Celtic Wisdom: A Captivating Spiritual Legacy

The lyric melody of celtic music is captivating to the senses. At the very least, it can lift our spirits and lighten our hearts. At best, it can assist us in transcending our limitations and connecting with a higher consciousness. Music in general has the singular power to bring about an immediate attitude adjustment. For that reason, music is sacred in all spiritual traditions. Constant chatter gives way to interior reflection as the music plays. There is a spiritual component to celtic music that mirrors the essence of celtic wisdom. As music attracts and transforms us, the celtic experience of nature with fully attentive senses is also considered spiritually sacred.

To walk the hills and valleys of the earthly landscape, mindfully, is a spiritual act. In our own lives, an appreciation of the world outside the walls of our home or office offers us an opportunity to reconnect to something that is more beautiful and glorious than our usual, limited perspective of the world.

The complexity of modern life and perhaps the lure of materialism all contribute to the estrangement we often feel from our spiritual selves. We look outside of ourselves for answers or solutions and rarely consider entering the silence within.

Interior meditation is a practice embraced by several spiritual traditions and it requires that we turn away from our hectic pace to give it a try. Start by endeavoring to awaken your awareness through the simple act of stepping outside. Can you remember a moment in time when the beauty of the world took your breath away? Was it a snow-capped mountain, a sunset masterpiece or an animal in the wild? Recall how you felt during this awe-inspiring encounter.

If anything, a true perspective on life was restored and we remembered that life is a precious gift. Treat yourself to a walk very soon. Focus on whatever it is that catches your attention. Try not to think, instead quiet your mind and engage in appreciation. You may be surprised at what you learn.

The world can be a very alienating place; we need a sanctuary where we can restore our souls. For matters of personal responsibility, we need to be out in the world yet, it is equally important to step off the beaten path, still the coursing thoughts in our mind and reflect on spiritual truth.

Celtic tradition points to the connectedness of life. Not only do we affect each other through our thoughts and actions, but we affect the living earth. We all have something to offer, this is our birth right. As we look up at the stars, listen to the waves as they crash ashore and feel the sand underneath us, we are active participants in this connectedness.

We can learn from spoken truth as readily as we gain knowledge from the miracle of a seed sprouting into visible life. The old Irish saying: “isn’t the hand of a stranger, the hand of God?”; supports this notion of connectedness. Therein lies our true destiny. In this life, it is incumbent upon us to nurture our own soul growth, be of service to others and leave the little patch of earth we call home better than we found it.

However, if we are trudging along through life and ignoring the promptings of our soul, how authentic is our path? Working towards harmony within ourselves and with each other, as we acknowledge that we are part of something much larger, is the road to inner peace, and it is within our grasp. We are personally responsible for our own happiness in this life. We possess all that we need to achieve our dreams, survive day-to-day and live life to the fullest. We began to connect with this power the moment we decide to journey within our own interior silence.

We may be unable to singlehandedly end violence, pollution and discord, but we can clean up our own act. Celtic tradition tells us that ancient wisdom already exists within us. One does not have to come from a line of celts to possess this wisdom; it’s available to all.

The celtic way is but one of the paths to follow. For those of you with celtic lineage, this path may speak truth to you on a very deep level. A famous Irish Saint, St. Brigid, was known for her love for the land. By entering a sanctuary, be it outside or in the next room, we are able to examine our life, transcend our limitations and tap into that ancient wisdom within.

Dedicate this day to a new beginning in your life. Consider it an opportunity to implement a change. What self-imposed or self-imagined limitation do you wish to transcend? Build upon your self-improvement by remaining fully engaged with truth, reality and what it is you must work through to arrive at a better place. Remember, that which is worthwhile and valuable in life is not given to us – we must do the footwork and put in the time to advance ourselves on the path.

It is through the presence of balance in our life that we experience harmony. Listen to the complaints that you might speak only to yourself throughout the day; herein lie the clues to the possible extremes that keep you off balance. Clarify to yourself, what it is that constitutes your personal truth. What feels authentic? What feels strained? What would you change if you could? Contemplate your unfulfilled desires. What is holding you back? Procrastination? Time? Money? Cast aside these concepts of lack and limitation and begin, simply begin.

Release the need to be validated by the world. Step out into the open air, breathe deeply and chart your own course. Refuse to be constrained by rigid opinions; be they your own or those belonging to others.

Dare to walk in the direction of your dream as impossible as it may appear from the perspective of your present circumstances. You are not alone. Your life is connected to all there is or ever was. The path of celtic spirituality is best initiated outside, in view of the sunrise, while the leaves still cradle morning dew, like precious jewels. Begin your personal journey in touch with the beauty God has created and take it with you as you start your day.

Celtic Cross Stitch – What Makes This A Great Embroidery Project

For more than twenty five centuries, the Celtic art has been a great inspiration for many forms of artworks to be produced. These include the Celtic cross stitch. Such design can be found in so many random things from framed cross stitch embroideries to cushion covers and tapestries.

Such fascination for the Celtic art can be attributed to the intricacy in detail. They are very bold, striking and simply enticing. The ancient ornaments and belongings possessed by the early to the modern Celts bear very obscure yet elaborate patterns. The most common in these utensils, jewelry, swords, shields, ships and other stuff is the spirals or triskeles (three interlocked spirals).

Cross stitching this design could be very easy even in this day. You can firstly look into Celtic art history books, which are surely packed with so many inspirations. You can take on rendering a gold collar, torc, brooch, helmet, shield or any other Celtic item into an embroidery art work. You can transfer the design into paper that has the same count of blocks as the fabric you will use for the project.

If you rather lack the time to create your own design, you have another option. There are so many online sites you can access today. Many of these sites showcase hundreds of Celtic cross stitch design ideas. Some of these patterns are for free, while some are for a minimal fee. The designs are surely of high quality and are easy to follow whether they are for free or otherwise. All you need is to download and print whatever design you choose.

These include patterns of Celtic birds, ships, phrases, alphabet, knots, braids, animals and plants. Note that many of these designs are not only confined to the traditional Celtic art mark spirals. A lot of these bear different motifs such as knots, palmettes, vines, tendrils, lyre and trumpet shapes, waves and energetic circular forms. There are also some sites that showcase Celtic clip arts, symbols and fonts that can be used for stitching patterns.

If you want to stick to creating your own design or pattern, there is still an option for you. Scout for sites that offer free access to chart generators. This tool enables you to make patterns for any kind of Celtic-inspired symbol or art work.

In addition, there are also sites that provide different inspirations for Celtic art. Some of these sites showcase the diverse forms of Celtic culture and history. There are poems, myths, stories, heroes, ships and other ideas that are highly anchored on such rich ethnicity. These could then be great resources especially if you want to create a unique Celtic design.

On a final note, any embroiderer’s life could be so much easier with the help of online sites that provide not only the Celtic designs. You could find so many sites that also offer a wide range of cross stitch supplies. A wide array of cross stitch thread options from silk to stranded cotton floss is definitely more accessible via such virtual venues.

On Celtic Tides – One Man’s Journey Around Ireland With a Sea Kayak – A Book Review

Chris Duff has always been a man more at home in the water than out of it. He was working with the US Navy in Holy Loch, Scotland in 1982 when his enlistment period ended. Faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to re-enlist, he opted to return to civilian life. Soon the dream of an Irish journey would be born.

Chris tried several trades, at one point working in upstate New York as a butcher’s assistant to an old couple from Ireland. When he asked where the old man was from he was told the Aran Islands. For those of us who love Ireland it brings delightful visions of stone cottages and late night music sessions into our heads. The couple pulled a coffee table book off a shelf and opened it to some striking images of the Aran Islands and its people – rough seas, steep rock cliffs, stone houses, skin-covered boats called currachs and rugged, wind-worn faces. Our man Chris was captivated by the wild sea surrounding that beautiful island and a seed was sown in his brain that would grow and give birth to a life-changing Celtic adventure fourteen years later.

Chris’s decision to kayak around Ireland was not the first such journey for him. He embodies the spirit of adventure that many of us only dream about. He had kayaked around the US and Canada – twelve months and 8000 miles. He had also circumnavigated Great Britain – five and a half months and 3000 miles. Ireland, however, with its wild seas and unprotected west coast, with powerful waves meeting the first landfall of Europe, would be a different story entirely.

The starting point is Dublin’s famous River Liffey on June 1, 1996. The sacred vessel of the journey, an eighteen foot sea kayak loaded with one hundred pounds of food, water and camping gear, a journal wrapped in plastic for safe keeping and a map of the Irish coast carefully splash-guarded at the helm. As Chris begins his travels he shares with us his blessings – ten years of carpentry work had allowed him to save enough to take this precious time off for this adventure, to “take the time and just be quiet for a few months.” Few of us have ever know that luxury but he has worked hard for it and appreciates it; lucky for us he shares every moment so we can enjoy it vicariously through his words.

What struck me most about Chris’s writing is the mystery and wonder with which he regards the beauties of nature around him, particularly the west coast of Ireland, where stark cliffs are pounded by strong seas and winds whip wildly. At times he kayaks into sea caves along the coast and paddles in the semi-darkness and one feels his reverence for what nature has wrought in our landscape.

Ireland’s coastline is simply mad with bird life, particular the islands off the coast. At one point a large-winged fulmar watches him curiously, floating in the air and staring him in the eyes. Chris says to him “You are so beautiful my friend. What have you seen and where have you been today?” There is a timelessness in the eyes of such a bird, that can make us feel our insignificance in the face of Mother Nature. Chris visits islands rich with bird colonies – cormorants, puffins, shags, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, razorbills – by the thousands. They are all very tolerant of his presence and simply accept him rather than flying into a frenzy at his approach as one would expect. It’s a bird watcher’s paradise.

Along the journey, Chris visits numerous islands – some with names that sound familiar like Skellig Michael and Clare Island, others that are tiny dots on the ocean landscape. In foul weather he sits out the wind and waves, peering from his tent at the storm outside, waiting for a break in the weather. He takes us with him as he sleeps in a beehive hut or paddles under a waterfall near Dingle Bay to take a cold freshwater shower or even goes religiously pub hopping from session to session in the busy pub town of Dingle.

What is remarkable is that unlike many with Irish ancestry, Chris Duff did not come to Ireland to seek his past. He wanted to enjoy a challenging kayaking journey and be alone with the winds and the waves. The powerful force of the Irish landscape and the Irish people, however, makes its mark upon him. He begins to feel not only a sense of belonging but a sense of wonder and of loss. As he walks through tangles of wildflowers on a deserted island, he comes across ruins of stone cottages and chapels and the history of the place pours forth to ensnare him as it has done to so many others. He muses:

“Across the narrow waterway two stone house ruins stood bathed in the last rays of sun. The island, radiant in the evening light, looked as if it was an enchanted fairy tale land. Shadows of stone walls divided green meadows, and the cap of rock that broke through at the top of the island looked like a place where fairies might dance…”

I found it a pleasure to travel the circumference of the Emerald Isle with a philosophizing “American canoeist.” His courage in the face of the wild waves of the west coast is mind-boggling to a land lubber like myself. At one point he lands safely on some remote shore only to be greeted by a local emergency crew that was looking for him. Someone had spotted him “struggling” in the waves and thought he was in distress. Meanwhile he had been having the time of his life happily battling the waves!

The names of the landmarks of his journey ring like a cast of famous actors with cameos in a blockbuster film – Mizen Head, Dursey Head, the Skelligs, Dingle Bay, the Blaskets, The River Shannon, Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, Clare Island – and more! The list goes on. It truly is a cast of remarkable characters and keeps you guessing which one will walk on stage next.

When visiting the Blasket Islands, which were abandoned reluctantly by the villagers in the 1950’s, Chris comments that in a kayak the paddler always sits facing forward. In the traditional Irish currach, however, the oarsmen face the rear of the boat and watch their wake. This last view of their island must have been quite painful for the villagers as they rowed further and further away from the ancestral home of their kin.

The people along the way are uniquely Irish. Whenever Chris emerges from the sea, seemingly out of nowhere, he is met with remarks of disbelief. “You’ve come from Dublin in that?! I think y’er mad.” The kindness to strangers has always been the hallmark of Irish hospitality; thousands of years ago it was actually mandated by the Brehon laws of the land. It simply seems second nature to a generous people. The fishermen who casually hand him a few lobster claws or some cleaned fish for his dinner, along with advice about his crossing. The housewife who makes him dinner and asks him to join the family by the fire for a night of storytelling. The couple who rise at dawn to see him off on the next leg of his journey. The fellow kayaker in Galway who gives him a place to stay and relax after a spell of bad weather and helps carry his heavy kayak through the crowded streets of the city. It is only sadly in the north of Ireland, where the troubles were still raging, where his knock at a door is met with suspicion and fear rather than a smile and a warm welcome by the fire.

Ireland is a revelation to our kayaker friend. He is awed by the natural beauty of windswept islands and cliff-lined coasts, drawn to the friendly people, bewildered by the sheer volume of history bursting from the seams of the landscape and humbled by the mysterious sacredness he feels. He has a gift for storytelling, for describing a scene down to the last rays of the sun, that may well be proof of his Irish ancestry.

To those who are faint of heart, there are scenes in this book which are truly harrowing. Chris paddles over waves that would frighten the be-jaysus out of you and me and navigates around submerged rocks that could puncture his wee kayak and drown him. But truth be told, he does finish his journey safely. As the old saying goes, he “lives to tell the tale.” So enjoy every beautiful and hair raising second of it!

Copyright Janet McGrane Bennett 2010