Imagine you can hear a little voice that’s coming from under a rock, somewhere far down in your interior landscape. Move the rock carefully, and let the voice out. Who does it belong to? Some part of your soul that has been crushed for ages by the weight of your worries? A part of you that has grown to like the darkness and the pressure, and now feels as vulnerable as a new-born baby? Let it speak. Let it sing or cry, moan or yell. Then, if it feels OK for you, identify fully with this part of yourself, and feel how it feels. Then walk away from the stone, down to a small pool that is bathed in sunlight. And bathe yourself there in the water. Afterwards, lie on the earth in the sun, close your eyes, and feel the warmth and light of the sun on your body. As you do this, become aware of the heart-area in your physical body and allow this newly discovered part of you to be nourished by it. Then allow your awareness to shift to being fully conscious in your everyday self – here and now.
You can’t make the wind blow, but you can go outside when you see it blowing, and turn your face to it, and feel it sweeping over and through – blowing away sadness and tiredness – cleansing you – energising you.
You can’t make the wind blow, but you can make sure you don’t stay in stuffy rooms too long. You can go to places you know are windy.
It’s the same with Awen – by its nature it comes from outside you, so you can’t control it, or switch it on whenever you want some of it. But you can make sure you place yourself in circumstances where it is more likely to visit you – out in Nature, in places of great beauty or strong energy.
Poet’s speak of ‘la ligne donnee’ – the given line. This is the line of a poem given to them by the Muse, by Spirit. It comes into their mind from somewhere apparently outside themselves, or perhaps from their subconscious. Once they have this, they can begin their poem. It is the spark, the trigger, the catalyst for their creative process. It is Awen. Whether we are poets or not, whatever our creative field, without Awen, it is hard, if not impossible, to begin. But once it is given to us, it is like being fertilised. Suddenly the world, our work, is pregnant with possibilities.
There is a difference between the inspiration of Awen – that comes to us in flashes, waves, streams of clarity, insight and creativity – and the energy of Nwyfre. Nwyfre is the life-force that flows through our bodies, giving us health and vitality. Nwyfre is like the prana of yoga, or the Chi’ of the Taoists. Ideally, Nwyfre flows strongly through us at all times. Awen, however, visits us like a cool breeze, a ray of sunshine, the gift of rain, which arrives as a blessing, and then leaves us again. Constancy is not a characteristic of Awen – by its nature it comes and goes. But it is our job to encourage it to come more often – to at least try to meet it half-way.
in 1996 an essay ‘And Did Those feet?’ by Dr Gordon Strachan was published in a collection of essays on Druidic topics that I edited for Thorsons/HarperCollins entitled ‘The Druid Renaissance’. (The book was re-published, with additions, as ‘The Rebirth of Druidry’ in 2003). In his essay, Gordon explored the idea that Jesus may have visited Britain and trained with the Druids. He then developed this idea in a book ‘Jesus the Master Builder: Druid Mysteries and the Dawn of Christianity’ (Floris 2000).
Now, thirteen years after publishing his original essay, a film on the subject is due to be released entitled ‘And Did Those Feet?’ It premieres tomorrow at the British Film Institute. This is how the BBC announced it on their website:
Could Jesus Christ have visited Glastonbury?
Jesus Christ could have come to Britain to further his education, according to a Scottish academic.
Church of Scotland minister Dr Gordon Strachan makes the claim in a new film entitled And Did Those Feet.
The film examines the story of Jesus’ supposed visit, which survives in the popular hymn Jerusalem.
Dr Strachan believes it is “plausible” Jesus came to England for his studies, as it was the forefront of learning 2,000 years ago.
“Coming this far wasn’t in fact that far in the olden days,” Dr Strachan told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One. “The Romans came here at the same time and they found it quite easy.”
Dr Strachan added that Jesus had “plenty of time” to do the journey, as little was known about his life before the age of 30.
The legend that Jesus Christ came to Britain was popularised in a poem written by William Blake in the early 19th Century and made famous as a hymn 100 years later.
William Blake’s “Jerusalem” spread the idea Jesus came to England
Now the first words of the hymn – “And did those feet” – are the title of a new film based on a book researched by Dr Strachan, who lectures on the history of architecture at Edinburgh University.
“It is generally suggested that he came to the west of England with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who was here for tin,” said the academic.
Dr Strachan claimed Jesus Christ could have come to England to further his education.
“He needed to go around to learn to learn bits and pieces about ancient wisdom, and the druids in Britain went back hundreds if not thousands of years. He probably came here to meet the druids, to share his wisdom and gain theirs.”
Among the places Jesus is said to have visited are Penzance, Falmouth, St-Just-in-Roseland and Looe, which are all in Cornwall, as well as Glastonbury in Somerset – which has particular legends about Jesus.
“St Augustine wrote to the Pope to say he’d discovered a church in Glastonbury built by followers of Jesus. But St Gildas (a 6th-Century British cleric) said it was built by Jesus himself. It’s a very very ancient church which went back perhaps to AD37.”
The film And Did Those Feet is launched at the British Film Institute on Friday 26 November.
I tend to associate Awen with water, but here are some thoughts that came to me about Awen as fire. And, after all, the Song of Amairgen does talk about ‘fire in the head’:
And what of Awen in the void – in the blank spaces, the tired moments, the moments when you experience nothing but lack: lack of purpose, meaning, energy, joy? Awen then slumbers like a dragon at the back of the cave. If you dare, see if you can find the fury behind the fatigue, see if you can get to the hurt that has numbed your joy, the pain that has stifled your sense of purpose. Then perhaps you will awaken the dragon and you will cry out in anger or in pain and maybe – just maybe – the dragon’s breath of Awen will touch you with its fire!
Regular readers of this blog will know that a post ‘Saluting Pru Poretta aka Lady Godiva’ has been the number One post for the last 8 months. Pru Poretta discovered the post and has sent me some lovely photographs of her at work in the ‘Godiva Sisters’ project – which is truly inspired. Read her description of this and the ‘Godiva Sisters Prayer’:
The Godiva Sisters project is about social inclusion – not being achieved through academic lectures, written documents or intellectual argument (as important and necessary as these might be), but achieved instead through dramatic story, colourful spectacle and personal encounter with “those different from ourselves”. Such an artistic project engages and changes people at a deeper level.
Pru Porretta, Coventry’s present-day Lady Godiva, has reached out to the various ethnic, cultural and faith communities in the city of Coventry. She has made herself available to share with groups and individuals the story that lies at the heart of Coventry. She brings to life the story of Lady Godiva – both history and legend – in her engaging presentations to adults and children, to voluntary and community groups. She felt the need to open up the story, to include something of the history, culture and values of other communities in Coventry. She asked them to choose a heroine, who would embody and represent that community in a wider context. Having chosen a heroine, a working-group was set up to design and create, with guidance from a textile artist, a banner depicting the heroine and her story in the tradition and style of that community. Later in the project, decorated umbrellas were included in the artistic work. One member of each group was chosen to be that heroine, but more importantly to become a Godiva Sister and to be an animateur among her community. Some groups, aware of themselves as vulnerable minorities, were initially quite nervous about public performance. Much encouragement and support was needed to enable them to complete the work and be ready to perform at the annual Godiva Sisters event in September. More established and experienced groups led the way by preparing music or dance for the event. An original six Sisters in 2002 has grown to thirteen Sisters in 2009:
Godiva Sisters in 2009
Irish Sister: Carmel Silver as Christina Noble
Caribbean Sister: Lorna Gayle as Mother Mary Seacole
Christian Sister: Kusumika Chatterjee as Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Chinese Sister: Margaret Tse as Hua Mulan
Malaysian Sister: Raja Rahawani as Puteri Saadong
Sikh Sister: Jaspreet Singh as Maharani Jindan Kaur
Hindu Sister: Seema Ambaram as Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi
Serbian Sister: Slavica Stojsavljevic as Princess Milica
Sister with Disability: Bhanu Dahbi as Helen Keller
African Sister: Consolata Zvirikuzhe as Nzingha, Queen of Matamba
Polish Sister: Stasia Chustecka as Queen Jadwiga
Latin-American Sister: Adriana Atkinson as Policarpa Salavarrieta
Muslim Sister: Zainab Khan for organ transplant charity
Lady Godiva is the most famous benefactor in the history of Coventry. In ancient times an annual feast was held by the Guild of Cappers and Felt-makers on the day of her death – 10 September 1067. It was known as Dame Goodyve’s Daye. After four hundred years this feast has been restored into the calendar of Coventry by our present-day Lady Godiva.
In some communities women are expected to remain at home. It is not easy for them to meet other women, who use strange languages, styles and traditions, some of whom they might have been taught to regard with suspicion or even hostility eg Muslims negative approach to Hindus. Such signs of contradiction could lead to increasing conflict. It is certainly not intended that difficulties be hidden away, however, the emphasis on sharing food, on mutual respect and affirmation of each Sister and what she represents, is central to the whole project. There is a growing recognition of the “one human community” which we need to embrace and which includes all of us.
Religious faith plays an important role in the life of almost all these communities. It is integral to their sense of cultural or national identity. Spiritual values and traditions continue to inspire and guide them in our contemporary and secular age. Sometimes religion has seemed to be part of the problem more than it has been part of the solution. Crusades by fundamentalist extremists have muffled Coventry’s message of peace and reconciliation. The Godiva Sisters project and performance proclaims that message in a way that words alone can never do.
We gather here today
in the face of a darkness that threatens our world:
the terrorist attack, the suicide bomber, our prejudice and hatred –
all that destroys respect, friendship and caring in our community.
We pray that children, women and men may become makers of peace
in a world that is one human community.
Let us befriend those different from ourselves,
be ready to forgive past wrongs and be reconciled,
to share new visions, new love, new hope. (Godiva Sisters Prayer)
This project and performance continues to bring people together in a spirit of peace and reconciliation. The Godiva Association believes that it can play a significant part in the future development of community relations and in the deepening of interfaith understanding. Photos of this year’s event that took place on Friday 11 September 2009 in the Priory Gardens, Coventry:
Try opening to Awen not when it’s easy, but when it’s difficult: not when you can be still and nothing is disturbing you, but when there’s chaos around you, and life is far from easy. See if you can find Awen in those moments. It’s harder, much harder, but when you do, it’s like walking through a doorway in a grimy city street to discover a secret garden that has always been there – quiet and tranquil, an oasis of calm and beauty. One way to do this, is just to tell yourself gently “Stop!” Life can be so demanding, so entrancing, that it carries us away, and we get pulled off-centre. If we tell ourselves to stop for a moment, this gives us the opportunity to stop identifying with the drama around us, and to come back to a sense of ourselves, of the innate stillness within our being. And then, sometimes, we are rewarded with Awen at precisely this moment.
A remarkable new book has just been published by OBOD member and dazzling mentalist magician Mark Townsend. Called ‘The Path of the Blue Raven’ it tells the story of a struggling man who all his life has wrestled with questions, searched for meaning and discovered it in unexpected places. Although representing the beginning of a new adventure in one man’s life, this book is not just his story for it also offers a beautiful and breath-taking collection of real-life stories of others who walked a similar path and have found great healing and blessing through nature based spirituality. To many cultures, the raven was and is a symbol of initiation into a new path. In sharing his own journey, the author introduces readers to a world of like-minded people who have stepped off the mainstream path onto the path of personal magic. As the ex-Catholic monk Thomas Moore says, ‘The soul has an absolute, unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. It requires them like the body needs food and the mind needs thought.’ This book offers pilgrims (of any path) a way back to the rich and deep inner magic of childhood dreams.
Ronald Hutton said of it: “I started this book expecting to skim it and found myself reading every page. It is a wonderful quest romance, a story about the nature of religion, magic, England, modernity and many other things as well.” Link to Amazon here.
Just back from a workshop in Sintra, Portugal. Alexandre and Sofia run one of the best publishing houses in that country, Zefiro, from an office located in a beautiful old building on the side of a hill overlooking Sintra and its palace. The office is in a spiritual centre which runs courses, and the walls are covered in 18th or 19th century murals depicting the local landscape. When we finished the workshop we went out for a meal and they showed me the back entrance, with its house number reversed. This, they explained, was done for a reason – as a code for local freemasons and esotericists. Alexandre explains it thus:
‘The man who made this building (originally an hotel, named “Hotel Vítor”), was Vítor Sassetti, who was a freemason at the end of the 19th century/early 20th century. He was also a friend of Carvalho Monteiro (who built the wonderful and esoteric “Quinta da Regaleira”) and Luigi Manini, who designed all the artwork and architecture of Quinta da Regaleira.This reversed number “3” was supposedly a sign for their secret meetings in the building…’