Ephemera: The Celtic Month Of The Ivy (And What You Need To Know)


Yes, we’re moving out of the Celtic month of the Vine. And, so 30 September is the first day of the month of the Ivy; so it’s time to celebrate with a special meal, special event and/or an awesome ritual. The Vine is the 11th month of the 13 month Celtic year, and the Ivy is renowned for being somewhat of a ‘survivor’ plant.

English name: Ivy
Latin name: Hedera Helix
Month: 30 September – 27 October

Ivy is a popular ornamental plant, much valued for its ability to thrive in shady places, is used to provide excellent groundcover, and to cover unsightly walls, sheds and tree stumps.

Long collected for winter decorations, Ivy is associated with Christmas and frequently features in festive designs. It is also an important source of food and shelter for wildlife during winter, but is used by them, it is said, as last resort when other food cannot be found.

‘Oh, a dainty plant is the ivy green, That creepeth o’er ruins old! Of right choice food are his meals I ween, In his cell so lone and cold. . . . . Creeping where no life is seen, A rare old plant is the ivy green.’

Charles Dickens

Ivy gets ‘bad press’, and is often described as a parasite. It’s not. Although it uses trees and buildings for support, it’s not a parasite as it has its own root system and derives nutrients through them, and not through a ‘host’. Neither, so I’m informed, does it (normally) damage sound buildings or walls where it looks amazing, and it is rarely a threat to healthy trees.

In days of old, Ivy used to be carried by women, and especially brides, for friendship, good luck and fidelity. It is said to protect against negativity and disaster. It is also ‘paired’ with holly, especially at Christmas-time, and mentioned together in the old Christmas carol entitled, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’. This, it is said by some, represents man (represented by Holly) and woman (the Ivy), bringing harmony between them at Christmas-time.

Going back further into English history, English taverns would display a sign with an Ivy bush on it, over their doors to indicate the excellence of the ale and spirits supplied within.

‘For ivy climbs the crumbling hall To decorate decay.’  Philip James Bailey

And going back even further, and into Greek history, their priests, who considered it a holy plant, would present a wreath of Ivy to newly-married persons. Ivy has throughout the ages been regarded as the emblem of fidelity. Ofcourse today, many latter-day Celts, eastern-European Christians, Druids and pagans (still) use head-wreaths for special occasions (myself included, at hand-fastings etc. In Welsh such head-wreaths are called dorchau pen. And, I can also make them for you as I do for others, for any special occasion).

Ivy, then, is a hardy survivor, and as this month progresses and the temperature drops, and winter draws ever nearer, it is a great plant to remind and encourage each one of us to maintain deep spirituality in the face of change or adversity.


Tadhg’s Journal: So, What Do You Do When Nothing Happens?


Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: What do you do when nothing happens? Today was such a day for me – not that I’m complaining. It’s just that I like to keep active, but I realise that sometimes its good to slow down or even pause. But, today I didn’t have much choice. Nothing seemed to happen. It was as if time had stood still.

I read a lot, as you know, and some of the books I read are spiritual, motivational, even mystic-al etc, and there certainly does seem a lot going on in some of those authors lives. But, you and I know that not every day is like that.

True, if you read and believe some of those books, you’ll find that every day that that Christian author opens their front door they are greeted by the seraphim. Or the Arch Druid climbs out of bed only to find breakfast is being cooked by a whole ‘platoon’ of obliging elemental spirits, or a light-worker sees auras around everyone and can instantly diagnose a suitable remedy for their ailment or predicament and does so, or a latter-day Celt has discovered the translation of an ‘unknown rune’. At least that’s what you are told is happening if you read some of those books. And, it can leave one with the impression that everything is happening to everyone else, but not to you and I.  Please, avoid those books.

Ofcourse, there are amazing days where great things happen. Co-incidence or God-incidence! Synchronicity? Cledon? And, more! But, there will be days when, seemingly, nothing happens. Today was such a day for me. Do you have days like that?

I could bore you by saying that today the highlight was that I searched high and low to buy a tin of pease pudding, had my ears syringed as my tinnitus isn’t getting any better and I have a hearing test booked for next week, or I could tell you that three replacement cinctures arrived by post today, but I wont. Oh, too late!

But as I type this, I know it’s really been a great day. God, the Source, Spirit has been active as always; the world is still spinning; babies were born and parents lovingly looked on and smiled; someone got a promotion; many ate well; my heart is still beating within my chest (and so is yours); and we have great family and friends, and more.

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…
–Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramon Jimenez

Today, a thousand and one things really happened of which we were unaware. The Source blessed you, angels lovingly guided you, elementals gaily dance around you, the Universe smiled at you, and amazing discoveries were made that will impact your life, Celt or not. In the small things, as well as the large and profound things, in the mundane and common-place a lot happened, today; and I’d say that that was a miracle. A lot really did happen today?

So, how was your day?


Essential Celt: It’s Time, Jim. But Not As We Know It. [The Celts And Time]


Before the Big Bang, there was no space or time.

The Celts viewed time differently to the way we do. We see time as linear, but they saw it more as a circle, repeating itself day by day, month by month as the phases of the moon changed, and year by year. They had a different rhythm of life.

It would be difficult to wholly replicate that kind of acceptance of time, that kind of lifestyle into our way of working – especially if you’re in regular work or have commitments to lead certain events, or meetings to attend. But, just knowing a different understanding of time and incorporating that into your lifestyle, sometimes, and knowing that the rhythm of our soul beats to a different tune, than to that of our body, can be beneficial.

We’re then in time, but then able to step out of time. In ‘mundane’ time, yet also in ‘sacred’ time. Able to ‘look’ back and forward in time, to plan etc, but able to appreciate the time that we inhabit, now! To fully experience it, grasp opportunities that come our way, and enjoy it. And, that’s Kairos.

‘Time is the force that brings every new experience to the door of your heart’.  John O’Donohue.

The ancient Greeks had two main terms for time: chronos and kairos.

To them, Chronos was quantitative. It was time that measured hours and minutes. The ‘tick-tock’ of the grandfather clock, the alarm that you set on your mobile ‘phone to alert you to leave for a meeting or use as your alarm clock to wake yourself up in the morning, all see time as ‘chronos’. And, it’s from that word that we get words , such as words chronometer,  chronological and anachronism. It’s ‘tick-tock’ time, and though we ‘need’ that kind of understanding in our modern world to live in it, there is another view that can run alongside it, and which we may need to remind ourselves of.

 ‘There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.’ Mahatma Gandhi

And, that is the other Greek word for time, kairos. Kairos is time, but it is qualitative, and has more to do with opportunity, and making the most of each moment. It could be said that we need chronos for kairos to take place, but too often in modern living we put up with, or fall into the ‘trap’ of forgetting kairos and only living a lifestyle out of chronos. What doyou think?

 ‘…I tell you, now is the time…’ 2 Corinthians 6:2b, The Book

To the ancient Celts, Christians, Druids and pagans time would have been viewed differently to the way we view it, and kairos would have had a greater importance. And, I’m told in some areas of the world, even today,where modernity hasn’t fully intruded and where small tribes gather, the clock-time of a meeting may vary by hours (as measured by us), and starts only en everyone has gathered!

So, my encouragement to myself, and maybe to yourelf, is that, where possible, we step out of ‘chronos’-only time and into ‘kairos’ time; and on certain occasions (such as family events, seasonal events like the autumn equinox etc) we really experience the quality-moments of time, now, in company rather than have one eye on the clock.

 How did it get so late so soon?’ Dr Seuss

You must know by now that I love stories. Here’s a story about time; one that emphasises the difference between ‘chronos’ time, and ‘kairos’ the time of experience and opportunity.

There  was a young boy called Jim, who could never live in the moment. When he was in school, he dreamed of being outside playing. And, when he was outside playing, he dreamed of his summer holiday. Jim always daydreamed, never taking the time to savour those special moments that filled up his days.

One day, Jim was out walking in a forest near his home. Feeling rather tired, he decided to rest on a patch of grass and slowly fell asleep.
After only a few minutes of deep sleep, he heard someone calling him.

“Jim! Jim!” came the shrill voice from above him.

As he slowly opened his eyes, he was surprised to see an elderly woman standing nearby. He thought she must have been over a hundred years old and her snow-white hair dangled well below her shoulders like a woollen blanket.

In her hand was a magical little ball with a hole in the centre and out of the hole dangled a long, golden thread.

“Jim,” she said, “this is the thread of your life. If you pull the thread just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds. If you pull harder, whole days will pass in minutes. And if you pull with all your might, months – even years – will pass by in days.” Jim was very excited by this.

“I’d like to have it if I may, please?” he asked.

The elderly woman quickly reached down and gave the ball with the magic thread to the young boy.

The next day, Jim was sitting in the classroom feeling listless and bored. He suddenly remembered his new toy – the ball of thread. As he pulled a little bit of the golden thread, he quickly found himself playing in his garden.

Realising the power of the magic thread, Jim soon grew tired of being a schoolboy and longed to be a teenager, with all the excitement that that phase of life might bring. So again he held the ball and pulled hard on the golden thread.

Suddenly, he was a teenager with a very pretty girlfriend.

But, Jim still wasn’t content.

He had never learned to enjoy the moment and to explore the simple pleasures of every stage of his life. Instead, he dreamed of being an adult, so again he pulled hard on the thread and many years flew by in an instant.

Now he found that he was transformed into a middle-aged adult. His girlfriend was now his wife, and Jim was surrounded by a houseful full of children.

But Jim noticed something else. His once jet-black hair had started to turn rather grey, and his once youthful mother, whom he loved so dearly had grown so old and frail.

Yet Jim still couldn’t live in the moment, and, so once again, he pulled on the magic thread and waited for the changes to appear.

Jim now found that he was an older man, maybe ninety-years old. His hair had turned white as snow, and his beautiful young wife had passed away a few years earlier.

His wonderful children had grown up, and had left home to lead lives of their own.

For the first time in his entire life, Jim realised that he had not taken the time to embrace the wonders of living at each stage of his life.

He had never gone fishing with his children, never taken a moonlight stroll with his wife, never planted a garden or read those wonderful books his mother had loved to read. And now, she was gone!

Jim became very sad. He decided to go out to the forest where he used to walk as a boy to clear his head.

As he entered the forest, he noticed that the little saplings of his childhood had grown into tall, mighty oaks. The forest itself had matured into a veritable paradise.

He felt rather tired, and laid down on a small patch of grass and fell into a deep slumber.

After only a minute, he heard someone calling out to him. “Jim! Jim!” cried the voice.

He looked up in astonishment to see that it was the old woman who had given him the ball with the magic golden thread many, many years earlier.

“How have you enjoyed my special gift?” she asked.

“At first it was fun, but now I hate it.” he admitted, “But, my whole life has passed before my eyes without giving me the chance to enjoy it. Yes, there would have been sad times as well as great times, but I haven’t had the chance to experience either. I feel empty inside. I have really missed the gift of living each moment.”

“You are  ungrateful,” said the old woman, angrily. “Still, I will give you one last wish. What is it that you would really like?”

“I’d like to go back to being a schoolboy and really start to live my life over again,” Jim quickly responded.

He then returned to his deep sleep. Again, he heard someone calling his name and opened his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he was absolutely delighted to see his mother standing over his bedside.

She looked young, healthy and radiant. Jim realised that the strange woman from the forest had indeed granted his wish, and he had returned to his former life.

“Hurry up, Jim. You sleep too much. Your dreams will make you late for school if you don’t get up right this minute,” his mother said sternly.

Oh, Jim dashed out of bed and began to live the way he had hoped.

He went on to live a full life, one rich with many delights, joys and triumphs, but it all started when he stopped sacrificing the present for the future and began to live in the moment.

Celtic Thought For The Day #12: A Is For Anamnesis

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It’s well-known that the depth of Celtic spirituality was seemingly greater than today. In the main we’re encouraged to think at ‘surface level’ only – a bit like Paul in the Book being told that too much learning has sent him mad.

I love words. One of my favourite words is: anamnesis.

Nothing to do with amnesia, though it is to do with memory. It’s about ritual and its benefits.

In the Book, referring to the Last Supper ritual, we’re told, ‘Do this in remembrance of me…’ – that ‘remembering’ is anamnesis.

In its weakest sense, and common today, it is merely remembering an act, and carrying it on in the absence of the originator. It’s a looking back along that distant horizontal time-line.

There’s more for those who want to go deeper, and who really want to benefit.

In its deepest, purist sense anamnesis has a vertical connection. It (ritual) ‘lifts’ us off the normal time-line, and upward to the higher realm. Not just an act, but a participation; not with an absent host but one who is ever-present; not looking back in time, but living in continual ‘nowness” of the event; not earthly, but cosmic.

Time between time…

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This is the time between time.
In the blink of an eye,
in the pause between an inhalation and exhalation,
this is the time between time.

This is the time between time.
In the ‘rest’ between each heart beat,
in the twinkle of an eye,
this is the time between time.

It is the time between past and future.
It is the time between potential and accomplishment.
It is the time between Here and the Other.
It is the time when Mercy, ethereal and embodied works on us.
It is the ‘forever now’.

It is time outside time.
Perfectly circular, yet appearing linear.

Yes, this is the time between time,
and it is all we have.
In Him, The Friend, it is all we need.

Poem: Afon Nant Peris

In this rugged, wild, grey-green place, it flows.
Downstream represents that past, of days gone by, the old, the familiar and known.
It is an empty plate of cakes, just crumbs, now gone; it is yesterday’s meal.

The flowing water is time.

I reckon you look upstream! Most do.
Upstream is unfamiliar. It is tomorrow charging towards us and becoming ‘now’.
It isn’t redshift; it is blueshift!
It is the future, it is potential, opportunity, a ribbon of possibility reaching toward us.
It is the unknown. A challenge. A risk.

Time could be the harbinger of good or of bad,
however we define those words.
And yet Rumi’s wisdom of inviting in all those who knock at the door of one’s life echo loud.
For in playing host to all, we may accept a benevolent ‘guide’ from beyond,
and grow in stature.

The flowing water is time.

As I stand motionless and observe, the water flows and yet so do I.
A body that ages.
A mind that thinks.
A heart that beats involuntarily.
A planet that spins. And one that orbits.
A solar system that moves.
Tempus fugit.
Everything is in a state of flux.

And so I, like you, look upstream.
Could this be Afon Nant Peris or even Pishon?
But, I crane my neck and look upstream,
for it is from there that the Spirit calls out to us by name.
The Spirit whispers in the desolation, the forest, even in the city.
God’s activity is recorded in the past, felt in the present, and reverberates to us from the future.

It is from there that The Friend inhabitsrivulet PIXABAY brook-255879_1920
and which, for us, is that other country we heard of long ago,
and to which we journey on.

Yes, the flowing water is time.