Yan tan tethera ….
Numbers chanted: counting sheep, counting stitches—
I remember my Great Grandmother counting stitches as she crocheted,
"Un, Dau, Tri,” one, two, three….
As she counted, the ball of yarn in her lap became smaller, woven into an intricate design, not unlike a Celtic knot. Well, my story is a bit like a ball of yarn, but in my story the ball of yarn grows larger as the story is woven.
The story is also a journey—no a spiraling pilgrimage, for I do not know its earthly destination, or exactly how I got from there to here. The path – the story weaves (present and past) – is weaving – itself into a three-dimensional Celtic knot-like ball.
So where do I begin? It is said, that the Celtic sages claimed that we carried within us the memories of our ancestors, and the seeds for memories for those who are yet to be born. I am inclined to agree. Surely, my Celtic ancestors planted the seeds of memory that bloomed in my passion to follow the Celtic way—for me, in the form of Celtic Christianity.
Last night as I laid in bed pondering my story, it seemed like I entered the knot-like ball and flashed of the journey randomly appeared. I thought of the first bible verse I learned as a young child, “God is Love.” Is that not a Celtic sentiment? I’ve never seen God in any other way. I jumped ahead, and remembered time spent with a Native-American Shaman discussing the sacredness of earth. I remember him saying, “You cannot be a Native American, but you can honor the earth by your own tradition.” The story jumped back to growing up in the old United Presbyterian Church with her Scottish Covenanter-Seceder tradition. In my pondering my memory recalled the large lighted “God is Love” sign on the church, and—the Celtic Cross. The memory shifted sideways to a visit with two great aunts, my maternal Irish Grandfather’s sisters, who just happened to be Sisters.
They told me stories of fairies and banshees, stories rooted in Celtic folklore.
Oddly the memories barely touched upon college and seminary, just that I was intrigued by the works of the Celtic Latins and the Apostolic and Desert Fathers (who latter I was to learn, greatly influenced Celtic Christianity). I was reminded of a time years later when my wife gave me a journal with a Celtic design. Something she had mentioned only a few hours earlier. She gave it me to encourage my outward journey into the Celtic way. It was during the time that I began to read books about Celtic Christianity.
There’s more to tell, but a story-teller knows when to roll up yarn-ball.
My interest led to the publication of Brigit’s Feast: A Journal of Celtic Spirituality, Thought, History and Culture. This in a spiraling sort of way led to my being invited to become a professor in the newly formed Celtic Studies program at Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon. That was as much a learning experience for me as it was, hopefully for the students. And I might add, the students taught me much.
It also led, again in a spiraling sort of way, to the beginning of worship community that wanted to explore Celtic Christianity. We were a rather divergent bunch, not all were Christian, but we worshiped together, broke bread and share drink together. We blessed each other’s homes and children. We became family, the Clannad.
Which brings me to the end of the present story, and my desire to share the truths of the Celtic way, and in particular, Celtic Christianity with all who will listen, in whatever way I can.
The Celtic knot-like ball continues to grow.
Frank Mills Curriculum Vita