by Ivan McBeth
Just before Beltaine 1989 one of my very special magical dreams became physical reality. An Oak Dragon friend called Persh asked me if I would help organize a group trip to Dingle in southwest Ireland, to visit a dolphin called Fungi who loved to swim with humans. I was delighted to be asked, and looked forward to manifesting this dream. The group had an interesting name, The Green Samurai. They were members of an active esoteric school working with environmental issues and inner growth teachings. After a whirlwind two weeks planning and packing we set off. There were twenty-five adults and fifteen children on board. What a drive! Matty, Persh’s partner and intrepid driver, did very well on such a long run.
Eventually we arrived and piled out of the coach. A farmer had given us permission to camp on his land for a week, and we erected our mega-bender. A mega-bender, incidentally, is simply a huge bender, designed for community rather than individual use. It has a framework of whippy wooden poles harvested from the woods: ash and hazel are best. The thicker ends of the poles are stuck into the ground making a circle, and are then lashed together at the top. More poles are interwoven horizontally with the vertical ones; make a structure like an upside-down colander emerging from the ground like a holy mushroom.
Over the pole structure a canvas tarpaulin, which is attached well, usually with wooden stakes hammered into the ground. A normal family-sized bender would have a maximum diameter of about 18 feet, but a mega-bender can be up to thirty feet across. A groundsheet and a carpet cover the floor, a woodstove and chimney built in, and hanging shelves attached to the framework. A wooden door covered with canvas is attached to the frame, and Bob’s your uncle! This temporary home would be large enough to house all of us, in an intimate fashion, and strong enough to weather all but the most severe of storms.
We had cut the living wooden poles in England before setting off, in case there was difficulty in finding the required amount in Eire. They were packed in the aisle between the seats on the coach, making an interesting obstacle course while we on the road! Most of the participants in the adventure were strangers and we organized rotas for cooking, tidying up, washing the dishes and other chores: it worked very well. I found myself entering the world of the kids and became nature magician with flute, crystals and organic top hat… I had been given a top hat woven from straw just before starting our trip, and I wore it with pride. I strode the cliffs and open fields of Eire like a king on a children’s adventure where I ruled the world and all dreams came true.
On the second day the bravest (or stupidest) of the merry band went for a swim. Dingle is a small town on the side of a bay maybe three quarters of a mile long and half a mile wide. The bay is connected to the sea by a deep channel three hundred yards wide. We were camped near the mouth of the channel under a huge old circular tower. Below was a cheerful sandy beach, where most of the dolphin sightings were recorded, and it was the favorite place to swim if one wanted to meet Fungi.
The sea is bitterly cold, but I don’t even attempt to put on one of the wetsuits we have brought. I can’t bear the thought of being enclosed and cut off from the outside world by a restrictive rubber straightjacket. They are much too small for my large frame anyhow. There are a few swimmers out in the middle of the channel and I catch the occasional glimpse of a fin. Fungi is present!
At this point I have to face two of my deepest fears: deep water and the cold. As a child I nearly drowned in water while out of my depth, and now I very rarely allow myself to venture into deep water. In addition, I find cold water very painful and, despite my early morning cold dips, any extended foray into cold deep water quickly brings me to panic.
I enter the unkind water, making for the centre of the channel. I am only twenty yards or so from dry land when the terror hits: I turn around and strike frantically out for the shore. It is freezing, and my imagination creates all sorts of horrors underneath me, arising from the depths. Shivering, I stagger ashore into the wicked wind that cools my body down even more. Despairing, I know that my hopes of meeting Fungi are simply not realistic. I can’t fit into a wetsuit as I am too big, the cold will kill me if I try swimming without protection, and I am far too scared of deep water. My shoulders slump and I feel like crying.
I look longingly at the fin that appears every so often in the middle of the channel, and suddenly a wildness overcomes me. I know I will regret it to the day I die if I don’t meet the dolphin. I realize I have to do this even if it kills me. Throwing caution to the winds I scream suddenly, ecstatically, run back into the water and swim for my life. The sensors under my body know I am moving out into seriously deep water and I swim fifty yards, then one hundred yards into the sea. After a while I realize that the water temperature seems to be stabilizing, and the cold isn’t biting so deeply.
In a state of stunned relief I know that, barring emergencies, it is going to be all right. I feel that a miracle is happening. At this point Fungi appears! He comes and checks me out, swimming close yet keeping a respectful distance. I am wearing a beautiful silver and turquoise bangle, an important and sacred gift, and I want to offer it to Fungi. I take it off, and hold it awhile. As the dolphin cruises directly below, I drop it onto his back and I know it has been received.
After a while I check out my position. Fungi and the other swimmers seem too far away. To my horror I realize the current is carrying me into the bay. There is only a hundred yards distance from the beach into the centre of the channel, and I managed that OK. If I am swept into the bay, I will have a distance of many hundreds of yards to reach shore, and I am not sure I have the strength or stamina to make it. I strike out urgently for the rocky coastline, and seem to be making maddeningly slow progress.
Suddenly I see a fin break the surface close by. It is Fungi! I know that he knows what is happening, and is aware that I need some support. The dolphin accompanies me all the way back to the seaweed-covered rocks, a swim that sometimes seems interminable. For a while it is touch and go, yet I finally reach the shore, exhausted, just before it gives way to the vast watery expanse of the open bay.
Happy to be alive, I celebrate with a few whoops and shrieks. On an impulse I pull a long strand of seaweed off the rocks and twirl it underwater. Fungi rolls in the same direction! I reverse the direction of spin, and the giant fish-like mammal mirrors my every move! We then play together like a couple of kids (or dolphins) until I get cold and start to make my way back to the beach, where my warm clothes are waiting. The rocks are covered with very slippery seaweed and the going is slow. It is much safer and quicker to swim back in the shallow water, and my new friend accompanies me until I am safely back on the beach.
While approaching the cliff on the way back to camp, my attention is drawn to a crevice in an interesting looking boulder. Imagine my delight when I peer in, and see a large perfect crystal growing from the solid rock! I slip my hand in and wiggle it: it comes free in my hand. I inspect it – it even looks like a dolphin! Thank you, dear Eire, dear Fungi, dear Great Spirit!
The next couple of days were a little stormy. I had to make the bender gale proof by lashing it firmly to the ground with rope and extra stakes. Most of the time I remained at base camp, cheering up those who were not used to camping, playing with the kids, and simply interacting with members of the group. From time to time I would take time out for myself, and would stride across the sandy wind-blown beaches exploring, and collecting ‘Kerry diamonds’, single quartz crystals that had fallen out of the eroding cliffs. Some of the crystals I found were fresh, sparkling and many-faceted, others had been sandblasted and water-worn to create magical sea sculptures. Each contained a little unique spirit that was great fun to get to know; I would sit on a rock or dune for ages, peering at my new little friends and exploring their features.
I loved the evenings and nights, sitting by the fire, storytelling and making music. At last, sated by gentle magic and feeling happily exhausted, I would snuggle up to the children by the fire and drift into sleep to the rhythms of the sea.
When I awoke in the mornings, I would invariably find at least half a dozen kids pressed up against me, or on top of me, in all sorts of crazily contorted positions. I felt like a modern-day Peter Pan!
The last full day at Dingle dawns in golden shafts of light, and I feel that something special is in the air. After breakfast I am speaking with a friend called Kate, and we reckon we have worked enough. We decide to devote the day to purely spiritual and joyful pursuits.
We are both crystal people, and have brought our favourite gems with us to Eire. We know of a special cove half a mile to the east of the camp, and decide to set out our crystals there. If it feels right, we will perform some sort of ceremony for the Spirit of the Land, the sun, and the sea.
In bright glorious sunlight we set off and reach the cove. It is an awfully long way down from the cliff top. We half walk, half scramble down the steep spiral animal path until we finally reach the beach. For a while we explore the rocks and hidey-holes, then Kate calls me over to the cliff-face. A gentle waterfall launches itself off the top of the cliff into space and arrives at the base in a mixture of atomized spray and lazy drips. It splashes onto a flat, natural rock altar covered in moss, and creates the most delightful fairy rainbows in the sun. We recognize this to be the centre of our operations today.
We take off our restrictive clothing and feel the sun’s glowing warmth pierce through our skins, deep into our bodies, and warming our bones. The cove is a wind-trap and the air is almost perfectly still; it feels like a salty, ozone-scented oven. Kate is exquisitely beautiful, and I feel very alive. We both radiate an intense joy in life and celebrate our physicality in innocence and openness. After bathing awhile in the rays of the sun, we enter the sea together, exploring the bay and cleansing ourselves.
I am floating close to the cliff in deep water when I see crystals. Reaching into a hole in solid rock, I feel a crystal and it detaches itself easily. As I look into my open hand, I see an icy clear quartz point with a lovely mineral deposit upon its surface, coloring it a luminous red like blood. I carry it back to the shore in my mouth so as not to lose it.
We leave the water and allow the sun to dry our bodies, and then walk to the deep-green, velvety waterfall altar. Such radiant natural beauty, such simple stillness! We then get our crystals out, assemble them, and make a wonderful spontaneous mandala upon the mossy altar stone. As the pattern of sparkling crystals grows, the sun bounces and plays among them, sending quivering rainbows flashing merrily into the world.
Kate and I are two children in bliss as we play with the elements: the gentle breeze strokes the fine hairs on our sensitive skin, the sun kisses our very beings. The sea is a fluid medium upon which dance an infinite number of sparkling beings brought into existence by the union of sun and water. The crystals, dense transparent matter, bring the rocks and cliffs to life with their otherworldly, prismatic magic. Our love for each other, for Nature, and for the Goddess, Planet Earth, radiates outwards and touches All Beings everywhere.
The last crystal is placed and the mandala completed. All is perfection. We relax, our awareness fusing with all of Nature. A giant fish jumps clear of the water, hovers for an eternity, and then falls back with a resounding crash. It is Fungi! Kate and I realize then that we are no longer detached beings. All separation has dissolved. We are of the moment, integrated elements in the vast ebb and flow of existence. Of course Fungi has arrived at the precise time our magical Working is complete, for he is at the heart of the Dream we have both been weaving!
For a startled instant we stare at one another, and then our eyes soften. We surrender to the dance, and give thanks for our roles on this special, magical day. We run to the sea where the dolphin is playing, and dive in. He is powering himself through the narrow channels between three huge rocks that break the surface of the water. His streamlined body is furiously pumping, causing large bow-waves to break against the cliffs. From time to time he hurls himself out of the water in explosions of exhilaration and life-force.
His delight is catching and we follow him as best we can. He approaches Kate and lets her stroke him before flicking his tail and accelerating with alarming speed into the darkness below. I climb onto one of the small rocky islands and wait for him to reappear. With a whoop, I dive-bomb him as he shoots past, just missing him.
Fungi and I then dance underwater cartwheels. First the human is on top and then the dolphin, spinning in joy below the waves. Unfortunately I have to break off the action and rise to the surface for air; Fungi then plays with Kate. I dive-bomb Fungi again, and the playful creature leaps out of the water in a graceful arc over my head.
After a while I look inland. I am astonished to see most of our group there at the water’s edge or in positions with a view, watching spellbound. I find it meaningful that nobody is joining us in the water: the action is for Kate, myself and Fungi alone. And how on earth have they found out what is happening here in this deserted cove? We didn’t tell them where we were going…
I would have expected maybe three or four people walking along the coastal cliff-path to notice what was taking place, but certainly not the twenty-five or so people who are present. I feel they have been summoned to witness the energetic culmination of the group’s time at Dingle.
For a while I watch their eyes. Their bodies are in this world, yet their spirits are in the place where wonders and miracles are commonplace. They are deeply submerged, like Kate and myself, in the sacred. Suddenly Fungi shoots below me, nearly catching me out and I dive quickly under the water’s surface, reaching for his tail. My thoughts dissolve and I enter the eternal present once again, the place and time of the magical child. I forget completely all that is not concerned with my immediate reality: Kate, the dolphin, and the sea…