The past couple of days I’ve been struggling with a quick, sharp stomach bug. It’s nearly gone now, but it was rough: I lost ten pounds in less than a week. Yesterday evening, I was over the worst of it, and soaking in the tub; and I slipped into the following dream/meditation:
I was walking through tall grass in warm sunlight — golden grass, waist-height. Suddenly I came upon a pond that had been hidden by the grass, perhaps a dozen yards across; it was deep and green and somehow radiated coolness. On the other side of the pool was a forest, also deep and green, and I caught glimpses of fairies darting here and there among the trees.
It’s been a month since the Spring Equinox, and now at last in Massachusetts we’re getting some truly springlike weather — yesterday was the first day we could go outside without coats or sweaters. I spent the day with my hands in the earth, digging and weeding out a garden plot behind our apartment that lay fallow all last year, while the kids rode their bicycles and tricycles and asked to see more worms and pleaded for a chance to use my spade.
The fact that I haven’t written about our equinox ritual before now gives you some indication of how busy we’ve been this spring. I think for many of us, it has been a difficult time — many of my friends have been ill, overwhelmed with work or too many responsibilities, or stricken with tragedy of one kind or another. Still, a few days ago my cousin and his wife were blessed with twins, and the sun continues to rise earlier and earlier each morning on schedule… So not all is lost.
Ever since I read Slade’s article a few weeks back about how to use numerology to find the meaning of your name using its letters, I’ve been extremely eager to explore the topic from the standpoint of sound. The exercise Slade describes is based entirely on spelling; but you can also imagine doing name divination directly from the sound of your name. The two are not the same — especially in languages like English and French, which have spelling systems that are simple and perfectly designed for the way the languages were spoken six hundred years ago.
I was delighted to stumble on the site of Margaret Magnus, which has a wealth of information on the correspondence between sound and meaning. Magnus clearly has a deep passion for the topic, and she’s obviously spent hundreds of hours doing research into it. And she’s generously posted reams of her material on the web! I tried to contact her, but she hasn’t replied as of this writing. Her web site is the basis for the divination technique I describe below, and the inspiration for a lot of the theoretical musings in this post, as well.
From one point of view, the sound of a word is much more basic and primal than its spelling. After all, everyone learns to talk — it’s practically part of the definition of humanity — but literacy, and especially alphabetic script, is a recent invention, and it’s not necessarily easy to master it. Humans are designed to talk. For example, we have a special kind of breathing that we can “turn on” when we’re talking — quick, sharp intakes of breath, followed by very long, slow, measured outbreaths while we’re actually saying words. If you try to breathe like that when you’re not talking, you’ll probably start gasping after five minutes. But someone standing in front of a classroom or making a speech can keep it up for hours. Speaking is literally written into our genetic inheritance. But there’s no such provision made for reading or writing.
Anyway: I’m going to resist the urge to open the post with a lot of theory and ruminating, and jump right into Magnus’s technique. Afterwards, stick around and we’ll muse and hypothesize…
Last week I was surprised and delighted to get an email from a high school student who is curious about Druidism. In particular, for a school project, she wanted to know about the relationship between Christianity and Druidism, and what factors led to the rise of one at the expense of the other. She sent me a list of questions and asked whether I might be able to answer them for her.
The questions were:
In your personal experience, has anyone of Christian belief or other religion told you your belief system was bad?
How did you discover Druidry? Was it easy to find information on it?
In your opinion, do you think Druidism being replaced by Christianity so many centuries ago had to do with the religion itself? Or was it caused by other factors?
Why is Druidism your chosen faith? What do you like the most about this belief system?
And finally, what is your opinion of Christianity? Do you personally think it’s a good religion? If not, what weaknesses within the faith can you point out?
I found something remarkable about her questions. Some of them were good, solid, and straightforward — like (2) or (4). These were the sort of questions that might be used to spur discussion on an interfaith forum. But others were more daring — like (3) and (5). These are questions that few people ask, because they go beyond simply “asking about Druidism” and get into the thornier area of relationships between religions. They are perfectly natural questions, and they deserve answers; but they’re also dangerous and insightful, because they skirt close to the questions at the heart of religion itself: why do some religions rise, and others fall? Is there such a thing as a true religion — and if so, could it be pushed off the world’s stage by a false one? If Druidism is a true religion, how come Christianity replaced it? And how do you, as a Druid, feel about that?
So I was delighted to answer her questions; and she graciously agreed to let me turn our little dialogue into a blog post.