Keltria Journal – In the House of No Stories

EXCERPT: In the House of No Stories:

Finding the tales of my ancestors

by Jenne Micale

Photo of Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

In the elementary school classroom, the teacher pushed primary-color tacks onto the map of the world, one for each of our ancestors. Specks of plastic dotted the usual places: Italy, Ireland, sometimes Africa. Our assignment, she said: Find out where your family is from for a book report and, of course, the ceremony that was thumbtacks-on-the-map.

On the way home, my next door neighbor glowed and crowed of her European mutt heritage: English and Danish and French, and whatever else she remembered to say that day. She chanted the names of her line and recounted her family's history as I kicked leaves on the sidewalk. The neighborhood used to be her family's farm, even though it had since been reduced to one green and white farmhouse in disrepair.

At home, I turned to my parents, who shifted their feet and turned to busy themselves with some mundane task: “Where do I put my thumbtacks on the map?”

Continued...

[This excerpt is from a three-page article was published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #42.  It is available in its entirety to members of the Henge of Keltria via the Members Home page.  It is available to non-members of the Henge and in print form via Mag Cloud.]


[amazon_image id="190571324X" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Talking About the Elephant[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0982726376" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]To Fly By Night: Craft of the Hedgewitch[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="B003IOS0NE" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Twisted Book[/amazon_image]

From the President – Imbolc 2009

President Topaz Owl

President Topaz Owl

The glitz and glitter of Yule have passed, the wheel has turned us through another secular New Year celebration, and now we enter into the long, cold dark in earnest (especially those of us in the north). Imbolc happens in the deepest dark of the coldest time, and sometimes it is only our faith that the sun does indeed return that carries us through to spring. As we light the candles for our Imbolc celebration and huddle before the cozy fire while the wild North wind whips snow around our homes and Jack Frost pries at the windows with icy fingers, we will reflect on the gifts we have been given lately, and begin to devise a plan for putting those gifts to good use in the coming year.

I must share the best gift I was given recently, a gift that came from the Gods on the last day of 2008. It was a close encounter with a Peregrine Falcon in the heart of the city.

On New Year's Eve day, I went to a small Italian market downtown to get a special Italian cheese. The snow was falling swiftly, and the roads were becoming treacherous.

As I started the truck to leave the store, I saw something dark drop swiftly out of the sky in front of the truck and into the fenced small front yard of the house where I was parked. I knew it was a bird of prey of some sort, and I waited to see what kind it might be. It rolled around for a bit under a bush, but the pigeon it had targeted escaped. It then hopped up out of the snow and onto a nearby stockade-type fence, where I saw it was a beautiful (and quite large) peregrine falcon!

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Hawk in the City

The bird sat there for a very long time (probably disappointed to have missed his dinner), and I sat there, too, staring at it while it stared back at me. I marveled over seeing this rare bird in the heart of the city, of all places, on this residential street in a snowstorm. I wondered: what were the chances of my being in that very place at that most opportune of times? (Of course, as a Druid, I understand that it was no chance encounter.) I finally got out of the truck with my cell phone camera and took his picture, because I knew no one was going to believe what I was seeing with my own eyes. The bird was not afraid of me, and let me get within feet of him. There was the click of a connection between us, and then he flew off.

Since the encounter, I have been pondering what sort of omen this falcon might be. The peregrine is on the endangered species list, so this sighting was all the more special for that reason. I am certain that this marvelously opportunistic bird, with his impeccable timing, his unwavering patience, and his amazing agility and gracefulness, has a lesson for me. Is it his extremely adaptable nature that I am meant to take away from this? His intense focus and acute mental perception? Or shall I lean more toward the indigenous belief that he is associated with past life recall and so teaches how to delve into oneself without fear? Perhaps just the fact that you won’t find him in the popular animal totem books because he is so rare is a key to unlocking his message.

Yes, he was a very special gift from the Gods, the meaning of which I am still unraveling -- and yet I am certain of its value. I find that to be true of most Divine gifts, don’t you? This leads me to consider what a gift the Dark Time of the Year is to all of us! It is this darkness which allows us the time and inclination to go within and unravel the clues that are provided, clues to the Mysteries that make up both our universe and ourselves.

Brighid’s Fiery Blessings upon All
- The Topaz Owl

Review: The Spiritual Practices of Rumi

REVIEW: The Spiritual Practices of Rumi:

Radical Techniques for Beholding the Divine

by Will Johnson

Review by Karl Schlotterbeck

Book Cover: The Spiritual Practices of Rumi

In popular writings, Jalaluddin Rumi is often seen as the enigmatic “whirling dervish” and Sufi mystic who, infatuated with his teacher, produced vast amounts of ecstatic poetry, and also gave rise to a sect known for its whirling dances. Some have interpreted his writings as metaphoric references to Allah, while others have suggested a deep human love relationship between Rumi and Shams-i Tabriz. Will Johnson, however, asserts that much of Rumi’s writings refer to a specific practice in which he engaged with his teacher/partner Shams: the simple but profound act of gazing into one another’s eyes.

This concept of the practice of the gaze puts many of Rumi’s verses into a new light for they refer not just to a soft-headed romantic staring, but an open-hearted discipline. Thus, at least some of Rumi’s verses are not just about an infatuation between two mystics but, rather, a practice that, when surrendered to, creates a delicious union and a spiritual otherworldly experience, while awakening sensations in the body.

Again and again Johnson circles back like a spinning dancer to the theme of union. He encourages this practice not just for exploration with a “great friend,” as he calls it, but also with one’s consort (in a Tantric manner), as well as with nature, and even in the city because, as he says, everywhere you look - if you look properly - you will see the face of God. This gazing practice is intended to help us wake up to the fact that union is available and “free for the taking.” Johnson, further, suggests ways to prepare for gazing with the beloved, such as practicing with a candle, with one’s own face in a mirror and breathing practices.

There are some interesting parallels to the Celtic worldview. The physical world and physical body are not to be transcended here, according to Johnson. Rather they are the door that grants entry into the invisible world. As one learns acceptance and surrender, Johnson says that one begins to look not just with the eyes but with the whole body. “Presence is the key that opens divinity’s door,” he says. Also, a few years ago, I presented some workshops on Celtic Spirituality in which I read passages from the writings of John O’Donohue while participants sat looking into one another’s faces. In just a few minutes, many were deeply moved – showing the power of gazing receptively and without judgment into the eyes of another.

Since meditation is so often seen as a solitary practice, and since so many of our human interactions are superficial avoidance of genuine intimacy, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Because of its meditative nature, and because of its promise of opening the heart and vision to the deeper nature of all around us, it seems especially appropriate for those engaged on the Ovate and Druid paths.

[amazon_link id="1594772002" target="_blank" ]The Spiritual Practices of Rumi: Radical Techniques for Beholding the Divine,[/amazon_link] by Will Johnson; ISBN: 1-59477-200-2; pp 192; Inner Traditions; $14.95.

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