Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Daily - Celtic Prayer Devotional...

The conception and Practice of Daily Celtic Prayer.

All of these prayers are inspired and adapted from a series of books collectively called ‘The Carmina Gadelica.’ They represent the prayers, invocations, and sacred poetry of the Scottish Islands compiled by the scholar Alexander Carmichael in the latter half of the 19th century, and represent the inherited oral traditions of a Gaelic community from over a thousand years of history. A careful analysis of the Carmina provides a unique insight into the spiritual beliefs of both pre-Christian Pagan Celts and of the developing Catholic theological framework. In short, the Gaels considered all space, sacred. The entire landscape was woven of intense spiritual and heavenly threads, and each moment or life experience was awarded a prayer in dedication. It can also be observed that the ancient Celts followed specific points in the day with spiritual devotions, specifically dawn, midday, dusk and mid-night. This is known as the Trathan or ‘four-times.’

Generally speaking the name and concept of God within the Carmina Gadelica is translated from Dei, a term which is cognate with the Latin Deus, Greek Theos, and Sanskrit Deva. In Irish it precedes the designation of every day, and itself can mean day. The root meaning of this name is both sacred and source of illumination. For me, it means the revolution of the sun around the earth and thus emblematic of unity, it represents life, growth, healing, the flow of the celestial sea and infinite energy, and thus is symbolic of the Great Spirit. Another term for God within Gaelic culture is Cruithear or ‘Creator’ or ‘Shaper.’ This conception of a supreme being is similar to Native American and First Nation peoples. The Creator in Native Gaelic culture is both supreme in kingship and personal, immanent and an essential aspect of a world perceived as a woven fabric.

I conceive and believe in Cruithear within the traditional trinitarianism of both Gaelic and Indo-European theology, whereby the creator possesses both masculine and feminine characteristics, although beyond gender definition, and composed of three primal aspects; creator, sustainer and destroyer. Cruithear is the Great Father Sky, joined with the Holy Mother Earth, expressed in the divine word of the Son of Light.

The traditional posture of prayer in invocation is standing erect, raise the arms outward (to form a T shape) then bend the arms at the elbow up-to head level to form an L shape. This posture is described in a medieval Irish monastic manuscript called ‘The Rule of Tallaght’ and believed by some scholars to imitate pre-Christian Druid practice. Traditionally this posture would be assumed in greeting each of the four sacred directions.

Morning Prayer.

The morning prayer is pronounced upon waking, or more effectively at the moment of the sunrise, and facing the east. It was the tradition that the Chief Druid of a village sing a song of greeting to the sun at dawn to welcome it back from the underworld, and likewise another farewell song at sunset, both times being considered the most liminal and sacred of spaces in the natural world.

I will kindle the flame of my soul this morning,
In the presence of Deep-Sea, Heavenly-Sky, Rich-Earth,
Without malice, jealousy, envy, fear, without terror of
Anyone under the sun.

O Great Creator
Kindle thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbor, my foe, my friend,
To all my kindred
To the brave, the knave, the thrall,
From the lowliest thing that lives
To the name that is highest above all.

Exalt my thoughts, my deeds, my word, my will,
My understanding, my intellect, my way my state.
I beseech thee this day;
To keep me from harm, mischance, grief,
Shield me, fill me, keep me, watch me.

Traditionally the morning prayer is accompanied and ended by a form of encircling protection called a caim or ‘hoop.’ The suppliant stretches out their right hand with their forefinger extended and turns around deosil (sunwise) like a pivot, describing a circle. This ritual invokes a spiritual protection around the person. The most famous caim prayer is found within the Lorica of St. Phadraig, and of undoubtable pre-Christian origin, and which invokes the power and energy of natural elements:

I arise today
Through strength of Heaven:
Light of sun
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightening,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock

The Creator to navigate and guide my soul………

Midday Prayer.

The midday prayer is directed toward the sun at its highest position in the sky toward the south. It is not in itself a solar adoration but a form of thanksgiving for its great capacity to heal, promote growth and spiritual illumination.

Eye of the Great Creator,
Eye of the Glorious Creator,
Eye of the King of Heavens, Lands of Harmony and Bliss,
Eye of the Chieftain of the Living-Ones,

Here, settled in the throne of the sky, Pouring upon us,
At each time and season,
Pouring upon us waves of energy, heat and strength,
Generous waves of gold,

Glory to thee, thou glorious sun
Glory to thee thou sun,
Face of the Great Creator of Life.

The Dusk Prayer.
The evening prayer bids farewell to the sun as it leaves us in the west, a time for recollection and assessment of our day’s activities and preparation for a new day. The new day begins after sunset in Gaelic culture.

I smoor the hearth of my soul, within and without…
And on all my household,
I close this bright day
And end the song of my spirit
I bid farewell…

O Creator,
Compass me this night
Both soul and body,
Compass me this night
And on every night.

Compass me aright
Between earth and sky
Enfolded in the mystery of thy laws
Secure in your darkest robes
Illuminated by moons light.

The Midnight Prayer.

The sleep prayer is directed toward the north, visualizing the Pole star above the head as a guiding light, and the sun beneath our feet in the ‘underworlds.’ Together they form a symbolic shaft of light which passes through the body, cleansing the soul of dark impurities, filling us with cosmic energy. The Gael imagined retirement as boarding a coracle or small boat, and drifting through an ocean of sleep.

I am now going into the sleep,
Be it that I shall be in health awake,
Keep though my coracle,
Keep it always…
As my soul soars in the shadows of heaven.

The white day comes to the fire,
Thou to me as a star,
Thou to me as a guide,
From my life’s beginning to my life’s closing.

Be a bright flame before me,
Be a guiding star above me,
Be a smooth path below me,
Be a navigator behind me…

Today, tonight…
Unto the guiding light of eternity…

A perfect world without end, changeless through life eternal.

Perhaps with the Gaelic notion of the day as a microscopic equivalent of an entire life, and the eternal cycle of being and existence, the final evocation summarizes the tidal nature of the cosmic order, and the threefold nature of the Creator, of birth, life, death and eventual rebirth;

As it was,
As it is,
As it shall be
O thou Triune of Grace…
With the ebb,
With the flow,
O thou Triune of Grace…
With the ebb,
With the flow.

Purpose and practice of the prayers.The principal motive and intention of these prayers is to in-tune with the natural celestial rhythms of the day, which itself reflects the year, the seasons and indeed a lifetime. They are a method for immersion in the sacredness of the moment and time, together with a harmonic understanding of space and movement. They naturally inspire a commitment to a natural spiritual path. It is also an opportunity to step back out of ordinary time, to contemplate and consider within a silent and sacred space, created by you for you. Yet, in doing so the personal soul-aura is lightened and polished to a sparkling radiance which benefits all around. Ultimately our consciousness evolves to a greater understanding of the beautiful music of cosmic truth.

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