Anne Maria Clarke
music David Johnson
Illustration Wendy Andrew
“Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance toward your life. Their arrival seemed so accidental and contingent. Now your life is unimaginable without them. ”
John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
For Christmas this past year my husband and I bought each other new wedding rings - mine is a beautiful diamond - his a silver band from Ireland engraved with the words Anam Cara. When I showed him a picture of it before I bought it, his whole face lit up and I knew it was perfect.
The notion of Anam Cara is close to our hearts you see and has seen us through moments of great joy and celebration as well as through extreme sadness and despair.
Anam means soul and cara is friend.
This idea of the soul friend has deep roots in Celtic Spirituality. It was brought into popular consciousness a couple of decades ago by the much loved yet now sadly departed John O' Donohue the Irish poet and mystic, in his beautiful book Anam Cara : a book of Celtic Wisdom bought for me by such a friend as treasured thereafter. ….
Originally reserved for one's spiritual mentor, shaman, druid, or latterly priest, to whom one confessed one's inner world and from whom one received spiritual guidance, the term evolved to embrace lovers, close friends and even beloved animals. We may have hundreds of acquaintances and social contacts yet the vast majority of us will only have five or six core friendships over the entire course of our lives.
Such friendships are precious indeed and are somehow distinguished from others by the level of intimacy present.
With our soul friends, we are enabled by some mysterious connection to penetrate through to a deeper level of knowing, to slip through some kind of inter -dimensional portal if you like, to a realm where we are connected to what is infinite and eternal within the soul.
Our Anam Cara come into our lives and it is as if we have known each other before, maybe many times, in many lives who knows? Yet whatever the ultimate explanations may turn out to be, they know us profoundly.
Friendships like these says John O' Donohue, are always an act of recognition.....there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow.
They get us on a deep, deep level: they understand our soul's purpose and will assist us to full-fill it. We may at times be separated for many years, our lives may take us in very different directions, sometimes many hundreds of miles away from one another and yet the bond with ones Anam Cara is never broken even when these dear ones have died.
It is love that allows this deep knowing of another to occur, an ancient love of the unique soul that inhabits the body whilst here on earth. Such love, says O' Donohue,
….. is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you learn to love and let yourself be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered.
This year, a little older still, my husband led our way through the wood to a circle of young oak trees he's been tending for nearly a decade. There're off the beaten track, nestled behind a group of tall, established trees, thick laurel bushes and prickly brambles. I'd not seen them for a couple of years and was surprised at how much they'd grown. This is one of my husband's special spaces, sacred space if you like, where he comes to be quiet, sometimes very late at night. No one, apart from foxes, badgers, moles, rabbits, birds of course and monk jack deer frequent this spot and so it's very peaceful. We stood in the circle, with the characterful oaks surrounding us and I began to read our favourite passage from Journey to the East by Herman Hesse which we had first quoted all those years ago.
There were wonderful festive days whenever we met other parties on our way.....numerous groups were simultaneously on the move, each following their own leaders and their own stars, each one always ready to merge into a greater unit and belong to it for a time, but equally prepared to move on again separately. Some went on their way quite alone. I also walked alone at times, without a tent, without a leader, without a speaker.
Our tale is difficult to tell because we not only wandered through space, but also through time. We moved toward the East, but we also travelled into the Middle Ages and the Golden Age; we roamed through Italy and Switzerland, but at times we also spent the night in the tenth century and dwelt with the patriarches or the fairies.
During the times I remained alone, I often found again the places and people of my own past. Sometimes my company consisted of the beloved characters of my books; Almansor, Parsifal, Witiko or Goldmund rode by my side, or Sancho.
When I found my way back to our group in some valley or other, heard the league songs and camped by their leaders' tents, it was immediately clear to me that my excursions into my childhood and my ride with Sancho belonged essentially to this journey.
For our goal was not only the East, or rather the East was not only a country and something geographical, but it was the home and youth of the soul, it was everywhere and nowhere, it was the union of all times.
Hermann Hesse, The Journey to the East
What grace it is that we find each other.......what divine magic!
And so in parting I wish the same for you, and....if you have not yet met your Anam Cara, your own Soul Friend or Friends, may they make haste from the distance toward you and may your heart open wide to greet and cherish them.
Anne Maria Clarke
DREAMING THE WAYS OF ELEN
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Anne Maria Clarke
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