The green isles still hold their mystery, and ancient spirits haunt the dreams of those who are open to the old ways.
The visionary writings of Fiona MacLeod
The Spiritual Boat People
by Ian Lurking Bear
My Celtic and pre-Celtic ancestors partook of the Salmon of Wisdom, saw visions, danced with the faeries, and lived a life deeply connected with the land.
Times changed, and imperial invaders finally overran our beautiful island. The salmon and bears had disappeared, the forests were leveled, and oppression and famine came in the ensuing centuries. Many of us sailed to the West toward the islands beyond the horizon, as is the tradition among my people. When it was time to leave the land, one would take a curragh out into the Atlantic. Perhaps some of these early voyagers actually made it across the Atlantic in their small boats. Mysterious stone monuments and inscriptions in the New World hint at this possibility, and in recorded time, Saint Brendan crossed remarkable distances in a traditional leather boat. As the tide of change swelled, of course, many fled in larger numbers in more modern ships.
Celtic legend tells of journeying through the mists on the water to the numerous islands of myth and imagination. Indeed, many fascinating islands lay to the West, and the largest and most bountiful of these was Turtle Island (North America to the vulgar imperialists). On Turtle Island, bears and salmon were still plentiful, along with all the other creatures that thrive where bears and salmon still live.
Unfortunately, imperial madness continued to sweep across the planet, crushing tribal ways as it went. Along with domination and enslavement came an authoritarian monotheistic religion that demanded that the tribes destroy and forget their rich and various spiritual heritages. Even attempts at a more enlightend, humanistic Christianity were ruthlessly repressed.
What spirit harsh montheism had not crushed, hard edged materialism tried to rend from us. "Rationalists" imagined a world even more distant from nature, a mind even more divorced from the body, a perfect universe/machine where spirit had no place. Spiritual blindness has become fashionable.
There is no further West to flee. We have traveled so far West that we now meet fleeing people and spirits from the East. Borrowing from Eastern cultures and others, we are able to begin recovering what our own cultures have lost on their way in the march of montheism and materialism.
In a recent vision, I saw across gray waters to the East, backlit by gathering twilight, a boatload of the Gheddes from Haiti, in their black suits and top hats. At the prow, one of them had his hat out before me as if begging. His message was, "Though our people flee starvation and cruelty across the water, you are the spiritual boat people. It is not only we who need you, but you who need us. It is no wonder that you go desperately scavenging other cultures for something that you hunger for."
We are able to find tantalizing hints of what our tribal past may have been, and some are able to recover worthy elements from Christianity, but ultimately to fill the spiritual void, we must borrow from other cultures where less has been lost.
While some native purists of Turtle Island insist that we have no place working with the spirits of this land, we are in a quandary. Our true ancestral lands are plundered by the very forces that attack native spirits here. How can we speak with the Salmon of Wisdom where the salmon are long gone? Clearly, a distinction must be made between those who wish to honor the land and spiritual teachings of other peoples, and those who exploit and appropriate the cultures of others for personal gain.
These are times of dislocation and chaos. Peoples materially or spiritually bereft flee from all directions to meet at the crossroads of change. All of us must find a balance between preserving authentic culture and sharing proven techniques, without jealously staking out territory or assimilating into sameness. Mutual respect among those sincerely seeking a spiritual path is essential here.
To continue our journey, we must sail through the spiritual realm, among the islands of the inner world to find a way to the memories and the ways of the ancestors, and to discover the fascinating islands of the other cultures. We are as much of the spirit as the ancient medicine men, the Lamas, or the Houngans of Voudun. This spiritual awareness cannot be purchased or rented. We should not be afraid to ask for guidance where it can be found in other cultures, and should also honor our roots. We have what we need, only we must embark on the voyage through the mists to our true selves.
Where moss coats grey rock
Where incandescent rotting wood
Where once the radiant brow shone forth
Where once the salmon leapt the fall
Where once proud people sought the light
Where once great heroes fought for life
Where dark, cold storms vent their wrath
Where once saints blessed the land
Atop a crumbling dolmen
In gnarled oak the mystery lives
A boat moves through the mists
The thread is frayed, the trail faint
I saw the hosts gathering across the sea
I've seen them clinging with their roots
Gathered to the light in secret temples of old
So long as the vow of Amergin to Eriu is kept