Worlds Collide: Celtic Kirtan (by Erin Duffy-Burke)

Worlds Collide: Celtic Kirtan (by Erin Duffy-Burke)

When I first learned of Stefan Andre Waligur (otherwise known as Macushla) and Celtic Kirtan it felt like two of my worlds colliding.  How can this be?  I never thought of kirtan and Celtic spirituality woven into one context, but I was immediately attracted to the possibility and the potential.

I first experienced kirtan—Hindu repetitive, resonant chant and singing—in the Hare Krishna temple in Dallas, TX.  My brother Sean brought me, and I remember kind of hanging by the edges of the room, incredulous.  I was used to singing in the Catholic Church of my upbringing—but this singing was bringing people alive!  It was ecstatic and moving.  I watched a little one, probably no more than two years old, sitting in the middle of a sea of dancing, singing elders, swaying and smiling and beating on a tiny drum in his lap.  I remember thinking, wow—imagine if every child’s first experience of the living God was a living, moving, joy-filled resonant immersion like this!  It was an experience where God wasn’t just spoken of or read about, but felt deep in one’s being, moved and expressed.  It was participation in the wave of God’s breath, God’s heartbeat, God’s pulse, interwoven with my own and those gathered.

When I lived in Ireland for a semester studying literature and theology at Trinity College, Dublin, I was immersed in the Celtic world of song.  This happened mostly at my local pub.  I was amazed at how, every Tuesday and every Sunday, when my friends and I would find ourselves at Mother Redcaps with a pint of Guinness in hand, everyone would, like in kirtan, be singing their hearts out.  They were so invitational with their song, inviting others to join them, to choose the song, to add their voice to the collective.  We would tentatively and quietly sing from our spot in a booth in the corner, and when the locals would declare, “time for the Americans to sing! Give us a song!” we would shrink even further into our seats, shrugging off the invitation with “uh, we don’t sing.”  In Ireland, I soon learned, this is like saying you don’t breathe.  In Ireland, everyone sings.  Often with a unique voice all their own, but they sing!  Children, women, men, elderly—everyone sings, letting the breath of God move through them.

I have since, in my studies of yoga and my brother’s and friends’ shared experiences of their Hindu faith, found and chanted kirtan in cities all over the United States.  I sing my heart out and feel the presence of the Divine—in me, around me, through me.  Yet in some ways, I have always felt a bit like a voyeur.  Being deeply Christian myself, it always felt a little bit like visiting.  I could feel the presence of Mary when I chanted to the Divine Mother as Ma Durga, and felt close to Christ when I sang Hare Krishna to the incarnate one with the blue face.  Yet, sometimes it still feels a bit like I’m co-opting another culture, learning about another expression of Divine Being slightly other than my own.  I sing as fully as possible in church, yet these two worlds have continued to feel somewhat separate.

You can imagine then, my joy in newly discovering Stefan Andre Waligur, otherwise known as Macushla.  Macushla means “heartbeat of the beloved” and this truth of his—and our– essence comes through in the loving, inviting resonance of his music.  Macushla interweaves the resonance of Hindu chant with the ecstasy of Irish singing and the heart of Christ.  This weaving produces a music that pulls you in and expands your heart into the heart of God.  All are welcomed and invited in, true to what I discovered in that little Irish pub—everyone can sing.  All voices are part of the breath of God.  Each song weaves its way into the whole, becoming one unified force of love and healing.  No matter how tentatively we find our way in, we will be swept up into the song of devotion and carried on its waves into our life.

You are invited into this unique and transformative experience—whether you are a yogi, a Christian, interested in the Celtic lineage, finding the ways of weaving your own spiritual traditions, or new to all of it.  You are invited into the heart of song, guided by the “heartbeat of the beloved” in Macushla, and in the depths of your own heart.  Join us to sing, join us to be sung.  Join us to soak in the love that surrounds us, heals us, awakens us, all the time.  You, as always, in everything we do at Peace Tree, are so very welcome.

Here is the schedule of events for Macushla’s visit to Peace Tree:


Friday, October 5
7-9 p.m.
Zion United Church of Christ Sanctuary (next door to Peace Tree Spirituality Center)
Suggested Donation: $10

More info on Eventbrite.


Saturday, October 6
9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Cost: $60

Register on Eventbrite


Sunday, October 7
10:30 a.m.
Zion United Church of Christ Sanctuary (next door to Peace Tree Spirituality Center)
Free Will Donation benefiting the mission and ministry of Peace Tree Spirituality Center