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May/June 2009

The Fires of May

An old Celtic legend tells of a traveler who “loses his way in a mist” and arrives in the Otherworld.  He is welcomed there by a phantom host, and is graciously served by the lady Sovereignty from the 3 cups of life.  The first cup holds the white milk of nurturance for the springtime in his life.  The second carries the red summer wine of his empowerment, passion, and presence.  The last cup contains a black liquid, the dark winter drink of oblivion.  So it goes around the Celtic wheel of life.

This past bitter winter brought up the old familiar question:  “Why am I here?”  Before I could answer spring came again, saying,  “One more time around.”  And now the brilliant summer fires of Beltaine have arrived.  In the northlands of Michigan, summer is our season for living our passions, finding our presence within the joys of life.

Why are we here?  We all ask this question in the darker seasons of our souls.  This often happens when we are experiencing our feelings of separateness, our fears of abandonment and our seasons of isolation  (“Father, why have you forsaken me?”)  Our times of isolation are often times of pain, times of sacrifice (sacrifice = “to make sacred.”)  We feel wounded, and through our wounds we experience humility and the preciousness of life.  Many of us find compassion for others via our own woundings.  We become “wounded healers,” willing to listen to and comfort others along the path.

Often we hear that our separateness is just an illusion, that if we were only more evolved we’d realize our “unity with all things.”  But then our “striving for perfection” with this understanding can become a form of self-aggression.  Think of how many of us have suffered from a lack of self-acceptance with our perceived “imperfections.”  The history of warfare and religion is partly the history of projecting our self-criticisms onto others; our lack of self-acceptance and “self-inquisition” turns outwards into persecuting our neighbors.

What would it mean to truly befriend our yearnings for perfection, in fact to befriend all of our restlessness, yearnings and impulses?  Instead of interpreting these feelings as troubling indications that “something is wrong,” we could understand them to mean “something is right”  within us.  The late wonderful poet, priest, druid and author John O’Donohue wrote a whole book on the divinity of our restlessness and yearnings (“Eternal Echoes.”)  Catholic theologian Thomas


Berry describes our expanding Universe as God’s own yearning outwards through Creation.  Biologist Connie Barlow and theologian Michael Dowd see even our most base impulses as part of a grander “evolutionary morality,” where our greatest yearnings and joys meet with the greater needs of all creation.

Perhaps one answer to “why am I here” is found simply by living the wheel of the year fully, with acceptance.  We can accept our experience of winter’s isolation and our feelings of separateness; we can honor our spring yearnings; and we can dance with the coming fires of summer, sharing our exuberance for life.

Seamus Norgaard is a teacher, life-coach, activist, and carrier of the Celtic Spirit.  He hosts guests at Tara’s Meadow Retreat Center on Beaver Island, where he teaches "Body Prayers," movement meditations and other offerings.  See TARA’S MEADOW marketplace ad; www.CelticBodyPrayers.com 


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