Discussion & Politics

Reflections on Balance in Celtic Traditions During Challenging Times

“Balance is key, without balance there’s conflict , a battle between positivity and negativity.” – Brian Benjamin Sotomayor

Spud Murphy recently launched a fundraiser and raised an astounding 26,000 zl over a week for Ukranian refugees. His local refugee welcome center is now as prepared as they can be and we offer a huge congratulations to Spud and his family for such a genuine and wonderful endeavor! Of course, we wanted to touch base with him and get his reflections related to current events and how his own spiritual beliefs have shaped him over recent years…

Many of us who come to Celtic spirituality come at it as a dabbler. That’s really the way the world has gone, a bit of this, a bit of that, give it a swirl and see what happens. This is, afterall, pretty much what postmodernism is, albeit any expert you ask will have a somewhat differing definition and largely, thanks to this approach, the world of spirituality and ritual birthed Chaos Magic.

This is certainly how I came back to Celtic lore, although I must say that unlike many of my brethren born on the island I was lucky to have teachers who instilled in us a love for mythology. Years later I found it baffling that people who had been in schools around my wee village hadn’t been taught the tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill, Cú Chulainn or the Children of Lir. The stories always stayed with me and it wasn’t until I embraced spirituality in my life that I felt the need to return to Celtic spirituality.

Show me someone interested in spirituality in this postmodern world who hasn’t flirted with Buddhism and I’ll show you someone who will flirt with Buddhism. Buddhism’s aim, of course, is to achieve enlightenment, to have the Buddha mind and after flirting with Buddhism and learning of the common roots of both Eastern and Western spirituality as being the Vedic tradition I needed to look into why Buddhism embraced the idea of Yin Yang as it expanded. The Eastern religions/philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc.. will expound upon the need for balance in our lives and the constant play between polarities as we muddle along in this crazy, joyful, painful existence. We all know we cannot know love without knowing what its opposite is, just as we cannot experience light without knowing what dark is.

We know too that the Irish druids practiced Imbas Forosnai, Teinm Láida and Dichetal Do Chennaib. These were, basically; insight meditation, divination and poetic insight; a kind of ‘free poetry’ where words were spoken until an insight was achieved i.e. mantra meditation. So, we can see here that what the Vedas were practicing, on the other side of the world, and what evolved into the behemoths of Eastern spirituality were also being practiced in ancient Ireland, Britain and Gaul. The actualities of the practices; it is said that for Imbas Forosnai a druid would chew some raw pork and spit it out before retiring to a dark place for a few days to obtain his goal, others say they ate amanita muscaria, like the Shamans of Siberia and Eastern Europe. You’ll know this mushroom, the red one with white dots seen all across the north hemisphere. What matters though is that there are similar traditions here that’s often missed. 

As Eastern traditions expanded they ran with the notion of the older Chinese idea of Yin Yang. Yin Yang describes that there is always balance in the world and that because one polarity cannot exist without the other there is always an element of the opposite in its opposite. But where is this in Celtic spirituality? You can make the argument that it’s inherent in the Celtic triskelion (triskeles) but the problem is that there are three elements. Depending on who you ask they represent many things; mind, body, spirit; sky, earth, sea; the three worlds of the Celts, the celestial, physical and spiritual. But, we can obviously see the glaring problem here, three elements aren’t the same as the Yin Yan notion of balance of polarities. 

Many times an answer is staring you in the face but you can’t see it. That was where I found myself. And then it hit me, our ancient Irish ancestors didn’t have something like a balance of polarities because it was second nature. Everything in Celtic spirituality pointed at the balance of the world around them. It was such a given that it didn’t really need explanation. Research has shown that when Celtic societies undertook rituals, offerings and adhered to correct behaviour they were imitating the balance inherent in the world around them. We know that all rivers, mountains, hills, even trees had spirits and they would reach out to these entities when they felt either an unbalance in their life or when they wanted to ensure such balance remained.

In the times we find ourselves in it is our duty to the universe to strive for balance. The horrific war in Ukraine finds our Eastern European brothers fighting for Western ideals of freedom, democracy and justice. We must open our hearts, homes and wallets to people fleeing and be a bastion of goodness against the evil we see being done there by a power-mad autocrat. By marching towards love we can help balance out the hate we see.

Spud Murphy is an Irish writer and woodworker living half the year on the Polish-Czech border and the other half on the Polish-Ukranian border. You can view more of his writing and reflections at http://www.spudmurphy.net.

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