Saturday, August 02, 2008

Anam Chara - Reyah - Soul Friend

א' אב התשס"ח
Lughnasadh 2

In follow-up to an April entry (Reyah - A Friend Like Me), I've discovered the Celtic term which describes the concept of soul-friend (as does the Hebrew term, רֵעַ reyah). The Celtic term is anam chara.

Oonagh Rodgers explains the Celtic concept of anam chara:

Anam Chara is a Gaelic word meaning soul-friend. Anam - soul, Chara- friend. The concept derives from an ancient Celtic tradition and is still a popular practice in many spiritual traditions in Ireland today. The anam chara acted as mentor, teacher, companion and spiritual guide. The emphasis was on spiritual companionship and direction as opposed to today's romantic notion of the 'soul-mate'. The relationship was much deeper and often lasted a lifetime.

The Celts believed the anam chara was joined in an ancient and eternal bond with his/her friend of the soul and this bond could not be broken, even if the friend moved away and there was a great physical distance between them. The Celtic understanding did not set limits of time and space on the soul nor was there any split between the sacred and the mundane. All aspects of life were manifestations of soul.

Many ancient Celtic philosophies or perspectives passed into the Irish Christian Celtic tradition and in spite of many attempts in the past to 'Romanize' Irish Christianity, these remnants remain. There has been a surge in interest and an urge to reclaim the wisdom of our Celtic spirituality.

However, the danger lies in approaching the tradition as another fashionable and exotic spiritual programme. The anam chara reminds us that spirituality or soul work demands commitment and the willingness to embrace the light and the darkness of our life's journey and allow it to be.

"In everyone's life there is great need for an anam chara, a soul friend. In this love you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of acquaintance fall away. You can be as you truly are .... The anam chara is God's gift..." John O' Donohue

In Jewish Kabbalah, one's anam chara is called a reyah. King David had a reyah, an anam chara - Jonathan.

Edain McCoy discusses the ancient Celtic concept of the anam chara (soul friend bonding) as it exists within the context of shamanic traditional Celtic Witchcraft in her book, Celtic Women's Spirituality: Accessing the Cauldron of Life.

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