I don’t know about you but I have always looked to the East, if I have to apply any mythological interpretation to my life. Up until this week, it has escaped my notice that I have my own Celtic mythology. These myths are just as rich, and infused with allegory, as any of the other mystical traditions.
But sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the difference between Myth and Reality, especially if you watch as much TV as I do. For example when I watch ‘Game of Thrones’ and I hear the Starks saying ‘winter is coming’, it now carries a new weight for me. It now reminds me of these all those Celtic stories.
When winter comes we are supposed to retreat from this world, we huddle up for warmth and safety and we work on our roots. We go inside and we go deep into that cave. We embrace the darkness of winter as we might surrender to the void in meditation. We are entering a place of manifestation, a place where dreams of summer fruits are hatched.
Nowadays we tend to have warmth and food to last all winter, so we never have to face this darkness with the same fear that our ancestors had to. Perhaps you have to find yourself cold and homeless to truly know when you are close to the borders of that strange land.
Another of my favourite TV shows is ‘Stranger Things’. It introduces a shadow world that seems to mirror our own reality. They call it the ‘upside down’. It too has it roots in Celtic folklore.
The Celtic cosmology is based on a principle that I have talked about before. If you remember – I was talking about how life and death are just two sides of the same coin. In Celtic tradition all things are made up of this light and dark contrast. The year splits into two halves. Beltane starts summer and Samhain (Halloween) starts winter.
There is a period either side of those two dates where they start to merge into each other but on the actual days (30th of April and the 31st of October) the doors between the two worlds are most fully open.
Carlos Castaneda called this the “crack between the worlds”. This is the ‘In-between’ – a border land between the ‘upside down’ and our world.
For the Celts this border between dark and light appears everywhere. The year splits into winter and summer. Each day moves from day to night. We move from conscious to dreaming constantly throughout the day. The ‘in-between’ also appears in every town boundary, every crack in the pavement. Where fields join together, where hedgerows skirt with roads, and most importantly wherever water meets land.
Even if we don’t realise it, we are all fascinated with these thin places; the places where time slows down, or even stops. These etheric moments draw us in with their kaleidoscope of detail. We will stand in front of a sunset, watching the sun cross over that boundary. And when the hills burn red with fire we listen whilst every bird sings the song of that ‘crossing over’. It is in these magical moments where spirit and matter meet. In these moments we should stop and pay attention. We listen for the gentle word of advice; that knowing nudge of approval; the fragrant kiss of a loved one that is gone, but not forgotten. For it is within these ‘between world cracks’, that true wisdom can be found.
Note: I would be doing him a great disservice if I didn’t mention that a lot of the mythological inspiration that I have been applying to my journey has come from an amazing story teller called Micheal Meade. He has a fascinating podcast, that is worth listening to. His insights into applying Myth into modern reality has opened up so many new doors for me.