“You are quiet this evening, Demon. Anything wrong?”
Smoking his white clay pipe, he looked across the table, shook his head and turned back to the fire.
Lately we have few words. He’s gone each day. At night, he would sleep for hours in the chair before the fire with his legs extended, his boots touching the embers. It didn’t seem to bother him.
I have kept my own counsel, and say little to him how I spend my days
The light was fading in the room, as it is still winter. The nights fall early. There were only two candles on the mantel and one on the table where I have my threads and needles. He liked to watch me quietly sewing, and sometimes he threaded them for me, awkwardly handling the different colored threads and trying to skewer the tiny needles. I think he liked the quiet domestic scene we make here, he before the fire, puffing on his pipe, his long legs stretched out to the heat, and I, in a half-light, sewing on my hoop, or darning a shirt. I have half-finished another linen shirt. He was pleased with the first, and wears it frequently. Another nod towards our enforced domesticity.
“You grow tired of the house, don’t you?” He knocked out the ash from his pipe onto the hearth.
“I am tired, not of this house, but of not being allowed to walk in the fields. I would like to open a window for some fresh air.” I stick myself with my needle from beneath the hoop and utter a curse. It has grown too dark to work.
“What if I make it so we leave for a while?”
“I thought it was too dangerous to leave for any reason.” I am testy, tonight.
“I could arrange something, but you might not like it.” He grins and of course the idea of leaving got my attention.
“Ah! More of your magic, I guess.” Scowling, I try to discourage him. I never knew if his magic would work, and will he be able to restore me to the original? He smiled back, and I have guessed it.
“I could transform myself into a dog, a big, black shaggy dog, and you could be a flea deep in my coat.” He smiled. “I could go outside and chase a rabbit. You hang on and get plenty of fresh air.”
“Thanks,” I said dryly, “I’d rather not. With my luck, I fall off and you don’t notice. I freeze to death. End of the story.”
“Then I can transform you into a mare, and I gallop you across the fields. You would get plenty of exercise and fresh air.” He grins broadly.
I think about this, and start to giggle. “You ride me enough, right here in this bed. The thought of you riding me that way is too funny to consider.”
“Well, you think of something. Something to entertain and improve your disposition. You are getting cranky lately. Probably a sign you’re breeding.”
Oh! This is encouraging news, indeed! Obviously I had little to say in the matter.
“Nope, as you say….you don’t. It’s beyond your control.” He was enjoying my discomfort.
“How about another dream, then? A nice, big satyr. Perhaps one with a brother…and some cousins, too.” I looked at him coyly. I had his interest now, the kinky devil.
“Oh, you don’t want to play around with a satyr. They don’t care about proper mortal anatomy, they’ll poke around anywhere, and besides, they fight over who gets you first. They become violent.”
I was laughing at him, he knows I’m not serious. But I wondered at my wisdom even mentioning the dream. I remember Cernunnos, and I wonder just how much my Devil was pulling the strings.
“Perhaps another dream, one where we travel to Venice, gondola down the canals, dance in the squares, get drunk on wine. Wear masks. Fondle strangers.” I looked at him to see his reaction.
He puffed on his pipe and smiled back, the smoke obscuring his eyes. There is no telling what he was planning.
“I have come up with some interesting stuff from my reading. Would you like to hear?
“If it doesn’t bore me, or put me to sleep. You tend to do that, my little book worm.”
I smiled, quickly averting my eyes. His ego! But then again, I am dealing with….no, living with, either a demon or a demigod. Who knows? The possibilities here are endless, and so far, I don’t really have a clue.
I read him the poem at the beginning of Cad Goddeu:
“I was in many shapes before I was released:
I was a slender, enchanted sword,- I believe that it was done,….”
Ah! I have his attention. He likes poetry.
“Read more to me.” He puffed on his pipe and the smoke rose above his head like sylphs dancing. I read him not the stuff of animism and magic, this he knows already. He must know, he performs this magic daily with a snap of his fingers. I read him to him about the wizard Gwydion who transformed a forest of trees into a terrible army.
“Alder, pre-eminant in lineage, attacked first,
Willow and rowan were late to the fight,”
His head fell back and he stretched out his boots to the fire. He was listening to me intently.
“I came across something else. Reminds me of you and Obadiah, …and a bit of me.”
“Go on, you’re not boring me yet.” He smiled at the ceiling.
“Thank you, I will.” I told him about the battles between Ochall and Badb, the two bulls, who transformed themselves numerous times. Their argument went on for the generations of their transformations, to be reborn again finally, as two bulls. I told him how this reminded me of both of them. The point of this story, this myth, is how the land responds to truth and falsehood. And here, the dominant force, the constant that all else revolves around, is the role of the Goddess. If the King, her consort, is a good king, a true king, the land responds with fertility, the harvests were plenty, the weather mild, the people and animals give birth with ease. If the King, her consort was false, the land would shrivel and dry up, the crops would die from blight, and people would be killed by famines. The land would be barren, and the people unfertile. Only before truth, would the elements not recoil. The king, therefore, was a high-priest as well as warlord and chief. He was the human embodiment of the divine for the tribe. Their survival depended upon his labors. Further, the queen, or the consort, could be kidnapped by one or the other, and that be an excuse for slaughter and war.
I told him I was reading about The Dagda, Morrigan, Cuchulainn the warrior, and Birog, a druid priestess. These I told him about, but there were many others I didn’t. He pronounced the names of them, correcting me. On his tongue, the names had a music, as did a poem he recited while glazing up at the ceiling.
“Temair Breg, cid ni diata
indisid a ollamna!
Cuin do dedail frisin mbruig?
Cuin robo Temair, Temair?
O shin amach ba Driunm Cain
In tulach a teigdis mair
A hainm ac Tuaith De Danann!”
He smiled, and puffed on his pipe.
“Well, what does it mean?”
Though the language was alien, strange to my ears his voice was like water, soothing. I could recognize some as Old Irish. I could only understand the very last words, the Tuaith De Dannan…..the otherworld.
“Merely, place names, boundaries, rivers and hills. Accounts of pastures, if you will. Reads like a survey of land.”
“But the name, “Tuaith De Dannan”…I could understand that at the end. The “Otherworlds”.
“A powerful tribe in the Otherworld. One of numerous kind. At combat with the Fomoire at one time in history. It records the territory of the Tuaith De Dannan in prose.”
“But why would they do that?” I looked at him blankly.
“Because you hadn’t been born yet.” I still didn’t understand.
“Because there was no written language yet.”
Oh! Now I understood him. “So, these poems were a listing of natural boundaries. No more and no less?”
“If MacCuall raided the cattle from Mac Ness, the chieftain would call up his bard, and he would sing out the boundaries. Less bloodshed between clans if the bard had a good memory.”
“And how, Garrett, do you know all this?” Either he had been reading the same books or came by this naturally.
He smiled back up at the ceiling, not meeting my eyes. “There are some things I know, and many I don’t.” There was little else he would say. I have learned not to push.
But I did dream that night, a troubling and lengthy dream. At least I thought it was a dream, though it haunted my next hours awake. I dreamed I was walking in a cleared pasture. There were mountains, and hills in front all around me. To the east, the sun had risen, but was low in the sky. It was cold, and I had wrapped around me my red Irish walking cloak. It had a hood, but I was still cold. Again, I seemed to be barefoot. I wrapped my cloak around me tighter, my breath like smoke in the cold, morning air. I was walking up a steep hillside. As I reached the ridge, there, nestled in some rowan trees, was a stone cottage. Smoke was curling out of the chimney and a wide, low door was in the middle of the cottage. There was a high forest behind, and I saw a large black raven on a branch watching me. Her coat shined like glass, though the sun barely reached this clearing. I knocked at the door, and it swung open to the pressure of my hand. The cottage was very dark to my eyes, only a low fire burning. There was a woman sitting with her back to me at the fireplace. I stood there, rubbing one cold bare foot upon the other. She turned her head in my direction, and I saw a very old woman, with white hair in two thick braids under her shawl. She silently motioned for me to join her at the fire, and I was grateful for the invitation to warm myself. I sat a few feet from her, on a stool and extend my bare legs to the fire.
“You are thirsty, daughter?” Her voice was barely a whisper. “There is cider in the jug on the windowsill.”
I got up and poured myself a cup of cider. “Do you want a cup, Mother?” She shook her head. I came back with my cup and sat again by the fire.
“Do you know who I am?” I shook my head, trapped in this dream.
“I am one of three, but yours to guess. You have come here seeking answers. Now ask three questions. I will grant you three answers.”
“Who are the parents of the Demon Lover?”
“Ah! You are curious for what reason? Is it because you must know what he is before you give yourself over to his magic?” She chuckles, and the sound she made was like tin cans rattling around a floor.
I was careful how I answered. She was a trickster goddess, and I had only three questions.
“I want to know, because he is in need of protection. If his father be immortal, he can demand his help in battle.” I thought it best to be honest. She might have second sight, the Taisch. Lying to her would be dangerous.
“I am known for more than that, girl.” She read my mind like the Demon.
“He isn’t a Demon. And he isn’t an Angel. Expand your mind. Look around you. You are in another place. The hills and valleys are plowed up by the violent lovemaking of The Dagda. He drags his cock like he drags his club over the land.”
I am in the land of the Celts! My dream has dragged me into the books I have been reading for the past week. This must be the Morrigan.
“You guessed right, but perhaps the raven gave you the answer?”
Of course! The Morrigan takes the shape of a raven. “One of three” is also her other sisters, Nemein and Madb. So, I have come to her because of my own dream, not something outside of me.
“If you know, Mother, tell me who his parents be.”
“Perhaps I know his father to be Cuchulainn, in the time of Connor McNessa and the High Kings of Ireland. But perhaps this is not so. His grandfather might be Lug, who is immortal. Who his mother is, I know not. But I remember that Cuchulainn was championed both by Birog and Scathach. Either woman could be.”
“Who is Birog?” I forget that this gives me only one question left to ask.
“Ah! She was a Druid Priestess. She allowed him to escape death numerous times on the battlefield. But Scathach granted him the ‘friendship of her thighs.” Morrigan cackled again.
“Who is Scathach, Mother?” I have unwittingly asked my last question!
“If I were looking for the strongest immortal to be the mother of your Lord, I would want it to be Scathach. She was a woman warrior from Alba (Scotland) who trained the young warriors. Cuchulainn was the bravest of them all for a time.”
Morrigan offered herself four times to Cuchulainn, each time he refused her. I remember these myths in the books.
“That was as it was written. Four times and the cock crows. Do you know what happens on the fifth?” She turns a milky white eye upon me, and I shiver in my cloak.
“He gave me three daughters. Three black crows to pick over the battlefields.” She cackles again, sounding like the cawing of crows.
“Now stand, daughter, and drop your cloak. Let me see what those two bulls fight over.”
I stood and dropped my cloak. She passes her hand in front of me, and I was naked and shivering before her.
“A bit old for the breeding, aren’t you?” She had a sly smile on her wrinkled lips.
“You know, don’t you, why he has chosen you? It is not for your figure, for he could have any virgin more pleasing than you.”
“I don’t know, Mother, why he has chosen me. I have stumbled into his world, and Obadiah’s, if they are the same. I don’t know.”
“He aims to make you his bard, girl. You can write and bring him up as ripe fruit, you can enter his world, the world of monsters and demons. You know music and dance. All these things he picks in you for his future. You will write of his exploits, his deeds, he will breed you and will spill his seed out of you onto the ground. You, as his consort, you will make the fields fertile. That’s if he wins.” She cackled, a low, evil sound.
“You throw your hips at him, and his cock will rival the Dagda’s. He will plow up the earth with his own mountains and valleys!” She coughed, spit on the floor and my blood ran cold.
“But I am years past fertility, Mother. I have never birthed a live child.”
“Come closer, girl. Let me look at you. Let me see what can be done here.”
I don’t dare refuse her, for she is Morrigan, and the Goddess of Fertility. She is also a Goddess of Death. I slowly move before her, standing in front of her. She reaches out a hand, and with one finger she pushes on my belly. Her finger produces a warm sensation where she touches.
“Sit down, daughter, on the table. I have some potions for you.” I sat on the bare table under the only window of the cottage. She goes to a cupboard, and takes out a jar of something.
“You will be an easy one to bring to fruit. He will not have problems with your breeding. You will tire him out.” She laughed at her words.
“Now, I give you a potion that will keep him from reading your mind. He will just think it is because you are breeding. This will be the only time your thoughts will be your own. Enjoy it why it lasts. You will be able to control him better when you are bred. Remember, he is both mortal and not, his parentage powerful. Lead him gently to any knowledge who his father is. He will fight you about it, for he is stubborn. You are only mortal, but you have a strong hand on his heart.
Morrigan rubbed a small, dark liquid on my forehead. This was to cause him not to read certain thoughts. Others he would. But some, if I concentrated well, he could not.
“Now, you will pay me with the birth of your first daughter. I will come for her when she is six months old. She will be brought up by me and my sisters and will take her rightful place. She will be a priestess. She will be powerful. I don’t want any boy child. That will be for your lord. But the daughter is mine, or she will die by the hand of Lilith. Do you agree to my terms?”
I was falling asleep, the potion she has rubbed on my forehead was making me fade. I could only nod for my tongue would not move. I forgot she was a powerful witch and I in her debt now.
She pulled my red cloak back over my naked body, and turned me out of the cottage. Facing the east, she spit at me, and I found myself back in my own bed, wrapped tightly in the cloak. I awoke, thinking of this strange dream. I remembered little of it, but I did remember the name of Cuchulainn. It was days before I remembered the rest of our bargain.