Posted by: christinelaennec | December 7, 2010

Good advice from the 16th century

Winter sunrise, Aberdeen, (The shape in the foreground is the Victorian cast-iron decoration on the roof of our flat.)

Advent is well underway and I’ve been endeavouring to keep my mind focused on the coming of the light.  Light is such a powerful concept:  it’s both a wave and also particles, and it only takes a small amount of light to vanquish darkness.

At the same time, I feel very aware these past days of how short I fall of being able to “live in the light”.  Tempers are fraying, the Dafter has oodles of homework (a chance to refresh my algebra and geography), Michael is working every blinking minute of the day and night, we’ve got colds and we’re still battling through the snow and ice after two weeks.  There are presents to make, wrap and send, and concerts to prepare for, and shouldn’t this be enjoyable?  We’re all very tired, and counting the days until we can have some time off.  What better opportunity could I have to focus on light?  What better opportunity to just lighten up!  But it’s hard work, mentally.

However, my notes from my trip to Crathes Castle this summer have revealed a timely piece of advice.

The ancient yew hedges at Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire, June 2010

Several rooms in the castle have 16th-century verses painted along the sides of the rafters, so that as you look at the ceiling from the end of the room, the lines of verse follow on one from the other.   I noted this one down:

“Giue not ouer thy mind to heauines, and vexe not thy self in thyn awin counsell.”

[“Give not over thy mind to heaviness, and afflict not thyself in thine own counsel. ” The Wisdom of Sirach 30, v. 21 King James Version (Vulgate Ecclesiasticus)]

To me this says: Stay in the present moment and just get out of your own way!  That sounds to me like a good method of focusing on the light.  That, and counting my many blessings.



  1. thank you for this wonderful post….I too am working on staying in the Light…His light. you’re right, it takes much effort. but it is so worth it. Have a wonderful week!

  2. Hi Christine. Thanks for your lovely comments. i hope i didn’t sound to much of a moaning face – I am trying to surrender to the elements and go with the flow. At least we still have power and water.
    I’m glad you liked Mary’s star path. The idea is that each day in Advent, she advances one star towards the stable. There are big stars for each Sunday, The star path is laid out to be very twisty and winding – to represent the difficulties we all face in our path towards the Light. As the weeks progress, little addition are made to the scene – rocks and crystals, plants and pinecones etc, stable animals and then in the last week, the Shepherds and Joseph waits in the stable for Mary to arrive. Then on Christmas Eve, or Day, the Child appears. The scene can continue until 12th night with the Magi arriving then, or they can arrive sooner if you wish.
    It can be done with MAry and Joseph together on the path, and indeed, that is how the original journey would have been made. I like to do it with Mary alone, as I see it as a meditation on my own journey. I think, at Christmas, with all the ‘stuff’ going on, as you write in your post, we women do bear the brunt of it all – the conception of the ideas, the organising, the making it all happen. I think Mary’s journey is also our journey, and just moving her along, one star at a time just gives me a moment of mindfulness – a moment to remember wonderful advice like the one you shared from Crathes. I will think of that tomorrow. Thank you. xxx

  3. Dear Lisa and Jacqui,
    I wish I had more time to do justice to your comments. It’s one of those “Hurry up and Get Ready to Wind Down!” moments, with an early departure tomorrow. Thank you both so much. Jacqui, your nativity tradition is fascinating. I especially like that the path is twisty and winding. That reminds me of the one time that I had the chance to walk a labyrinth. The experience was deeply calming, and at the end I concluded that really what one must do in life is simply put one foot in front of the other and not worry overly about how the pattern will come out, or how it makes sense and is put together. Lisa, I really enjoyed your recent post about making time to stop and reflect in the midst of the busyness – and the image of keeping one’s “inner fire” lit.

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