This is the chapel in Gladstone's Library. It's a very pleasing space which has a nurturing feel. Although it hasn't come out in this photo, the lights cast a golden glow. On a previous visit which coincided with it being the time of my flame-keeping vigil for Brigit, I checked with the chaplain that it was permitted to use the space and light candles in spite of not being a Christian and was told that it was. Although the Library has a strong Christian past and still has a Christian focus, it is an open-minded Christianity which is interested in interfaith dialogue. The Library holds to liberal values which it defines as: "a commitment to freedom and social justice, tolerance and respect of difference, open-mindedness coupled with intellectual curiosity, generosity of spirit and a willingness to learn from others".
The art work you can see here has always reminded me of a sun wheel and I went to look at it in greater detail.
It is made of glass, the cross appearing to be of metal, possibly copper. With the light sparkling off it, it reminded me of the light on water, an essential symbol of my work with and understanding of Brigit - "the waters of the sun" as I refer to it in my poem to her. Added to this, the arms of the cross seemed to me, as I sat and contemplated it, to be reminiscent of fire. Water and Fire - the two elements that are usually associated with Brigit. And the metal or metal-like nature of the arms also set off associations with her as goddess of smithcraft which in my life refers to the skill of bringing creativity into physical manifestation.
Seeing these elements before me in such a potent context I began to muse on the nature and interactions of water and fire. How both, like all the elements, like most things, have both a benign and a malign nature for us as humans. Water is life-giving, cleansing, beautiful, it flows, it changes shape inspiring ideas of motion, of change, of creativity. But it may also overwhelm land and resources and take away life, cutting us off from the element air we also need to survive.
Fire too gives us the blessing of warmth, a companion, a nurturer, representing vitality, the spark of life, of creativity. But it is also a devastating destroyer and may kill and maim.
Each may also banish the other: fire can turn water to steam, can disperse it, leading to dryness, to aridity. Water can quench fire leaving nothing but darkness and debris. Some of the focus this brings to me involves recognising how to keep these elements in balance so that their destructive aspects only come into play when beneficial (as destruction sometimes is), while for most of the time they enhance each other as sunlight on water, symbolising inspiration in Irish tradition, or as fire under water for cooking or to make drinks (especially, in my case, tea!) symbolising the nourishment vital to life and strength.
Thinking of my own expression of these elements I realise again that I lack fire; I suffer from cold intolerance and a debilitating lack of vitality. Water is my element - I love to be in it. In water I can move easily, with no fear of falling; I adapt, I lack boundaries, I flow. My astrological element is Aquarius with Pisces rising, an air sign and a water sign: the polar opposite of Aquarius is Leo, a fire sign; I think of it as the side of me that is in shadow. Perhaps I need to use my airiness to feed the fire and the smith in me, representing strength and manifestation.
How? It involves going deeper into the mystery!
The Library’s Warden, Peter Francis, states, "we are committed to maintaining Gladstone’s legacy of engagement with social, moral, and spiritual questions, by helping people reflect more deeply on the questions that concern them..." This is one of the values and delights for me of being here in Gladstone's Library.