Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Before there was the written word, there were the stories handed down through the generations, told and retold. And before men and women walked the earth and told their stories, the land itself had its own gospel. What Caitlin Matthews calls The Gospel of the Grass/

The idea of a document’s being “scriptural,” that is, having authority, is integral to Western thought. We no longer remember that wisdom, knowledge, and teaching were conveyed primarily by oral means. In early Celtic times it was the word that had authority, not what was written. The druids did not write their teachings down; they conveyed them by word of mouth directly to the ear of the hearer. Nothing intervened.

Beyond oral traditions of transmission is another level of understanding that human beings have largely forgotten but that animals still live by and understand; the gospel of the grass. The connective principles of the green world have their own authority and primacy in the transmission of living wisdom. The Book of Job compares all life to grass, and speaks of the way in which the upspringing green shoot withers away and is cast into the fire to be burned. Yet this green shoot feeds the human and animal world. The green grain ripens into the golden harvest that makes our very bread.

Before people spoke, or wrote, or even existed, the grasses were growing and swaying in the wind, If we are able to listen to the wisdom of the green world with our instinctive senses, we may hear the primal scripture that has its own spiritual language and understand the knowledge that transcends all religious boundaries.

Caitlin Matthews in the Celtic Spirit

I’m not sure why the druids didn’t leave written records. Of course most other so called pagan traditions didn’t either. If they did, it would be easier to recreate the old traditions. In a world almost drowning in the written word we forget that Gutenberg perfected his printing press less than six hundred years ago. And that until the last few decades books still weren’t that cheap.

Easy access to the written word tends to devalue the ability to memorize large amounts of information and the accuracy of oral traditions. It turns out that communities that rely on oral transmission of information send it on with remarkably few mistakes. I suspect the reputation of a bard or priest depended on how well he or she could pass on their stories, ballads and religious rites. And the King’s Truth was the foundation of peace and prosperity for the land and all who depended on it.

Look at the politicians and the pundits. No, don’t look at them listen to them. They lie as easily as a bird flies or a fish swims and with less finesse. The King’s truth is the foundation we ignore it at our peril. Just look around us.

1 comment:

Lisa :-] said...

As one who fancies herself "a writer," I feel like I'm biting the hand that feeds me... But I think it's true that written language, while enduring, tends to separate us from the oral nuances of the stories. Human beings seem very attracted to the idea of taking the face-to-face emotional experience out of communication--look at how popular texting has become.