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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I am Welsh

I've been wanting to make this Rant for a while. It seems so few Welsh people Know or appreciate what a great country we are or of the contributions Welsh people have mad in the World.
The editing was done by my 17 year old son. I should point out that though I am a fan of Penderyn distillery and especially of their product, the making of this video was done without their knowledge or consent (Gulp) They have no part in this and I receive no compensation from them. (However a couple of bottles would not go amiss) So;
Pob Hwyl i pob Cymro, which can be translated as "The Welsh have all the fun"

The Rant

Taf is a river, it is not my name.
And no, I am not a Coal Miner or a Shepherd. I never went to school with Anthony Hopkins or Tom Jones and I never dated Catherine Zeta Jones. Though that would have been an affair to remember.
I speak Welsh and English and I can proudly say in two languages that Wales is Forever.
My country’s flag is a Dragon standing ready to fight and when Dafydd Williams, the Welsh-Canadian Astronaut took our flag to the moon, he also took a Rugby Cap. Because we are Rugby Nation !!
Welsh people have contributed more to this world than any country its size. In America; 20% of the founding fathers, 50% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, many of the Presidents come from Welsh Parents. The first female Prime Minister of Australia is from Bari, the Police Force of Hong Kong was begun by Welshmen. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was Welsh, so was the surveyor Sir George Everest who gave his name to the tallest mountain in the World.
Wales is not large in size and we have a small distillery, but the word is getting out that the best Whiskey in the World can be found in a bottle of Penderyn.
Not only is Penderyn the best Whiskey; the Welsh Corgi is a fine animal, the Leek is a noble vegetable, Welsh Cakes are a food and the mid-day meal is Dinner!! Not Lunch Dinner!!
You may never have heard of the laws of Hywel Dda. They were based on a principle that became known as “Fair Play” We took that principle far beyond the Island of Britain. Our missionaries, explorers and settlers spread that idea across the Earth. Welsh people, their children and grand children are influencing the World still. The Land of my Fathers is the Mother Country of half the World.
So learn our names. We are not “Taffy” we are the Cymry.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Songs for a Pagan Heart

My Pagan Heart
I have a Pagan heart. It’s just me, I don’t expect anyone else to see life, the universe and everything the same way that I do. I do not expect others to look at the stars and see what I see or walk through a forest and feel what I feel and I certainly do not write to try and convert anyone. I have become convinced that each one of us is exactly where we need to be at this moment. Every one of us has a unique view of existence, even those who profess the same religious views have their very own personal relationship with the Divine, however they conceive the Divine to be. Even those who completely reject a supernatural force have distinct reasons and motivations for their views.  The only suffering I have seen is when a person, through family or peer pressure, has found themselves in a faith system where they do not belong.
All of that is a long and roundabout way of saying that I’m not trying to convert or proselytize, I just want to present a list of songs that touch my Pagan heart.

The Hills they are Hollow

This is one of my favorite songs from Damh the Bard and this video is the best visual expression of the song I have ever seen. The song gets to the very core of the Pagan experience. We have very little in the way of written evidence of what the ancients considered sacred. However we do have tales. Myths and legends that tell of worlds and peoples beyond the mundane while the stones and trees hold secrets that are waiting for us if only we would stop to look and listen. Are the hills hollow? Do the Fae dance on midsummer’s eve? Many years ago I learned that it is wise not to judge what you do not know. I have met those who claimed to have danced in the fairy ring. Were they making it up or were they delusional? I don’t know but I keep an open mind and am willing to entertain the possibility that it could be true.
The Witch Song by Bonnie Lockhardt
The Witch Song
Witches are wise women. It seems plausible that the first healers would be midwives and that these would be women. The rural communities of the Celtic past had women with knowledge of plants and herbs, they knew the potions that would heal the body and they understood how the scents from certain flowers could calm the soul. Watching the waxing and waning cycle of the moon they felt the fertility cycle of their own bodies and their wisdom aided humanity in its struggle to survive and thrive.
Then there arrived the advent of a religion that said God is a man and there is no Goddess. The Priesthood was for men only and it was a woman that led the first man astray. The witches were called “Workers of wickedness.” Those who were prosecuted for witchcraft were burned or drowned and the Divine Feminine was driven from our lives.
The witches could never disappear forever and today they are back. As the song says; “There’s a little witch in every woman.”

The Goddess

Throughout time and in all places the Goddess is known by many names. One of my favorite Pagan groups is Emerald Rose; here they are with a lively invocation to the Goddess. There are many other names for the Divine Feminine used by different people in different places and for different occasions. There has been so much emphasis on God as male over the centuries that for many it comes as a surprise to find that there is a place in our heart for the Goddess. Just as here on the mortal realm there is male and female, in the realm of the Gods there is male and female also. As above, so below.

The Seven Gifts of Druidry

The Druids
The people of North West Europe were divided into many tribes but they were bound together by a Priesthood known in Welsh as Derwyddion, in English, the Druids. Little is known of them in written form, only what Roman historians have passed down to us. The Romans were biased, writing about the leaders of the people they were at war with so it can hardly be impartial. It would be difficult for anyone today to call themselves “Druid” in the classical sense. Then they were a respected class, set apart from the tribes and serving as Judges and lawmakers as well as spiritual guides. However it is possible to re-create the spiritual path they followed. It is possible by looking carefully and seeking wisdom from old legend and even from the stones around us to see what they saw and hear what they heard.
This is another song by Damh the Bard. I include it, not just for the song but for the video, made by the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids presenting the seven gifts of Druidry.

Heavenly Kingdom

The Heavenly Kingdom is not something waiting for us after we die. It is not an ethereal place that only those who believe can experience. The Heavenly Kingdom is here, it is now and it is inside each one of us. All we have to do is reach in and there it is. There is inexpressible beauty in everyone. Sometimes it is lost and for some it is buried so deep that it may never reach the surface in this life. It is there, and the most atrocious of criminals, the evil persons who do unspeakable deeds, even those have within them a spark of Heaven. The passing of that flame diminishes us all.
Those who see this world as a hell have never seen the sunrise from a mountaintop, have never drank from a clear mountain stream and have never felt a part of the wonder and miracle that is the Earth, our mother and our home.
The Heavenly Kingdom is within us and around us. Stop, Look, Listen, here it is.
The Pagan Path
The seasons of the Earth turn and the circle of life moves on. All I can do is watch and wonder and be glad that I am here on this beautiful world. These are some of the songs and images that touch this old pagan’s heart. They are not presented to change anyone’s faith. The pagan path is not one we choose. Yes, there are some who step on this path out of curiosity or rebellion and there are some who enter for less than honorable reasons. These do not last long and are soon known for what they truly are. The Pagan path, in some mystical way, chooses us and those who walk it see neither a straight and narrow way nor a wide and smooth road. Instead we walk a long and winding road that leads to the Summerlands and every turn in that road leaves us with a sense of wonder.
Many Bright Blessings.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The in-between Times and Places

Magic happens in the in-between places and times.
Those places that we all know about, we recognize them in one way or another but they cannot be pinpointed:
The edge of the sharpest knife; you’ll find it when you touch it but to precisely locate the place that is neither the left side nor the right, the edge that is there but nowhere.
The border between one man’s property and another’s; wars have been fought and lawsuits abound when it is encroached upon but where is that place that is neither his nor his? That in-between place, we know it’s there, the place that is nowhere but full of potential.
There are in-between times; the time when one thing stops and another begins. It isn’t there it’s a no-time, but it exists.
Every 28 days the visible area of the Moon grows larger. Then, the moment of the full Moon is also the moment when it begins to wane. How do we catch that moment when the Moon is full?
On June 21st or thereabouts the Sun is at its strongest. For half the year the day has been getting longer and the night shorter. There is a point when the Sun has beaten back the night and the night is at its weakest. The moment of the Sun’s greatest power is the moment when it begins to lose and the night gains strength for another half year.
The opposite takes place around December 21st. This is the time when despair gives way to hope. This is the time when the ground is as hard as a stone, when trees appear dead and nothing can grow. Only the Holly and the Pine give any hope that all is not lost. Then, at the moment of darkest night, when the Sun is at its weakest, is the moment when the Sun again begins to gather strength. There is a moment that does not seem to exist in the apparent world, but we know it is there. That moment when the world changes.
Two other very powerful times occur around March 21st and September 21st. This is when the World is perfectly balanced between day and night. Both are of equal length, but the moment, that time when the emphasis of the season moves from one pole to another, it is there, it happens but we can’t catch it.
One of the most celebrated of the in-between times occurs on October 31st. Known as Calan Gaeaf in Welsh and Samhuin in Irish, it is the moment when Summer turns to Winter. That no-time but important time. The last harvest is in; it’s time to prepare for the long winter nights. Christianity decided to celebrate all of the Saints on November 1st. “All Saints Day” so October 31st became “All Hallows eve” or Halloween.
For our ancestors, and perhaps even today, the highest number of deaths would take place in the Winter. So it seemed only natural to suppose that the spirits of those departed would use this moment as a gateway into our World to greet those who would soon be joining them.
The Quest for the Gateway
This is the secret of the in-between; they are gateways to other Worlds, times and places. Myth and legends from every people tell of those who have gone on a quest to find these other Worlds. In Welsh, pre-Christian legend, Arthur and his companions cross into Annwn, the place where the spirits of the dead go, on a quest to bring back the Cauldron of rebirth. A tale that later got “Christianized” into the quest for the Holy Grail.
Up until 200 years ago the people of South West Wales would tell of how at Calan Haf, the Spring equinox, islands would appear off the coast seen from the Presceli mountains. It was even said that people from these isles would come to the mainland and trade at the markets.
The quest to be at the gateway and to find these other Worlds is fraught with danger. To enter the World of the Spirits is to risk leaving our body behind and never coming back. The World of the Fae is enchanting. Time moves very differently there. Who is to say when or where we would return even if we are able to, although the bridging of Worlds is a powerful metaphor particularly in Welsh Myth. In the story of Llew Llaw Gyffes he can only be killed if he stands in such a way and at such a time that he bridges Worlds. Bendigeidfran, the giant King, made his own body act as a bridge to get his comrades to safety, another metaphor for bridging worlds. It gave rise to a Welsh saying still popular today; “Tra bod ben, bid bont” If you would be a leader, be a bridge. Taliesin, the greatest of the Welsh bards was taken from the sea at Calan Mai, or Beltain as the Irish say, another powerful in-between time.
All of the above is fable, it is Myth and legend but is there truth to be found in these ancient tales? Do these gateways really exist? Does it matter if they do or not? For the first two questions, the answer is that only those who have gone through them and come back know for sure. For the third question; No, it does not matter at all. Those who stand in the no-place in the no-time risk going no-where. This is the world we are born into; this is the universe where we belong. It is fine to have your head in the clouds provided you keep your feet firmly on the Earth.
But what about being aware of the things most people are not aware of. It doesn’t require learning or developing a skill, it only means paying attention. How about noticing that those no-times and no-places are all around us, those times and places that are nothing, yet filled with potential. How about noticing that at times and places we walk through and live through these in-betweens. Every now and again each individual becomes aware of something no one else is aware of.
 Being aware of things that no one else is aware of brings experiences that no one else has. Being truly aware is being truly alive.
To be truly alive is to live in a Magical world and the Magic never ends