"Queen of Wands," by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law © 2010
Holy Wild, Mythology & History, Theology

Q&A: What is the Song of the World?

The latest issue of the Alternative Religions Educational Network’s newsletter just came out this past weekend, and I was excited to be included as one of those featured in an interview with the editor, Christopher Blackwell. We chatted about my background being raised in a liberal Catholic tradition flavored by my father’s Irish heritage, and how that shaped my spiritual journey towards Druidry as I live and practice it today. It was great fun! You can read the whole interview here.

"Queen of Wands," by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law © 2010One thing we touched on was the Oran Mór, or as I usually call it, the Song of the World. The Oran Mór is, in my view, very much like the concept of the Tao: it is both “the way of things,” a guide or path to follow, and also “the way things are,” the complex and irreducible nature of existence itself. Chris asked me to talk a little bit more about how this cosmological concept is reflected in my Druidry. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

Christopher: You refer to something that you call the World Song. Could you explain a bit more of what that you mean by that?

Alison: This idea of the Song of the World is open for debate in modern Druidry — I don’t know many other Druids who work with it, although it’s become a central aspect of my own practice. There is a phrase that is found mostly in the oral traditions of Scotland and Ireland, known as the Oran Mór (or “Great Song”). In Christian times, it became one of the names used to refer to God, although there’s some evidence in Celtic mythology and folklore that suggests the idea goes back to pre-Christian times.

For me, the Song of the World is something like Divine Harmony — it’s not a personal creator god, so much as the on-going creative process of the universe discovering itself, unfolding playfully and joyfully in an endless and infinite variety of ways, all of which are part of an exquisite harmony that is inherent to existence yet always changing and deepening. In his book The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality, Jason Kirkey explains it this way:

“The concept of the Oran Mór makes explicit a belief that existence is song and therefore a process rather than a thing. God, to the Celtic imagination, is Being not a being; the process of Becoming rather than something which creates; the on-going self-creation or atuopoiesis of the cosmos.”

This isn’t exactly monism, because the World Song isn’t a “substance” or a deity. Just as you cannot create a symphony with a single instrument alone but must have many instruments playing together in harmony, and yet you can still experience the symphony itself as a unifying whole in which all of these individual instruments participate.

In the same way, each of us has a song that we are singing by the way we live our lives — the ways we move through the world, the very physicality of our embodied selves, create vibrations (quite literally! but also metaphorically and spiritually) that participate in and actively create the Song of the World. We join with it our own voices, the music of our bodies humming, pumping blood, inhaling and exhaling, neurons and nerves buzzing. The air we move through shifts around us with every stride, and our laughing and crying shape it. When we sing and move and live in harmony with the World Song, our own songs are amplified, modulated and carried along — our lives become beautiful, our hearts become soft and permeable, our minds become nimble and familiar with the patterns of how things dance.

This idea — that we each have a song, a soul-song, and that everything, the landscape and the gods and the world itself, has a soul-song as well — underlies a kind of lovely animism that permeates everything, everywhere, and fills it utterly with life and movement. It bestows a special sacredness to space, to limits and the separation of necessary absence through which limited, finite beings move. The Song of the World offers us a way to understand our unity and community without sacrificing our individuality and uniqueness, our creativity and our freedom.

~~~

We talked about so many topics, this is just a small taste! So I hope you’ll head on over and check out the rest of the interview, as well as the other interviews and articles featured in the issue. (And thanks again to Chris for the chance to share with his readers!)

Meanwhile, I’m curious: for those fellow Druids out there, is the Oran Mór part of your approach to Druidry? Does it shape your beliefs or practices in any way? If so, how? And if you’re not a Druid, do you have a similar concept in your own tradition?

Let me know in the comments!


Have another question for the Q&A series? Leave it in the comments below, ask me on Tumblr, or email me.


Photo Credit:
• “Queen of Wands,” by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law © 2010 [source]

Holy Wild, News & Announcements

Meadowsweet & Myrrh is now Holy Wild

I am one of the more sluggish people I know when it comes to big changes, and in the digital age that can mean I’m lagging years behind the latest trends. If you’d asked me a few years ago if I’d ever retire my blog Meadowsweet & Myrrh, I would have said Hell no! And yet, here we are…

Welcome to Holy Wild.

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So maybe a name change isn’t that big a deal. But after a decade of living with that lovingly pesky ampersand dividing/uniting the old and the new, the past and the future, the lingering scent of church incense and the beckoning perfume of the fields… I came to realize that I was no longer living quite so at odds with myself as before. I needed some new name for this sacred little space of mine on the vast interwebz — a name that spoke more wholeheartedly of wholeness. And preferably included a pun.

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

Besides a new name, there are some other cool changes at the blog, the most obvious being a whole new look. (And my thanks to Peter Dybing for encouraging me to find a font big enough to actually read!)

I’ve finally caught up with those trendy types who have “Related Posts” links at the bottom of each new post, and I have to admit part of the fun of writing now is seeing what old blasts-from-the-pasts turn up unexpectedly.

There’s also a handy way to share posts to your favorite social networks using the nifty AddThis bar floating to the right — if you click the orange [+] sign for “More Options,” the list of sites they support is so extensive, you can even still share to MySpace! (Although… why?)

Feed For ALL!

As I mentioned a couple months ago, I began weaning readers off of Feedburner before it, too, goes the way of GReader and the dinosaurs. Now you can subscribe directly to my RSS feed with your favorite feed reader service (I highly recommend giving Feedly* a try — it has lots of options for organizing and displaying your feeds, and the mobile app is as beautiful as it is functional).

If you are subscribed to the old Feedburner feed please take a few seconds right now to update your feed reader to the new RSS feed: https://alisonleighlilly.com/feed.

The old Feedburner feed should continue to update with new posts, at least for now, but Google has ceased providing support for the service and might decide to discontinue it altogether at any time. Who knows? If you subscribe to the new RSS feed then you’ll be sure to keep getting updates no matter what.

Im In Ur Inbox Bringing U Goodies

If you were signed up for the email newsletter through Feedburner, you may have already noticed a change! The new-and-improved Holy Wild newsletter, now supported by MailChimp, will continue to bring you posts delivered right to your inbox. But with the greater flexibility that MailChimp provides, I’ll also be able to include things like early registration deals for online and in-person classes (like my Keystones of the Sacred Land e-Course, back again this spring), as well as coupons and contests for books, like my forthcoming memoir collection, Meadowsweet.

(See how casually I mentioned that my first book will be published soon? I’m totally playing it cool…)

If you’re not already signed up for the Holy Wild newsletter, it’s not too late to get in on the action — it’s as easy as entering your email address below (or you can click here):

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; }
/* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.
We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */

If you’re not ready to take the plunge just yet, no worries. There’s a sign-up form in the blog’s sidebar if you change your mind.

Social Media for Introverts

Before I jump into social media stuff, let me say again that if you want to be sure of never missing an update, the RSS feed and/or the newsletter are the way to go. Subscribing to either of these gives you direct control over what, when and how you get your content — and not just for this blog, but for any writer, blogger, artist, musician or content creator you want to support online. (The experts agree, Facebook kinda sucks when it comes to following blogs.)

Think of it this way: hanging out on Facebook is sort of the virtual equivalent of hanging out at the mall, and relying on Facebook’s news feed for blog updates is like relying on the mall’s radio station to hear your favorite songs. You might hear songs by your favorite artist every once in a while, but you’ll also hear a lot of stuff just because it’s popular, interspersed with plenty of ads. If you really want to hear your very own weirdly eclectic favorites, and support your favorite indie artists, you probably buy the albums you like and make your own playlists. That’s what RSS feed readers and email newsletters let you do.

That said, sometimes it’s wonderful to spend time with friends being social, and it’s pretty cool when your favorite song comes up on the radio and maybe sparks some conversation. So, yep, I’m on Facebook, as well as Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and even Tumblr. In fact, I’ve somehow managed to attract thousands of followers on G+ and Pinterest, which is both crazy and crazy awesome!

So if you want to hang out (and you’re up for some uncensored, shoot-from-the-hip opinions that don’t ever make it onto the blog), look me up! If you’re on G+, you can even sign up to get a notification whenever I share a new blog post, which is practically as good as an RSS feed. Just +1 or leave a comment on this post to join.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a community of thoughtful and enthusiastic Druids and other Celtic-inspired Pagans, check out the G+ Druidry Community that I moderate — we’ve topped 500 members and we’re still growing!

Casualties of Progress

If you’re wondering, so what about the Meadowsweet Commons?, then you’re one of three people who actually used the forums… and I have some sad news for you.

For the rest of you: good news, everyone!

The Meadowsweet Commons was an integrated forum that was originally part of this website when I migrated the blog over from its original home on Blogger. It was meant to be an experiment in community engagement that allowed people to leave comments on blog posts in a shared social space as well as adding posts of their own. The Commons was part of my solution to a troll infestation I was struggling with at the time… and on that front it was wildly successful and basically reduced trolling on my site to practically zero. (Huzzah!)

Otherwise, though, the experiment failed. The integration was always somewhat clumsy and counterintuitive, and updates to the forum plugin soon made it almost impossible to use at all. When the designers decided to make the plugin and support for paying-members only, I decided it was time for the Meadowsweet Commons experiment to end. Unfortunately, there was no way to preserve the old forum without compromising my site’s security, and in the process of updating my software, all of the previous blog comments and forum posts were lost. Such is life sometimes on the ephemeral interwebz…

But now the good news: with the troll infestation fairly well in hand, I’ve returned to the more traditional kind of commenting. You can now leave comments on Holy Wild just as you would on any other blog. (Double-Huzzah!) If you want to know what kind of reader feedback and comments I just adore, check out the comment policy for tips and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Wow, this little update ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. I guess there are some pretty big changes afoot!

As always, thank you so much for reading, and I hope that Holy Wild continues to be a place that provokes contemplation and welcomes conversation for anyone whose life is rooted in the soft soil and sturdy bedrock of an earth-centered spiritual tradition.

Blessings of the holy wild be yours, friends.


*For those of you using Feedly to subscribe to RSS feeds, updating to a new feed can be tricky. Check out this follow-up post for a step-by-step guide on how to find the right feed using your browser address bar: How To Find the Correct RSS URL in Feedly