A birthday is a time to reflect, to take stock and to look ahead. It is the day you entered the world. No great shakes to anyone else, but to you – everything. Today is my thirty-ninth birthday. I had a small celebration the weekend immediately before, and tonight my partner is taking me out for a meal, but for now I am alone. As an individual soul we enter the world, and as an individual soul we leave it. If we are lucky we’ll have loved ones around us. Certainly our mothers were present at our births – and perhaps our fathers too. And when it is time to shuffle off this mortal coil, then we’ll be received into the embrace of Mother Death. But for now, it is time to celebrate being alive, being who you are, where you are, when you are. It is time when we reap what we have sown, in terms of the relationships in our lives – not that we should act in expectation of ‘reward’, give in order to receive, but the web of community works on reciprocation, of a fluid exchange of energy. If someone needs a hand, help them. A shoulder to cry on, just someone to talk to. Perhaps a disability or illness prevents them from managing a certain task. We all have our fortes, our skills – these can be exchanged for those we lack. Everyone is needed, everyone has a role to play, a niche to fill, a purpose.
A birthday is a good time to look with awen at ones relationships – which ones are functional, which ones dysfunctional? Is there love there – openness, trust, respect, warmth? Is there ‘bad blood’, bitter feelings, unexpressed anger, unresolved issues? Blake in his poem ‘A Poison Tree’ wrote:
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe,
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
If there’s ‘poison places’ in your heart, in your relationships – places of pain, of sorrow, of fear, of hate even – then shine the light of awen upon them. Bring them out into the light. Express them – using sound, dance, paint, clay, fire, whatever acts as a catalyst for catharsis. Talk about them – ideally with the person/people concerned but if not, then with a good friend or neutral ‘third party’, counsellor, agony aunt or uncle, etc. In the Celtic Tradition there was said to be a four-sided cup: if three untruths were spoken over it, it would shatter – but if three truths were uttered over its fragments, it would mend.
The Shattered Mirror of God
Are we the shattered mirror of God? Each of us has a divine spark, a splinter of Divinity, our sacred self. Whenever we connect, collaborate, forge friendships or fall in love, it seems a little section of it slots into place and heals. Life is full of chaos and conflict, but if humanity ever manages to live in harmony with itself and Nature for long enough, then perhaps all of the fragments will join back together once more and the mirror will be mended: at which point the face of the Divine will be reflected in the perfection of Creation, an equilibrium will be achieved, and maybe the universe will reach its ‘conclusion’, or attain another level of evolution.
So, on a microcosmic scale, whenever people come together in harmony, in creativity, in love, then the fragments of God mend and, for a while, there’s a little mirror of Heaven on Earth.
The Blessing of Friendship
Side by side with this essential ‘soul-work’ is the joyousness that should attend all birthdays: celebrate the healthy connections you have, the friends and family you are blessed with. A good friend is priceless. Honour them. Employ your bardic skill. Birthdays are good times to write a ‘praise-song’ for a loved one – dedicate a poem to them, compose a poetic portrait. Perform for them at their birthday gathering, or, if this would embarrass them – write out in calligraphy and give them a copy on parchment, tied with ribbon.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Janus was the Roman god of thresholds – with two faces, one looking forward, one looking back. His festival was celebrated in the month named after him: January – on New Year’s Day. He is the god of endings and beginnings, and he is a good deity to work with on what is your own ‘new year’s day’ – your birthday. Look back at your last year: what have you achieved? What have you learnt? What have you lost? What have you gained? Do you have tangible things to show for it: a series of paintings, a book, an album, or maybe just a photo album, a bundle of letters, mementoes and souvenirs from places visited or gifts received. Maybe there’s a new life in your life: a new partner, friend or even child. Maybe you have lost loved ones. Had a serious illness. Crisis. Trauma. Perhaps it has been a difficult, challenging year – your annus horribilis – or it could have been bittersweet, the ‘best of times, the worst of times’. Life is seldom one thing or the other for long. Embrace it all. Rejoice in it all, even the pain – for it teaches us many things. From it, we grow.
And turn over a new leaf. The journal of your coming year is unwritten. What do you want to manifest? Make a dream list: write down all things you wish to happen. Some things will be firmed up, others may be only fantasies: a new job, a new house, a new partner, children, travel, winning a prize, writing the ‘book inside you’. But unless you give yourself permission for these things to manifest, they never will. Dream them into your life. Visualise yourself enjoying whatever it is you not just desire, but need at a deep soul level. Materialism will not make you happy – ultimately. This isn’t a New Age greed-apologist philosophy – one that tells you its okay to be a capitalist, to be part of the system which is destroying the planet, exploiting people, manufacturing misery.
Spend time on your birthday completing a ‘soul-inventory’. Are you happy in your life? Where are you ‘at’ right now? Do you feel fulfilled? Frustrated? Sad? Over the moon? Are you following your life path? Are you postponing your happiness? Think about how you act around others. How you carry yourself in this world? With grace and dignity? Or like a clown? Do you tread on people’s toes? Put your foot in your mouth all the time? Get the wrong end of the stick? Do you flow through life, or find your life filled with obstacles? These stumbling blocks are part of life – it is how you react to them that matters. What are you finer qualities? Your worst qualities? Good and bad habits? What needs work? Physical: more exercise? Emotiona: more openness? Mentally: more studying? Accepting that we can never be ‘perfect’, that we have faults and foibles that needs to be embraced – we can still strive to ‘better’ ourselves. We are responsible for our own development. Living is a ‘boot-strap operation’ – no one else will do it for you.
Most people would rather improve, than worsen. We should never stop learning. Growing. Changing. Be happy with who you are, but accept that ‘person’ is a construct that can alter. It doesn’t have to stay the same way. When things become fixed, they stagnate and die. Life is flux. Dance with the change. Be the change.
Finally, remember to be in the here and now. Take the day off – this is your ‘sacred time’. Do the things which nourish you. Things that you love, or always fancied doing. Climb a mountain. Dive into the sea. Take a flying lesson, or book a balloon flight. Have a gathering. Celebrate!