|Posted by Éirinn bean mac Iain on April 11, 2014 at 4:35 PM|
Traveling sunwise a final turn around the circle of the Celtic Cross, to its bottom leg, we come to the direction of South. The name for south in Irish corresponds with positive attributes associated with the right hand, which is what faces the southerly direction when one stands facing east towards the rising sun. As such, the qualities of the South have to do with what is pleasing and enjoyable, in contrast to the qualities of the North, of the sinister left hand, whose qualities are difficult, combative, and challenging. The South brings us pleasure, what we enjoy when we rest in the peace of the abundance provided by the East. It also brings us the arts which flourish in and celebrate the culture of a content and proud people. Fintan recounts thus about the qualities of the South ~
‘Her waterfalls, her fairs, her nobles, her reavers, her knowledge, her subtlety, her musicianship, her melody, her minstrelsy, her wisdom, her honour, her music, her learning, her teaching, her warriorship, her fidchell playing, her vehemence, her fierceness, her poetical art, her advocacy, her modesty, her code, her retinue, her fertility, from the southern part in the south.’
The unique qualities perceived here are musicianship, minstrelsy, music, and poetical art, shared at fairs for the pleasure of the nobles and warriors. The social role of the South is the Man of Art, a member of the Aos Dana, who practices the cultural creative arts of the people, to express their culture artistically, to remind the people who they are. From his role and his directional association, we may infer a set of virtues which all of the folk might be inspired by.
Creativity becomes a virtue to cultivate, rather than a talent to possess, when we apply it to our way of living, and our way of expressing and honoring the sacred in our everyday lives. Creativity is a part of the lifestyle of the Man of Art, but so too is the creative force a power we might all put ourselves in touch with, as it is the basic creative energy of the land and universe, and through it, we can create lives of meaning. We cultivate Creativity when we speak spontaneous or self-composed prayers to the gods, when we design small or grand rites or customs which give honor to the Ancestors, or establish and perpetuate our spiritual relationship with the Land and its beings, spirits, and powers. Creativity is what we cultivate when we put together a lovely meal for our families, present a pleasing home for them, arrange our gardens, draw ambience into our spaces, and more. We cultivate it when we center ourselves, put ourselves into the presence of universal creative power, and commune with it, allowing it to infuse and inform us, just as poets and artists do, when they create from their sacred creative centers. This is the very energy which creates and recreates the world, and maintains all of its nourishing cycles of creativity, destruction, and re-creation. When we allow it to flow through us, we become a part of the world creating itself, a part of the world making pattern and meaning, and communing with the sacred.
Beauty is what we manifest, and also cultivate, when we are in touch with the creative process, while we are cultivating Creativity. Beauty as a virtue relates to identifying with the inherent patterns the creative force generates in the world, visible in sunrises and sunsets and star constellations, all the way down to the spiral pattern in seashell, pine cone, and sunflower center. Beauty is the order rendered pleasing to both eye and soul, beyond the merely utilitarian. Beauty deliberately cultivated and manifested makes the lives we live everyday works of art, and creations which nourish us both our minds and our souls. The poem, the painting, they are pleasing for their use of inventive words, color, symmetry, and composition, which satisfies the left-brain's sense of orderliness. And how those words and colors work together to create the piece as a whole, combined with its subject matter, satisfies our right-brain's sense of meaning. And so, not only might our poetry and painting cultivate Beauty, but all the things which we create when we cultivate Creativity. The furniture we use, the homes we live in, the food we prepare, the daily implements with which we fashion our lives, all of them may be created in Beauty, to transcend the merely utilitarian, which assumes that only our left brains need be satisfied, and exalts its needs over the rest of our needs, thus devaluing our right-brain needs. If Nature and Life create with beauty, then so might we. The sunflower's seeds are no less nourishing for being rendered pleasingly; in fact, the beauty of the flower adds to its value. Cultivating Beauty means cultivating the holistic, as each part is brought together with the other, to appreciate the whole pattern. We can see a lifestyle cultivating Beauty in the Scottish Gaelic Carmina Gadelica, in which daily chores are accompanied with prayers to gods and saints and angels, in which there is no division between the mundane and the sacred, the utilitarian and the artistic. We see this in tribal art forms, which are always represented in utilitarian pieces, from spoons to baskets to buildings- art is not a separate facet of life reserved for the few, it is the way of expressing life, of what some call walking in beauty. Cultivating Beauty cultivates a holistic lifestyle in harmony with the world around one, bringing life into pleasurable balance.
Humility is not a virtue often associated with Celtic peoples. Our ancestors seem to be better remembered for their blustery boasting and great pride. We must remember that we see this primarily among the warriors, where it makes sense, as war was often fought between two tribal champions, one on one, and so this rare individualism was expressed, in which prestige was a prize earned by prowess and subsequent victory. Among the folk however, the tribe was the unit to which all belonged, and by which all formed their shared identity, and so individuality on this level was uncommon, and so did not lead to regular boasting. It is this very idea of ones identity being primarily associated with a tribe that cultivates the quality of Humility, in that it does not inherently foster individualism and its subsequent self-centeredness. One grows and develops within oneself, sure, but ones skills and talents are cultivated with the goal of using them to serve, advance, honor, and perpetuate the tribe and its culture, for ones future generations, and in honor of ones ancestors. One is always mindful of this greater context. And so, tribal poets and artists are unlike modern poets and artists in that they did not cultivate their talents in order to further their personal prestige, or to create new innovations, or express themselves personally. These are the hallmarks of modern artistic expression. Tribal art is cultivated as a means of expressing ones culture, mediating it for its people, communicating what they as a people hold meaningful and sacred, to remind them of their context and their identity. This was a special role imbued with its own power, but mostly with social responsibility. And so, we are guided to commune with the creative force and create practical beauty for the good of our people, not merely for our own personal satisfaction and momentary expression. Humility reminds us we exist as a part of a family, a community, a circle, and that we might use our creative efforts to serve this group in meaningful ways which feed our collective soul. It is one of the many ways in which we take care of each other, which ultimately is what a people does for one another. When we cultivate Humility, we remember to whom we belong, and hence to whom we are obligated, and we fulfill those responsibilities with honor to our tribe, to our ancestors who also fulfilled this responsibility, and to our future generations, that we might leave them the heritage of their ancestors.