Today is Brigid’s Day, the feast of Imbolc. The crone months of winter are behind us and the maiden spring is beginning. Yesterday I saw the first of the returning geese and the first butterfly. Time to look ahead and look about us at the world and what it is becoming.
She came from the first people, those who made the hills and carved the beds of rivers and the great pools that filled with the oceans, who made light and fire. She used fire to shape the iron bones of the earth into things of beauty and usefulness, and from her father, the first poet, she inherited the gift of turning the coarse utterings of the tongue into poetry and song. From the mother of all things she learned how to heal what was sick and mend what was broken. At her side were the kings of the beasts, and around her feet spring flowers sprung. She was the soul of all that reached towards the sky, the birds, the growing things, the leaping flames. She was life and the turning seasons, adding with each revolution to the richness of the earth.
Such was the world, ordered and peaceful, ruled by wisdom and humanity, caring and beauty, until the invaders came and the great battle that divided it. To heal the wound, she took the invader king for her husband and their children were the vines that knit the broken pieces together again. But the oldest of their sons shattered the pattern again. He took his mother’s gift of shaping iron and he used it against the smith of his father’s folk, killing their wonder-worker, and taking a mortal wound himself.
The song she made for her dead son was the first lamentation for the first sin, the sin against the mother, the defiance of her authority and her wisdom. This was the first sin, and it could never be undone. Death was death, loss was loss, and the mother’s son could never return nor the pain he caused be healed. Never had such a song been sung before, and its echo was to ring out for ever and ever, in the keening for the dead.
In the dark days that followed the coming of the black monks and their worship of death, the women kept her flame alive, never letting it die. But the keening grew too loud to hear the whispered wisdom, the black robes smothered the bright flames and ignorance took the place of wisdom, rules took the place of poetry, and heavy boots shod with iron replaced the bare feet that coaxed flowers from the spring earth. The world was changed, changed utterly. And so we hear, forever and ever, the keening of women for dead sons who lost the path of wisdom and turned to folly.