30 Days – An Chailleach Bhéarra: Art, Music, Filidecht…

The next four questions fit very well together, so I’m tackling them all at once.

20) Art that reminds you of this deity

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An Cailleach Bheara by the Irish Film Board. They take from both Irish and Scottish myths about the Cailleachean, but there’s a lot of ‘my’ Bhéarra in this film. Her associations with the wild, and with wild animals; the story of the bones in the attic (which is Ireland-wide but feels very relevant, especially the way they bring out the theme of the clash of Christian and pre-Christian aspects of Ireland); the renewal of the Cailleach every 100 years… Really, really beautiful.

21) Music that makes you think of this deity

For me, the sadness that this song expresses for the people of a little town comes straight from the heart of their tutelary deity. Poor men from across Ireland went to fight in whatever wars England was engaged in at the time, and had no choice in the matter. Bantry is a little harbour town in Beara – the girls would have stood on the docks and watched their men leaving them. (My great-grandmother taught lace-making in Bantry.) It’s entirely possble that this song comes from a different Bantry, but the song works very well for me as a picture of life in that little town.

22) A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with

If we’re specifically talking about Baoi, rather than other Cailleachean, then my favourite writing about her is the collection of poetry called ‘Cailleach: the Hag of Beara’ by Leanne O’Sullivan. It draws strongly on local myths about Bhéarra, which are quite hard to come by outside of the peninsula. In this collection, Bhéarra is simultaneously a mortal woman and a goddess, as the stories and history of ordinary people from Beara merge with the legends of their Hag. In the poems, her husband, the sea god, is also a fisherman – and they are destined to join and then part, like land and sea.

This is the sea at the end of it;
the sky and the sea’s tangled cries flooding
inwards, then out to the grey reflection of itself.

I am lost in this encircling.

But my favourite poem from the collection is a somewhat indecipherable one. The woman’s fisherman-husband is dead, and she is at the end of her 100-year life, preparing to turn to stone and be reborn:

The Wanderer

Would you walk with me, woman?
The cold is in for the night now,
and the mountains quiet. It’s scarce
the sun rolls around her face
or walks out in the fields. The cold is in.
Would you walk with me, woman?

The night makes a blaze of my grief,
my only soft and finest love.
Her long hair is flung out before me
like moonlight on the sea.
All the memory of her is me.
Would you walk with me, woman?

I have no talk of war or song,
I have no ready ear to the earth
or words in passion for their work.
Sooner comes the dark engrained
on summits, and the ocean louder.
Would you walk with me, woman?

One more road in a whirl of roads
opens before me like a ritual of place.
I remember the foreign lightness of her touch.
I loved her soft and undecipherable notes.
The mountains are dark now. The cold is in.
Would you walk with me, woman?

– Leanne O’Sullivan

23) Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity

I don’t write poetry very often – I have to be really caught by imbas – but here’s one I wrote for her people, a little while ago. I’ve posted it before, so I’ve stuck it behind a tag.

You are forgotten people of forgotten gods. Continue reading

The Horse and the Water-Horse

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Horses may be the most important animal in Irish mythology, rivaled only by cows. They had major socio-economic importance in ancient and medieval Ireland – people’s livelihood depended on good, strong horses, and the relationship between a human and their horse was mythologised as something of a magical union. Irish folklore says that horses have a human ancestor, which accounts for good horse-and-rider alliances. Continue reading

The Hard Earth

A poem that Jack wrote for me. Fantastic stuff – I adore it.

The Hard Earth

if I fall and scrap my knee,
I give my blood to the unforgiving
earth, and though she doesn’t soften,
I feel a momentary hardening
in myself, a sense of the stone
that holds me up

there was a time when even mountains
were young and soft and warm, still
molten or raw in the air. there was
fire in the void, unlimited by oxygen,
and there was ice without ocean.
she came between them, new and sharp,
giving as she took what was hers,
meeting the water and letting him
shape her, and she him

she remembers when the ice scraped
her bare, when the humans first built
grass huts and cut stone tombs
into the hills, was already old
when the gods fought for land.
she learned to wear their forms
and reach out to the humans
but they sensed the height
and the depth that echoed in
her words and images

her stone is still her, still hers,
through glacier and flood,
invasion and tourism, and she
cannot be chased away. what’s her
is hers. and the blood soaks into
the stone, and the feeling recedes
leaving a very large rock and
a very small person

See: http://jackofmanytrades.info/the-hard-earth/

All in the Family (30 Days of Deity Devotion 5, 6 & 7)

To summarise today’s overly-detailed ramblings: Bhéarra is not one of the Tuatha De Danann. She has a sister over the bay in Dingle, called Duibhne/Dovinia, for whom a tribe is named. An eighth-century myth about an ancestor of the Dingle people associates him with Bhéarra and her white cow that turns to stone. I share a bit of my UPG about these two goddesses. Continue reading