Archive for the ‘sacred vow’ Category

Creativity’s Messy–1: The Druid’s Prayer   2 comments

In previous posts [A Celtic Conlang |Invoke for a Tongue 12 | Druid Ritual Language 123 ] I’ve written about the inspiration and the rudiments of creating a ritual Celtic language. And one of the first obvious places to try it out is with the Druid’s Prayer.

(As a small offering, this is in partial repayment of a sacred vow to Brighid and Ogma, mentioned in “Invoke for a Tongue” above.)

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June trail on Mount Ascutney to the north

The prayer’s widely known, though it hasn’t yet fulfilled the preamble it’s often given in OBOD ritual — “Let us join in the prayer that unites all Druids”. Yet the energy released just by saying those words (preamble, or prayer, or both), even if they’re not “true”, deserves a separate meditation all its own: “the truth against the world”. (In Welsh, that’s y gwir yn erbyn y byd. And it sounds good in both languages. But what is it?)

You can find a few other forms of the prayer at this link, but here’s the OBOD version I hear most often in the States, so I’ll work with it, because it’s familiar.

Grant, O Spirit, 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 that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
the love of spirit and all goodness.

In OBOD group ritual, “Spirit” works for most of us as an acceptable choice in the first line, among other versions of the prayer that offer “God, Goddess”, etc. — one of which we may prefer for private rites. (I tend to sing the awen much more often than I offer any sort of prayer, but that’s my animism talking. As verbal as I often am, a non-verbal approach short-circuits a lot of my mental crap and attunes me more quickly than most “talky” methods can.)

With some basic knowledge of Celtic languages*, I can set myself the challenge of respecting the sensibility and intent of this prayer as I “other” it into a fledgling ritual Celtic language. For a start, I’ve got an approximate dozen words to work on, most of them nouns: all, existence, goodness, grant, justice, knowledge, love, protection, spirit, strength, the, understanding, and your (thy). And that’s not even counting the title of the prayer, which in Welsh is Gweddi’r Derwydd “Druid’s Prayer” or Gweddi’r Orsedd “Gorseth Prayer”.

One of the great gifts of this kind of David-Peterson Game-of-Thrones constructed-languages special-interest “nerdiness-on-steroids” activity is that it compels one to look very closely at the words we say year in and year out. Great gobs of assumptions, some inherited — no surprise — from Christianity, pervade the Druid’s Prayer: does Spirit grant anything in response to this prayer, and if so, under what conditions? What does “protection” mean, concretely? What kind of “strength” are we asking for? How are “knowledge” and “understanding” different? (They’re tricky to translate!) “Justice” means different things to different people — is it the same thing we mean by “equality”? Or something else? How many of us actually do “love justice” in any useful sense, if we look at the world right now as any sort of evidence? And “existences”? Is that the same thing as “anything that exists”? Then why not just say “all things”? And so on.

Now that I’ve irritated at least some of my readers in the process of unraveling this prayer, and emptied it of almost any meaning until I can answer even some of these questions for myself, let’s move on to unmaking it in another mode — everyone’s favorite torture from secondary school: grammar!

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Because we’ve got a few Celtic grammatical processes to work out, too, for our language: (1) the imperative of grant, which is simply a more formal word for give; (2) the vocative or “direct address” form for spirit, rendered above as “O Spirit”, which can mutate the following noun (one of my students was named Megan; she hated that in Irish her name became, more or less, a Wegan “O Megan”); (3) any grammatical changes that happen to nouns following a possessive pronoun, here thy, or your; and (4) any changes that happen to nouns in phrases like “in protection”, or after other nouns, like “knowledge of justice”. (For those of you in the know, these are the famed Celtic mutations that bedevil the learner.)

But for the purposes of the draft below, I’m ignoring all four of these. Time for tweaking later.

Pesad an Derwidhe

Ri, a’h Isprid, do iscod;
ha’n iscod, nerth;
ha’n nerth, doithus,
ha’n doithus, gothved,
ha’n gothved, gothved cowireth,
ha’n gothved cowireth, i cared,
ha o’i cared, cared pob an bode,
ha’n cared pob an bode, cared Isprid
ha pob an mat.

This works out, more-or-less literally, to the following: Prayer of the Druids. Give, o Spirit, your shielding, and in shielding, strength; and in strength, wisdom; and in wisdom, knowledge; and in knowledge, knowledge of fairness; and in knowledge of fairness, its love, and out of its love, love of all worlds/existences, and in love of all of worlds/existences, love of Spirit, and of all goodness.

I know you have a range of reactions to this: (1) Cool! (2) Uh, what? (3) Why go to the trouble of making and teaching yourself a fake Celtic language when six real ones already exist? (4) Does Spirit care what language we use? (5) You’ve changed some of the meanings in the prayer. (6) Get a life! (7) I love this! And so on.

(1) Ah, you too suffer from the same pleasant affliction I do regarding language — this stuff is awesome, our most amazing creation ever!

(2) The tryptophan still hasn’t worn off yet. This is just a dream. You’ll wake up in a few more hours and everything will be fine. Stay away from any more turkey, though.

(3) Only six? There are several other Celtic conlangs out there. The more the better, I say. And if you want to make one, you need to know something about “real” Celtic languages. Besides, if I can speak it, and you could if you wanted, and we could pray in it, and find meaning and comfort using it, what exactly makes it fake?

(4) Yes and no. Unverified Personal Gnosis says it can swing both ways. Spirit doesn’t care, and spirits may care deeply.

(5) Meanings change every time we mean them. Take a look at the different versions of the prayer. I’m still reflecting on “God, impart Thy strength; And in strength, power to suffer; And to suffer for the truth …”

(6) I’ve had several so far, and will probably have several more.

(7) You sound like you’re a happy person in general.

I’m copying this prayer into my day-book, so that I’ll have it on hand at my bedside, and I can think and dream with it, trying it out. Already it feels more usable to me than either the English or Welsh version. And if I use it and gain benefit from it — if it sparks further development of this language for prayer and ritual — that’s a definite good, to my thinking.

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*some basic knowledge of Celtic languages: If you have a gift for languages, you can pick up a linguistic knowledge of one in a handful of hours — a sense of what the basic word order is, where the complexities lie, points of potential common ground with any other language you may know, and so on. It’s like visiting a city in a foreign country with a good map and helpful suggestions from natives: an afternoon can give you a general sense of how the main streets lie, what some of the prime tourist spots are, where to eat, how to “sample” the city without pretending to the intimate knowledge only a native or long-time resident can acquire fully.

“The Provocations of Now”   2 comments

[Solstice light and fire can fill us with energy to tackle the big stuff.  At least, that’s my sense of this post, after drafting and revising it. Here goes.]

fire circle -- crystal collins

MAGUS ’18 fire circle. Photo courtesy Crystal Collins.

The title for this post comes from a line in a recent column in the UK paper The Guardian. (I routinely skim the foreign press both as an escape from the breathless hyper-partisanship of U.S. media and also for key perspectives often wholly absent from American consciousness.)

Every age has ’em: the issues screeching for our attention, promising imminent peril and world-flattening disaster if we don’t ramp up our paranoia, doubt, fear and despair to the pitch of the writer, pol, preacher, activist, etc., etc. If you haven’t developed a nervous twitch just from hearing certain triggering labels in the 24-hour news-cycle, you obviously haven’t been paying attention.

Which is exactly what I try to practice and quietly urge on others, if they choose to give me space to talk. Often they don’t, and I don’t insist. Stop paying attention, which is a form of our energy, to absolutely everything, just because it asks for it. Pay attention specifically to what builds, to what gives joy and life to you and others. Otherwise, why bother?

What follows is geek-talk, if you’re not a Tolkien-fan. You might as well use the search box at the top left to find a topic that interests you, or wander elsewhere on the Net to track down what will feed and nourish your powers. Surf well.

OK, you’ve been warned.

Remember the Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings? In that remarkable extended scene with its many speakers, Gloin recounts how an emissary from Mordor comes to Dain Ironfoot, king of the Dwarves in Moria, and demands Dain’s compliance with a request. Dain answers prudently:

“I say neither yea nor nay. I must consider this message and what it means under its fair cloak.”

“Consider well, but not too long,” said he [the emissary].

“The time of my thought is my own to spend,” answered Dain.

“For the present,” said he, and rode off into the darkness.

We’re always asked to decide, to react — preferably as-quickly-as-possible — but certainly not to spend our time considering the messages we receive, or to originate a response that’s not simply a manipulated reaction for or against.

The time of our thought is our own to spend, if we reclaim it, which is precisely what we need to do if we’re to find a balance and poise that will let us act prudently, navigate our own lives with a measure of confidence and joy, avoid inadvertently assisting the dis-eases of our times, and possibly aid the forces of light.  (Yes, sometimes the admittedly exalted and grandiloquent language of fantasy has its place in a realist view of things. In times that feel over-the-top, eloquence and dramatic language fit perfectly. If they move us in any way to preserve our own integrity, they merit a place in the action.)

And we each need to do this in our own ways, which means no single formula that I or anyone else proposes will suit us all. No OSFA.* The Druid tradition of the triad quietly tells us to look beyond crippling polarities — it bids us ask where the third factor lies, and what it contributes to the situation — but it’s far from the “only solution”. Other factors shape any situation, but threes at least have the virtue of avoiding the potential deadlock of twos. A tie-breaker is built-in, so to speak. Freed from the grip of either-or, many a situation opens onto unexpected possibilities and directions.

I refuse — with the defiant gesture of Galadriel repulsing the Shadow — to spend my hours in despair, like Denethor, who thought he saw truly with his palantir, when all he perceived were the visions Sauron fed him. And a corollary: If I can’t contribute effectively to matters I care about, I will work where I can create and originate something positive, however modest. Instead of complaint, muddying the atmosphere for myself and those around me, I will build as much as I can.

And I vow — with the wisdom of the exchange of Elrond and Gimli following the Council — to keep faith with my own ideals, even as I test their validity.

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.

“Maybe,” said Elrond. “But let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”

“Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,” said Gimli.

“Or break it,” said Elrond. “Look not too far ahead, But go now with good hearts!”

But what does that mean in my case? Showing up to write this blog, I reach 400+ people who find some value in what I say. If I can help raise spirits, I’ve found one way to serve. We each have many, and to identify them and give them attention can be a revelatory experience. We each matter much more than we believe or feel most days. (What dark magic have we allowed to enspell us that we think so little of ourselves?)

Lastly, I swear fealty to what I know of the highest and best, trusting that any purgation I face, should I fall short of my own ideals — as I have and will again, no doubt — will necessarily restore me at length to the commitment and service I aspire to.

There, a triad for myself, and for any others who may find value in adapting it to their situation, experience and capacities.

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*OSFA: “one size fits all” — a personal meme reminding me to suspect the single fix, the one answer, the sole acceptable response, the cloned ideal, the mono-culture, etc.

Touching the Sacred, Part 2   Leave a comment

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

In Part 1 I wrote about the approaching Festival of Beltane and our longing to touch or encounter the Sacred. It keeps calling to us, and will not be ignored.

Here I’ll talk about how we fulfill the call inside us to touch the Sacred.

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Zora Neale Hurston, from her novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

One way to understand this call is as a sacred vow that our lives require each of us to fulfill. Being born means we agreed to it. Don’t remember making the vow? Each of us promised to make good on it. “Will you do what only you can do, because only you live your life? Will you listen to what there is for you to hear? Will you keep growing? Will you remember to celebrate all that can be celebrated?”

Our lives ask us such questions, and we answer with how we live. We honor the call, the sacred vow, when we’re fully alive. We catch intermittent glimpses of this in our lives. This joy is for you, it says.

Often we don’t trust it. A girl I was serious about before I met and married my wife was convinced we shouldn’t trust it. Every happiness has to be paid for with sorrow, she said.

Or we see it, this joy, in the lives of others. A light seems to shine around them, and in their presence you feel better, more balanced, more you. They seem to practice the sacred like a dance or song. That can be a powerful way to live. Life as practice. Not as a thing to be perfected. Life’s bigger than perfection, it seems to say. More ornery, stubborn, lovely and changeable.

But it’s something we can also study, perform, explore, try out, test, demonstrate, play with, give away and take back. Sometimes with each breath. Sometimes over nearly a century. Perfection’s a dead thing. Not alive, slippery, mysterious and intoxicating. Try out what lies on the other side of perfection. Not just play the hand I’m dealt, but take or drop a card. Reshuffle. Paint my own deck. And sometimes, change the game.

Right, says the skeptic. You just believe that if you want to. But ignore such hints and outright shoves, and likewise we can often feel both restless and spiritually dead, a truly wretched combination, when we’ve done less than our lives ask of us.

We all know this intimately, too, in one form or another. It prods young (and older) people to find themselves, it burns in those who are spiritual hungry to go on inner and outer quests that may take years or their entire lives, it launches many a mid-life crisis, a dark night or decade of the soul. It slaps you upside the head, and will not stop. It passes go, it drives up onto the sidewalk, it drops you off on the wrong side of town. Or it slows down, even stops, parks in a driveway, kills the engine, offers you the wheel — then tosses the keys into the bushes.

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And the call troubles some people enough that they retreat into things in order to try to hush the call, to drown it out because they despair of ever being able to answer it. And the things — possessions, pleasures, addictions — being finite, can’t replace the call either. They just rub it raw. Who needs the sacred if it’s such torture?! No thanks, I say. These aren’t the droids I’m looking for.

Fortunately the sacred doesn’t just sit around waiting for us to find it like the fabled pot of gold at the rainbow’s end, like the toy in the bottom of the cereal box. It bounces and squirms and growls and seeks us out, constantly breaking through into our awareness. Hence the difficulty of avoiding the call, and the frequency with which we encounter it.

These Festivals like Beltane, or even newer observances, like Earth Day today — they don’t come out of nowhere. Sure they do, says your friendly neighborhood internet troll. OK: who ya gonna believe?

Where do we find the sacred — or where does it find us?

humanbeauty-stovka

“Human Beauty”/Jano Stovka

We may touch the sacred when we experience beauty. And beauty not only meets us in familiar ways that marketers box and package and try to monetize, but also in less conventional ones, if we pay attention. And sometimes even when we don’t.

Experience beauty and we’re lifted out of ourselves, stopped in our tracks, slapped, arrested, pierced with Cupid’s arrow — the language we’ve used throughout history in poems and songs to describe the experience can sound violent, because we may not expect beauty, or recognize it when we face it, or want it when we do recognize it.

Or we do all of those things, and our hunger for it just grows and builds. Or it makes us weep or laugh, or act in other ways that don’t fit or which leave us uncomfortable. Wait, say our lives. You thought this was going to be easy or simple?!

Encounters with the sacred can come in isolation, too, of course — away from others. We may turn our backs on people who disappoint us or who are simply so loud in our lives that we need silence, or at least other sounds. Wind, crickets, birdsong, water. We set out by ourselves, convinced this is IT. This is the way.

Walk alone and some cultures, at some times, will understand and recognize and support you. They’ll assist the solitary walk in unique ways that other cultures may not be doing at that moment. Time, space, acceptance, easing the transition in or out.

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Stairs at Oominesanji, Kii Mountains, Japan

No single culture does it all — culture’s a human thing as much as anything else is. But the natural world is a powerful ally — what we’re born from, where these bodies end up after a few decades. The in-between, where we convince ourselves we’re not a part but apart: the natural world offers remedies for that illness that we recognize every time we let it.

In Part 3 I’ll look at some more ways we touch the sacred.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

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Images: years that ask; addictionOominesanji Stairs; human beauty/Jano Stovka

Beltane 2015 and Touching the Sacred   1 comment

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

Here we are, about two weeks out from Beltane/May Day — or Samhuinn if you live Down Under in the Southern Hemisphere. And with a Full Moon on May 3, there’s a excellent gathering of “earth events” to work with, if you choose. Thanks to the annual Edinburgh Fire Festival, we once again have Beltane-ish images of the fire energy of this ancient Festival marking the start of Summer.

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You may find like I do that Festival energies of the “Great Eight”* kick in at about this range — half a month or so in advance. A nudge, a hint, a restlessness that eases, a tickle that subsides, or shifts toward knowing, with a glance at the calendar. Ah! Here we are again!

For me, that’s regardless of whether I’m involved in any public gathering, or anticipating the time — because it’s never anything as rigid as one single day, but rather an elastic interval — on my own.

Yes, purists may insist on specifics, and calculate their moons and Festivals down to the hour, so as not to miss the supposed peak energies of the time. And if this gives you a psychological boost to know and do this that’s worth the fuss, go for it.

Below is Midnightblueowl’s marvelous painted “Wheel of the Year” (with Beltane at approximately 9 o’clock). With its colors and images, it captures something of the feeling of the Year as we walk it — a human cycle older than religions and civilizations. Or the cycle helped make us human, changing us as we began to notice and acknowledge and celebrate it. Try looking at it both ways, and see what comes of that.

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Painted “Wheel of the Year” by Midnightblueowl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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For today I take as divination the message below, which got promptly diverted to the spam folder: “This page decidedly has whole of the information I precious astir this dependent and didn’t make love who to ask.”

O crazy spam-scribe of the ethers, you stumbled onto one of the Great Paradoxes, best stated by William Blake, with his “infinity in the palm of your hand, eternity in an hour.” In that sense, yes: this page “decidedly has whole of the information” though it is also what it is, a finite thing. Like each of us, like the tools we use to connect to What Matters, like the sneaking suspicion that will not go away that there’s Something More. (Even if it’s just an explanation of what’s up with all these capital letters, anyway?)

And since Beltane’s approaching, there is indeed a “precious astir” at work as the energies swirl.  Who or what is “dependent”?! The writer of the spam, not knowing “who to ask” and even acknowledging he “didn’t make love.” And all of us, dependent on the earth and each other.

I bless you, oh Visitor to this e-shrine, workshop, journal — the many-selfed thing that blogs can be and become. Who to ask? you inquire. Your inward Guide, always present and waiting for you where you are most true. Or the face of the Guide as it manifests again and again in your life — stranger at the market who smiles at you, bird that catches your eye, tune you find yourself humming.

How to get there, that place we all long for, that colors our thinking and follows and leads us in day- and night-dreams? Place that Festivals and holidays and time and pain and love and living all — sometimes — remind us of? Ah, you mean The Question! Love, gratitude, service — all things any of us can begin today; all things, it’s important to remember, we already do in some measure, or we would die. Too easy? Or you already know that? There’s also ritual — finite, imperfect ritual, our human dance. Mark, O Spirit, and hear us now, confirming this our sacred vow … 

What’s your sacred vow? Don’t know yet? Got some work to do? Tune in to the next post for more.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

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Image: Beltane Edinburgh Fire Festival; painted Wheel of the Year by Midnightblueowl

*The “Great Eight” yearly festivals with their OBOD names: Imbolc, Alban Eilir/Spring Equinox, Bealteinne, Alban Hefin/Summer Solstice, Lughnasadh, Alban Elfed/Autumn Equinox, Samhuinn, Alban Arthan/Winter Solstice. Many alternate names exist, and almost every one has a Christian festival on or near it, too.

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