Cait Sith (Kellas Cat):Understanding Nonduality

 

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The Cait Sith of Scotland is a large black cat with dark green eyes, long ears and a white spot on her chest. If a person encountered the Cait Sith, they would hear a prophecy from Her. As a being from the Otherworld, She watches humans and reports on what She sees. In addition, the Cait Sith guards the secrets of the Otherworld.

People should be wary of the Cait Sith for a number of reasons. First and foremost, She steals people’s souls from their bodies. In Scotland when a person died, the family would guard the body in a Feille Fadalach (late wake). The first thing, they did was to douse all the fires. Afterwards, they lit a fire far away from the body to entice the Cait Sith to its warmth. Catnip was also spread around there as well. To distract the Cait Sith, people played music, held wrestling matches, and told riddles.

On Samhain (Halloween), the Cait Sith goes from house to house looking for milk to drink. If She found a full saucer, the Cait Sith blesses the family. Otherwise the Cait Sith curses their luck and their milk cows.

The idea that a cat has nine lives comes from stories about the Cait Sith. A witch could transform into a Cait Sith eight times. On the ninth time, they would remain in cat form forever.

Various people have suggested that the Cait Sith is the Kellas cat. This hybrid animal is the result of a mating between the Scottish wildcat and a domestic cat. The Kellas cat is pure black with a white a spot on his chest. This large cat also has powerful hind legs. The Kellas cat was once believed to be a hoax, until a specimen was shot and killed in 1984. (This animal is named for Kellas, Moray, where they was first seen.)

The Cait Sith helps people to understand “nonduality.” Is She the Kellas cat or is the Kellas cat, the Cait Sith? They are neither and both, going beyond human constructs. The Cait Sith and the Kellas Cat are from this world and the Otherworld. At liminal places, the two worlds bleed into each other, making them nondual. This can be one way to grasp nonduality.

Note:
Nonduality has been defined as “the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness.” To grasp what nonduality is has been elusive. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Neo-Platonism all have their own understandings of this concept.

Alphabet: The Many Uses of Irish Oghams

The various Oghams are used by the Irish in several ways. The Oghams were foremost an alphabet used for writing Irish. Numerous examples of boundary markers and other inscribed stones abound with people’s names written in letters from the Tree Ogham.

The Oghams have other uses as well. Some scholars think the Druids may have used them for a code language. Three Oghams often used for this purpose were the “Head in Bush,” “Head under Bush,” and “Serpent about Head.” The “Cattle Raid of Cooley” (“Ta’in Bo’ Cuailnge”) gives an instance of this. Cu’chulainn left an oak hoop with writing as a warning to the invading army. It was written in code that only Fergus mac Roi’ch, a Druid, could interpret. Fergus translated the writing this way: the army could not pass unless someone other than himself could duplicate Cu’chulainn’s feats.

In addition, several Oghams were used as mnemonic devices. For example, the Tree Ogham lists by letter – trees that are important to the Irish. Other such Oghams are “Animal,” “Bird,” “Color,” and “River Pool” to name a few. How these worked are as follows: First Aicme, Fourth Few letter would be in English “S.” In the Oghams, “S” would be “Sionnach” (fox in Animal Ogham), or “Seg” (hawk in Bird Ogham) or “Saille” (willow in Tree Ogham).

Some of the Alphabets such as the Foot Ogham and Nose Oghams were used as sign languages. However unlike the Sign Languages of Deaf people, these Oghams were used by hearing people, as a gesture type language. This gesture alphabet could be used to communicate quickly and quietly between people. Moreover, two people could hold a secret conversation while they were speaking out loud about general topics.

Another use for the Oghams is for magical purposes. In the British Museum, there is an amber bead inscribed with magical powers. The words on the bead cannot be translated into conventional Irish. Moreover, the O’Connor family who owned this bead used it to cure eye problems. They also used it in easing childbirth.

The modern use for the Oghams is divination. Where this modern notion comes from I do not know. Perhaps, the ancient Irish did use their Oghams for divining. Neighboring societies such as the Germans used their Runes for divination.

Diving Deeper into the Irish Oghams

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Since I live in an urban area in the Southeastern United States, many of the trees from the Oghams are foreign to me. To find out if any of these trees lived near me, I used a field guide to look up the taxonomic names of the local trees to discover if they were the same species. For the remainder, I followed the advice of Caitlin Matthews, in her book The Celtic Wisdom Tarot, to look for a native tree that had similar qualities to a tree of the Oghams. I had reasonable success with that but did find that substitution could be a problem. For example, Muin, the “Vine” of the Ogham generally is associated with grapes, but the major vine where I live is kudzu.

However, I did find some similar species that did make a connection to some of the letters:

Aicme Beth (First)
Beth: European Birch: River Birch
Luis: Rowan: Mountain Ash
Fearn: Alder: Smooth Alder
Saille: Osier Willow: Weeping Willow
Nion: Ash: Green Ash

Aicme Huath (Second)
Huath: Hawthorn: Cockspur
Duir: English Oak: White Oak
Tinne: Holly: Holly
Coll: Hazel: Witchazel
Quert: Crab Apple: Crab apple

Aicme Muin (Third)
Muin: Grapevine
Gort: English Ivy: English Ivy
nGetal: Broom
Straif: Blackthorn
Ruis: Elder

Aicme Ailm (Fourth)
Ailm: Silver Fir: Balsam Fir
Onn: Gorse
Ur: Heather
Eadha: Aspen: Bigtooth Aspen
Idho: Yew

Alphabets and Divination: Irish Oghams

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Because I am a diviner, I need to know many divination systems in order to do my work successfully. When my primary method gives murky or indefinite results, I often use an alternative method for gleaning more information. At other times, I switch my methods of divination to gain new insights. Therefore studying the Oghams fits in with my divination philosophy.

When people ask questions that affect the direction of their lives, many diviners will use four different methods of divination to assist that person. Each method will either add to the original reading or contradict it. Since they offer different perspectives to the same question, these other readings are helpful to the client. If the other readings contradict the first one, then knowing that is helpful for the client. Using the Oghams would add fresh insights to the original reading.

Studying the Oghams enhances my practice by offering a new way to approach divination. The Irish had different insights on the process than either the Norse or Tarot readers. Each new way of how to answer a question gives me more of an understanding of divination itself. Developed as an alphabet, the Oghams are steeped in Irish culture. They were employed by the Druids in their various “languages” of gestures, mnemonics, and secret codes. Because of these multiple uses, the Oghams offer more shades of meanings for answers in divination.

With the Tree Ogham, there is a connection with the living plants. Using each few of this Ogham, the diviner can tap into the wisdom of that tree or shrub. This makes for a more profound reading since insights from this Ogham comes from living entities. Furthermore, it taps into areas of the unconscious that other divination methods miss.

Moreover each few in the Tree Ogham has various kennings which give added shades of meaning to it. These kennings can pinpoint the precise meanings in a reading, and give depth to each meaning. Furthermore, the kennings offer alternative points of view. For “Tinne (Holly)” (second aicme, third few), the kennings include “one of three parts of a weapon,” and “o holly, little, sheltering one, thou door against the wind…” This gives a fuller sense of “Tinne” in a reading. For these reasons, the studying of the Oghams enriches my divination practice.

The Alphabet and the Cosmos

 

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The Tree of Life by the Hebrew Alphabet

 

Alphabets do more than simply freeze speech. They extend the power and reach of people. In reading Shakespeare, a person is partaking of the thoughts of a man long dead. Alphabets form the basis for magical speech and prayers to the Gods.

Traditionally, alphabets are thought to be the organizing principles of the world. For example, Christians believe in Christ’s statement: “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” (Christ is referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.) He is both ordering the cosmos through the alphabet and becoming the cosmos, itself.

Each letter contains the world, the means and form of creation. For many cultures, the letters themselves are holy beings. For example, the Norse viewed their Runes as living entities. The Ancient Greeks saw their letters as part of the cosmic order. Every letter conveys an idea, a poem, architectural design and textual space.

Letters through time have affected and reflected Western consciousness. Alphabets string letters together forming words. In this manner, they offer a magical portal to bridge the worlds. Moreover, individual letters have cultural meanings. In the Middle Ages, the capital “T” represented the Cross of Christ, associating that letter with the Crucifixion.

In 1529, French typographer Geoffroy Tory (1480–1533) in Champ Fleury, his treatise on the alphabet, reflected the Renaissance worldview that the Roman alphabet should one of harmony, balance, symmetry, and scale. He wrote that “L” was the letter of balance, because it was the shadow cast by the body at the autumn equinox. Tory presented “Y” twice: once in the “moral sense of the Pythagorean letter (Sens moral de la letter Pythagorique), and again as the choices presented in Dante’s Inferno.

Letters have shaped culture as each culture has shaped the letters. According to Cicero (First Century CE), the “Y” (upsilon) was associated with Hercules. The letter indicated the two paths – good or bad – that He had to choose. From this association, the “Y” became a letter which represented the physical geography of the Western world – the “fork in the road.” And also, because of its shape, the “Y” represented the moral choices that a person has to make.

The next time you meditate, ponder the shape and order of each letter in the alphabet that you use. What does each say in the relation to the world? For example, in the Roman alphabet, why is “X” the unknown and not “P?” Meanwhile, the Chinese use “N” for the unknown in mathematics. Why is “A” the grade for the best and not “L?” What does your alphabet say about your world and your consciousness?

Further Reading:

DeLooze, Laurence, The Letter & The Cosmos. University of Toronto Press: Toronto. 2016.