May 1st is Beltaine, one of the four Celtic fire festivals of the calendar year (along with Imbolc, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). In Irish folk tradition Beltaine marks the coming of summer and the annual return of the aos sí, supernatural beings who are ambiguously ancient Celtic deities, nature spirits, and ancestors of modern Irish and Irish diaspora. Beltaine is a time to petition the spirits for blessings of a bountiful harvest. But metaphorically, it serves as a reminder for us to return to the intentions we set at the beginning year and actively tend to them. In doing so, we can reap their future benefits in autumn – just like we would a garden.
In early April of 2019 my grandmother passed away. She was my dad’s mom, and I last remember seeing her at my great-great Aunt Jane’s funeral at age seven or eight. I can’t remember how old I was. In the years that followed my dad became estranged from my grandmother, and I became estranged from my dad. All of which, I believe, stem from the intergenerational trauma related to alcohol addiction.
A few months prior to my grandmother’s death I launched this blog as a project to discuss my personal relationship with magic, and her death impacted that relationship in deeper ways than I could have anticipated. Throughout 2019 subtle events unfolded that taught me of a deep, quiet love that alchemizes emotional pain experienced during this finite lifetime.
Today is Lughnasadh (pr. Loo-nah-sah), the ancient harvest festival of Ireland and Scotland, typically celebrated July 31st through August 1st. The holiday marks the start of harvest season and is named after the Celtic god Lugh who was master of all arts – poetry, music, battle, diplomacy, and justice.
Lughnasadh occurs six months following its sister holiday, Imbolc (January 31st – February 1st). At Imbolc we are called to plant the seeds of our hopes and intentions for the coming year. It’s associated with the goddess (and saint) Brigid, who stokes the hearth fire to germinate our growth and development. Now, halfway through the year, it’s time reap what we’ve sown.
Humans are social creatures, and a major aspect of the human experience is fulfilling a sense of belonging. We want to connect with each other. But in adolescence the desire to belong is so strong that we might ignore our own intuitive intelligence and instead look outside ourselves for external validation. Expectations and/or pre-defined hopes are put onto us from peers, mentors, culture, and media to be and think certain ways. And if the environment is painful enough, we might choose to reject those parts of ourselves that others find taboo, just out of survival.
Rejection of the childhood self can still run on autopilot in the shadows of our adult psyches, and reacquainting ourselves with those lost parts helps to heal the areas where we feel wounded. By gently reintegrating those aspects, we gain the joy of embodying unconditional love and respect for our own humanity. Below are four techniques to reconnect with your inner child.
This year I was fortunate to come across the written works of the Irish poet and theologian, John O’Donohue. O’Dononhue’s first book Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom expounds on the Irish concept of an anam cara, or “soul friend,” a spiritual mentor of the early Irish church. In his analysis, O’Donohue examines how the theory of an anam cara might be applied to contemporary life for spiritual development. Additionally, O’Donohue draws upon the syncretism of paganism and Christianity within Ireland to tell parables about the anam cara, which appealed to me as an Irish-American deepening her work with ancestral magic. I find Anam Cara to be among the more thoughtful treatises within the self-help genre. Its framework allows for compassionate healing, without falling into the trap of hyper-individualism often represented in New Age literature. Anam Cara is a guide for how to be a good friend, and its central theme is worth exploring as a model for living in this world.