The Druids and The Otherworld
For the pre-Christian, the Gods and Goddesses were the invisible qualities and powers that inhabited both our natures and Nature Herself. As such, they were known as the children (aspects) of the Mother Goddess – the Earth. The Gaels call these luminous beings the Sidhe – the people of the hollow hills, or the people of peace. Because the Celtic eye is so brim-full with the pageant and detail of Nature, the Sidhe in Celtic myth do not descend to us, like the Angels and Gods of many other cultures, from the Heavens above. They come from the Otherworld – a land intermingled with this world. Our psyches have been formed by twilights that are long and slow, casting dim lights and shadows that move in firelight. Nature has formed us into a visionary people, whose culture has been richly coloured by this Otherworld – ‘Tir na n-Og’ – the mundus imaginalis of the Celt… But this world is not imaginary in the sense of fictional. To the Celt the imagination is a boat, in which our seeking hearts may sail from the land of outer cares, concerns and illusion to the shores of Beauty. The first call to journey is the call of Beauty… Ultimately we will discover, with heart-breaking simplicity, that the highest Beauties and the highest Truth are one.
In legend, the Sidhe appear to us through the green veil of a forest, or the glimmer of moon on wave. Their emergence in our dreams and sacred imagination disturbs our complacent, habitual selves with a numinosity hitherto unknown. They shapeshift like the landscape we inhabit and so one of the lessons we learn from them is that our experience of life is ephemeral. They hint to us that there is something more enduring than the pleasure of the passing moment we chase. They offer us an experience of otherness… of magic.
The Sidhe bring us wonderful gifts from their world. Legend tells us they brought art and science to humankind. The doorway to the Otherworld is in the mind… both our minds and the mind of Nature.
When we first enter the world of the spiritual seeker, we cross the borderlands into Tir na n-Og in the sense that our consciousness begins to partake of its character – one that seeks for the beauty in things. There, we leave behind some of the values of the mechanical, ‘mundane’ world. We have entered the world of the Sidhe. We sense marvels, miracles and have visions. Our inspiration and creativity increases.
Most artists inhabit this plane of consciousness when they are creating. Their daily life, whether they are aware of it or not, is an ongoing relationship with the Otherworld. This is the realm of the Muse who teaches us new, deeper ways to perceive life. When art is used with spiritual intent it becomes a powerful tool for transformation. It is, after all, how the Sidhe want us to use their gifts – to grow and change.
Tir na n-Og is the secret, enchanted inner life of Nature. It is the intuitive land frequented by artists, inspired scientists, magicians, seers, shamans and spiritual seekers. All who work in these fields have some degree of interaction with this level of consciousness. Within the Celtic tradition, because this world is known and visited, natural gifts often become heightened through working with the Sidhe.
Many people stay there forever, partaking of the nature of the Gods, weaving beautiful spells over the world with the dreams they dream. But for some even this is not enough. A longing for something beyond this realm troubles their hearts. For them the gifts of the Sidhe are like the rainbow, hinting at something forever just out of reach, forever luring them toward an impossible beauty. The Sidhe offer us, the legends say, feasting without satiation.
What does this say to us about their role in our spiritual journey? It tells us, as the druids hinted, that there is something beyond both the everyday world and theirs. That perhaps the role of the Sidhe is to bring us to a point where we can no longer be fulfilled solely by the aspects of life that they represent… They have initiated in us an unbearable hunger that no thing or idea can satisfy. They have made our hearts ache for some new understanding that can bring us closer toward the core of reality. As they first lured us out of the mundane into the magical, something else calls to us from a new horizon… It is time to leave.