I just wrote a check for three more memorial tributes. They’ve been leaving for several years now. My mother was among the first. But the pace has so accelerated in these past months and now three in the space of two weeks. The village is disappearing.
This was an extraordinary place, this rural university town where at one time the students outnumbered the towns people. A place where couples came to start and finish their academic careers. A place where their children went through school together. Where the twelve-year club was almost as big as the high school graduating class. Where for better or worse everyone knew everyone else and everyone else’s business. Where in the summer time the twenty six kids in our neighborhood roamed the streets, building forts in empty lots, scavenging parts for our go carts, and playing kick-the-can until long after dark. Where we never locked our doors.
It’s a nostalgic reality I step into every time I go home, most recently to settle my dad’s estate. The woman selling Dad’s house is a long time family friend, her parents and my parents used to go on Jazz cruises together, her younger brother and I were in the same high school graduating class. I remember her sister was a high school cheerleader. Such is the way of this village.
Walking into the retirement place to pick up Dad for lunch my sister and I encountered a man taking his mother grocery shopping. After a double take it was discovered this man and my sister were in the same class in high school. Such is the way of this village.
The couple buying Dad’s house are moving to town because he has accepted a position in the same department where my dad began his career. He was one of dad’s students. Such is the way of this village.
But I wonder if they will stay sixty years as Dad has, as so many did. To become truly part of this village, to be this village. Because most don’t anymore. They come and go, staying only a few years until the next career move.
About the time he first came to live with us as a small ball of fur we received a post card from my sister and brother-in-law on photo safari in Africa. The card opened with a Swahili greeting of enthusiastic ‘hello’, Jambo. We had been looking for a name for our new puppy and this seemed perfect. We had no idea just how perfect.
In fifteen years he left this land only once. Deeply woven with this forest we call MossTerra he was no more inclined to leave than the cedar trees. He was MossTerra’s official greeter, enthusiastically welcoming friends and new friends alike to enjoy an experience with the Earth.
Last Christmas eve he had a health crisis and for several days and weeks we thought we would lose him. This episode left us so grateful for the fifteen years and for every single day of these past months. We knew his time was limited and we prayed to the ancestors who walk this land to support his transition. That he not suffer. That it be gentle and peaceful as was his nature. That there would be no medical intervention. That his transition would be back to the land he so loved.
Two days ago when Dennis and I returned from running an errand he wasn’t here to greet us. We searched until it got dark and then continued with flashlights. We walked his favorite trails and checked his many haunts and holes. And double checked. Just in case. Just to be sure. It was if he just vanished.
Even as we began our search we knew it would be futile. We knew he was gone. The energy here was shifted dramatically. A heavy and empty quiet had descended and we knew all of MossTerra was acknowledging the loss. It was awe inspiring. And in his leaving, as in his life, he showed us the mystical power, beauty and joy that come from being in right relationship with the Earth. A lesson he shared with everyone who knew him. A lesson that is reflected in the many emails we have received these past two days.
He is a part of MossTerra that will remain in our hearts forever.
He who is woven with MossTerra He who greeted all people as his own He who rolled in the ferns Oh Jambo we will miss you, we love you, our heart to your heart Thank you for showing us how to live well!
Indeed he taught us all how to live well in right relationship with the beauty and magic of the Earth. We haven’t yet found his body. He found a safe and well hidden place to go to the Earth he so loved. His spirit is still with us and, as the veils here at MossTerra are thin, I hope one day soon to catch a glimpse of him once again running with joy through the flowers in the upper meadow.
Enter the Green Man, singing ancient songs of Spring. Thanks for this comment, Chalazon. You are right, or rite, on. For this is the very essence of the Green Man and Wild Man featured in the National Geographic article referenced in my last post. Wild in the sense of being of and associated with nature and the natural world, both plant and animal. Green Man is always a glory of plant life and generally horned, honoring the stag or ram. He is both potent and powerful. Too powerful and too popular, it turned out, for the christian clergy.
Try as they did, they were not able to purge Green Man from the spirituality, culture, traditions or very psyche of the people. Finding themselves on the horns of a dilemma, figuratively and literally, they set out to change the story. And they were good at stories. Ceding to popular belief of a divine mystery and mysticism surrounding Green Man, they created the story of his being a fallen angel. This was the same strategy used for the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland which I wrote about in an earlier post, A Tragic Solution. The moniker of fallen angel shifted to devil and as his story changed so did his image, especially in Christian art like this painting on the right from the 16th century. The plants are gone but the horns remain.
It was only a matter of time before beloved Green Man turned from green to red – though fortunately not for everyone.
They become bears, stags and devils.
They evoke death but bestow fertile life.
They live in the modern era, but they summon old traditions.
A primal heart still beats in Europe.
Paging through the latest issue of National Geographic I was delighted to read these opening words to an article on Europe’s Wild Men. After my Easter post, Eggs, Rabbits & Resurrection, I wasn’t surprised to receive emails with links to writings of similar sentiment. After all, there is a considerable awareness of this pagan heritage. I was, however, a bit surprised to receive this writing of similar sentiment in the National Geographic. The article is excellent, the photos are stunning. The story is all about the ancient traditions of welcoming the fertility of Spring and how many of those traditions are still alive in Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Romania, France, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, and Bulgaria. Although not mentioned in this article these traditions live on in Ireland as well.
One might well wonder, as does the article, at the sanity of grown men…and now apparently women although that has not always been the tradition…wandering around in these costumes. One might wonder just how much they believe that costumes and rituals have the power to banish evil and end winter. As one mask traditions scholar quoted in the article says, Modern life tells them not to. But they remain open to the possibility that the old ways run deep.
My brother has followed this blog from the beginning. With an open heart and gracious appreciation for this exploration of Ireland’s spiritual heritage, he has been generally enthusiastic about what I have written. With one very notable exception.
Several posts about the mystical and magical landscape of Benbulben included Benbulben, The Mystery Mountain? in which I mentioned the Tuatha Dé Danann first arriving in Ireland through the mists in airships. Airships? Really? This stretched the limits of credibility for my brother. He wondered if I had taken liberties with this language. In fact I had not. While there is not much historical record of this spectacular arrival, all writings that do exist specifically mention airships.
I had to step away from my familiarity with these writings and acknowledge that on first introduction this does seem a fantastical story. Perhaps made only slightly less fantastic through a portrayal of flying viking ships. However the truth of it is the Tuatha Dé, which means divine tribe, were not originally from this planet. Their celestial origins are alluded to in historical texts and recent written works but generally ignored. Yet legends and stories of ancestors with cosmic origins are found throughout the world and many cultures speak of themselves as children of the stars, including several indigenous American peoples. It’s fascinating to me that, with reference to airships so deeply embedded in Irish history, the cosmic beginnings of the Tuatha Dé are just faint whispers through the mists of time.
With over seventy posts I’m still new to the whole world of blogging. One thing I find fascinating is being able to look at information about where readers live and what they are reading. Two posts in particular have garnered more attention than others. One about Ben Bulben, Ben Bulben Speaks, continues to receive many views long after the December posting of it. I can glean that most of these views are from Ireland which is understandable since that same title is also the name of an event happening in May.
Attention for another post is more intriguing. No Hats. No Rabbits, has been viewed around the world. I can see that in early viewings folks found this post through searching for ‘pulling rabbits out of hats’. However recently there are no search terms associated with views of this post which seems to indicated folks are going directly to the post, perhaps having been referred by a friend. Fascinating. This is the post in which I share information on the true nature of magic, insights received from my spiritual teachers.
So from all of this I have created a story that there are folks around the world searching for magic. Yes, it’s a story. But it works for me. And I hope that in reading the post they find that searching for magic isn’t necessary… for it’s really very close at hand. Even though, as has been said, the longest journey is the one from the head to the heart – and I would argue the soul as well – magic, true magic, is very close at hand.