At the beginning of June I was privileged to attend one of the most inspirational and heart-warming, not to mention educational and amusing weekends I have ever known. Shamanic Lands is a series of seminars which seemed custom-made for me. Not only was it centred upon the notion of recovering the shamanic teachings of our own lands, but it also sought to reach out to other shamanic cultures to allow for a comparison of practise and belief.
The icing on the cake was that three of the speakers whom I have been trying to get to see individually would all be there in one place. I would get to see Philip Carr-Gomm, Caitlin Matthews and Patrick MacManaway all speak at the same event. Despite being in London – not a place I associate immediately with shamanic work – the venue was Conway Hall, and it was a delightful place for such work.
Let me begin my series of reports with the irrepressible Philip Carr-Gomm. He introduced the show with such a vibrant and impish manner that you couldn’t help but be engaged and amused. The tone was set perfectly. Yet, like a proper wisdom teacher, his apparent rambling style actually delivered a carefully structure format describing the OBOD grades and how they translate into the ranks of Bard, Ovate and Druid using the terms “Singer, Shaman and Sage“.
There’s not much to report on his talk. All that he said is probably old news to many of the readers of this blog. If you want the detail then I would suggest that a read of the OBOD web site would get that information for you. Yet, what you wouldn’t get is the delightful delivery, and mellifluous voice, and the engaging smile which draws an audience into a feeling of gentle persuasion. He was utterly charming. I saw a chance after his talk to simply say to him that many years ago I read his book “The Druid Tradition” and whilst I didn’t understand it fully at the time, it later proved to be an instrumental grounding in the teachings that I would later come to know for myself, and then later still re-visit to recognise the similarities between “found practise” and the Druidic revival culture that OBOD germinates.
Caitlin Matthews – The Colour of the Winds
Caitlin’s introduction to her talk about the element of air, and specifically the winds, was to quite the poet Fiona MacLeod (aka William Sharp). I wish I had paid more attention to the extract, but I remember it was from the poem “Iona”. It was a beautiful introduction to evoke a poetic image of the winds.
I will now report some of the parts of her talk that I made notes about. Every now and again she would break into song, singing parts of a poem or song, or evoking the sounds of wind through the use of her pitch and tone. An amazing and unique speaker! I cannot do justice to her delivery, but here were some of her points distilled to their essence.
Orienting yourself by the winds
The division of Ireland can be seen to have been done according to the nature or properties of the four directions (and the centre).
In order to orient yourself in any land simply ask four questions about the winds:-
- From which direction does the HOTTEST wind blow?
- From which direction does the WETTEST wind blow?
- From which direction does the DRIEST wind blow?
- From which direction does the COLDEST wind blow?
In our country the answers would be: South, West, East and North. This will vary for each country or region that you may visit.
Winds in Mythology
The winds as represented in Celtic mythology are:-
- Cailleach Bheur – The Crone – Mother of Gales – Associated with the South West – Said to blow three times through Imbolc.
- Manannan Mac Lir – the Sea wind god of Ireland and The Isle of Man. He is Manawydan in Wales.
- An Gaoth Sidhe – the Fairy Wind
- Taliesin releasing Elphin through his invocation of the wind through his poetry
- Saltair Na Rann – a creation story sharing much of its material with The Book of Enoch.
Now that we were familiar with the ways in which the winds had been represented, or rather the ways in which the knowledge of the winds had been preserved over time, it was time to do some more practical work with the winds. In the next part I will describe the colours of the winds, and how to find your birth wind, then I will explain a pattern of the winds which came to while I was listening to Caitlin.