I was standing at the bedroom window, watching the circling hawks and falcons fly in the woods beyond the house. There are four birds now, big birds with wings that barely move. They stay suspended above the wood. It is still winter, and I would imagine the thermals they ride are gone. Yet they glide and glisten in the air, weaving an invisible net over the trees. The birds come and go but there is one that stays. He was there from the first, soaring over the woods and on occasion, across the windows of the house. I feel him a specter or shade of Obadiah. The black bird out there is the reason I can not leave this house.
I needed something to divert me. This dream of the Morrigan was haunting. At first, I could only remember the cool taste of cider from her cup and the ointment she used on my body. With a shiver I remembered her last words: I was to give a girl child to her. She would assure me fertility, but she would take my daughter to be her own. What need did she have for my child? She tricked me by stilling my tongue and I could not fight or deny her.
I was powerless. Of course! I was fighting a myth called the ‘Great Goddess’! What else would I feel? I am mortal and she is bursting with powers. She was the source of life and death, of fertility for all that grows. She commands the ravens and crows. She transforms herself into these birds and wheels above the battlefields. She lands on the bodies of the dead, and eats them. She and the crows clean the earth of the carnage. Morrigan is not death, but a keeper of death. And she would take the only daughter I would birth.
But even knowing this, I do not know her. I do not know the truth about Garrett. I knew he was uneasy with me, suspecting something, but her potion or charm was working, and he did not ask questions. I would notice him watching me, with a curious expression. I glance at him, and this was enough to shatter the moment. His face became a mask.
I went to the kitchen for something to do. I was sick of reading and too nervous to sleep. The kitchen was cold, the fire low, and more kindling was needed. From that I was able to stoke the iron stove. At least I could bake bread, and think. I checked on my sourdough sponge. By putting out the right ingredients, yeast comes from the air, and like magic, the starters for bread. My yeast sponge was in a bowl, set back in the fireplace, where it would remain warm. I poured out flour from a crock and added some warm water and honey, and made the beginnings of bread.
Over a cup of tea, I thought about Cuchulainn. What I knew didn’t amount to much, so I retrieved a book from my bedroom. As I passed the library, I noticed Garrett gone, and went back to the kitchen. It was warming nicely. Celtic mythology was confusing at best, but I read for the rest of the afternoon in the comfort of the stove.
This Cuchulainn was quite the character. At seven he was swinging a sword and hurling rocks from a sling. He was beautiful to behold, and other warriors saw his effect upon their wives and daughters. They looked around for a suitable marriage, but found nothing he liked. Finally he saw a king’s daughter, Emer, telling her “In that sweet country, I’ll rest my weapon.” He is cock- sure of his abilities and is set to terrible tasks to obtain her. He has many consorts, or wives, and probably many children. He is known for his ‘war-spasms’ where his hair stands on top of this head, shooting fire, and his face contorts into a monster and his body whirls around misplacing his anatomy. He is the hero of the Great Cattle Raid, and slews thousands. He was trained by the woman warrior, Scatlech. I know already of Scatlech of Skye, from the dream of Morrigan, and I remember my own trip to the Isle of Skye. It was a fog and rain swept isle, with the seas pounding upon its cliffs. I think magic would be common enough here, for strange symbols were carved on the rocks and the people looked haunted. I remember feeling haunted myself in that cold and disturbing terrain. I had taken a lock of my dead father’s hair, to release it in the wind from a high hill. The wind howled and though it was only late October, the weather became much colder. Since it was a squall forming the ferry didn’t come. It was a strange night in that little hotel on the top of Skye.
In reading the stories of Celtic mythology, there were too many characters and too many names to follow any certain path. I wasn’t even sure that my dreams would prove fruitful. But so much had happened, in both of the dreams that spoke to something well hidden. I had little to cling to. But I knew, somehow, the first dream pointed in a direction, and the second seemed to confirm it.
I looked into my now-cold cup of tea. The tea leaves spiraled in a circle, slowly moving in the cup, though I had no spoon to stir it. I watched the winding of the leaves, and it seemed to move in ever narrowing circles. I was tired and lay my head down upon my arms. The room grew warmer. I could hear the patter of rain on the windows and it was lulling, like a low chant. The yeasty smell of the rising dough comforted me like a narcotic.
Something disturbed me and I slowly looked up, half asleep, my eyes blurry. Across from the table, sat a woman. She was dressed in a rough, green woolen gown, with a gold torque around her neck. She had large, unrestrained breasts beneath her gown, and red hair. She gazed at me with deep gray eyes commanding my attention. No words came from her lips, but I knew she was Aine. She was a goddess of fertility and childbirth. The Goddess of wet dreams, nocturnal emissions, also.
I could not lower my eyes. I could not move from my seat. Without sound, her voice poured into my brain.
I am the Goddess of Fertility.
I stand over the soil and spill Lug’s seed into the earth.
It is not for him to plow the earth with his cock alone,
And spit his abundant seed to the earth,
It must come from my womb, travel down my white thighs
And into the soil.
My womb ferments the seasons,
My piss waters the earth,
My dung feeds the crops and the harvest.
Nothing grows and prospers but I command it.
I am the lusting eye, the blush on the maiden’s cheek,
The hardening cock that seeks out the maidenhead,
I am the Goddess that makes a woman a vessel,
A man the water of Life.
In the fullness of time, I am the midwife
Pulling out bawling babes from bloody wombs
And doing the same with cattle and sheep.
All that bring forth are under my hand
In the fullness of time, you will bring forth two children,
One male, one female.
I will stand between your thighs
I will touch the crown of your babes as they push down your passage.
I will catch your children as they are born,
I will mark the female for my own.
Remember your vow. Remember your promise.
Remember it is I who opens your womb.
She made a circling motion in the air with her hands, and disappeared. I was left in a trance, not knowing whether I was dreaming or awake. But one thing was clear, when I regained my senses. If I had thought I would escape any agreements made in that last dream with Morrigan, I was badly mistaken. This was a warning and it was further evidence I was not in control of my life.
When my head cleared, I went upstairs to the bedroom. I moved to the window, and watched for the hawks, but they were gone. Perhaps roosting in trees, for darkness was falling fast. I wondered were Garrett had gone, and when he would return. I decided to read some more, this latest vision was part of the three, a trinity. I shook my head. Now I seemed to be caught up in the Celtic beliefs. Things coming in threes.
I opened the book before me to the pages of Morrigan, and had I read further, I would have realized the importance of spirals. According to this ancient writer, (a monk? A scribe sitting in a cold cell cobbling words?) …spirals were interdimensional symbols capable of parting time and space. It was something I was familiar with in my ‘real’ world, for churches and public parks to put out labyrinths for walking and meditation. No intention of parting time and space. They were used as defined paths for ritual dances, and this I watched at festivals. The tea leaves spiraling in my cup, unstirred by me, and Aine’s motion with her hands had effected me like a labyrinth. Either I had fallen into a trace, or magic was afoot.
Finally, just before dark, I heard Garrett on the stairs. He was singing a song, his voice off-key, and his steps heavy on the hall floor outside my door. He entered the room, and stood heavily against the door frame, a bleary smile on his face. He was drunk, no doubt at all. Just what I needed today: a drunk demigod on top of all else. I could not hide my anger at his state, for I had not expected this.
“So! You finally appear with a snout full of ale. I see you enjoyed your afternoon.” I stood with my hands on my hips, glaring at him from the middle of the room
“Ah! Already a nag, and not even wed!” He grinned, stumbling into the room. He was in worse shape than first imagined. He lurched towards a chair, and sat down heavily. He waved his hand around in the air vaguely.
“Madame Gormosy and I found a tavern down the road. The White Horse Tavern. We had a few tankards, just a few, at the White Horse.”
I started to laugh. The thought of “Madame” Gormosy entering a tavern on his arm was hysterical. The locals would have had an eyeful. Although drunk, he read my mind.
“Ah! Madame transformed herself into Monsieur. Her original form, you know. Good company, he.” Garrett belched and the smell of ale and onions filled the room. He grimaced and mumbled a curse.
“We hoisted a few tankards at the White Horse, and went across the road to the Black Horse. The ale was the same.” He grinned a drunkard’s grin. “Madame Gormosy mixes ale and raw whiskey. It would take a devil to stand after his toasts.” He belched and giggled. Patting his knee, he tried to reach for me.
“Come here, sweet Bess, lemme taste your red lips. Lemme rest my weapon in your sweeeeet country”.
I froze at his words. These were the same used by Cuchulainn in his courting Emer. Either magic was near, or his words prophetic.
I could see he was in no condition for anything except sleep, and knelt down to pull off his boots. That done, he reached for me and placed me on his knee. He fumbled with the front of his breeches and a scowl crossed his silly face.
“John Thomas was ready and willing climbing the stairs. Ah! Fickle friend he is! Seems all he wants to do now is sleep. He does not hold his liquor well, the little man there. Had me running outside all afternoon.”
I could not help smiling, as angry as I was. All men are the same: man, demi-god or devil. Most of them could not hold their liquor.
I finally put him and his close friend to bed, where they fell asleep fast. He snored with great loud bellows of sound, and I moved to the other room. Even from there, I could hear him all night. In the morning, he looked none the worse for his drinking. I found him sitting at the fire, smoking his pipe. He said not a word in his defense, but I noticed a tray of tea and toast and some bacon for me…… and a small tankard of ale for himself.
Ah! The proverbial hair of the dog!