I began my Celtic Mandala prayer prior to my walk today with a meditation on the three realms of land, sea, and sky, as a way of focusing in on the center of the mandala. I am beginning with the center now rather than ending with it, as I had previously done.
In Celtic Reconstructionism, the three realms are often invoked as the three elements of land as earth, sea as water, and sky as air as a substitute for the more popular four classical elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Conversely, the three realms are also corresponded with what some in reconstructionist druidry call the Three Kindreds, of ancestors/sea, land spirits/land, and the gods/air, which also correlate with the idea of the three worlds presented by the world tree motif, the underworld/sea, this world/land, and upper world/sky. I have been accustomed to this view of the three realms for some time now.
In contrast, I am reading in Emma Restall Orr’s writing that she relates with the three realms through revivalist druidry as three living realms which are inhabited by myriad living beings, like three habitats or ecosystems. Each is its own entity as well, the earth mother, the power of the great sea, and the heavens above. I envision them all as great mothers- the sea as the mother of all life, and supporter of life through the water cycle; great primal creatrix; the land as the great sustaining mother, sustaining life through its myriad systems and fecundity and food webs and cycles of regeneration; and the heavens as mother of darkness, the great cauldron of sky and space, in which whole worlds and bright stars are born, live, die, and are reformed again, in never-ending grand cycles. Within these realms of great mothers, worlds of creatures reside within them, living and dying and interacting and forming life-enhancing relationships of balance and power. Such relationships teach us much about how life supports itself, and how we might find our place and do the same. Flowing ceaselessly within all these beings, the great mothers and their creatures, is the fire of vitality, inspiration, and indwelling spirit, uniting and blessing us all. This is the Oran Mór, the great song of the universe. This fire is also the power of Imbas, the fire in the head which inspires, ultimately to inspire within us the means and wisdom to live a fully integrated life, a life of honor which is sustainable and resilient, and which respects all life. Divine inspiration for divine living!
I am finding that engaging with the three realms in the latter format is much more spiritually nourishing for me. It renders the former type of engagement more clinical, technical, cerebral, which I find, in comparison, does not feed my soul. I am thankful to the tradition and teachers of Revivalist Druidry for sharing their teachings with the world, for the deep nourishment to be found therein. I am thankful too for my many years in Celtic Reconstructionism for the academic grounding it gave me, to help me understand and learn historical tradition and extant ancestral folk tradition. It was truly what I needed at the time I found it. However, it has left my spirit parched. But, the drought lead me to searching, and through my yearning, I have found the Well of Inspiration, source of deep spiritual nourishment. And happily, elements like heritage tradition, the ancestors, and honor are found here too, along with a deeper and broader sense of the gods with which to engage, one that embraces more animism and less anthropocentrism. More nourishing relationships can be forged through this lens, as can a fuller engagement with the land in which one dwells. This makes my soul sing, and for this, I am deeply thankful over this Thanksgiving weekend.
“Hail, Spirits of the Land, powers of nourishment and sustenance for both body and spirit. May we strive to always be open to your sustenance, and ever-thankful. I pray that you teach us how to sustain and nourish life, that we might build sustaining and nourishing social systems together here which create peace among all beings. Moran taing, agus slàinte mhath.”