Traveling to Wisdom
A Sun-Wise Journey Begins ...
“The journey we begin as we answer the call is long, and filled with all that we have been and all that we will become.” ~ Cairistiona Worthington, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids
New Year's Day 2017 - Photo by CJ Shelton
As a new year begins and one season has flowed into another, it is easy to see how the unique spiral of our individual life-course interweaves in a constant dance with Nature. Our daily rhythms are ruled by the sun, our future activities are planned monthly with the waxing and waning of the moon, and the fuller cycle of the year is steered by the slow wheeling stars above. A new year is like resetting a compass for the changes and travels in our lives, a map on which to plot both external and internal voyages.
The freshness and potential of the many dreams that occur during winter’s long dark nights makes January a starting point, a re-orientation as the old year is reviewed and a new one contemplated. With the bustle of the holidays over, these first few weeks are hushed and quiet, expectant of something new and exciting about to happen. Like seeds lying deep beneath the ground and blanketed with layers of ice and snow, we too are full of anticipation, waiting for exactly the right conditions for things to begin germinating.
Four friendly shadows at Island Lake - Photo by CJ Shelton
I was delighted to start my New Year with a beautiful wintry forest walk in the company of good friends. It was filled with the promise of many blessings to come. The brilliant sunlight and snow laden trees casting their sparkly baby-blue shadows in elongated patterns across the white drifts were glorious omens. The feeling was a bit like “First Footing”, an old Scottish custom where the first person to knock at a home’s door becomes the fate-deciding factor for that family’s fortunes in the coming year. In a similar way, I find that whatever activity I am engaged in on New Year’s seems to set the tone for the year's journey ahead.
The Irish also have a beautiful understanding of the sacredness of cycles and the need to mark them. The word turas
(pronounced TU’ras) means “journey” or “pilgrimage”. It refers to the circular, spiraling prayer and meditation practice engaged in by Celtic peoples as they walk sun-wise around a sacred site.
Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick in Cumbria, England
Nature’s rhythms are a turas
as well and the changes we witness in her cycles often reflect back to us the changes we ourselves are undergoing. Sometimes these changes are dramatic and path-altering or can feel like obstructions. More often than not though, they are simply marking the slow, quiet progress that occurs almost imperceptibly, day by day.
On our personal turas,
each step and turn on the path may seem insignificant by itself, but when viewed as part of a bigger pattern is seen to have indeed been essential to the whole. By living in awareness of the dance between Nature's year and our own life, we find ourselves gradually traveling towards wisdom.
As we make our way we need to remember too that the physical world is not the only realm with which we interact. Just as real is the “Otherworld”, the world of Spirit, which we experience through our soul senses. For Celtic people, the spirit world is just as influential and worthy of notice as any other aspect of life. The intricate and interwoven over-under knot-work patterns found in their art skillfully demonstrates how they view the Spirit in all things as an ever-flowing and interdependent force.
Within the complex Celtic patterns there is always a stabilizing centre point, whether obvious or merely implied. Similarly, in the heavens above there is a “pole-star”, a prominent star which lies directly above the earth’s North or South Pole and acts like an anchor for the wheeling solar year. As above, so below, as the wisdom teaching says… and just as every Celtic knot has a pivotal centre point around which everything else turns, so there are core values, a purpose, or some other constant by which we measure our lives and maintain our centre.
In the physical world, the term “pole-star” usually refers to Polaris
, the North Star. Ancient peoples called it the “the nail of heaven” because it was a single and unchanging aspect of the sky which sailors and other travelers could rely on as an unfailing guide, even on the darkest night.
As one of my favourite Celtic writers Caitlin Matthews says, “discovering our own true north as the compass point of our soul’s direction is a worthwhile enterprise on our spiritual path. Our true north may not be an actual belief system or ideology, religious figure or archetype. It may be something that is nearer to an instinct or feeling of traveling in the right direction, something that we sniff in the wintry air or intuit from the glancing rays of the sun through the leafless trees. Our true north is a homing instinct innate to each of us, privileged information that defines the nature of our goal – even though we may have no clear idea of that goal or of an otherworldly locus.”
Our own pole-star or true north needs to be clearly identified and acknowledged in order to keep us on track, regardless of what others may think or say to the contrary.
Even if we feel our ideas changing over the years or the need to discard something because it not longer “fits”, it is in all
the experiences we have along our personal turas
that our spirituality develops, grows and matures. In order to live our lives fully and walk our spiritual path truly, we cannot leave out any part of ourselves or our experiences – every single bit of who we are and what we do has to be included in order for our map to be complete and our compass to function.
So, as the year gradually lengthens into its own sun-wise journey, I would like to leave you with a few questions to ponder and dream on throughout these cold January nights: who was the first person to cross your home’s threshold at New Year’s and what fortune did their presence seem to foretell? What omens did you take note of as the Great Wheel slowly re-set us back to true North and eased itself into winter? More importantly, what is your personal pole-star, your guiding light? I hope that considering these questions assists you on your own travels to wisdom as well as sheds new light on our collective sun-wise journey over the next twelve months.
Mandala making is a type of "turas", a way to express and visualize internal journeys in external form. My upcoming Mandala Painting Day offers an opportunity to create your own Celtic design like the one in this newsletter. Other creative journeys you can take is Colour Me Red, or my new winter-themed watercolour workshops. All will have you appreciating winter in a whole new way. For those not so artistically inclined, there is my new course Journeying Through the Tarot that will help you apply the wisdom of this intriguing tool to your own life. So which of these journeys calls to you and what voyage to new shores are you ready to embark on this winter ...?
May you enjoy the dance!
Artist, Instructor & Facilitator
Dancing Moon Designs
Illuminating the Creative Spirit through
the Symbol of the Circle ...