Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Celtic’

Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day!

Saint Dwynwen is the patron (matron?) saint of lovers and relationships; interesting legends and stories are associated with her. January 25th is the Welsh “Valentine’s Day.” I posted a “Happy St. Dwynwen’s Day” message on Facebook, and a friend asked if I would put it here, so here it is. Check out the Wikipedia link on her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Dwynwen%27s_Day

Her stories remind us of the mutuality of love, and the pain when love is not reciprocated. Another version of her story can be found in the book Praying with Celtic Holy Women, by Mehan and Oliver.

Before going to sleep tonight, take a few moments to close your eyes, and with your imagination, encircle those close to you with warmth and love. If you are seeking a relationship, feel your heart open as you appreciate the goodness and love you already have in your life. And pay attention to your dreams.

(The above post was formerly published here in 2010.)

 

dydd-santes-dwynwen-hapus

Welsh Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology

Ethnobotany: the study of culturally important species of plants.

Ethnoecology: the study of culturally important ecosystems.

Ned Phillips-Jones offered the above definitions at a workshop my daughter and I attended today on the Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology of Wales. First we gathered for a power-point presentation about the process of using one’s own ethnic background to research and imaginatively explore what plants and animals might have been important to our ancestors. There are close relationships between plants from Wales and plants here in New England: the Welsh rowan and the American mountain ash, for example. My father (whose mother came to this country from Wales) planted mountain ash trees around our home when I was a child – and now I have planted mountain ash at my home. Many plants (rowan, oak, hazel, mistletoe) were considered sacred by ancient Celts. Ned also spoke about coppicing, creating hedges, carved and standing stones, and building cairns. He has been incorporating these methods into his garden project.

The Forest Garden

After the indoor presentation, we proceeded outdoors to the wonderful forest garden that Ned has created on the Hampshire College campus. There we saw hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, sloe plum plants, nettle, tiny Welsh daffodils, and many other plants, beautifully arranged in beds with stepping stone paths. We ceremonially planted a holly bush in the garden (the berries on it in the photo below were not real but were there for effect! 🙂 ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary of edible delight!

Planting the Holly

Welsh Daffodil

On the social network Americymru, Ned wrote: “A long term goal of mine is to teach Permaculture through the medium of Welsh. I want to help create forest gardens (and teach about them) in order to help struggling communities produce a diversity of foods and useful goods which require little maintenance to produce for years. A number of traditional perennial Welsh wild food crops are promising as contributions to forest garden ecosystems (hazel, gooseberry, wild leek, sea kale and sorrel).
There are strong connections between language, culture, communities, and locally produced food. I believe there is great potential to reinvigorate communities and local economies by investing in perennial agriculture and designed ecosystems. The opportunity for ‘green’ job creation gives the concept added relevance to current policy discussions.”

To finish our time together we enjoyed Herbal Mead, Black Currant Juice, Laver (sea vegetables), and Cawl Mamgu Tregaron (soup).

Gardd bendigedig, Ned! Diolch yn fawr!

Ned Phillips-Jones

St. Patrick was Welsh!

St. Patrick was born Maewyn in Welsh-speaking Britain before he was captured from his rich parents and taken into slavery in Ireland.

He later preached Christianity to the Irish.

Trefoil-shaped Moss, Dorson's Rocks, 5/09

Confessions of a Religious Naturalist

I confess.

I confess that my primary locus of concern, meaning, and spiritual experience is the world in which we live. I find my religious orientation in nature, in being part of this world. This includes not only what we typically consider to be the “natural world” apart from humans, but also the cultural forms which have emerged within nature, including our human expressions and creativity regarding ethics, aesthetics, relationships, and – yes – spiritual practices and experiences. The Universe seems to love profligate diversity: natural, cultural and religious diversity. Can our small minds wrap around that? Can our common experience of life on this Earth expand our sense of who we are and what we understand our places to be? Can we come together to share and celebrate our understandings?

That confession made, I must also say that the world-to-come also concerns me, if the term is understood to mean not some after-death realm, but rather the future of this world and its life-forms (metaphorically, the Kingdom [kindom] of God, which is present and yet to come). This concern is born of compassion, of a sense of belonging. As a religious naturalist,  I understand and take part in the beauty, mission, and yearning of other forms of religious expression, including those of the little country church I attend. At the same time, I am fascinated to see what forms of ritual and community emerge around the growing (yet deeply historical) “religious naturalist” orientation.

One reason I find Celtic spirituality so appealing is that in the early years, Christianity in the Celtic lands evolved separately from Roman Christianity, and retained a deep understanding of the world as sacred. A Celtic religious orientation is intertwined with daily activities, events, tasks, relationships. More about that in a future post.

So, I confess – yet it is an open confession, because my understanding is evolving as I learn from life. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Today is Sunday, a good day for a confession; this post will suffice as my Sunday meditation, because it’s a wild day – I’m not driving to church given the wind storm, fallen branches, and the power going off and on.

Now to post this while the power is on!

Persephone returns!

In the Garden, March 5, 2010

When the first green shoots appeared in early spring, I took my then-young daughter out to the garden. There we sat on the earth while I told her Charlene Spretnak’s version of the  myth of Demeter and Persephone (Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths).

There are many Spring-related stories, myths and legends, but I chose this particular version because of the themes of mother-daughter love, the removal of the “rape” element (which was added in later, Hellenized versions), and the message of our deep embeddedness in nature.

Now I have granddaughters, and can share stories with them. Brigid’s light grows, and she spreads her green mantle across the land; the Christ-light will soon be resurrected in our hearts; and this month we celebrate the Celtic saints David (with daffodils) and Patrick (with shamrocks, seamrog– clovers and trefoils). One of my favorite Celtic saints is Melangell, patron of rabbits and hares, small animals, the natural environment, and healing. Bunnies and chicks! http://saintspreserved.com/Melangell.html

The daylight grows stronger, and will soon equal the hours of darkness. The robins are here, the mounds of snow are shrinking, and the green is sprouting. At last.

In the Garden - March 5, 2010

The Full Moon, Candles, and Brigid’s Crosses

This evening I will gather with women friends outdoors to walk a snowy labyrinth illuminated by ice lanterns and the full moon. What could be more magical for this weekend of Imbolc / Candlemas / Brigit’s Day? This full moon will arrive at perigee, the place on its non-circular orbit when it’s at its closest point, a distance of 221,577 mi. (356,593 km.) from Earth. It will be the biggest full moon of 2010. The moon will exert a strong pull on the ocean tides at this time. Pause, close your eyes, quiet your self: as a watery creature, can you feel the moon’s pull?

On Sunday, we of Caim an t’ Stratha of the Céile Dé will gather with members of a nearby Catholic church to weave Brigid’s crosses with locally gathered rushes. In the Celtic calendar, Imbolc brought the first harbingers of Spring, but now my snowdrops are under snow, and an Arctic front has given us bone-chilling temperatures. It’s a time for hearth and home. Light some candles, for the light is growing.  It’s good to know that the snowdrops are there, awaiting their time.

Immanaire!

Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day!

Saint Dwynwen is the patron (matron?) saint of lovers and relationships; interesting legends and stories are associated with her. January 25th is the Welsh “Valentine’s Day.” I posted a “Happy St. Dwynwen’s Day” message on Facebook, and a friend asked if I would put it here, so here it is. Check out the Wikipedia link on her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Dwynwen%27s_Day

Her stories remind us of the mutuality of love, and the pain when love is not reciprocated. Another version of her story can be found in the book Praying with Celtic Holy Women, by Mehan and Oliver.

Before going to sleep tonight, take a few moments to close your eyes, and with your imagination, encircle those close to you with warmth and love. If you are seeking a relationship, feel your heart open as you appreciate the goodness and love you already have in your life. And pay attention to your dreams.