Saturday, October 31, 2009


Tonight the Winter season for many in the Celtic traditions begins. This is the dark half of the year. The last of the harvest is in. The cold times are at hand. In lands with few cities candle or lamplight glimmering through the cottage windows would have been a welcome sight indeed.

In the past when our ancestors had to rely on the bounty their lands provided it could be a time of mixed blessings. Yes, it was a time to give thanks for the harvest. But, it was also an anxious time. Would this years’ harvest last until the first crops of spring came in? Could enough breeding stock be carried through the dark times to replenish the herds in the spring? Women in the coastal villages would have to wonder how many of their men folk would go out for the fishing, never to return. The spring bonfires of Beltane must have looked very far away.

But, the wheel turns and it is right to give thanks for the year that is passing. It is also time to think about what went right with the year, what we learned and how we might do things differently in the new year that is beginning. It’s also a time to remember those friends and family that are far away, even if they are just around the corner.

Song of Samhain

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing.
I am the bright releaser of all pain.
I am the quickener of fallen seed case.
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight.
I am the hearth fire and the welcome bread.
I am the curtained awning of the pillow.
I am unending wisdom’s golden thread.

Caitlin Matthews.

Monday, October 5, 2009


This is another example of what is often called an encompassing prayer. The Three may be the traditional Trinity, I’ve read some wonderful prayers using the traditional images but on a more personal level. Some of the old islanders and highland crofters used Mary, St Michael, and St Brigid. (usually pronounced Brede and can also be spelled Bride; she was also the Irish goddess associated with poetry and healing) Somehow she made the transition from pagan goddess to Christian saint, but still with the image of healing and protection. Or the Three can be the trinity of the last entry; the Shape, Shaper, and Shaping of Life itself.

The Three Who are over me,
The Three Who are below me,
The Three Who are above me here,
The Three Who are above me yonder,
The Three Who are in the earth,
The Three Who are in the air,
The Three Who are in the heavens,
The Three Who are in the great pouring sea.

There is that wonderful promise of protection and guardianship from all that surrounds us. These prayers come out of the lands facing the North Sea or the North Atlantic. Expecting protection from elements known for rain, snow and great storms as well as gentle rains and sunshine is a real leap of faith.

Cross posted in Green Woman.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Some of these entries may seem a little disconnected. I’m trying to work my way more deeply into concepts I can just barely wrap my brain around at times. The old Celtic pagan and even Christian concepts of the natural world and the society that lived in it are so different, almost alien to what we wake up to every morning that frankly I feel as though I’m looking through someone else’s eyes. And the focus is just a little bit “off.”

The veils between the physical and spiritual worlds seemed thinner in the past. There was a time when it was easier to believe that there were spirits in the rocks, the trees, the streams. A vision of the world that’s still often dismissed as “Nature Worship” by mainstream society. To be honest I’m not sure how I’m going to explain this road I’m traveling to some of my family. My nephews are wonderful young men, but a more uncurious crew I’ve never met. Heck, they’ve got their drummer, I’ve got mine.

I don’t believe that the old Celts worshipped Nature as I understand word, but they were much more in touch with the world, seen and unseen, around them. This immersion in the spirit world seems to have persisted longest on the fringes of Europe. In Ireland, where Rome’s writ never ran. Or in the highlands and islands of Scotland beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Even the people of Wales held onto most of their independence until the thirteenth century and the invasions of England’s Edward I.

I’m not even sure that the Celtic concept of creation or creator is the same as the world view I grew up with. They certainly have enough different words to work with. And heck, maybe it doesn’t really matter unless you’re trying to learn how to speak one of these jaw breakers of a language.

The word often used in Irish for creator, Duileamh (always capitalized and pronounced dool-yev) doesn’t have the root word for create. It doesn’t have the root word for God, or the Almighty, or Supreme Being; all those words our world view equates with a supernatural Creator.

This difficult, for us, to pin down word can mean “being in the elements,” or “one who is in the elements” or “one who is the elements.” To make it even more interesting the root duil can also mean desire, hope, fondness or expectation. They’re all related, I guess, maybe…….oh heck I’ll take their word for it. Try asking Who is fond of What? Who desires What? Careful, the next thing you know you just might decide that Creator and Creation are caught in a web of desire, hope, and fondness that we aren’t used to facing in our world view of the sacred confined to a few hours on a certain day and tucked in the closet the rest of the time.

The highlanders of Scotland used to bless each other in a way that turns the way we treat each other and the world around us on its head.

“The love and affection of the moon be yours.
The love and affection of the sun be yours.
The love and affection of the stars be yours.”

And work their way through all the things of nature around them until they end with

“The love and affection of all living things be yours.”

Adapted from Yearning for the wind.

Perhaps it isn’t so strange to feel a kinship with the sun. The sun feeds the plants, the plants feed the cows and the cows feed us. I guess you could say we carry a bit of sunshine with us through the day; and the night.

If we really believed that the local river had love and affection for us we might treat it like the irreplaceable creation that it is instead of as a sewer. If we could stretch our minds around the idea that the mountains and valleys might love us perhaps we’d think twice about carving off the top of a mountain to get at the coal and dumping the tailings in the valley below. If we truly felt the living web instead of seeing board feet when we look at an old growth forest maybe we’d be more careful as we harvest the trees we need. As it stands we don’t believe we have the love and affection of our fellow human beings much less the rest of the world and the creatures in it.

The elements of creation. “The Love and Affection of the Elements. The Pure Love of the Elements. The Being of the Elements. The One Who is the Elements.” Tom Cowan notes that the participants were trying to discuss these concepts at a workshop for Celtic Shamanism. One woman in the group wished our language had words like these. Another broke in with “Wouldn’t it be great if our culture had ideas like this.” Taken from Yearning for the Wind.

Just wouldn’t it though?

Cross posted at Green Woman.


I did something I very rarely do. I bought a best seller while it was still on the best seller list. It’s Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. And based on my first blast through the book I have a suggestion that would put Mr. Polansky’s talents to good use and keep him too busy to enjoy the delights of either France or his home I Switzerland for a very long time. How about a life sentence to community service making documentaries? On location.

He could start with the stories of poor or rural girls from Nepal to Malaysia and Thailand. Lured with promises of decent work in the cities or outright kidnapped they end up in a brother. Drugged, beaten and terrorized until they submit. Discarded when they reach their early twenties as too old and often with added bonus of infection with the AIDS virus.

Then there’s the use of rape as a weapon of war in Central Africa, Sudan, Darfur, the Congo region of Africa, Rwanda, Kosovo, or Bosnia. Tracking down and telling the stories of the survivors and how they’re putting their lives back together one day at a time, one step of a time. That should keep him busy for at least a year.

I have a title for a third possible documentary. One Woman a Minute courtesy of Mr. Kristof’s book. Approximately one woman dies every minute, sixty minutes an hour, twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty fire and a quarter days a year. They die in child birth or from complications of the birth. They die from ignorance, lack of pre natal care, or lack of post natal care. They die because they were married too young. They die because in too many parts of the world girls and women are the last in line when the food or medicine runs short. They die because they need surgery and the family has no money to pay the doctors that won’t help unless they’re paid first. They die because the doctors are willing and the supplies aren’t there or were stolen. I could go on and on.

Even with our teetering health care system an American woman has excellent odds of surviving; ours are 1 in 4,800 of dying in childbirth. Not the best; the odds are 1 in 47,600 for a woman in Ireland but it still beats the hell out of the 1 in 7 for a young other in the Western African country of Niger.

There’s hope in the world too. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh pioneered the use of micro credit loans to help villagers start small businesses, very small businesses. The catch? Almost all the loans go to women. When a woman earns extra money she puts it into her family. And in parts of the world where access to education is severely limited those extra coins can make a difference between some education and no education at all. Here’s a statistic for you. Six dollars a year for a new school uniform for a South African school girl can help keep her in school and unmarried for another year. That education can help her put off early child birth and raise her chances of surviving to raise those children.

I could go on, but those four would do for starters. If he manages to get those done there’s a world full of hurt and courage to be recorded out there It would not only bring Mr. Polansky face to face with the pain of your girls forced into the sex trade. It would also remind the women of the United States, Canada and Western Europe of what too many of our sisters are still forced to endure.

Cross posted at Women On.

Friday, October 2, 2009


A non-traditional Celtic take on the traditional Trinity.

Cruthaitheoir (noun): creator Cruth (noun):shape. Cruthigh (verb): to create, to shape.

Honestly, I have no idea how to pronounce the Irish and the net wasn’t much help. In any case when most of us use the word create we mean to bring something into existence. However, the less common definition of create is ‘to bring into a new form.” And, the root word cruth in those Irish words means to shape. Shaping implies that you are working with something that already exists.

In the Celtic mythology stories that have survived, there appears to be no creation myths as we understand them. One of those in the beginning there was a Void, a cosmic Egg, something that wasn’t there and then it was there, somehow. Something created from nothing.

Since those eternally curious scribes in the ancient Irish monasteries translated, copied, and recopied every written scrap they could find it seems unlikely to many scholars that any creation myths they found wouldn’t have been recorded even if they were cleaned up to give them a less pagan cast.

Or, perhaps, the Celts never had an “in the beginning” story to start with. The universe didn’t have to come “into” existence because it has always existed. This does answer one problem. If the universe is created, who created the Creator? If somehow the universe has always existed then the Creator has always existed, does exist and will always exist. Creation then becomes a reshaping of what already exists, not the creation of something out of nothing. In this universe even the big bang becomes a reshaping of a “something” that already existed. What that “something” was or is we don’t know. Perhaps as humans with human limitations this is something we can’t know or comprehend.

And where does the raw material for reshaping come from? For some, like the writer Tom Cowan, the raw material the Creator works with is the Creator itself. (arrrrgh! Pronouns describing the indescribable are such fun to try to use.) This ever changing, ever shifting, and always becoming universe is made not only by the Creator but from the very essence of that Creator.

One of the best examples I can think of is this. A giant star is mostly hydrogen with some helium and an almost undetectable scattering of heavier elements. It lives its life, burns through its hydrogen fuel in a few million years, explodes as a supernova and seeds the universe with star stuff. The carbon that builds our cells, the oxygen we breathe, the iron in the steel that holds up our skyscrapers: these elements were forged in the heart of an exploding star. This star stuff reshaped, renewed, becomes new stars, new planets and wonder of wonders; us.

Cowan, who works with Celtic and shamanic traditions took the more traditional trinity and reworked it using the image of shaping. So the trinity becomes The Shaper of life, the Shape of life, and the Shaping of life. These three are truly indivisible, no one of the three can exist without the other two. It sounds really odd to say it but this trinity does work. And in a strange way we become not only the Created but the Creator. We are the Shaper, the Shape and the Shaping itself. (I know, my brain is feeling a little “sprained” right now.)

And he rewrote an old Irish prayer using the trinity of shaping.

Shaper of life, above me and below.
Shaper of life before me as I go.
Shaper of life, at my sides and
I know that You circle me around
And around and around.

Shape of life, above and below.
Shape of life before me as I go.
Shape of life, at my sides and
I know that You circle me around
And around and around.

Shaping of life, above and below.
Shaping of life before me as I go.
Shaping of life, at my sides and
I know the You circle me around
And around and around.

Sacred Three, above and below.
Sacred Three before me as I go.
Sacred Three at my sides and
I know that You circle me around
And around and around.

From Yearning for the Wind

So, all of us should rejoice for we are truly a part of the Creator of creation.

Cross posted in Green Woman.