The Transcendance of Nuin

Nuin, whose assigned tree is the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior usually) has historically been placed as the fifth few of the Ogham, as can be seen in most ancient documents, but some have speculated that it was in fact the third few. The first three fews then become BLN, which has been linked to the Celtic sun-god Belenos, which may not be “academically correct”, but at least has interesting symbolism connected to it.

The ash tree is tall, seeing far of lands, other perspectives, allowing us to transcend our limited point of view and expanding it but connecting and communicating with other points of view. For this reason it has been connected to the World Tree (though the yew tree is also a fair candidate). If ever we feel stuck, within a certain situation or even our own psychology, the ash tree may help us break free with its spear-like strength and accuracy (its wood was, in fact, used for spears).

Keys are also significant in connection to ash; the unlock doors, allowing us to access other spaces, so that we can move around. But keys are also the name of the seeds peculiar to the ash. They have little “wings” allowing them to float far away from their parent tree, reaching low to the ground, connecting upper to lower, which then grow into tall trees, connecting lower with upper again. It is a tree for “thinking globally and acting locally”, finding the synthesis between the two perspectives.

The Magic of Luis

Today I present some reflections on the Ogham few luis (pronounced lweesh). It’s assigned tree is the rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).

Protection, magic, enchantment, control of the senses, discernment. These are the associations I have read up on and used in my meditation.

“Control of the senses” brought to mind all the advertisement we see on TV or plastered around our towns and cities. We are “invaded” by it, enchanted by it, controlled by it. There are other things, signals and messages, that come in “under the radar” of our consciousness, not just in advertising, but in our media and everyday relations. We may be completely unconscious of them, take them for granted or simply don’t see them as important, though they affect us more than we think.
The protection of Rowan isn’t passive, like a shield or stone wall, it has to be active and conscious. It’s the protection of discernment, and analysis, remaining aware of what is happening to us, and counteract anything that will influences us in a bad way. In ceremonial magic a circle is often drawn to delineate “inside” and “outside”, keeping malefic powers at bay. We only invite in what we want within the circle and reject anything we don’t want.
Bit by bit, as we become aware of what influences us and how, we integrate their lessons and their enchantments subside. The unconscious is a great aperture through which anything may enter unnoticed. When we become aware of the unconscious and begin to analyse its dynamics and the comings and goings within it, we can begin to control what influences us, not letting our sense become overwhelmed or overridden by undesirable forces.

Patterns in Nature

IMGMore work from my Eco-Art work. This time recognising patterns in nature whilst on a walk with my dogs, and using a zentangle to represent it.

Patterns are used for several reasons: structure, form, transportation, communication, advertising, travel and conservation of energy. It depends on the pattern in question. There are so many purposes! Most of mine show patterns of how plants grow, veins on a leaf, rings of a tree, plant stalks and flowers, all of which have different purposes, multiple purposes.

For humans it can be very important to recognise these patterns, because they allow us to recognise what things are, what they are doing and how they are doing it, and whether they are good or bad for us! If we recognise them for what they are, patterns help us with identification, but they’re also how our lives are governed, through the structure of our body and senses, the structure of our behaviour and environment.

Whatever I say here is only a fraction of the benefit of sensing form and design. It encompasses most if not all life processes. Name one biological or ecological function and we’ll be met with a plethora of forms and designs. Form and design are the basis of my existence. Without them I couldn’t exist. “I am form and design, therefore I exist.”

I feel I’ve touched the tip of a very rich iceberg. I’ve observed a handful of precious patterns in nature, represented in the zentangle, and do you know what I figured? There’s an infinite variety of zentangles! Structure is omnipresent and of infinite variety and function. I feel there is a richness of pattern that we are ignorant of that gives life its own richness. I feel that there is a huge potential here for healing the human mind.

Aikido and Kabbalah I

A while ago I was contemplating the Kabbalah’s tree of life, and considered how its structure could be used to describe the martial art of aikido, and it seems to work quite well. For this post, I’ll start working from malkhut, through Yesod and Hod, to Netzah, working up the tree of life. You don’t have to know anything about the kabbalah, and my purpose here isn’t to explain it, but using it as a basis to reflect on aikido. In the near future I shall complete this series with two more posts.

Malkhut (the dojo) – this is the “kingdom” the physical arena in which you find yourself. This is the dojo (training hall), covered over by the tatami, or mat. Before entering the dojo we must remove our shoes out of respect. There is a lot of ettiquette about entering and leaving the dojo, and about where we enter and where we sit or stand during class. This is the place where we learn and have our abilities tested. It is a place in a sense “separated” from the outside world where we dedicate ourselves. It is guided by different rules than what we are used to in every day life. Entering the dojo isn’t just a physical action, it is psychological, and we enter into a different attitude or martial discipline with respect for the space and our companions.

Yesod (the class and ki) – the students themselves make up the body of activi ty as we practice with each other. We form a fellowship where we all learn from each other and help one another as we practice. Here we can also talk about ki or life energy. This is the vital energy that links mind and body, an important concept in aikido. Aikido is the “discipline of coordination”, which immediately becomes evident as we struggle at first to coordinate our limbs, and also to harmonise our actions with our training partner – each person presents their own challenges: stiffness or floppiness, aggressivity or timidity, these must all be dealt with as they arise. Above all, it is the harmonisation of mind and body through ki. Our lack of bodily coordination or harmony with others signifies our own disharmony between body and mind. Eventually, we must learn to unite our ki, so that there is no aperture of action between mind and body – there is fluidity, continuity and oneness.

Hod (instruction) – the students sit in a row facing the kamiza, the wall on which the portait of the master is hung (usually Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, but sometimes another master, such as Kobayashi in my school). There the sensei gives their lesson, presenting techniques and exercises with their uke (the person that “recieves” the technique). Usually they just show a technique, but occasionally will explain the finer details of each part. The sensei will ask if we have understood, if they need to show the technique again, we may nod but we’ll have to put it into practice to really see.

Netzah (practice) – we select a partner, bowing in front of each other, then we put into practice what the sensei has explained, or as close to it as we can. Each person is different, the habits and attitudes built up in our bodies interfere with the harmony of our ki. What works with one person becomes a struggle with another, but that’s good. If there were no difficulty or struggle we would learn nothing.The sensei stands by and observes his students, correcting where needed or silently nodding approval. Aikido, as a martial art, is not something you can learn quickly, it takes a lifetime of learning and discipline to perfect aikido, always something to learn. It isn’t just technical, it shows us who we are and how we relate with and react to the world, teaching us to turn conflict (inner and outer) into harmony and peace.



Neo-Pagan Meanderings

012I came to Druidry through neo-Paganism, mainly Wicca-inspired at first, but later went a more informal and non-traditional way. I wanted to explore and experiment, not get tied down to any specific tradition or doctrine.

Modern Paganism I’d say comes in two parts: ancestral tradition and reverence for nature (it gets more complicated than that, but that’s the general picture). On the one hand, there is a sense of recovering ancestral pre-Christian religion that somehow still exists within us. On the other hand, these ancestral religions represent being closer to nature, and give us a link to our own image of the “noble savage” – a native one rather than one appropriated from another culture.

I was drawn to the “native” traditions of the Celts and Norse, but couldn’t restrict myself to them, since my sense of ancestry and cultural heritage was broad. Western Culture has a strong Christian element that I couldn’t ignore, and much of our philosophy and politics has found its way in from the Mediterranean. If I were to “honour my ancestors” I would have to be inclusive and recognise the multiple sources that have affected my ancestry, both biological and cultural.

But my real interest was “nature-based spirituality”, so I only recognised the spiritual value of something if I felt it would connect me to nature. I searched a wide variety of sources, but I had no special interest in formal religion, gurus, spiritual celebrities or progression through graded initiations. My spirituality was far too anarchic and “organic”; I wanted to connect directly to the spirit of nature, not follow artificial spiritualities with their arbitrary systems. I wanted to contact with nature in a quiet and private way. I felt I was developing a Celtic- or Nordic-flavoured Taoism with hunter-gatherer aspirations (but not quite a luddite – I still used the Internet a lot, lol).

Things like chakras, the kabbalah, methods of meditation, ritual, divination and all sorts of spiritual theories and theologies were “human inventions”. I have to admit, they were never far away, since my curious intellect always liked to play with these interesting “toys”, and let’s face it, we’ve come a long way since the Stone Age, and can’t do away with the many technologies and philosophies accrued along the way. Many “human inventions” are very useful, and even essential to a modern lifestyle.

I think you can see why Ecopsychology just seems so logical for me: it’s modern and yet is a way to contact our deepest roots. We can’t regress, but we can integrate the deepest ecological parts of us with the more modern, technologically inclined parts. And we need to. I have a tattoo of the Celtic god Cernunnos, holding a horned serpent in one hand and in the other a torc, symbols of nature and of human artifice, respectively. He holds them both, mastering both qualities and synthesising them without rejecting one or the other.  This has been a dominant theme throughout my neo-Pagan journey.

National Triad

Three fantasies of nationalism: historical continuity, common identity and political autonomy.

(relating to Separating Nation and State?)

The history of a nation isn’t as smooth and coherent as we’d like to think, the homogeneity and the solidarity of its people leave much to be desired and on a small planet such as Earth, no nation can be considered an island. *

*yes, okay, some nations are islands, but I don’t mean geographically 😉

Studying Ogham: Beith and beginnings

I’m taking part in a study of the Ogham on the Ancient Order of Druids of America’s new forum:

Each week a different few will be studied and meditated upon. Here are some of my reflections:

This morning I sat and did a meditation, repeating the name “beith”, visualising the image of the few at the same time and letting thoughts and images come to me.

There are no birch trees where I live; it is too hot and dry for them. But what there are are Aleppo pine Pinus halipensis, or “white pine” as we have nicknamed them, since it is paler than the red and black pines(pinus sylvestris and pinus nigra). Fifty years ago the land where I live was bare, covered with terraces for cultivation. Fifty years later, it is forest dominated by Aleppo pine, the first stage in the recovery of the forest. I wrote a blog about it here: (just realised that this was written exactly a year ago!)

Last night, I went to a place which for years has been too thick with undergrowth to access. Last night I managed to enter and find a few interesting places, and reach a terrace that I had only reached from the other side before. Ideas have come to me, and its an interesting place to get to know and begin to discover it.

Most important beginning for me is the one I’m expecting in Nov/Dec. Me and my partner are expecting a baby, a girl. We’ve been together ten years (5th Dec ’06 was when I first came to live here, close to the expected birth). It’s a new phase in ours lives and our relationship, and extremely new and different one. Our baby has already taken a place in our hearts, and I’m looking forward to fatherhood. Not just the beginning of a new life, but a new beginning in my life!

Peace Triad

Three gateways to peace: humility, vision and creativity.

By setting aside personal interests for the greater good, holding to a vision that guides us on our way and responding to the challenges that arise with inexhaustible creativity, we can have peace.

Eco-Art: Autumn Blend

008This is something I did for my Eco-Art course last autumn…

I went for a walk with my dogs, and whilst I did that I searched for items that could be interesting in my artwork. I picked up leaves, twigs, twigs with leaves, stones, hazelnuts, nettle tree seeds, acorns, a feather and a snail shell. Then I wondered how I might make it into a “touch art”.

My idea was to put them into a little bag I have (perhaps a bit too little for all the things I have, I’ll get a bigger one) so that the only way to interact with them is to touch them, without removing. Some of the items reflect the time of year, and it would be interesting to make this a practice for each season.

I call it “Autumn Blend”, as it is composed of items from the autumn. What does the autumn feel like? The answer’s in the bag. I’m intrigued, since the whole point is not to look at all. I know what I put inside, but I’m intrigued by how it might feel.

Senses connect us with what is happening with our environment, but touching the items in the bag made me feel that I was also connecting with my own body. Through the senses we connect with the existence of our bodies, and I feel that though I use my touch often enough, perhaps I don’t pay as close attention to it as I normally do. It made me feel closer to the power of my own finger tips.

I think it may be one of the more concrete senses, in the sense that it is a reliable way of confirming the existence of something, even more reliable than “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I touched my cat and he reminded me that touch is a way to comfort oneself or another. If we feel lost or unbalanced, touch can help counter this.