COLIN MURRAY - in memoriam
"Coll:Hazel. A poetic skill, strong in meditation and mediation, good at divining, the inspiration or capacity to channel creative energy, especially among others."
This extract from the Ogham Tree Alphabet provided by Colin Murray exactly describes Colin himself; Colin identified with Coll, Hazel, and used that name as his signature. His early death on 12th August 1986 at his home has shocked and saddened us, but yet his enormous energy and inspiration live on, not only among family and close friends, but literally all over the world.
Colin Denys Murray was born 26th August 1942 in Warwickshire. His family were able to trace connections to the ancient Scottish Murray clan. Trained as an architect, he very soon became fascinated with Celtic design, and he was much influenced by the work of the Art Nouveau artists and craftspeople. Taking this interest further, he researched its roots, and was led, via William Blake, to ancient Albion and then, further, into the study of Celtic art, history, language, mythology and religion.
Intellectual study led to added dimensions. He became involved in the aspirations of Celtic peoples, whether Cornish, Breton, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, or belonging to the smaller enclaves throughout the world. At the same time he moved into awareness of the spiritual side of the Celtic heritage. Diving deep, he learned the secrets of the Old Wisdom, and, emerging, he became ready to share his knowledge and inspiration with others.
Thus the Golden Section Order "for the preservation of Celtic lore, monuments and antiquities" was born, with its first home in the Bardic Chair of Caer Llydain in London. With it came Colin's gatherings at the four Fire Festivals - Imbolc, Beltane, Lugnasad, and Samhain - and at the four sun festivals - the equinoxes and solstices. At these he initiated rituals based on the Celtic religion. These seasonal ceremonies brought together people from widely differing backgrounds, and asked from them no more than honest participation. Welcoming all who came, he made available to them his own increasing understanding of the links between the seasonal round and that of our own emotional and psychic growth. Starting in about 1976, these gatherings took on a dimension of spiritual and intellectual adventure. Colin researched appropriate places for each - Imbolc at St. Ann's Well, Chertsey; Beltane at the Druid Oaks, Glastonbury; Lugnasad at the Stone of Free Speech, Parliament Hill Fields, London; and Samhain at the Rollright Stones in the Cotswolds. Each place had some significant correspondence with the time of the festival.
At the events he provided a beautiful hand written and hand illustrated scroll giving the Order of Ceremony, and when new people came he went out of his way to incorporate a special place and role for them. He did not require participants to identify as Druid or even Celtic, only as honest seekers. The ritual would usually be opened by him at midday and the ceremony established; then there would be an informal time, a picnic for example. Perhaps he would have brought his ribbon maze with him - he would lay it out and we would run or dance through it. At sunset he would close the ritual. These events were both solemn and happy, full of immense spirituality and yet also carefree, joyous, and open.
Other meetings of the Golden Section Order brought together speakers and participants in many aspects of Celtic study and lore. I remember particularly a potent dream-telling session with Colin offering divinatory advice. At such meetings he might bring out his pack of Ogham divination tree alphabet cards and make readings for those who wanted them.
He often said his interest in trees started a long time back, when after a motor-cycle accident he was lying on his back, staring at intertwined tree branches above him. They seemed to be giving him both physical and spiritual help. He researched the Ogham tree calendar deeply, differing from the Robert Graves calendar in that he started the year with Beth, Birch, on November 1st, the beginning of the Celtic year, and not on January 1st as did Graves. Colin made available a wealth of Celtic material, especially Ogham cards and charts. At his death he was engaged on a book describing his research and his understanding of the Ogham Tree Alphabet and the divinatory methods connected with it. The publishers -and indeed all his friends - are hoping that his wife Jane Elizabeth will complete this task.
Alongside the GSO activities Colin initiated and produced, together with Elizabeth, the magazine, The New Celtic Review. This was an extraordinary publication, both in its actual beauty and the width and variety of its contributions on all aspects of Celtic lore. It was completely hand written and hand illustrated - the cover in colour - each copy an individual work of art. He gathered a network of writers and explored Celtic links in many parts of the world. He was able to publish work from Southern Africa describing the witch-doctor language and divination system of Ogham which had a great deal in common with Ogham. Other discoveries included a North African inscription in Ogham and a Semitic translation, and much new information on mazes, statues, runes and like material throughout the world. New information was constantly coming to him from readers, while, at the same time, a huge effort was needed to service the numerous enquirers on Celtic matters.
The GSO and the New Celtic Review reached the USA, where interest grew -and is growing - consistently. Much information came from Brittany and other Celtic homelands, as well as from various departments of Celtic studies in universities.
Colin's religion, he would tell us, was pantheistic. He welcomed female aspects of deity, and, with them, the matriarchal women of whom I am one. He gave us space in the ceremonies on our own terms and thanked us for representing the Matronae.
It is impossible for me to show the extent of his warmth and care and support, both for the Celtic cause and religion and for those within it. For me he was a Transformer, he changed my life with the ceremonies and the understanding that gradually grew within me.
He held a strong belief in reincarnation. We know that his death was caused by his eating leaves from a yew tree. In his Tree Alphabet he gives the following definition for Yew:" The ability to be reborn, continuously and everlastingly, the reference point for what has been and what is to come."
Let him be in the care of the Shining Ones as well as the Dark Mother. May he rest, and if it be so, be reborn in peace. May the love and care he gave us in this life stand surety for him; in his need may they stand by his side, as will our prayers and thanksgivings for his life.
His wife Jane Elizabeth, his former wife Sarah, his sons Tristram and Gabriel all have a special place with us, and to them our deepest feelings of support.
© Asphodel P. Long (Wood and Water 20, Winter Solstice 1986)