Standing, holding uncertainty

As part of my weekly cherishing of myself, this past Sunday evening I registered for a live Zoom by Dolores Whelan and Mari Kennedy on the “Gifts and Wisdom of the Celtic Tradition for these uncertain times.” The Celtic religious traditions – both spiritually and socially – were quite different until Christianity went the way of Rome after the Synod of Whitby in 665 CE. Between the Celtic spiritual sensibility and the Brehon legal system based on reparative justice as opposed to punitive measures, life on the Celtic fringes was the light that blazed during the Dark Ages. Brehon law lingered in the Gaelic areas of Ireland up until the 17th century and was a liberal system that enshrined women’s rights when few existed elsewhere in European civilisation.

Nor did the Whitby Synod completely extinguish the underpinnings of Celtic spirituality and religious practice. The popularity of John O’ Donohue’s writings tapped into a hunger for that older wisdom creating something of a renaissance.

Ancient Celtic wisdom revers nature, contemplative silence, the giving of hospitality as a sacred duty, and the porous veil between our material world and ‘the other world.’ Dolores gave us an Irish proverb in translation- “Tir na nÓg is behind my house.” As Mari Kennedy discussed, the ancient Celtic world a millenia and more ago operated so that individuals were responsible for being in ‘right relationship’ with themselves, with the land, with their neighbours and with their god. Sovereignty was not just for the high king. It was, and still is, about living with integrity and maintaining that wholeness in all one’s dealings. That right relationship with all four is the cross surrounded by the circle of wholeness. Right relationship opens a way for there to be reparative justice rather than the punitive justice of our current systems.

The Celtic Cross – a symbolic unbroken wholeness as referenced in Whelan’s and Kennedy’s Celtic Wisdom webinar

The Celtic world was not afraid of darkness or death. The Cailleach is a terrible hag and rules winter. But she is also credited with being the Creatrix of our known world. The Celtic New Year – Samhain – or Halloween as it is known elsewhere – is at our darkest time of year. Out of that darkness the light is reborn at winter solstice.

I am reminded of the time I listened to our cat Zelda purr her litter of kittens into the world as she sat beside me. A few months earlier my husband sat with our cat Sophie as she purred her way out of this world. Birth and death both require labour; they are two sides of the same coin.

We are in that liminal space (there’s another point that Mari brought up in the webinar!) where we are witnessing the death of our old known world. The birth of the ‘new normal’ is not yet with us. We stand on our threshold with the door open. We are between the old model of our known world and the yet to be seen new model. We are needing to hold our uncertainty and stand with it – in our own integrity.

This was all very synchronous for me. The previous Friday I sat with my husband and a friend outdoors mulling over how I might devise a course that would speak to the the long days of December. With indoor visitations disappearing across the map as areas lockdown because of localised Covid19 spikes, I wondered how the Covid19 Christmas would look in 2020. I had already emailed siblings in the States asking that we don’t do the present parcel routine this year. I really do not want my siblings – all over 69 years of age – queuing for a long time in a post office, potentially exposing themselves to pathogens.

On Saturday, a discussion with some students who stayed in the Zoom room after class helped clarify what I can offer. And, credit where it is due – thanks to the late Mammy Rountree who helped construct the name for the course.

Which will be…21 Days Journey through the Dark Days of December. I will be writing more about this next week. For now, just know that my hope is that there can be a community of souls helping each other hold the uncertainty as they wait upon the return of the light.

If you want to learn more about the wisdom of Celtic spirituality I refer you to Dolores Whelan’s website ( and Mari Kennedy’s Celtic Wheel year long course starting soon. (

December Double

December poetry daily

I was barely awake and already wondering what would be the subject for my Poetry Daily. It’s a new month. It’s the last month of the year. I also was wondering what poetry form I could try that I’ve previously not used for my daily poetry practice. I decided to grab one of the first on the list – acrostic.

This was what finally emerged. It is actually a double acrostic. December is panto season in the British Isles. Americans may have a tradition of visiting the theatre to see the Nutcracker Suite, but pantomimes are a huge  part of the Christmas season on this side of the Atlantic – the principal boy that is played by a girl in tights, the Ugly Sisters that are men in drag, the fractured fairy tales, the bits of social satire for the grown ups – are warp and weft in the Christmas time cultural fabric.

But then I decided to give you a double helping of December. Since it is, after all, the season for giving.

Declining light and year’s swift descent
Each year life’s pantomimes’ take their bows, reach
Climax, accept applause and celebrations’ close.
Endings can be like Cinders raking ashes from the Aga,
Making canapes for the wicked stepsister’s ball. Or not.
Before new beginnings, we count what’s lost.  Remember.
Embrace it all – pumpkin coach load of dreams, the slipper lost.  For love
Rules. It pips looking behind you, the bad jokes, our feeble charades.
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

Ding-ding-a ling, hear sleigh bells ring!
Every child worldwide living in hope of Santa’s ride.
Carols we shall be singing.Chorales are rehearsing.
Every person bustling, making plans and hustling.
Making merry when the weather outside is blustery.
Bringing fairylight cheer in to cast out winter’s drear.
Every soul swept up in the spirit. Making menus for the banquet.
Ring out the year. Resolve to volunteer. Let love cast out your fear.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

My personal resolution is not to go as mad as the March hare by month’s end.

Featured Photo by Zoya Konstantinova on Unsplash