Updating, and my Daily Office

As my explorations of druidry have lead me from a start in British-style druidry to a current immersion in contemplative and monastic druidry. I have updated Turas’ About and Imbas sections to reflect these developments.  You are welcome to visit and read them, and are of course invited to continue following along.

What I like about contemplative prayer and practice is its centering quality, its quiet reflection, mystic communion, and deep relationship-building capacity.  What I like about a monastic praxis is the space and rhythm its shape and form provide for regular moments of contemplation which are built into the daily round, allowing one to return regularly to the nourishing Source.  My soul craves this spiritual renewal, and this rhythm carries me effortlessly from one sip from the spring to the next.

The Daily Office of prayers I have been developing follow the course of the sun, like a sunflower.  In the morning I face east to welcome the Sun with a Gaelic chant to Grian, and begin my Druidic Celtic Cross, my daily office, which is based on the Seven-Part Creation of Man, found in a medieval Irish manuscript, in which seven elements comprise the form of humanity, which reads thus:

“There is this to be known concerning the creation of Adam from seven parts. The first part is from the earth; the second part is from the sea, the third part from the sun, the fourth part from the clouds, the fifth part from the wind, the sixth part from stones, the seventh part from the Holy Spirit. The part of earth that is the body of man. The part of sea that is the blood of a man. The part of the sun is his face and countenance; the part of cloud, his thought; the part of wind, the breath of man; the part of stones, his bones; the part of the Holy Spirit, his soul…”

While facing east in the morning I honor the Power of Stone, which gives me my bones, the bedrock of the land which supports us, the mountains to the east which shelter us, and strength and constancy which spiritually support us.  Below me I honor Cascadia, Power of Earth, which gives me my flesh and organs, gives us life and sustenance, houses the Green Fire of Life beneath Her breast, and provides Her green Mantle of healing plants to assist us.

In the afternoon I face south and honor Power of Sun which gives me my countenance and attitude to life, and my avenue of communication with all my companions; is the Heart of the Solar System which makes all life on Earth possible; and fills our spirits with Illumination.  I also honor the Power of Cloud above me, which gives me the Mists of my thoughts and inner world, and provide life-giving rains to the land for the benefit of all beings.

In the evening at sunset I face west and honor the Power of Sea which lies in that direction which gives me the blood that nourishes my body, for being the original source of earthly life, and for housing the Blessed Isles of my people’s ancestors, whom I also honor and thank for their blessings of protection and guidance, asking that they smile upon my household for another turn of the cycle of the Celtic day which begins at sunset.

At night I face north and honor the Power of Wind, the breath which animates me, the force which refreshes the air, and carries the seeds of renewing life to support all beings.  I also honor Mother Night for holding space for our dreaming time, and the healing this provides us.

Before each office I recite a centering prayer to Brìde that I may commune with the Power of Source, which gives me my heart, where my soul is held and my spirit is fed, where communion takes place, and where Imbas is heard.

I am also committing to a daily reflective writing piece for most days of the week, for which this blog will be central.

This is the rhythm which carries and sustains me.  To these Powers and my Lady Brìde I am deeply grateful, for their perennial blessings of presence and guidance.  Moran taing agus slainte mhath.

Brighid, My Anam Chara

As a mother-priestess of a Brighidine Flametending Order, Nigheanan Brighde, I have a deep and close relationship with the Celtic goddess Brighid.  I am also a member of a devotional community to Her called Clann Bhride.  A new blog post by one of its founders asked how we each relate with our Lady, and on reflection, I sensed that my relationship with Her differed somewhat from that of the other devotional polytheists’ relationships I’ve read about, which seem to primarily focus on worship of Her, ascertaining Her desires, and seeking to learn and do Her work in the world.  In my own relationship with Her, I don’t feel compelled to make Her an object in that fashion.  She has come to me offering me Her help– if I seek to heal, She will help; if I seek to remember ancestral ways, She will help; if I seek to write, She will help; if I seek to forge sacred relationships, She will help.  As my spirit seeks centering and my soul seeks connection, She leads the way; She helps. Through communion with Her, she guides me to the Center, that I may connect with the Source there, and holds the space in which I might do so, yet She Herself is not that Source.  She, like myself and all living beings, emanates from that Source.

I most relate with Brìde is as Guide, as She is invoked in a Scottish prayer in the Carmina Gadelica, which refers to Her as a helping woman, a constant companion, a maker of song. I pray to Her for spiritual and daily living guidance, to be my companion on my always-unfolding spiritual journey and growth, to inspire me and my expressions as my maker of song. Muse of poets comes somewhat closest to this idea, but not necessarily so literally as that, although at times that is the case. But in relating with Her as Guide and Companion, She is more akin to an anam chara, soul friend, who leads me to the center, to the edges, and into sacred relationship with everything in-between. Communing with and listening to Her helps me on this journey, but the journey isn’t all about Her, or meant to end with finding Her, or meant to be focused on Her as its main object or subject. She points the way, She holds my hand, She whispers wisdom, but the point of the journey is that which She points me towards, and the wisdom She imparts, towards living a life grounded in sacred relationships of mutual benefit and respect, expressing my unfolding destiny in ways which support all life by giving blessings, as does the bright sun of Her fire, and the nourishing spring of Her healing waters.  These I give thanks to, seek to learn from, and hope to emulate.

The Sacred Spring and my Centering prayer

In Celtic traditions, the Sacred Spring is an iconic image, containing and conveying blessings both seen and unseen, both tangible and intangible.

It’s primary blessing is that of nourishing the landscape and all life with its quenching waters, supporting all growing life where its waters emerge and flow.  River origins are ritually visited on sacred days, dressed and feasted, in thanks for their blessings to the land and people.  The rivers flowing from them are the bloodlines of the land, engaged with as life-giving goddesses, even if the stories of the women becoming river goddesses are less than numinous themselves.  For the spring and the river to nourish the land and people as they do, they need not provide any more magnanimous blessings than these.

Some springs and wells though have been renowned as places of special healing, their waters said to cure certain ailments or diseases, unique to different wells. These wells too are honored, feted with flowers and offerings on sacred days, their ‘cream,’ of first dipping eagerly sought out on the early mornings of those sacred days for its special power.  Goddesses and saints of healing are associated with these wells, said to bless them with their numinous, healing qualities.

Springs and wells are understood to be living persons themselves, requiring respect.  They must be approached ritually with circumambulation, prayers requesting their blessings, and offerings given to honor its powers.  Tradition has repeatedly told of wells which were disrespected and fouled, which then disappeared from their known sites, mysteriously re-appearing in new locations.  A sacred spring will not tolerate being abused, like any other self-respecting being, and leaves the presence of abuse directly, removing its blessings and gifts from people and place.

These associations engage with the seen sacred spring and its various blessings and powers.  Through myth, we meet and engage with the unseen sacred spring, that of the Well of Wisdom formed by the magical upwelling of the underground waters, treated with the utmost reverence.  Poets sat vigil with these wells and their rivers, to seek out visions from the otherworld and the goddess of the place.

While sitting before the spring that is seen, one engages with the spring that is not seen, the magical well of wisdom.  The unseen well sits in the same space in which the seen well does; but it is seen through inner vision.  This could be called apple-branch seeing, the magical ticket allowing access to the Otherworld.  In this unseen realm, we touch the spring’s deepest power, flowing from the Underworld realm of the gods.

Sitting with this sacred spring is a balm for the spirit, returning the soul to the Great Source, effecting renewal and refreshment, gifting visions and wisdoms.  When we sit with the Well of Wisdom, we sit directly with the Source, and we are perfectly centered.  So powerful is this unseen spring that it can be respectfully approached and visited even through the representation of a living spring.

I keep just such a representation on my Brìde altar, as She is a goddess associated with many sacred healing springs and wells.  I have learned that I can sit in this place and connect with the unseen spring.  I find a deep, calm centering when I do so, and have found this to serve well as a centering exercise, to focus myself before prayer and meditation.  To accompany this visit, I have written a centering prayer which calls on Brìde’s fires to bless my inner cauldrons, and Her mantle to enfold me, to further the centering effect.  This not only centers me for prayer and meditation, it builds an internal nemeton in which to do so, which both compliments the physical spaces in which I pray and meditate when those spaces are conducive, and allows them to recede in favor of the inner nemeton when they are not.  The inner cauldrons are annointed on the body with the waters in the well, which are blessed with a prayer when filled.  Brìde fills me, blesses my space inside and out, and Her Sacred Spring grounds and centers me.

Brighid, Shining One of the Sacred Spring,

May You be a Guiding Star within my Cauldron of Knowledge, and may I know Your Illumination.

May You be a Flame of Truth within my Cauldron of Vocation, and may I hear Your Inspiration.

May You be a Vital Spark within my Cauldron of Warming, and may I feel Your Restoration.

May You be a Mantle of Blessing around my Nemeton of Devotion, and may I rest in Your Consecration.

Moran taing agus slainte mhath.

Nature

Why do we have this concept, Nature?  What purpose does this word serve?

Too often, it is used to describe the world outside of us, yet not a part of us; the place where we live, yet not what we are.  It is used juxtapositionally with industry, culture, and humanity.  It functionally exists as one half of the Cartesian dualistic dichotomy, invariably with us, and forms of our lifestyles, on the other side.

Within this word and its worldview, we are perpetually held at arms-length from the very source of our power, livelihood, abundance, nourishment, and relations.  We are separated, torn asunder, divorced, removed, yet also elevated as supreme, glorified as the pinnacle of existence, entitled to exploit its riches.

In such a dance, the exploiter and the exploited can never be joined as equals, as mutual givers, as partners in shared work and goals, or as allies on the same side of the imaginal line rather than on opposite sides.  Western modernist worldview forever pits us against Nature by its very definition so that within it, we are doomed to waging perpetual war against Nature.  Our societies, industries, and institutions support and perpetuate this view and war, ensuring its longevity and vitality.

Though the Romantic era fought back against the bleak era of rising industrialism and capitalism and its soul-killing propensities, it was lead by aristocratic urbanites who were more in love with their idealized version of nature which they could paint, write, and philosophize about than they were with the actual living world and its living persons, human and otherwise.  Saving the ideal was ultimately more important than forging respectful and mutually-beneficial relations with the other-than-human persons among whom they lived.  No real social change was attempted, and so the division and the war raged on.

To cross the line and ally with Nature, we must re-engineer our attitudes and infrastructures which have long stood on the opposite side.  When human persons live equitably, respectfully, and for mutual benefit with all the other-than-human persons surrounding us, we ally with Nature.  When human cultures honor the personhood of other-than-human persons and harmonize with the life-support systems where they live, we ally with Nature.  When human industries seek to meet human needs through caring for the land, caring for all persons, creating just enough, and sharing surpluses freely where needed, we ally with Nature.  When our institutions uphold the value of all persons and their gits, and work to preserve and perpetuate the land’s life-supporting systems for the benefit of all persons, now and into the future, we ally with Nature.

When we ally with Nature, we understand that Nature encompasses all that is, including ourselves and our cultures, as it does other-than-human persons and their cultures, as well.  We understand that Nature is what provides life for all persons, and that to stand separate from Nature is to be separated from what nourishes our very lives, which is no thing to be waging war against.  When we ally with Nature, we appreciate how our reflective and engineering abilities are gifts which allow us to think on and design lifeways which protect Nature’s life-support systems, and understand that to destroy them is wrong because it threatens the livelihood of all the other-than-human persons depending upon those systems.  They are our relations, brothers, sisters, and cousins of the land, who support our lives through their gifts.  We in turn owe them our gifts for the benefit of their lives.

When we walk with relations instead of resources, and in life-support systems instead of environments, we ally with Nature.  Once allied, we are fully and consciously encompassed and included, related and responsible.  The otherness dissolves, and ‘Nature’ as a concept evaporates and disappears.

We finally become the human persons of the Living World.

Elders

I want to revive this blog with some reflections.

The keys to our world today belong to the youth developing the latest technology.  Elders have retirement homes built for them, to live and play amongst themselves.  Our culture looses depth, meaning, and integrity when we relegate the scope and wisdom of our elders to the back halls.  Our culture will maintain perpetual adolescence with this attitude, loosing respect for ancestral precedent and custom, and dishonoring the people who have accrued the most lived experience.

Honoring elders begins with honoring ancestors, from parents on back, and seeking to understand the wisdom of ancestral customs.  Small kids in daycare and retired adults in specialty homes makes little social or economic sense, unless care is commodotized and turned into capital.

The freshness and vitality of youth is necessary, yet so too is the groundedness and accumulated knowledge of elderhood.  When a people who have lived long have learned how to live well, they need and want to share that wisdom, and, like university professors, ought to be respected for their positions to be able to do so.  Space needs to be made for them to responsibly guide their people, rather than pandered to with visions of a second adolescence themselves.  Retirement is sold as a time of long-earned rest and play, as though elders should be relieved to no longer bear responsibilities.  Responsibility equals power though, and power is lost when responsibility is revoked.

The elders’ loss of power is our loss of collective wisdom and communal participants.  Wholeness and healing cannot be achieved for our people in this state, nor can social maturity.  Glorification of youth becomes a perpetual relegation to youth and immaturity,a denial and stunting of needed growth.  This is neither progressive nor advanced.

Traditional cultures honor their elders and ancestral wisdom.  We need to follow this example.

Lean-sa dlùth ri cliù do shìnnsear.

Keep closely to the ways of your ancestors.

~traditional Gàidhlig proverb 

The Five Phases of Plant Communion

I am listening to this now- fascinating!

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Every plant in the forest is a living embodiment of spiritual wisdom and divine illumination. How do we connect with this Green Path of Plant Knowledge that opens us to the Mystery of the Forest and leads us to a greater alignment with nature and harmony with the Earth and all beings?

The Five Phases:
1. Presence, Awareness, Trust, Discernment
2. Desire for Illumination, the Need for Spiritual Connection, Surrender
3. Clearing
4. Receptivity, Acceptance
5. Respect, Humility, Gratitude

Here is an excerpt from the talk. If you like what you hear, check out the full recording.

What do you Center?

Yes, I used ‘center’ as a verb.  Not as centering yourself, but as, what do you focus on as primary, place in the spot of importance- what do you center?

I am thinking here of Penny Billington’s Celtic Cross, which is modeled from the western neopagan elemental/directional correspondence orientation.  This model centers Spirit, which is surrounded by earth, air, fire, and water, around the compass points.  I have recently learned of another such cross, and found it interesting to compare them, in terms of what each centers, or places in the spot of primary importance and focus.

This other cross is from Traditional Chinese Medicine and is comprised of its five elements.  In this system, spirit is not centered, because it isn’t considered an element, so it won’t appear anywhere on this cross.  This system conceives of elements very differently, in that what the western system calls earth is divided out into three different Chinese elements.  This already gives this way of viewing the world a different feel, perhaps a more grounded sense, being so ‘earthy’ in its orientations, to our minds.

The Chinese cross is laid out this way, with these ideas- water is at the bottom, corresponding with winter and seed gestation time; wood is to the left, corresponding with spring and sprouting/greening time, really referring to the plants on the land; fire is at the top and corresponds with summer and flowering time; metal is on the right and corresponds with autumn and the precious metals and jewels underground, and Earth is at the center, corresponding with late summer harvest and fruit and seed-making time.  The idea here is that each element ‘births’ the next around the cycle, but at each turn, there is a return first to the center, the place of transition and grounding.  So not only is Earth centered as the element of significance, it is returned to regularly in the cyclic flow of growth and development; it is centered-ness itself.

What can this tell us about the worldviews at play here?

A system and worldview which centers Spirit speaks of valuing, and centering, transcendence, of cycling around through the elements in order to leave them behind, of ultimately valuing a shedding of them.  It infers that Spirit is greater than the physicality represented by the tangible elements, and presents a hierarchy of being.  This does seem to be a thread in western culture’s worldview, and indeed this Classical model comes to us from medieval Alchemy, which was all about transforming the profane physical into the pure spiritual.  It is somewhat ironic now that the traditions of Druidry and Wicca, allegedly earth-based, center such a system which actually professes the opposite sentiment.

Conversely, a system and worldview which centers Earth speaks of valuing the immanent, the grounded, and the powers of fertility and sustenance.  Traversing this wheel doesn’t speak of trying to leave anything behind, because it flows back to the center at each turn; the cycle exists to carry us continually. I admit to not knowing the age of this system, but my understanding in general is that TCM itself is thousands of years old.  My guess is that it predates Buddhism, which emphasizes transcendence as opposed to immanence, which seems to present yet another contradiction, since the Chinese have embraced this religion which seeks to end earthly incarnations for a purer existence of spirit.  This system does not include spirit as an element at all though, which speaks again of valuing immanence- instead of spirit being a separate element from the tangible, physical elements, it is called chi, and is considered an inseparable part of all the physical elements.  This then is a non-dualistic system and worldview, differing sharply from the western worldview which is inherently dualistic, placing the spiritual and the physical in separate realms.  Dualism was favored first by the Church, then later by Scientific Enlightenment thinkers and scientists like Rene Descarte, who gave us the Cartesian worldview of the earth and universe as a machine, dirt and earth as inert, to be used and abused as we pleased.  We know now that the soil is actually alive with microbes and fungi which support life, and we have seen what consequences come of living life through a dualistic lens.  Separation leads to destruction.

I offer gratitude to the ancient Chinese who created their system and worldview, and to the Chinese people today for keeping it alive, that I might learn of this worldview and benefit from it.  It strikes me as more in tune with indigenous mind than the western system.  It makes me wonder what my own deep ancestors would have made of such a dualistic worldview; I cannot help but think that they, like other indigenous peoples of the world, would have rejected it and seen the folly in it.  And it makes me wonder what, if they had some version of an elemental cross, it might have looked like and conveyed.