Anamcara is an old Gaelic word meaning “soul friend.” In ancient times the Celts created the role of Anamcara as a life counselor and spiritual guide. By the 6th century AD, after the arrival of mainland European missionaries, women and men continued to develop the anamcara tradition inherited from their Druid ancestors. For centuries these anamcara became mentors and companions to persons from all walks of life who yearned for a deeper relationship with the Divine. As Saint Brigit wrote, “Anyone without an anamcara is like a body without a head.”
The Modern Anamcara
– John O’Donohue
Support using the classical tools of spiritual discernment.
In our days more and more people are seeking assistance from those who are a few steps ahead on their spiritual journey. The anamcara is a true soul friend who honors the uniqueness of each person’s path. The role of spiritual director or companion reflects a similar tradition.
Spiritual midwife for the dying
The anamcara tradition has always been associated with end-of-life care. Modern medicine has eliminated much of the physical pain associated with the dying process, but our ancestors also had access to a rich heritage of practical tools to address the unique kinds of emotional and spiritual distress that show up at the end of life.
Traditionally the two roles of the anamcara were interconnected: in other words, a soul-friend relationship often spanned a person’s lifetime. Most people today find themselves at the end of life without a previous relationship with a spiritual companion. As this tradition renews itself in our times, there are creative possibilities for introducing an anamcara throughout the cycles of living and dying.
The Anamcara Apprenticeship consists of two program experiences. Year 1 is required for all Apprentices. Anyone who completes Year 1 is eligible to participate in Year 2 but is not required to do so. Year 1 is a nine month experience beginning with a three-day retreat, and ending with a two-and-one-half-day retreat. There will be two Saturday webinars and monthly three-hour small group study meetings (Ceili De). Year 2 will begin with a three-day retreat, followed by nine monthly 2.5-hour Saturday webinars and monthly three-hour study group meetings. Participants choose from a variety of specialized Study Tracks with nationally acclaimed mentors.