Acrylic

Remember the dogs in Up? Squirrel! That’s what I feel like this week. Too many distractions, but too much predilection to be distracted. I feel like I’m trying to focus on the things that matter, but I also feel like I’m looking at a picture where something always draws your eye away- to a corner or to a shiny object- away from anything but what the artist really wanted you to be paying attention to. So am I blaming the artist of my life? And who is that, pray? Oh yes, that would be me. Not that I’m arrogant enough to think I am an island, unaffected by the tides of others, but ultimately, I decide what’s going on in my life. If I decide that something is someone else’s fault, then it’s up to me to hold them accountable. If someone makes me happy, it’s up to me to show my appreciation. I paint the canvas of my life with the brush strokes of action and reaction. But this week, the action palette has been empty, scraped clean, and reaction the only acrylic at hand. Time to clean the brushes and think again.

Advertisements

Sunrise

Orange streaking wonder like
Across the boards of blue
Calling unto you
Twanging every string
In the guitar of your soul
Alto cumulus
Herring backed and tickled pink
Perfect little lines
Framing the moon:
An absurdly gorgeous half
Smooth and sharply cut
A wedge of light
The opener
Before the main event.
The globe of yellow honey
Melting on the marshmallows
Of soft and drowsy clouds
Still awakening,
And gently gliding aside
Until gentle no more
The show hits the floor
The light, the bright, the glory ending night;
Sunrise.

The Power of Prophecy

Throughout the Celtic legends there are references to prophecies, futures foretold and promises made by victors and losers alike. One of the most famous prophecies by the Morrigan is told at the end of Cath Maige Tuired, the great battle that Lugh wins against the Fomorians, and is conflicting at best. Elizabeth Gray’s translation tells us that the first section prophecies a time of fullness and peace, but then the Morrigan goes on to foretell doom, betrayal, and the end of the world. In Tain Bo Cualnge (translation Cecille O’Rahilly, 1976), Queen Medb demands a poetess to divine the fate of her army in the upcoming battle against the Ulster men. The prophetess does as she is told but Medb is not happy, as she discovers, although she does not believe it, that her army will be greatly reduced by the power of one young man. Prophecy of this kind is indeed a double edged sword; sometimes simply hearing the prophecy can be the spark that makes it come true, and sometimes doing everything one can to avoid the outcome of the prophecy can cut the very rut that holds the wheels of fate. Medb, in a way, does exactly what she should do which is to ignore the prophecy and carry on towards the battle field, but in this case the prophecy is not self-fulfilling, and Cu Chulainn is indeed the young lad that will see the host blood stained and red. So what should Medb have done? Taken her army home? What do we do, when faced with the promise of failure? Do we give up? Or do we fight in the face of adversity? Well, each of us will have our own answer for that, and I for one know there have been times when I know that continuing to fight is not the best course of action, and indeed sometimes backing down, though it may hurt the pride and ego, will be less painful in the long run.

(c) 2012, excerpt from A Modern Celt, Mabh Savage

Arrows in the concrete

Sometimes things line up in ways you don’t expect. Sometime what you are looking for has been there all the time, hidden in some way, sometimes by your own actions.
Sometimes you look for ages then two come along at once! Sometimes we see signs and try and force them to line up when there is no pattern at all; but perhaps the fact that we are looking for signs at all is a sign in itself that we should pause and look inwards, to discover what it really is that we are missing. What burden is causing us to see arrows in the concrete and guidance in the grain of wood? Is that a face you see over your shoulder in the mirror? Maybe. But even if not, or even if it is your own face: take note. You are seeing these things because you need to. Just because a sign doesn’t come from a higher power or an external force does not lessen its import. You are sometimes your own greatest mentor. Don’t forget to listen, and to see the signs you send yourself.

Hey

Hey
Miss it once
Hey
Look up
Two jackdaws in a sycamore tree
One edged along the main branch
Blinking down at me in curiosity
Sharing the autumn sun
All three cloaked against the autumn wind
The two birds aren’t hunting
Or foraging
Simply resting and being;
At the most, marking their territory:
Enjoying their existence
Reminding me not to feel guilty
About doing the same.

Spirituality or Practicality?

The Romans are said to have been astonished by the range of gods and spirits the Celtic peoples honoured, yet the Celts were feared for their prowess in war, helped mightily by their ability to travel far across land and sea. So they were a practical people, who used their stories and legends as a way to record their exploits and indeed I suppose spread fear and wonder at their apparently supernatural existence. Knowing the world, and how it turned, and how to live well in it whether through winter or summer, was a crucial part of this. For me, feeling the world turn around you is a combination of both spirituality and practicality; having a balance between appreciating what’s there and where it’s taking you, is key. Being closer to the earth, how it works, how things grow, helps us understand that we have a responsibility towards it; it’s not ours, but we are a part of it, and because we take so much from it, we really have to give something back! I think some people find conflict between following a pagan path and being part of modern society. Many of us lay claim to a harmony with nature and the earth, then drive miles and miles to get to some gathering or other, pumping out pollutants and notching up that ever present carbon footprint! Yet I think it’s important to remember that everything is about balance, using what you have, when you have to, and ensuring that any “bad” behaviour is offset in some way. Many people I know drive miles to get to farms and campsites for various events, yet most of those people are also deeply involved in the conservation of the area, the promotion of living spaces for local wildlife and the prevention of the destruction of natural habitats for the creatures that already reside there. So there is no spurning of modern society and little hypocrisy, just a genuine desire to better understand the natural world, become a part of it rather than just living of it, and perhaps get a glimpse of life as it is without the trample of busy human feet.

excerpt from A Modern Celt (c) 2012

Footprints

The sun rises; the sun sets.

It is another day.

Another path to tread,

To leave footprints in the dirt.

Or to pass unnoticed.

Counting only seconds

Only minutes

Held not within the turn of the earth

But trapped within the turn of the clock.

When sirens speak

To start your day

With clamour abhorrent

While you still lay

Clinging to dreams and wishes and fear;

Then rise and wake and listen.

Not because the alarm tells you to;

Not because it is routine;

Not because you follow another

But simply so at the end of another day

You may turn behind

And see with pride

The footprints left firmly marked

Where you have walked.

 

inspired by dear friends (c) 2012

Fluffy Clouds

Somebody needs to invent a chair that is like sitting on a fluffy little cloud. Every part of me would be perfectly supported and there would be no need for sensible stretch breaks or time away from my luminous screen which would of course be filtered through dragonfly wings to keep the glare from melting my overworked retina. I love writing so much but really, the human body was not designed to sit down this much! Thank goodness for my phone and the ability to take voice memos.But then noooo- I have to type them up! Gosh, hark at me, complaining about sitting down. Think I’ll go get a cuppa and think about what I’ve done…

Lugh

I’ve been doing some reading on Lugh recently, as additional research for my book, A Modern Celt. Lugh, despite being a great leader and warrior among the Tuatha de Danaan, and indeed the name sake of Lughnasadh, one of the biggest festivals in the Celtic “calendar”, rarely seems to appear as a tutelary god. Other members of the same mythological cycle seem to pop up as points of worship or reverence for people quite regularly- the Morrigan for example has a huge following and is revered as a goddess, deity and spiritual being in many forms. Cu Chulainn is Lugh’s half mortal son and still revered as the greatest Irish hero ever. Brigid is so popular she has been transformed and accepted as part of Celtic and modern Christianity as St Brigit of Kildare. Yet Lugh, the long armed and many skilled, seems to be overlooked except at the time of Lughnasadh- a festival he actually created to honour his beloved foster mother, Tailtiu. Lugh is, in many ways, one of the most “role model” beings from the Tuatha de Danaan. He is matter of fact about his skills and achievements, neither boasting not falsely modest. He has a great sense of commitment, and his family is precious and dear to him. He leads Ireland into war, but only to stop the persecution of his people. He is both a poet and a fighter; a craftsman and a magician. He is of two worlds (being from a Fomorian mother) but he is tirelessly loyal to the people he chooses as his own. These are all characteristics many of us strive towards; perhaps Lugh is overlooked as a primary deity because these standards are too high, or perhaps because he seems too human, not otherworldly enough. Or is it that his crucial role in the myths and legends of his people give him no relevance today? What do you think?

Home

Home is where heartache fades and headaches ease. Home is where colour seeps in and stains grey. Home is where the volume is switched as loud as you want, which can simply mean silence. Home is where a hole inside of you is filled once you arrive. Home is where voices you only hear once a year fill you with joy, or voices you hear every day still make you tingle with anticipation. Home is when food and warmth are pressed upon you with no desire for reciprocation. Home is care and comfort. Home is falling in love. Home is sometimes falling out. But home is always the smells that evoke the strongest memories; the stillness of a breath or the wind upon a face in the open; home is great stones in walls or circles; home is where you take it, and where you make it. I am at home, and I am going home.

Circle

Circle we dreamed
Seen in a haze
“One of these days…”
We banished that phrase

Circle we saw
In places we’d been
That made us feel keen
To make what we’d seen

Circle we drew
Guidance from past
We need it to last
So steady, not fast

Circle we built
Stone out of sand
Sprouts from the land
Raised by our hand.

Circle we blessed
Speaking to sky
Heart mind and eye
A soul that shall fly

Circle we are
When stone meets the sea
Continuity
Love; hope; family.

Seeking the ancestors, beginnings

The truth is, everyone was formed by their ancestors in some way. If you deny any connection to your ancestors, then that is a conscious decision which in itself, partially shapes who you are. Even by denying them, which is absolutely your right to do, and you may have extraordinarily good reasons for doing so, you have changed yourself in some way by making that decision. I have accepted this, and instead of being ignorant of the people that essentially made me, I have decided to try and find a connection to them via the myths and legends that they spawned; the tales they told and the beings they revered are part of their culture, and now they are part of mine. I heartily recommend to anyone to seek out something of what made you who you are today, perhaps something you have little knowledge on, or something you could feel closer to, and try and forge a bond with it; try and find a point where that means something to you as a modern individual; as a vibrant and unique human being. I discovered the Tuatha de Danaan. Who knows what you may find?