contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

BRIGHID AND THE ORAN MOR

contemplativeinquiry:

Truly inspiring! I am greatly moved by Joanna’s  eloquent and powerful piece. It’s great when someone else in in the current of a similar yet distinct inspiration.

Originally posted on Down the Forest Path:

This is a reblog from my latest blog post at Moon Books. I hope you enjoy it, and do let me know if you’ve had similar experiences. :)

I had meditated and tranced for nearly an hour before my altar, to the sounds of the birds outside and Heloise Pilkington on my cd player. http://www.heloisepilkington.com/index.htm  My cats joined me, sleeping in their respective spots, their purrs vibrating along my spine.  As the incense burned out, I came back to myself, having danced with my goddess, diving in her mysteries and those of my own soul.

I was ready now. Time to go out, to seek her, to seek the awen.  I packed a small bag with more incense and some water and made my way out of the house and onto the heath. Taking my time, walking slowly, I feel more graceful after my time spent at my altar…

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POEM: THE OLD PEONY STALK

Seeming old dry stick

and yet …

a whole ecology

of

moist earth

tiny insects

a little live stem

whiskers and bones

whiskers and bones

dying back to the earth

without fuss

and not too fast

enough life left to feel/hear its

resonance

… a  subtle one.

Stillness allowing movement

permitting earth, moisture, fragmentation

in slow process

easy not to notice

yet, in softened, mutated from –

Part of the Song.

One of the cultural values of the Druid path is that those of us who are not dedicated, specialised poets and artists are encouraged to write poetry and to practise in the arts. I wrote this yesterday after participating in a ‘Lectio Divina from the Book of Nature’ practice with my partner Elaine. This practice was first introduced to us by our colleague Julie Bond and Elaine has adapted it. She will be offering it at our Contemplative Druid Retreat this weekend (17-19 April). I enjoyed rehearsing the practice with her very much, and am glad to have this record of its fruits.

POEM: SUDDEN FOG

Setting out at dawn, I gaze at the distant mountains;

I can count the peaks in the clear air.

But the budding hope in my heart

arouses the jealousy of the Mountain Spirit.

Swiftly he exhibits his divine powers

in a startling display of transformation.

He fills the air with cotton clouds

then tears them into sheds of silken mist.

They enfold the earth from everywhere

and hide the sky from view.

The sun, like a plate of rose quartz,

hangs at a height beyond calculation –

it shines down through the haze, red beams penetrating the white fog.

In the fog are human forms

coming and going in great confusion.

Each of them is holding some implement

but I cannot see clearly what they are.

Next, as if this weren’t strange enough,

there appear even stranger sights:

a roadway lined with pearl-studded banners;

mountains covered with trees of jasper.

A golden bridge arching across the sky;

a jade pagoda surging up from the earth.

But while I stare in astonishment

everything is suddenly swept away.

Amazed, I rub my eyes,

and finding myself standing on the same old mountain road.

Who can say if this was fantasy or reality,

whether I was dreaming of awake?

Once I travelled to Mountain Omei in my imagination

And laughed at Buddha for deceiving the ignorant.

Laugh at deception and be deceived –

Then Buddha will have the last laugh.

From Yang Wan-li Heaven my Blanket: Earth my Pillow: Poems from Sung Dynasty China New York & Tokyo: Weatherall, 1975 (Translated and introduced by Jonathan Chaves)

According to our reckoning Yang Wan-li lived from 1127-1206. Mount Omei in the western province of Szechwan was a holy place for Buddhist devotees, particularly associated with the bodhisattva P’u-hsien, or Samantabhadra, to give his Sanskrit name.

Of this poem the translator says: “Yang may have been influenced by Ch’an Buddhism” (i.e. a purist, philosophical kind, parent of Japanese Zen) “in his discussion of poetry and his perception of the world, but ‘Sudden Fog’ refers to a different kind of Buddhism, a popular, devotional religion in which the devotee can hope to experience visions of his favourite Buddha or bodhisattva. Certain mountains in China were associated with these apparitions, and Buddhists would make pilgrimages to them seeking visions or mystical experiences.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: JOHN HERON

The notion of being present, here-and-now, is very influential in current contemplative discourse.   I think it needs some clarification and extension. John Heron is a humanistic psychologist, facilitation theorist and teacher, and  co-founder both of Co-Counselling International (CCI) as a peer support system and Co-operative Inquiry as a democratic research methodology in the human sciences. Here he explains ‘abundant time’.

“Living in abundant time is more than living in present time.  It is possible to be very here and now in terms of immediate sensory awareness yet to be dissociated from past and future.  Living in abundant time means being aware of what is present, with an openness to and a sense of the re-evaluated past, and with an openness to and a sense of the emergent possibilities that are pouring into the present … The present lived out of the future through a restructuring insight into the past – some such aphorism as this comes close to the concept of living in abundant time.”

John Heron Catharsis in human development, London: British Postgraduate Medical Federation, 1977

GWYN, GWYTHYR AND CREIDDYLAD: A STORY FROM THE OLD NORTH

contemplativeinquiry:

This post reblogged from Peneverdant looks at the traditional stories of the northern British (especially in north west England and southern Scotland) and surviving material from these stories in later Welsh literature.

Originally posted on From Peneverdant:

Cherry BlossomCulhwch and Olwen is one of the oldest and most fascinating repositories of ancient British mythology. It originates from two texts; a fragmented version in The White Book of Rhydderch (1325) and full version in The Red Book of Hergest (1400). The main narrative centres on Culhwch’s quest to win Olwen for which he enlists the help of Arthur and his retinue; a medley of historical and mythological characters.

Embedded within it we find fragments of other tales which may be of older origin and have stood alone. These include the hunt for the legendary boar Twrch Twryth and release of Mabon from imprisonment in Gloucester. Most significantly for me as someone who venerates Gwyn ap Nudd, we find the story of his rivalry with Gwythyr ap Greidol for the love of Creiddylad and their battle for her every May Day.

This story is central to understanding Gwyn’s mythology. Because…

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ORAN MOR THE MAGIC OF SKYPE

Last night (my time) I had a Skype conversation with a group of people mostly in Nova Scotia (their early evening) and a person from Washington State, USA (early afternoon). I had been invited by Alix Sandra Huntley-Speirs of Alba Nuadh: the Druid Arts of Nova Scotia, a group which can be found on http://www.albanuadh.com

The topic was the Oran Mor, including its relationship to the contemplative thread in Druidry. As it happens I’ve been quite recently re-alerted to the Oran Mor, and it wasn’t a topic within my book Contemplative Druidry: People Practice and Potential which we also discussed a little bit. Additionally, the Nova Scotia group are wanting to incorporate their sense of the Oran Mor into their work together. So this made for a dynamic and flowing conversation. From my point of view I certainly needed to respond and think and talk on the spot. So I believe did everyone else.

I felt that I had been privileged to enter an authentic space of co-creation. I had a certainty that something of significance will come of this, both for the group and also for those of us who were in (literally) different places. I can’t ‘know’ that of course, yet I feel it strongly. Speaking for myself, I moved on in an important way. I moved from a space in which I was focused on early meanings and subsequent interpretations of Oran Mor, and how they might guide me, to one where my inquiry has become more visceral. How will The Oran Mor live through me, in my body, heart and mind. How will it shift my experience, my life world?

I appreciate all the people who made this conversation happen, including myself, and to the technology. I know that Alba Nuadh want to continue the practice of Skype conversations and I recommend others to experiment with this medium for Druid conversations.

ABOUT THE ORAN MOR (GREAT SONG)

In my last post, I presented my Amazon review of Jason Kirkey’s The Salmon in the Spring prefaced by his view of the Oran Mor (Great Song), itself somewhat indebted to earlier work by Frank MacKeown.  This followed on from my recent reading of a post involving the Oran Mor by Alison Leigh Lily at Q&A: What is the Song of the World, which I picked up through a reblog on Joanna van der Hoeven’s Down the Forest Path, and reblogged myself on https://contemplativeinquiry.wordpress.com/2015/4/2/ . Kirkey essentially sees the Oran Mor as something like the Divine Ground, or the Tao of Chinese mystical philosophy, something that includes all beings whether they be mountains, salmon, humans, midges, wolfhounds, gods or sidhe.

Soon after I read the book I discussed my take on the Oran Mor in a local radio interview, which can now  be found in the OBOD website on http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/other-paths/druidry-dharma/. Those interested can scroll down to AUDIO Druidry & Buddhism Stroud FM 141210.mp3.  At that time I was more involved in Buddhism than I am now, but generally I still stand by the things I said.

Concerning the Oran Mor, I focused on implications for the personal spiritual path rather than wider issues of cosmology. I suggested that we are invited to do three things:

  1. Learn to hear the Song. This is another way of talking about re-enchantment, the beginning of the conscious journey in paths like Druidry.
  2. Find our unique note, or sound, and sing it. Whilst each note is meaningless, indeed impossible, without the Song, the Song is itself dependent on our individual contributions.
  3. Learn to hear the silence behind and within the Song. For without that the Song, in our perception can become just a noise, even if a beautiful one. To awakening to a full awareness and appreciation of the Song, we need the dimension of silence and stillness as well as sound.

I have noticed one strange thing. When interviewed for Stroud FM (and about half-way through the piece), I confidently attributed these last sentiments to Jason Kirkey. But I’ve looked through the book again and I can’t find them there. So it seems to have been my way of inwardly digesting his book and in a sense the emergence of my own note in relation to the Oran Mor itself as concept, image and inspiration. Still, a mystery, and quite startling when I listened to the interview and then went through the text again. My self-image is one of being careful with attributions and acknowledgements. Perhaps that’s why I felt such a strong energetic pull when the Oran Mor was brought to my attention again.

BOOK REVIEW: THE SALMON IN THE SPRING

This is the review of Jason Kirkey’s Salmon in the Spring which I wrote for Amazon in 2010 (and for Touchstone, the OBOD in-house journal). It was the book that introduced me to The Great Song/Oran Mor – earlier explored in Frank MacKeown’s The Celtic Way of Seeing and The Mist-Filled Path. MacKeown wrote the foreword for Kirkey’s book. Kirkey revises the traditional sense (in the Christian centuries)  of the Oran Mor as a name for God. He says, rather, that “immanent in material processes is the implicate order of the cosmos: spirit, divine ground, Oran Mor (Great Song)”. I will say more about what this has meant both experientially and conceptually for me in future posts.

The review was a 5 star review and I strongly recommend it, as a book that manages both to be clear and to accommodate complexity.

“At the age of 12, Jason Kirkey had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments that can set a direction for life. A relative told him ‘nature does not require our belief. It is right there for us to experience’. Jason is from Massachusetts, of partly Irish ancestry and over time his new found awareness lead him to discover the ‘interplay of nature, story and ancestry’ as a practitioner of ‘Irish Earth-based spirituality and shamanism’.

“Jason presents personal story a thread within a larger, collective story; one in which spiritual traditions are moving through a process of re-imagination – of integration into the new story of the 21st century’. He describes going through a ‘dark night of the soul’ when an over-identified ‘attachment’ to his own tradition became narrow and constraining. He found resolution through the practice of sitting meditation and study at the Naropa University in Colorado. It wasn’t a matter of moving from one tradition to another, but of integrating the qualities of both.

“The Salmon in the Spring explores traditional stories – including the second battle of Maigh Tuireadh, Connla’s Well and the Song of the Silver Branch – in a process of creative revisioning for Celtic spirituality. It is a pioneer’s book and I recommend it to anyone interested in the possible futures of Celtic spirituality, Druidry and other paths in which the old stories are coming alive in new ways.”

Jason Kirkey The Salmon in the Spring: the Ecology of Celtic Spirituality San Francisco, CA, USA: Hiraeth Press, 2009

KABIR: WATER IN THE HOLY POOLS

There is nothing but water in the holy pools.

I know, I have been swimming in them.

All the gods sculpted of wood and ivory can’t say a word.

I know, I have been crying out to them.

The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words.

I looked through their covers one day sideways.

What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through.

If you have not lived through something, it is not true.

Kabir Ecstatic poems Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992 (The English translations are free enough for Robert Bly to call them ‘versions by Robert Bly’. There is an earlier set of translations published by MacMillan in New York in 1915 by Rabindranath Tagore assisted by Evelyn Underhill under the title Songs of Kabir. Whilst I don’t follow Bly in calling the English of the earlier work “useless”, I do find that Bly’s interpretation has more passion and power. The Bly work includes an insightful afterword Kabir and the transcendental Bly by John Stratton Hawley).

REBLOG: Q&A: WHAT IS THE SONG OF THE WORLD?

contemplativeinquiry:

This is a reblog of a reblog, with Joanna van der Hoeven’s Down the Forest Path blog as the intermediary. I too find the Oran Mor a very resonant image. Great that’s it’s getting more attention.

Originally posted on Down the Forest Path:

A brilliant blog post by Alison Leigh Lily, which has sparked something very special in my path through the forest!

The latest issue of the Alternative Religions Educational Network’s newsletter just came out this past weekend, and I was excited to be included as one of those featured in an interview with the editor, Christopher Blackwell. We chatted about my background being raised in a liberal Catholic tradition flavored by my father’s Irish heritage, and how that shaped my spiritual journey towards Druidry as I live and practice it today. It was great fun! One thing we touched on was the Oran Mór, or the Song of the World. Chris asked me to talk a little bit more about how this cosmological concept is reflected in my Druidry. You can read the excerpt here, or check out the whole interview.

via Q&A: What is the Song of the World?.

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