Clíodhna In Irish mythology, Clíodhna is a Queen of the Banshees in the Tuatha Dé Danann (A pantheon of gods). Clíodna is a powerful banshee that rules as queen over the fairy women of the hills. Irish legend has it that her mournful cry can be heart at midnight before the passing of a loved one.
Étaín is derived from a diminutive form of an old Irish word for passion or jealousy. When Midir, an elder of the Tuatha Dé Danann ( Celtic pantheon of gods) falls for Étaín, he marries her much to the ire of his rejected first wife. In her jealous rage, she casts a spell on Étaín.turning her into a beautiful scarlet fly. Midir is unaware of the enchantment on his beautiful young bride. The magical winged creature becomes his constant companion and he loses all interest in other women.
In Irish Mythology (pron. Sive) was cursed by a dark sorcerer of the Tuatha Dé Danann. If he couldn’t have her, no-one would. He transformed her into a deer where she lived in the wilds for three years, trying to evade the hunters’ spear. A servant of the sorcerer took pity on Sadhbh, and told her how to break the spell – If she set foot in one of the forts of the Fianna (Mythical tribe) the spell would be broken. Bounding through glens and forests she made her way to the home of Fionn mac Cumhaill (leader of the Fianna) where he was out hunting with his warriors. Thanks to Fionn’s magical hounds, she was spared. These hounds were also under a spell from their original human form and recognised the deer as a woman. Fionn and his party led Sadhbh back to his home and as soon as her hooves touched the ground within the fort, Sadhbh shed her deer’s hide and revealed herself as a beautiful woman.
As coronavirus rips through our nations taking too many lives, the shock wave of illness and death is grinding slowly to a halt as fear about the financial implications takes over as the foremost consequence of this killer pandemic, demonstrating that after the threat of death, financial ruin comes close behind.
Every country moves at a different rate out of full lock down, each one looking to the next to see what is working and what is not, balancing re-opening the economy while minimising the risk of a second spike in covid-19 cases. I don’t envy world leaders their difficult task. While coronavirus exposes underlying health issues and mercilessly robs people of their loved ones, so too does it expose world leaders who did not make their nation’s health a priority. Some countries, such as Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea and Germany moved quickly to prioritise the nation’s health and while they had fatalities, it was a fraction of the countries who favoured the economy over the elderly, finance over front line workers.
Here in the UK over 35,000 people have died since mid-March. A shocking loss to the country. These are not statistics but lives, hopes, dreams; voters who went to the polls last December and voted for their political leaders. The issue of the day was getting Brexit done. Few focused on health care and the repercussions of an underfunded NHS (National Healthcare System). The election running field was pretty much one sided with the Tories galloping home. Fast forward three months to early March and the onset of the pandemic; the Prime Minister fell at the first hurdle, and the rest of the field scrambled to avoid disaster. Sadly, they did not succeed. Britain is not the only country whose political hierarchy were exposed by the pandemic. Capitalist leaders who begrudgingly enforced a lock down, too late in many cases, demonstrated that administrations value money over lives.
I wonder what we can learn from our leaders, not just in our own country but from the leaders around the world. Do they reflect aspects in all of us, part empathy, part materialistic? How often do we weigh up the monetary cost above the social or civic cost? The mental health implications arising from not just the lock down, but from the national and international loss of life, will be great. We humans have more in common than we have differences. One thing that unites us is our emotions, our ability to feel happiness and joy, grief and sadness. The months of coronavirus have cast a long shadow over humanity, which may take years to lift.
Our leaders are really just a reflection of us, our light and our shadow, only they are the ones in the spotlight, the ones we abdicate responsibility to. Maybe it’s time to put ourselves under the spotlight, to asses our empathy, to see if we favour finance over health, and comfort over caution. We are all in this together, and it is up to us to keep taking steps towards a better future. We can’t continue to put responsibility for important issues in the hands of government and blame them when they get it wrong. While it is up to us to hold those in power accountable, we can’t fall into a comatose state in front of the TV and then rail against our world leaders for the state of the world. We must educate ourselves on environmental and health issues, and the long term implication these have on us as humans and the rest of the planet. If humanity is to survive, we the people, are its only hope.
This is the first of a series of poems I am writing based on Celtic goddesses. In Celtic mythology, Fand takes the form of an otherworldly sea bird. In her sea bird form, she flies with a flock of enchanted birds, with each pair joined together by a silver chain. As goddess of the sea, Fand offers balance between the inner and outer states of consciousness. She helps us heal our emotions as we seek to understand of our deepest truth.
In Irish mythology, Cana Cludhmor created the harp from a dream. She is often referenced as an Irish goddess of music, inspiration and dreams. Late one evening, she left to take a midnight stroll to clear her head. She heard beautiful music on the wind and was lulled into a deep sleep on the beach. When she woke up the next morning, Cana realised the wind had created the music by blowing through partially rotted sinew still attached to a whale skeleton. She based her design for the harp on this.
Grian is dedicated to the Celtic goddess of the sun. In the modern Irish language her name literally means ‘sun’. Her power awakens earth’s fertility; she sanctifies the land with her love and bathes the children of the earth in a warm glow.
There is an allure in dreaming of personal glory, to believe that perfection exists in some distant landscape known only to our future self. Whether it be a perfect job, relationship or a house on acres of grounds, the dream sustains us in the unfulfilled present. Our brains are wired toward future fortunes. It is a struggle to keep retraining our mind to observe the present, for the timeless present is the seed of what we have yet to become.
Then there is nostalgia; the desire for what might have been, regret over missed opportunities and a wistful feeling that your best days have are gone, only to be relived in the songs that form the soundtrack of your glory years. The present is seen as a place that pulls you away from youthful possibilities, forcing you to take responsibility for your circumstances. It is a karmic landscape from which there is no escape – except to an impossible future. It is impossible only because it is based on denial and non acceptance of the present moment. The present moment is the culmination of your life history to date. It is the account of all your thoughts, words and actions.The karmic law is simple – you reap what you sow.
The shades of the past set the tone for our future. The darker the shade, the deeper our dissatisfaction with the world. These shades on our soul consciousness create a painful present, therefore we seek to escape to the more colourful future where we are happy and content. But as days, months and years advance, the sun still sets on the same dull landscape.
Nothing changes unless we see to it. Wishing, hoping or dreaming does not create the foundations for reality. Reality is based on our thoughts, words and actions. These three building blocks are held in place by emotions. Feelings are the mortar that keeps us caught in the rigid structure of our conditioned lives. Feelings frozen in time set hard, trapping a portion of our consciousness with them. Our soul consciousness, which in its natural state is expansive and fluid, sets like a sculpture to represent our painful experience, a memorial to every cut and wound, every heartache and every unshed tear. But we cannot remain in a mausoleum to the past, we must keep moving forward. To do this, we have to break every frozen statue to release the essence of soul consciousness trapped inside. Feelings set in stone must be melted down for our real journey through life as a whole integrated being to continue.
The feelings that sting most are those that remain longest in the psyche, every other cut bleeds from this wound. It is these emotions that pull us back, time after time in various ways, to relive our unresolved pain. We are conditioned to quell the uprising of emotions and hold fast to reason and logic. However, reason and logic can only be built on a foundation of clear expression, a direct link to the present moment. By releasing historic emotions in the current of now, the long shadow cast over our future can be lifted and we can live a fulfilled life here and now. To quote Joseph Campbell ‘We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us’.
I recall events from my twenties, with a kind of abstract vision, as if the memories were somehow implanted in my brain without emotion. It seems like the decade of my twenties came and went with a numb participation. I began the decade working in central London, and the party lifestyle that goes along with been a young twenty-year old with disposable income. By the time I reached thirty, I was restless, bored, unhappy and looking at a way out of my marriage of three years. The intervening years were a fog, it was like an unknown tenant took over my mind and I fell into a coma. My thirties and forties were all about evicting that tenant.
I was thirty-three when I had my first real break through moment. I was travelling for work when I pulled over by the river to eat my lunch. I was reading a passage from a book a friend gave me after my divorce, a spiritual book which at the time, passed over my head. I sat looking absently at the water when I felt my chest open, my heart seemed to be expanding. At first, I was frightened, thinking it was cardiac arrest. I pulled my mobile phone out of my bag but there was no signal. I heard ‘Just Breathe’. Where did that come from I wondered? I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable heart attack and I heard it again ‘Just breathe’. And so, I focused on breathing, in and out, in and out, rapidly at first, then I fell into a slow pattern of breathing and I relaxed. My mind fell completely silent for the first time ever and something wholly pure and still emerged from that silence; it was the ‘I’ that had been asleep for all those years, while the tenant wrecked the joint, leaving a trail of wreckage in her wake.
The doctor checked me over and told me I had a panic-attack. He recommended I see a counsellor to unravel the past. The tenant moved back in and said ‘no way’ and off ‘I’ fell asleep again… but not for long. I realised I had to face the mess made by the tenant, after all I opened the door of my house (mind) when she knocked with a suitcase full of my karma. She was going nowhere until the suitcase was unpacked. For much of my thirties, I lived with the tenant (ego), only now I was aware of her. I knew there was no getting rid of her until I unpacked my karma. That, as they say, is easier said than done. I tried to avoid particularly painful memories stored in the karmic suitcase, which had the effect of giving the tenant the upper hand. The old ‘me’ would return with gusto feeding off the karmic resistance and so, I had a parallel existence, one of meditation, healing and reading spiritual and self-books, while the other one fed off her friends’ dramas, work dramas and taking no responsibility for any wrong-doing. My house (mind) was full of clutter moved from one pile to another pile awaiting a proper clear-out.
About five years after my initial awakening by the river, I had another breakthrough. After a brief relationship, I noticed that the mental turmoil was more acute that the emotional fallout. I realised I hadn’t cried over a relationship, or any other ending for several years. Instead of crying, my mind went into overdrive with nonsensical thoughts, obsessing over trivial matters. As I lay in bed at 3 am with no sign of sleep, I began to rant at the universe, or whoever was ‘out there’. Having nothing to lose, I figured if it worked for Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) it might work for me. Once again, my chest started to expand, only this time I wasn’t afraid, I recognised the sensation. My heart was releasing pure emotion, that is, feeling that was not attached to thought, just pure sensation. Afterwards, I fell into a deep sleep and had one of those dreams where you are soaring above the earth. It was an incredible feeling of freedom until just before waking, I landed knee deep in cow dung outside the cowshed on the farm where I grew up. A clear message from the universe where to clean-up first.
I realised that Neale Donald Walsch was on to something, and so I began journaling, a journey into my subconscious, writing down my frustrations, fears and anxieties as a way to unravel the unfelt emotions within me. For the next couple of years, I went through half a dozen A4 pads and countless boxes of tissues as I wrote, and felt, my way out of the past. I unpacked my karma item by item, sometimes it was too much and I had to wait until I felt stronger to face it. Little by little, I unravelled the secret of karma, the universal Law of Cause and Effect. By feeling the effect of my past actions (Cause) I was able to regain consciousness, to see, hear, feel the world around me with new clarity. It wasn’t easy, there were many painful endings as I had to let go of relationships and friendships made by the tenant, and leave a job that made me unhappy to face an uncertain future.
If I were to give any advice to my younger self, I would tell her to take responsibility for her actions, to honour her emotions, that the brave thing is to cry, and to be kind to others. I would tell her selfishness is a poison, as is jealousy and gossip. I hope she’d listen, more importantly I’d hope she’d act and steer her course towards empathy and compassion. But alas, I can’t go back, but if my twenties thought me anything, it is this; you can’t live your life without consequence, if you ignore the cause of your actions on yourself and others, your ability to express emotion and think clearly becomes impaired, leaving you continually anxious and devoid of empathy. This is karma. You will find a stranger in the mirror, someone who replaces your true self. This tenant remains until every last impact of karma is felt, until humility replaces arrogance and joy replaces guilt.
It’s a work in progress, but I am the sole occupier of my mind, and one day when this body becomes ash, I will take to the sky and tell a broken, lonely soul sitting in a car by the river, or standing on the ledge of the abyss, to ‘Just Breathe’.