Collaboration of the Realms

I spit into a test tube then sent it through the mail to a laboratory somewhere. When returned, the analysis would supposedly tell me about my ancestry. I don’t profess to know a lot about science nor do I wish to. I’m a words person. I find more fun in bewilderment about how the physical world works.
But I’d been having hunches that my family’s recollections of our history had gone awry. I was told English and German were the dominant influences. No one had ever mentioned Celtic clans in our lineage. But by chance, I came upon our family name above a house doorway from a photograph taken in Wales. So, I took a chance and let science have a say. Unless my test results traced me directly to the Buddha, there might be something to it.
My spit test returned and confirmed my suspicions. It indicated mostly Celtic heritage and no German in sight. With physical documentation behind me, curiosity lured me further and became a spiritual journey.
Additional research tickled my excitement. I discovered a sport originally from Scotland called caber toss. Basically, the game features men dressed in plaid skirts who throw telephone poles from between their legs. At first, I assumed such creativity resulted from too much whiskey laying around. Caber poles can be twenty feet long and weigh one-hundred-fifty pounds. Competitors balance the pole upright in cupped hands. Then they run with it, gaining thrust, and heave the pole so it over-ends a full rotation and falls away from the tosser. The sport has also expanded to include women’s events.
Even more intriguing, are the thinkers with finesse among the brute strength of my people. Caber toss emerged from pragmatic purpose. When old-time lumberjacks needed to cross narrow gorges or streams, they threw logs across the chasm to form bridges. The objective in caber toss is not about how far the pole flies, but about the position of the pole after it lands. Poles angled closest toward twelve o’clock—the straightest bridge across the stream—receive the highest score.
As I dug deeper, I found that the Celtic flair for fashion, the kilts, is the likely precursor of conceal-to-carry permitting. Warriors of the day customarily hid weapons under their kilts. But kilts were multipurpose attire. They provided protection from weather, served as camping blankets and were emblematic of wealth, status and the casual man-about-town.
Celtic cosmology appeared to me in the form of a calendar carrying a thirteenth month. Though several cultures have developed thirteen-month calendars, the Celtic version lasted only three days, from October 31st through November 2nd. It coincided with their designation for All-Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, All Soul’s Day and Day of the Dead. To my surprise, of the many days in a year, I was born within the Thirteenth Month. This was surely a sign. I was being beckoned into the mist.
According to the Celtic lunar calendar, All-Hallow’s Eve is the transition from the old year to the new. For early agrarian families, it also marked the end of the growing season and hunting became the primary method for acquiring food. With the arduous work of planting and harvest complete, country folk embraced celebration and appropriate mischief. But they didn’t forget gratitude. Farmers turned their fields and remaining crops over to the Divine and their departed ancestors.
Celtic legend maintains that the separation between the spiritual and physical realms is most permeable on Halloween night. Ancestral spirits can more easily communicate with their living kin to offer encouragement and caution. In response, descendants who perceive those ancestral voices are called to kind-hearted action in the ancestors’ behalf. The living are also invited to examine their intentions and desires, and request help from those in other realms to initiate positive change. The realms look after each other.
In her book Herbal Rituals, Judith Berger describes the Thirteenth Month as a three-day pause. It’s as basic and necessary to human spirit as the physical pause between inhaling and exhaling. She suggests that taking conscious interlude during this three-day void in the year can help people respond to the unknowable, and to uncover hidden treasures of the Earth. Notably, this awareness isn’t revealed through the rational mind, but through the soul.
I’ve developed a tradition for these three days. I set aside more time than usual to deer hunt. However, it’s not primarily about bringing venison home. I go to a place where spirit takes precedent over natural science. For the record, I don’t pretend to have had thunderous epiphanies. Instead, I experience quiet like I’ve never heard before. It stills the clutter in my head and requests me to listen.
The visual world nudges me, too. Toward the end of each hunting day, a curtain seems to materialize at the far reaches of my sight. The curtain is darkness. Objects I could see previously are shrouded. As nighttime deepens, the curtain gradually cozies up to me, so close that I want to reach through it. And I wonder, what’s watching me from the other side.
Whenever a deer comes my way during hunting, to my thinking, it’s the deer’s choice, not mine. If it seeks passage to the other side, that’s a silent agreement between its soul and mine, and no other.
I was determined to pass up a deer that had stopped in front of me. It stood broadside, repeatedly circled a few times, then stood again as if insistent on staying. After several minutes, I was finally convinced to shoot.
I later found that most of the venison was edible. But during processing, a separate wound was discovered on one of the deer’s haunches. It had festered and the deer had been living with gangrene. I didn’t know it when I shot.
In providing me food, the deer no longer suffered. It was our agreement. I was being looked for and looked after.


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