|Posted by Erin nighean Brìghde on April 12, 2014 at 5:25 PM|
We have traversed the circle of the Celtic Cross sunwise from West to South; now we must follow the spoke inward to the Center, where the four points meet, where the four directionally oriented provinces meet in the central province that is Míde, or Meath, the political and spiritual center of mythic Ireland, encompassing both hills of Tara and Uisneach. The center itself is also sacred, being where holy spirit fire is kindled, and so all actions taken from this sacred center ring out with sacredness into the world, and carry sacred power with them.
Fintan recites thus about the qualities of the Center:
‘Her kings, moreover, her stewards, her dignity, her primacy, her stability, her establishments, her supports, her destructions, her warriorship, her charioteership, her soldiery, her principality, her high-kingship, her ollaveship, her mead, her bounty, her ale, her renown, her great fame, her prosperity, from the centre position.’
The Center is represented dually, by both the High King noted overtly, and the Sovereignty Land Goddess, noted obliquely by the references to ale and mead, the drink given by Her to the High King in the coronation ceremony ritually marrying him to Her, the Land. The primal function of the High King, or any tribal king, was to serve in this sacred marriage. The Fir Bolg were the first mythic people to create the custom of the sacral kingship, the lore says. The king is the physical representation of the tribe, of all the tribespeople, and their joining to the land which supports and nourishes them, which they in turn work and defend. The Land as Sovereignty Goddess then determines the fate of the people by the nature of the king's rule. If he rules justly and fairly, with integrity and honor, then the people will be prosperous, the land will be fruitful, there will be peace and contentment. However, should the king be unjust, cruel, miserly, and corrupt, the Sovereignty Goddess will reject his right to rule by bringing blight, famine, poverty, and strife to the land and people. The tribe will then depose the king, and begin work towards electing a new one. From this sacred marriage, what rests upon it, and its centrality to the well-being of the tribe as a whole, we may infer some universal virtues worth cultivating.
Justice is the quality the king must cultivate and practice in order to ensure the blessings of the Land will remain with his people, because Sovereignty demands it of him. Justice speaks to calibrating towards balance, as was noted in a tale about Cormac, renown for his wisdom. The tale runs that a landowner brought a complaint to the court against his neighbor, whose sheep had eaten all of his herbage. He demanded that justice be done, and the sheep slaughtered. The judges were about to rule in his favor when Cormac noted that (this being prior to his kingship, which lead the people to marvel at his propensity for justice, and to consider him suitable for the role), if the sheep shaved the plants through eating them, which will grow again, then the due justice would be to shear the sheep of his fleece, to give to the landowner in compensation, which would also grow again, whereas the slaughtered sheep would not. And so this was upheld as the most just solution to the issue. Justice tempers emotional responses, as illustrated by the landowner who wanted slaughter in compensation for his loss. Justice also speaks to fairness and mercy, which would be anathema to despotic dictators, and indicates our ancestors' abhorrence of such qualities in a ruler. Cultivating Justice helps us to gain perspective and context in the pursuit of balance, and to execute it rationally and with grace. Cultivating Justice recalibrates towards balance in situations which have become unbalanced, both within ourselves and among our people in the world, but must be delivered with integrity to uphold the cosmic order which perpetuates blessings for all.
The primary role of the king is to harmonize the relationship between the tribe and the land, in order to ensure the relationship will be mutually-beneficial between them; this, effectively, is what Harmony is. She is Sovereignty because, while he is the elected leader, it is the She as the Land which ultimately decides the fate and well-being of the people, by what she either provides, or withholds. Through his actions, Hers are determined. In this role, he is not permitted to act the dictatorial despot, serving only his own base wants, and desires for power. He is responsible to his people, whose ruling nobles and lawgivers have the power to depose him should he fail to live up to his sacred obligation. His responsibility to harmonize relationships for the benefit of the whole tribe means he must always act with the strictest integrity and honor. His actions must balance the needs of the people with the needs of the land. His actions must refrain from exploitation of either party. Through honor and balance, Harmony is reached, when all parties are then in active, effective, and meaningful, mutually-beneficial relationship. When we cultivate such Harmony in our lives, through honor or integrity of action, with the goal of calibrating towards balance, we bring various elements of our lives and our world into functional, mutually-beneficial relationship, which allows all parties to work together so that all will flourish and prosper, thus maintaining cosmic order and the flow of blessings for all parties, whether they be people and land, people and creatures, people and gods, or people and fae.
Respect is what must be given to Sovereignty, the Land, as She ultimately rules the fate of all. The sacral kingship was designed to enshrine this virtue within the high office of the people in order to remind them of its gravest importance. The power of the Land Goddess as Sovereignty provided peace and plenty to Her people when She was acknowledged and treated with Respect for her ability to care for the tribe. Cultivating Respect towards the gods and powers, towards our own Sovereignty Land Goddesses, reminds us that as clever or as powerful as we may be, our existence is indebted to forces greater than our own, and is held in their hands. The forces of Winter, Sea, Mountain, and Storm must be respected if they are to be survived and lived with. Conversely, cultivating Respect in our earthly relationships reminds us that our happiness, and that of others, is largely dependent on the types of relationships we foster. Cultivating Respect means honoring the Sovereignty of others as free and equal beings unto themselves, whether they be gods, powers, persons, land, animals, or fae. When we honor their Sovereignty, they in turn might honor ours, creating fulfilling and meaningful relationships between us. When we have these, and we work to maintain them, we create the very essence of holistic, cosmic order and balance in our lives, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, which we feel in both body and soul.
And so, after the telling of the Settling of the Manor of Tara, cosmic, and thus, tribal order was restored among the people in this political center of mythic Ireland. Nearby, in Uisneach, spiritual center of mythic Ireland, the Cat Stone stands, also called Aill na Mireann, the Stone of Divisions, at the top of its hill. Its knobs represent each province, or fifth, of Ireland, all brought together into one sacred site, where the fires of Bealtaine are lit annually to bless the land from the center to the edge. We too may keep our spiritual fires burning in our hearts, our spiritual centers, and so be blessed in living the good life, by cultivating these ancestral Celtic virtues around the spokes, and in the center, of the Celtic Cross, serving as a sacred map of Ireland's directions, provinces, and spirituality. For, when our actions are begun at, and from, the center, they are infused with the sacredness with which the center is imbued, and carry sacredness with them, out from the center, into the world, and into all facets of our lives.