A short entry for Sunday.
Hoping that this finds you at peace with yourself, and the world.
Take a couple of minutes today, sit outside and breath ever so deep of the gathering day.
Put your hands in the earth, and fill its living presence.
Listen to the wind, to the birds, to children playing near by if you are so lucky.
Live a prayer, live this moment.
On the Menu:
Decline and fall of the Roman myth
Poetry n’ Prose: Earth Prayers
Decline and fall of the Roman myth
We were barbarians, but early British civilisation outshone the Roman version, says ex-Python Terry Jones. We just lost the propaganda war
Nobody ever called themselves barbarians. Its not that sort of word. Its a word used about other people. It was used by the ancient Greeks to describe non-Greek people whose language they could not understand and who therefore seemed to babble unintelligibly: ba ba ba. The Romans adopted the Greek word and used it to label (and usually libel) the peoples who surrounded their own world.
The Roman interpretation became the only one that counted, and the peoples whom they called Barbarians became for ever branded be they Spaniards, Britons, Gauls, Germans, Scythians, Persians or Syrians. And, of course, barbarian has become a byword for the very opposite of everything that we consider civilised.
The Romans kept the Barbarians at bay for as long as they could, but finally they were engulfed and the savage hordes overran the empire, destroying the cultural achievements of centuries. The light of reason and civilisation was almost snuffed out by the Barbarians, who annihilated everything that the Romans had put in place, sacking Rome itself and consigning Europe to the Dark Ages. The Barbarians brought only chaos and ignorance, until the renaissance rekindled the fires of Roman learning and art.
It is a familiar story, and its codswallop.
The unique feature of Rome was not its arts or its science or its philosophical culture, not its attachment to law. The unique feature of Rome was that it had the worlds first professional army. Normal societies consisted of farmers, hunters, craftsmen and traders. When they needed to fight they relied not on training or on standardised weapons, but on psyching themselves up to acts of individual heroism.
Seen through the eyes of people who possessed trained soldiers to fight for them, they were easily portrayed as simple savages. But that was far from the truth.
The fact that we still think of the Celts, the Huns, the Vandals, the Goths and so on as barbarians means that we have all fallen hook, line and sinker for Roman propaganda. We actually owe far more to the so-called barbarians than we do to the men in togas.
In the past 30 years, however, the story has begun to change. Archeological discoveries have shed new light on the ancient texts that have survived and this has led to new interpretations of the past. In Roman eyes the Celts may have lacked battle strategy, but their arms and equipment were in no way inferior to the Roman armys. In fact the Celts had better helmets and better shields.
When the Romans got to Britain they found another technological advance: chariots. It may seem odd to those of us brought up on Ben Hur that the Romans should have been surprised by chariots on the battlefield, but that was the case.
The Romans had chariots, but the Britons made significant design improvements and, as Julius Caesar noted, had thoroughly mastered the art of using them. So how come the Romans built roads and the Celts did not? The answer is simple. The Celts did build roads. The Romans-were-greatest version of history made the earlier roads invisible until recently. One of the best preserved iron age roads is at Corlea in Ireland, but it was not until the 1980s that people realised how old it is. It was known locally as the Danes road and generally assumed to be of the Viking period or later. It was not until the timbers were submitted for tree-ring dating that the truth emerged: they were cut in 148BC.
However, the really startling thing is that wooden roads built the same way and at the same time have been found across Europe, as far away as northern Germany. The Celts, it seems, were sophisticated road builders and the construction of these wooden roads was no mean feat of engineering.
Oak planks were laid on birch runners and they were built broad enough for two carts to pass each other. Whats more, Celtic road building is not necessarily predated by that of the Romans. The first important Roman road was the Appian Way, built in 312BC, but the so-called Upton Track in south Wales, a wooden road laid across the mudflats along the Severn estuary, dates back to the 5th century BC.
It is only now that historians are beginning to reassess the sophistication of Celtic science and engineering. From early times the Celts were the iron masters of Europe. A Celtic smith was regarded as a magician, a man who could take a lump of rock and transform it into a magical new substance a cunningly worked steel blade sharp enough to cut through bronze or ordinary iron.
The Celts mastery of metal technology also enabled them to develop sophisticated arable farms. We know they had iron ploughshares in Britain from about the 4th century BC because in a shrine at Frilford on the River Ock, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire a site that was occupied from about 350BC an iron ploughshare was found under one of the central pillars where it had been buried, perhaps as a votive offering. It is a fair guess that the temple was one of the first buildings to be erected there and that the iron ploughshare was offered at the time that its foundations were laid.
The Celts use of metal even allowed them to invent a harvesting machine. Historians did not believe that it could be true until bas-relief sculptures were discovered that apparently show just such a contraption. It was a sort of comb on wheels that beat off the ears of corn and deposited them in a container rather like the grass box of a lawnmower. A replica was built and tested in the 1980s.
It has been easy to underestimate Celtic technological achievements because so much has vanished or been misunderstood. Of course, it was thoughtless of the Celts not to leave us anything much in the way of written records they should have known that the lack of books putting forward their own propaganda would weight the evidence firmly in favour of the Romans.
Western societys enthusiasm since the renaissance for all things Roman has persuaded us to see much of the past through Roman eyes, even when contrary evidence stares us in the face. Once we turn the picture upside-down and look at history from a non-Roman point of view, things start to look very, very different.
(From Terry Jones Barbarians by Terry Jones and Alan Ereira to be published by BBC Books on May 18 at £18.99. The book is available for £17.09 including postage from The Sunday Times BooksFirst on 0870 165 8585. Terry Jones Barbarians begins on BBC2 on Friday May 26)
Dance to Heal the Earth
by Dee Smith
Whenever you dance, wherever you dance, dance to heal the earth!
Dancing is power. Dancing is prayer. Some say that all is dance. Maybe. Now there’s a big dance coming, a dance to heal the earth. If you’re reading this, you’re probably part of it. You take part whenever you do whatever you do to help heal the earth. When you recycle. When you choose to show love, to fight for justice, to bring healing, to bring out what is good in others. When you avoid cruelty and dishonesty and waste. When you are outraged. When you speak out. When you give. When you consider the generations to come. When you protest to the oppressors and encourage those who feel the cutting edge of injustice. And, of course, when you dance. There is a tree that all the prophets see, and whenever you let your love show, you make the flowers grow.
Soon this dance will be done in a big way, in the old way, on sacred ground. All living things will take part. If you want to, you can take part. No one is twisting your arm. You can stop any time you need to, and start up again whenever you’re ready. If you’ve read this far, you probably know what I’m talking about. You’ve probably been doing it in one way or another for a good while. Soon will be the time to make no bones about it! Cut loose!
Anytime you dance, anywhere, whether at a party or in church, dance to heal the earth! Let your feet beat a healing rhythm into the earth. Let your feet beat a strengthening rhythm for those who struggle the hardest. Let your feet beat a life-giving rhythm for all peoples, regardless of race or national boundary, regardless of whether we’re human or whether we’re the trees, the air, the fish, the birds, the buffalo, the bear, the crow. We come out of hiding, we come back from the dead, and we dance, and our dance is a prayer, and our songs and our rhythms and our breath give life.
Is the music they’re playing some mindless jingle? Never mind, as long as it’s not bad music, and you can dance to the beat! Make your own words, and make the words a prayer. A prayer for the end of exploitation, a prayer for the end of lies, a prayer for healing, for justice, for life. Remember your prayer-song, feed it and let it get strong and pass it along. Dance and pray, whenever you dance, dance to heal the earth.
Have you seen anything? Wear it out! Make it so that all can see what you see! Take a white T-shirt and mark it with your dreams. Is there anything you’d like to tell the world? Take your shirt and mark it with your song! This is the way it has been done, so you can do it too. Use any color except black (there are reasons for that that will become clearer later), and you’ll probably find that a loose, pure cotton T is most comfortable for dancing in. Cos this is an actual dance, you dance hard, you sing and breathe hard and sweat. Wear it when you plan to go out dancing, to dance to heal the earth.
Some people do this dance while fasting, and dance for several days straight. But even a few minutes of dancing helps, and joins with all the other dancing going on, everywhere on Earth. Not everyone can fast these days. Besides, you never know when you’re gonna dance, and you have to eat sometimes! But if you plan to dance, hold off eating till later, or just have a little. It’s easier to dance if you don’t have a hotdog weighing you down.
Some people say, do not do sacred things where people are drinking and partying. But all the universe is a sacred place. It really doesn’t matter what others are doing, you can make a place sacred wherever you are, with your intention and your prayers. Some people use smoke to make a place sacred; a cigarette or incense stick will do fine. You can dance to heal the earth anywhere, even a party or a bar! The earth is everywhere, so you can dance anywhere to heal her. Only one thing. Please hold off drinking or using any other intoxicants till you’re done. It works better that way.
The Lie has gone far enough. It spreads and makes everyone sick. Now is the time for this dance to begin. It, too, will spread, and it will bring healing to all. In the beginning, they say, God put a rainbow in the sky, to let us know that Spirit never forgets. Now is the time for us to put a rainbow across the earth, to let God know that we, too, remember.
Dance to heal the earth. Not just when you’re dancing, but always. Live the dance, whenever you move, in all you do, dance to heal the earth.
The Earth Prayer
Black Elk Oglala Sioux, Medicine Man
“Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold
me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice.
You lived first, and you are older than all need,
older than all prayer. All things belong to you
– the two-legged, the four-legged, the wings
of the air, and all green things that live.
You have set the powers of the four quarters of the earth to cross each other. You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy. Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things.
Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the center of the sacred hoop
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.
With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
With running eyes I must say
The tree has never bloomed
Here I stand, and the tree is withered.
Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.
It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.
Nourish it then
That it may leaf
And fill with singing birds!
Hear me, that the people may once again
Find the good road
And the shielding tree.”
I Live My Life
Rainer Maria Rilke
I live my life in widening rings
which spread over earth and sky.
I may not ever complete the last one,
but that is what I will try.
I circle around God’s primordial tower,
and I circle ten thousand years long;
And I still don’t know if I’m a falcon,
a storm, or an unfinished song.
Kiss The Earth
Thich Nhat Hanh
Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.