A totally kickass blog post on warrior women in ancient Ireland, by the awesome Ali Isaac. Our ancestors lived by fierce loyalty as well as equality: we could learn a thing or two. What is remembered lives!
The figure in white blazes before us, brighter than any sunrise I have ever witnessed. Even the glints of gold and gentle red of the nascent sun, reaching out as it did over the earth to tentatively touch, then entwine with the blues and greens of moving sea does not compare. Awe befalls me, and I raise my hands in an overwhelming impulse to honor such a one.
There is no gender to this individual. They tower above our tallest men, but the height strangely does not distance them from us. It is their eyes, I realize, burning with a quiet compassion, which draw us each into welcome, as if to reassure us of the intent of friendship despite the harshness of their almost searing light.
“Come.” It is not a voice, but a gesture, one which we recognize immediately as our own. Fionn, who is not accustomed to being commanded to do anything, is, I notice with some relief, returning the greeting. Still, we can all see his bafflement, mixed with curiosity, and the emotion passes through us like a wave. This is the way of emotions in the world beyond the world, and now is no exception. We share more than we ever thought possible, let alone desirable, for here very little is left in hiding.
The urgent question of the hour, where are we going?, shows itself soon enough. We are now standing in what appears to be a large stadium. Well, I think appreciatively, there are hundreds of us to accommodate, yes, but not having bodies, we certainly do not take up much space. Why the strange room with ornate columns, mosaic tiling, and mysterious figures carved on stone walls? This is, we understand, more to give us some sense of familiarity than anything else. On that count, it is failing miserably. Personally, I find myself fighting against a feeling of confinement and a desperate need for trees.
“Looks like they had a group go through here who liked Greek architecture and no one has rearranged the appearance,” Caoilte observes, a bemused look crossing his face. The two of us have walked in together, of course. “This would put us right off in the physical world.”
“Undoubtedly,” I agree, “We’re not in that world, and yet details should still be important.” I mutter this last bit, half to myself, then add, “It would be easy enough for us to change it…” But at that moment, the white figure is quieting us down and gesturing toward a large table like structure in the middle of the room for us to gather around. Like almost everything in this world, it is made of light and song.
The unintended insult is quickly forgotten as excitement takes over. What will it be like to return to the physical world? Will we get to plan any of the next life? Will we get to take on different relationships to each other? I glance at Caoilte and hope the answer to that last question is no. He winks at me mischievously in return.
I notice that we have once again instinctively taken up our usual rankings by authority, though in fact the concept means little now. Presently, the androgynous figure looks up as if to speak, and a great hush falls on us, and we stand expectantly, very still.
“It has come to our attention,” proclaims the figure, “That an unforeseen, unprecedented circumstance has occurred, which is necessarily going to change the trajectory of your soul group.”
We remain motionless at this unexpected announcement, except for our eyes. The atmosphere has perceptibly shifted into one of wariness. I find myself tracking the expressions crossing the figure’s somewhat obscured face, conceiving multiple plans of action as I do so, in case action is necessary. Unaware of what even the normal procedures are, I can only gauge the possibilities and hope this is enough to do well by those in my charge. I do what I know how to do: prepare to act for the well-being of the group, but most importantly ensure the safety of my nine. They are standing behind me and waiting for me to take the lead.
The figure continues, presumably ignoring the sudden tension. “Many of you now represent an age, and so we cannot proceed as usual. All across your homeland, and soon beyond, people are telling and retelling the stories of your lives, and you are so a part of the myths and legends of these people that you have helped shape life long after you were living it.”
We move. If the others felt anything like me, moving is inevitable. We’re staring at each other in bewilderment, our surprise mixed with frustrated confusion. Order breaks into a frenetic flurry of questions. What in the world does this mean? Who started this?” “When did this happen, and we not even knowing it? For goodness sake, why?
I think out to the group, “But we were just living, how is this possible?” I merely receive more dismay as an answer. This is a possibility that escaped all of us, it seems. Our experiences, somehow made meaningful to the passing of an entire age? But certainly, we were nothing special, no more or less equal to any other group of souls who pass through the living of a physical life, were we not?
And then fortunately Fionn has our charge, and is speaking. “How can this be? I can no longer speak for the whole of us without question, but what you’re saying is too outlandish to believe. With all due respect to you, Bright One, of course. If this is an honor, we have done naught to deserve it. In life we had only done what was necessary. Many of us lived and failed to live by our truth. Yes, there were times when we lived with courage and honor and the like; everyone can live this way. We have also made countless mistakes. I doubt any one of us had no regrets upon death. If it is true what you say, that these people think such of us, they are most wrongly directed in doing so.”
“They should look inward to themselves instead for what they seek,” Oisín adds, quietly.
The androgynous figure looks truly sympathetic. Their opinion, all things considered, aligns with our own, but I can already see there is little that any of us can do. In silence, the illuminated one draws out a kind of window through which we can view simulated visuals of the many stories being told of us. It is a bit like a hologram. “It is only right that you confirm my words for yourselves,” the figure concludes, stepping back and holding out their hands. And whether this is meant to reinforce the vast nature of the point or simply attempt a placating posture it is hard to say. It is also no longer important, for everything we counted on as being ordinary has changed.
In songs of night, it calls your name.
Dark slits of eyes gleam like sapphire.
The chains of shame are tightly wound.
No one now can hear your pleas.
Where is the joy you used to know?
Or the light which you’ve so carefully grown?
Is there still time to take stock?
Down your cheek a single tear.
You rage in fury like the wind.
The dark knows all that you are not.
Its voices with your own entwine,
You long to feel less afraid,
Doubt takes over every thought:
Always something more to do,
More is better, try again:
Finds you wanting,
To the shadows you will never be enough.
There’s nothing more you must become.
In you, the power to bewilder,
In you, the light that’s always there,
Right now you do not think you’re strong,
Let go, for many hold you still.
What is it that cages you in fear??
And the separateness in which you disappear.
Shadows cannot leave a hole.
It’s you who are the missing piece.
This journey isn’t only yours,
You are not alone
This is a poem inspired by Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge. This week the task was to write an echo poem. Check out Jane’s Blog tosee the challenge and the rules for it, as well as all the awesome poetry and short fiction she writes.
Some come to this world beyond with eager wonder, the need for resting, the joy of homecoming. I, however, fought fiercely for my life, even after it was very obviously ending. The illness was wasting my body away, but this only had the opposite effect on my tenacity of spirit. I had too much to lose, too much more to do. I suppose I died in battle, but not the kind I wanted to be remembered by. I didn’t win, of course. But I didn’t know any better not to try.
Until Mairin joined me, I was a spirit haunted by the living ones, by the stories I read in their eyes before mine drew closed against the day. But she was not long in arriving, in a way, we were all reunited quite quickly, and this was beyond joy for us.
It is hard to quantify time in the space beyond solid things, where there is growing and changing but no yesterday or tomorrow. But the time does come when we are to start getting ready to experience the adventure of another lifetime. I am grateful and overwhelmed with excitement for this.
We are gathered together about a fire that does not burn, a silent glow flitting about shimmering faces. I reach out and take Mairin’s hand. Our hands do not meet, but intertwine, fall together, weave into one another.
All around me, the intentions and feelings of others shine bright against the pale red sky. They form a web of wordlessness which is instantly understood. This is the way of speaking without any need for language and the limits it places on expression.
I am thinking about the world I left behind, where there are rivers and wild boars and hunting and crying and trees and beer, and passion, and hunger and sorrow and dancing and shouting and running . . . and that solidity I continue to try to touch, that I am not quite used to living without.
None of us feel we have had enough of the world, of moving and living and breathing and knowing the beauty and sorrow and joy and somber reflection which is all living out loud. There is much more to experience. There is growing old: most of us have not done so before. There is growing and learning new things, and, I probably mentioned this before but, there’s beer. I mean, I miss food, and eating, a lot.
I miss sunrises and singing the song of the dawn to a real dawn. I miss screaming and climbing trees. I miss knocking out anyone in my charge who is causing trouble and even miss their causing the trouble in the first place. I’m glad I don’t have to sleep, but miss curling up on a sleeping roll, or even on the hardpacked ground close to the smell of earth and rooted things. I miss all sorts of things,. I’m ready to try my hand at more.
As the day wanes around us, I take notice of the children chasing each other through a field of grasses not far off, and I consider that as much as I enjoy watching them, I could do another life without having children of my own. Taking care of a nine is need enough for responsibility, children are far less capable of feeding themselves. Also children demand a particular kind of patience. I’d have to be able to reconcile myself to many hours of inaction where I’d simply be holding them, and learn to tolerate getting spit up on. Then one day I’d have to provide the means to secure their future. I ran from my future as a child. What’s the point of bringing someone into the world, then demanding she not be who she was born to become?
In this place beyond time, I have reconciled with my birth family. But even now, I hardly spend time with any of them, my sister Mairin being the exception of course. My family is here all around me, laughing and sharing stories, dreaming into being our next try at living. I look out at the fields that sway for miles, full of wildflowers and wilder children. They are not so different, I realize, from the dreams forming shape and dancing in our eyes. Wild ones and our children.
Happy Imbolc to all! Here is a wonderful post by Ali Isaac on Brighid, for whom the day is celebrated.