Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
And may the moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
~ Traditional Celtic Prayer
At this mid-February time of year I always feel spring stirring, despite there being a few weeks of cold and storms yet to face.
Perhaps it is the part of me that is deeply connected to the land and senses the seeds far beneath the snow and soil already beginning to germinate with the increasing light; or the part of me that wonders how the Mother Tree in my favourite forest has coped this winter since I haven’t visited there since early December. This concern is well placed, given the number of ice storms we have had in our area and how many trees are still bowed down from the weight they bore for days on end.
Then there is the part of me that is concerned for the animals and birds and how they are faring. My local crow family has certainly been very active, as have the squirrels, since it has been a much milder winter than most. While these are good signs, I still find myself saying a little prayer on their behalf, as I frequently do during Nature’s harshest months.
This winter though, many of my prayers have been for the devastating loss of habitat and animal life in the Australian wildfires. So much so, that during the Alton Mill’s Fire & Ice Festival in January I created a special collaborative mandala to help collect the prayers of many people on Australia’s behalf.
Amazingly, at the festival that day was a local firefighter who had just returned from helping on the frontlines of the Aussie fires. After giving some of my visitors a first-hand account of his harrowing experience I was deeply touched when he added his own special prayer for the animals to my painting.
Prayers for the Planet (pictured below) is still a work-in-progress. My intent is to keep adding other animals and other creatures to it, expanding its circle of prayer to not only the land down under, but to all areas struggling because of climate change and other human-caused indignities.
Prayers for the Planet by CJ Shelton
My prayers are for the rewilding of these beleaguered places; that they be allowed the time and healing space to restore themselves to their natural, uncultivated state and that the wildlife that has been driven out or exterminated can return and thrive once again. While rewilding is something that runs counter to our human attempts to control and commodify nature, never has the need for us to recognize this opposite approach been more imperative. And never has the need been greater for us to pray as well as act as agents of change.
Prayer can be very powerful. It is the one thing we can do when we feel helpless in the face of great loss or tragedy. The ancient Celts recognized this and used a “circling” prayer form known as a caim. Its basic format is still used by modern Celts even today, as well as by some Christians, wiccans, pagans, light-workers and neo-druids. In short, it can be used by anyone who believes in the value of prayer.
The word caim is Gaelic, and means “protection” or “sanctuary”. Derived from the root word meaning to “circle”, or to bend or turn, a caim is an invisible circle of protection that is created or drawn symbolically around the body to encircle the one who is praying, as well as anyone – or anything – they wish to also include.
A caim is not only a spiritual act, but a way to pray within the physical dimension, as it requires the body to actively participate along with the mind, the voice and the heart. The power of this prayer-form is that all who are placed within this sacred space can feel safe and loved, even in the darkest of times.
The following caim prayer is one of the very oldest and is attributed to St. Columba, the founder of Iona Abbey on the Isle of Mull, off the coast of Scotland.
Bless to me the sky that is above me.
Bless to me the ground that is beneath me.
Bless to me the friends who are around me.
Bless to me the love of the Three, deep within me and encircling me.
My own spiritual practices are a blend of the Celtic/Anglo Saxon traditions of my British ancestors and the Algonquin tradition I am aligned with through shamanic Medicine Rites. Seeing the natural world as sacred is a fundamental feature of both Celtic and First Nations spirituality, so a love of nature is literally coded into my DNA.
When I pray a caim, or open Sacred Space, as it is known in Algonquin tradition, I also call in the Four Great Directions – East, South, West and North – as well as the Above, Below and Centre. I also frequently extend the boundaries beyond my personal circle of my home or studio, to the community in which I live, and then to the world at large – natural and human. By encircling a space much larger than myself I am including the vast and diverse web of life of which I know I am fundamentally a part, as are we all.
Rather than just being a way of invoking protection against things that may be harmful, dangerous or out of control, extending a caim’s protection beyond myself to include the plants, trees, rocks, birds and other wildlife, invites the full scope of the rest of the world and the more-than-human community of life into my sphere of relationship and attunement.
This type of invitation is also my way of paying homage to the numinous in nature – that which is mysterious, spiritual and, at times, even supernatural. It acknowledges that I am just one of many interwoven threads within our planet’s much larger web of wonders. Casting an encircling prayer beyond my own domesticated borders also creates a space and an atmosphere of expectation – a knowing that mystery and magic can, and will, happen because the whole of Creation is now a part of my caim circle. In this way, the caim becomes an eco-centric (not ego) way of praying and one that includes All My Relations.
Practicing encircling prayers of this type can be done anywhere and by anyone. Simply center yourself, take a few deep breaths and tune in to the natural and/or human world all around you. When you feel grounded and calm, position your body facing whichever direction feels right to start with. Breathe deeply and stretch out your arm in front of you with your index finger extended and pointed. I sometimes also use a feather or my rattle rather than my finger.
Draw a metaphorical circle around you as you slowly turn your body in a clock-wise rotation while saying your invocation or prayer. Be sure to include all those you wish to offer extra love and protection to. You can say a traditional prayer from whichever faith tradition you follow, or a caim like the one by St. Columba, or your own heart-felt wording. I typically use a combination of all these things, often making it up as I go, but always spoken with intention and reverence.
Creating sacred space in this way is empowering and tangible. It is a way of acting intentionally in the face of the relentless bad news we are being constantly fed through the media. It is a way of focusing energy through speaking aloud about that which you wish to change. Somehow, having your words witnessed by Spirit solidifies them and makes it more likely that you will follow through with your own conscious actions in the physical world to help manifest these changes … because thoughts become reality and when said prayerfully, and by many, their power cannot be underestimated.
We are living in a time of contrast between fire and ice. In many cases, too much of one is melting the other. Our icy and milder-than-most winters in the north and the out-of-control fires down under are signs that cannot be ignored. The world as we have known it is changing and not for the better.
But … whenever we feel fear in the face of what is happening to our world, we can pray a caim. And when we pray – however we pray – we can extend our circle of safety to include not just ourselves and our loved ones, but all the parts of Nature’s greater web that are struggling to cope with the many shocking ways we humans have upset its balance.
If each of us were to do this every day, in combination with making conscious choices, recycling and downsizing, sending monetary donations, donating our time and making our voices heard, we can begin turning this “fire and ice” situation around. Belief PLUS action is the key to healing our world.
So say a caim and offer your protection for all of Creation. And, once it is complete, feel the waves of concentric circles rippling out from your own sacred circle to merge with the prayers of others and eventually with the greater sacred hoop of our planet and beyond. Know that you are doing your part and that every little prayer counts. And just believe … because Creation will respond.
Upcoming Spring Workshops
Spring is almost here! Click on the links below to check out what's coming up at the studio in the next couple of months.
"Seed to Seed" Mandala Manifestation Workshop
Special Extra Session Added!
Sat. March 14, 2020 This workshop was so popular I have added another session. It's a fun and creative way to work with your dreams and goals using sacred geometry and Nature's own growing cycle. Click here for more information and to register.
Spring Chickadee Watercolour Workshop
Saturday March 21, 2020
Welcome in spring by spending a delightful afternoon learning to paint an adorable chickadee in watercolour. This is a great starter class for those new to watercolour as well as those with more experience. Click here for more information and to register.
Celtic Knot Watercolour Workshop
Saturday April 25, 2020
Let's get knotty! This fun “try-it” workshop will introduce you to an easy technique to construct the beautiful intricate and twisty knot patterns typically found in traditional Celtic art. Click here for more information and to register.
Ongoing Classes & Sessions
I offer a variety of private and group opportunities to help guide you on your creative and spiritual journeys. Check out the different options below or visit my website at www.dancingmoondesigns.ca
"Seeing With New Eyes" Drawing Classes
Explore you own creativity! Register and start anytime to learn the fundamentals of drawing or hone your existing skills. Take as few as just four sessions or as many as you like. Some of my most loyal students have been with me for 3-4 years which is a wonderful testament to just how enjoyable these classes are.
Acrylic Painting Classes
Suitable for both complete beginners and more advanced students, plus those seeking professional input and guidance on specific painting projects. These sessions are a full two hours where you can focus totally on subject matter of your choice and have my guidance throughout your painting process.
Private Drawing and Painting Sessions
if you are a nervous newbie and want to get your feet wet before joining a group or want more personal guidance on a specific project, I am available for one-on-one sessions. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options or book a session.
The Mystic's Circle Held every Third Thursday Evening of the Month
My monthly Mystic's Circle provides a safe container for learning, exploring and sharing ideas on all things of a spiritual nature. To see if this group is the right fit for you please email me at email@example.com
Thank you to all who responded to my request for feedback on my new website and ideas for future newsletters.
The winner of the draw for a print of my painting Rise is Bethany who will be notified by email. Thanks Bethany!
Lastly, as we wait out these last few weeks of winter, I wish you all the wonder and potential of the seeds beneath the snow and look forward to more creating, learning and “unfolding” with you this spring.
May you walk in beauty,
CJ Shelton Artist, Instructor & Facilitator
Dancing Moon Designs Illuminating the Creative and Spiritual Life