Monday, 31 October 2011

Winter Blessings from Celtic Christianity

The sun is setting, and I'm off to do a really quiet celebration of Samhain. I've been REALLY conflicted about this sabbat, feeling that I shouldn't celebrate it until I completely understand it (among other worries) - and since I really can't get my head around it yet, at all, I was all for trying to forget it was happening.

I confessed this to The Girl, my wonderful Jewish wife, who told me a story. Once upon a time, it was the eve of Passover. Three rabbis had been debating for hours, as rabbis do. They were debating how many plagues there had been in Egypt. There couldn't possibly have been only ten plagues. Were there a hundred? A thousand? More? On and on they debated, as the sun set. Then there was a knock on their door. They opened it to see a small group of concerned-looking students. "Rabbis," they said. "You're late for the service."

So I've been offline today, trying to work through some of this conflicted-ness, and much other stuff too. But I wanted to leave a Samhain blessing. This is a little gift for my dear Pagan friends (not having met most of you does not make you any less friends), who have been so supportive while I try to find my feet on my very personal path. Blessed Samhain. For tonight, I'm going to stop arguing about the number of plagues and go to the service.

Celtic Christian blessings and reflections on winter, death and time

Remember, O friend, your end.
Now you are strong and fit, filled with ambition, boasting of your achievements; but all your success is a mere passing shadow.
Remember you are made of clay, and to clay you will return.
Now you are healthy and handsome, filled with energy, proud of your work; but all your joys are mere passing shadows.
Remember your life is the breath of God, which at death will depart.
Now your life on earth is solid and stable; but soon it will dissolve, your body crumbling to dust.
Remember, O friend, your end.

- Celtic Christian poem

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The face of nature is solemn in winter, her breath chill, and her eyes pale.
Ducks shiver as they float on icy ponds; the sea heaves, its waves beating against the cliffs.
The birds' song is muffled and sad, as they search for scraps of food; only the ravens are glad, feeding on crimson blood.
The tiny animals are asleep in their holes, with food for the winter; the cattle and sheep huddle for warmth.
The trees are bare, the wind whistling through their branches; the earth is barren and dark, covered with black wet leaves.
The men cut wood for the fire, while the women cook hot, thin soup; people contemplate death, when they shall meet their creator.

- Translated by Robert Van de Weyner from ancient British and Irish poems on the seasons

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The month of November, the swine are plump.
The trees are now half bare, the leaves half fallen.
The brown floor turns black and sodden.
The days grow shorter, the nights longer.
The rain grows colder, the sunshine paler.
The full barn soon starts to empty.
'The wealth of heaven lasts forever.'

- From the Verses of the Months; Welsh, from about the 15th century

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In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows' flight and moonlight rays
We see the Creator's hand.
In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls frost's first kiss
We see the Creator's hand.

We bless you, God of Seed and Harvest
And we bless each other
That the beauty of this world
And the love that created it
Might be expressed though our lives
And be a blessing to other.

- Modern Celtic Christian-style Samhain liturgy by John Birch ( )

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Mary nurtures a Son in her womb:
His birth a blessing to those who discover him.
He goes forth like the sun,
Great is the number of his company.

- Old Welsh poem
(The church season of Advent is about to start - Christians in the winter awaiting the returning Sun...)

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