Social Distancing, Druids and Meditation

In his book “A God Who Makes Fire”, Christopher Scott Thompson looks at the 7th Century text called The Cauldron of Poesy, which introduces the druidic conception of there being three ‘cauldrons’ within each person that store and brew knowledge and experience in order to develop bardic expression and knowledge. This is also part of the BDO bardic course, available from our website.

“The Cauldron of Incubation is upright from the moment it is generated. It dispenses wisdom to people as they study in youth.

The Cauldron of Motion, however, magnifies a person after it is turned upright. It is on its side when first generated.

The Cauldron of Wisdom is upside down when generated, If this cauldron can be turned, it distributes the wisdom of every art there is.”

Pertinent to the situation we find ourselves in right now with physical distancing, is the Cauldron of Motion and how we can use this current time to help turn it upright.
The basic premise is that the first cauldron is filled by learning and study.
The second cauldron has to be developed, turned upright in order to be filled, and this can be done from a multitude of ways, including exploration, experiencing and cultivating extreme highs and lows of joy and sorrow.
Where I see the relevance to our period of extended physical distancing, is that the text lists different types of sorrow, one of which is grief and longing for people.
As Christoper states, ” Given that the apprentice Bards spent entire days in incubation in total darkness, the ‘longing’ described here may not be just for the poets own ‘people’ but for any people at all. Mental and physical isolation from others can be extremely trying psychologically, and probably caused the young poets genuine suffering’.
So how were these extremes of joy and sorrow incubated and used to turn the Cauldron of motion? Again, this forms part of the BDO bardic course, and one of the methods suggested in this book is taken from the Memoirs of the Marquis of of Clarincarde (1604-1657), published in 1722, and also Martin Martin of Skye in the 1690’s, which is that when overwhelmed by these emotions in daily life, the trainee bard would retire to a dark (pitch black) isolated room and meditate there constantly until he had transformed the emotion into a poem.
One of the ways to aid this process is to wrap a thick blanket around your head to cut out any exterior light or noises, another is to “lie in the darkness with a large stone on your belly to help you regulate your breathing. If you are breathing deeply from the abdomen… …your belly should expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. The stone makes it easier to tell if you are doing this properly”
These texts suggest that the druidic approach to meditation and times of stress vary quite considerably from the modern (mostly eastern) methods of using meditation to remove stress. . In the bardic schools, these emotions of sorrow and joy were to be sought out in equal measure and transformed into something else through isolation and meditation, rather than avoided and placated.