Eggs, Rabbits & Resurrection

I love chocolate. Fortunately our mother was not keen on decorating hard boiled eggs so Easter was always one of my favorite holidays.

However I could never reconcile the intensity of crucifixion, death and resurrection with the whimsy of bunnies with baskets. Without any explanation or conversation about this in my eggs and bunnyfamily or church, the two fell into a strange co-existence with no apparent relationship beyond a shared Sunday celebration. And that was another mystery. While other holidays land on the same date every year, Easter Sunday hops all over the calendar.

I would discover much later in life that Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Dates based entirely on cycles of the sun and moon. Entirely pagan. I can totally understand why neither parents nor pastor sat us down to explain the finer points of the holiday since the themes of eggs, rabbits, and resurrection all have deep roots in Earth based spirituality with traditions and celebrations reaching back hundreds if not thousands of years before christianity.

The calculation of Easter was long a sore point with the Catholic Church. With celestial dating and fertility rites – enter the rabbit – of the holiday firmly rooted in Ireland the holy church worked hard to expunge all of it. It was a topic hotly debated at the Synod of Whitby in 664. However on this issue they weren’t successful.

The calculation remains as it always has been as every year Mother Earth demonstrates her fertility and fulfills her promise of life’s resurrection. Her basket is filled with flowers, her rabbits and eggs symbols of celebration. No matter the spiritual tradition, this is a season worthy of celebration.

Wheels Of Resonance. Wheels Of Perfection.

The great spiritual wheel of Ireland described in the Manor of Tara story (Wheel of Spirit posts) holds a resonance with cosmologies around the world. Cultures define themselves in terms of the ways people perceive the cosmos, their cosmology providing a foundational model for life itself. Because indigenous elders and ancestors who first created these wheels were intimately connected with the Earth this sacred and iconic art of how the universe is put together will reflect Earth elements and aspects.

I have long admired the work, life and writings of Malidoma Patrice Somé. In his book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community, he shares the cosmological wheel of his Dagara tribe.

Dagara wheelThe medicine wheel of the Dagara people is a symbolic representation of the relationships between the five elements that form the cosmos. Earth is at the center and touches all of the other elements. Water is in the North, opposite Fire, in the South. Mineral lies in the West, and Nature is in the East.

I am always amused when someone comes to one of my ceremonies, experiences my ritual working with the four sacred directions, and then takes me aside to carefully explain how the energies, colors, and attributes I ascribe to the directions are all wrong according to what they have been taught. They most likely wouldn’t appreciate the Dagara medicine wheel either. Variations are as vast as the number of peoples and cultures on this planet. If a wheel invokes the sacred cosmology for people and helps them know and live from their place in the universal web of life, then the layout is perfect.

Wheels of Sacred Harmony

The stones were translucent orange. As we sat in the dark and watched them being placed one by one in the earth bowl, we knew this lodge would be hot and intense. It was a promise more than fulfilled.

The heat and intensity, as with all sweat lodges, was also a reflection of the spiritual power of the participants and the potency of our purpose – to pray the Metta on this Spring Equinox day that all beings may have fresh clean water to drink, food to eat, a home, and someone to share love with. That they may know their true purpose, be well and happy, and free from suffering.

In the womb cave that is sweat lodge, we began our ceremony by grounding and centering ourselves in the web of all life, our place in the universe. As is the way of lodge ceremonies, we called to and honored the four directions of the sacred Earth wheel. To seasons wheelthe East and her knowledge of birth and new beginnings. To the the South and her knowledge of abundance and fullness. To the West and her knowledge of death, release and transformation. To the North and her knowledge of the dream time, of vision and inner wisdom. In this way we stepped into the circle of wholeness and harmony, the place from which sacred unfolding and manifestation is possible.

Whether in a sweat lodge or the Great Hall of Tara, spiritual people throughout time have invoked the power and presence of these great harmonious wheels and circles. Some call them medicine wheels. Some call them mandalas. Some call them sacred hoops. But the intention is the same. To touch and connect with the sublime knowledge and wisdom of the universe. To find our place. To remember who we are. To live in sacred harmony.

Wheel of Spirit. Wheel of Wisdom. Part Three.

Fintan the Wise roared at the assembly, “Why have I been called here!?”

A druid spoke, “There is both a dispute here, O Wise Fintan, as well as a matter of grave concern to each of us. Some of the nobles here have challenged the High King. They feel that the current boundaries of the manor of Tara are too great. Additionally, knowing that such things are arranged based on the ancient knowledge and that similar principles of alignment exist for human life, we have discovered that we are without such knowledge. It is as if our minds are engulfed in a mist. We are told you know of such things.”

Fintan looked into the eyes of the High King and scanned the faces of the nobles, reading their intent, discerning all things that dwelled in their souls. He nodded knowingly and made his way to the judge’s seat. After several moments of silence, he spoke.

hermit“I am Fintan, sone of Bochure. I have been a one-eyed salmon. I have been an eagle. I have been a hawk on the wind. I have been a man of verse. I know of every people who have ever occupied this green land. I have seen the rising and falling of kings like waves on the sea. Ireland was my mother long before she became a kingdom of men, long before her glens and valleys were filled with paltry nobles squabbling over land. When I speak today, I speak for her, and for all that I have seen and been.”

Everyone fell silent for a time. A fire crackled in the center of the room. The wind could be heard blowing outside. Fintan continued. Continue reading

Wheel of Spirit. Wheel of Wisdom. Part Two.

A sentry stood guard at the gate and intercepted the messenger.

“The nobles of Ireland have a message for the High King. They are not in full agreement regarding the matter, but they have decided that they cannot attend the Great Feast this year until that particular matter is settled.”

“And what matter might that be?” the sentry asked.

“Some of the nobles feel the High King has taken far more than the king’s portion of land. Others of us are uncertain but know full well that the arrangement of Tara, just as the arrangement with all things within us and within our home provinces, must be guided by the proper order of things. However, none of us possesses the knowledge of this proper order, and thus we are uncertain about whether the king has taken more than his due for the manor of Tara. Until the manor of Tara is settled, partitioned, and resolved, and until we can discern – once again – the sacred alignment with which all must live in accordance, the nobles are forced to boycott the feast.”

Tara landscapeThe sentry raised an eyebrow. He knew the manor of Tara had always had the same defining boundaries as it did now – at least within his memory.

“Very well,” he replied and turned on his heel, moving quickly into the main compound at Tara. He passed through a shadow cast on the ground by one of the ramparts, giving the illusion that he had disappeared into thin air. Continue reading

Wheel of Spirit. Wheel of Wisdom. Part One.

As we step back into an exploration of the Oran Mór, the Great Song of Ireland, I will begin by sharing a story from Irish mythic history, The Settling of the Manor of Tara. A story that calls to be told in three parts. Many have written and shared this story, my favorite is the following which is excerpted and adapted from Frank MacEowen’s book The Celtic Way of Seeing: Meditations on the Irish Spirit Wheel, a book and author I highly recommend.


A voice rumbled from deep within the empty hall.

“Where are the nobles?” one of the High King’s advisors snapped, at no one in particular. “It is the custom that they and their retinue attend the Great Feast! They should be here by now.”

A druid standing nearby nodded in agreement. “Indeed, you are correct. They are not only expected to be in attendance, they are expected to contribute to the feast itself, as it has always been done.”

The two men looked at one another and knew something was amiss. They had felt a disturbance in the Great Peace for quite some time and had noticed the seeds of chaos beginning to sprout. The usual harmony of the land and of their souls had gradually entered a troubled state.

high kingIt had always been the custom for the nobles of Ireland from the far reaches of the island – lesser kings and chieftains alike – to travel every three years to the Great Hall at Tara: to sit in council, swear fealty to the High King, to attend a banquet in his honor, and then to aid in giving a grand feast to the Irish people over several days of celebration.

It was an ancient observance, and ancient feast that involved music, storytelling, foot races, horse races, jousting, as well as the announcement of marriages, all against a backdrop of ale drinking and lovers courting. The Great Feast was a way to honor the bounty of the land, to remit the bond between the High King and the land, and to maintain the memory of who they were.

This year was different. Continue reading

A New Day Dawning

We hold these truths to be self evident…
Our Father who art in heaven…
A bird in the hand…
A penny saved…

If you found yourself inclined to finish these sentences, you experienced the power of words. Words heard, read and repeated so often they become part of our story. Our story as a nation. Our story as a religious people. Our story of right action on the journey of life.

May all beings have fresh clean water to drink.
May all beings have food to eat.
May all beings have a home.
May all beings have someone to share love with.
May all beings know their true purpose.
May all beings be well and happy.
May all beings be free from suffering.

You may not be as familiar with these words, this Metta, but we are on a mission to change that. The community of my spiritual sisters and brothers is on a mission to have these words become part of the story of how decisions are made at a personal, neighborhood, regional, national and international level. Imagine what might be possible if leaders based their actions on these simple words?

A woman in our spiritual community, a professor at Boise State University, was invited to present three papers and participate on three panels at a recent international peace conference. Her last panel of the day was one on human rights and Chandra was surprised to find herself on the dais with a senior military officer and a representative of a pharmaceutical company. They argued that the only way to ensure human rights was through military might and drugs to help people cope with stress. Then it was Chandra’s turn. She presented on the Metta. When she was finished she looked out on a sea of solemn faces and dead silence. She was devastated and a sense of dread settled over her about attending the upcoming banquet dinner. Eyes followed her as she entered the room that night and conversations got quiet. Then, from the podium, the event organizer started his remarks by recognizing Chandra. She received a standing ovation while the speaker went on to say that we don’t need war and drugs to address human rights. That Earth DawnChandra has presented the best and most powerful solution of anyone at the conference. And he committed to organizing the university courses he teaches around the Metta.

We are sharing these words, this Metta, through speaking, writing, music, song and stories. And we are praying it for every one of the seven billion people on this planet. Yes, that’s a lot of prayers, but we are already well beyond 12 million…and counting. This coming Wednesday, the Spring Equinox, marks the first annual World Day of Metta when people, between noon and 2:00 in time zones around the world, will lend their voices and their energy to this mission by praying the Metta. We invite you to join us. It can work. It will work. That a new day shall dawn for our people and our planet.

Snakes & Saints

Before we settle into further exploration of Oran Mór, the Great Song, I see by the calendar that St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. Because of my deep connection with Ireland people make a special effort to wish me a happy St. Patrick’s day. Ironic, really, as I hold a deep aversion to this celebration. Following is a piece I wrote some time ago. A piece I find myself compelled to dust off and share again each year around March 17th.

St. Patrick is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. A curious claim to fame since there haven’t been snakes on that island since the last ice age. The snakes were metaphorical, but the driving out was very real.

St. Patrick was bringing to a close several hundred years of fairly peaceful co-existence between the ancient and indigenous spiritual traditions and the relatively new Celtic Catholic Church. His mission; purge the old beliefs, rituals, ceremonies and symbols.

Enter the snake.

The snake has always been a symbol of the Goddess, representing the divine feminine power and energy of change and transformation. This was certainly true for the Goddess Brigit & snakesBrigit who was an extremely significant and popular divine presence throughout northern Europe – especially England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. So purging Ireland of snakes was really about purging divine feminine traditions and influences.

For the Irish people the divine feminine was embedded in their history, culture and very psyche. Ireland, or Eire, is actually named for the Goddess Ériu, the mother goddess, the goddess of the land. The Irish revered Brigit and were not at all interested in having her gone from their lives. Left with few options, Patrick and the Roman Catholics made Brigit a saint and declared the forge her new symbol of transformation.

This theme of driving out snakes played out in England as well. Right around the time of St. Patrick the Abbess of Whitby drove them over a cliff where they became million year old beach fossils, a story which clearly requires the suspension of linear time as we know it.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by some in Ireland and as we do here they will gather on barstools to raise a pint or two. However there will be many inclined to gather around a holy well to honor the Goddess Brigit. For she is still very much alive in the land, in the culture, and in the people.

Of Myth & Music

Music is the harmonious voice of creation; an echo of the invisible world.
Geoffrey Latham

If the Irish had a creation myth it was long ago burned or drowned. And, unlike other indigenous cultures, there is no surviving creation myth passed down through history. celtic knotPerhaps within a cosmological view of no beginning and no end, like a Celtic knot, there was no place for creation mythology. This does not mean, however, that there is no story. As Frank MacEowen writes, It isn’t a story printed in an ancient text somewhere, nor is it a sacred tale that has been passed down from generation to generation orally. …it is a living story – a story that waits for each of to remember it.

The Irish may not have the myth, but they have the music. They have the song. The Great Song, the Oran Mór. Indeed the primordial myth common to all people around the globe tells of a mighty melody, the breath and word of the sacred, the divine creative energy that calls all life into being. As Frank Mills writes, The Oran Mór is the numinous music – energy – that sings Creation into existence, and becomes the holy, mystical song of Life sung in the seasonal festivals and rituals of sovereignty of the people. It is the holy song of Creation that fills humankind and gives meaning to history…

It lives still in Ireland. It lives in the land. It fills all of creation with its divine harmony. And it continues today, for those who listen.

Ancient Harmony

We can…be part of a new birthing within us and between us today. And the new birthing relates to the ancient song that we are invited to hear again…the more we become reacquainted with its music, the more we will come to know that the deepest notes within ancient songus and between us in our world are not discord. They form an ancient harmony.

I was delighted to encounter this writing from John Philip Newell’s book Christ of the Celts. Another of his books, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, has been in my library for many years, one I recommend and refer to often. Deeply rooted in Celtic tradition, Newell is an amazing guide to spiritual resonance.

If we step into a space of resonance with universal vibration we touch the source of all song. The ancient song. Many voices singing down through history. It is for us to join the chorus.