Archive for April, 2012


A series of dreams

I grew up in an Irish-Catholic family, with an emphasis on the Irish. My grandmother’s parent’s came over from Galway, and Ireland was always this exotic motherland to me. That was where we came from, where some family still lives, and where the most magical and fantastic myths and legends originated.

Like any child, I was delighted by tales of leprechauns, unicorns, and faeries. Between mandatory school reading, I occupied my time with Irish poetry and folklore. I was enamored with the “year and a day” concept in so many of the stories.

I remember the first time I read the tales of St. Brendan the Navigator, St. Patrick, and St. Brigid. I felt such a connection to them. It was like reading about my own family.  In particular, I felt a special bond with Brigid. Even though I must have read at least a dozen different versions of the tale, I never grew tired of them. She was beautiful, brave, and intelligent – everything I wanted to be.

When I was up for my confirmation, I chose Brigid as my name.It wasn’t because I felt any particular connection to the Catholic Church. Actually, by that point in my life, I was so frustrated with how the Church treated people, especially friends and family, I was ready to be done with it. But I had to finish what my mother had started; for my Grandmother, I would be confirmed. No, I chose Brigid because I always felt like there was a part of her in me, and that was closest I would get to changing my name.

As the years went by, I strayed quite far from the Church, only ever returning for weddings and funerals. I never reconciled with religion; every time I tried to find my spiritual path, I was left in the dark feeling more alone than before. Something was calling me, I just couldn’t find it.

I had a dream.
It was a bright, beautiful day, and I was standing in a field of flowers. There was a music on the wind that I couldn’t identify, but it felt so familiar. As I wandered through the grasses I saw a small brick building with a large fire burning just outside.
As I approached it, I noticed the fire was on a pedestal… it sort of reminded me of a torch. It glowed blue and white, but I felt no heat. An older woman sat on a bench near a small vegetable garden, reading a book. She hummed the mysterious tune to herself for a while before she took notice of me.
“What are you looking for?”
“Um, I dunno. I thought I was dreaming. Maybe I ate too much before bed.”
“That doesn’t mean you aren’t looking for something.”
“I suppose so.”
“Maybe you aren’t looking in the right place.”
“I never said what I was looking -”
“You needn’t speak it. Just focus on it and all will be revealed.”

And I woke up. I cursed at my alarm.
I had that dream three nights that week. It was almost always the same, we usually talked about the world, my life, her garden, but little things changed – Her clothes, the smell of something cooking in the house, the book she read, or where she sat. On the last night, I helped her weed the garden, and I asked her who she was.
“I am the keeper of the flame.”
“Who is it for? The fire, I mean.”
“The one you seek.”
I had finally made a connection.
“How do I find her?”
“She will show you the light and the path. Follow her, show compassion, embrace art, and you will be healed.”
“How will I know her?”
“You will know. You will feel her presence when you dance.”

Again with the stupid alarm.
Dance? I don’t dance. I have two left feet, and they’re both on backward.
It wasn’t long before I had forgotten about the dreams.

Not even a year later, I started taking dance classes.
And the dream came back. It was very different this time.

The old woman looked almost younger, and we stood inside the little house. It was tidy, warm, and comfortable. We played cribbage for a while, and talked about my new job, my cats, and my marriage. My life was good.
And now I had dance.

“Have you found her yet?”
“Um.. I guess, no. Not really. I haven’t, like, physically seen her or anything. Should I be expecting a hallucination or something?”
“Time, dear; give it time.”

It was another 3 years until I saw her again. This winter, actually. I hadn’t really thought much about it. Over the fall I had wanted to dream about her. One of my cats was very ill, she went in for emergency surgery and we discovered she had cancer. I prayed to whatever powers would listen to help keep her healthy and happy; I wasn’t ready to give up on her. We made it through, and she’s doing well. We should have several more years with proper diet and medications.

This February (2012), the old woman returned. But she wasn’t old anymore. She was, maybe, in her 40’s or 50’s. Her hair was a beautiful shade of auburn where once silver had been. Her eyes were not so weary as before, and her hands were smooth. But it was her, I knew it. She hummed her little song as we walked along a wooded path.
“You are dancing still, yes?”
“Oh yes, I love it. I feel the music move through me and I feel like I could write poems without words.”
“Then you have found her?”
“I’m close.”

I haven’t seen her since, but I think when I do we should be about the same age. And I think that is when I will have finally found her. Until then, I will dance for her. I will write poems without words.

Brighde-© Stuart-Littlejohn

Brighde-© Stuart-Littlejohn

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Anam Cara

To the Celts, there is a strong correlation between friendship and love. It is believed that the soul radiates from within

the body, so much that it envelopes the physical form (this is typically referred to as “aura”). When you share a bod with another individual, and are open, honest, and trusting, your souls being to combine in harmonious fluidity. This is called Anam Cara, which translates to  “soul friend”.

As soul friends, you accept each other wholly, recognizing not only your inner beauty, but theirs as well. Celtic tradition believes that Anam Cara helps a person discover their own true nature, enabling them to experience the joys of the people and world around them.

Having a soul friend is having a deeply spiritual connection. You share your secrets, confessions, and intimate details with your Anam Cara. A bond this deep transcended the physical world and the conventions of order. The soul is a light that envelopes and warms you and your love.

When you are blessed with Anam Cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at the most sacred of places – home.

Source: “Anam Cara…Wisdom from the Celtic World”, by John O’Donohue

The Celtic Goddess Brigid is known as the Goddess of fire (she is often associated with the forge and the hearth), poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity.

“Born at the exact moment of daybreak, Brigid rose into the sky with the sun, rays of fire beaming from her head. She was the daughter of Dagda, the great ‘father-god’ of Ireland.

In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth.

It is said that wherever she walked, small flowers and shamrocks would appear. As a sun goddess her gifts are light (knowledge), inspiration, and the vital and healing energy of the sun.” (source: http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/celtic-goddess-brigid.htm)

Imbolc, celebrated at the start  of February, is the Feast Day of Brigid. This day is meant to give us hope, and to remind us that spring is on its way.

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Saint Brigid is one of the few saints who stands on the boundary between pagan mythology, Druidism and Christian spirituality.

It is said that Brigid was born at Faughart near Dundalk, Louth, Ireland, to Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Lienster, and Brocca, a slave at his court.

As a young girl she took a interest in religious life and became a nun under that guidance of St. Macaille at Croghan. It is believed  that St. Mel of Armagh conferred abbatial authority on her.

For a short time, she settled with seven of her virgins at the foot of Croghan Hill. Around the year 468, she followed Mel of Armagh to Meath. She founded a monastery at Cill-Dara (Kildare) and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The monestary developed into a center of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral city of Kildare. She started a school of art and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, most notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.

Brigid was a remarkable woman, and despite the numerous legendary and even fantastic miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt that her spirituality, charity, and compassion for those in need were real.

She died at Kildare on February 1. Called “The Mary of the Gael”, she is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes Bridget and Bride. Her feast day is February 1.

Brigid is the patron saint of poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, brewers, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies.

**Info yoinked from Wikipedia, All Saints Parish online, Catholic.org and several other sites.

I was never very comfortable with Christianity. Sitting in church made me uncomfortable; the church-goers seemed like judgmental, overbearing people who would jump at the chance to call you a sinner, if only to feel self-righteous.

Like most Midwestern families, we followed family traditions whether we understood them or not. We did these things – church, family holidays, etc. – because, well, just because we had always done it like that. I attending confirmation classes from age 8 to 15, waiting as patiently as a child can to break free of the teachings of The Church. I did it, though, because I knew it would make my grandmother happy. Of all of her grandchildren, my siblings and I were the only ones to get any sort of religious “training”. We were the good kids.

It seemed funny to me that my instructors used the same passages to teach us year after year, conveniently glossing over the dozens of passages about rape, murder, and slavery inflicted by people claiming that they are following God’s path. These were the good guys.

These are some of the passages that have led me to doubt the words of so-called Christians:

“When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house.  But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb.  After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife.  However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion.”  Deuteronomy 21:10-14 NAB

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.   Exodus 21:7-11 NLT

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB

“Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked.  Show no mercy; have no pity!  Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children.  But do not touch anyone with the mark.  Begin your task right here at the Temple.”  So they began by killing the seventy leaders.  “Defile the Temple!” the LORD commanded.  “Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill!  Go!”  So they went throughout the city and did as they were told.”  Ezekiel 9:5-7 NLT

I could go on quoting scripture, but I won’t. This blog will be about my journey to finding a gentler spirituality.