Wednesday 8 August 2007

Wanting to be Celtic

Whenever people ask me where I am from I usually give a round about answer that starts with my birth in London an swiftly progresses around the world to stops across England, Wales, America and Ireland, where I am right now.

I like living in Ireland. I feel a sense of some sort of connection here although I'm not sure what I mean by that. Although born in England to an English father, my mother was from Northern Ireland. I don't know if she would have called herself Irish (she died when I was 12). My guess is, being a 'protestant' from Portadown more than likely persuaded her to be 'British'. However, my family name is from the Isle of Man and, according to the book I was reading this evening, having a Manx heritage gives me a connection with the Celtic heritage which I am growing to love.

The books I usually take to the coffeehouse are often about church or theology or contemporary Christian mission. This evening I took A Celtic Miscellany. It's a lovely book with extracts of(mostly ancient) Celtic writing from Irish, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Breton and Manx authors. It was great for dipping in to and I'll be taking it for another trip to the coffeehouse again soon.

The writing is wonderfully descriptive making you wish you could place yourself in the scene that has been painted with such delicious words. Take for example this description of an Irish hermit's hut from 1000 years ago:

I have a hut in the wood, none knows it but my Lord;
an ash tree this side, a hazel on the other, a great tree on a mound encloses it.

Two heathery door-posts for support, and a lintel of honeysuckle;
around its close the wood sheds its nuts upon the fat swine...

Excellent fresh springs - a cup of water, splendid to drink - they gush forth abundantly;
yew berries, bird-cherries...

A clutch of eggs, honey, produce of heath peas, God has sent it;
sweet apples, red bog-berries, whortleberries.

Beer with herbs, a patch of strawberries, delicious abundance;
haws, yew berries, kernels of nuts.

A cup of mead from goodly hazel-bush, quickly served;
brown acorns, manes of briar, with fine blackberries.

In summer with its pleasant, abundant mantle, with good-tasting
savour, there are pignuts, wild marjoram, the cresses of the stream - green purity!

Swarms of bees, beetles, soft music of the world...

A beautiful pine makes music to me, it is not hired;
through Christ, I fare no worse at any time than you do.