It being the school half term holiday and it being an Irish bank holiday Monday, the sky is an impenetrable grey and the rain is coming down in stair rods.
Our son was sat watching a DVD from the Sharpe series.Sharpe is character created by the novelist by Bernard Cornwell and played in the television series by Sean Bean.Sharpe is a soldier in Wellington’s army, fighting in the Napoleonic wars.I caught a couple of minutes of the DVD as I went around doing nothing in particular.
An Irish character is asked, “do you believe in ghosts”?
He answers, “I believe in God the Father, I believe in God the Son, and I believe in the sidhe blowing on the wind”.
“Not sure about that”, I thought.The sidhe are the spirits, the fairy folk; the forces outside human understanding.The sidhe best known to outsiders like myself is the Bean Sidhe (banshee); the female spirit whose wailing is meant to announce a death.
The idea of the Holy Spirit being referred to as a sidhe was alarming, but then I thought of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John’s Gospel. In the sentence after he tells Nicodemus he must be”born again”, Jesus says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The picture of the Spirit working in lives, like the wind blowing wherever it pleases is very troubling for traditional churches with our structures and hierarchies. It means God can’t be controlled, that he can’t be dispensed according to the whims of bishops and synods.
The picture of the Spirit as being like a sidhe blowing on the wind is provocative on a Hallowe’en morning, as the old Celtic year comes to an end and a new one begins at midnight.
The churches stamped out the old spirituality rooted in the cycle of the seasons and the natural world because they said it conflicted with the true faith. One wonders if there was not also an element of wishing to destroy something that could not be controlled by the priests and bishops.
In medieval times they would seek to stamp out all manifestations of the Spirit in the life of the Church; people were to be denied the Scriptures, denied the right to pray for themselves, denied the opportunity even to ask questions of those who claimed they possessed all access to God.
Faced with a choice between the God presented by the medieval hierarchy and the sidhe blowing on the wind, I know which I would choose.