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Friday, June 29, 2012

Non eclectic me

I occasionally attend pagan rituals in my area around Los Angeles County. Not as often as I should, indeed it’s not as often as I want to. The main problem for me is that rituals and retreats etc. take place on weekends. My career choice involves weekend work so I am effectively excluded from most rituals and celebrations. The cares of the mundane world hold me back and work gets in the way of life. That may well be the subject of another post but, for now; I want to write about the Pagan rituals I have attended here in this part of America.
Frequently before the ceremony begins, the participants are smudged. Drums are played to a Native American beat. In discussion with Americans who are seeking out the ancient path I hear talk of “Karma” and of “Chakras” These things and more make me uneasy and it took me a while to figure out why.
I am Welsh, nothing but Welsh as far back as I know. Most people in America are a mixture of many things. I have become convinced that it is this mixture of cultural heritages that make Americans in particular, more at ease with a mix and match of ritual and doctrine than I can be comfortable with.
I am an old Welsh Druid and that is it, simple and straightforward. I don’t go along with Karma but I understand cause and effect. I have a view of my physical body and its relationship to the spiritual energies that has nothing to do with “Chakra” These concepts are part of the spirituality of India. Valuable and worth knowing about, just not a part of my way or my views on Life the Universe and Everything.
I have a number of Native American friends, my wife is Apache Nation. From time to time we attend drumming circles and I always enjoy the Pow-Wow trail when we can get on it. Nevertheless there has been so much taken from the native peoples I feel that if I were to take an active part I would be just another European moving in on their land again. So I get uncomfortable when, at a Druid ritual, I am smudged. I can accept the gift gratefully when done at a Native ritual but in a European Pagan context it doesn’t sit well. I have come to realize that this is because my life, my heritage and my cultural roots all revolve around a distinctly Brythonic culture. For those who see themselves as new to this long and winding road we call the Pagan path it seems natural to explore various “Traditions” and include them in practice. For me personally, mix and match does not work.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Awen, lost in translation

The Welsh legend of Taliesin begins with Ceridwen creating a Cauldron filled with a Magical elixir. This is where something tends to get lost in translation. Usually when the story is told, even by me as in this video, it is said that she is stirring the Cauldron of Inspiration. That isn’t exactly correct. Ceridwen is creating Awen.
The Welsh word for “inspiration” is ysbrydoliaeth the legend talks of Awen and that is not so easy to translate. Awen refers to that force in nature that creates inspiration. Frequently the word is translated as “muse” as in a line from the third verse of the Welsh national anthem “Ni liddwyd yr Awen trwy erchyll law brad” The Muse is not hindered by the awful hand of treason. However it means a lot more than that.
Consider the universe as being the ultimate in creativity. Everything in the universe includes all creativity. Creativity permeates the universe because it happens all the time. The universe is also the ultimate in inspiration. The existence of the universe is the product of the greatest inspiration. Awen is the personalization of all the inspiration and creativity that exists. Awen is untranslatable because it is a concept and an event. The event occurs when someone touches the Awen.
In the story of Taliesin he touches the Awen and is transformed forever. He becomes more than he ever could have been. This is the lesson and the challenge for us all. If we could just touch, just take three small drops of the Awen, there is nothing we could not create. We too would be transformed into something beyond our present imaginings. Can we touch the creativity and inspiration of the universe? It’s worth a try. Can we also drink from the Cauldron of Ceridwen?
See you around the fire.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ceridwen and blind Morda

I was in a group discussion the other day when the question of Ceridwen arose. People had a number of questions about the story. Not surprising really, It is one of the most profound of the old Welsh legends. It tells of the birth of Taliesin, the greatest of the ancient Welsh poets or Bards.  The legend has it that an old blind man, Morda is his name is set to stir the cauldron of Awen. To make sure it doesn’t boil over. Morda falls asleep and three drops of the precious liquid fall on the thumb of a little boy.
 Just so we don’t get lost in translation; the boy’s name is Gwion Bach, literally “Little innocent” The old man is Morda, “Sea Father” Ceridwen is a lot trickier. The oldest manuscripts write her name as Keridvan or in modern Welsh spelling Ceridfan. “Fan” means place Cerid could be “loving” or it could mean “Crooked” or “Bent.” This would seem to reference the crescent moon. There is a deep study here and we have by no means uncovered all of the secret lessons hidden in this legend.
The part of the story that had almost all of my friends questioning was in regard to the action of Ceridwen. When she discovers that the Awen was taken by the young boy, the legend states that she beat Morda until his eye fell out. In Pagan groups Ceridwen is viewed as a Goddess. In fact there is ample evidence from legends and other sources to convince us all that she has always been a Goddess, so what is this passage all about? How could this be the behavior of a Goddess? I had to remind my friends of an important part of the story. Morda was blind. She was beating out the eye of a blind man. So what good was the eye to him? There are meanings within meanings inside these old tales. We are lulled into thinking that blind means “Not-seeing” Instead we should ask; “What was he blind to?” If we think of this part of the story as Morda losing that which prevented him from seeing clearly, then we realize that Morda also went through a transformation gifted by the grace of the Lady. It all revolves around a question that everyone in my group thought they had the answer to. The question of; what was in the Cauldron? What was it that Morda was stirring for a year and a day?
Almost everyone thinks it was the Cauldron of Inspiration. It is not.