Tag: musings

reflections on Caer Ibormeith

tree swirl
It was a dry well until I pulled the ogham.

I’m planning the grove’s Mistletoe Rite. rather than doing the same thing each time, I generally try to find a focus. The rite is always about healing, but sometimes it’s about the heart, the body, rest, community — any number of different aspects, the healing we not only receive but offer to ourselves, our tribe, the world both human and non.

I pulled Gort/Garden, and glanced over the associations. One stuck out: the swan, geis or eala. The symbol of Aonghus Og and his beloved. And clicking around for “swan poems” on the Internet, I stumbled upon one of my favorites, from Mary Oliver:

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

A call to Caer Ibormeith, shapechanger and swan, white-winged beloved of the Young Son.

And who is Caer Ibormeith, the Castle of the Yew Berry? Who is that beautiful vision that beckons us in sleep, beckons us to adventure, to risk — to change our lives?

We can call her beauty, but she is not merely physical symmetry. Inspiration, the in-drawn breath, perhaps. The seduction, the lure that brings us beyond our boundaries, finding our own white wings, flying in spirit.

How does beauty heal, then, or inspiration? Ecstasy — the union with the object outside the self, the forgetting of one’s own smallness, the drawing-into-relation with the world and the Otherworld. Our lives are small and sick without mystery, that-which-calls.

Beauty calls and invites. It soothes troubled spirits and troubles complacent ones. It drives us to scale mountain passes on our knees for the glimpse of a white wing. It bids us to notice the Other, the divine, that-which-is-beyond — beyond ourselves, our smallness, the rounds of bank checks and dishes to be washed and misplaced words.

The Yewberry can poison, true. Her castle is the darkness of its evergreen boughs. You can embrace her, but not swallow her. You can follow her flight.

You can let her change you.


March thaw, the Lovers

Shreds of white lay on the leaf-litter. The rhododendron has shucked its ice-coating and unfurls its evergreen leaves, but the world is awash still in brown and gray. Gray sky, gray rain, the gray swell of rivers and stream against the gray slats of stone in the streambed.

Stores have their pastel plastic Easter eggs, their faux vernal hues. But for me, Mean Erraigh is all about that wet gray: the first full thaw, the annual flooding of the rivers.

And so, it is apropos that we make offerings to the Mother of Rivers on Mean Erraigh. We will toss unseasonable blossoms into the gray expanse, singing her praise and asking her mercy during the moon of the flood. For the Mother of Waters is also Moon-Mother, puller of tides, the White Cow of above and below.

But this year, the main rite will belong to her son and his swan-wife, Aonghus Og and Caer Ibormeith. Swans, those most faithful of birds — they float on the breast of the Mother of Waters. They spin enchantments, mystery, adventure.

They are the Lovers — white-winged Caer Ibormeith testing Aonghus’ capacity to choose correctly. One older, less common interpretation of the Lovers card in the tarot is choice — the choice between loves or, in Aonghus’ case, of the true swan-maid from a lake of her sisters.

mother of rivers

the cold nibbles my hands as the birds sing their dusk-song and the yellow light dips over the hills.

the river travels, broad and mirrored, crowned with bright leaves as she dances down the banks.

all rivers are individual, tied to place and climate: Susquehanna, Chenango, Raritan. but they are also one river, the Mother of Rivers, who spilled across the land in search of knowledge — when the waters of the primal well rose up and followed her.

she gave her body and became the river. to attain knowledge, you risk the well rising up. you sacrifice yourself, become something different — losing your edges, becoming the rushing stream that feeds the trees as it flows down the hillside.

Indo-European speaking peoples often had some sort of Mother of Waters. Sarasvati, the sacred river of India who became the spiritual font of inspiration when her stream dried up in prehistoric times. Ganga, who flows down from Shiva’s hair. Yamuna, too — all the rivers in India are goddesses, sacred, part of the Mother of Waters.

Musings on the fey

one of my holiday gifts was a glossy copy of the British magazine Fae, one of the many fairy-themed publications to spring into creation these past several years. as with many such publications, it seems to center on fashion and artwork (which is okay by me, by the way).

but reading it, i muse about the concept of fairies…

“fairy” is a garbage term — it simply means “spirit.” as such, it can denote any one of the three Kindreds (Gods, nature spirits, ancestors); fairy lore also has instances that identify fairies with all three.

For example, the Tuatha De Danann are described as fairies, although they are undoubtedly the Celtic pantheon. Spirits of water, forests and the like may also be included within the realm of divine beings normally considered fey.

Fairy tales often include stories in which people believed dead are found among them, or they inhabit ancient burial mounds. Eddie Lenihan’s Meeting the Other Crowd contains several examples of fairies as spirits of the dead, although (alas) i no longer have the book to ferret out the references directly.

today, we often associate fairies with Nature Spirits and Druidic rites can (whether it’s often depends on the practitioner) include the Sidhe in the nature spirits invocation. in this form, they are what the New Age community often calls “devas” — the inhabiting spirits of plants (trees, flowers, etc.), particular places, stones and the like. there are also tribes of spirit-beings that don’t have any truck with the incarnate world, or who are generally not friendly with its denizens. (think of the Fomhoire, for example.)

but what they aren’t are winged sprites in neo-medieval garb, hate to say.

as spirits, they can take any form they like, as they are “non-physical” in the sense of fleshly being.

i’ve certainly sensed spirits for much of my life, starting in childhood. i’ve never seen them as winged sprites. rather, i’ve seen the Gods in varied forms, nagas (“snakes with people heads,” which i drew from the time i was three or so), occasionally sphinxes and many-armed women (which i had seen in elementary school, leading me to believe one of my previous incarnations must have been in India). i’ve seen spirits of the dead as light, as men and women in period costumes, as glowing skeletons dancing. spirits of nature i generally just sense rather than see.

personally, i’m not sure what spirits people are seeing when they claim to see little creatures with gossamer wings. something that wants attention and acknowledgment, and is using a familiar form, most likely.

in my experience, however, spirits ar enothing like the benevolent, glitter-scattering, gift-giving fairies of popular media. the Kindreds are full of depth, majesty, beauty and terrible power. (so are we, as it happens.)