Monday, January 24, 2011

Celtic Art, Imbolc & YoUU

PART I: The essence of ancient Celtic art

I am not a Neopagan. Not even close! I am not the least bit attracted to rituals and other pagan-y things. HEY. I'm from NJ, yo. But I can see why some people love it and enjoy it very much. And in my introverted, intellectual way, I actually do have a pagan corner in my soul. So here is my way of honoring a few Pagan traditions!

Let's start with Ireland. Because it is an island, the traditions, art work, and mythology left-over from pre-Christian times are more intact than in other places.

I learned that much of what we think of as "Celtic" actually came much later in Irish history. The earliest Celtic designs appear to have included spirals, simple knots that had no terminus, and what would evolve into the Celtic "cross"

Looks like Sarah Palin might have been in Ireland thousands of years ago:

One does not need to be a PhD or anthropologist to see the ways in which these ancient designs represent parts of the human condition that seems to be universal: the wheel of life; the changing seasons; the turning year, the spirals of time, fortune, and feeling, the notion of eternity and the interweaving of things. Even thousands of years ago, "art" was the way people communicated the ineffable: the things they could not or should not say.

This is a page from the famous BOOK of KELLS, probably the national treasure of Ireland. In its laborious production, I see devotion and discipline. I also discern the way that Christianity appropriated the cultures it was trying to convert in order to make the "sale." Many of the scrolls, patterns, and designs we associated with the Pagan Celts were incorporated into these manuscripts.

Book of Kells c. 800 CE

PART II: Newgrange & the essentials of life

This mound of dirt was mostly undisturbed for thousands of years. It was on a farm owned by a monastery. In the 1800s, a farmer started ordering laborers to dig out the stones, and one of the most intact megaliths in Europe was discovered. Newgrange is a fascinating example of the dreams and beliefs of people of this region five thousand years ago, almost 3,000 years BCE.

Newgrange after renovation. One of the members of the congregation who was there today said she went to Newgrange and that the feeling she had was intensely eerie. I am sure that one could intuit the powerful energies associated with this place by actually being there.

This is the entrance stone.

On the day closest to the winter solstice, the sun enters the window for just a few moments.

The upper opening is the solstice window.

This past Solstice, December 21, 2010.

Construction of the window. Nine Xs are carved into the stone above. Why? We can only guess.

How the sun enters the chamber.

This is the entrance to the passageway before it was renovated.

The carvings on the entrance stone. About 5,000 years old.

To me, it is more important to honor the integrity of this art than to "figure out" what it meant, or to overlay some contemporary practice upon virtually unknowable past.

What is the essence of this design?

What does it suggest to me, today?

PART III: Imbolc and returning to the essential.

IMBOLC is a Pagan festival that was transmogrified into St. Brigid's Day and finally became "Groundhog Day" in the New World. St. Brigid, believed to have been a pagan goddess before she was adapted into a Catholic saint, is associated with regeneration, the return of the sun, fertility, dairy, lambs, & her special day, February 1st, the day half way between the  Winter Solstice & Spring Equinox*

It's a special day for our family, because my oldest son Casey & youngest, Seth, were BOTH born on February 1st, 23 years apart.

Casey & Seth, 2009.

I  plan to start observing this festival!

It's a good day to clean things out and make way for the new. Here are a few possibilities, beyond your typical spring cleaning:

1. Clean up your computer
2. Cross things off your lists
3. Eliminate people who cause you stress and make you feel bad about yourself from your immediate circle.
4. Clear up misunderstandings.
5. Empty your mind of clutter (meditate)
6. Clean up your diet and your intestinal system!
7. Get rid of one bad habit.
8. Banish aches and pains by moving as much as you are able.
9. Let go of some old resentment.
10. Have at least one space that is 100% clutter free.

I'm sure you have more ideas. Some people don't clean things out because they hate throwing stuff away. I do, too, but not because I am a hoarder! I love order and space. I just hate wasting anything, and I cringe at every item I think I might be sending to a landfill. YOU DO NOT NEED to fill up landfills in order to get cleared out. Here are a few awesome alternatives:

1. garage or yard sale, yours OR someone else's. UUCL MEMBERS; think May 13-14th. GOOD STUFF ONLY! Stay tuned.
2. So many charities & agencies need clothing. Investigate!
3. If you have kids, ask someone with a slightly smaller child if they would like your kid's best stuff.
4. Lots of glass & plastic of higher numbers can be recycled if you take it to a center.
5. ReStore (Habitat) take a lot of furnishings for a great cause. Good place to buy stuff, too.
6. E-bay (I have never used it but I can see why people do) or Craig's List.
7. Freecycle! Best idea ever. People are looking for the oddest things and you feel so GREAT just giving things away. I love that feeling.
8. (I am not good at this,but..) turn it into art or find someone who does!

Imbolc highlights the fact that, if we are in touch with the earth and our surroundings, we instinctively want to slough off the old at this time of year. take advantage when the feeling strikes!

Yes, I realize that I said Spring "Solstice" in my talk but I do know the difference!

Imbolc ="Ewe's Milk"

This is St. Brigid's Cross, fun & easy.
You can find better directions than I gave you, here:

Treasure each sign of the return of the sun.

Live each day with harmony, intention & hope.