efforts out of ten, but will be gazing at you with unbounded love! You matter. So, enjoy Imbolc.

 

 

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