THE CELTIC CIRCLE OF BELONGING
All through celtic poetry you find the colour, power and intensity of nature. How beautifully it recognizes the wind, the flowers, the breaking of the waves on the land. Celtic spirituality hallows the moon and adores the life-force of the sun. Many of the ancient Celtic gods were close to the sources of fertility and belonging. Since the Celts were a natural people, the world of nature was both a presence and a companion. Nature nourished them; it was here that they felt their deepest belonging and affinity. Celtic nature poetry is suffused with this warmth, wonder and belonging. One of the oldest Celtic prayers is a prayer called ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’; its deeper name is ‘The Deer’s Cry’: there is no separation between subjectivity and the elements. Indeed it is the very elemental forces which inform and elevate subjectivity:
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
(trans. Kuno Meyer)
The Celtic world is full of immediacy and belonging. The Celtic mind adored the light. This is one of the reasons why Celtic spirituality is emerging as a new constellation in our times. We are lonely and lost in our hungry transparency. We desperately need a new and gentle light where the soul can shelter and reveal its ancient belonging. We need a light which has retained its kinship with the darkness. For we are sons and daughters of the darkness and of the light.
We are always on a journey of the darkness into light. At first, we are children of the darkness. Your body and your face were formed first in the kind darkness of your mother’s womb. You lived the first nine months there. Your birth was a first journey from darkness into light. All your life, your mind lives within the darkness of your body. Every thought that you have is a flint moment, a spark of light from your inner darkness. The miracle of thought is its presence in the night side of your soul; the brilliance of thought is born in darkness. Each day is a journey. We come out of the night into the day. All creativity awakens at this primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other. You only discover balance in your life when you learn to trust the flow of this ancient rhythm. The year also is a journey with the same rhythm. The Celtic people had a deep sense of the circular nature of our journey. We come out of the darkness of winter into the possibility and effervescence of springtime.
Ultimately, light is the mother of life. Where there is no light, there can be no life. If the angle of the sun were to turn away from the earth, all human, animal and vegetative life, as we know it, would disappear. Ice would freeze the earth again. Light is the secret presence of the divine. It keeps life awake. Light is a nurturing presence which calls forth warmth and colour in nature. The soul awakens and lives in light. It helps us to glimpse the sacred depths within us. Once human beings began to search for a meaning to life, light became one of the most powerful metaphors to express the eternity and depth of life In the Western tradition, and indeed in the Celtic tradition, thought has often been compared to light. In its luminosity, the intellect was deemed to be the place of the divine within us.
When the human mind began to consider the next greatest mystery to life, the mystery of love, light was also always used as a metaphor for its power and presence. When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you were jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning.