This St. Paddy’s Day, what if raise our glasses to a different Irish story? Meet the Irish Sovereignty Goddess and let’s drink to transformation, ditching toxic masculinity, and seeing past a woman’s looks.
“But how can it be a good story if it’s so sad?” It was hard to make out the words because she was burying her face in my belly, but I understood exactly what she meant.
It seems impossible that we could love something that awoke our darkest fears and left us in a weeping puddle. It seems like madness that we would subject our children to such pain. But, like countless parents since the beginning of humanity, I’d merrily offered up some entertainment that would terrify as much as it delighted.
Within thirty seconds I figured out the basic plot of The Song of the Sea, the fantastical animated Irish film about the silkies - those seals who came to shore and became human women for a time. This is another mystery of story - why would we devote so much time and lavish so much emotion on something so predictable?
Well, I could predict that the pregnant mother singing so sweetly to her young son wasn’t going to make it into scene two. What I couldn’t predict was that wondrous journey and the magical images that would pull us along for the next hour and more.
These tales of otherworldly parents and children on a quest for happiness in the real world pretty much always end up the same. When I kept reassuring my six year-old that it was all going to end well I was pretty sure I was telling enough of the truth. After all, everyone was smiling in a sweet family tableau at the end. But my daughter couldn’t see all that through her tears.
While the credits rolled I reminded her of how much she’d loved the rest of the movie. I told her to think of how the children were so happy with their daddy even if their mama was off with the other fairyfolk in the sea. Most challenging of all, I tried to make her understand that the best stories are those that open our hearts to experience something powerful and meaningful. Considering that now, two days after that initial viewing, she wants to see it again, I can only assume she heard me. More likely, it’s just a testament to our devotion to stories that transform our everyday view of the world and make us feel.
We lived one hundred feet from the fastest flowing river in Europe. At least that’s what the guidebooks said. Those same books also hinted at the legends of fairy forts and the mysteries of those standing stones that anchored farmers’ fields in something even more ancient than Guinness and junior year abroad programs.
We’d been in Galway for six months and had the audacity to call it home. Myth and poetry were the most important things in the world. Even more important than kissing Irish men. Well, that’s the story I’m telling my kids anyway.
And so, on Imbolc, it was time to honor customs that were as old as that frantic River Corrib. Brigid - the goddess who sculpted the land before anyone had ever dreamed of Christ and his saints - this was her night. Legend has it that this is when she passes by, blessing the cloaks of the faithful.
Brigid is one of those handy, all purpose goddesses. In addition to being the patron deity of home and hearth and smithcraft, milk and fire and birthing women, she wore a healing mantle that could be hung on a sunbeam and her coming was the herald of spring.
Being a fresh faced pagan girl on sojourn from a Catholic college, I hung my new shawl in the damp night. I was going to soak up every drip of magic in the Celtic twilight.
Did she stop that night? Did an American girl who knotted her own story with this green, rocky place get the attention of a goddess? That Imbolc feast was almost half a lifetime ago, but I know I met Brigid this very morning in my New York back yard.
She lingered in a warm breeze that had no business shaking the bare trees of a February Hudson Valley. I stood by the summer fire pit in its neat iron bowl, looking back at that house that glowed with the babies I had birthed and nursed.
Without a doubt, I knew she’d graced my every step from then to now.
Bright Brigid blessings to all - especially the brilliant Suzi Banks Baum because it seems that we've been sitting around the same sacred fire all along. Read her St. Brighid's Day post (and learn about the invention of whistling!) here.