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The heART of Ritual


Spring, the Air Element, and the Silent Extinction of Words

Imbolc marks the first day of Spring in Ireland and the Celtic Wheel of the Year. The principal element of Spring is Air, and this relates with filaments of all kinds, not least our vocal chords which provide communication, music, songs, poetry and spoken word, all expressions of air.

In recent years emoji's, gifs, social media slang, and absolutely daft abbreviations have invaded our everyday language, dumbing down the word and diluting meaning. People seem to be getting so complacent about allowing this and contributing to the loss of old language and the knowledge and power it contains. I'm not sure about you, but this genuinely concerns me and I find it painful to observe.

On a lesser note, I find this too extends to salutations and conversation. For instance, when people write to me they almost never say hello or address me by name, they start straight in with their 'demand'. Almost always, this revolves around them expecting free therapy via email instead of making an appointment at the clinic, wanting free teachings instead of doing one of my courses, wanting free recipes/tutorials instead of taking out one of my very reasonably priced monthly or seasonal subscriptions, and generally expecting my professional services without any financial exchange. It has gotten so bad in recent years that I had to purchase a post office box number as my return shipping address because I was getting letters (from people I have never met) in the post to my home address. It's wildly invasive really and has led to me drawing a line by installing a whole other set of boundaries, formal channels and gateways that gently keep people at bay, maintains the quiet space I need, and doesn't feel restrictive to me personally. The is a whole other conversation on 'modern society' and hyper-culture really, but it is part of the same beast and the same problem when it comes to the loss of words and the root cause and I mourn the dying beast. There is a severe lack of care in communication, few actually listen, and fewer make time for the warmth in words and organic conversation. Surely we should be more aware of the need to be more mindful of maintaining human-ness, especially in this era of digital communication, globalisation, high speed living, and hyper-consumption? It feels like the extinction goes beyond the loss of individual words, it seems like a mass extinction in presence/mindfulness, basic manners, real values, and (karmic) need for balance in exchange. But I digress...

To acknowledge what appears to be the very real extinction of words, and in an attempt to show you of the poetry to be found within our language, here is some food for thought. A reminder of why it is worth fighting for:

"We need to teach the children the old words,

words like brabble and grubble,

twitter-light and clinkerbell;

words which dance and trip and slip

and drip like honey off the tongue

Teach them that a hazy halo of cloud

around the moon is called a moonbroch

and that swiftly moving clouds are named cairies;

how a vixen’s wedding is a sunny shower of rain,

and that a single sunbeam breaking through thick cloud

is known as a messenger

Teach them to know the seasons and scents

of queen of the meadow and bride of the sun,

how to tell Jupiter’s staff from fairy fingers

and which roses bloom with the strawberry moon

Teach them to spot pricklebacks in the tottlegrass,

how to recognise a smeuse or a bishop-barnaby,

when to watch the sky for flittermice and yaffles,

and to pay attention to the dumbeldore and mousearnickle

as she graces the lazy leahs of summer

Teach them a few of the old Sussex words for mud,

like gubber and slub and stodge and pug,

so they know that the precious soil beneath their toes

is anything but worthless dirt

Teach them to be users and keepers and makers

of the words which bring the land alive:

a storybook, where everything has its rightful place,

including us;

where the wilds are fearful and filled with magic

and people do noble things, and nothing is impossible

In this world of harsh new words —

words like planetary dysmorphia and solastalgia,

extinction debt and grief mitigation,

megadrought and megafire,

anthropogenic, pyrocene,

words which alarm and get stuck in our throats

describing a world which our hearts cannot grasp —

we need to teach the children the old words,

so that if they should feel lost,

the old words might colour for them

a warm and breathing, living map,

a light to guide them safely home."

Poem by Caroline Mellor

Let's be mindful of what we create through the words we choose and use!


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