Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Touched by the Flame

I recently returned from Co. Sligo, a part of Ireland its most famous poet, WB Yeats, called "The Land of Hearts Desire." The name recalls those evocative Irish names for the Otherworld: Land of the Ever-Living, Land-under-Wave, the Land of Light, and it's easy to see why. This is a place where farmers will not cut down a hawthorn for fear of offending the faeries to whom these trees are sacred; where, if you're sick, you are more likely to visit a neighbour who "has the cure" than see a doctor.

Above all, it's a land where the presence of the Shining Ones can be sensed everywhere. The old tales tell how the race of Immortals called the Tuatha De Danann – the People of the goddess Danu – lived in Ireland thousands of years until they were conquered by the invading Celts. They struck a bargain with the newcomers: Rather than leave the land they loved, they would go into the caves, springs, and chambered cairns, and live their lives within the "Hollow Hills." Manannán mac Lir, the sea god, spread a Cloak of Invisibility about them so that they could not be seen at those times when they emerged into the upper world.

But did they really disappear, or was it that our perceptions became so dulled by material things that our natural ability to perceive the world of Spirit became atrophied? For those who never lost their vision of the true reality, like Yeats’ fellow poet, A.E., (George Russell) the gods never really left at all:

"So did I feel one warm summer day lying idly on the hillside, not then thinking of anything but the sunlight, and how sweet it was to drowse there, when, suddenly, I . . . heard first a music as of bells going away, away into that wondrous underland whither, as legend relates, the Danaan gods withdrew; and then the heart of the hills was open to me, and I knew there was no hill for those who were there, and they were unconscious of the ponderous mountain piled above the palaces of light, and the winds were sparkling and diamond clear, yet full of color as an opal, as they glittered through the valley, and I knew the Golden Age was all about me, and it was we who had been blind to it but that it had never passed away from the world.”

The Shining Ones are still with us: It is we who have banished them into the depths of the collective unconscious. But if we choose to open our minds, hearts and all our senses to the living presence of Spirit that is all around us and within us on our beautiful planet home, then the Land of Heart's Desire will reveal itself to us in all its beauty and power, as surely as it did for AE, when he wrote:
 
For the great gates of the mountains have opened once again,
And the sound of song and dancing fall upon the ears of men,
And the Land of Youth lies gleaming, flushed with rainbow light and mirth,
And the old enchantment lingers in the honey-heart of earth.

(Paintings by A.E.)