Choosing Rebirth

There is a stone at the heart of Ireland called Aille na Muirean [EL na MIRren], the stone of division. It sits on the side of the Hill of Uisneach [OOSH-nach], and it is the point, more or less, where Ireland’s four provinces come together. Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht [KONaht] are large, general regions, in which there are many counties, towns, parishes, and villages. Each province is the realm of a goddess—Macha, Bride [BREEDjuh], Áine [AWNyah], and Mebh [maev] respectively.

There is a fifth province, a place of the heart and spirit. Located in the sacred realm, it interconnects and participates in the other four, just as they look to it for continuity and balance. This province is the realm of Eriu [EY-roo], the goddess of the whole island and for whom Ireland is named.

Aille na Muirean is the connection point of the five. The stone has been a ritual site for many thousands of years; a man-made berm of earth and stone surrounds and focuses the energy. Under the rock is a narrow passageway, a sort of tunnel from east to west. It is said that to make the journey through the rock is to invite spiritual rebirth—or to risk it, depending on your point of view. It can also be done symbolically by walking sunwise around the rock from the east to the west.

Aille na Muirean

On a day near Bealtaine, the sacred celebration of the lighting of new fire that begins May, I stood facing the stone and its passageway. Our group of 19 had been there for about 15 minutes, simply being aware of the space and its energy. I felt summoned into the journey of the passageway, and I was waiting for something—I didn’t know what. At around noon two musicians began to play from a suite that celebrates all five goddesses. As they started the fifth movement, Eriu’s movement, I began to crawl under Aille na Muirean.

At first I could go on hands and knees—difficult enough. Then I had to go flat on my belly over rocks that turned me sideways and tugged at my clothing. Oh, well, I thought, one should be born naked. I knew I was not allowed to move the rocks—I don’t know how I knew, I just did. Perhaps for someone else it would be acceptable, but I was not supposed to “manage” my own rebirth that way.

At a transitional point in the music, I emerged into the sunlight and stood up, walking up out of the hollow and onto the circular ridge that surrounds the stone.

The well-known so-called “passage tombs” in Ireland—Newgrange and her sisters Knowth and Dowth—have been dated to several hundred years earlier than the great pyramid and a couple thousand earlier than Stonehenge. And they are the younger sites. Some of the cairns in Ireland may be several thousand years older still. Age alone does not make the spirit of a place stronger; that is the work of renewing spiritual energy in the continuing dance of heart and soul. Of the famous sites, Knowth has been managed to quiescence; it is possible that one day she will re-awaken to the fullness of her inner power. Newgrange retains her inner strength; Dowth is sequestered. This management is a little sad; many other sites have kept their power open and clean and free for those whose hearts and minds are receptive to it.

Aille na Muirean sits on the side of hill, visible from a roadway. Most people haven’t a clue about what is there; they just see another rock. They would feel her absence, I suspect, and more and more of us are learning about her power. But she does not need us to know her to be her self, to continue weaving her energies throughout the realms of land and spirit. Aille na Muirean is pulsing with Eriu’s own strength; she is the quietly beating heart of Ireland. I knew this even as she hovered above me—several tons of rock—while I made the journey from the place of beginnings to the place of new continuings.

Some of that strength is mine now.

The passage under Aille na Muirean

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She changes everything she touches…

There is a chant often used among those who worship the divine feminine:

She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes.

Yesterday, Gaia shrugged.  Earth shuddered and the blanket we call the crust folded and slipped and twisted, and the bowl of liquid resting on her lap sloshed over the counterpane. 

I have watched and heard many reports on the loss of life and devastation in Japan.  I have great respect for the tremendous strength of the Japanese people and culture; they have lived on the edge of the Ring of Fire for longer than most current European cultures have existed.  The Japanese standards for building construction are amazing; an 8.9 quake in or near any U.S. population center would have flattened entire cities and killed thousands.  And earthquakes are not new to us, and the technologies are not that new either.  We just don’t see the need.  We have options that the people of Japan do not have–more land elsewhere, an enormous economy, e.g.–and we are relentlessly practical when it comes to the bottom line.  If it won’t make a profit in the next quarterly or annual report, why do it?

It’s interesting that the coverage a few weeks ago about the massive quake in New Zealand did not seem to receive quite as much, or quite as thorough, coverage.  There were very few live reports (I actually saw none, but I give the entire U.S. broadcast spectrum the benefit of the doubt) on the national media.  The quake in New Zealand did not threaten a major trading partner or a fellow northern hemispherean, but perhaps more pertinently, did not threaten a tsunami that might make landfall on U.S. territory.   

We are, consciously or not, drawn to tragedies that look like they will affect us, and we are relieved when they do not.  We have the balcony seat in the theatre, eating our popcorn while we watch.  Many individuals jump in to help; many organizations are designed to respond, and often we support them.  Still, mostly we watch. 

We also analyze, complain, pray, beseech, discuss, and otherwise process the experience–even the vicarious experience.  We are creatures of the Earth, creatures of both viscera and intellect,  and we must process our experiences.  Some use art, music, movement, violence–and some use voice.  When we discuss, often enough the conversation is about the uncertainty that this twitching of the Mother’s Body brings into our lives.  We usually recognize that the uncertainty is far greater for those at the center of any natural disaster, but we want some sense of stability for ourselves.  

We can’t have it.  We can have the illusion we create for ourselves, but we cannot have certainty. 

The Earth shrugs her shoulder and reminds us that we don’t control as much as we want to believe we do.  She turns under the blanket of the landscape, tumbling us like toys.  And we remember that we do not define the environment–we are not in charge. 

She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes.

Just sayin’.

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My life in blank books

I collect blank books.  They are available everywhere, and I love finding them on sale at discount places.  These are the books you are supposed to use to write, draw, express yourself.  I buy them because they look or feel right to me.  I have recently tried to slow down, stop myself–but still, I pick them up from time to time.   I like them for their potential, and I like them for their emptiness.

I bought those books to write in, but I hesitated to actually use them.  I always felt that what I wrote had to be perfect, had to be worthy of the book itself.  I learned, slowly and eventually, that no words are ever perfect, that emptiness has value for its own sake, and that the intersection of imperfection and emptiness defines growth.   We grow from our imperfections, and the emptiness is the space toward which we grow.   We will never be perfect, and we will never fill the space.

I’ve become a writer, published in a couple of local journals, and I use my computer to write.  Occasionally I’ll take one of the blanks and start journalling, or take one on a trip to make a solid, real record of the events of the journey.  But there are still many I can’t quite bring myself to write in.  So the bookcase full of blank books is still about potential and emptiness.  In the Tao te Ching, Lao-Tse says:

We join spokes to make a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being
but non-being is what we use.    (Mitchell, #11)

My many blank books remind me that non-being is what we use.

Just sayin’.

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Me and my agenda

First, I am a little bit crazy.  Second, I misspelled the name of Arwen’s sword because the correct spelling is “reserved” and I wanted the name–I like swords.   My patron saint is Jeanne d’Arc and I like to shoot sharp shiny things into haybales.  (Arrows.  Archery.)  I shoot a 40 lb draw white oak and bamboo  traditional longbow made by a Cherokee craftsman from Arkansas.  I want to upgrade to a 50, but I can’t locate the bowsmith anymore. *sigh*

I took the photo in my header at a place called Ma Mean (pron. maw-main) in Western Ireland.  It’s the place where the Englishman Patrick looked over the area of Connemara, blessed it, and turned away.   The white tree is the northern hawthorn, otherwise known as the May tree for when it blooms.  So you are  looking at a bunch of Mayflowers.  As in the boat.  It had to be named for something, after all. 

I’m a theologian who thinks most professional theologians are way too pompous and try way too hard to wring all the fun out of it.  I’m a preacher who thinks that being preachy is a detriment to the profession.  I’m a student who teaches and a teacher who studies.  I study and learn about and practice in several religious traditions; I’m a follower of the teachings of Jesus, and I’m pretty sure that’s not compatible with the term “Christian.”

And I want the world to be better than it is, and I want people to live up to their potentials, not down to them.  I also want to be able to eat all the milk chocolate I want and gain no weight, but one impossible task at a time, you know?

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