Monday, January 7, 2008

A warriors myth

Many ages ago, perhaps only a few short years after the world had been made, a young lad by the name of Setanta set out on a journey. He decided that the farm, where he lived with his mother and his cousins, was too small, and there must be more in the world to see and know. His father, who was always away on travels of his own, belonged to a special group, recruited only from the most skilled and honorable of warriors. Setanta decided it was time to take up his birthright, follow in his father’s footsteps, and join the Boy’s Troop of these Red Branch Knights. For someone walking alone, at that time in the age of the world, roads and spaces between settlements were always wild and dark places. The distance between Dundalk and Emain Macha was long and dangerous. Setanta had to be wary of wild animals, brigands, and the elements. He played with his hurly and lither to occupy his mind during the long days of tedious walking. At night he slept rough, on a bed of leaves and mosses, a stone for a pillow, and his cloak for a blanket. All along the road, the shadow of a crow followed him, far enough away to be unobtrusive, but close enough to be a constant presence. On the third morning, he emerged from his sleeping hole, at the side of the road to find a woman standing over him. She seemed to be taller than any adult he had ever seen before, and darker. But perhaps that was just an effect of the light, for the sun was rising behind her? Her wild red hair and dark green cloak with black feathers seemed to be stirring in a light breeze that he could not feel. A golden Torc the sign of a sovereign, was around her neck. In one hand she carried a bright long spear, with a tip as long as a sword, and in the other a stout wooden shield, with metallic reinforcements designed into intricate knot work. Her face was hard to see, with the sun behind her head, but there was strange warmth glowing from it. She was beautiful, but she had the kind of beauty one finds in thunderstorms, and the wild seas. “Do not be afraid,” she said to him. “I am a great queen of this Island, and I have been watching you for a long time. I am here to tell you your destiny.” She sat down on the ground, closer to the boy’s level and spoke further. “If you want it, you can have a long and happy life, with a good home, a wife and children who shall love you, and when you die, you will be very old, and healthy, well loved and happy” The boy thought about this future prospect, intrigued but also bemused. “BUT there is another life for you,” continued the magical woman “You could become a great hero, and live a life of adventure, passion, and danger. If you choose this life, you will create a great name for yourself, and the poets and storytellers will be telling your tale in this land forever, but you will die very young. The women then stood again, and thrust the rim of her shield into the ground, just within reach of the boys right hand, and then thrust the blunt end of the spear into the ground just to his left. “I offer you this choice today” she said to him “the choice you make shall transform your future irreversibly. Which life do you choose to live?” And with out hesitation Setanta made his choice… This is known as the “Choice of the Morrigan”. Setanta of course is better known as Cu Cuhulain, the greatest warrior in Irish Legend.

I have borrowed this excelent telling of the myth from "Mysteries of Druidry (Paperback) by Brendan Cathbad Myers". I can not recomend his writtings more highly!

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