Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
The one you love, your anam ċara, is the truest mirror to reflect your soul
~ John O’Donohue, ANAM Ċara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
When it comes to relationships, human nature hardwires us to connect with others who are like-minded, shaping our sense of identity and belonging. Lasting friendships form from the time we are children, affecting and influencing the people we become. We often describe our best friends and life partners as our soul mates.
Friendship is central to our well-being, yet the definition of friend, a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, feels more scientific than emotional. Soul mate, the person we think of as our other half, is defined a close friend or romantic partner, but it fails to deliver the depth of emotion the words imply.
A New Definition of Friendship
The phrase is overused and diluted, yet I have no better or deeper words to replace it. My husband is my soul mate, and I celebrate the life-long friendships I have with my soul sisters, but I struggle to describe who we are and what we share.
In October, I attended the funeral of a friend whose unexpected death left a hole in the lives and hearts of all who knew her. Her sparkle, intelligence, humor and love filled the room as we gathered to celebrate her life.
The minister spoke of the loving relationship she shared with her spouse, saying they were more than soul mates, they were each other’s soul friend, or anam ċara. I fell in love with this phrase because it describes something I intuitively feel and know about my own relationships.
In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful interpretation of love and friendship called soul-love; the ancient Gaelic term for this is anam ċara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and ċara is the word for friend, so a person who is your anam ċara is your soul friend.
Soul Friends and Anam ċara.
In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam ċara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the deepest confidences of your life. It was a soul bond.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
An anam ċara knows your truest self, understanding your heart and your mind. This relationship embodies a shared journey that transcends definition and category. You join with the friend of your soul in a bond that is unending and permanent. Celtic philosophy does not recognize limitations of space or time, because they believe the soul is permanently unbound.
A Circle of Belonging
Friends come and go from our lives. It is normal to move on if you lose the things you had in common, but soul friendship is the tie that binds. When you are anam ċara, you hold one another together in an unbreakable circle of belonging.
This circle is a sacred space that respects differences and seeks balance. When you share a soul friendship, you are in a relationship that speaks the truth in love, offering help without blame and perspective without judgement.
Soul friends cry with you when life gets hard, find words to lift you up and sit with you in silence and support. Whether they are next door or across the world, anam ċara transcends time and distance. These people know you; sometimes better than you know yourself.
Unconditional acceptance is the glue that connects me to my soul friends, allowing our light to shine for each other in the dark passages that seem more prevalent as we age. We are not all the same when it comes to beliefs and worldviews; but our differences keep us open to new ideas and expand our thinking. Because we are soul friends, we mirror our values where it counts and encourage broader conversation when we are stuck or lack perspective.
As Christmas approaches, lights, decorations and music are backdrops to the gift of anam ċara, renewed in the heart of the holidays. Each of us needs the bond of an anam ċara, a soul friend, to love us just as we are. They offer the gift of their presence, with an unconditional heart that understands, accepts and shelters us.
In his book Conferences, John Cassian says this bond is unbreakable,
“This, I say, is what is broken by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part.”
Friendships make us whole; enriched and uplifted by the unbreakable love we share with one another. This Christmas may you be reminded of the blessing and the gift of anam ċara.
A Friendship Blessing ~ John O’Donohoe
“May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara.”
In Memory of Louise LaFlamme, beloved anam ċara