In her old hands, she carried reindeer bones. Click! Clack! They rattled as she prowled through the dark stone cavern-space where we sat.
Bones scratched over scalps, rested over hearts as the Dreamers dreamed their way along twisting inner paths, anchored by the pulse of the Drummers.
In the Celtic lands She is the Cailleach. The Unmaker, the Uncreator, the Unwinder, the Remover. Her breath blows cold on the back of the neck in the Dark Time, She throws boulders that make mountains, She brings the fierce cold, She is an elemental force as She moves through this world, collecting what needs to be Taken.
(This was how the story was told to me: She Takes.)
Deep beneath the sacred mound of Sí an Bhrú, Newgrange, in a dark womb of a chamber, She sings as She knits together the bones of those and that which have been Taken, reshapes them to live again on the earth in new form.
Because of Her, nothing is lost to the world, not ever lost, not truly.
And in this space, where the Old Bone Mother paid a visit to the Dreamers, a trickster-shapeshifter-shaman of a man told us: "We are given two great gifts in life. The gift of being created. And the gift of being uncreated. Throughout time, throughout culture, how we respond to these two gifts becomes our religion."
Tears overflowed, silently. My heart overflowed, silently. This went on for a while. And then I felt at peace.
Last night, I was blessed.
Last night, the drum was alive under my palm. Though stored away for long years, it still had not forgotten how to sing, how to vibrate and shiver its skin in answer to my hand, resonating for long moments in the humming silence. I played the drum, the drum played me, for a moment all one and the same.
I have walked the passages of Newgrange, Sí an Bhrú, in body. A dozen years ago, in the springtime, when the lambs frolicked and the Cailleach slept.
Did the echoes of that mystery plant their seeds in me then? The potent magic of the Irish-green grass, the druid sun tracing gray stone spirals, the paradox of timelessness amid great age, those stay with me.
But if I am a drum, one beat was struck on me that day at Newgrange, resonating over years until the same hand last night struck me once again.
Maybe it is as he, the shapeshifter-shaman, said: "We are all Drummers on the Skin of Mystery."
Mystery is rattling in your ears, striking Her fists on your bones. When She strips you bare to scour you and refashion you, when you are uncreated and lose your identity, your trappings, your anger or your way, say to yourself it is a gift.
She Takes, and it is a gift.
Last night, this is how the story was told to me. And then, how I told the story to myself.
And now, I tell it to you.