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Archive for October, 2011

So…

I got interviewed by another pagan blogger for a series he’s doing:

Now for something completely different… Amateur Religious Ethnography Botched, Or the Pagan Interviews, Part 9

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Tuesday the 11th; work in the park.

The offerings of the week before, gone:

The week’s offerings: raw local honey; the last bottle of Warsteiner as libation; chopped walnuts; rolled oats; grapes; bananas and pears; apples and carrots.

Clockwise from left: rolled oats, chopped walnuts, honey, mixed bananas and pears.

Apples and carrots, green grapes, honey.

Foam from the libation soaking into the soil:

The offering in its entirety:

Through the veil of fronds.

10/18/2011:

Last week’s offerings, gone:

A step back, and it becomes obvious that the groundskeepers weedwhacked around the tree.  The nightshade, the thistle, the mugwort, the black-eyed Susans, the goldenrod — all gone:

(Also, my offerings: home-brewed stout, a banana, rolled oats, raw sugar, raw local honey, an apple, cut-up carrots, raisins, seed Indian corn, a stash of last year’s acorns, birdseed.)

Left: honey. Right: raw sugar.

Left: foam from the libation, birdseed on a leaf, seed corn above it, carrots at the far right edge.

Libation foam, seed corn, carrot slices, raisins, acorns, apple chunks, banana.

Left to right: birdseed on a leaf, seed corn above it, acorns at top, carrot slices left of the raisins, rolled oats at bottom.

The entirety of the offering.

Through the veil.

The weather this day was very much more cold, bitter, and windy than it had been, and rain was threatening.  I spent a lot of time meditating about the change of seasons as I picked up garbage (only one bag; the cold weather was keeping people inside, I think).  Samhain is almost here, and as it gets closer to winter, I think I will see less and less trash altogether — a good thing, so far as I am concerned.  It may be that as I continue with my offerings through the winter, there may be no trash to pick up at all.  That would suit me just fine…and the park’s spirits, too, I think.

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As I mentioned in my first post on the gods a day or so ago, the Aesir and the Vanir were the last pantheon I added to my faith identity (for lack of a better term).  My husband has been heathen a little longer than me; I would say he converted from really lapsed Catholic in early 2006, and I added the heathen faith to the others I followed in, maybe, mid-2006 (June? July?  Not much later than that.)

 

A little after that, we began a tentative search for other heathens in the area; as things would have it, there are a great many heathens in Indiana, but most of them live far south of here, from central Indiana (the Indianapolis area) to southern Indiana.  A bit far for a regular commute for ritual and friendly get-togethers.

 

So we turned our eyes toward Chicago.

 

As it so happens, we ended up meeting a handful of folks at our local Pagan Pride Day in Portage, Indiana that year (late September, IIRC).  Among these was Phyllis S., the steward for the Troth in Illinois.  She was giving a talk on Asatru at the gathering, and we sat and listened respectfully and approached her with questions afterward.

 

One thing led to another; around that time we attended a Skaldic Fest arranged by Steven Robinson (Piparskeggr), held at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.  We met a few more heathens and eventually were asked to join the newly-forming Lindred Oak Kindred that Phyllis was creating.  By then, we had gotten to know her better, and we gladly joined.

 

Linden Oak Kindred formed in April of 2007; not all the members who were with us originally still are, and two new members have since joined who were not with us from the very beginning.  The Kindred currently numbers five, and we meet once a month (circumstances willing).  For the last five years, the Kindred has also sponsored open meetings, attended the Chicago Asatru Meet-Up, held rituals (sumbl and blot), attended Troth Moot once, and for four years now, put on Illini Moot, held at Camp Wokonda in Illinois.  It generally attracts anywhere from a dozen to twenty guests, including smith Dean Rose and his wife, noted Seidrh-worker Winifred Rose-Hodge, and Joe and Vedis Koerner of Heilag-Skjold Hearth. We will hold it again in 2012, which will be our fifth anniversary of doing so.  Phyllis is now High Steward for the entire Troth, which generally helps us keep up to date on things going on there (all five of our Kindred members are also Troth members).

 

Last year in October, I took the initiative to hold a blót mid-month in honor of the Alfar.  It went well enough that when the time rolled around again this year, I held it for the Kindred again (same weekend, at the house Doug and I share), and proposed making it an annual tradition, which was accepted.

 

For the blót itself, I used a written ritual out of one of the books by the Troth; however, I vowed that when I performed the blót in 2012, I would be performing one I had written myself.  Both years so far, we have offered up sacrifices of home-brewed ale or mead, and my husband has used his battle-axe to split a pumpkin for the Alfar, who are kin to the land wights.  We also “sacrificed” pumpkin and reindeer Peeps to the fire we had kindled in our fire-pit (both “meat” and “fruits”, as it were).

 

Below are several pictures of the blót and our Kindred members who attended:

 

Rodney

 

 

Doug Freyburger, current steward for the Troth for North Illinois.

 

My husband, cleaving the pumpkin; half of it went to rest at the base of the dwarf apple tree at the far rear/left of the picture; the other half went to rest at the base of the maple tree in our front yard.  I am sure the nature spirits (aka squirrels) enjoyed the gift.

 

Myself, mid-ritual (with the wrappers from the Peeps boxes stuffed in my pocket so they wouldn’t blow away…how I hate litter!)

 

My husband handing me the half of the pumpkin to put at the base of the apple tree (he put the other half at the base of the maple tree).

 

We held our monthly meeting after the blót was complete, and the general consensus was that the ritual had gone very well (better than last year’s, when I was still very nervous about performing rituals on my own).  The weather turned bitterly cold the day after the ritual, as if to say that, whether we liked it or not, autumn was finally there for certain, and winter not far behind.

 

To finish: below I have copied a poem I wrote for the Alfar in 2010.

 

The Alfar

 

No prancing point-winged pastel pixies, we!

But warriors of the land, both wild and free!

With sword and spear, we fight at Volund’s side,

And with bright Freyr’s forces we shall ride.

There is no jotun, ettin, wyrm, or troll

That comes away from battle with us whole;

Of our halls’ hospitality, skalds sing;

Our mead is fit for hero, Aes, or king.

Across the farthest borders we can see

Our foes as endless as the ocean’s tide

And ready as the spider’s jaws, we bide

To scythe them all away for Hela’s fee.

Our fighters number as the blades of grass:

And while we stand, no foe shall ever pass.

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On Wednesday, October 12th, I left my house in search of someplace local and as uncivilized as I could manage to perform the Oskophoria, an ancient Hellenic festival in honor of Dionysus.  The name of the festival means “carrying of the grape cluster”, and it is traditionally held in October, an autumn month that coincides with the Hellenic month of Puanepsia.

Because I was holding the festival solo, there was no point in having a relay race, which was a usual part of the Oskophoria in ancient Greece.  Having been sparked by a dream about Dionysus earlier in the week, I instead wrote a poem to Him, and carried out my usual trash-picking at the nearby park.

I also carried along offerings for Him: a full bottle of wine, a cluster of grapes, a serving of local raw honey, and several pieces of cinnamon-raisin bread.  (After all, raisins are only old grapes…)  I eventually settled under the tallest poplar tree I could find, read the poem to him (which I will copy below), and made the offering.

I cleared the park shoreline of garbage from the far tip in the distance to the near corner all the way at the left–

And then from where I stood, all the way along the lake’s edge,
to the picnic shelter at center-left by the fence.  Mile and a half.  Six bags full.

This is the tree I settled under; it was very tall.

And a few yards away from where I set up, the fence was completely covered with wild grape vines.  Fitting, I think.

The offering in its entirety: wine spilled out at the base of the tree; grapes, cinnamon-raisin bread torn into chunks; raw local honey, the last of this batch, crystallized to pieces of sticky, wax-flecked sugar.

Grapes, and little bits of wine cupped in several fallen leaves.  Cinnamon-raisin bread at left.

Crystallized honey-sugar.

Cinnamon-raisin bread.

And the poem:

To Dionysus Lyaeus


Chain-breaker, Liberator,

I beg thy pity.

See me as I smother

Under the weight of the unasked-for

Obligations bestowed upon me

By a thousand and a thousand more;

Hear me as I groan,

Spirit breaking as I try so very hard

To live up to what is expected of me,

And receive nothing in return but scorn.

Feel my despair as I falter in my daily chores:

Work of hand, work of mind,

Work of heart, work of soul,

And never does the flood of tasks cease.

Bereft of joy, bereft of hope,

Bereft of rest, bereft of solace,

I trudge through each day

While others around me sing

and laugh

and dance

and mock

and jeer

and spit.

Teach me to live as a beast of the field lives,

Free of guilt,

Free of hope,

Free of fear,

Free of loss,

Knowing only the sheer simple joy of existence,

No knowledge of the past

No fear for the future:

Exulting in each breath,

Dancing with the wind,

Weeping in joy at the touch of the sun’s warmth on my face,

Expecting nothing,

and nothing expected of me;

Demanding nothing,

and nothing demanded of me;

Requiring nothing,

all requirements set aside.

Simply to be: free.

Haven’t I done all that was asked of me, and more?

Haven’t I fulfilled every duty,

followed every law,

given charity where needed,

turned away from temptation,

led a virtuous life,

obeyed every maxim,

broken no law,

offered respect wherever it was due,

honored my elders, taught my children,

walked every extra mile?

Chainbreaker, I weary;

Joybringer, I know nothing of your gift;

Liberator, I pray you:

Show me how to lay my burdens down.

My chains chafe, and I bleed:

responsibility

hope

fear

guilt

desire

grief.

And I see no way to be free of such chains; show me I am wrong.

Let no one say that hope cannot also be a snare:

Twelve years and more I waited,

Imprisoned by my heart, hoping for a change in another–

Bound by hope,

by love,

by fear,

by pain: pain of the heart,

pain of the mind,

pain of the flesh,

pain of the soul.

Twelve years, before desperation gave me the strength

–Oh, at long last!–

to break hope’s chain myself, and flee.

O Lord Dionysus, breaker of boundaries, breaker of chains, I beg you:

Hear my prayer.

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Some people might say that my Mabon was a flop.

They’d be wrong.

Sure, circumstances converged to create a situation in which things just didn’t go as planned.  Wild Onion Grove had arranged to have our Mabon ritual at a site in Thatcher Woods in Chicago, Evans Field, where they’ve held rituals before.

I haven’t been there before, though, and my general unfamiliarity with Chicago meant printing out directions via Google Maps.

Thatcher Woods is HUGE, and Evans Field wasn’t marked on it anywhere.

My husband drove me out there; we got there a half-hour early, and parked, and sat waiting for the others to show up.

And…they didn’t.  (Or, rather, they did, but they were at the proper site, and I was not.)

The situation got worse when I realized I had forgotten my cell phone with my contact numbers for grove members in it.  My husband had HIS phone…but none of the grove numbers.

A little after 1:15 in the afternoon (the ritual was set for 1:00), I got out of the car and went across the road to another section of the park to see if they were there.  They weren’t.  I walked back–

–and halfway back, came around the curve of the forest road and just stopped dead in my tracks to stare at the family of deer that were cropping plants at the side of the road.  A big male, three females, one smaller yearling fawn, spots mostly gone.  They hadn’t been there when I’d passed that spot going the other way.

I made no sound; I didn’t move.  I didn’t want to scare them away.  Around me, the morning’s slow rain was dripping off the branches of the trees overhead, soaking me and the deer equally.  I didn’t care.

They knew I was there, and every so often they would look up at me to make sure I wasn’t getting any closer — mostly for the fawn’s sake, I think — and then they went back to eating.

At their nearest, they were less than ten feet away from me.  I could see every drop of water on their faces, every tuft of wet fur, the burrs in their tails and on their legs, the gleam of their dark, liquid eyes.  No fences or cages or zoo walls between them and me.

I could hear them breathing.

I must have stood there, watching them, for almost twenty minutes.  Then a car came down the road, heading toward the park, and they scattered back into the thicker, deeper part of the woods.  And finally, I walked back to our car, thinking about what I’d seen.

Even on a day when I missed the ritual I had been so looking forward to (and with three dozen oatmeal scotchies baked to share with the members of the grove), I was blessed with contact with the divine and numinous that is all around us, if we only bother to look.  It stole my breath away.

We stayed in the parking lot until 2:30, on the off-chance that everyone was just really, REALLY late, and then started the car and drove home.  I had a few cookies and performed a very small ritual — no more than a prayer of thanks and a libation of home-brewed ale — and counted the day finished.

I went out that day expecting to share ritual with my friends, to share cookies, to laugh, to talk, to discuss what the day meant.  I didn’t get that, but I feel I found something every bit as beautiful, as wonderful, as awe-inspiring.

There’s a quote I’ve seen going around social media, by German philosopher Meister Echkardt, that summarizes the experience for me perfectly: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. ”

Thank you.

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I realize I’ve spoken here far more about the spirits of nature and the world around me than I have about the gods.  It stunned me to realize this, because my relationship with the gods is far, far older and of deeper intensity than my relationship with the spirits of nature.  I look back on all the posts I’ve done here about the spirits of nature, and realize I haven’t done even one about the gods, save for a few in which I posted devotional poetry.  I can’t figure out how that happened, because I think about the gods constantly.

I call myself multi-trad.  This isn’t to say I’m ecclectic; I worship three separate pantheons — the Hellenic, the Norse, and the Irish — without mixing their rituals or prayers or holy days together in the least.  I joined ADF to provide structure and a framework for my worship of the Tuatha de Danaan; likewise, I’m a member of the Troth (for the Norse deities) and of Hellenion (for the Hellenic gods and goddesses), and through those organizations have learned a great deal about the gods, their holy days, the prayers and rituals for them.

The first pantheon I ever found — or that found me first — were the Greek; given how often Classical mythology is used in elementary school as an easy subject to teach reading, this isn’t all that surprising.  I first read the D’Aulaires’ books on Greek mythology in second grade, and quickly moved on to the works of Edith Hamilton and Rouse by third or fourth grade.  (Not nearly as historically accurate as the works of Kerenyi or Burkert or Mikalson, but then, I doubt I was ready for their works in fourth grade.)  I loved to explore the forests, or sit in the sun with a book, and I thought of Artemis and Apollo as my friends.  My mother and grandmother loved to garden; I wasn’t any good at it as a child, but the story of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades fascinated me beyond reason; I could sit and re-read it over and over again.  And wild Dionysus, and tricky Hermes, and patient Hestia…

I was raised Catholic; the stories of the gods, as far as my father was concerned, were just that: stories, not real.  No matter that people had worshipped the gods of Greece at the same time as the Hebrews in Israel had worshipped YHWH; one was true, the other was fiction.

I wished more than anything that wasn’t so.

I found the D’Aulaire’s book on Norse mythology a year or two after the one on the Greek gods, and fell into it just as eagerly.  The world showed in those pages was a little less bright to me: cold and hard and full of battles in which even the gods could die, with awful Ragnarok waiting at the end of time to end all things.  Concepts such as valor and honor and courage aren’t quite as attractive to children as those of love and play and joy, usually, so the connection I built with the Norse gods was much, much slower to form, and something I’ll get back to later.

I grew up, but I didn’t get old.  When I turned 18 and left home to go to college, it took me no time at all to decide that Catholicism just wasn’t a good “fit” for me; indeed, it was something I’d known for four or five years.  In 1985, there weren’t a lot of books on the market yet about Paganism, and I still had no idea that anyone other than me followed any faiths but Christianity or Judaism.  I fell into a sort of unformed pantheism/animism — that everything was a part of the divine, and that all things had a spirit within them; not just humans and their souls, but animals, plants, stones, the oceans and seas, the stormclouds overhead, the flames of a campfire — everything.  Some of this came, pretty obviously, from the stories of dryads and naiads and nereids and oreads and other nymphs in Greek mythology; equally, some of it touched on the stories of land wights and similar spirits in Norse mythology.

I first encountered other Pagans in 1994; as might be guessed, they were Wiccan.  But it was a revelation to me that I was NOT the only one who believed as I did.  Wicca was nowhere near a perfect fit for me — closer than Catholicism had been, but not right, either.  But it provided a starting point for further researches, and by the end of the 90s, I had regular Internet access and, for the first time, was able to learn that there were people out there who believed in what I had wanted to believe all along: that the ancient gods and goddesses of the old stories were real, and that they were worshipped by people today, not just the long-dead inhabitants of Athens and Sparta and Crete (and Norway and Iceland and Germany).

I pursued things feverishly, copying down recommended book lists, joining email lists, buying and reading books, learning the “right” way to do things.  I began to branch out into learning about other mythologies, too, ones that aren’t generally found in the childrens’ section of libraries.  One that immediately struck a chord in me were the gods once beloved of the ancient Irish, the Tuatha de Danaan.

My father’s family was mostly Irish (a little English, a little Scots, a little Cherokee, but he was over 3/4ths Irish; his mother had come over from Galway early in the 1900s, his father from a small village in County Cork a few years before her).  My mother’s family also had Irish in its background — nowhere near as much (less than a quarter; the balance was rounded out by Polish, Hungarian Romany, and Creole).  And devouring the tales of the Tuatha De felt like a fire blazing inside me.

The first of the Tuatha De that I became close to was Brigid.  I’ve been writing poetry since I was seven years old (execrable, that first poem, written in second grade — about the same time I first discovered mythology, now that I think of it), and her aspect as poet made her feel like kin to me.  I had nothing of the smith to my nature, but I have always been ridiculously soft-hearted, hating to see people hurt, wanting to do what I could to ease their pain.  My time at college was devoted toward studies in English (specializing in writing), but I could have as easily gone into nursing school, I think.  My maternal grandparents retired and moved to Kentucky when I was 9, and I spent quite awhile there after my parents divorced and my mother and I moved down there to join my grandparents.  About that time, my grandmother started to teach me herbalism, along with her nearest neighbor, an elderly lady by the name of Lucy.  I was still no good as a gardener, but I became enthralled with the medical purposes of various herbs, and memorized formulas for burn salve, cough syrup, teas for sore throats and insomnia, as easily as a three-year-old plays with blocks.  Thus Brigid’s other face, that of healer, called to me as well.

The Morrigan demanded my attention not after that.  My first marriage wasn’t a good one, and because I was timid, and fearful, and weak, I suffered for it.  After I finally divorced my first husband (and married my second), I began taking martial arts lessons (Tae Kwon Do) because I felt the Morrigan wanted me to learn how to defend myself so such a thing would be less likely to happen in the future.

So I began as animist and pantheist; discovered but found no attraction in Wicca; and then took to Hellenic Polytheism like a duck to water around 1998.  Irish Polytheism followed in 2000 or so, and I was perfectly happy to end things there.

Odin wasn’t.

I began “tripping” over things pointing to the Aesir and Vanir: little signs, especially those that indicated Odin wanted a word with me.  And more than a word.  Lots of words, actually.  The signs, like Odin himself, were impossible to ignore.  I remembered the book by the D’Aulaires I had read when I was much, much younger, and decided, rather cautiously, that more advanced research was called for.  This became more pronounced when my husband, formerly Catholic like me, took an interest in the Norse material and declared himself heathen with very little delay (no more than a few months).

I didn’t want to add another pantheon to the ones I followed; I felt things were quite complex enough, busy enough, enough of my time consumed by my beliefs already.  Odin wasn’t willing to take no for an answer, though I couldn’t fathom why.

At last, at wits’ end, I decided to consult three oracles: a Greek one (Sannion’s Dionysian oracle), an Irish one, and a Norse one (a seidhr-worker, Winifred Rose-Hodge, whom I had met).  Only if all three agreed that it was acceptable to follow that third pantheon would I do so.  To avoid reader bias, I cloaked my question metaphorically: “In the banquet that is life, one may eat with a fork that bears two tines, or a fork with three tines.  Which fork will serve me best?”

All three oracles responded unambiguously that the three-tined fork was what was demanded.

So I capitulated, as I am sure Odin knew I would, and accepted the Aesir and the Vanir into heart and home.  My primary relationship among the Norse deities is still with Odin, but I am slowly building connections with Freyr and Freya, Idunna and Bragi (yet another god of poetry, after all).  I have performed blots for Tyr and Frigg and the Alfar (twice!), and attended numerous others.  I rotate through the yearly cycle of holy days for each pantheon, each performed separately (though there is considerable overlap between the Irish and Norse holy days; the Greek ritual calendar shares no similarity with either).  I spend a great deal of time writing devotional poetry for the gods — originally just for the gods I felt closest to, but slowly, as I got to know them better, for most of them (and eventually, I imagine, all of them; earlier tonight I finished a poem concerning Nuada, whom I have no connection to whatsoever).  I am still not sure why Odin hounded me with such persistence; despite the martial arts training I had (never completed due to health concerns), I am no warrior.  These days, I tend to suspect he wanted another skald, and if that’s the case, I’m okay with that; I’m not the best poet in the world by a long shot, but I don’t think my talents suck, either.  (And I keep getting published, so apparently other people agree with me.)

I can’t ever imagine going back to what I was before; I have no grudge against Christianity or those who follow it, but it simply holds nothing for me now, and I’m not sure it ever did.  I can read the Bible, admire much of what Jesus preached, and rather sadly wish his followers actually practiced it, but I feel no desire to return to those ways.  I consider myself a hard polytheist; Hermes is not Odin is not Lugh, and Aphrodite is not Freyja is not Aine.  I believe that any god (even Christ) worshipped in this world — now, or a long time ago — is a real god, made so not by mortal worship but because that is their nature.  But not every god is my god, much in the same way that a baseball fan might enjoy watching baseball in general, but will only ever root for one or two teams, at most, to win all the time.  Not every team is HIS team.

So I need to start keeping better track here of my interaction with the gods–the times I just talk to them, the times I pray (and what form my prayers take); the omens I see, the rituals I perform (and write!), the poetry I write and read in adoration of them, the other services I carry out for love of them.  Because it isn’t enough to just do those things; they don’t need me to write lists of them, but maybe I do, in anticipation of the day (hopefully far into the future) when my memories start to falter.  And then I’ll be able to look back on these words and remember.

(Edited to add: while I’m following only the Tuatha De within the framework of the ADF, I’ll probably write generally on the holy days and rituals for all pantheons that I take part in, because a portion of the Dedicant Path handbook states that “At least four of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style.”  This implies that it’s acceptable to give accounts of non-ADF rituals attended or performed during the training period, as well…for comparison purposes, I expect.)

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Feral

 

 

Treasure knows no laws.

 

 

Man understands this; greed as a force of corruption stands without equal.

For the glitter of gold, for the shine of silver, for the call of copper,

A man will sell his mother,

A maid slaughter her lover,

A mother cast away her child.

Neither druids nor bards are immune to the laws of such spoils,

Nor are gods.

 

 

It hurt when the beast took my arm.  Not at once;

My heart blazed with the flames of battle, and I roared as I closed with him,

No more aware that my sword-hand lay on the grass, still clasping my blade,

The rim of my shield laying nearby,

Than swine are aware that they fill their bellies in summer

Only to fall before the butcher’s blade come autumn.

They say that I cried out for aid; I have no memory of this,

Though I doubt not the honorable word of my honorable friends.

My companions rushed in to fill the gap between myself and my foe:

My brother from Norway was first to my side, moving to place himself

Between myself and the warrior that sought my life; fast and furious

Were the blows between Aengaba’s sword and Sreng’s bloodied spear.

In heartbeats, the Dagda stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Aengaba,

And this, at last, made my foe quit the field,

Unwilling to face two such heroes.

Then, and only then, did I fall; then did the Dagda

Summon kings to guard me, and doctors to staunch the bleeding,

And women of healing to bind my wounds,

And I was carried from the field, near dead.

 

 

There is no finer man of healing than Diancecht;

Miracles can he perform, illnesses that would kill he can

Drive away like whipped curs, but even he, so skilled,

Could not restore my arm; the blood had fled from it,

The raw meat and bone of it trampled into the muddy field

Until every sinew shattered and the skin was rent by a thousand heels.

 

 

But he gave me what he could: a hand of silver,

More finely wrought than any jewel, the very strength and shape of my own,

Every pore, every scar, every fold of finger and gleam of muscle

Akin to my own of flesh and bone.

And so cunningly was it wrought, that only by its hue could it be told

Apart from my own.

 

 

But it was not flesh, not perfect and part of me.

Oh, aye, sealed by Creidne to the scarred shoulder where the original had hung,

And yes, of power and might alike with that,

But the Tuatha De demand that their king be flawless, without imperfection.

I could no longer claim such a truth,

And so I stepped aside.

 

 

Three things breed resentment in a man’s heart:

Greed for the wealth he cannot have,

Longing for the respect he once held from every man,

And the fire for revenge that cannot be gained.

 

 

Many’s the valorous man that fell in that battle,

Yet he who took my arm remained until the end.

He challenged me to single combat again, before Diancecht had fitted me

With that arm of argent, and I bade him bind his own sword-arm behind him.

The cur would not consent to such a compromise,

And instead of that final battle,

Wherein I might still have bested him,

The Children of Danu agreed to divide the fair lands between

Ourselves and them.

 

 

My recompense denied.  No chance was I given

To strike Sreng down; the pain like poison inside my heart grew,

Festered,

Twining its cold, shining tendrils around the core of me,

And something inside

Awoke.

 

 

Three things there are that live upon this world:

The kingdom of those plants that grow and take their strength from the sun,

The kingdom of those creatures that breathe, and take their glory in battle,

And the kingdom of the gods, that take power from every praise that comes to their ears

from the lips of man.

 

 

King no longer; perfect no longer;

I suffered in sullen silence, while the white worm of hatred

Writhed in my heart like a serpent in the haymow.

At length, I began to draw away from my fellows and my friends,

Perceiving some mockery in their slantside glances.

They say my sickness was upon me, and they did not lie;

Not the sickness within me before Diancecht had given to me

A hand of silver, but the sickness inside my chest,

As the three things which bred resentment did their deadly work.

 

 

The day came when my hand moved, and yet I moved it not;

The day came when my hand grasped, and yet I bade it not to grasp;

There came the day when my hand struck out at one I had no will to strike,

A poor and humble charcoal-maker whose roof I sheltered under,

And the wretch fell down dead, head split from crown to jaw and streaming blood

From the blow of my silver hand.

Then it was that I understood: the poison in my heart had moved

Through all the streams of my blood, and lastly reached

The scar whereunto the silver hand was grafted,

And yet despite the shield of scar between blood and bright metal,

The venom coursed throughout.

Hatred for Sreng and the fire for revenge bade my fingers curl;

Lust for the honor all the Tuatha had once showered upon me as king–

Now bestowed upon that cruel, petty, pretty princeling Bres!–

And greed for the wealth I no longer had:

The silver like that of the hand itself;

Its shine and its weight called to my hand,

And it responded in kind:

 

Treasure knows no laws.

 

 

Once a god, I fell from their company and became

No better than a man; hard but hale, sturdy and sore.

Once a man, the poison flooded my veins, flowed to my hand,

And I fell again, striking down those who would aid me,

Knowing neither the nobility of the Tuatha De

Nor the decency of man; an animal I was, no more than that:

Ravening and greedy, lusting and violent,

Consuming or destroying all that crossed my path,

A feral beast needing healing–or destruction.

 

 

In my last moment of clarity, I secreted myself away from all men, all maids;

Deep in the darkest woods of the fair isle I hid myself,

And hoped — in vain — that I would perish before another innocent

Fell beneath my unwilling blows.

But keen eyes noticed my absence:

Miach son of Diancecht had conceived

Of a charm that would restore my hand of flesh to me,

Confident in his own skills, finding the work of his father deficient,

And over all the land he sought for me, until finding me,

He came upon me in a slumber, and knowing the evil of the hand of silver,

Deepened that slumber with a brew of herbs

Bestowed upon him by his sister, radiant Airmed,

And conveyed me, all unknowing, to his own shelter.

 

 

There, over three days and three nights,

He sang the charm he had created;

The first night, flesh returned to clothe the bones;

The second night, sinew and tendon grew to weave bone and muscle to each other;

The third night, skin gleaming bright was restored over all, and he

Removed the silver hand and cast it struggling and bloated with poison into the fire.

Then took he up the hand of flesh he had healed,

And affixed it once again to its proper place at my shoulder.

All in a daze I flexed my fingers, staring as each one moved,

The secret of my evil buried inside my heart,

Fading quickly as Airmed’s balm washed away the poisons,

And once again I rose, facing the one who had made me whole,

Facing those who crowded around me,

Facing the Tuatha De who would never come to know

That the one they hailed as king once and king to come again

Had been, when all virtue and vanity and valor were torn away,

No more than a beast.

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