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

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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?

Forgiveness

Sometimes I really struggle with being a forgiving person. In my formative years, I was a bit of a doormat and gave people chance after chance. Unfortunately some of those people, now no longer in my life, did not deserve those chances, and I have now learned to not be so accommodating. The scar this has left is that I have a tendency to feel hard done by as soon as anyone “wrongs” me. Sometimes I’m so keen to defend myself and be sure I’m not taken advantage of, that I see slights where none are intended; I feel pain at the slightest knock to my ego, and sometimes I really don’t see the funny side of what turns out to be genuine banter. Worse still, sometimes I try and hold people accountable for what turns out to be a true mistake or error on their part- the true knife is in the intent, and if there is no intent, how can there be a wound? Of course you can hurt others unintentionally, but kind words and apologies are time honoured remedies for this ill. And this is where forgiveness comes in. I need to hone the art of recognising when someone is genuine about their mistake, and make room inside for that little warm spot that swallows the hurt and transforms it, absorbs it; dissolves it with laughter, embarrassment or simply a kind word. Because the forgiveness not only reassures the instigator; it cools the fires within the one who got burned, divesting them of anger and making for a brighter, happier day.

Grey

It’s my Wednesday (Monday, urgh) again and it’s decidedly grey today. Grey sky, still heavy with rain- 60 hours of non stop rain since I returned from camp at the weekend. Rivers and becks and streams so swollen and people in fear for their homes and businesses: not good, but not surprising after the damp and darker summer we had. Grey faces on the bus, tired and turning from the wan light fighting its way through the curtain of cloud; vitality seems to have vanished, or maybe it simply hasn’t awoken at this time of day. Grey streets and houses, rain streaked yet dirty and sorry looking; why does grey mean bleak to us? These dim skies and soaked walls hem us in and make us feel… Claustrophobic? Hopeless? What is it about the cocoon of damp and bad weather that gets us down so much? I’m nearly at work now, nearly to my grey desk in my grey office; maybe that’s it. When all outside is grey and grim, what is there to differentiate it from the cages we build for ourselves indoors?

Homecoming

Time apart has not made the heart grow fonder;
How could it?
Nothing in the universe makes me love them more.
They are the most precious
The most beautiful
The most vital in my life.
The blood within my blood
More essential than food, than air.
Yet everyday my love grows
Like the steps of my child
Or the hair, or the nails- unstoppable, inevitable
So as the wheels turn
The road passes
Grey and stern
While green fields and trees
Whip past my eager face
I remember the beautiful time apart
With friends, with family
And tie these golden memories with silver twine
To give to the two I name as “mine”.

Equinox

The Celts are renowned more for their celebration of the “major” sabbats- Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasagh and Samhain. Yet nowadays even those of us following a Celtic based tradition tend to celebrate the inbetweeners- the “cross-quarter” festivals- the solstices and the equinoxes. They change slightly from year to year because their significance is based on where the earth is in relation to the sun. The equinoxes are moments of pure balance; day equals night; light equals dark. Nothing outweighs the other; nothing has an advantage. Symbolic of peace, tranquility and calm, but also the feeling of hanging in the balance, the calm before the storm; the moment where we pause, reflect and prepare, before sudden change, activity, bustle. Historically at this time of year we would have been racing to get ready for winter, knowing that the night is coming to swallow the light and bringing with it cold, frost, death and darkness. But for now, we have a still point, a moment where we can gather ourselves; our resources; our energies and know that we are ready; ready for whatever the darker months may bring. We remember that they do not only bring the darkness without, but the hearth fires and joy within our homesteads, and that equally while we burn the fires to ward off the darkness, we accept the darkness as a vital part of the eternal cycle. We do not spit at it, hissing like a cornered cat; we prepare well and know that we are safe within our chosen havens- with family and loved ones to help out; with food and fire and knowledge that the sun is but a turn of the wheel away.

Holiday

I’m going away for a few days, camping if you can believe it- camping in September, in England! Must be nuts. But honestly, we always go around this time of year, and it’s usually lovely. Weather aside, it’s really wonderful to have this time set aside for catching up with people you might not see that often the rest of the year; renewing old acquaintances and building new ones. There’s usually activities to do but the point is there’s no obligation to do anything except turn up, relax and be yourself. It’s an utter unwind session. These last few hours before setting off have become a bit tense- I’m trying to make gingerbread, tarkha dahl and write all at the same time and I’ve already boiled my chickpeas dry, argh! But the main thing I’m trying to do is leave some notes for my boys so they know I’m thinking of them while I’m away. I wish they were coming with me but the big one doesn’t like camping and the small one has more needs than I can carry on the bus. I will have an amazing time, but I will miss them so much. So I’ve left them an envelope for each day I’m away, so they know I’m thinking of them. Tonight’s is simply a goodnight kiss. Tomorrow’s is a letter and a game to play with daddy, while Sunday’s is a drawing activity and a scavenger hunt, with the idea being by the time I get back they will have treasure to show me. I’m looking forward to being able to talk to the small one about all the things he did this weekend, and hopefully he won’t miss me too much. So camp, here I come. Bags packed, shoulders braced, bus fare in pocket. A proper holiday.