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From smarming mists beyond telling emerged the Celtic Druids with their rituals, prayers, stories, and incantations that swelled their oral tradition for long centuries and steeped their followers in a natural wisdom. Even though their power was indisputable, lawlessness still terrorized the land.

To ward off protection from bandits, travelers often invoked Nature in The Celtic Breastplate:

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven:

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightening,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea,

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.

Centuries later, when St. Patrick and his monks were evangelizing fifth-century Ireland, he spotted Celtic marauders on the road, intent upon their destruction. He remembered this prayer and used its blessing as a protection. “Immediately, a cloak of darkness went over them so that not a man appeared.”

The story from The Celtic Tradition by Caitlin Matthews continues: their enemy only saw a troop of eight deer and a fawn with a white bird on its shoulder. Patrick and his cohort continued their journey, unharmed.

So the Celtic Breastplate has become the St. Patrick’s Breastplate: I Bind unto Myself Today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The arctic freeze continues creating havoc in our country, even into late February. Stories abound of utility outages, food shortages, and health issues, even death. Necessary errands present challenges.

In such circumstances, I reach for the slim novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich written by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn; its protagonist is drawn from the author’s experience as a bricklayer in one of the Gulag slave labor camps in Karaganda, northern Kazakhstan.

The novel begins in 1951, five o’clock in the morning—Twenty-seven degrees below zero and another work day, outdoors, for Ivan and the five hundred prisoners in Hut 6. The ragged noise of the hammer awakening them was “… muffled by ice two fingers thick on the windows.” From then until lights out, the reader follows Ivan’s efforts to survive.

Extremes of stale black bread and gruel in the mess hall, extremes of ragged clothing triple-wrapped around emaciated bodies, extremes of frostbite and blinding snow, extremes of cutting winds with no shelter, extremes of armed guards and attack dogs, extremes of multiple roll calls—all described in terse words, with no respite for the killing chill.

Aside from its gripping story, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, its 1962 publication by the Russian literary magazine Novy Mir is significant. Until then, the atrocities of the Gulag system had been kept hidden from the world. With Stalin’s death in 1953 and with the de-Stalinization programs instituted by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, this novel revealed its egregious secret. Solzhenitsyn continued writing from his Russian heart, until his death in 2008.

“Thanks to be to Thee, O God, another day over!” Ivan says as the novel ends.

At 5:45 A.M., I awoke with this big dream:

Two black stallions, bejeweled and sleek, find their way into my backyard.

Rarely do I remember dreams from this depth of my unconscious as discovered by the Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung in the early 1900s. Called the collective unconscious, it includes genetically inherited material in symbolic form, not shaped by personal experience. The personal unconscious deals with repressed material from consciousness from whence most of my dream emanate.

So it’s the gift of two black stallions, bejeweled and sleek, to reflect upon this morning—I still remember how they looked at me, their deep souls enticing me into their world, nurturing and warm: I was content to remain there. But their adornment intrigued me—halters crafted with rich gem stones. Indeed, these horses were from another realm and I was to learn from them.

It was a question of listening, moment by moment.

Because my physical waning creates more limits, narrows my outer world, and tempers my attitude, I must remain with this morning’s gift of the two black stallions. Let them fortify my psyche with masculine energy, beauty, affection, speed, and grace, all symbolic traits of stallions that will guide me toward my ultimate destiny of unending joy.  

Perhaps in that realm, more black stallions, bejeweled and sleek, will play.How Creator God will smile…

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