Friday 22/05/2020 New Moon ♉>♊
If it’s one thing I have learned during Lockdown, it’s that there is much that can be learned from our senses.
I originally wanted to write about the five senses and using Cormac Mac Airt’s journey to the Land of Promise as an example. But looking into this story a little further has revealed more meaning.
It’s easy in our Western Modern world to think of ourselves as separate from nature and that the world is entirely separate from us. It’s also easy to want to pursue any path of Paganism by wanting to connect with some unseen and powerful force.
I do believe that the world is a wonderful thing, and by connecting with it, there is much to learn.
By connecting with it, I don’t simply mean that we somehow mystically connect with the spirit of the Earth. Rather I’m talking about actually paying attention to what is in front of us and what is around us.
By being still and closing our eyes and breathing naturally, we will be assailed by all of our senses at once, the best thing to do here is to select one at a time and then work with the rest:
Feel the solid ground beneath us, the wind blowing around us, warmth, cold, any aches. These are the things we become aware of when focussed on touch.
Hear the wind about us, the wind in the trees, the creaking of any doors or fences, birds, distant vehicles and people, any machinery, the buzzing of insects, whatever else you can hear.
Smell the air you take in and what comes to mind? The smoke of someone burning wood or trimmings? The wet grass after the rain? The scent of your skin in the sun?
Taste is a little more tricky, but it’s one I tend to go with what comes first: I taste my mouth for any flavours: mouthwash, tea or coffee, what I ate, maybe nothing at all. I also look out for any flavours that I crave. Sometimes there’ll be a scent that’s quite strong and you can both smell and taste it. Both are linked after all.
Sight, isn’t just taking in what you see. In relaxing your eyes and focussing my vision on something before me allows my peripheral vision to take in: the flying of insects and birds, a weed growing amongst the flowers, the prowling cat in the shade…. the world happening when we aren’t just looking at what’s in front of us. Even with our eyes closed we can still see light and dark, colour and shade, bursts of light in the dark and the reflection of our own veins and optic nerves.
And if we pick up on something, we can try and find the source: which direction is the wind blowing from? Do I need a jacket when going out? Where is that bird flying to? Was that buzzing a fly or a bee? Where did that smell of burning come from? And what IS one of my cats prowling after!?
When the Irish High King, Cormac Mac Airt went in search of his wife and children, he found himself in the Land of Promise and saw three strange and wonderful sights. The second of these was a pool of water being fed by five streams. Around this pool were nine hazel trees, the nuts of which dropped and the salmon in the pool left behind the husks of the hazelnuts. At least, this is the version from Lady Gregory and I, in turn, learned another variation of that story (in the older editions there were three wells, each denoting the kind of generosity a person can be, the last being the most greedy). Regardless, Manannan Mac Lir explains to Cormac that the pool he saw was the well of wisdom.
By attuning to our senses, we find the world is richer than it first appears. When walking in Bulwell forest about a month ago, before the golfers returned, I could see dark clouds on the horizon, I could feel wet on the wind and about halfway I saw magpies and swallows taking shelter, even though the rain was in the distance. By the time I turned back, the rain had already started and the smell of petrichor was in the air. By the time I got back, I smiled in knowing why the birds had took to the trees and that I’d recognised it.
In being aware of our senses, we become mindful of our surroundings and less wrapped up in our own thoughts. When we’ve quietened down the internal monologue, then we free ourselves to be more observant and open to inspiration. And who knows- by becoming more aware of what’s going on around us, we may gain a glimpse of the magical.