First Voyage of the Coracle


A Celtic cross on a card

This Saturday I became a full member of the Community of Aidan & Hilda, a dispersed New Monastic community inspired by Celtic Christian spirituality of the 1st millennium AD. Its members come from many different countries and branches of the church, but all follow a common Way of Life and daily prayer pattern, as well as meeting and supporting each other in various ways. (Mostly via Zoom since I’ve joined, for obvious reasons!)

The vow-taking ceremony is called First Voyage of the Coracle, and the newly-vowed member is known as a Voyager. Any die-hard Narnia fans like me will remember a coracle as being the small, round boat Reepicheep the mouse finds in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and which eventually takes him to Aslan’s country.

As a North Irishman and a medievalist, CS Lewis was influenced in writing Dawn Treader by the ancient Celtic tradition of the imrama journey, a symbolic, spiritual voyage that changes the voyager. One such example from medieval times is the Voyage of St Brendan. Actually, there are two (at least!) voyages of St Brendan. One which actually happened in history, and on which Brendan may have reached the coast of North America. (It is said that he was going to preach to the peoples there, but when he encountered their spirituality, he decided they already had it sorted, and went home!)

Cover of a book with a boat and a whale

The other version of the story is the one that influenced CS Lewis. This is the legendary version of the story. (Rather as the Chinese Journey to the West is a legendary version of the real journey of the monk Xuanzang). In this tale, Brendan and his monks encounter fantastical places, such as an island that turns out to be a whale, men with dog’s heads, mermaids, and of course the sea serpent.

Both the real and the legendary versions of such journeys are inspiring in their different ways, and I hope they will continue to inspire me on my journey of life.

I’ll leave you with a picture from the weekend.

A woman kneeling beneath a cross


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