May 30, 2012

Visit this Castle While I'm Gone

Some of you are probably thinking geesh, she used to post frequently and now....
So, I apologize. That's what deadlines will do, I suppose. But I wanted to stop by and let you know that I am not abandoning Celtic Voices. Nope. No way. I will be back to posting regularly.

In the meantime, visit this castle. If you've ever been there, I bet you were amazed.

Dunluce Castle.

May 16, 2012

Happy St. Brendan's Day!

St. Brendan's Clonfert Cathedral
Photo by Jamie Chavez
He's one of the most interesting Irish saints, in my opinion, and there are plenty! Today is his feast day, a fine time to chat a bit about the man.

He's most famous for his voyage, which may have taken him to America. If you haven't read Tim Severin's book about his re-creation of St. Brendan's journey, I highly recommend it. He sought out to show how a 6th century Irish monk could have sailed to North American in a leather boat.

From my book Celtic Wisdom:

pg. 50
"He was in pursuit of Tir-na-n-Og, the Land of the Young, a fabled island spoken of since pre-Christian times. In the Middle Ages Brendan the Navigator's story was translated into many languages and was told all over Europe. Even Christopher Columbus, before making his famous 'discovery of America' in the fifteenth century, is said to have sought out navigation advice from the Irish, and he included Irishmen in his crew. Some believe that Brendan's journey, in the sixth century, actually took the Irish monks to the North American shore..."
pg. 51
"The point of the story was not the physical journey, although that made for good entertainment and the story contains a great deal more concrete details and clues than most of the ancient saint narratives. Even so, the spiritual journey was much more important, as it was to all the ancients who sought to be a wanderer for Christ."

If you'd like to read Nauigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis [the Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot], the story that was a Medieval best seller, you can find it online here.

Happy St. Brendan's Day to you! May you enjoy your life journey and discover the blessing of God on the way!

May 10, 2012

Four Elements by John O'Donohue: Air

I'm not finished reading this book, but I thought maybe you could join me on this journey. I'm moving through this book slowly, as I have to with all O'Donohue's writings, because so much meaning is packed into so few words. I have to think on it for a while. I wonder if anyone else out there has the same experience.

If you are not familiar with John O'Donohue, you might want to start by reading his popular book Anam Cara. An Irish poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue passed away suddenly in 2008 at the age of fifty-two. Four Elements, Refections on Nature, was published after his death using material from a series of essays he wrote on the four elements. (Click on the book cover to order.)

He loved the natural landscape of his home in the west of Ireland. I also recommend the DVD A Celtic Pilgrimage where you can see the landscape and follow O'Donohue as he leads pilgrimages in Ireland.

But back to the book at hand. After the forward, which is not to be skipped as it serves as an introduction and contains some poetry, the first element explored in this book is air. He begins by talking about us as individuals and our sense of the world that is right around us. Some passages from the book that I highlighted:

All that happens to us remains somehow alive inside us. We do not lose anything. What we have done to ourselves, we also carry. Our memories are different from the memories of all other selves...The place where an event or experience falls is a different place in each consciousness.

We live in a world of air. Space is all around your body. One of the constituents of our freedom is that we can move through space.

It is air that gives us space and makes it possible for us to move. Without movement there is no life possible.

One of the lonely aspects of space is distance. Each individual is unavoidably involved with distance. When you are born you come out into empty space. When your perception is born, it creates an empty space around you. The real difference between people has little to do with where one is or the interests that one has, or the so-called class to which one belongs. The real difference consists in the different species of perception that is active in an individual.

The eye is the mother of distance. When you open your eye you see the distance and space between you and every other object and person.

(Speaking of humans) They are in-between spirits, made out of clay and air. They have the earthen frame and the clay feet. But their inner world seems to be composed more of the air element....This is where individuality emerges, here in this in-between  world....Humans are literally grounded. Their earthen feet hold them to the ground.

To me this speaks of the spirit. God is spirit, we are spirit. But, as he says, literally grounded. I think that's why prayer and meditation on God's Word and on God's creation are so uplifting, speaking to spirit. But I admit, such deep philosophical thoughts are usually beyond my comprehension. What do you think???

Note: This book was provided to me without charge by the publisher, Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, with the purpose of providing an independant review.

May 1, 2012

5 Things To Do To Celebrate Beltane

May Flowers on the Doorknob
Photo by AlyssssylA
It's May 1, the Celtic festival of Beltane, May Day, and in Ireland the first day of summer (in theory, anyway. I hear it's damp and dismal today in Ireland.) There are traditional ways to celebrate: dance around a May pole, make a basket of flowers and leave it anonymously on your neighbor's door....But who does that?

So, how do you celebrate? Here are five ideas for you:

1. Why not leave your May Day basket for someone who will truly appreciate it? If that really is your neighbor, great. But what about a nursing home? The overworked nurses at a hospital? Use your imagination.

2. It's the end of winter! Get in touch with your ancient roots and build your own version of a bonfire. Invite that neighbor.

3. The American version of this festival? Go to a baseball game. What says summer better than baseball?

4. It's also International Worker's Day. In the US we recognize workers on Labor Day in September, but for other countries, May 1 is the day. To recognize this day, you could go back to #1 or you could do as these folks are doing, but I'd recommend showing appreciation instead.

5. Finally, it's Tuesday, a workday. Most people, I'm guessing, are not going to take the time to plan a May Day celebration. But you can still celebrate. Cut some spring flowers and bring them inside. Eat your lunch outside today (weather permitting.) Send a card, make a phone call, let someone know you appreciate them. As a matter of fact, you can celebrate this way every day. Appreciate the weather, good or bad, and give thanks that you've been given another day to make a difference. :)