Anamchara, soul-friend

Image of a barred owl feather

Yesterday, the chickens were out running about and I was supervising. Every time a crow cawed, they would run for cover under a car or in their pen, and I would chide them gently.

“Sillies,” I would say. “The crows won’t hurt you. It’s the hawk that circles around these parts you need to worry about.”

Then, one time, a crow cawed and I looked up to see where it was and instead of a crow, I saw a hawk soaring. Silently.

You may or may not know this, but crows do not like hawks. If you spend much time outside and look to the sky often, you will probably eventually have the pleasure of watching a murder of crows tormenting a hawk–chasing it, hounding it, almost bullying it.

You might even feel sorry for the hawk.

But the reason that crows do this is that hawks are terrible predators of their young. They harry the hawk, annoy it until it leaves, because hawks will kill their families.

As soon as I looked up and saw the hawk, I understood something new.
The chickens were not running for cover because they are afraid of the crows. They were running for cover because they *understand* the crows.

They are not afraid of crows. They are afraid of what the crow’s caw warns them of: Skyward predator, beware.

It turns out that very often, what looks “silly” to an outsider is actually a reflection of a deeper wisdom that is unseen to the casual observer.
And when we take off our patronizing “I know things you don’t” hat and look past the “you’re so adorable you sillies” veneer, we discover that everyone has their own native wisdom and intelligence by which they operate.

So, anyway, I’ve been learning to trust myself, and my instincts, and even my inner child. I think often of all the times I changed my name as an adolescent. Every time we moved (which was often), every time I went to a new school (which was even more often). Constantly reinventing myself, trying on new “me”s. Most of the time, the names were innocuous, gender neutral-ish, and unusual but not unheard-of. Tess was one. Lynne was another.

I have recognized these as me telling myself truths about myself. My name was wrong. I needed something truer. Less gendering was truer.

For about a year in New Hampshire, however, I insisted that everyone call me “chara.” Yes, “chara” with a lowercase “c.” I signed my poetry, of which I wrote a lot that year, in this way: chara.

No last name, either. Just. chara.

Yes, even when the name was the start of a sentence.

chara.

I have had a lot of compassion and understanding for the me who named herself Tess and Lynne. I have thought that other adolescent self rather silly and empty-headed, the one who insisted on chara. Ridiculous. I’ve been a little ashamed of her.

And besides, isn’t “chara” such a *girl’s* name? I must have really been far from myself that year

You may or may not know my journey to the name I use now, which feels very much like my True Name. The one I was supposed to have all along, and certainly the one that is right Right Now.

Part of that journey is how the word “Druadìn” came to me (through my connections to ancient Greek) and only later did I make the connection to the word “Druid” which then led me down a long and stunning journey through and to the lost (but not lost) traditions of my physical ancestors, the Celts and their precursors, the indigenous peoples of the ancient British isles.

I have struggled to understand how that stint of adolescence in which I was “chara” fit in with my soul journey.

I have written it off as adorable silliness.

Anyway, this morning I was reading from Peter Beresford Ellis’s book “The Druids” and stumbled on an interesting tidbit. I can only speak in broad terms about the thing right now, because Ellis mentions it mostly in passing and Wikipedia is sketchy, and I have to wait for the book I ordered to get here to dive much deeper, but in short here is what I read:

Among the Celts (and their precursors–I always say “and their precursors,” because I believe the practices and teachings I’m looking for are more ancient than what has come down to us as “Celtic,” though the Celts certainly would have imbibed at least some of it), there was a practice that was absorbed by the Irish Catholic church in its early days, which manifested in allowing people to “confess” to a “soul-friend” rather than to a priest.

This practice was eventually prohibited by the church, possibly due to the fact that the Celts themselves had no concept of “sin” in the Christian sense, and so the “confession” to a soul-friend was wholly different in nature from Catholic confession.

Possibly dangerous.

From what I understand so far, the “soul-friend” was a (possibly Druidic) function served by someone (male or female) who had a particular skill in holding space in a particular way to listen and allow the “confessor” to speak of things they did not feel they could share with others, to speak their whole truth, and to be heard and held in a way that then permitted them to find their own soul’s path forward from that moment.

Such a practice would lead a person to their own truth, rather than the “truth” as determined by a church.

Definitely dangerous.

As I read the description of “soul-friend,” I feel a deep, deep resonance with what it is that I do, my special gift to the world, my particular way of listening that opens space for others (human and otherwise) to tell their stories and find their way to their truth.

So, anyway, you may be interested to know that the Irish word for “soul-friend” is a two-part word consisting of both “soul” and “friend,” but combined to form one word. The word “soul” is “anam.” The word friend… is “chara.”




Anamchara.

The word “chara,” though in another context a word in its own right, would never be capitalized in this context, even at the beginning of a sentence, because it is the second part of a complete word.

This is the year I wrote a lot of poetry. This was the year I felt almost entirely myself. At home. This was the year I felt free… for a bit.

Anamchara.

This morning, when I came out to let my very smart and wise chickens out of their pen to run around for a little while, I found a feather from another kind of bird.

A visitation.

The visitor was an owl. Owls are symbols of hidden knowledge, of seeing things that others don’t see. Of finding the way through the dark.
Quietly. Quietly. Seeking truth. Accurately. Wisely.

What if that silly, empty-headed little old adolescent me wasn’t so silly and empty-headed.

What if she Knew something I would only learn later.

What if, through the darkness of adolescence, she was shining a light on a Truth my older self would need to see?

Anamchara.

Soul-friend.

I help others listen to their own hidden, internal wisdom.

I am Anamchara.