Saturday, March 3, 2007

Seanfhocal... 6 Irish Proverbs with commentary:

Seanfhocal… Irish Proverbs

The Kingfisher.

1) Irish Proverbs are filled with nature symbolism and imagery honoring the legendary connection to the land, the wind, the sea and mountains, the kingfisher and the mackerel, the thistle and the plover, the horse and the hare, and even the common crow are all called upon to mirror human hopes, achievements and failings. Irish proverbs are a celebration of Irelands time-honored virtues; faith, gentleness, love of nature, tolerance and trust in life after death. On Ability;

"The Gobadon (kingfisher) cannot work both tides at the same time"

The active life requires balance, making the right choices at the correct moment. The discerning individual will focus all their attention on one task at a time, and contrary to modern perceptions 'multi-tasking' is not beneficial to the good of the soul. Take time to consider, meditate, make sound plans, develop a direct course for action and execute your intention with resolve for a positive outcome.


2) There were several categories of insanity and madness in ancient Irish society. Dasacht or 'madness' was thought to be caused by the fluttering wisp (dlui fulla dlui or alluigh) of a curse from a Druid. A fit of insanity was often called baile, or buile, and it was believed that during the fit the persons body became as light as air. Overall the insane person was regarded under the indigenous Brehon laws with much immunity, with a special divine grace and allowed to wander undisturbed.

"Crafty advice is often gained from a fool or a lunatic."

If we can imagine walking along a beach littered randomly with common stones and pebbles, and then suddenly finding a jewel we would be ecstatic. So it is with wisdom, the most precious and valued is not to be gained in the great halls of learning, universities, or libraries full of thousands of words, it is rather those observations glimpsed in the epileptic and random rattling of the wild mind. That anarchic mind which so often see's the world from an alternative perspective, the lateral mode of thought as defined by Edward de Bono.

The Wheel of Returns.

3) The Druid and Ancient Celts believed in a sort of 'karma' which in essence rests on the principle that whatever actions you performed in the world would come back to you in an eternal circle or wheel of existence. If you treated someone badly, that very same behaviour would, sooner or later reappear in your life to remind you, and perhaps until you truly understand existence and your personal role within it - the cycle would continue. Druids held to one and certain predominant principle; that of truth, both outward and inward (in the microcosm and macro-cosm) existing as a divine source of enlightenment. Therefore the Druid strove to balance and maintain an equility of behaviour, that is to be truthful and honest in their actions and intentions. The irish proverb regarding affections;

"Like the sun on a hill-top, but a thistle on the hearth"

This points to an individual who has not attained this balance within themselves. They shine gloriously on the outside, but inwardly are bent and malformed, intentions do not match behaviour. So it is important for us to reflect on the nature and intentions behind our apparent generosity, match the hand with our heart. As the great Bard once said; "To thine own self be true." Meditation on this is the first step toward a beautiful marriage of mind, body and soul, and a positive and dynamic relationship with friends, family and society.


4) As I mentioned in the last proverb, the ancient Irish and Celtic peoples generally had a strong believe in the transmigration of the soul, which is re-incarnation. The immortality of the soul was strongly tied to the ever revolving wheel of existence, passing continually from one existence to another. Some believed that the soul passed onto a land known as Tir na N'Og, or the land of everlasting youth to be refreshed and then once again reborn. For this reason the traditional Irish wake was a happy and often riotous affair with much celebration and drinking, to send the soul off with a party. On the other hand a birth would be greeted with sadness, aware of the fact that the soul of a person was reappearing into the world. The continuing cycle of existence is expressed in this proverb;

"As the old cock crows, the young chick chirps."

Here we see birth or youth and age or death in complete unison of faith. Both reveal a transcendant beauty where neither age nor wisdom really count; the cycle of life continues. Some of the old Irish tales express the belief that the soul may be reborn into other forms such as animals (for example the story of Fintain and the Hawk of Achille), and for this reason we must be extremely wary of intentionally hurting any forms of life. All life is held to be sacred, each body is the vessel for an immortal spirit, travelling through the boundaries of our perceived reality.


5) Anger is a negative emotion born out of inner frustration at people or events that do not conform to our own world-view, or the way we want things 'to be.' This emotion can ultimately be self destructive if we are not mindful enough to channel it into positive action. Positive action requires us to verbally explain our problem with a specific issue that confronts us, and by doing so our condition may improve. So many problems in the world arise out of anger, ignorance, violence, immaturity, obstinance, bigotry, racism, sexism.....and the list goes on. Perhaps you can be the person to say "the buck stops here" and be different, to follow a logical line of reasoning, not only that but to recognize anger and frustration in others and be a mellowing balm for their upset state of balance, bring them to a sense of harmony and repose. This Irish proverb recognizes several types of people prone to emotional upset;

"No wrong to be done to seven classes of persons excited to anger:- a bard, a chief, a woman, a prisoner, a drunken person, a druid, and a king in his own dominions."

More than anything this proverb teaches us to see the world through the perceptions of others, some in society bear a greater responsibility and are under immense pressure and stress, others are convicted of crimes and stripped of their liberty and self respect, some resort to the use of drugs to try and escape the crushing and degrading effects of modern life, a woman's life involves supporting a family, work, responsibilities, tension and stress.

Mahatma Ghandi said "Be the change you want to see in the world." And in the context of this discussion it could not ring more true. Understanding, openness, and integrity are key facets of both inward and outward change towards a viable peace between people. A mellow word of support to your colleagues or boss at work costs nothing, but may be rewarded manifold and begin a sort of 'chain-reaction' that ultimately brings a resounding and beautiful transformation to your world.

The Earth Mother.

6) Our earthly mother sustains and nurtures us with the milk from her breasts, she tends to our physical well-being and ensures that we grow and mature with enough strength and skill to compete in this world. Our spiritual mother regards our soul, she is the eternal and beginning of ages, the ancient one who is like a stream of inspiration which provides food and fuel for our inner existence. The Ancient One is the one who exists in all of us, as a miniscule seed of immortality.....but which is like the fragment of a star. She controls the seasons and the weather, she has seven youthful periods and seven mates, being reborn over and over in the universal wheel of life, she is the Hag of the myths who dwells beneath the river, of whom the old Irish kings must embrace before being able to mount the throne of authority and once kissed turns into a beautiful and seductive princess of the earth. The Cailleach is the Earth Mother;

"As old as the Cailleach Beare."

In Celtic and Irish myth the Cailleach is the originator of all that exists, the beginning and the most ancient. The eternal Goddess. The danger in refusing to recognize her importance in our spiritual make-up is a fragmentary sense of being, her femininity is an essential factor in our abilty to recognize realms beyond this world, to have faith and direction, to be inspired and to create, to listen and then act with sincerity and certainty. For men, the acceptance of her power and supremacy is one of the most important steps in achieving the nobility of the soul. One of my mentors composed this extraordinary Gaelic creation myth, based on the legends of the Cailleach;

In the Cave of Death beneath the Endless Abyss, there was nothing to be known. All was a "head in a bag." Yet something was not to be denied. Forward strode the giant, dark figure rhyming to her self as she went. In search of her self and seven periods was she. Mighty stones fell into the darkness and color shimmered forth in her wake. Magical writing and symbols appeared in swirls and diagrams as a luminescent testimony to her being. The Sea parted before her as the mountains surged upward seeking the lost home of her apron. Her youth preceded her even as her age marked her. Perhaps it was this that caused the changes though some say that it was the search for her sister-self. The Sun and the Moon came forth to mark the eons of her passing. Life marveled at her endless age, yet there was a point where all came together again. It was so fated even as the birth of no thing marked the endless change. No thing and its sister sang across the ages. The Sun and the Moon sought one another. The Seasons came on the Winds and the Trees remembered their seeds. The Land swelled in her belly and the Stars wandered as cattle across the night sky. The hammer of awareness shaped the Sky into a cauldron in which to serve the cosmic stews, even as the source of plenty sought refuge from chaos. Yet in it all her sadness was uplifted by the joys of her coming lovers even as her youth was stolen seven times the number of infinity from her. Yet hope and love belied this grim vision and a kiss reshaped her misshapen form into loveliness once again. A lover found and a world renewed as the doorway was passed by the Old One and she became the Young One once more. A memory shaped a name and an apron sustained the worlds as the Cave and the Cauldron echoed existence to one another. By Searles O'Dubhain

Sourced From:

Proverbs and Sayings of Ireland, Edited by Sean Gaffney and Seamus Cashman. MJF Books, NY. ISBN 13-978-1-56731-759-6
(With my own commentary!)

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