who the heck knows anything, anyway

Thursday, June 29, 2023

june 29 - Irish origin story

While poking around JSTOR this afternoon, I came upon a paper titled "Rhetoric of Myth, Magic, and Conversion: A Prolegomena to Ancient Irish Rhetoric". Obviously I read it. On page four, there was a quote (footnoted--although the footnote doesn't actually match the resource), and the poetry of it was almost painfully beautiful. So I tracked it down, found the full story online. Here's a larger excerpt than that used in the journal paper. Prepare yourself:

Brigit ceased to sing, and there was silence for a little space in Tir-na-Moe. Then Angus said:

"Strange are the words of your song, and strange the music: it swept me down steeps of air--down--down--always further down. Tir-na-Moe was like a dream half-remembered. I felt the breath of strange worlds on my face, and always your song grew louder and louder, but you were not singing it. Who was singing it?"

"The Earth was singing it."

"The Earth!" said the Dagda. "Is not the Earth in the pit of chaos? Who has ever looked into that pit or stayed to listen where there is neither silence nor song? "

"O Shepherd of the Star-Flocks, I have stayed to listen. I have shuddered in the darkness that is round the Earth. I have seen the black hissing waters and the monsters that devour each other--I have looked into the groping writhing adder-pit of hell."

The light that pulsed about the De Danaan lords grew troubled at the thought of that pit, and they cried out: "Tell us no more about the Earth, O Flame of the Two Eternities, and let the thought of it slip from yourself as a dream slips from the memory."

"O Silver Branches that no Sorrow has Shaken," said Brigit, "hear one thing more! The Earth wails all night because it has dreamed of beauty."

"What dream, O Brigit?"

"The Earth has dreamed of the white stillness of dawn; of the star that goes before the sunrise; and of music like the music of my song."

"O Morning Star," said Angus, "would I had never heard your song, for now I cannot shake the thought of the Earth from me!"

"Why should you shake the thought from you, Angus the Subtle-Hearted? You have wrapped yourself in all the colours of the sunlight; are you not fain to look into the darkness and listen to the thunder of abysmal waves; are you not fain to make gladness in the Abyss?"

Angus did not answer: he reached out his hand and gathered a blossom from a branch:

he blew upon the blossom and tossed it into the air: it became a wonderful white bird, and circled about him singing.

Midyir the Haughty rose and shook out the bright tresses of his hair till he was clothed with radiance as with a Golden Fleece.

"I am fain to look into the darkness," he said. "I am fain to hear the thunder of the Abyss."

"Then come with me," said Brigit, "I am going to put my mantle round the Earth because it has dreamed of beauty."

Oh jeez, consider me overwhelmed with emotion!

There are few things as powerful as origin myths. If there's a boring one out there, I've never heard it.

Seriously. "The Earth wails all night because it has dreamed of beauty"? Brigit. Stop it. It's too good. And strangely topical? I imagine the Earth is wailing a bit these days--her terrible return to a god-frightening abyss. Or maybe it's just we humans doing the wailing, stuck down here in the groping writhing adder-pit of hell. If I was still on Twitter, I think I'd have a great new bio. 

Read here for the full list of stories by Ella Young, 1910