[originally published A Sense of Place, 03/21/13]
Yesterday was the vernal equinox. Here in Ireland, we have a solar alignment that occurs in cairn T on Slieve na Caillaigh during this astronomical event. It’s a phenomenal sight!
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
The spring equinox heralds the Light half of the year. We aren’t fully there yet (as it doesn’t officially begin until Bealtaine) but oh…we are tantalizingly close. Close enough, in fact, for spirits to rise and frivolity to ensue. Just look at St. Patrick’s Day!
Why in the world would this dude’s “feast day” be on March 17, just 5 days before the vernal equinox? In the annals he is clearly associated with “Easter” so why not a date closer in, why a date in Lent when it should be difficult to celebrate his feast day anyway? I’ve heard Patrick’s day associated with the ‘making of a warrior’ rite, which connects him with Cú Chulainn.
But I don’t want to talk about that either–except tangentially.
What I do want to talk about, and wonder aloud about, is how climbing a hill, in the freezing cold, to watch a glowing ray of sun wash into a neolithic passage tomb; hordes of Irish people out in droves for St. Patrick’s Day parades, dances, and merry-making during Lent; and the rite of becoming a warrior within a late bronze / iron age culture might have required — embodiment.
Last weekend I did the most amazing thing. I attended a drug and alcohol free nightclub: Rebelution (a play on words, since Cork is known as the ‘Rebel County’). A mixed group of us moved our bodies under a mirror ball, inside the Wandesford Quay Gallery. I let my conscious mind rest, and woke the Sleeper. By allowing my body to move in whatever way I wanted, giving myself over fully to each impulse as it arose, my subconscious — which is very connected to my body — woke and communed. I was whole, and had entered ecstatic merger with Self.
And that is beautiful enough, right ?! But at some point, after about an hour or two, I glanced around. And to my delight, I found that all the other human-bodies in the room were connected with me, and I to them. We moved together! Merger with Other. Feeling the rhythm of the dance and the swirl of energy, we were a primal unit around our modern campfire–the twirling disco light.
Since the night of the ecstatic dance, I have been up the mountain to breathe the crisp air, sat in my hammock listening to birds, and chatted happily to my friends the Thorn, Hazel, Ash, and Pine while walking down the lane. I have been expressing love for my Place, and taking what responsibility I can for it.
I am connected to this place, this bit of earth called east Cork, and that connection includes my experiences and relationship with human and non-human persons. My connection to the human-persons in the dance and to the non-human persons during my walks and other rural explorations, synthesize to create Soliphilia— a neologism coined by Dr. Glenn Albrecht. He describes it as a, “love of the whole (life + place at all scales) and the solidarity between us that is needed to keep what we all hold in common healthy and strong.” It is also the antidote to solistalgia, a term I have discussed previously on this blog.
Looking for consciousness in the brain is like looking inside a radio for the announcer.
The synthesis of these relationships has me thinking of our need for both urban and rural environments. On this blog, various writers have discussed the myriad ways we connect to place, and whether urban or rural experience hinders or accentuates that ability. I propose another way of looking at it.
As I wrote in my article on dis-enchantement, we are designed for ecstatic merger with nature: with the living world around us, which we are a part of. But the capacity for collective joy is also encoded in us. In fact, as Barbara Ehrenreich puts it, “a crowd is the raw material for festivity…” For an epoch we human-persons traveled in small family groups, spending most of our time in intimate relationship with wild, untamed nature – which we were absolutely a part of. We also came together with other wandering bands for festivity. These gatherings served many purposes, from trade to pair-bonding, from sharing of technology to ‘chin wagging’ about the latest gossip. But a significant feature was the ecstatic component–dancing with each other; and this, more than anything, built solidarity between groups.
As we, in Ireland, move into the Light half of the year, awakening comes to the body–both human and other-than-human. What slept during the long, dark, now stretches and opens her eyes. As we all continue the struggle to make sense of our modern world and find spiritual significance in our various environments, I encourage us to look to the dance of light and dark.
Humans need time in nature, just as we need times of withdrawal and contemplation. But we also need to come together with other humans for collective joy. As we move from the dark half, with its hibernation and sleep, and emerge into the light, I invite you to step into your body and connect with your fellow human-persons. This is the time of festivity…of ecstasy and embodiment. Get yourself ready; Bealtaine approaches!
Whose permission are we waiting for to enter that ‘uncertain ground’
where the voice of our wild history can be heard?
How long is it going to take to acknowledge that there is indeed a menagerie within each of us… a wolf, a hyena, a lion…a wild man and a wild woman?