The Telling Place In The Age Of Binary

20170921 THE TELLING PLAE IN AN AGE OF BINARYThere was a time when I was a child, when my friends and I would take a short walk to Clackitt’s wood, stay out as late as we could – dependant on our ages and parents’ wishes – and tell each other wild stories. We would scare ourselves, and we loved it. As we sat on felled trees, someone would start the story.

‘Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.’ Oscar Wilde

It might be the story of the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, a creature that is said to resemble a giant frog, but with a stinger on the end of its tail, and bat wings instead of front legs. Another might remind us that it would part-fly and part-jump across lakes and land, hence its name (in English), the Water Leaper. Someone would start the story, and someone would add to that fragment of information, and sometimes someone would go back in the story to add or correct someone’s memory about the story. For instance, someone might remind the person who had just spoken that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was, infact, said to be the size of a cow. Oh, how we scared ourselves, and became more alert to the noises and scuffles in the undergrowth. Could it be that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was lurking nearby, watching us? As children, we loved it.

‘The imagination of early childhood has no limits. This is why children are fascinated by stories. A story has permission to go anywhere….The child rarely experiences the story as an observer. The child enters the story, it experiences the drama from within.’ John O’Donohue

Now much older, I’m sitting around a garden table in my ever-so-small, but greatly appreciated garden in London, with a few friends. This evening we’ve already shared stories of myth and magic, sometimes fragments of memories of a friends’ childhood, and sometimes more recent events, events that actually happened to someone we knew, and other stories that were fictional.

Stories are important. And more so in our electronic, computerised, fast-paced age.

The ancients, those Celts and Druids of old, knew of the benefits of stories. They would regularly meet around the village fire, in the evenings and tell stories that were, perhaps sometimes of individuals around the fire, or of ancient heroes and their ancestors, or of stories of cosmic proportions eg creation stories and/or of the tribe’s origin.

‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.’ Elie Wiesel

‘Do you remember when we all went fishing, and Tadhg fell in?’, one of my friends around the garden table said. They described a snapshot in time of yesteryear. I’m beyond being embarrassed by that event – yes it did happen, and I was only eight years old at the time, and I was, and still am surrounded by friends. And then another would share another fragment of memory. ‘And, yes,’ they remarked, ‘and when he was pulled him out he wouldn’t let go of the fishing rod. What a great fisherman!’.

And, bit by bit, these fragments of memory would be put together by individuals in the group to make a kind of cine film of activity, if you can imagine the old days when a movie was a long length of celluloid made up of individual frames of still pictures.

The ancients new the value of story-telling, when they met together at Telling Places. There, fragments of memory were woven together, and ‘bits’ become ‘whole’, and all added to the complete story, and all listeners were included. Fragments of memory, separate and ‘isolated’ were re-membered. The opposite of dismembered. ‘Re-joined’. Put back together again. And in community, too.

‘We keep stories alive because to re-member is to put broken pieces back together. We keep learning from stories how to make things whole.’ Mark Nepo

Telling our individual stories, or of those of our ancestors, and such stories can take the form of sharing the mundane (as if anything is mundane), of what happened a few days ago. Ofcourse, if something unusual happened, that would make a wonderful story to share with friends. But, every aspect of your life is important, and able to be shared, as your story minute by minute becomes part of the fabric of the universe and transcends time itself. Your story matters.

‘You didn’t think I would let go of a fishing rod that took me five months
pocket money to buy? I retorted to my friends. We all laughed. ‘And, I still have that rod!’

‘Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.’ Joel 1:3, The Book

Story forms community, it brings individuals into the group, it enables us to see the ‘whole picture’, very essential in an age that likes to fragmentise information eg three-point sermons all beginning with the letter Q! Stories heal, bind, enable depth, encourage laughter and other deep emotions, they alter and clear our perception, challenge and can comfort us, and cause us to wonder at The Source of All.

‘It is not by accident that the Native American medicine men put the questions to the sick who were brought to them: When was the last time you sang? When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you told your story? When was the last time you listened to the story of others?’ Mark Nepo.

And so, one of the things on my list to consider on my imminent visit to Iona, is to think deeply about story, our society, and how, as latter-day Celts and Druids we can give more weight and opportunity to the telling of stories, and encourage groups, faith groups and others to have periodic Telling places, and reap immense benefits.

It’s now late. My friends and I are still around the garden table, wine bottles empty, and we’re still telling stories, and eating the last of the cheese and biscuits. I couldn’t let my watery encounter go without adding, ‘And besides, I didn’t fall in,’ I quipped, ‘I was pulled in by the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, the Water Leaper, which was the size of a cow’. I laughed. They laughed. And as our Telling Place impromptu evening came to an end, it felt that as a group we were closer than ever to each other. Sharing. Laughing. Joy. Affirmation. Inclusion. Community. Love.

‘Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.’ Don Miguel Ruiz

 

Perceiving Anew: Seeing Through A Glass Darkly: 1 To Catch A Tiger…

20170906 PERCEIVING ANEW SEEING THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY 1Every so often there is talk about DNA advances, prehistory and the idea that some scientists have some of using the preserved DNA of the extinct mammoth. The thought goes that, although the mammoth DNA is incomplete it might be possible to use ‘bits’ of current-day elephant DNA to fill in the gaps. In theory, you might then end up with a living-breathing elephant-mammoth hybrid, but it could be the nearest thing to a living mammoth that has not existed for the last five thousand years.

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. (The voice of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings (movie))’

For some (few) years there has been a revival in all things Celtic and Druidic, and long may it continue. For through such passionate beliefs of people from all ages and walks of life, will come a greater community spirit, a greater appreciation and protection of nature, and a great appreciation of the things of the soul and spirit, and of spirits, elementals and the like, and a renewal of all that is good, wholesome and holy. and, the world needs it, fast.

But, the world has changed from the heyday of the Druidic society of yesteryear and much has been lost. The Celts, the Druids were a story-telling community and the passing on of traditions and history was done orally. There are gaps.

Some try academia to fill in those gaps – much like using elephant DNA with mammoth DNA, and ofcourse this is right to try (academia, that is). It will take us so far, but it will not take us all the way.

Those that pin all their hopes on academia to fill in the gaps will find huge blanks, still.

Nevertheless, academic study as one tool amongst several is to be encouraged. The ‘challenge’, however, in academic argument is that proponents of it might think it is the only way, and also fall into the ‘trap’ of using Greek and modern-day dualistic thought (eg black and white, right and wrong, left and right, I’m right and you’re wrong etc) to advance their understanding of a non-dualistic culture. It cant be done.

To catch a tiger, you have to think like a tiger.

‘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)

The greater the culture is technologically-advanced, the more likely its people are to ‘see’ through dualistic eyes, and the more likely to miss the point.

It has been suggested that to fill in the gaps in Celtic/Druidic stories, understanding, liturgy and ritual, perhaps memory is needed. The kind of ‘cellular’, ancestor-linked memory that can be ‘tapped’ through meditation (at various places), through ‘thin-place’ encounters, through the Caim, through intuition, or through dreams, prayer or imagination etc. I think there is some (great) mileage in this.

‘Pass it on to your children, and from your children to their children, and from their children to the following generation.’ Joel 1.3, The Book

Then, one places oneself in the path of the ancient-future memory-stream of the ancestors, and those stories of old, knowledge and wisdom are re-kindled in our hearts, and come alive in our daily living and daily practices, to be told and shared.

‘I believe that there is a place where our vanished days secretly gather. The name of that place is Memory.’ (John O’Donohue).

To the purist and the academic this is nonsense, and yet this is the very way it was done by the very culture the purists and academics wish to know more about. To find out more about the Celts and Druids of yesteryear, to rediscover their ways, one need only to enter into Celtic/Druidic culture, ‘philosophy’, beliefs and practices, today, and many are doing just that. And, benefitting.

The wise amongst you will quickly realise that this will mean that I will perceive memories of the ancients differently to you. I may rediscover parts of the gap that are different to the gaps you ‘recover’; and we may even be at odds over some things if we compare (if we were to ‘see’ things from a dualistic, modern approach). But, why resort to current-day perception and understanding when dealing with an ancient culture?

Theirs was a culture where truth was not contained in a science manuals, not catalogued, cross-referenced or even written down, but it flowed, was debated and told as stories around the village camp fire. And, it didn’t matter if their were lose or ragged ends, or various versions of the same story.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

For instance, take some of the books of the Hebrew Testament. Dualists or academics will scratch their heads as they discover that the books are not in chronological order. To ‘moderns’ they should be! That’s the way they would appear on a modern-day bookshelf, after all. However, to the ancients, the book order was decided by the length of each book – starting with the shortest books first (or, was it the longest book, first), and ‘it worked’ for them. And, when we hear the stories and legends of (Saint) Brigit, sometimes she’s firmly placed at the end of the fifth century, and then in other stories is described as a ‘nanny’ to the baby Jesus, five hundred years earlier! The ancients would have known about this ‘discrepancy’ and not batted an eyelid. The point is, scientific understanding and dualism was not important to the ancients, indeed, it was unknown. To them, the stories and the benefits it wrought to the village and individuals, the moral and deep spiritual meaning, and the comfort it brought was most important, was paramount.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

‘Celtic spirituality is a kind of somatic archaeology, a study of unearthing the deep resources of spirit within ourselves by accessing the wisdom, power, and inherent knowledge of the body. We have largely been taught to ignore the body and the deep resources of spirit within ourselves’. The Mist-Filled Path, Frank MacEowen

The Child And The Beach: A Story Of Encouragement

20170725 THE CHILD AND THE BEACH A STORY OF ENCOURAGEMENTI always like feedback from the articles that I write, and love constructive and encouraging words. Over the last few days it has been heart-warming to read comments and emails – responses that underline that ‘it starts with us’, ‘we can contribute to the fabric of the universe, we matter, you matter, matter matters, and then someone mentioned one of my favourite words (well, two words), that is, tukkun olam. I love the concept. It has many broad and deep meanings, but the one that is in my mind now is that of you and I ‘repairing’ or ‘completing’ the world. Wonderful.

With that in mind, and you know how I love stories, here’s a story I found and mentioned some time ago but it bears repeating because it is so true, so profound and yet so simple, and it is so encouraging.

The ancient Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids of old would have sat around the evening’s camp fire  and told stories to each other – the ‘telling place’. Some of these stories would be of their tribal history, great leaders and heroes of the past, perhaps for amusement, and sometimes the stories would be great cosmic stories of creation, and sometimes stories would contain a deep moral buried within and which the hearer would have to discern. Latter-day Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids still tell wonderful stories, and here’s a meaningful story just for you:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young child in the distance, seemingly playing.

As the man drew nearer he noticed that the child kept bending down, picking something up, and then running to the edge of the sea, and throwing it into the water. Time and again the child kept hurling things into the ocean and then ran back.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the child was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time the child would run to the water’s edge and throw them back into the sea.

The man asked the child what they were doing, and the child replied,” I am throwing these washed-up starfish back into the ocean, Mister, or else they will die through lack of oxygen.

“But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach alone, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly save them all.”

The child smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as they threw it back into the sea, gleefully shouted, “I know, but I can make a difference to this one.”

Little by little, in large and small ways, we can make a difference. Never give up doing good.

 

Enjoying The Journey One Step At A Time: Celtic Thought

20170721 ENJOYING THE JOURNEY ONE STEP AT A TIMESomeone once said that when we point the finger in judgement on others, there are three fingers pointing back. With that is mind, I sat on the covered porch at the back of the house today, having a mid-day snack and listening to the radio. The weather wasn’t too good today: the temperature’s had dropped, it was cloudy and raining. But, this is to be expected. It’s Wales.

Did you know that in this part of Wales it rains for about 330 days each year – albeit light drizzle and sometimes during the night and so it’s not noticeable, but it rains a lot. And I love it. We get our fair share of heat and sunshine, too, but at some point throughout a twenty-four hour period it will rain.

Listening to the radio, and as is common these days, it seemed doom and gloom was everywhere. I know there are many good things happening, and that if we just listen to the mass media our views can be skewed, and we can easily end up with ‘mean world’ syndrome – thinking that everything is horrid.

‘If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.’ (Rainer Maria Rilke)

As the radio newscaster talked about public borrowing, the rise in inflation, the rise in crime, and the uncertainties of ‘Brexit’, and the ineptitude of some politicians, my mind wandered as to possible solution. Ofcourse, the answer was for them to ‘sort themselves out’, ‘they’ should be more pro-active, ‘that group’ should desist, if only the government would do ‘this’ or ‘that’, and so my thoughts raced. The fault was them! Not me, ofcourse. At least that was one train of thought.

I came across an interesting story – and you know I love stories – and here’s one by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I’d like to share with you, and it’s one that made me sit up and think. It goes like this:

A scientist who ‘wrestled’ with some of the world’s toughest problems was resolute in finding the means to reduce them. He would spend so many, many days in his laboratory searching answers for the challenges that he was working on.

One day his seven year old son invaded his sanctuary wanting to help him with his work. The scientist, nervous by the interruption, asked his son to go play somewhere else. But, his son protested, and so his father thought of something that would keep the child busy.

Suddenly, he found just what he needed. A magazine with a map of the world on one of its pages.

With a pair of scissors he cut the map into pieces and together with a roll of tape gave it to his son telling him, “Since you like puzzles, I am going to give you the world all cut up for you to repair without anyone’s help.’

He calculated that it would take his son about 10 days to reconstruct the map.
However, after only a few hours, he heard his son’s voice calling him, “Daddy, Daddy I’ve finished.’

At first his father didn’t believe him. He thought that it would be impossible that at his age he was able to reconstruct a map of the world that he had never seen before. He looked at his son’s handiwork, and the pieces had, indeed, been put back in the right places.

How was that possible? How could a child do this? The father dumbfounded asked his child, “My child you did not see what the map looked like, so how did you do it?’

‘Daddy,’ the child answered,  ‘I didn’t know what the world looked like, but when you took out the map from the magazine to cut it, I saw that on the reverse side there was the figure of a man. So I turned the pieces over and step by step began to reconstruct the man that I had seen and did know. When I was able to reconstruct the man I then turned the page over and saw that I had fixed the world.’

Ofcourse, the ‘blaming others’ train of thought, so easy to do, decreased and another train of thought sprang to mind. If we want to change the world, if we want to ‘fix the world’, then we need to ‘reconstruct the man’ (or woman) – that is, we need to start with ourselves.

This is not to say that we berate ourselves, not to say we have to be tough on ourselves, but that gently, lovingly, progressively, slowly we see ourselves as ‘a work in progress’, and daily make positive changes to grow, mature and be transformed. We don’t need to wait until we’ve made it or are perfect, and so we can start right now (if we haven’t already done so). And, it needn’t be a chore. There is much to do that is a delight, and other things that only you can do. Yes, you have a calling (to do, or to discover), and once we’re on that ‘journey’ of making a change in our lives we’ll also find that we’re making changes in other peoples lives and making a difference in the world.

‘Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.’
Marianne Williamson

What kind of difference will depend on you and I, and the part of the world we live in. But, I do believe we start with ourselves, and then by what we plan to do a major change will take place in the world, bit by bit, one step at a time. And it doesn’t stop there. I do believe, even without our knowing it, almost by ‘osmosis’ our lifestyle will ‘rub off on others’ and by just living that lifestyle positive changes around us will happen.

Haven’t you even been in someone’s company and they’ve just exuded life and love even without saying a word? By them just being close, a positive effect is wrought. Haven’t you been to a church service, a Druid ritual or listened to a piece of music and been inspired to ‘do’ something or to ‘be’? Or, it could be for us to pause, periodically, or stop, or surrender, perhaps? These are glimpses of energy – ouranic energy – portals to the Other, and the Spirit flows, and opportunities that do a wonderful work in us ripple outward in observed and unobserved ways. But, it starts with us, doesn’t it? All of us!

‘Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ (Revelation 21:5, part. The Book)

So, as I sat on the porch listening to the radio the predominant thought was then, that it has to start with us, and bit by bit, one by one, slowly the world changes for the better. It sounds naïve, but what have we to lose. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

As the child in that story said: ‘When I was able to reconstruct the man (or woman) I then turned the page over and saw that I had fixed the world.’ A new, transformed world is coming. Indeed, it has already started growing within this one, and it starts with us. But, don’t beat yourself up. We’re a work in progress. Enjoy the journey.

Celtic Mythological Beasts: Bestiary: Y Is For Ysgithyrwyn

20170329 Y IS FOR YSGITHRYWYN MYTHThere is a wonderful story from ancient times, full of pathos and meaning – the legend of the Ysgithyrwyn (pronounced ‘iss-gith-thigh-rin). It means ‘white tusk’.

It was common, once, to tell the story of the Ysgithyrwyn to children. The beast was a monstrous wild boar, with huge, gleaming white tusks, and a body, so it is said, to be the size of a cow. It was a  ferocious creature that roamed the wilds of north Wales, and some said it had magic powers, others said that capturing it would confer a wish, and others said that it was an just old boar that had a ‘charmed’ life. It was a beast, however, that one should not approach.

But, seeing it from afar was much safer, and the story I was told was such that if you saw it from a distance, then it would bring about a marriage between you and the one you were thinking of, your loved-one.

The reason for this is embedded in ancient myth, in that story from another time, beloved by Celts and Druids, and others of old.

The story, recorded in Arthurian legend, tells of a young warrior, Culhwch, who is madly in love with Olwen. The problem was that Olwen’s father, a giant of a king called  Ysbaddaden, would only allow the marriage if Culhwch succeeded in overcoming thirty-nine difficult tasks. A series of quests. The most difficult of these was the  killing Ysgithyrwyn, the wild boar, taking a tusk from it, and then fashioning it into a razor, and then for King Caw to shave the head of Ysbaddaden.

Culhwch succeeded all the tasks except the killing of the boar. After many attempts, Culhwch eventually exhausted the beast, succeeded in capturing the beast, and it was killed by Aedd. The tusk of the boar was fashioned into a razor, Ysbaddaden received his haircut and Culhwch was able to marry his beloved Olwen.

Even today, it is said that if you go out into the wilds of north Wales – not far from where I live – that on the night of the full moon, you might catch sight of the beast from a distance. If you do, you may be as fortunate as Culhwch. Legend says that if you spy the beast at this time – but don’t get too close – then the person you’re thinking of, and love, will indeed by the one that you will marry.

Ofcourse, it’s just an old tale, but you never really know about these old stories. The promise of marriage if you see the beast might just have some power still left in it, and that was exactly so for one couple known to me.

 

 

Creatures Of Myth & Magic: The Old Story Of The Gwyber & What We Can Learn From It.

20170207-the-old-story-of-the-gwyber-story-and-myth-1Last evening was one of those evenings, with nothing on tv, and I’d finished part of reading a book and come to a natural juncture in it, that I found myself at a loose end. What to do? So I reached for one of my grandmother’s old journals. Like me, she journalled a lot, and this particular  old and dusty journal of hers was probably one of a few that I had never really read in depth.

Placing in on the small table in front of the armchair, it fell open, roughly midway, and there was the story about the Gwyber. My grandmother was a prolific story-teller, and used to tell me and my brother amazing stories about some of the forgotten creatures of Wales. Interestingly, there was always a moral attached to the tale. Isn’t that they way with ancient story and myth?

And, so I began to read another of her stories about this area of Wales, a place of myth and ‘magic, a place of ancient Christians meeting in the woods (for safety),  of Druids, Pagans, of Cunning folk, and mythical creatures such as the Gwyber.

Ah, the Gwyber. When reading it, I bore in mind those stories from ancient times. stories about: Angels singing at the dawn of creation; Jonah and the sea creature, the sun standing still, George and the dragon, the ‘Dyfed triangle’ – the latter being very current. Did they really happen? What meaning, morals or wisdom do they impart to us today? And so, in that light, I read on:

My Grandmother wrote: Now, the Gwyber (sometimes spelled ‘Gwiber’) is a most dangerous creature that you would not want to encounter, but if, by happenstance you did come across one, you should slowly back off, never losing eye-contact.

Gwyber is Welsh for viper or adder, and though those are small snakes, the Gwyber is more. It can travel on land or in water, and it can move silently. It eats fish, and when it is really hungry it will slither onto dry land or swoop down from the sky and devour small sheep and other animals.

Actually, although many believe the Gwyber resembles a dragon (and dragons are wonderful and beautiful creatures), the Gwyber is really a much-scaled, scarred wyvern, and some have feathered wings. [If you want to know the difference(s) between a dragon and a wyvern, see my article here].  Now, the Gwyber is really a cross between a long snake and a wyvern, and it stands about 7 feet tall (2 meters), is green or grey in colour, and is easily camouflaged, virtually unseen. Some say they can actually become invisible.

Oh, and you should know, they have long teeth; long, long fangs which drip poisonous venom and which can kill. It can spit that venom, too.

There is a story, that a long time ago local residents of Penmachno [just ten miles south-west from where I live a Capel Curig], the villagers and farmer were being harassed by the Gwyber, a most monstrous beast who devoured the villagers livestock, and so they offered a large sum of money to anyone who could kill the foul beast.

Up stood a young man by the name of Owen Ap Gruffydd. Owen, who lived nearby but in the mountains did his research and visited a local wise man called Rhys Ddewin who told him that his chances of defeating the Gwyber were non-existent, and that he would receive a fatal bite from the creature. Owen left, depressed and greatly worried.

The following day, Own visited Rhys Ddewin for advice, again, but this time Owen was dressed as a vagrant. He told the wise man of his plan, and Rhys Ddewin , again told him, that he would lose the battle, fall, and suffer a broken neck. Owen left, even more depressed, and even more worried.

The day after that, Owen went back to the wise man, enquired about his chances of killing the creature. Owen was dressed, now, like a miller. Rhys Ddewin, freely gave him advice about the Gwyber, and concluded that the young miller would die by drowning.

Owen could bear it no more, and pulled of his miller-worker’s disguise, and became angry with Rhys Ddewin. ‘Three times I’ve visited you, Rhys Ddewin, and each time you’ve given me a different prediction regarding my own demise’, Owen shouted.

Rhys Ddewin just smiled sadly and said, ‘We will see. Time will tell’.

Owen was a young man, fearless, and maybe a wee bit stubborn, and he ran out of Rhys Ddewin’s cottage at Penmachno, and set off down the alley in search of the Gwyber, to kill it.

The valley was steep, indeed, and as Owen was striding across some rocks, the Gwyber struck, swooping down from the sky, flapping its tremendous wings. Without warning, the Gwyber bit poor Own on the neck. Owen fought back bravely, and lashed out wildly with his sword. So wildly that Owen slipped on the rocks. He fell awkwardly, with such a force that he hit his head and he heard the most gruesome snap – like a branch breaking, as his neck broke. Owen rolled on those slippery rocks, and fell into the deep, fast-slowing river at the foot of the valley, and drowned.

When Owen’s lifeless body was discovered by his friends, they set off to kill the Gwyber. After several hours of searching, they found the Gwyber on the bank of the river, wounded, bloodied, exhausted, half-dead thanks to Owen’s battle with it, but not quite dead. With a blood-curdling scream the Gwyber lunged at them. They each let loose a hail of arrows, and the creature fell backwards, plunged into the river and was never, ever seen again.

The people of Penmachno were pleased that Owen and his friends, by working together, had killed the creature, but were saddened that the good fight had had an enormous cost to dear Owen.

Even to this day the people of Penmachno, it is said, rarely venture into the nearby national park at dusk – Gwydir national park – alone, for fear of encountering the Gwyber. Ah, the Gwyber! Ah, in Gwydir!

Celtic Thought: ‘Walking In Dark Times’. Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream

20170203-walking-in-dark-times-celtic-thought-jpgAnd in my dream, I dreamed that you and I were on a circuitous journey, sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. Life!

‘Not all those who wander are lost.’  J R R Tolkien

We walked on carefully. And as we walked, we suddenly found ourselves in a valley, but horrors abounded there. On either side of the narrow path was a quagmire of foul-smelling and bubbling mud that would afford no foothold if one fell into it. Putrid was the word that sprang to mind. It is said that many a good person lost his footing in this valley, fell into the swamp, and was never heard of again, having died a slow, painful and miserable death.

The path got narrower, and we had to walk behind each other, but in such a way as to link our arms to give ourselves greater stability. We moved along very slowly now, helping each other for fear of falling into the swamp. Dark, brooding, and menacing clouds hung over the valley, blotting out all sunlight. It seemed like twilight was descending, yet it was midday. If negativity could be felt, then it seemed all around us. Haunting us. We slowed our pace even more, took more care, and worked together.

The wind howled making a deafening noise, and we had to shout to each other even though we were so close. The wind distorted our voices. We could hardly recognise each others voice.

‘All who hate me whisper together against me; Against me they devise my hurt, saying, ‘A wicked thing is poured out upon him…’, Psalm 41:7-8a, The Book

Suddenly I heard a whisper in my ear, a low rasping kind of voice, ‘If you jump, Mr Christian, it will all be over and you won’t feel so miserable’, and then from my left side, as if coming out of the swamp I heard something – for it didn’t sound human – say, ‘You’re going the wrong way, turn back. It’s safer. Only difficulty lies ahead’.  From my right side, another gloating voice seemed to say, ‘Everybody is going the other way, you fool; only you are heading this way, and you’re all alone. Give up!’.

And, then you heard whispers – I could tell from your face. ‘You have to trust me, dear Druid. I’m right. You’re wrong. I’m your best friend, you know’, it said. ‘Now release your hands and go it alone. Your friend will be okay alone. Besides, they might trip and pull you into the swamp’ it continued. And, another guttural voice  said: ‘You’re journey is a waste of time. They won’t even let you in. Even as we speak they’re building a wall – you’ll be separated from your friend, forever’.

We carried on, helping each other, regardless, and holding tightly to each other, and gazing toward the horizon – sometimes seeing the glow of a light just below horizon.

‘Truth lies within a little and certain compass, but error is immense.’ Henry St. John

After what seemed like several hours, the clouds became lighter, the wind dropped, and the path grew wider. The voices could be heard, but only in the far distance. Almost leaving the valley, tired by the journey so far, upset by the whispers from the quagmire we sat down, exhausted – physically and mentally.

We looked back along the way we had come. In the distance we were grief-stricken to hear those evil whispers engaged in enticing others – such as Mr Worldly, Miss Gullible, and Mrs Easily-Fooled. One by one, and by no fault of their own, they fell into the swamp. But we knew there was nothing we could do at this moment but continue onward – such help for others would come later.

It was time to give thanks. We looked at each other, sat down, and a slight mist seemed to envelope us. A ‘thin place’? We wanted to light the candle to represent our gratitude at coming through that dark valley – which we later found out was aptly named ‘the valley of the shadow of death’. We spoke about who should pay homage first by lighting the candle and who should go second? We only had one candle, and each wanted to perform a ritual of thanks that darkness had been overcome by the Light.

We knew that if we hadn’t worked together, and kept focussed on the way ahead, we would have perished, and so we shared that candle – each of us alternating in giving gratitude to the Christ-Who-Is-All-In-All, and you to the Ubiquitous-Source-Of-All. We also shared a small meal, and laughed at having overcome, together.

‘Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.’ Maya Angelou

In the mist that sounded us, it seemed that we both could hear another whisper – not one of those rasping, evil whispers; but a lighter, melodic, uplifting voice this time, whispering the word ‘love’, ‘love’, ‘love’, over and over again. We laughed even more – realising that in the face of whispering lies from negative places, each person of (any) faith must work together for the good; and love, love, love really does conquer all, difficult though the times might be.

[With apologies to John Bunyan for ‘borrowing’ part of his work ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, and adapting it]

 

Journal: Three Mysterious Encounters In Clackitt’s Wood

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Have you ever had one of those ‘something is going to happen’ moments?’ It’s the kind of feeling of ozone or ‘electric’ in the air as a distant storm approaches, a good but also slightly unnerving feel of anticipation, an impending unknown.  I hope so, for then you can relate to how I felt last evening.

‘The greatest storms on our Earth break not in nature but in our minds!’ Mehmet Murat ildan

Last evening as I sat in the living room of my oh-so-cosy humble cottage – Tŷ Gwyn (meaning, the ‘white house) -in north Wales,  I had read two chapters of a most interesting book, and that was enough, and as their was nothing on tv, I sat there, a little listlessly.

A ‘call’ to get some exercise or at least leave the confines of the cottage beckoned from deep within. The more I sat there, the more this feeling grew to become an almost tangle ennui, a fidget,  an unmistakable  itch that just wouldn’t go away until I moved.

Deep within a voice spoke, and as if it were a memory, I was seemingly going to expect three words of wisdom, or three encounters, or three somethings. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I wasn’t even sure where that thought had originated.

And so I moved.

Hopeful Man…
Sometimes you just have to face what is coming. Sometimes we have a choice; sometimes we don’t.

Tonight, I had a choice, but deep within my soul there was a good-unease, a ‘call’ that just would not go away, and so, as comfortable as I was, I wanted to put myself in the path of what was coming.

‘Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.’ William Congreve

Moving to the back door located in a small boot room, off the kitchen, I  donned my outer gear, including my trusted wellington boots, and headed for the garden with a flashlight in hand. It was a cold, damp, and foggy out there, and the wind howled in the distance like a wailing bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’). It was about 10pm.

Walking down toward the bottom of the garden it grew darker, colder, more damp, and the fog grew thicker, freezing fog, causing visibility to drop from thirty feet to about ten feet. Just before the boundary of my garden the forest, wonderfully, encroaches, hiding a small rivulet. To me, this ‘watery companion’ is: Bach ac yn gyflym. <For more details from a previous article, see here>

Jumping over the rivulet, the forest become thicker, and technically I was now on the edge of Clackitt’s wood – my favourite local place an ancient and wild place, the haunt of yesteryear of Celts, Druids, Pagans and others, and latter-day ones, too; and a place full of mystery, full of ‘magick’.

I continued walking for many minutes, before spying the felled tree that always makes for a seat to ponder. I sat on it, and pondered. The fog was even thicker here, the temperature dropped, and my levels of expectancy rose. I had the feeling that I was supposed to just wait, and as I grew into that thought, so a calm and powerful peace came over me, a warm glow enveloping me, almost like being bathed in warm milk and honey. Tranquillity

Have you ever had that ‘remain-at-peace-whatever-happens’ feeling?

Wise Man…
I waited, and waited , and waited, and it grew darker, colder, more damp, and the quietness of  this ancient place was both comforting and unnerving. I waited, some more.

About an hour past when I heard footsteps in the distance coming my way. My heart rate quickened, until a dog appeared, and moments later its owner – a local farmer and friend appeared. here>

He is a ‘stout man’, ‘solid’ like a tree, but maybe carrying a few excess pounds (but, who isn’t?), semi-retired and with several sons who now do  much of the farm work for him. <For more details from a previous article, see here>

He let out a muted grunt, presumably of surprise, as I shone the light on him, and then on me to allay his fears. Recognising each other, he came closer, and then sat beside me. We didn’t talk for a while, and later, only sporadically as we took in the solitude of the place. He is a man of few words.

‘You’re wrapped up warm, Tadhg. So much so it looks as though you’re going to be here all night’, the farmer-friend said, as he got up to leave. ‘I could well be’, I replied. My farmer-friend called his dog to heel, turned to me and said, ‘Wise, Tadhg. Ne’er cast a clout ’till May be out’, and he left as we said our respective goodbyes, and I was once more alone.

It occurred to me that we often dismiss old adages and wise sayings, and yet the ancients, the Celts, Druids and others knew things, especially about the seasons, that we often belittle or are unware of. Do you feel there is room for you (and myself included) to grow into this knowledge.

Was this the first encounter? Study and take to heart the wise words of the ancients!

My farmer-friends words echoed in my mind. He was right: ne’er cast a clout ’till May be out’. Stayed wrapped up warm until the May blossom comes about. How often had I recited that, but never really though it through. In the solitude of Clackitt’s wood I thought long on hard on that saying. Wise words indeed.

My thoughts were interrupted, by the sound of fast-paced footsteps coming my way, accompanied with a rhythmic, deep and fast breathing sound as though someone or something was running fast, and the sound was getting louder, so it was coming my way. Once again my heart quickened. So unexpected was this sound – which seemed frantic and distinctly ‘odd’  and out-of-place, that I instinctively found my right hand had grasped a branch that was on the forest floor – it was  about three feet long, and a solid, and dense, about three inches thick, and heavy.

A minute later the running, noisy steps stopped. Whoever it was, whatever it was, was now at the edge of the small clearing – I was sitting in the middle of, say a twenty foot clearing – but the deep, heavy, laboured breathing sound continued. Whoever it was stepped forward, turned to face me, and a forehead-flashlight shone in my direction. I aimed my torch back.

Tarzan…
‘Ben?’, I said, rather hesitantly, but in a way as to not display any timidity. And, as this person stepped forward, I was relieved to see that it was indeed him – a good friend of mine was Ben. And here he was doing some kind of forest jogging.

‘Tadhg?, he replied, expressing some surprise, and using a couple of expletives peppered thought his sentence.

He, too, sat down beside me, on the felled tree, extended his hand for a handshake, and I responded in a similar fashion. One thing I should mention about Ben is that this young guy is super-fit, an immensely muscular man, a ‘gym-rat’, with great strength (witnessed by me as he works on a local farm), and he wrestles; and he could fell Superman, Batman, Tarzan and an assortment of superheroes, I do believe. Why, in his current running gear he even looked the part! <For more details from a previous article, see here>

And, to make me feel (even more) unfit, as I shook his hand, his hand was powerful, determined and huge compared to mine. If I had an out-of-control ego it would now be reeling from a bruising.

We talked, but not before he spied the branch that I was letting slip onto the forest floor, which he grabbed, perhaps knowing this was my impromptu ‘weapon’ when I didn’t know if he was a stranger or a forest wild beast.

Now I felt not just unfit but puny, as he put the middle of the branch against one of his brawny knees, as he sat, and grabbed either end of the branch with his hands, and pulled it towards him, with a huge amount of effort. With a deep, determined, prolonged grunt, a flexing of huge biceps, the branch broke into two, with a loud crack.

He laughed. I laughed for different reasons – remembering that after I had thrashed this guy at a game of chess, recently, he has invited me to ‘hit the mats’ and face him at his sport: wrestling!  Friedrich Nietzsche once said that, ‘That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.’ but I don’t think Nietzsche was thinking of wrestling a brute of a man, like the one that sat next to me.

We talked some more, and then we said our goodbyes as he continued his keep-fit jogging regime he had talked about, but not before another almost-debilitating handshake from him.

He left. I was again alone. And my thoughts raced. What was the lesson here. I knew the answer.

It occurred to me that we can become so spiritually-mind, and/or so busy doing all manner of ‘good’ things, that we can neglect physical fitness, and I had. I need a regular fitness regime. The second encounter? Keep-fit encouragement: balance!

Okay, I wasn’t going to get as fit as Ben, and wouldn’t want to, otherwise he might think I was doing it in anticipation of accepting his wrestling challenge. I consider myself a tough guy – fairly tough guy, tough-ish – but I’m not foolish.

But, it is easy to ignore our own, personal, physical fitness and aim to be ‘super spiritual’. But, I see that imbalance as an error, and  I now knew this encounter with ‘superman’ Ben was an encouragement to get fit and stay fit. But, does this apply to you? Do you have an appropriate and balanced fitness regime?

‘Second by second you lose the opportunity to become the person you want to be. Take charge of your life.’ Greg Plitt

My thoughts were then interrupted by a brilliant bright yellow-green light, visible some 200 feet away through dense forest.

Maybe…
The mysterious light had piqued my interest, and once again my heart rate quickened. I sat there watching it. It made no noise. It never seemed to move. After about fifteen minutes of sitting there, wondering what it could be and not drawing any logical conclusion, I got to my feet and slowly moved towards the direction of the light.

The air was colder than ever, the fog masked the exact location of the light until I got to within about fifty feet of it. At about forty feet from it – and the light source seemed about eight foot wide – it went out! No sound! No light. I stopped. After a few minutes I carried on walking, gauging my steps so that I’d have a rough idea of walking some forty feet. After forty feet, I stopped. I must have been right on top of the light source, and for the next few minutes looked around for evidence of what had caused the bright light – but I could see nothing untoward. A mystery.

As I stood there, and wondered: Maybe, it  had been pure imagination, a product of a waking dream or something else. Maybe it had been a ‘will o the wisp’, gas emissions that hover over lakes in summer when the evenings and nights are warm and are ignited into a glow. But, there was no lake here, and it was cold, and there was  no smell of methane. Maybe it was….? I had no idea, and yet even as that mystery ambled around my mind, I experienced a deep calm in that place. Extraordinary peace.

It occurred to me that sometimes we won’t know, and that life is going to be a mystery, and that we should enjoy that not-knowingness. A close encounter of the third kind? Revel in mystery!

I walked back to Tŷ Gwyn  wondering what the light in Clackitt’s wood could have been. Any ideas?

Having removed my outer gear when I got home, I slumped onto the sofa, and recounted the three encounters and what they meant. I also considered the fact that had I been to lazy, too busy, or too spiritually-minded that I might never had left the cottage and ventured forth on a foul evening into Clackitt’s wood – that ancient and wild place, full of mystery, full of ‘magick’

What might we be missing in life? If you had three encounters today or tomorrow (and you might), what three things would they ‘say’ to you? What do you think?

Ephemera: Full Moon, 13 December 2016 & More.

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Oh, winter draws on as we move further into Advent. We’re about half way through the month of the Elder (tree), and speeding towards the winter solstice. And, for this month, the associated element is: earth; and the associated plants/trees etc is the holly, ivy, and mistletoe.

Tomorrow is a full moon. However, if you consult some other almanacs then you could be led to believe it is tonight. However, it’s a case that the moon maybe 98% full tonight and waxing (getting ‘bigger’, towards full moon status), but tomorrow it may be 98% and waning (growing ‘smaller’, starting to reduce toward that new moon, ‘unlit’ status). Either night to celebrate the full moon is good. I have a preference for tomorrow, the 14 December 2016.

To the ancient and latter-day Celt’s this full moon is known as the Cold Moon. Others may call it the Oak Moon.

As the Sun goes down
And the Moon rises,
And the Golden Pond turns to silver,
Blessed is the One who creates us,
Blessed is the One who makes us,
Blessed is the One who fashions us.

(Derived from Authorised Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, 1998)

There are a number of ancient and modern ideas about the (full) moon which I think are quite interesting to ponder upon.

pixabay-moon-229889_960_720Idea #1: The Moon changes size. The Inuit people that live in Greenland named their Moon god Anningan. They believed, according to their ancient story that Annigan chased his sister Malina, the Sun goddess, around the sky. This tiring work, paired with a lack of food, caused Annigan to get much thinner as the month went by.

This myth was a wonderful attempt to explain the phases of the moon as it recedes from a full moon to a crescent.

Idea #2: A full moon can cause lunacy. Some police and hospital workers still claim that people are wilder on a full moon. Some have laughed at the idea. However, do bear in mind a newspaper report which quoted Inspector Andy Parr, of Sussex Police, who made a crime-connection while analysing crime statistics for the Brighton and Hove area’s “night-time economy”. He said: ‘I thought, we have a limited amount of men and money to spend, so let’s look at the crime figures. I compared a graph of full moons and a graph of last year’s violent crimes.’ and there was a correlation.

His findings have been backed up by personal experience on patrol. Inspector Parr added: ‘When you try to reason with people on a full moon they become more aggressive and less rational during full moon. When you try to reason with them on a full moon they become more argumentative.’ As a result of his findings, the force plans to put extra officers on the streets for “key days” including the next full moon.

dec-ephemera-daily-mirror-13-12-06Idea #3: The Moon brings love. In Chinese folklore, Yue-Laou is an old man in the moon who unites predestined couples together. I wonder if the John Lewis company had this story in mind when they ‘screened’ their ‘man in the moon’ tv Christmas advertisement last year? British women as well, who hoped to receive a dream about their true love would recite the following verse under a New moon: “New moon, new moon, I hail thee! By all the virtue in thy body, grant this night that I may see he who my true love is to be.” The Moon has also traditionally been appealed to in order to bring fertility.

dec-ephemera-lucia-common-licence-13-12-06Meanwhile, don’t forget: Today, 13 December, is Saint Lucy’s Day. She was a 3rd-century martyr under the Diocletianic Persecution, who it is said, brought food and aid of those hiding in the catacombs, and using a candle-lit wreath on her head to light her way she left her hands free to carry as much food as possible.

Her ‘day’ used to be celebrated at the time of the winter solstice, which was 13 December on the old Julian calendar, and so is really some ten days away, but when the calendar was change they kept her feast day on the same date, even though it moved the celebration.

Even today, in Scandinavian countries, with their long dark winters, a young girl in many churches and village squares is dressed in a white dress and a red sash (as the symbol of martyrdom), and wears a crown or wreath of candles on her head.

 

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Tadhg’s Journal: Shock Horror! Can You Help?

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Tadhg’s Journal: Short and sweet, and humorous today, I think. Here’s an opportunity my fellow Celtic, Christian, Druid friends to do something for the community, by keeping our eyes peeled to solve this most heinous crime.

Shock! Horror!

In Perth in Scotland, where they have a full-sized nativity scene at this time of the year – yes, a life-sized statues of Mary and Joseph, a donkey and an angel at least adorn the front of the church, it was reported that for the second year running, the life-sized baby Jesus had been stolen!

How awful!

The BBC reported that Anne Chat, who serves as an elder at the church, said: ‘Last year someone stole the doll from the display too, but it turned up again a while later. It just seems to be something that people do these days, it’s a shame.’

Now this is serious!

So where is the humour in all this. Well, the BBC story continued, and quoted the local police who had said that some eye-witnesses had noticed three young men in the area that night, acting suspiciously.

Three, you say? Young men? Acting suspiciously?

Hmmm, the men in the area, acting suspiciously? Could it be…..? These men are also  described as wearing black clothing, and carrying rucksacks.

Could it be…..? No. But, you never know?

Hmm, I’m wondering if I should telephone the Perthshire police with the names of these three young men, these ne’er-do-wells? You see, I feel  sure they go by the names Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar. And the contents of the rucksacks? It wouldn’t surprise me if they each had a ‘stash’ of  gold, frankincense and myrrh, perhaps?

Should I inform the police? What do you think?

But, then again, I’ll let the police work it our for themselves as they might think I’m just a wee bit frivolous. As if? Meanwhile, if you do come across this missing life-sized baby Jesus doll, please let the Perthshire police know. The BBC report concluded: Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

PS: Those are genuine UK police telephone numbers.

PPS: (Irony follows) If it is the Magi that have stolen the baby Jesus doll, this wouldn’t have happened if we had taken back control of our borders, or built a wall, or insisted that foreigners register. Just a thought!