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Archetypes: Our Travelling Companions

Communion Reflection for March 26, 2019 

In my grandmother's tiny front parlour, next to her Victrola, there sat a heavy hard-bound book

containing all of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales.

In the summers of my childhood, after a magical overnight train journey,

we stayed with my grandmother. I remember my eagerness to open that book on each visit,

turning always to the same story: "The Travelling Companion". It had all the delights a child could want:

terror and sadness, mystery and secret journeys to a hidden cave in a mountain,

an ogre and a bloodthirsty princess who beheaded her suitors when they could not answer her questions…

but most of all I loved the main character, John.

Andersen's tale begins like this: "Poor John was very sad, for his father was ill and would not recover."

After a loving farewell, promising that John would be cared for by Providence,

the father dies, leaving the young man all alone in the world.

After the funeral, John sets off into the wide world, carrying his inheritance of fifty gold marks.

That night he seeks shelter in church where an open coffin sits awaiting a funeral in the morning.

Wicked men, to whom the dead man owed money, come to seek revenge.

They plan to seize the man's body and hurl it into the woods.

But John approaches them, offering his fifty gold marks if they will promise

not to dishonour the dead man. They agree….

Next morning, as John continues on his way, a stranger with a wise and kind countenance

asks if he might travel with John as a companion. Well, you can guess the rest….

This was no ordinary mortal, but a magical being who helps John to win the hand

of the fierce princess with whom he has fallen deeply in love.

When John and his new bride, now a loving woman, freed from the ogre's power,

begin their new life together, the companion bids John farewell,

revealing his identity as the spirit of the dead man whose body John saved from dishonor….

This story has been rising in my memory as we have been exploring together the concept of Archetypes.

For, after all, is not an Archetype in our life truly a "travelling companion", offering not only company

but powerful assistance in achieving the tasks of our lives, the desires of our heart?

On Saturday, I joined a ZOOM call where Jean Houston offered further insights

from her decades-long study of Archetypes.

Here are some highlights from that Zoom Call:

At the base/root of our relationship with an Archetypal presence is LOVE,

the Beloved Friend, Companion of our lives.

Archetypes are our connection to the wider reality, the "hooks and eyes" that assist us

in accessing the "Implicate order" as David Bohm calls it. We are the part of the "explicate order",

limited in our reality. Archetypes bring to us the inspirations, ideas, supports, strength

to engage in our lives/our tasks with greater capability.

Einstein believed imagination was the key to knowing. As we learn to extend our imagination,

it takes us into the imaginal field where so much potential lies, where we encounter the Archetypes.

Rumi wrote that for each garden that he sees around him,

there are a thousand magnificent gardens within his soul…

Jean invited us to consider which Archetype we chose or were chosen by in our lives.

He or she may be a real person living now, or someone who once lived (Julian of Norwich,

Brigid of Kildare, Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene) or someone in the imaginal realm, such as the Greek Goddesses,

or Brigid, the ancient goddess of the Irish, or Isis of Egypt.

We are called to grow the Archetypes if they are of the past,

to engage with them as co-creative partners, to assist in their rebirth for our times.

Was there a time when we called upon an Archetypal presence

to assist us with some task or challenge? Jean invites us to imagine how our lives might change

if we were to live more consciously, even continuously, aware of being partnered

by the Archetypal presence in our daily tasks, our relationships, decisions, challenges…

To engage the Archetype, Jean suggests we begin with our strongest senses:

whether that be through dance, music, art,or perhaps writing a dialogue

where we ask the Archetype a question, then write the answer that rises in us…

 

Selene the Moon Goddess: Artwork by Susan Seddon Boulet

During the Zoom Call Jean invited us into the following processes:

  1. Breathe deeply, and sense you are drawing in with each breath the presence of your Archetype;
  2.  

    draw in her/his seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, knowing, loving…
  3. In the practice what do you see, hear, touch, feel, experience in the presence of the Archetype?

Last evening, I invited the women on our Communion Zoom call to engage in this process:

some experienced a scent (sandalwood, roses); others felt a sense of wholeness;

another heard the song, "Love Changes Everything", and still another

had an inspiration related to a workshop she was planning.

Raise your hands, palms outward, towards where you imagine your Archetype standing, facing you.

Feel the energy that may tingle on your palms. Know yourself deeply loved, known,

encouraged and understood by this presence, the part of yourself

that links you to the sacred, the LOVE in the Universe.

As Jean assures us, a relationship with an Archetypal presence is not unlike other relationships in our lives:

it will grow, deepen, and expand over time as we journey with our travelling companion.

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Communion Reflection for March 19, 2019

Mary of Nazareth

 

These recent weeks of reflecting on Archetypes may have awakened memories for us,

shaken free long-forgotten thoughts and experiences in our lives.

This morning, as I considered how we might continue our exploration,

I suddenly remembered a day when I was perhaps eleven years old.

Each afternoon, walking home from school, I passed our parish church.

On this day, I was drawn to go inside.

I remember glancing at the green-robed marble statue of Mary,

standing to the left side of the altar. Her stonewhite face was shuttered, her eyes downcast.

The statue radiated coldness. Though I did not understand what her title of "Virgin" signified,

I associated the word with an absence of what I longed for most in my life: warmth, caring, love.

 

 I turned away from the statue, and noticed a small booklet on the bench where I was sitting.

It contained the Scripture readings for the Sundays of each month, with reflections.

On the inside front cover, someone had written of Mary,

creatively presenting ideas in the form of a letter as though it had been written by her.

I have now no memory of the letter's content. Perhaps I did not even read it.

I was transfixed by the words at the end, "Your Loving Mother Mary."

 

In that instant, my life shifted. A loving presence entered into my existence and has never left me.

 

As Jean Houston has written, "Whenever they move into our awareness, both personally and collectively,

archetypes and the old and new stories that they bring with them announce a time of change and deepening."

 

It would be decades before I grasped the true significance of Mary as Archetype.

Sanctuary of Isis on Philae

Come with me now to the tiny sanctuary dedicated to Isis on the Island of Philae in the Nile River.

Crowded into a space never meant for a group as large as ours, stand here

with our Communion companions, Ellyn and Suzanne, as well as with the other travellers

on this spiritual journey to Egypt, led by Jean Houston.

Listen now to the words Jean is reading from the writings of Apuleius,

a second century Roman, not a Christian.

In the story, a hapless magician named Lucius has cried out to the goddess for help. Isis responds.

  The way the Sacred One identifies herself to Lucius may startle you: 

“I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements,

the first child of time, the supreme divinity….

I, whose single godhead is venerated all over the earth

under manifold forms, varying rites, and changing names…

 “Behold, I am come to you in your calamity. I am come with solace and aid.

Away then with tears. Cease to moan. Send sorrow packing.

Soon through my providence shall the sun of your salvation rise.

Hearken therefore with care unto what I bid.

Eternal religion has dedicated to me the day which will be born

from the womb of this present darkness.”

 

After the reading, listen as Suzanne suggests that we call out all the names

by which we have known the Sacred Feminine. Listen as voice after voice

calls out wonderful names. Many of these names are familiar to you,

titles you may have learned as a child, referring to Mary:

Mystical Rose. Tower of Ivory. Gate of Heaven. Star of the Sea.

Jean’s voice, strong, certain, proclaims: "Mary in all her forms."

 

The human heart longs for a divine mothering presence. Ancient cultures honoured a feminine divine

who over millennia was called by many names: Isis in Egypt; Inanna in Sumeria; Ishtar in Babylon;

Athena, Hera and Demeter in Greece, Anu or Danu among the ancient Celts;

Durga, Kali and Lakshmi in India; for the Kabbalists, Shekinah;

for the gnostics, Sophia or Divine Wisdom.

 

In the early centuries of Christianity, Mary of Nazareth became an Archetype of a Loving Mother.

 Christianity had no “Mother God” to take the place of the Goddesses

whose worship it was determined to eradicate.

In his book The Virgin, Geoffrey Ashe writes of his theory

that Mary’s gradual ascension in Christianity was not

an initiative of Church Leadership, but rather a response

to the hunger of the early Christians for a sacred feminine presence.

 

Mary became for Christianity a portal for that sacred presence.

Or, put another way, a sacred presence responded to the cries of her people

when they called her “Mary”, just as that presence had responded

over the millennia to other names cried out in love or sorrow or desperate need.

 

And yet, before any of that happened, Mary, a young woman living in Nazareth,

a town despised in Israel, was already a luminous presence.

Mary made a choice to say "yes" to a call that held mystery, uncertainty,

unimaginable risk, a call to mother a child with a love that would ask of her everything.

 

When we first meet Mary in the Gospels, she is being offered that invitation.

The Christian calendar assigns a day to honour her acceptance:

March 25th, Feast of the Annunciation.

Here is how John O’Donohue imagines the scene:

 

Cast from afar before the stones were born

And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,

The words have waited for the hunger in her

To become the silence where they could form.

 

The day’s last light frames her by the window,

A young woman with distance in her gaze,

She could never imagine the surprise

That is hovering over her life now.

 

The sentence awakens like a raven,

Fluttering and dark, opening her heart

To nest the voice that first whispered the earth

From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.

 

She offers to mother the shadow’s child;

Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

 

Where does our story touch Mary’s? Where are the meeting points?

What are the words waiting for the hunger in us “to become the silence where they could form”?

This might be a question to ask in our daily contemplative time…

When our hearts open, will they also become a nest for a new birthing of the Holy?

The urgent needs of our time require a “yes” to the conception, followed by the birthing, of newness.

 

Mary’s story gives us the courage to say “yes” without knowing where that “yes” may lead.

It is enough to know that certainly our own life will become, like Mary’s, “wild inside”.

Mary comes as Archetype to each one of us who carries the Holy within us, seeking a place of birth.

We walk the dark road, with Mary, in trust. We walk companioned by one

who knows our struggles to maintain our trust in the face of inner doubts and outer calamity.

We walk with one who loves us and encourages us, prepares us,

to welcome “the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

 

 

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 The Nature of Archetypes: Part Two

By Jean Houston

Everyone, I suspect, has a relationship to a "field" or family of an archetype…

Christianity would generally constellate most who profess to be Christians within the family

or field of Jesus Christ, although in the various Catholic denominations as well as Hinduism

the "family connection" can be found through a special devotion to a saint or a god or goddess.

In Hinduism, and especially in Buddhism, this devotion becomes the richly evocative practice of deity yoga,

which is the spiritual path of the present Dalai Lama. One feels oneself partnered by an archetype,

and in one's meditation and life knows oneself to be the exotype

in time and space of an archetypal being who lives beyond time and space.

Thus in deity yoga, one incarnates in one's spiritual practices the qualities

and then the actual Essence of the spiritual personage.

This one does by first dissolving into one's essential nature, and then in this emptied state,

connecting and communing with the archetypal partner.
In our time we have suddenly become directors of a world that up to now

has mostly directed us. This exponential growth in responsibility requires a corresponding

enhancement in consciousness and psyche as formidable as it is necessary.

For as things are now, extremely limited consciousness has the powers

once mythically accorded to the gods. As we attempt to play "catch-up" we find ourselves

seeking the enrichment of an archetypical base that can provide  missing components of intelligence,

wisdom and compassion. But first we have to get past the conundrum that these archetypal "partners"

still bear the baggage of ancient attitudes, fine for one era, devastating for another. 

Thus, the process, that I am calling the growing of the gods may, in turn,

be part of the necessary evolution of the anima mundi, the soul of the world.

The nature of this evolution can itself be seen as a historical movement of division

from an undifferentiated noumen into the multiple faces and stories of gods and archetypes.

Each particular god bears the holonomic resonance of the original unity,

refracted through the lens of time and culture, a parochial rendering of the sacred.

Back in paleolithic and early neolithic times, the Ur Mother, the Great Goddess,

was felt and known in her utter and absolute suchness. She was the One without a second.

Susan Seddon Boulet: Goddess

As the culture of agriculture expanded, communities and roles were becoming ever more complex

and differentiated, so Herself divided and became many, her powers particularized,

her agenda shared. She took on the faces of the seasons--the Triple Goddess

in her roles as Spring Maiden, Fruitful summer Mother, and Wizened winter Crone.

 

The Triple Goddess individuated further, becoming the vehicle of stories that reflected

not just the agricultural cycle but also the psychological dramas and rituals of everyday life--

birth, growth, learning, sex, fertility, family relationships, wounding, death.

Thus the Great Mother birthed herself in multiple story lines, multiple matrices.

As humans tell and retell, live and relive these stories, their psyches too expand.

Throughout time, mystics, creators, and crazies, shamans, fey folk and lovers

have so identified their local life with the larger life of the archetype

that they were able to dwell in the realm of myth and goddedness but at the same time

enjoy the delights of flesh and firmament. They have felt themselves to be embodiments

of the archetype in time with accompanying skills and powers

that seemed to belong more to the archetype than to their culture and habit-bound selves.

But there is still a great divide between gods and humans. The gods are not schizophrenic as humans are.

The polarities and seeming splits in their nature are more on the order of a healthy polyphrenia.

Their multiple selves serve them according to the needs of any situation.

They can also elate themselves into the One, and know that Oneness as their true condition.

Knowing the One they can step down into the many--thus their polyphrenia,

their wide play of attributes, their many selves. This protean skill is one that humanity awaits

and, perhaps, in our time is moving towards.

What myths have told us about the polyphrenia of the gods may be

our evolutionary portion as we humans move into the next stage of our becoming.

This would mean, as I have suggested earlier, that people will develop

a very different kind of psychological structure. Instead of having a dominant self or ego,

they will learn to keep a large cast of characters active, calling them to stage front

to fit the occasion. The orchestrator of these selves may not be

the ego as we have known it, but instead a high self, one that is not culture-bound

but more in the nature of a panhistorical archetypal persona.

What I am calling "Athena" may be the emerging archetypal orchestrator of my inner crew of selves.

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Communion Reflection for March 5, 2019

In recent postings we have been coming to see Brigid as an expression, an embodiment of the Sacred feminine,

an archetype of those energies, those qualities that we associate with the womanly face of the divine.

But what is an archetype and how might our relationship with one or more

both enhance and enchant our lives? How might archetypes work with us and through us

towards the healing of life around our suffering planet?

Jean Houston’s luminous writings on Archetypes provide answers to both these questions.  

THE NATURE OF ARCHETYPES

(from the writings of Jean Houston) 

I have had hundreds of research subjects in altered states of consciousness and many thousands of participants

in my seminars describe adventures of the soul so grand, so mythic,

and yet so redolent of universal themes, that I can readily testify

to the existence of a collective pool of myth and archetype

residing in each human being as part of his or her natural equipment.

This joining of local life to great life is a central experience of what I call "sacred psychology."

It differs from ordinary psychology in that it provides ways of moving from outmoded existence

to an amplified life that is at once more cherished and more cherishing.

It requires that we undertake the extraordinary task of dying to our current, local selves

and of being reborn to our eternal selves. When we descend into the forgotten knowings

of earlier or deeper phases of our existence, we often find hidden potentials,

the unfulfilled and unfinished seedings of what we still contain,

which myth often disguises as secret helpers or mighty talismans.

Our ancestors saw them in the heavens, prayed to them as

Mother Earth, Father Ocean, Sister Wind

Myths have such power because they are full of archetypes. Archetypes are many things--primal forms,

codings of the deep unconscious, constellations of psychic energy, patterns of relationship.

Our ancestors saw them in the heavens, prayed to them as Mother Earth, Father Ocean, Sister Wind.

They were the great relatives from whom we derived, and they gave us not only our existence,

but also prompted our stories, elicited our moral order. Later, they became personified

in mythic characters and their stories--the contending brothers, the holy child,

the search for the beloved, the heroic journey.

archetypes give us…the gossamer bridge that joins spirit with nature,

mind with body, and self with the… universe

As major organs of the psyche, archetypes give us our essential connections,

and without them we would lose the gossamer bridge that joins spirit with nature,

mind with body, and self with the metabody of the universe.

Archetypes are organs of Essence, the cosmic blueprints of How It All Works.

Because they contain so much, archetypes bewilder analysis and perhaps can only be known

by direct experience.

this mythic being becomes an aspect of ourselves writ large

Thus, in the journey of transformation, as we participate in these symbolic dramas,

we actively engage in archetypal existence. For not only do we form

a powerful sense of identity with the archetypal character, but this mythic being

becomes an aspect of ourselves writ large, and symbolic happenings appear

with undisguised relevance, not only for our own lives and problems,

but for the remaking of society as well.

Working with myth and archetype, we discover that we are characters

in the drama of the Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World. In this discovery

we push the boundaries of our own human story and gain the courage

to live mythically ourselves and to help heal our world.

 

A psychology with a mythic or sacred base demands that we have the courage

both to release old toxicities and diminishments and to gain access

to our inner storehouse of capacities and use them to prepare ourselves

for the greater agenda--becoming an instrument through which the source

may play its great music.

Then, like the hero or heroine of myth, we may, regardless of our circumstances,

become an inspiration for helping culture and consciousness

move towards its next level of possibility.

this dream demands that we live out of our true essence

At this we startle, we shake. The scope of this dream demands that we live out of our true essence,

which is always too large for our local contracted consciousness to contain.

I find that it requires many mythic adventures of the soul

to reloom body and mind. But such is necessary if we are to return to everyday life

with knowledge gained in the depths that can be put to use

to redeem the "unread vision of the higher dream" inherent in both self and society.  

 

Archetypes are shared constructs. We might think of them as greater Presences,

which stand behind and inform the personal images of many individuals.

such timeless beings ask…to be regrown

Sometimes the archetypes manifest in their archaic forms as gods or goddesses

or as legendary heroes or heroines of earlier cultures, but always such timeless beings ask

to be seen in new and fresh ways--they ask to be regrown.

Whenever they move into our awareness, both personally and collectively,

archetypes and the old and new stories that they bring with them announce

a time of change and deepening. I deeply believe that such is happening all over the globe.

Because I travel so much, I have occasion to witness firsthand

the changing of the archetypes as society changes.

as we grow the "gods", the "gods" grow us

The enhancement goes both ways, for as we grow the "gods", the "gods" grow us.

How do we grow these so-called gods? Perhaps it is by pursuing a conscious partnership

with an archetype or psychospiritual power that has the same kinds of qualities as ourselves,

as Athena was the natural partner of Odysseus. In living and working

with these mutual qualities as gracefully as one can,

humans help to individuate and extend the essence of the archetype in the world.

The archetypes do not need to be met as old dependencies. They need to be met as co-partners.

Image of Athena created by Susan Seddon Boulet

The individuation of the numinous finds a new turn as people everywhere are learning

to live their larger stories and tap into the necessary spiritual DNA to become archetypal.

A Buddhist statement expresses wonderfully well what it means to live archetypally.

In this state, one sees all beings as Buddha, hears all sounds as mantra, and knows all places

as nirvana. To me this means that each moment has its magic,

every action however small is stellar in its consequences ("stir a flower and bestir a star"),

and each word that one speaks is creation.

What I am calling "Athena" may be the emerging archetypal orchestrator

of my own inner crew of selves. Thus I do not become the archetype;

rather, I allow her a more central role in my psychic development. As I experience it,

this is neither inflation nor possession; it is a partnership that instructs, guides, inspires,

as well as shedding light on the meaning and message of hard times-- though without making them go away.  

 

                                 

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Seeking the Woman-God

Communion Reflection for February 26, 2019

Where do you go looking when your soul longs for a Mothering God?

Do you find her in poetry? in ancient stories? in songs or rituals or art or sacred dance?

Do you look for wise and loving women who embody her? Do you seek her in your own wise and yearning heart?

Or would you go out to explore the earth around you, seeking her in the beauty of spring flowers,

in the grace of a flowing stream, in the tender presence of young birds in a nest?

Would you look in wild places where the sea explodes into the rock face,

pummels the cliffs, shapes stone into forms that resemble an ancient wise woman, a cailleach….

A year after my return from the Brigid of Faughart Festival in Ireland, I am still processing the insights,

inspiration and experiences of those days. It is not surprising that what I found was sourced

in the lives, the words, the stories, the songs and poetry of the women I met there.

The Sacred Feminine is an embodied presence.

Yet of all that I learned, what stirs me most is the way that women spoke of seeking, finding

and being found by the Sacred Feminine in the land: in her sea and shore, her grass and trees, her wells and rivers,

her mountains and ancient stones, her golden light and eerie darkness, her wild winds and gentle rains.

I am captivated by this new understanding.

To honour the feminine presence, Wisdom Sophia, is to honour the planet which embodies her.

From earliest days, from the time even before the arrival of the Celts,

the people of Ireland honoured the goddess, whose ancient names include Aine or Anu.

She was the one whose eyes held the light of the stars, whose hair rippled like the corn,

flowed like the waves of the sea, whose body was the great earth barrows,

her breasts the hills, called "the Paps of Anu".

Before this recent visit to Ireland, I had thought these descriptors were lovely metaphors,

a poetic honouring of the sacred presence.

On this journey I met women for whom the land, the sea, the rocks and rivers somehow embodied the goddess herself.

This is not pantheism, making gods of nature, but rather panentheism, recognizing that

the holy is present within all that lives, as Teilhard de Chardin understood and taught.

Snowbound for days in a never-ending winter, I sat by the fire reading Kate Fitzpatrick's book.

Kate spoke during the Brigid Festival of her years of workshops, story-telling and powerful

shamanic healing rituals to help bring about peace in Northern Ireland.

Her guide, counsellor and co-creative partner in this was Macha, the mythical Ulster Goddess.

In her book, Macha's Twins: A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess,

(Immram Publishing, Inishowen, Donegal, Ireland 2017), Kate describes encounters with Macha,

mediated by the land and sea. While living on Inis M`or off the west coast of Ireland near Galway, Kate writes:

"I am exhilarated with the vital power of this island. The shifting clouds,

the showers of rain. What I love about it is the changing light in each hour of the day.

The land is bleak and barren. Yet the play of light makes it so beautiful.

 

 Site of the ancient fort of Dun Aengus, Inis M`or, Ireland

 

"I begin to see that Macha is the Wild Mother here. Every day in the raw vitality

of wind and rain and sea I find her.

Like her wild spirit, all here is dynamic and powerful. Restless and free.

Seeping right into my bones. I move through autumn and winter beckoned by this force.

Every day I see more of the power of the feminine in the sea, the waves, and the rock." (p. 67)

In the years that follow, Kate experiences a call to return home to Northern Ireland,

to assist the Sacred Feminine presence in the work of bringing

healing and peace to the soul of Ulster.

"By early June, it is becoming clear to me that the rocks, trees, stones and rivers,

along with the elements and the sheer beauty of this glen, have, together,

become an alchemical vessel to hold a wider healing of the soul of Ulster.

"The sea, as I look out at it this morning, is playing its part in the offering of light,

the blue of its holding, the high vibration of its silver water, the wildness of its dance.

There is a fierce power of transformation in the rolling waves. (p. 169)

Kate tells of knowing Macha's presence with her:

"I breathe deeply as she shows me pictures of the town in County Antrim where I grew up in the 1960's.

'There are many towns in the North that need healing,' Macha tells me. 'This is a journey to bring the heart home,

to bring back the kindness lost to everyone in the shadows of war.

For you, Daughter, concern yourself only with this.' (p.169)

Kate's work, with the support of other women, led to a tangible presence of light and peace in the land.

Two decades after her time on Inis M`or, Kate knew that "the old patterns are going now

and light is coming in, bringing forgiveness, beauty and joy".

Then she describes this experience:

"I sense a presence in the middle of the strand and when I look over, I see Macha walking

in the shallow waters of puddles left on the sand. I see her bend down to pick up shells.

As I walk towards her, she looks up, sees me and smiles….I sigh a deep breath and run towards her,

power seeping into me from the very sand itself. As I approach her, she straightens up and,

still holding the shells, opens her arms to welcome me. Her holding is of the ages.

In the warmth and strength of her embrace, I weep." (pp. 237-8)

Signed copies of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess 

are available from: Little Acorns Bookstore, Derry, N Ireland.

Available to order online and will deliver internationally. Please send an email to: littleacornsbookstore@yahoo.co.uk

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Communion Reflection for February 19, 2019

Cosmic Brigid Encore: Part Three 

Outside the Solas Bhride Centre on the edge of Kildare stands an enormous statue of Brigid, holding her crozier,

symbolic of her rank as Bishop in the early Celtic Christian Church.

Visiting the centre just before Brigid's Feast last year, I was drawn to approach the likeness.  

The statue was so tall that I had to bend my head back in order to see her face.

I ought to have been overwhelmed, but I was not. I sensed that the woman

in whose honour this statue had been created held the wisdom I needed

for the next phase of my spiritual journey. 

trusted she would have an answer to my questions, "Where do I go now? What must I do?"

Statue of Brigid at Solas Bhride

 

I wait in silence, hearing nothing. I begin to fear there will be no response.

Suddenly, clear soundless words form themselves deep within me:

"Stay on your path. Follow your call. Go forward. Don't look back."

It is then that I notice her fingers, lifted in a Bishop's blessing,

gesturing to my left, the feminine side….

 

Looking back now to that moment, I see it as the beginning of a deepening relationship with Brigid,

the moment when I recognized her as an archetype for my life.

 

As we prepare to explore this final segment of Kate Fitzpatrick's writings on "Cosmic Brigid",

it may be enlightening to look at the concept of Archetype. That is one way to understand

what Brigid has been and continues to become in our time.

Carl Jung taught that archetypes are an expression of the collective unconscious.

Jean Houston has written extensively on archetypes, helping her students to identify

the ones who can best support their own coming to wholeness,

and assist them in fulfilling their personal calling.

Jean teaches that archetypes are "the primal patterns from which

you derive your sense of Essence and existence.

Quintessentially, archetypes are about relationship.

We might think of them as greater Presences

which stand behind and inform the personal images

of many individuals

and influence our very perception of life."  

Far from being rigid constructs carried over from a distant past, archetypes are fluid,

capable of growing, changing, taking on new qualities required for an evolving reality.

In Jean's words: "Always, such beings ask to be seen in new and fresh ways –

they ask to grow into the energy and needs of individuals and of the times….

"today a new order of archetypes is rising

to match the swiftly changing situations we now face.

"It is our privilege and our particular challenge to witness

and assist a new story coming into time."

 

A Higher Light of Brigid

by Kate Fitzpatrick

 

In the 2 years of 2011- 2013, I returned again to work with Brigid and Serpent

and I was linking with the significant universal energy shift predicted to happen in 2012.

Out of this reflection and journeying came an understanding of Brigid as ‘Cosmic Brigid’ in a far-reaching way.

In the myth that was then weaving, it was Brigid’s light that could connect us with the Divine Feminine

coming to birth in the cosmos as part of the 2012 alignment.

The ancient energies of the Tuatha Dé Danann were always linked to the stars and to cosmic light.

This ‘cosmic’ link with Brigid has never been lost and Brigid as spiritual midwife

can support the birth of new light into the world and help to ground it safely

where it can be used for spiritual development of the human race.

I also knew that the higher evolved ‘Serpent’ energy we had been working with in 2000 is ‘Serpent in the Heart’.

 

In 2013, at Imbolc, I gave  a talk at the Navan Centre in County Armagh

that was pulling together these new ideas and I called the presentation: ‘A Higher Light of Brigid’.

This extract below summarises the evening where a new energy of Brigid was tangibly felt:

 

On Friday, 8 February 2013, an audience of some forty people have gathered at Emain Macha in County Armagh

to listen to a presentation of the stories of Brigid, together with music, songs and poems.

Brigid’s presence is tangible in our midst. Carrying her spirit on the wind, Brigid, Celtic Mother Goddess and Saint,

brings to all who might receive her light the qualities of truth, clarity, creativity and healing.

Tonight, we dare to call her ‘Cosmic Brigid’ and ask her to bring in an even higher light than heretofore.

One that is linked to the sun and the moon and the stars, to all of the heavens above us.

 

That evening was the naming of Brigid as Cosmic Brigid. And it was a year later that I went

to the Brigid of Faughart festival in Dundalk and presented the talk on ‘Cosmic Brigid’.

This idea continues in my awareness today as we move onwards

in our awakening of the Feminine spirit

and witnessing its influence as it filters in to society

and is changing our perspectives about women and roles and power.

 

New paradigms are being born and old, outdated patterns of spirituality are being shed.

The idea of ritual and ceremony is still a potent way to link the cosmic energies with the land –

thus blessing it and clearing it. The powers of Serpent energy, Feminine light

and Cosmic Brigid to assist with this are, I believe, real.

 

We are linking across universal truths. In Ireland we hold and awaken our indigenous spirituality

and we are no longer a separate island but part of a newly emerging world culture

of indigenous spiritual potential that is currently giving birth to a healed Feminine Light.

 

I am knowing Serpent to have risen.

From the centre of the Earth she came in Fire.

Across the land she came in Water.

I know her to have moved up through my body from the below

to the above and be transformed in the love of the Heart.

Kate Fitzpatrick  February 2019

 

Kate Fitzpatrick is the author of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess.

She is currently writing a book about her experiences of shamanic work with the evolving roles of Brigid saint and Goddess.

Her email is katefitzpatrick2@gmail.com

 

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Cosmic Brigid Encore : Part Two

Communion Reflection for  February 12, 2019

Introduction: As we go deeper with Kate Fitzpatrick's writings on "Cosmic Brigid"

we explore Kate's experience of a vision quest that led to her work with the Serpent power

in the energy fields of Ireland. Because I knew very little about the symbolism

of the serpent or of Brigid's relationship with it, I began with Google.

There I found that serpents and snakes are associated with fertility and rebirth,

representing a "creative life force". Snakes slough off their old skins,

allowing a new skin to emerge from underneath.This is seen as a kind of rebirth,

symbolic of transformation, healing, renewal and even immortality.

But what of Brigid and serpents or snakes?

Google responded with an article written by Feminist Thealogian Carol P. Christ on the symbols of Imbolc.

Here is an excerpt: Imbloc marked the day that cows and ewes give birth and begin to produce milk. 

It was also said to be the day when hibernating snakes (like groundhogs)

first come out of their holes…. a sure sign that the processes of transformation

will continue and warmer days will not be far off. 

As Marija Gimbutas says,“The awakening of the snakes meant the awakening of all of nature,

the beginning of the life of the new year.”

 

St. Brigid’s male counterpart, St. Patrick, was said to have driven all of the snakes out of Ireland. 

This legend reiterates the Biblical association of snakes with evil and temptation. 

In Old Europe snakes were symbols of life and regeneration….

In driving snakes out of Ireland, St. Patrick… was re-enacting the myth of slaying of the Goddess. 

 

Seeking images, I found Jo Jayson's painting of Brigid with its stylized snake formed from Brigid's braided hair: 

With this background, let us begin our journey down, down, down to where the treasures are in

Kate Fitzpatick's "Brigid as Serpent Goddess":

 

Since 2000 there have been great changes happening in spiritual light and the Feminine.

The patterns of cosmic energy began to shift in 1987 in what became known as ‘Harmonic Convergence’ (2).

What this entailed was an increase in the vibration of the earth’s energy system.

Along with this shifting of frequency, portals were opening and greater spiritual light

was coming into the earth’s field.

Many people were tracking these changes and it was said that the new millenium of 2000 would be a portal also.

Each four years after that - 2004, 2008 and right up to 2012 - would see another major shift

in the measurable hertz (that is - in the earth’s vibration rate) and corresponding portal of energy opening. 

 

In 1999 I did a vision quest in Co Antrim, N. Ireland, and as a result of this was shown to work with

the power of ‘Serpent’ in the energy fields of Ireland. As I opened my heart and mind to find out what this meant

I began in earnest doing shamanic journeys to follow this vision and carry out the work asked of me.

 

In March 2000 I decided to lead a workshop in November in Co Meath called ‘The Power of Serpent Rising’ .

I felt the first resistance to the work on St Patrick’s day as the old saint’s spirit lashed out

against the possibility of snakes being awakened again in Ireland.

This work with Serpent was very powerful. In preparation for the workshop

I found I had to sit in silence for long periods of time and hold absolute stillness and breathe very consciously.

In this practice I felt the power of Serpent energy in my body as a vital force.

She brought her gifts of healing, transformation and a sense of balance of all opposites.

I entered the void and just sat in it. Often there were no images – just an awareness of body energy.

The stillness was profound however – it was like the silence of Stone.

I trusted the ancient priestess spirits who came to guide the work with Serpent.

Their connection to Brigid as an archetypal feminine energy started to show itself.

In my whole being I glimpsed the cosmic dimensions of the ancient stone alignments of Ireland

and their eternal mythic links to the Tuathe Dé Danann.

In November 2000 four women and myself spent 5 days in Co Meath to do the workshop

to awaken Serpent power and call her back to Ireland. At a birthing ceremony at Loughcrew,

we experienced an awakening of the Serpent energy from the deep earth beneath us.

In our myth, she poured out of the Stone Cairn and onto the rich green lands of Meath that surrounded us.

On the final day we went to Tara – with the intention of grounding the energy

of Serpent in the land as an act of sovereignity to the Feminine spirit 

and we sent the power of Serpent out to the four corners of Ireland.

 

I hear the horses of the Tuatha Dé Danann thunder into Tara to witness the power of Serpent joining herself

with the ancestors of this land. To Brigid in particular, she who was once known as Serpent Mother.

I am knowing an ancient union has taken place that the Old ones have longed for.

That Serpent would return from the depths of the Earth into the heart of this land

and unite with the people of the Sidhe from whom she has been long separated.

Reference: (2)The Harmonic Convergence is the name given to one of the world's first

globally synchronized meditation events which occurred on August 16-17, 1987.

This event also coincided with an exceptional alignment of planets in the Solar System.

Deep Thanks to Kate Fitzpatrick for this luminous writing.

Next week: Cosmic Brigid Encore: Part Three "A Higher Light of Brigid"

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Cosmic Brigid Encore

Communion Reflection for February 5, 2019

"So that is that," I might have said, echoing WH Auden's post-Christmas poem…

We have once again honoured Brigid in word, in ritual, in image, in poetry.

During my brief contemplative time late last night, I asked, "What shall we do next?"

After sleeping deeply, I wakened from a dream: 

My niece Kate is teaching a literature class where I am one of her high school students.

We have just completed a reading of some story or novel. Kate announces that we will now

move on to something new, no time to lose, curriculum to cover…

But I feel a sense of loss so keen I have to speak up. "Why don't we spend more time with what we've already read?

"Take it deeper? Go down, down, down. That's where the treasures are."

The dream ended there. I awoke, already planning to dismiss the dream as readily as

Scrooge dismissed Marley's visit as "a bit of underdone beef…"

Then I "got it"… Kate? My beloved niece, whose name reminded me of Kate Fitzpatrick

and her astonishingly layered and profound "Cosmic Brigid".

No, we won't move on to something new. We need more time with "Cosmic Brigid."

So here it is as an encore. Like Scrooge's three spirits in their three visits, we shall, over the next weeks,

"take it deeper"… "go down, down, down…where the treasures are."

Let's begin with Kate's introduction where she tells us of the twin interests that led her to explore Brigid's deeper meaning:

"I am interested in tracking the changing role of Brigid over many centuries," Kate writes,

"and coupled with my interest in the cosmic shifts that are happening in our world today I asked:

How is Brigid relevant today? and Can we call her a Cosmic Goddess?"

Kate cites the blessing, "The Moon of Four Quarters" as an early example of how people of past centuries

saw Brigid in her cosmic aspect, noting how the number four is repeated.

On our Communion Zoom Call on January 31st, Shirley commented on this touching blessing invoking Brigid for safe birth.

Four corners of the bed

Four angels at her head

Mathew Mark Luke and John

God bless the bed that she lies on

New moon, New moon God bless me

God bless this house and family.

                                                   (Michael Dames, Mythic Ireland, London: Thames and Hudson, 1992)

Kate writes: "Brigid has always held the role of being a cosmic Goddess. There are many areas of life that she governs.

Her symbolism is vast and covers all elements – the power of transformation of the Fire,

the healing qualities of Water and holy wells,

and in the blessings of the Earth in the ritual prayers for crops for the year to come.

The inspiration of her creativity given to poets and crafts people is the intuitive faculty associated with the element Air."

Fire, Water, Earth, Air: the four elements of life honoured by indigenous peoples from ancient times.

These cosmic elements associated with Brigid, both as goddess and saint, we have explored in past years,

in our reflections, in our rituals. But Kate invites us to go further. In her decades of facilitating

spiritual journeys for healing and transformation using the myths of the Celtic Goddesses,

Kate has worked to bring these ancient ones to life in the context of the present day.

Here Kate's writing becomes lyrical, passionate: 

"Let the myths live on. Let the myths change, transform

and become a new thing as we work with them at profound depths.

Become the myth. Listen with your heart and allow it to weave magic within you.

Allow Brigid to be with you and to assist you in your own life.

It is not theoretical knowledge but wisdom we are speaking of.

It is the teaching of ages that we want to call in from the cosmic dimensions

to help give meaning to our lives today.

Let the women sing out the stories that the Goddesses will hear

and they too will be changed in the process."

There is fire in Kate's words. They lure us to respond: "Yes. Yes, that is what I also desire."

In my heart  they resonate deeply and become woven with the truth I am coming to know:

The Sacred Feminine Presence, by whatever name we call her, is an embodied presence,

not some ideal or intellectual concept.

Brigid, like Isis, like Sophia, like Mary, wants to be invited to enter our lives.

She will not become us, nor will we ever become her. Yet we can offer her a place to live and grow,

to reach out from within us in wisdom and love to other people, other living beings,

to our planet in this time of its wounding, perhaps even its dying.

Kate asks: "Can we allow the myths to change?

Give permission for the music to evolve?

And help Brigid to become an even bigger version of who she is?

Archetype of the Divine Feminine in her full power,

equality and wisdom.

She is a guide to us such that we too can reach for the stars

and have a model to find the map forward

in this new age of Feminine wisdom returning.

There is a higher light coming in to support us in these changing times.

A living myth of cosmic dimensions is living through and beyond us.

Will we lean into it to assist us in these challenging times?  

How do we respond?

Kate Fitzpatrick is the author of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess.

She is currently writing a book about her experiences of shamanic work with the evolving roles of Brigid saint and Goddess.

Her email is katefitzpatrick2@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communion Reflection for January 29, 2019

COSMIC BRIGID

by Kate Fitzpatrick

In February of 2013 Dolores Whelan invited me to give a presentation on Brigid

as a part of the annual Brigid of Faughart Festival in Dundalk, Co Louth, Ireland.

Upon reflection I called the talk ‘Cosmic Brigid’ as I felt it mirrored the cosmic shifts

that were coming into force at the time. I am interested in tracking the changing role of Brigid

over many centuries and coupled with my interest in the cosmic shifts

that are happening in our world today.

I asked: How is Brigid relevant today? and Can we call her a Cosmic Goddess?

 

There are many aspects of Brigid covered in her folklore and in the myths.

Michael Dames (1) in particular has outlined the cosmic role of the symbolism of Brigid.

In his research he saw that the rituals performed for centuries by ordinary people at Imbolc

when celebrating the feast of St Brigid had all cosmic symbolism and were four-fold blessings.

For example he cites a blessing called  ‘The Moon of Four Quarters’ -

used in invoking Brigid for safe birth:

Song on the threshold:-

Four corners of the bed

Four angels at her head

Mathew Mark Luke and John

God bless the bed that she lies on

New moon, New moon God bless me

God bless this house and family. (1)

 

And so Brigid has always held the role of being a cosmic Goddess.

There are many areas of life that she governs.

Her symbolism is vast and covers all elements – the power of transformation of the Fire,

the healing qualities of Water and holy wells,

and in the blessings of the Earth in the ritual prayers for crops for the year to come.

The inspiration of her creativity given to poets and crafts people is the intuitive faculty

associated with the element Air.

 

artwork by Josephine Wall

I have worked with the Celtic Goddesses for almost thirty years now –

in designing and facilitating spiritual journeys for healing and transformation.

My work with the myths is to help bring them to life in a modern context.

Let the myths live on. Let the myths change, transform and become a new thing

as we work with them at profound depths. Become the myth.

Listen with your heart and allow it to weave magic within you.

Allow Brigid to be with you and to assist you in your own life.

It is not theoretical knowledge but wisdom we are speaking of.

It is the teaching of ages that we want to call in from the cosmic dimensions

to help give meaning to our lives today.

Let the women sing out the stories that the Goddesses will hear

and they too will be changed in the process.

Can we allow the myths to change? Give permission for the music to evolve?

And help Brigid to become an even bigger version of who she is?

Archetype of the Divine Feminine in her full power, equality and wisdom.

She is a guide to us such that we too can reach for the stars and have a model

to find the map forward in this new age of Feminine wisdom returning.

There is a higher light coming in to support us in these changing times.

A living myth of cosmic dimensions is living through and beyond us.

Will we lean into it to assist us in these challenging times?  

Brigid as Serpent Goddess

Since 2000 there have been great changes happening in spiritual light and the Feminine.

The patterns of cosmic energy began to shift in 1987 in what became known as ‘Harmonic Convergence’ (2).

What this entailed was an increase in the vibration of the earth’s energy system.

Along with this shifting of frequency, portals were opening and greater spiritual light

was coming into the earth’s field.

Many people were tracking these changes and it was said that the new millenium of 2000 would be a portal also.

Each four years after that - 2004, 2008 and right up to 2012 - would see another major shift

in the measurable hertz (that is - in the earth’s vibration rate) and corresponding portal of energy opening.  

In 1999 I did a vision quest in Co Antrim, N. Ireland, and as a result of this was shown to work with

the power of ‘Serpent’ in the energy fields of Ireland. As I opened my heart and mind to find out what this meant

I began in earnest doing shamanic journeys to follow this vision and carry out the work asked of me.

 

In March 2000 I decided to lead a workshop in November in Co Meath called ‘The Power of Serpent Rising’.

I felt the first resistance to the work on St Patrick’s day as the old saint’s spirit

lashed out against the possibility of snakes being awakened again in Ireland.

This work with Serpent was very powerful. In preparation for the workshop I found I had to sit in silence

for long periods of time and hold absolute stillness and breathe very consciously.

In this practice I felt the power of Serpent energy in my body as a vital force.

She brought her gifts of healing, transformation and a sense of balance of all opposites.

I entered the void and just sat in it. Often there were no images – just an awareness of body energy.

The stillness was profound however – it was like the silence of Stone.

I trusted the ancient priestess spirits who came to guide the work with Serpent.

Their connection to Brigid as an archetypal feminine energy started to show itself.

In my whole being I glimpsed the cosmic dimensions of the ancient stone alignments of Ireland

and their eternal mythic links to the Tuathe Dé Danann.

 

In November 2000 four women and myself spent 5 days in Co Meath to do the workshop

to awaken Serpent power and call her back to Ireland. At a birthing ceremony at Loughcrew,

we experienced an awakening of the Serpent energy from the deep earth beneath us.

In our myth, she poured out of the Stone Cairn and onto the rich green lands of Meath that surrounded us.

On the final day we went to Tara – with the intention of grounding the energy of Serpent in the land

as an act of sovereignity to the Feminine spirit and we sent the power of Serpent

out to the four corners of Ireland.

 

the hill of Tara

I hear the horses of the Tuatha Dé Danann thunder into Tara

to witness the power of Serpent joining herself with the ancestors of this land.

To Brigid in particular, she who was once known as Serpent Mother.

I am knowing an ancient union has taken place that the Old ones have longed for.

That Serpent would return from the depths of the Earth into the heart of this land

and unite with the people of the Sidhe from whom she has been long separated.

 

A Higher Light of Brigid

In the 2 years of 2011- 2013, I returned again to work with Brigid and Serpent

and I was linking with the significant universal energy shift predicted to happen in 2012.

Out of this reflection and journeying came an understanding of Brigid as ‘Cosmic Brigid’

in a far-reaching way. In the myth that was then weaving, it was Brigid’s light

that could connect us with the Divine Feminine coming to birth in the cosmos

as part of the 2012 alignment.

The ancient energies of the Tuatha Dé Danann were always linked to the stars and to cosmic light.

This ‘cosmic’ link with Brigid has never been lost and Brigid as spiritual midwife

can support the birth of new light into the world and help to ground it safely

where it can be used for spiritual development of the human race.

I also knew that the higher evolved ‘Serpent’ energy we had been working with in 2000

is ‘Serpent in the Heart’.

 

In 2013, at Imbolc, I gave  a talk at the Navan Centre in County Armagh that was pulling together

these new ideas and I called the presentation: ‘A Higher Light of Brigid’.

This extract below summarises the evening where a new energy of Brigid was tangibly felt:

 

On Friday, 8 February 2013, an audience of some forty people have gathered at Emain Macha

in County Armagh to listen to a presentation of the stories of Brigid,

together with music, songs and poems. Brigid’s presence is tangible in our midst.

Carrying her spirit on the wind, Brigid, Celtic Mother Goddess and Saint,

brings to all who might receive her light the qualities of truth, clarity, creativity and healing.

Tonight, we dare to call her ‘Cosmic Brigid’ and ask her to bring in an even higher light than heretofore.

One that is linked to the sun and the moon and the stars, to all of the heavens above us.

 

That evening was the naming of Brigid as Cosmic Brigid. And it was a year later that I went

to the Brigid of Faughart festival in Dundalk and presented the talk on ‘Cosmic Brigid’.

This idea continues in my awareness today as we move onwards

in our awakening of the Feminine spirit and witnessing its influence as it filters in to society

and is changing our perspectives about women and roles and power.

 

New paradigms are being born and old, outdated patterns of spirituality are being shed.

The idea of ritual and ceremony is still a potent way to link the cosmic energies with the land –

thus blessing it and clearing it. The powers of Serpent energy,

Feminine light and Cosmic Brigid to assist with this are, I believe, real.

 

We are linking across universal truths. In Ireland we hold and awaken our indigenous spirituality

and we are no longer a separate island but part of a newly emerging world culture

of indigenous spiritual potential that is currently giving birth to a healed Feminine Light.

 

I am knowing Serpent to have risen. From the centre of the Earth she came in Fire.

Across the land she came in Water. I know her to have moved up through my body

from the below to the above and be transformed in the love of the Heart.

 

Kate Fitzpatrick  January 2019

 References

         1. M.Dames, Mythic Ireland, London: Thames and Hudson, 1992

         2. The Harmonic Convergence is the name given to one of the world's first globally synchronized meditation events,

             which occurred on August 16–17, 1987. This event also closely coincided with an exceptional alignment of planets

             in the Solar System.

           Kate Fitzpatrick is the author of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess.

         She is currently writing a book about her experiences of shamanic work

with the evolving roles of Brigid saint and Goddess.

         Her email: katefitzpatrick2@gmail.com

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                                                                            Communion of Creative Fire Reflection for January 22, 2019

 Brigid of Faughart

and something started in my soul

fever or forgotten wings

and I made my own way

deciphering

that fire…

(Pablo Neruda)  

Our Communion of Creative Fire is entering its seventh year. Last week we looked back to its beginnings on a frigid January day in 2013. This week, let's focus on Brigid, inspiration for our Communion's name, first born of our three godmothers, the woman whom Irish thealogian Mary Condren calls, "the acceptable face of women's divinity".

Unlike Julian and Hildegard, Brigid has left us no written word. Her earliest biography was written a hundred years after her death by Cogitos, one of the monks of Kildare, the double monastery where Brigid was Abbess of both men and women in fifth century Ireland.

Ireland is a land of story. The stories woven through and around Brigid's life are interlaced with the stories of the Ancient Goddess Brigid so that the two have come to be one sacred archetypal presence. This is best illustrated in words overheard a few years ago at a ceremony at Brigid's Well in Kildare: "Sure and wasn't she a goddess before ever she was a saint."

Last January, I was staying in the home of Dolores Whelan for a week of festivities marking Brigid's Feast. Dolores, who is my primary teacher in the ways of Brigid, showed me the hill of Faughart, clearly visible from her upper story window… I had the joy of being present at the Oratory on February 1st, Brigid's Day, for a Ritual of Music and Readings.

What follows is Dolores' own story of coming to know Brigid:   "Brigid of Faughart – Wise Guide for Modern Soul Seekers"

Faughart near Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland is an ancient place filled with a history that is both gentle and fierce. It is a place associated with battles, boundaries and travel. The Sli Midhluachra, one of the 5 ancient roads of Ireland, runs through the hill of Faughart on its way from the Hill of Tara to Armagh and then to the north coast of Ireland, making it a strategically important place.

 

However, Faughart is also a place of deep peace, tranquility, beauty and healing, being associated from ancient times with Brigid, Pre-Christian Goddess and Christian Saint. Brigid holds the energy of the Divine Feminine within the Celtic Spiritual tradition. Faughart is the place associated with Brigid, the compassionate woman who heals, advises and nurtures all who come to her in times of need.

 

Brigid's Oratory at Faughart, February 1, 2018

People are drawn to her shrine at Faughart because of the deep peace they experience there. Brigid's peaceful presence can be experienced in this landscape where the ancient beech trees radiate old knowledge and hold a compassionate space for us all.

 

Stream near the Oratory. Pilgrims arrive for the Brigid's Day Ritual (upper right)

On La feile Bhride (Feb 1st) people come in their multitudes! On this special day the shrine at Faughart is thronged with pilgrims who come to invoke Brigid’s blessing on their emerging lives. Brigid is associated with springtime and new life emerging. She is the one who “breathes life into the mouth of dead winter.”

 

I first went to Faughart in 1992 and was amazed by the beautiful energy present there. At that time, I had begun to study the Celtic spiritual tradition, something from which I and so many other people had been disconnected over many centuries. My quest at that time and since then has been to recover some of the riches and wisdom of that ancient tradition. And to ask the question:  “How could this wisdom be integrated into the lives of us modern humans in ways which would create a more balanced and peaceful life for all of the beings on planet Earth”?

 

While at Faughart in 1992 something deep and ancient stirred in my heart and I have been on a journey with Brigid ever since. In 1993 I went to The Brigid Festival in Kildare, organised by Mary Minehan, Phil O'Shea, and Rita Minehan (Solas Bhride). At this festival these women, in a daring Brigid-like action, re-kindled the flame of Brigid in Kildare. The flame of Brigid had been quenched at the time of the suppressions of the monasteries around the 12th century.

As this took place an ancient part of my soul understood the significance of this prophetic act. My journey into the Celtic spiritual tradition changed and evolved over time, becoming a deeply significant part of my life’s purpose.

 

It is said that from the moment Brigid learned to know God that her mind remained ever focused on God/Divine. This allowed her to remain connected to God and the heavens while living on the earthly plane. Her great power of manifestation was a result of this ability to be aligned heaven to earth. The strong connection between her inner and outer worlds allowed her to focus her energy onto a particular intention so clearly as to ensure its manifestation in the physical world.

 

Brigid had the capacity to bring forth new life, to nourish, to create plenty in the crops or an abundance of the milk from cows, and to manifest or create ex nihilo. This gift reflected the true abundance and prosperity that was present in the society she created, a society living in right relationship with the land. Her life and work thrived due to her deep trust in life and because there was a total absence of fear within her.

 

Statue of Brigid near her well in Kildare 

Slowly, I began to understand that Brigid, the Pre-Christian Goddess and Celtic Christian saint who lived in the 5th Century in Faughart and Kildare, who embodied wonderful qualities of compassion, courage, independence and spiritual strength was not only a historical figure! I realised that those energies and qualities exemplified by her in her lifetime are still alive in the world and available to me and to all humanity. What a gift it was to realise this! And so the task became how could I access those qualities in myself, embrace them and use them to challenge the dominant thinking of our culture and become like Brigid, a catalyst for change in society.

 

Brigid challenges each of us to have that same courage; to live our lives with the passion and commitment that comes from trusting our own inner truth and living the integrity of our unique soul journey. She invites us, like her, to breathe life into the mouth of dead winter everywhere we find it in ourselves and in our society. She represents for me the spiritual warrior energy reflected in this ancient triad:

“The eye to see what is, the heart to feel what is, and the courage that dares to follow.” Dolores T Whelan

 

 

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Communion of Creative Fire Reflection

January 15, 2019

Remembering our Beginnings

January in Canada, a frozen month, where no river sings, where a lake becomes a skating rink, where the colour scheme is white on white… Snow falls frequently, piling on branches, on earth, on frozen river, at times delighting schoolchildren with a snow day holiday…  As I become inured to the frigid air, learn again how to dress in warm layers, to walk cautiously on icy surfaces, to trace a labyrinth in the snow in my back yard, I remember why I love this dance of winter. I remember one of the greatest gifts of my life arriving unannounced on a January day in 2013…

 

I travel back in time to that day six years ago. It can’t have been snowing or uncomfortably cold, because I am walking quickly along the forest path beside the river, heading to the place where my favourite red pine waits to receive me. It is where I go when I am troubled or sad or needing to hold some loved person in prayer.

I am perplexed. I have just had a phone conversation with Jean Houston who suggests that I gather a group of women to carry forward the legacy of religious communities into a new order of creative souls…music, literature, universal constructs… like Hildegard who engendered a different knowing from the depths of her reflection…

When I do not respond, cannot find a word to say, Jean adds, “It keeps coming back to me. So I KNOW it's right.”

 

After our call, I set out to find my tree. I remember standing there, holding onto the tree for support, utterly lost….until slowly, slowly, the faces of beloved friends begin to rise in my heart… women who may understand and welcome this newness…

 

You know how the story continues …you who are reading this are now part of the story, some of you have been so for the entire six years.

 

Re-reading notes from the days that immediately followed Jean’s invitation, I find this imagined description of the women in the Communion, written February 3, 2013:  “I see a scattering of women each bathed in light that flows from an inner source…. I see a circle of women telling one another what each has heard her own heart say, strengthening and deepening one another’s insight.” That image resonates with the Sealwomen in Clarissa Pinkola Estes' story whom she describes as "beings made of moon milk”.

artwork by Jan Richardson: "Where two, Where three..."

We have become a circle of women who gather imaginally in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona, “telling one another what each has heard her own heart say”. This we do on our secret Facebook page, or by email.

Like the Sealwomen, we know the wisdom of returning to the deep homeplace within to have our weary, restless, drying hearts refreshed and renewed. We spend time in the homeplace where every aspect of ourselves is held in love. This happens in our daily contemplative practice of ten or fifteen minutes. This happens in our weekly Sacred Hour.

And from the homeplace we send our spirits forth to the shore to offer gifts of words or loving service, of music or dance or drumming, of cooking or teaching or nursing or guiding or grandmothering or friending.

We understand the wisdom of the poet Rumi’s advice: “Let the beauty you love be what you do.”

In the beginning days of our Communion, I sought guidance imaginally from wise women who have since continued to light the way for us: Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich and Brigid of Kildare, Ireland. Here is what I imagined I heard each say to us: 

Julian: "All my focus, my prayer, my life-energy was given to my writing and to those who came to my window. In my book I wrote what I had learned of God: “Know it well. Love is his meaning”. Each morning I shared that love by listening to those who came to me, offering them love, guidance, a listening heart.

"Each of you may draw out of your prayer your own gifts to share through your creative work and through your marvelous 21st century windows on your computer. And you can be for one another what I could only imagine my readers would be: my community of kindred spirits." Julian of Norwich ( England 14th c. anchoress)

Hildegard: "I see that each of you draws forth from your heart a unique creative gift that already radiates in the circle where you live. I foresee that the combined energy of so many dedicated open souls will make a fire that burns bright across the planet. As you support one another, you will strengthen each one's dedication, multiplying the effect of the work that each one does." Hildegard of Bingen ( Germany 12th c. Benedictine Abbess)

Brigid:  "From the first moment I met God, my thoughts have remained focused there. You women of the creative fire must keep your own inner fire aflame. If you keep your heart turned towards that fire, the fire will ignite your creativity, and love of the Holy One will give you the strength and joy you require. FOCUS: that is the gift I offer to you." Brigid of Kildare (Ireland 5th c. Abbess)

The contemporary Irish priest-writer Diarmuid O’Murchu, in Religious Life in the 21st Century (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 2016) describes the original communal and prophetic inspiration at the heart of religious communities as this: "a mystical fascination with and allegiance to the divine mystery at the heart of all existence." This is the legacy that we are invited to rebirth!

So dear friends, blessed ones, loved ones, as we continue on our adventure together, may we each know the joy of our companionship, and the call we have embraced to open our hearts to the divine mystery and to one another. I know many of you read the postings on our Facebook page and yet a few words of your own experience would create a flow of conversation that would enrich our shared journey and offer the kind of encouragement we each need on this mysterious road for which no map is given.

In this week's Gathering Space I have recorded just such an exchange of heart from among our members.
 
 

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Epiphany of Sophia

Communion Reflection  for January 8, 2019

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
(T.S. Eliot "The Journey of the Magi")

The Christmas Story holds an allurement for the human heart that never seems to fade. It is deceptively simple in its plot and characters: a young couple, exhausted, make a long journey by decree of a far-off Emperor. Unable to find lodgings in an inn, they take shelter in a stable, warmed by the breath of animals. And there the young woman gives birth to a son. They are visited by shepherds who have been minding their flocks in the fields nearby. Suddenly the story takes on mystery: these shepherds tell a tale of wonder: angels have appeared in the fields singing to them of the Child's birth, urging them to go to find him….

And then, sometime afterwards, a trio of guests. These are men of royal bearing from the Far East, and they tell a stranger tale: "We have seen his star in the East and have come to pay him homage." Opening their bundles, they lay gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh before the Child. The Gospel story adds this line: "As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)

As with so many ancient powerful tales, the truth of this story is within, and our hearts recognize its truth without having to seek proof of external elements. Great myths, like the dreams that sometimes appear in our sleep, carry treasures that we can unpack for ourselves, as we ponder them in our hearts. To do this, we must enter into the tale, find ourselves within the story, experience it as though it were happening now with us part of the tale.

In "The Journey of the Magi", the poet T.S. Eliot offers us an intimate look within the hearts of the three mythical Eastern Kings, describing their journey in  the "very dead of winter."

Where might we find ourselves today within their part of the Christmas Story? For those of us now in the icy grip of a North American winter, the weather is familiar, as are the hazards of travel at "the worst time of the year." If our December journeys were made to celebrate the Feast of Christmas with family and friends, we might say even our purpose is aligned with theirs…. But let's go deeper.

Before the Feast of Epiphany, I happened to wake in the deep heart of the night. Some sound drew me to my window. Looking out, I saw a starlit sky shimmering with such brilliance in the absence of moonlight or city glare that my breath stopped in pure wonder. Though I could recognize Orion's belt and the Big Dipper, the uncountable number of bright stars made me ask HOW those ancient travellers identified the one they were meant to follow….

And that question has become my own question: the one so many of us are asking at this crucial time in our planet's history when there are so many paths opening, so many possible routes…

Somewhere in the Universe my question was heard. Since then, stars have been separating out from the overall pattern, placing themselves in my path. I spent much of January 6th, Feast of the Epiphany, recording these gifts of light:

By chance, on Friday, I had come across these words of Joseph Campbell: If you are going to act on the basis of what you know, you cannot just hold onto your knowledge. You have to translate it into a movement.

That same evening, on CBC radio, I heard an interview with a researcher and teacher of English Literature at an Independent University in Barcelona. She has just received a two million euro grant to study forgotten writings of women from past centuries. Asked about emerging themes, she said the writings "demonstrate a very keen understanding and search for spiritual meaning in life": Why are we here? What is our relationship to divinity? The women writers were convinced of the connection between their life and spirituality. She added, "they have an understanding of spirituality which is very intimate."

Joseph Campbell's words melded with the convictions of these women of earlier times. They began sparking ideas, raising questions:

"What is the knowing I act on?" The answer came that we each carry within us a guiding star, as does all that exists in the universe (guided as Dante says by the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars). Our task is to learn to recognize and follow this inner star. This requires time, intention, deep listening and grace.

I knew with greater clarity that this is the purpose of my work: assisting people to find and follow that inner star within them.

For my own journey, guidance has come through a deepened relationship with a Sacred Presence, a true co-creative partner in all that I do. This mysterious Friend is an aspect of the Sacred Feminine, the Sophia Presence of the Hebrew Scriptures. In dialogue with her, I have been shown the pathways to choose.

This story is still unfolding for me, and it is my deep desire to invite others to find their own Star within, to follow it into joy and wisdom.

We must follow it with courage as well, for Eliot's poem has a less-often quoted ending:

But set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and
death,
But had thought they were different: this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people, clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

Yes, we must be prepared for radical change in this journey, for loss of comfort "in the old dispensation".

From the glimpse I have had so far of the pathway, I promise you it is worth the cost.

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What Is Our Role in the Christmas Story?
Communion Reflection: December 18, 2018


As children we may have taken part in the "Nativity Play". Festooned with cardboard wings and glitter, we may have played the angels,

or in our father's old bathrobe, hitched up with a rope belt, taken our part as shepherds. If we were judged to be wholly lacking in dramatic gifts,

we may have been cast as a palm tree.

Secretly most little girls longed to play Mary, though the part usually required both an angelic expression and a cascade of golden ringlets

thus disqualifying a child with red braids, freckles and a taste for mischief…

Our child's heart quickly learned not to aspire to dreams beyond our reach.

And yet the Christmas Story continues to carry its own enchantment. Year after year we enter it, welcoming its familiar storylines,

greeting its supportive cast of shining angels, stumbling shepherds, overburdened innkeepers, royal camel-driving Wise Ones, with affection.

Each year we experience something more. As with all great archetypal tales, what we bring to the listening becomes part of the story.

No other story holds this power of transmutation, this gift of shape-shifting into what each of us most needs to hear…

this capacity to take us beyond ordinary time into mythic time where we ourselves become part of a greater story.

As Jean Houston describes it in her book GodseedIn the telling and the taking of the myth, you leave behind your usual time and are symbolically and psychologically projected into Great Time, into a paradoxical moment that cannot be measured because it has no duration. There is a breach in time and in the surrounding world. The inner psyche opens and a passage to the possible human is revealed. (p.33)

In this sacred experience of Great Time, we recognize that we are living the Christmas Story in our own time on this planet.

We do not have to imagine the displacement, the discomfort, the life-endangering journeys resulting from the call

of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus that a census of the whole world be taken and people must travel to their own towns to be counted…

Today's emperors initiate through their inhumane policies a huge migration of people away from their home towns

with appalling results in human suffering.

We live in a time of immense longing for a more humane and life-enhancing world…

as a young songwriter reflected: giving a Christmas meal to the hungry is a lovely gesture, but in a better world, the hungry would be fed every day….

“Christmas is about yearning for something to come into the world," Jean Houston believes. "It’s the story of the birth of love, of hope,

of a Holy Child in huge danger of being destroyed, bringing a new order of possibility into the world,

needing to be protected and nurtured so it may grow into a free and luminous, numinous being.”

In the midst of the suffering across the planet that is reported to us hourly in words and pictures,

the Universe invites us to play the role to which we may once have aspired: to be a bearer of new life for a world that hungers for so much.

The Universe invites each of us in the time on our planet to play the role of Mary (golden curls not required).

Here is how John O'Donohue imagines that invitation:

Cast from afar before the stones were born
And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,
The words have waited for the hunger in her
To become the silence where they could form.

The day’s last light frames her by the window,
A young woman with distance in her gaze,
She could never imagine the surprise
That is hovering over her life now.
The sentence awakens like a raven,
Fluttering and dark, opening her heart
To nest the voice that first whispered the earth
From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.

She offers to mother the shadow’s child;
Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

Jean Houston encourages us to take this invitation to heart:

Just think of the promise, the potential, the divinity in you,
which you have probably disowned over and over again
because it wasn’t logical, because it didn’t jibe,
because it was terribly inconvenient (it always is),
because it didn’t fit conventional reality,
because... because… because….
What could be more embarrassing than finding yourself pregnant with the Holy Spirit?
It’s a very eccentric, inconvenient thing to have happen.

What are your “becauses”?, the reasons that you disowned your divine potential, your divine conceptions.

(“because I felt unworthy…” “because of what people would say…” ) Godseed p. 38

What is the newness we long for in our lives?

Where within us is the Holy Child awaiting birth?

How do we prepare our hearts and spirits for a new dawning of the Beloved?

How may we nurture that luminous numinous being as our lives unfold?

This Christmas, as we listen once again to the story's unfolding, let us see ourselves as Mary,

guided by John O'Donohue's Visualization:

The Nativity

No man reaches where the moon touches a woman.
Even the moon leaves her when she opens
Deeper into the ripple in her womb
That encircles dark to become flesh and bone.

Someone is coming ashore inside her.
A face deciphers itself from water
And she curves around the gathering wave,
Opening to offer the life it craves.

In a corner stall of pilgrim strangers,
She falls and heaves, holding a tide of tears.
A red wire of pain feeds through every vein
Until night unweaves and the child reaches dawn.

Outside each other now, she sees him first.
Flesh of her flesh, her dreamt son safe on earth.

John O’Donohue (Connemara Blues. Doubleday, Great Britain, 2000; Bantam Books, 2001)

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Engaging with the Dark Mother
Communion Reflection for December 11, 2018

Each of us began our life on this planet in darkness, within our mother's womb. The planet herself, our Earth, emerged out of an almost fourteen billion year process that began in primordial darkness. When we speak of the Sacred feminine Presence, however we name her, we know intuitively that she is part of the fruitful darkness that is needed for every new birthing.

Statue of Black Madonna   (Holy Wisdom Monastery Chapel in Wisconsin)

In recent weeks we have been reading and reflecting upon the gift of darkness in our lives, on our call to "do our work" in the birthing of new life, however it must come, in the darkness of our lives, in the darkenss of our time on this planet.

To last week's urgings from Helen Luke and Sylvia Senensky, we add the call to deep work given to us by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Her name for this Dark Feminine presence is "Wild Woman":

“The wild force of our soul-psyches is shadowing us for a reason. There is a saying from medieval times that if you are in a descent and pursued by a great power --- and if this great power is able to snag your shadow, then you too shall become a power in your own right.

“The great wild force of our own psyches means to place its paw on our shadows, and in that manner she claims us as her own. Once the Wild Woman snags our shadows, we belong to ourselves again, we are in our own right environ and our rightful home.

“Most women are not afraid of this, in fact, they crave the reunion. If they could this very moment find the lair of the Wild Woman, they would dive right in and jump happily into her lap. They only need to be set in the right direction, which is always down down into one’s own work, down into one’s own inner life, down through the tunnel to the lair.

the right direction is always down down into one's own work... one's own inner life 

“We began our search for the wild, whether as girl-children or as adult women, because in the midst of some wildish endeavour we felt that a wild and supportive presence was near. Perhaps we found her tracks across fresh snow in a dream. Or psychically, we noticed a bent twig here and there, pebbles overturned so that their wet sides faced upwards....and we knew that something blessed had passed our way. We sensed within our psyches the sound of a familiar breath from afar, we felt tremors in the ground, and we innately knew that something powerful, someone important, some wild freedom within us was on the move.

tracks across fresh snow... a bent twig...pebbles overturned

“We could not turn from it, but rather followed, learning more and more how to leap, how to run, how to shadow all things that came across our psychic ground. We began to shadow the Wild Woman and she lovingly shadowed us in return. She howled and we tried to answer her, even before we remembered how to speak her language, and even before we exactly knew to whom we were speaking. And she waited for us, and encouraged us. This is the miracle of the wild and instinctual nature within. Without full knowing, we knew. Without full sight, we understood that a miraculous and loving force existed beyond the boundaries of ego alone.”

“The things that have been lost to women for centuries can be found again by following the shadows they cast....We women are building a motherland; each with her own plot of soil eked from a night of dreams, and a day of work. We are spreading this soil in larger and larger circles, slowly, slowly. One day it will be a continuous land, a resurrected land, come back from the dead. Munda de la Madre, psychic motherworld, coexisting and coequal with all other worlds. This world is being made from our lives, our cries, our laughter, our bones. It is a world worth making, a world worth living in, a world in which there is a prevailing and decent wild sanity.“ (Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with the Wolves pp 457-9)

May each of us, graced to live in this time of fecund darkness,

know its profound value

and work to build a "world worth living in"

a motherland woven "from our lives, our cries, our laughter, our bones."

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Into the Heart of Darkness


The external darkness of December is mirrored by a deeper darkness this year. The fragility of our planet, the depletion of a myriad of life-forms, the pollution of lakes, rivers, oceans, soil, even the air we breathe can no longer be ignored. The warnings of scientists about a coming time of disaster have shifted to confirmation that the dark future is already here. We see the effects of the destruction of our home planet with our own eyes and hearts.

In a time of great darkness, we may look for light; we may seek it in denial of the reality, in distractions, in seeking whatever comfort we may find to help us "make it through the night"… and yet there is another way: the way of the Cailleach, the way of Wisdom: we may choose to enter the darkness, to explore it for its hidden gifts, for what it has to teach us. We may learn to know the darkness.

Jan Richardson offers us a Blessing for this:

Bless those
Who know the darkness
and do not fear it,
Who carry the light
And are not consumed,
Who prepare the way
and will not abandon it,
Who bless with grace
That does not leave us.

Ancient people came to "know the darkness" with such accuracy that they could predict the time of the longer nights, the earlier dawns of winter solstice and the time when the return of light became visible. We, in our time, have come to understand the darkness has come from an excessive love of light, from a worship of bright intellect over the nurturing of nature; the extremes of using the planet's resources without the needed balance of wisdom….

20th century Jungian writer Helen Luke explains it clearly in her book The Way of Woman:

“...the instinct of the feminine is precisely to use nothing, but simply to give and to receive. This is the nature of the earth – to receive the seed and to nourish the roots– to foster growth in the dark so that it may reach up to the light.

“How are women to recover their reverence for and their joy in this great archetype of which the symbols have always been the earth, the moon, the dark, and the ocean, mother of us all? For thousands of years the necessity of freeing consciousness from the grip of the destructive inertia and from the devouring quality, which are the negative side of the life-giving mother, rightly gave to the emerging spirit of activity and exploration an enormous predominance; but the extremes of this worship of the bright light of the sun have produced in our time an estrangement even in women themselves from the patient nurturing and enduring qualities of the earth, from the reflected beauty of the silver light of the moon in the darkness, from the unknown in the deep sea of the unconscious and from the springs of the water of life. The way back and down to those springs and to the roots of the tree is likewise the way on and up to the spirit of air and fire in the vaults of heaven.” (pp. 15-16)

It is time for humanity to shift from "the extremes of this worship of the bright light of the sun". Women, as well as men who are not afraid to explore their own feminine side, are called urgently to do this work, essential for our time, to befriend once more the qualities of earth, moon, sea and springs, to make our way "back and down to those springs and to the roots of the tree."

"To do this work": over and over I have read these words, heard them spoken by other carriers of Women's Wisdom for our time: Jean Houston, Marion Woodman, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Sylvia Senensky to name just a few.

What is our work? How do we make our way back and down to wisdom? And who is there to guide us on the way?

Sylvia Senensky writes that we are companioned by the Dark Feminine, an archetype in many cultures, known by many names:

“We have come to a time when we can no longer remain silent. We are being called upon by the sorrowing and powerful Dark Feminine to know our own darkness and the profound richness of all dark places, even when they are laden with pain. Through her we know the mystery of existence and the sacredness of the cycles of life. We learn how important the destruction of the old ways is to the rebirth of the new. When she steps into our lives and awakens us, we can be shattered to our core, and we know, as we see the tears streaming down her face, that she too is holding us in her compassionate and loving embrace.

“We need to know her as the source of life in the material realm, and to know her sorrow at how we have so unconsciously set out to destroy her...our Mother Earth. She is calling upon us, each in in our way to do our inner work, to become her allies, to become the best human beings we know how to be; to allow our creativity, our compassion and our love to flow to ourselves and to all life forms on this planet. This is the lesson of the Feminine we all need to remember. We need to honour our earth and all creatures, human and other, that she supports. We need to nourish ourselves, each other, all children, and the unbelievable creative potential within each human being....As we come to a place of love and compassion for ourselves, our struggles, and our own vulnerable humanity, we will at the same time begin to kindle a similar compassion for others. Love attracts love. If we flood our planet with loving and transformative energy, our actions will begin to mirror our feelings. We will come home to ourselves.”
(Sylvia Shaindel Senensky in Healing and Empowering the Feminine)

So may we do our work in these dark days: "to become the best human beings we know how to be; to allow our creativity, our compassion and our love to flow to ourselves and to all life forms on this planet"  as we prepare for a rebirth not only of light but of wisdom.

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Waiting in Darkness


Advent: Enchantment, Disenchantment, Re-enchantment
Reflection for the Communion of Creative Fire    November 27, 2018

Advent was once my favourite Liturgical season. The weaving of a wreath that smelled of fir trees in winter forests. The candles whose shared light grew steadily with each week. The mysterious darkness of earth and heart, as both awaited the radiance, the wonder of Christmas.

Enchantment.

November's full moon caught in a tree

There came a dark November day when I knew I would not gather the evergreen boughs that fell to the earth from generous trees near my home. I would not purchase four candles (three purple and one rose-coloured). I would not spend four weeks awaiting Christmas. These symbols no longer held meaning: the four weeks of Advent were meant to represent the four thousand years that humans awaited the birth of Christ.

It was the Irish priest-writer Diarmuid O'Murchu who pointed out that paleontologists estimate human life on this planet was conscious at least six million years ago. That timeline keeps getting pushed back…. Cosmologists, most notably the luminous Teilhard de Chardin, acknowledge that there is a form of spirit/light/consciousness in all that exists on the planet, including rocks. That takes us back to the beginnings of our universe, more than thirteen billion years…

Further, as O'Murchu suggests, the earliest conscious humans expressed in artwork and ritual an awareness of a power in the universe that held them in love and light in all earth's ages before the coming of Christ…

So what place can the four weeks of Advent have in this new Universe Story? The allurement of the Universe as the expression, the visible Presence of Love in our lives, was/is so powerful that I gladly relinquished the lure of those dark weeks of Advent.

Disenchantment.

And then I began to fall in love with the Winter Solstice. I discovered that this amazing yearly time (which for our ancestors only became evident in earlier dawns and later sunsets after a few days) was the reason why the early Christians chose December 25th to celebrate the Birth of Christ. Celtic Christian scholar Dara Molloy, author of The Globalization of God told me when I visited him in Ireland that it was the Celtic Christians who also suggested June 24th, a few days after the Summer Solstice, the time of the waning of the light, for the Feast of John the Baptist. Hadn’t John said of the Christ, "He must increase and I must decrease"?

Slowly, over recent years, the beauty, passion and power of the Christ-story are being rewoven on the loom of our new knowledge of the Universe.

Bruce Sanguin has done this with clarity and poetic elegance in this article on "Evolutionary Cosmology":

"The season of Advent is an affirmation of the dark mysteries of life. In these four weeks, we enter into a deepening darkness, a fecund womb where new life stirs. Before the great Flaring Forth 13.8 billion years ago, there was only the empty dark womb of the Holy One.

"We have a bias against darkness privileging the light in our tradition. But most of the universe is comprised of what scientists call dark matter....for the universe to exist in its present form, and not fly off in all directions, the gravitational pull of the dark matter is necessary. Creation needs the dark in order to gestate. Advent is a season of contemplation and meditation in which the soul, if allowed, falls willingly back into that primordial darkness out of which new worlds are birthed....

"When Mary uttered those five words, Let it be to me, she was assenting to the descent into the sacred mystery that angels announce in the seasons of Advent and Christmas. We are called to trust this descent into darkness, making ourselves available as the ones through whom a holy birth can happen.
To go deep into the Season of Advent is to trust that there are galaxies of love stirring within the womb of your being, supernovas of compassion ready to explode and seed this wondrous world with Christ-shaped possibilities

"Are we willing with Mary to consent to the birth of the divine coming through us? Are we willing to actually be a reconfigured presence of the originating Fireball, prepared to be centre of creative emergence - to give birth to the sacred future that is the dream of God? Are we willing both personally and in the context of our faith communities to birth the Christ?

"So bring on the Christmas pageants....and when that cardboard star-on- a- stick glitters above the baby Jesus, think of it as your cosmological kin winking at you and settling over you as well, lighting you up as a sacred centre through whom the Christ waits to be born."

Re-enchantment.

We wait in darkness, and we do not wait alone, as poet Jessica Powers writes:

artwork "Holy Waiting" by Mary Southard

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary
And on one night when a great star swings free
From its high mooring and walks down the sky
To be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,
With hope’s expectation of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
Guarded and loved me, though I could not see,
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I came upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:
Someone is hidden in this dark with me.

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Enchanted by Darkness, Solaced by Snow
Communion Reflection November 20, 2018

Winter has come earlythis year, as unwelcome as a dinner guest who arrives before the table is set, when preparations are still underway and the kitchen looks like the scene of an accident. Snow has been falling steadily, softly, resolutely upon the deck and lawn, the rooftops of nearby cottages, on the lakeshore, even on the lake itself where a thin skin of ice can bear its weight. The empty, wide-open arms of deciduous trees welcome it as a returning lover. The tamaracks and pine trees, spruce and cedar, stand proud as women draped in ermine…



The roads and highways leading to and from the lakeside where I live have shapeshifted from alluring pathways through autumn's extravagant colours to treacherous passages, slick with ice, choked with snow.

Inside my new home, with more windows than walls, the early darkness has entered without an invitation, brooding over chairs and bookcases, curling up in corners, an unwanted black cat claiming its space.

I am surprised by my reaction to all this, feeling resentful, defeated, besieged by an invasion of events outside myself that I cannot tame or control. I take refuge in reading, sitting by the dancing, alluring, imaginary flames of an electric fireplace, ignoring the weather outside.

The book I open is by Sharon Blackie, a woman whom I met in Ireland at the 2018 Brigid Festival. Sharon had spoken of the need for women to be rooted in the earth, to know their relationship with the homeplace where they live… I had written to you of her talk, of her book If Women Rose Rooted.
I am eager to read her more recent book: The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday. (House of Anansi Press, Canada and USA, 2018).

If there was ever a time when I craved enchantment it was now in this "winter of our discontent".

But I do not at first find what I was seeking. Instead of the magic of myth and fairy tales, Blackie writes of the challenges she faced while living in a croft on an island in the Hebrides:  "You couldn't extricate the land from the weather – it hit me then that I didn't live in a landscape – I lived in a sort of weatherscape. And I wasn't walking on the surface of the land, while weather happened above it and apart from it: I lived inside a coalescing world of sea, land and sky, all tangled up together, in which the weather was dynamic, always changing, always engrossed in its own process of becoming. The wind was not happening to me. The wind was in relationship with me." (p. 116)

From that moment, Blackie altered her attitude, began to court the wind, to dance with its currents. "I let it hold me up, facing into a westerly so strong that when I threw my arms out to the side and tilted forward, the immutable force of it prevented me from falling. We became playmates of sorts, the wind and I—and every kind of wind offered a different way to engage with it." (p. 117)

As I sit reading  these words, something shifts in me. Here in rural Ontario, the experience of winter is not a reality separate from my life, even less an obstacle to the life I wish to pursue. It is part of my life, and I may learn to live in active relationship with it. I have what I need to do this: warm clothing, snow boots, -- even snow-shoes and cross-country skis—enabling me to go outside and engage with what is happening.


I can experience living within the snow, allowing myself to be enchanted by knowing it as Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes it in her telling of the Inuit tale, "Sealskin, Soulskin" (in Women Who Run with the Wolves):

"the white and abundant hair of old Annuluk, the old grandmother, the old sorceress, who is Earth herself."

Earth herself, an aspect of the Sacred feminine, has something she needs us to learn about embodied life on our planet.

Our souls, our psyches, require the grace notes of winter, require the darkness that may allure us into longer times of rest and sleep to balance our more active days in the brightness of sunlit seasons. Our hearts need time to heal from the engagements, the involvements with others that may have inflicted wounds we ignore when we are moving quickly through life.

Our winter dreams allow us time to recall what really matters most to us, to look ahead to the bright days that will blossom in late spring and perhaps change our focus. We may then pursue what we most desire in our service to life on our beloved planet. A winter journal will assist us to record our night dreams and our daylight inspirations, to prepare for a new birth in our lives after winter's incubation.  

There are many ways to take winter as a partner in the dance of life.

Listen. The music is already starting…

ARCHIVES

A Visit to the Goddess Isis on Philae

Reflection for the Communion November 13, 2018

The moon in her fullness creates a golden rippled path on the Nile at four in the morning. I shower and dress, welcome the warmth of my long coat of thick cotton, emerge into the lobby of the Moon Goddess where coffee awaits us. With my companions, I make my sleepy way through the lobbies of two other ships that serve as a bridge to the river’s edge. We climb steep stone stairs up to the bus which takes us to the ferry boat for our journey to Philae.

It is not yet dawn when we disembark, stepping onto the island. The terrain is of rough stones. I have a sense of hovering trees, low full-leaved bushes, great stone arches, pillars, columns, temples, more Greek than Egyptian. We move carefully in the darkness, following Jean and Peg into one of the vast stone temples, towards its sacred heart. A cat has shown up, leads us straight to the entrance, waits as each one enters. 


“We know that we are well seen and well blessed,” Jean Houston says. “So often the holy ones show up in the form of the animal.”

Sanctuary of Isis on Philae Island 


The sanctuary of Isis is so tiny that we stand together like people in an elevator. “Birthing chambers are tight fits,” Peg Rubin says. “Birth doesn’t happen until things get tight.” Within this chamber, at the centre and towards the back, there is a stone pedestal, incised with hieroglyphs. This is where the sacred boat of the goddess Isis once rested. The surrounding walls are intricately carved with hieroglyphs as well. I look at the outpouring of carefully inscribed wisdom, feel something of the powerlessness, the utter frustration I felt as a child before I knew how to read. I see a delicate fan of outspread wings, recognize the curve and grace as just what I saw on the papyrus of the winged Isis I bought in Cairo.

“From this place,” Peg says, “we are born as children of the mother. Remember the love of the mother line, all the mothers. For those of you whose great work it is to embody the goddess Isis, this is where to take that on.”

In the still darkness, Jean speaks of the writings of the second-century Latin writer Lucius Apuleius. “In his story The Golden Ass, Lucius has done some very naughty magic and has been turned into an ass. After strange adventures, he meets the goddess Isis who changes him back into his own humanity, but does so by giving an epiphany of who and what she really is."

"Here is how Lucius saw her:

. . . she had an abundance of hair that fell gently in dispersed ringlets upon the divine neck. A crown of interlaced wreaths and varying flowers rested upon her head; and in its midst, just over the brow, there hung a plain circlet resembling a mirror or rather a miniature moon – for it emitted a soft clear light. This ornament was supported on either side by vipers that rose from the furrows of the Earth; and above it blades of grain were disposed. Her garment, dyed many colours, was woven of fine flax. One part was gleaming white; another was yellow as the crocus; another was flamboyant with the red of roses.

But what obsessed my gazing eyes by far the most was her pitch-black cloak that shone with a dark glow. It was wrapped around her, fastened with a knot like the boss of a shield. Part of it fell down in pleated folds and swayed gracefully with a knotted fringe along the hem. Upon the embroidered edges and over the whole surface sprinkled stars were burning; and in the centre a mid-month moon breathed forth her floating beams. Lastly, a garland wholly composed of every kind of fruit and flower clung of its own accord to the fluttering border of that splendid robe.

Such was the goddess as, breathing forth the spices of pleasant Arabia, she condescended with her divine voice to address me: “Behold, Lucius,” she said, “moved by your prayer I come to you —I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the supreme divinity….I, whose single godhead is venerated all over the earth under manifold forms, varying rites, and changing names. . . .

“Behold, I am come to you in your calamity. I am come with solace and aid. Away then with tears. Cease to moan. Send sorrow packing. Soon through my providence shall the sun of your salvation rise. Hearken therefore with care unto what I bid. Eternal spirituality has dedicated to me the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

“The day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness,” Jean repeats. “This is the place of the birth of new hope, this is the place of the birthing of new life.”

Peg lights candles. At Suzanne’s suggestion, we call out all the names of Isis as we know her. I hear the names flow like a litany . . . Mystical Rose, Mary in all her forms, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Queen of Creation, Great Protector, Mother Holy, Star of the Sea, Eyes of Wisdom, Neter of the Heart, Mama Mia, Great Mother Gaia, Inanna, Tower of Ivory, Sophia, the Black Madonna. . .

This outpouring of names concludes with the title “She who calls out to us to be born.” Peg invites us, “With this willingness to be born, greet the day, the sunrise.” We cry out together a great OMMMMMMM.

We make our way towards the shore, seeking out places to wait. Some of my companions cluster in groups, but I want to be alone, find a stone wall to sit on.

Already the eastern sky is growing pearly, then striated in shades of pale mauve, peach, soft yellow, rose, preparing to welcome the sunrise. Across the Nile, behind a crest of low hills that lie like a body outstretched, the fire appears. There is an opening between the hills at the place where the sun bursts forth. The words of Isis echo in me, “the day which shall be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

Here, embraced by beauty, mothered by Isis, there is a desire in my heart. I hold it out in trust. “Let me be as you were, Isis. You were a teacher, you gave the women of ancient Egypt the song of the wheel, you taught them to weave, you gave them your love. I want to be a teacher, a weaver when I return.”

We leave this sacred island on the 13th day of November. Later, I will remember that it was the 13th day of each month that Mary chose for her appearances to the children of Fatima, Portugal.


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