The kindling of flame
The kindling of the Wheel
The kindling of light and dark
The kindling of the Powers
May hope be kindled in the hearts of all
May your flame join the eternal Fire
Blessed Solstice Eve
Deep within the still centers of our beings, may we find peace.
Silently within the quiet of our groves, may we share peace.
Gently, within the greater circle of humankind, we will radiate peace.
Many of my childhood summers were spent in France, Paris in particular. My father was a history professor, and while he did research in les archives, my mother and I would explore the city. Playgrounds, museums, cathedrals…we walked Paris and I loved it. It is indisputably a city of beauty, of light, and of love.
Today I’m afraid. I’m desperately afraid that today’s attacks in Paris are a tipping point. Like the Archduke’s assassination. Like Pearl Harbor. I’m afraid the world is going to burn, falling like ashes from the the slavering mouths of nationalism, racism, hatred, and fear.
I desperately want to be wrong. I’ve never wanted to be wrong so badly before in my life. And it’s up to each and every one of us who would claim the descriptor of “druid” to make sure that I am wrong. After the shock of tragedy passes don’t fall prey to the divisive sectarianism that will inevitably follow. Remember that peace is the purview of the druid. We may not be able to stand between armies as the druids of old did, but we can remind our friends and neighbors and family of their own humanity when media and politicians would whip them into a hateful frenzy. Pray for peace and make it manifest in your words, your conduct.
Prayers are verbs. So speak peace. Craft peace. Do peace. Throughout your communities and throughout the whole world.
Wow, what a change I’ve noticed in my energy levels when I’ve been able to do even a few moments with my Sun Mirror in the morning. The mirror work in and of itself was inspired by Levannah Morgan’s lecture on DruidCast episode 98, which is worth multiple listens if you’re interested in this kind of magical/energetic practice.
The first energy system I ever worked with was qigong’s Three Dantian, and that’s pretty much what I still stick with today (although Kristoffer Hughes has a fascinating Welsh energetic system which I’d eventually like to explore further).
I’ve been invoking Beli Mawr since we’re passed May Day. It’s likely that I will invoke Sunna in the winter months. I’ll likely do a formal dedication/consecration of the mirror as a working tool on Solstice, but even without the formalities, it’s been extremely effective for getting the nwyfre flowing in the mornings.
Stand or sit with the sun at your back. Use the mirror to focus a beam of light first on your Lower Dantian (roughly where the uterus is located), then on your Middle Dantian (heart), then on your Upper Dantian (third eye).* At each cauldron, say:
Beli Mawr, ignite my passion.
Beli Mawr, inflame my heart.
Beli Mawr, illuminate my mind.
I haven’t really found a satisfactory way to perform this exercise when it’s overcast, unfortunately. However, it’s quickly becoming a foundational element of my practice, and I imagine it will prove invaluable when the winter doldrums strike in early March.
*PLEASE DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE REFLECTION OF THE SUN. THIS IS WHY PIRATES WEAR EYE-PATCHES.
New York City has always been something of a touchstone for me, so this past Friday I decided to make a pilgrimage to three spiritually significant spots: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Central Park. This is the first post in the series.
While I was raised in a secular humanist family, my father also specialized in medieval French history. This resulted in much of my childhood being spent in Romanesque and Gothic churches and cathedrals all over France, as the church still holds much of the historical information for the period.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve always felt very comfortable with Catholic iconography, even if I don’t entire grok the religion itself. The soaring stone vaults and rich incense bring me comfort–a forest of stone trees sheltering both the lost and the joyful. The peace of fragrant cloisters, the damp coolness of ancestral crypts, candles lit for saints and ancestors alike, weave a fascinating tapestry of tradition and faith.
In many ways, the Catholic church sets a fine example of venerating ancestors (saints), land spirits (Our Lady of XYZ), and gods (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). I’ve been lighting candles for Jeanne d’Arc and Catherine of Alexandria since I was tall enough to reach the tapers. I’ve traveled pilgrimage routes to holy sites and drunk from sacred springs. If I ever ended up a flavor of Christian, it would like be Catholic.
In my own muddled polytheistic mind, each chapel in a cathedral is a small shrine to spiritual being–Catholics call them saints and angels, I call them ancestors and gods. St. Patrick’s has over a dozen altars to various saints, including St. Brigid, whom many view as a syncretization of the Irish goddess Brigid. Now, no Catholic will ever consider this a shrine to an ancient goddess. But I figure if the church did such a good job of absorbing the pagan gods, we can return the favor and light a few candles for those beings in honor of the good ol’ days, regardless of their current forms.
The goddess Brigid in her capacity as healer is often closely associated with the Ovate grade, and as I’ve been struggling a bit with that work as of late, I decided to pay her a visit. Brigid’s chapel (which she shares with St. Bernard–yeah, don’t even get me started on the Flowering Lady, Animal Lord symbolism in that one) is the second to the left as you enter the cathedral. There were only a couple of candles lit for her, which always makes me a bit sad. I took three deep breaths, dropped my $2 in the offering box and and recited a variant of the Druid’s Prayer as I lit her candle:
Grant me, Lady Brigid, thy protection,
And in protection, strength,
And in strength, understanding,
And in understanding, knowledge,
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice,
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it,
And in the love of it, the love of all existences,
And in the love of all existences, your love, Bright Lady, and all goodness.
In my mind’s eye, I saw her face turn to me, no longer distantly gazing towards heaven. My throat closed and tears welled up, even as I felt my heart reach towards her. She embraced me with peace and fire. Goddess or saint, it no longer mattered. She is the Lady of the Healing Well and the Smith at the Forge. She is all the fires of the Sun and all the waters that run under the Earth. She loves, simply and profoundly, each of us who come to her.
I stayed for a while, meditating on the significance of the symbols incorporated into her chapel. The knotwork surrounding the cross on the altar between the statues of Brigid and Bernard made a contemplative mandala that was wonderful to ponder. The cross itself was the equal-armed solar form, found so often in Celtic countries. The twisting vines surrounding the cross at first appeared asymmetrical, until closer observation reveals the pattern. (There are, in fact, asymmetrical elements, which makes for a fun visual treasure hunt.) A spiral graces the center of the cross on Brigid’s pedestal. In short, the whole altar seethes with the verdant power of Eire.
Perhaps the most mundane of “offering” was the ladder and old offering box that were stashed to the left of her pedestal. At first I was irritated that someone was using the chapel for a storage closet, but then I could almost feel Brigid’s amusement at the presence of such mundane items, and decided instead to view them as tributes to hard work in all its forms. The cathedral is currently undergoing renovations, and I could imagine her satisfaction at helping with that in some small way.
Brigid is a goddess of craftspeople, and with her many faces of poetry, healing, and art, she sets an example for today’s working class folk, who themselves may have two or three jobs to make ends meet. She teaches tolerance of a less-than-ideal situation, if sticking it out will improve your lot in the long run. She also kindles desire in the complacent, driving them to find something better. She will help you dig deep within yourself to find that sleeping strength, to rouse the dragon of the soul’s discontent.
Hail Brigid, Lady of Desire!
Hail Brigid, Mother of Arts!
Hail Brigid, the Survivor!
Praise be to you healing waters.
Praise be to your sacred flame.
Praise be to your joy everlasting.
Ninefold are your blessings to us,
Ninefold are our gifts unto you,
Infinite is the love between us.