Friday, December 20, 2013

A blessing of bones

LAST NIGHT, I was blessed by the Old Bone Mother.

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.

She Takes.

(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."

The Cailleach's blessing is to take from us something that needs to go. It is too soon to know what is gone from me. So many things I no longer needed, that I wanted to push out the door like a houseguest overstaying her welcome by months or years.

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.


  1. Such a journey you had last night... thanks for sharing the depth and profound beauty of truth. Happy Solstice Eve!!

    1. Happy solstice to you and Pasha, Valerianna!

  2. Bright solstice blessings to you and your clan, my friend. This is a beautiful post.

  3. I've never read anything quite like this: it really does chime with the things I've been feeling over the past year or so. The power of telling stories of the myths that make up the world and our lives is very great and stays with us, sometimes forever, as they pass from person to person. I've always 'known' this story, only didn't know the words of it, until now. Thank you!

    1. You are welcome, I'm so glad it connected with you, Reifyn.

  4. I wish that I had thought to tell you earlier, but the time got away from me. Since you've mentioned Sí an Bhrú I wondered if you had ever heard of Maes Howe in the Orkney islands? I lived in Orkney for a while; it is one of the most powerful & magic places on earth. Maes Howe is very like Sí an Bhrú in that the winter solstice setting sun illuminates the chamber. It was cloudy this year they said. Read about Maes Howe in the below link. There's a quote from Orkney's most well-known poet George Mackay Brown whom I never met, though I stayed with some of his family whilst there.

    1. Thank you, I didn't know about Maes Howe...there are many winter's nights worth of reading on this site! After Maes Howe, I went right to the trows. :) The publishers of EarthLines magazine lived on the Isle of Lewis for the past few years, but just moved to Donegal because of the hardships of living in Orkney. I highly recommend their magazine and Facebook page if you're not already connected--so many riches!


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