Tag Archives: Movies

Without Knowledge or Lustre or Name

On Monday last I went, with a friend, to see The Martian, that new Ridley Scott / Matt Damon drama that everyone has been raving about.  Based on the book by Andy Weir, the movie follows Astronaut Mark Watney’s struggle to survive alone on the surface of our sister planet, having been marooned there during an aborted expedition in our not too distant future.

If you have read the reviews, or if you’ve seen it for yourself, you don’t need me to tell you, it’s a great piece of cinema.

It did all the things I expected of it.  It made me feel the loneliness of our hero.  It allowed me to share in his triumphs and defeats.  And it left me wondering how long I would fare, given similar training and supplies, under those circumstances.

Growing potatoes in manure?  Don’t need to be a botanist to know that trick.

Hot-wiring the communications system on a buried mars rover?  Ummm…, probably not.

I’m not even sure how he did it, unless someone left the users manual lying around.

As is my pattern after watching a movie of this kind, I have found myself drifting back to particular moments in the film, looking for themes and connections I might have missed before, trying always to see things from perspectives outside that of the storytellers narrative.

Among those moments is the one that has Watney lying in his bunk, conversing with the wooden crucifix which he has been cutting up as fuel for his vapor-farming contraption.  It is the one overtly spiritual moment in the movie, and even then, it is hard to tell if Watney’s words are intended to be genuine or ironic.

And it was while pondering that brief scene that I began to wonder, and not for the first time…,

Will we bring our gods to Mars?

Or are there gods waiting for us there, already?

The first question fires my curiosity.  The second fills me with a sort of dread.

With the exception of the killer dust-storm, ‘The Martian’ does not exaggerate about the hostility of that world.  The atmosphere is unbreathable, and the lack of pressure causes our bodies to erupt after only momentary contact.  There is no magnetic field to protect us from solar radiation and the soil there will yield no crop.

While the recent announcement by NASA, that some sort of brine-water occasionally trickles across the surface is an encouraging development, it is still clear that the fourth planet from the sun is every bit as hostile to our presence as the third is nurturing.

Many of us with a polytheistic outlook, tend to view our relationships with gods and land spirits as cooperative in nature.  Our interests are similar and often complementary.  Both we and they exist as part of the environment which surrounds us, shaped by and shaping the natural world which moves and grows around us.

It is all well and good for those who believe in one universal god to cling to the idea that every speck in the heavens was put there for our benefit.  But those of us who deal with the divine on a more personal (and personable) basis have to deal with the reality that it’s not all about us.

So if there are gods on Mars, will they welcome our attention?

Or will they feel our first steps as an unwanted intrusion upon their cold and naked sphere?

And what of our own gods.

Will they follow our descendants into the sterile void so many of us long to explore, or will we finally have ventured beyond their reach?

No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Savior, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.

—Christopher Columbus

On this day, October 12th, in the year 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the ‘New World’, bringing with him the Christian God.

He also brought the slave trade and a lust for the exploitation of natural resources…,

So that worked out well.

Some five-hundred years later, there is some debate still within the Pagan and Polytheist communities as to whether those other gods, the gods of our ancestors, of Europe and Asia and Africa, ever made the big jump across the Atlantic.

Most of us, I think, believe the answer to that question is “Yes”.

But from time to time I encounter someone who feels that we in the States have usurped their gods, dragging them from the hills and barrows they call home and transplanting them here within our own wishful thinking.

Why would the gods, many of whom were historically understood as creatures of ‘place’, choose to uproot themselves and wander into foreign lands already populated by gods and spirits and followers of their own?

Are the gods truly beings rooted to the natural features that we have named for them?  Or are they beings with a will of their own, who will go where they choose if and when the mood takes them?

Did they follow us into the new world?

Did we follow them?

And will they journey with us again, when we eventually fling ourselves into that ultimate void which surrounds our small blue and green sphere?

I hope so.

Because, however foreign the gods of the new world may have seemed to the European explorers of centuries past, they were still beings with an interest in the cycles of planting and growth, of death and renewal.  They were and are beings which make their home in and on a living breathing world.

I am not so certain about any spirits which may lurk in the dark spaces between the stars.

And sometimes, when I gaze into the heavens, I wonder what they will make of us.

I have seen the dark universe yawning,
Where the black planets roll without aim;
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge or lustre or name.

— H.P. Lovecraft, Nemesis

Deaths Head Nebula

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Filed under Holidays, Movies, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, The Gods

We disappoint, we disappear, we die, but we don’t.

“Once upon a time, in a far off kingdom…,”

Things were moving along just fine until they removed my favorite song.

I mean, I understand that with the necessities of condensing two full acts of musical theater into a single movie, some stuff was going to have to be dropped along the way.  I’d braced myself for this harsh reality, and to tell you the truth, most of the songs that were cut were just too repetitive for general audiences.

Most of the cuts hindered neither the action of the story nor development of the characters.  Except, that is, for that one critical number, which was pivotal to the plot.

And, my favorite…,

-sigh-

I should explain.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am speaking of the new theatrical version of Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’, and specifically a song titled ‘No More’ which, sadly, didn’t make it into this version.

I liked the movie, far more than I expected to, but the song they took out…,

…about a son, deeply disappointed in his father, and terrified of becoming him, and finding a way, at the last, to face his fears and mistakes in a world that seems to be crashing down around him…,

It’s not the best song in the show (‘Lament’), or the funniest (‘Agony’), or the most powerful (‘Last Midnight’), but it has always been the one I find myself waiting for.

And to find it missing, with only a few strains of lingering melody to back some rushed dialogue, was very disappointing.

We disappoint, we disappear, we die, but we don’t.

They disappoint in turn, I fear, forgive, though, they won’t.

And yet, that is the way of fairytales: they change with the telling, with the means in which we tell them, and with the intended audience.

In 1812, the Brothers Grimm released their first collection of stories.  Napoleon was on the move in Europe, Louisiana became the 18th state, Charles Dickens was a newborn, and a second war was erupting between the United States and the United Kingdom.  We think of these events as being far removed from us in time, but they are really quite recent.  The fables, so carefully collected and catalogued by the Brothers Grimm, had likely passed down through generations reaching further back then we can possibly know.  However new they may have been to many audiences of the time, these stories were old beyond measure when America was in its infancy.

The fairytales of our childhood bedtime were told and retold and memorized and changed along the way, as each storyteller added little details and embellishments, to make the story come alive for the listeners.  The Brothers Grimm, collected many of them in the early 1800’s and almost immediately began adding their own embellishments, adding details and descriptions and more often than not, softening the tone of the tales, to better appeal to ‘more sophisticated’ urban audiences.

It is easy to complain about the changes wrought upon these old stories by the Disney studios, while ignoring the fact that the stories had been gentrified and dumbed down long before Walt and Co. laid their hands upon them.

It’s one of the reason I enjoy ‘Into the Woods’ so much.  Sondheim taps into much earlier versions of the stories then most people are familiar with.  Cinderella is not visited by her Fairy Godmother, but instead discovers a tree possessed by her dead mothers spirit.  Her stepsisters mutilate their own feet to fit into the golden slipper, and are discovered by the telltale stain oozing from the blood soaked shoe.

Not, I suppose, the sort of material Mommy and Daddy are likely to share with their precious little bundles come bedtime.  Assuming, that is, parents even engage in the art of storytelling anymore – rather than just letting the kids conk out in front of the latest DVD release.

I have been told over and over again, throughout the years, than an oral tradition is weak because the story changes over time dependent upon the needs of the storyteller.  Whereas, if you put something in a book and take pains to make sure it never changes, then you have something that you can trust.

I would argue exactly the opposite.  An oral tradition is a living tradition.  The stories stay alive, to grow and spread their messages whenever and wherever they are needed.  While a canon of stories, set in stone, demands that society adapt to it, holding itself back to force the stories into relevance.

No, the problem is not that the stories keep changing, it’s just that we’ve turned over the responsibility for telling them to people who are interested only in finding appeal with the widest possible audience.

We disappoint, we leave a mess, we die, but we don’t.

We disappoint in turn, I guess.  Forget, though, we won’t.

Sometimes, I am disappointed with what the hollywood folks do to my favorite stories, and sometimes, I think the changes are brilliant.

The thing that I have to remind myself of, is that the stories don’t die.  These tales have survived a million changes over hundreds (thousands?) of years, and they keep right on going.  Because they are, in many ways, living things, and like all life, they will evolve over time.  But only if WE tell them.

There is no definitive edition.

There can’t be.

Because when that happens, the story really does die.

I wish, more than anything…,

I wish, more than anything…,

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Close Encounters

You can’t give an experience.

Items, on the other hand, make easy gifts.  You find just the right book perhaps, or some knick-knack for around the house.  You pull it off the shelf, pay for it, wrap it up, jam it under the tree, and you are done.

Experiences are another story.

We can’t buy them and they don’t come pre-packaged.

We can set up the circumstances, perhaps, but in the end, an experience has a life all of its own, and it will ‘be’ whatever it chooses to be.

You can not give an experience.  They have no tolerance for being bought or sold.

An experience, good or bad, may only be shared.

CloseEncounters

On Yule morning last, as we exchanged gifts, I revealed to my mother that on the second weekend of February, she would be meeting one of her all-time favorite actors, Richard Dreyfuss – my gift to her.

The plan had been hatched only a few weeks before, when I learned that Mr. Dreyfuss would be attending a local sci-fi convention.  From that moment on, the wheels began to turn, tickets were purchased, preparations made, plans…, ummmm, planned.

On the surface it seemed pretty simple: we go, we get in line, she gets an autograph.

Easy – As – Pie.

Except, of course, that there is so much that can go wrong.  Circumstances beyond our control may dash even the most carefully constructed scheme.  It’s maddening.

Items are so much easier – buy it, wrap it, and done.

Experiences I fret over, and needlessly.

We can’t control them.

We can only share them.

And share them, we did!

It was an incredible weekend!

There were crowds to wade through with all the attendant bumps and bruises and a fair helping of “hurry up and wait.”  There were scheduling snafus, parking adventures, and the gastronomic ‘roll-of-the-dice’ that is convention food.  There were all those things of which I have come to expect from the ‘Con’ experience, but which were completely new to my mother, and which I tried to ease her through.

And I should have known better.

Mom with Richard Dreyfuss

My mother, Kathleen, enjoying her encounter with Academy Award winning actor, Richard Dreyfuss.

My mother got to meet Richard Dreyfuss!  She got to shake his hand, get his autograph, and they even shared a memory of the first thing she ever saw him in (an old episode of ‘That Girl’ with Marlo Thomas – filmed in 1967, the year of my birth).  It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a smile quite that big on my mother’s face.

And I think she was buzzing too much to really even notice the crowds.

Later, we sat and listened to Mr. Dreyfuss speak passionately about his efforts to bring civics education back into the classroom, while still answering questions about shark movies.  He was funny, and down-to-earth, and inspiring in a genuine way that is rare among celebrities these days.

DreyfussAutograph

So she has the autograph, and a photo of herself with one of her cinema heroes.

But those are just objects.  They are ‘proof of contact’, yes, but of no real significance.

Far more important is the encounter, the experience, the story.

These are things not given, but shared.

I’m glad we could be there, Mom – to share in your ‘close encounter’.

This one was for you!

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Filed under Culture, Family, Heroes, Holidays, Modern Life, Movies

Let me try again:

We all have rituals.  They are the actions, the words and the thoughts that, through repetition, become the markers against which we judge our progress through life.

Most of these rituals are just the little day to day things that we never even really stop to consider.  We might call them habits, if we bothered to notice them at all.

Some few rituals come more rarely, monthly perhaps, or even yearly.  Not all of them are pleasant, (who likes doctors visits or doing their taxes?), but if we are lucky, there may be more of these occasions that we look forward to with longing, than those which we dread.

As I write this we are just about a week away from Lá Fhéile Bríde, which is the modern Irish name for ‘The Day of Brighid’.  It is the Celtic celebration, more commonly known in Pagan circles as Imbolc, which falls on or about February 1st.

I have a number of rituals which are associated with this particular celebration that I could share with you.  I could write about the symbolic relighting of the hearth fire, my offerings to the goddess of free verse and raw milk, or the reading of the omens in land and sky.

These are all important rituals to me, although I am better about keeping some than others.  There is one very personal ritual which I associate with Imbolc that I look forward to more than any other.

Ever year, as the calendar turns to February, I watch a movie.

I watch my favorite movie.

Because, I can think of no better way to celebrate Lá Fhéile Bríde, which the ancients called Imbolc and the Christians renamed Candlemas, than with a repeat viewing of ‘Groundhog Day’.

Goundhog01

Now, I could say, at this point, that the American celebration of Groundhog Day is, in itself, a faint memory of the ancient Imbolc traditions that were carried into the new world by Irish and Scottish immigrants.  The links between the ancient holiday, the secular holiday and the odd-ball comedy of the same name are there, if you want to find them.  But there is seriously no need.

The movie is deeply spiritual in its own right.

I may be getting ahead of myself.

If, somehow, you are unaware of the plot, it goes like this:

Phil Conners (played by Bill Murray) is a self-centered weatherman assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Trapped there overnight by a blizzard, he awakens to find that the previous day, February 2nd, is repeating, over and over and over again.  Nothing, not even death itself, can release him from this seeming eternal hell.

Groundhog02

The film’s director, Harold Ramis, has said that while he did not intend the movie to present any particular spiritual viewpoint, he was surprised by the variety of groups, from Buddhists to Evangelical Christians, who felt the movie spoke to them.

“So instantly people were identifying the film as ‘teaching’, and in such a parochial way, each seeing it as an expression of their own particular point of view, without recognizing that it was, in fact, a universal point of view.”

—Harold Ramis – Director

So, what do I see there that compels me to slip the disc into the DVD player year after year?

Maybe the thing that draws me back is the sly way in which an alternative understanding of deity is presented to us.  In one of my favorite scenes, Bill Murray’s character Phil is explaining to Rita, his television producer and love-interest (played by Andie MacDowell), that he is repeating the same day, again and again…,

Phil:  I’m a god.
Rita:  You’re God?
Phil:  I’m a god. I’m not “the” God… I don’t think.

To prove his point he then moves about the busy cafe in which the scene takes place, telling her things about the other diners which he should not possibly know.  When she asks him if what he is doing is “some kind of trick”, this is his response…,

“Well maybe the “real” God uses tricks, you know?  Maybe he’s not omnipotent.  He’s just been around so long he knows everything.”

Most people probably just see this as an irreverent joke, another throw-away line in a stream of one-liners, but to me it hits very close to home.

I’ve never believed in that one, omnipotent, omniscient being that so many people center their faith around.  For me, the gods are very much like us, except that they are not bound as firmly by the same physical laws which restrict our movements.  For example, I have never believed that the gods experience time in the same linear fashion as we do.  Perhaps, I have often thought, the gods exist eternally within the moment, and so are able to be, where they need to be, when they need to be there, if not everywhere at once.

Indeed, as the movie progresses through repetition after repetition, and Phil becomes more altruistic in his intentions, we witness the creation of a being, both more and less than human, effectively immortal, who through movements mostly invisible to the those around him, is able to shape the world, even as he is shaped by it.  He is the master of every skill, the knower of every secret, and yet powerless against a finality which, in this state, he himself cannot experience.

Groundhog03

So yes, there’s a glimpse of the gods, hiding there in plain sight, but I’m drawn to this movie for other reasons as well.

Maybe it’s because it’s not just another movie about redemption.

Phil Conners is not redeemed.  He has nothing to be redeemed for.

Phil is a cynical, sarcastic, jerk.

So am I, a lot of the time.

These are not sins for which we must seek redemption.  These are character traits all too commonly found in those who are prone to self-reliance and disinclined toward being “team-players”.  We call ‘em like we see ‘em, we don’t go in for the ‘touchy-feely’, and if that makes us unpopular, well, that’s okay, because if you want something done right, you had better be glad there is someone willing to do it themselves.

Phil is not redeemed at the end of the movie.  He is renewed.

After repeating the same day over and over again for years (centuries? millennia?), he has found a way to renew himself, to turn his great strengths away from self defense and out toward his community.  He is given the chance open himself, to try again to find his proper place in the world.

It’s not really a new concept.

Some ancient cultures have been known to celebrate yearly rites of renewal as the Winter gives way, at last, to Spring.  These celebrations are seen as an opportunity to take what we have learned from the last turning of the great wheel and apply that knowledge and experience to the coming year.

Hmmmmm…,

I feel like I could have explained all of that more succinctly.

Let me try again:

We all have rituals…,

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Holidays, Movies, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods, Traditions

Story or Storyteller

There are moments in all of our lives that are pivotal in that they change how we see and understand the universe around us.  Sometimes these moments are points of great personal tragedy or triumph, but just as easily they may present themselves as seemingly trivial events with unexpected repercussions.  Usually these are moments of private clarity.  Occasionally they are shared by an entire culture, or at the very least, a large portion of the overall population.

For a great many men and women of about my age, one of those life-changing moments arrived in the most unlikely of circumstances.  We were children, sitting in a darkened movie theater, when suddenly the screen erupted in an explosive fanfare of light and music followed by words, golden-yellow and blocky, drifting up from the bottom of the screen and out into the depths of space.

I was 9-years-old when Star Wars premiered in May of 1977 and like most of my generation, the experience altered my perceptions and expectations of cinema from that moment onward.

My childhood understanding of “watching a movie” was that you were simply observing events as they unfolded in the screen.  Obviously it was make-believe, but it was all happening up there on the screen for you to see, as if you were looking through a window, eyewitness to some newsworthy event.

With Star Wars, however, I began to realize that movies and books were really not all that different. Both were a means to an end, a way to tell a story.  At that age I was already a voracious reader and watching those yellow paragraphs rolling up the screen, I knew that I was reading a prologue, there only to set the scene for what must come after.  If someone had written a prologue, it stood to reason that there must be a storyteller.

In the case of Star Wars and the movies that followed in that franchise, the storyteller was, of course, George Lucas.

Recently we have learned that, someday soon, the storyteller will be the Walt Disney Corporation.

And yes, I am worried.

Over the years, I have come to believe that the truly great stories are bigger than the people who pass them along to us.  Presentation, however, counts for a lot and a good storyteller will personalize a story, adding bits and pieces of themselves to it along the way.  As much as I crave that moment of total immersion, when the storyteller seems to vanish, I have come to look for the telltale marks that each will leave in his or her work.  Stories, I learned, change with their tellers and sometimes as the storyteller himself changes over time.

The story which George Lucas began telling us in 1977 was very different from what he had to share with us in 1999 because George himself had changed in the intervening decades.  I cannot help but wonder what the people at Disney (a corporation driven by profits and with no personal attachment to the material) will have for us in 2015.  I hope for the best and fear for the worst.

What is thy bidding, my master?

Stories change as different people tell them.  Details added along the way can enrich the experience of hearing a good tale or cause unresolvable conflicts which tear the whole thing down.

This has been the primary criticism of older religions that were traditionally passed down orally rather than revealed to their followers through the written word.  “If too many people are telling the story,” the argument goes,” it will undoubtedly change with them until you are left with something quite apart from what you began with.”

It’s a valid point.  Valid that is if your only goal is uniformity of belief.

Of course, uniformity of belief is exactly the goal of most monotheistic belief systems.  Holding themselves as the keepers of the one right way, it is only proper that they set their words down so that all may know the correct way to act and think and believe.

Never mind the fact that, with at least four different men writing in different times and places for different audiences, the Christian Gospels themselves contain four different versions of the same story.  With four distinct versions of a man who’s life they choose to emulate, it is no wonder there is so much conflict among their sects.

And what about the stories that form the basis of my own faith tradition?

It is known that a large part of Pre-Christian Druidic tradition was concerned with the memorization of the lore, the mythological traditions of the ancient Celtic tribes.  In Ireland, this oral tradition was disrupted by the spread of Christianity in the early centuries C.E.  It is a strange irony that most of what we have left of the mythology of the Irish Celts was preserved by Christian monks who began collecting the stories rather haphazardly and setting them down on cowhide as early as the 7th Century.

What followed was a bumpy path as manuscripts were themselves set to memory, lost, recovered in fragments and passed further down only to be re-transcribed again in incomplete bits and pieces as late as the 14th or 15th centuries.  What we are left with is a very mangled view of what was once a cohesive living tradition.

The job now, for those who wish to win back as much of that early tradition as possible, is to separate the story from the storyteller.

As thankful as we may be that the monks preserved the ancient lore at all, the lore did not pass through their hands and hearts untouched.  Much in the way of Christian imagery and thinking was added along the way, by many authors, over many centuries.  These additions must be examined and where possible extracted, if the earlier material is to shine through.

The goal is not to create a uniformity of belief with our ancestors.  The mythology was meant to live and grow through the people who passed it down, but too many foreign ideas have been grafted on along the way.  These burdensome changes do nothing to advance the story.  By discovering how our ancestors understood the universe, we might better understand it ourselves, and without the added baggage of monotheistic filters.

To provide an example from what will be, for most, a more familiar topic:

Imagine the discovery of earlier Star Wars screenplays, written without the all too Christian redemptive elements included.  Gone is the “virgin birth” and the scenes of Darth Vader being forgiven for his part in the murder of millions through the selfish act of saving his own son from death.  How much more poignant is the story of Anakin Skywalker’s utter and complete fall before the eyes of his son Luke, already teetering on the edge of the dark side.

Yes, the version we’ve all seen countless times on our theater and television screens is much more familiar.  Society conditions us to look for those elements, to expect them even.  Remove those distracting elements of Christian influence from Lucas’ story and does it not seem both more meaningful and more true.

The stories we tell are shaped by those who tell them and the times in which they are told.  When I tell the stories of my pagan ancestors, I will tell them as a modern day Pagan, living in a time when we are finally stripping away outmoded monotheistic influences in our search for a greater truth.

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Legends are Lessons

Last week I finally had the opportunity to see the new Pixar movie ‘Brave’.  The following day while at work, a friend asked what part of the movie I felt was the most impressive.  He was referring, I knew, to the digital animation for which Pixar movies are famous.  I think I said something about the impressive work the animators did with the endlessly curling hair of the main character, Merida, and left it at that.  The truth would have been somewhat harder to explain.

I am often struck by how little the art of storytelling has changed in the course of human history.  Strip away the little details like previews, popcorn and stadium seating and we are still left sitting together in a dark place listening to a storyteller work his or her magic by the flickering light of a fire.

I imagine the primary goal of the storyteller has changed very little over the centuries as well.  However clever the speaker or precise the computer modeling, the ultimate goal of the storyteller must be to vanish while the audience becomes one with the story.  This lofty goal has become, I believe, increasingly difficult to achieve.

As the technology of storytelling becomes increasingly sophisticated, so to does the audience grow more jaded and easily distracted.  Sometimes, the mechanics of the art-form can actually distract from the story.   Our modern storytellers strive to make the experience more realistic by bombarding us with technological gimmickry but all we’ve ever needed was a good story.

A well told tale will draw us along until we find that one thing: a character, situation or locale that feels familiar enough to make it all seem real.  As much as I love the artistry that goes into a good movie, I crave that moment when it all just falls away and the story is all that matters.

As I watched ‘Brave’, that moment came as the heroine found herself standing within a ring of ancient stones, her frightened horse stamping his hooves, unable or unwilling to join her within the circle.  For a few moments I forgot that I was watching a movie generated by pixels on a screen and was transformed from viewer to participant.  I could certainly understand Merida’s unease as I recalled my own encounters with the Stone Circle.

Change Your Fate

The landscape of Western Europe and the British Isles is littered with the relics of the ancient peoples who passed that way long before the written word.  In my visits to Ireland I’ve noticed that every farmer’s field seems to contain some treasure of the past.  Ring Forts, Passage Tombs, Dolmen and Standing stones, they rise up out of the earth as neglected monuments of a vanished age.  Yet none are as mysterious as the Stone Circles.

Composed of upright megaliths (sometimes weighing several tons and transported from miles away) most Stone Circles date from a period between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.  The stones were typically placed along astronomical alignments with natural or manmade features on the horizon that correspond to the rise or fall of the Sun, Moon or particular stars on certain days of the year (typically a solstice or equinox).

‘Brave’ takes place in 10th century Scotland and it is a credit to the screenwriters that their characters appear to know as little about these stones as we do today.  The people who built these monuments vanished thousands of years ago, most likely absorbed into the Pictish and Celtic tribes that moved westward across Europe and the British Isles.  By the 10th century only legends remained.  Yet as we are reminded throughout the movie, “Legends are Lessons” and there are as many legends about Stone Circles as there are Circles themselves.

The Circle presented in the movie is modeled after the Callanish Stones, a huge complex that stands on an island off the coast of Scotland.  In some legends Callanish was a portal for the “Shining Ones” to re-enter our world on certain nights of the year.  Older still are the tales that speak of the stones as a gathering place for those who would welcome the re-birth of the Cailleach – the old woman of the moors, a bringer of life and harbinger of change in Scottish mythology (and here I am forced to think of the ‘witch’ whom our young princess meets after passing through the stones and into the mysterious woodland beyond).

I have not been fortunate enough to visit the Callanish Stones.  I have walked among the giants that ring Newgrange, the smooth stones of the Druids Circle in Kenmare, the wonderfully craggy stones of the Drombeg Circle and several others I couldn’t name.  While each Circle is unique, they share among them an uncommon energy which defies measurement but is present nonetheless.  It is a connection between a people now long gone and the universe (seen and unseen) in which we all live and die.  It was this power that I felt again for a brief moment while sitting in a theater watching Pixar’s latest offering.  An echo of the otherworld.  A reminder of my own small place in an ancient story.

Drombeg Stone Circle (also called The Druids Altar) in Co. Cork, Ireland.

The Stone Circles and other relics of the past represent the legends passed down to us by the greatest storytellers of all time.  Without words or music or digital animation, the Stone Circle still touches something hidden deep within our psyche, a racial memory of an earlier time when we had a more direct connection to the living Earth.

By stepping into the Stone Circle and embracing the energy that still flows there after all these centuries, we are transformed from mere audience members into active participants in that grand epic.  The story is in the stones; give yourself over to the same throb and pulse of the living world that our most ancient ancestors sought to share.  Be brave and change your fate!

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