Whispering Winds

May 2006

Spirituality is measured by one lesson at a time

Celtic Creatures - A Bestiary of Ancient Ireland.

by Steenie Harvey

The Book of Kells, an illuminated eighth-century copy of the Gospels, is one of Ireland's greatest treasures. Its knotwork interlace contains an entanglement of birds, beasts, and serpents that peer out of filigreed carpet pages or lie draped around lavishly stylized initials. Many of these animal forms are readily identifiable with saints: a lion represents Saint Mark, a bull Saint Luke, and an eagle Saint John. But what place do dogs, cats, mice, and otters have in a Christian text? Or, indeed, fish-bodied creatures with human faces?
Known as zoomorphics, these wonderful embellishments were possibly the blueprint for later medieval bestiaries that introduced the fabulous unicorn and ant lion. However, like the Book of Durrow and other manuscripts of the so-called Dark Ages, the Book of Kells suggests that Celtic Catholicism embraced some symbolic aspects of an older religion. Its animal iconography is a kind of illustrative monument to Ireland's pagan past--a time when the raven's shriek was a prophetic warning, salmon bore the gift of rebirth and knowledge, and dark magic turned children into swans.
With its stories of heroic deeds and supernatural forces, the Celtic age continues to cast a mesmeric shadow across Ireland's landscape. Although the warrior Celts have become practically synonymous with this island country, their realms once covered much of Iron Age northern Europe. Migrating westward, Celtic tribes probably reached Ireland in significant numbers around 300 b.c. A people who measured their wealth in cattle, they brought with them a new language, a tremendous appetite for feasting and drinking, and an ability to fashion gold into decorative jewelry and weapons. Their bloodthirsty earth gods became part of an existing (and very overcrowded) pantheon of Irish deities who inhabited the mysterious otherworld.
The idea of a hidden otherworld realm--a kind of parallel reality--was an integral part of Celtic culture. Although invisible to most mortals, the otherworld's portals occasionally yawned open. Likely thresholds included caves, earth barrows, lakes, and the remote islands of the western ocean. Animals and birds were often perceived as intermediaries, connecting humans to the spiritual dimension. There are huge gaps in what we know, but archaeology and the ancient stories collected by the early church suggest much about how Celtic Ireland regarded the creatures that shared the land.
Committing nothing to paper, the Celts passed on their stories through the vernacular tradition. One often hears differing versions of the same tale, and some legendary characters have multiple personalities, existing as both gods and humans. Ireland's Celtic mythologies weren't actually compiled until medieval times, when eleventh- and twelfth- century scribes preserved them in annals such as the Book of Leinster, the Yellow Book of Lecan, and Lebor na h'Uidre (Book of the Dun Cow), the last written at Clonmacnoise monastery. No doubt there were older annals, but much was lost during the Viking raids of the eighth and ninth centuries.
The oldest stories can be divided into three basic categories: a mythological cycle of voyages, invasions, and pre-Celtic divinities; the Ulster cycle, recounting the exploits of the Red Branch warriors; and the Fenian cycle, which relates tales of Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fianna warriors. The Celts were avid hunters, and the Fenian cycle seems especially designed to evoke the thrill of the chase. Ireland was once almost entirely blanketed in densely tangled forests, the wildwood home of creatures that might belong to this world or another. Man pursued beast, beast pursued man. Sometimes the quarry fled into the otherworld, crossing through the fragile veil that conceals gods from humans.
Occasionally appearing in furred or feathered guises, the Tuatha de Danaan (People of the goddess Danu) were the defeated deities of Neolithic Ireland, driven by the Celts' own gods into the hollow hills. One example of what is said to be a hollow hill is the mounded earthwork tumulus at Newgrange, the showpiece site of an extensive prehistoric settlement known as Brugh na B-inne, in the Boyne Valley. Predating the Celtic era, Newgrange was built around 3200 b.c., a remarkable feat of early engineering designed to trap the sunrise of the winter solstice. Later folk beliefs proclaimed that the sidhe, the fairyfolk, inhabited such places.
Mortals could gain otherworldly wisdom by consuming fish--usually trout or salmon--belonging to the Tuatha's deep wells and crystal lakes. One story relates how the young Fionn MacCumhaill (Finn MacCool) inadvertently receives the gift of prophecy when cooking the Salmon of Knowledge for his Druid teacher, Finegas. Depending on which version you read, this sacred salmon lived in a well beside the river Boyne, feeding on hazelnuts containing the seeds of wisdom. Fionn is told not to eat the salmon, merely to keep it turning on a spit. During the cooking process, the sizzling salmon burns his thumb, so he instinctively puts it into his mouth to soothe the pain. Otherworldly magic kicks in, and he immediately realizes that he can foretell the future. In his future role as chief warrior of the Fianna, Ireland's military elite, Fionn receives numerous prophetic visions simply by sucking his thumb.
Diarmuid's curse
Many Irish place-names are linked with creatures from the Celtic dreamscape. For instance, county Sligo's Ben Bulben appears in another tale from the Fianna cycle--that of Diarmuid, lover of Grainne. Few heroes die peacefully in their beds, and Diarmuid, son of Donn, is no exception. He suffers a gruesome disembowelment on the tusks of his half-brother Beann Ghulban, the character from which the mountain derives its name.
A monstrously deformed boar, Beann Ghulban was born without ears or a tail. In a previous existence he had been a human child, the result of an illicit affair between Diarmuid's mother and a steward. Crushed to death by Donn, the bastard child is reborn as a green boar. A prophecy is made that the half-brothers will kill each other; to avoid this happening, Diarmuid is placed under a geis (taboo) not to hunt boar. Of course, the fates always conspire to ensure that taboos are broken and prophecies fulfilled. When Diarmuid elopes with Grainne, the intended wife of Fionn MacCumhaill, the stage is set for tragedy. To make amends to Fionn, he agrees to join a boar hunt.
Separated from his hunting companions, his sword shattered, Diarmuid chases his destiny across the Ulster and Connacht wilderness. Managing to mount the boar, albeit riding backward, he clings to the beast as it charges toward Donegal's Falls of Assaroe, which once bordered the two provinces. (In Irish, this waterfall was Ess Ruaid, meaning Red Cataract, but sadly time has moved on and the falls vanished with the building of a hydro plant.) In the story, the boar leaps across Ess Ruaid three times but fails to dislodge its rider. And so the death ride reaches Sligo and its brooding tabletop mountain, visible throughout most of the county. Its shape is suggestive of a huge sacrificial altar. Diarmuid kills the beast with a golden spear, suffering terrible injuries in the process.
Enter Fionn, still bitter that Grainne had chosen a younger and more attractive man over himself. Coming across his dying comrade, he gloats that his rival's looks have been destroyed. Knowing that Fionn has healing powers, Diarmuid begs his chieftain for help. Deciding to do the noble thing, Fionn makes three journeys to fetch water to bathe Diarmuid's wounds, carrying it in his cupped hands. But fate cannot be cheated. Remembering how the two lovers had betrayed him, Fionn twice lets the healing droplets trickle away. When he returns for a third time, Diarmuid's spirit has fled.
Some fascinating interpretations have been made of this story. Do the half-brothers represent the forces of light and darkness? Or is Diarmuid a corn god figure, venerated by most of Europe's pre-Christian societies? If so, his broken sword surely signifies spent fertility. The corn god was always destined to die with the harvest.
Shape-changers and madmen
The boar wasn't the only creature of the thicket to cause confusion among hunters. Stags and deer were often regarded as otherworldly, and shape-shifting between deer and humans frequently occurs in Irish lore. Fionn's wife, Sadb, is turned into a fawn by druidic magic and their son, Ois'n, is often considered half deer, half human.
The shamanic ability to shape-change appears again and again. From the Book of Invasions, Leabhar Gabhala, comes the curious account of Tuan who eventually fathers himself. The sole survivor of the Partholon tribe, which had been wiped out by pestilence, Tuan loses his human shape for nine hundred years. He spends three hundred years as a wild ox, two hundred years as a stallion, three hundred years as a solitary bird, and another hundred in the body of a salmon. Finally caught by a fisherman, he is eaten by the queen goddess, Nemain, who gives birth to a reincarnated Tuan in human form.
Other characters grew feathers. Driven insane by the sound of battle, the seventh-century seer-king Suibhne Geilt lived naked in the wilderness, sometimes running with the deer, sometimes flitting through the treetops. Oral tales vary. In one version of Buile Suibhne, The Frenzy of Sweeney, the king's madness is attributed to a curse put upon him by Saint Ronan. Mad Sweeney's counterpart in early Welsh literature is Myrddin Wyllt, who flees to the Caledonian Forest after losing his reason in the sixth-century Battle of Arfderydd. The medieval Arthurian romances seized on the Myrddin of the Black Book of Carmarthen and sent him in a new direction. The mad-eyed prophet, whose bedfellows were wild piglets, was transformed into Merlin, arch-magus of Britain.
Saint Ronan may have cursed Mad Sweeney, but Christianity failed to extinguish the thirst for storytelling. Irish saints soon took on the role of the warriors of old, battling allegorical serpents, water monsters, and demonic birds--all of which usually served to illustrate the demise of paganism. The literal interpretation of the legend of Saint Patrick and the snakes led to some incredible notions in neighboring Britain. According to the twelfth-century Welsh historian Cambrensis, swallowing chopped-up boot thongs made from the hides of Irish-bred animals could cure snakebite.
The Great Bull of Cooley
The horse is yet another recurring motif in Irish myths. Chariot races occur frequently. One well-known story concerns Macha, a fleet-footed Ulster woman who gave her name to Armagh (Ard Macha) and Navan Fort (Emhain Macha), stronghold of the Red Branch warriors who served as a kind of Praetorian guard. Due to her husband's boasting, Macha was ordered to compete in a punishing footrace against the king's racehorses. Even though heavily pregnant, Macha won the race. However, she gave birth to twins at the finish line and died in childbirth. Before dying, she cursed Ulster's menfolk--at times of peril they would suffer the pangs of childbirth and be debilitated for five days and four nights. This curse lasted for nine generations.
Macha may have been the Irish equivalent of Epona, the premier European horse goddess, often regarded as the bestower of sovereignty. Written in 1186 by Giraldus Cambrensis, the Topographica Hibernica contains an infamous description of an Ulster kingship ceremony in which the inauguree mates with a white mare, which is then killed, dismembered, and boiled. The new king bathes in the cooking liquid, eating the flesh and drinking the broth. Although many Irish scholars discredit this bestial yarn, grave goods and other archaeological evidence indicate that horses were certainly held in symbolic esteem.
Alternative accounts suggest tribal chieftains were chosen at a tarbhfeis, or bull feast, ceremony. A Druid would eat the flesh of a freshly slaughtered bull, drink its blood, then sleep wrapped in its hide. This divination procedure led to a vision of the next leader. Sites such as county Limerick's Lough Gur and Drombeg in county Cork have produced archaeological evidence of bull and ox feasts held on an annual basis.
Two bulls provide the motive in The Cattle Raid of Cooley (Tain B- Cuailgne), epic centerpiece of the Ulster Cycle. Envious of her husband's white bull, Fionnbheannach (the White-Horned), Queen Medb of Connacht has an insatiable lust to add the great brown bull of Cooley to her own herd. This leads to conflict between the two provinces. Although much of the action takes place around the Mourne Mountains and county Louth's Cooley Peninsula, the story begins at Cruachan (the present-day village of Rathcroghan) in county Roscommon. According to the annals, this Neolithic site of earthen raths, standing pillars, and a circular bull ring enclosure was the location of Medb's palace.
With most of the Ulster and Connacht warriors having slaughtered each other, the war ends with the massive bulls battling for supremacy, churning up the countryside in a death match. Donn, the brown bull of Cooley, is victorious and comes charging over the hill at Cruachan bearing the remains of his adversary, the mighty Fionnbheannach, on his horns. Taking the long route home to Ulster, the brown bull crosses the river Shannon at Athlone. According to Lady Augusta Gregory's 1902 version of the Red Branch stories (Cuchulain of Muirthemne), the name of this present-day midlands town is derived from Ath Luain, the Ford of the Loin, for it was here that Donn shook off his rival's bloody loins. In the same way, the county Meath town of Trim takes its name from Ath Truim, the ford of the liver. Having littered Ireland with Fionnbheannach's offcuts, Donn collapses when he reaches Cooley. His injuries are horrific. Blood gushes from his mouth, and his last cries are three mournful bellows that resonate around the Mourne Mountains.
Cuchulainn and the three sisters
The Tain's hero is Cuchulainn, a superman-like figure in the legends but probably another manifestation of the corn or sun god. The only warrior unaffected by Macha's curse, he often defends Ulster single- handedly. Called Setanta in boyhood, he receives a new name after arriving late for a feast at the house of Culainn. When a monstrous dog leaps out of the darkness, Setanta kills it by dashing out its brains. He soon learns that it was his host's prized watchdog. As recompense, he serves as Cullen's guard dog for a time, hence Cuchulainn--the Hound of Culainn. A taboo was placed on him that he should not eat dog flesh.
Throughout the Ulster cycle, Cuchulainn is tracked by the malignant Morrigan, the Battle Raven. Part of a trio of war goddesses, the Morrigan is able to shape-change into a ghastly black bird and flies shrieking over battlefields, urging warriors on to greater carnage. In the Tain, Cuchulainn first encounters the Morrigan in her mortal disguise: a red-haired woman dressed in a red cloak. She attempts to seduce him, but he spurns her offer of love. A goddess scorned makes a fearsome enemy, and the Morrigan now bears Cuchulainn a bitter grudge. Journeying to his last battle, he encounters three crones cooking meat over a fire. They persuade him to share their feast, which of course turns out to be dog flesh. The die has been cast, and Cuchulainn's great strength ebbs away. As always, the god figure must perish, and Cuchulainn has earlier chosen fame over a long lifespan. At his death, the Morrigan comes back in raven shape to drink his blood.
Often interchangeable in Irish lore, ravens belong to the same ornithological family as rooks and crows. Their appearance in literature almost always heralds the grim footsteps of fate going about its business. The Battle Crow, devourer of battlefield corpses, is another name for Badb, the Morrigan's sister spirit of bloodlust. Ireland's hooded crow, or scald crow, is a thoroughly unattractive scavenger, pecking out the eyes of newborn lambs and feeding on roadkill and other carrion.
County Sligo's Keshcorran Caves are a mythic haunt of Badb, the Morrigan, and their sister (in some tales Macha, in others Nemain). Three weird sisters--did Cuchulainn's fateful encounter inspire Shakespeare's portrayal of the meeting between Macbeth and the hags on a blasted Scottish heath? The Cave of Cruachan at Queen Medb's Rathcroghan is also a reputed abode of the triple goddess. On Samhain (Halloween), swarms of red birds are said to fly out, withering the fields with their foul breath. Also known as Oweynagat Cave, it has yet another title: the Hellmouth Door of Ireland. Later folklore tells of a woman losing her calf in this cave. She enters the underworld and eventually emerges in the Keshcorran Caves, twenty-odd miles distant. Although Victorian archaeologists proved that Oweynagat's 130-meter passageway led nowhere, locals insisted the yarn was true--the devil must have stopped up the passageway.
Swans, geese, and planes
Swans also feature prominently in Celtic mythology. A celebrated story tells of the four Children of Lir. The girl child was named Fionnuala; her three brothers were called Aed, Fiachra, and Conn. Their story may have inspired countless "wicked stepmother" tales: The children were turned into swans by Lir's second wife, Aoife.
Jealous of Lir's love for his children, Aoife persuades the youngsters to bathe in county Westmeath's Lough Derravaragh. Casting a spell, she changes the children into swans, but her powers aren't strong enough to destroy their human voices. For three hundred years, their sweet, sorrowful songs are heard around Lough Derravaragh, but Aoife's enchantments condemn them to leave their human friends. They spend another three hundred years on the desolate Straits of Moyle, between Ireland and Scotland. The winters here are so cruel that the swan children's snowy feathers freeze to the icy rocks. The final third of their nine-century sentence takes them to Inishglora (Inish Gluaire), an island off county Mayo. Released from their bondage by a Christian hermit, they finally revert to human form--not as children but as wizened old men and a bent-backed old woman.
Swans also surface in a complex story called The Wooing of Etain. Midhir, the elf king of Ardagh in county Longford, challenges King Eochaid to a chess game. Midhir wins the game and for his prize claims a kiss from Eochaid's wife, Etain. (Just to confuse matters, Etain was previously married to Midhir and had spent part of her existence as a purple fly.) The high king refuses this outrageous request, but Midhir uses magic to gain entrance to Eochaid's palace at Brugh na B-inne. He turns himself and Etain into swans, and they vanish through the Great Hall's smoke hole. Joined by a golden chain, they fly away, their necks pointing toward Ardagh's s'd, or fairy hill.
Talking geese and goosegirls are a staple of European folktales, and it's no surprise that Ireland's geese also have mythic qualities. Lakes are often reputed to have spirit guardians, and legend tells that a goose protects county Limerick's Lough Gur. No ordinary goose, he's Gearoid, the half-mortal son of the Munster goddess Aine. Intriguingly, archaeologists discovered the wing bones of a barnacle goose buried beneath the foundations of a Neolithic settlement at nearby Knockadoon.
Cambrensis' Topographica Hibernica includes a wondrous description of barnacle geese, which the Irish ate during Lent. Church prohibitions weren't being broken because barnacle geese supposedly weren't birds at all--they were a kind of fish. The Welsh chronicler had a torrid imagination, stating
"I have frequently seen with my own eyes more than a thousand of these small birds hanging down from one piece of timber, enclosed in their shells and fully formed. They do not breed and lay eggs like other birds. Hence bishops and religious men do not scruple to dine off the birds at the time of fasting because they are not flesh nor born of flesh."
In some parts of Ireland, barnacle geese remained on the Lenten menu until the eighteenth century.
Today's Ireland, with its booming economy, has been tagged "the Celtic Tiger." Still, traces of the past survive. It seems almost uncanny that Dublin Airport is built upon Mag n'Elta Edar--the Old Plain of the Flocks of Edar. Gleaming planes descend like white birds, creating a pleasing symmetry with a description in The Book of Invasions. It tells that when Partholon settled here with a tribe of 9,008 followers, this entire area was a woodless plain, the largest glade in an island covered by forests. Birds landed here to spread their wings under the prehistoric sun.
Throughout the country, the age-old Irish names of animals and birds are commemorated in an almost endless litany of colorful place-names: Inishbofin--the island of the white cow; Slievenamuck--the mountain of pigs; Cluain-tarbh--the meadow of the bull. Why places were so designated is rapidly becoming irrelevant to the younger generation, but the earth itself clings fast to its ancient memories. And yes-- swans still glide across looking-glass loughs, and crows wheel slowly above the grass-covered mounds of royal Cruachan. Listen closely and you may even hear the roar of the great bull of Cooley bellowing across the centuries.

Nature magically suits a man to his fortunes, by making them the fruit of his character.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Native American Section: Mooin, the Bear's Child

Now in the Old Time there lived a boy called Sigo, whose father had died when he was a baby. Sigo was too young to hunt and provide food for the wigwam, so his mother was obliged to take another husband, a jealous spiteful man who soon came to dislike his small stepson, for he thought the mother cared more for the child than for himself. He thought of a plan to be rid of the boy.
"Wife," said he, "it is time the boy learned something of the forest. I will take him with me today, hunting."
"Oh no!" cried his wife. "Sigo is far too young!"
But the husband snatched the boy and took him into the forest, while the mother wept, for she knew her husband's jealous heart.
The stepfather knew of a cave deep in the forest, a deep cave that led into a rocky hill. To this cave, he led his stepson and told him to go inside and hunt for the tracks of rabbit. The boy hung back.
"It is dark in there. I am afraid."
"Afraid!" scoffed the man. "A fine hunter you'll make," and he pushed the boy roughly into the cave. "Stay in there until I tell you to come out."
Then the stepfather took a pole and thrust it under a huge boulder so that it tumbled over and covered the mouth of the cave completely. He knew well there was no other opening. The boy was shut in for good and would soon die of starvation.
The stepfather left the place, intending to tell the boy's mother that her son had been disobedient, had run off and got lost, and he had been unable to find him. He would not return home at once. He would let time pass, as if he had been looking for the boy. Another idea occurred to him. He would spend the time on Blomidon's beach and collect some of Glooscap's purple stones to take as a peace offering to his wife. She might suspect, but nothing could be proved, and nobody would ever know what had happened.
Nobody? There was one who knew already. Glooscap the Great Chief was well aware of what had happened and he was angry, very angry. He struck his great spear into the red stone of Blomidon and the clip split. Earth and stones tumbled down, down, down to the beach, burying the wicked stepfather and killing him instantly.
Then Glooscap called upon a faithful servant, Porcupine, and told him what he was to do.
In the dark cave in the hillside, Sigo cried out his loneliness and fear. He was only six after all, and he wanted his mother. Suddenly he heard a voice.
"Sigo! Come this way."
He saw two glowing eyes and went towards them, trembling. The eyes grew bigger and brighter and at last he could see they belonged to an old porcupine.
"Don't cry any more, my son," said Porcupine. "I am here to help you," and the boy was afraid no longer. He watched as Porcupine went to the cave entrance and tried to push away the stone, but the stone was too heavy. Porcupine put his lips to the crack of light between boulder and hill side and called out:
"Friends of Glooscap! Come around, all of you!"
The animals and birds heard him and came--Wolf, Raccoon, Caribou, Turtle, Possum, Rabbit, and Squirrel, and birds of all kinds from Turkey to Hummingbird.
"A boy has been left here to die," called the old Porcupine from inside the cave. "I am not strong enough to move the rock. Help us or we are lost."
The animals called back that they would try. First Raccoon marched up and tried to wrap his arms around the stone, but they were much too short. Then Fox came and bit and scratched at the boulder, but he only made his lips bleed. Then Caribou stepped up and, thrusting her long antlers into the crack, she tried to pry the stone loose, but only broke off one of her antlers. It was no use. In the end, all gave up. They could not move the stone.
"Kwah-ee," a new voice spoke. "What is going on?" They turned and saw Mooinskw, which means she-bear, who had come quietly out of the woods. Some of the smaller animals were frightened and hid, but the others told Mooinskw what had happened. She promptly embraced the boulder in the cave's mouth and heaved with all her great strength. With a rumble and a crash, the stone rolled over. Then out came Sigo and Porcupine, joyfully.
Porcupine thanked the animals for their help and said, "Now I must find someone to take care of this boy and bring him up. My food is not the best for him. Perhaps there is someone here whose diet will suit him better. The boy is hungry--who will bring him food ?"
All scattered at once in search of food. Robin was the first to return, and he laid down worms before the boy, but Sigo could not eat them. Beaver came next, with bark, but the boy shook his head. Others brought seeds and insects, but Sigo, hungry as he was, could not touch any of them, At last came Mooinskw and held out a flat cake made of blue berries. The boy seized it eagerly and ate.
"Oh, how good it is," he cried. And Porcupine nodded wisely.
"From now on," he said, "Mooinskw will be this boy's foster mother."
So Sigo went to live with the bears. Besides the mother bear, there were two boy cubs and a girl cub. All were pleased to have a new brother and they soon taught Sigo all their tricks and all the secrets of thee forest, and Sigo was happy with his new-found family. Gradually, he forgot his old life. Even the face of his mother grew dim in memory and, walking often on all fours as the bears did, he almost began to think he was a bear.
One spring when Sigo was ten, the bears went fishing for smelts. Mooinskw walked into the water, seated herself on her haunches and commenced seizing the smelts and tossing them out on the bank to the children. All were enjoying themselves greatly when suddenly Mooinskw plunged to the shore, crying, "Come children, hurry!" She had caught the scent of man. "Run for your lives!"
As they ran, she stayed behind them, guarding them, until at last they were safe at home.
"What animal was that, Mother?" asked Sigo.
"That was a hunter," said his foster-mother, "a human like yourself, who kills bears for food." And she warned them all to be very watchful from now on. "You must always run from the sight or scent of a hunter."
Not long afterwards, the bear family went with other bear families to pick blueberries for the winter. The small ones soon tired of picking and the oldest cub had a sudden mischievous thought.
"Chase me towards the crowd," he told Sigo, "just as men do when they hunt bears. The others will be frightened and run away. Then we can have all the berries for ourselves."
So Sigo began to chase his brothers towards the other bears, whooping loudly, and the bears at once scattered in all directions. All, that is, except the mother bear who recognized the voice of her adopted son.
"Offspring of Lox!" she cried. "What mischief are you up to now?" And she rounded up the children and spanked them soundly, Sigo too.
So the sun crossed the sky each day and the days grew shorter. At last the mother bear led her family to their winter quarters in a large hollow tree. For half the winter they were happy and safe, with plenty of blueberry cakes to keep them from being hungry. Then, one sad day, the hunters found the tree.
Seeing the scratches on its trunk, they guessed that bears were inside, and they prepared to smoke them out into the open.
Mooinskw knew well enough what was about to happen and that not all would escape.
"I must go out first," she said, "and attract the man's attention, while you two cubs jump out and run away. Then you, Sigo, show yourself and plead for your little sister. Perhaps they will spare her for your sake."
And thus it happened, just as the brave and loving mother bear had said. As soon as she climbed down from the tree, the Indians shot her dead, but the two male cubs had time to escape. Then Sigo rushed out, crying:
"I am a human, like you. Spare the she-cub, my adopted sister."
The amazed Indians put down their arrows and spears and, when they had heard Sigo's story, they gladly spared the little she- bear and were sorry they had killed Mooinskw who had been so good to an Indian child.
Sigo wept over the body of his foster mother and made a solemn vow.
"I shall be called Mooin, the bear's son, from this day forwards. And when I am grown, and a hunter, never will I kill a mother bear, or bear children!"
And Mooin never did.
With his foster sister, he returned to his old village, to the great joy of his Indian mother, who cared tenderly for the she- cub until she was old enough to care for herself.
And ever since then, when Indians see smoke rising from a hollow tree, they know a mother bear is in there cooking food for her children, and they leave that tree alone.

Irish Triad:
There are three springs of knowledge: reason, phenomenon, and necessity.

Triana's Kitchen:

Lamb Stew With Herb Dumpling
Use lamb or beef in this stew with dumplings. An Irish stew recipe with herb dumplings.

2 pounds lamb stew meat, or beef
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 carrots, chopped in large pieces
4 potatoes, diced
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bunch fresh mixed herbs, tied with a string (thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley)
2 1/2 cups beef broth
Herb Dumplings:
2 cups biscuit baking mix
2/3 cup milk
1/2 to 1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs or parsley

Coat meat in flour, then brown in oil in a skillet. Add onions and sauté. Place browned meat, onions and vegetables in large cooking pot. Add garlic powder. Place the bundle of herbs in middle of mixture.
Cover with broth and cook 2 hours over low heat. While stew is cooking, make dumplings. Salt and pepper to taste. Make dumplings and add 20 minutes before stew is done. See below.
Mix dry ingredients with milk and herbs just until moistened. Drop onto boiling stew (do not drip into the liquid - drop onto vegetables or meat) and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Cover and simmer 10 minutes longer.

Easy Cabbage with Apples

Cabbage with apples recipe is baked in the oven, layered with a little sugar, bread crumbs, and butter.

1 medium head cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 cups apples, sliced, peeled
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup of fine bread crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Drop chopped cabbage in boiling water and cook 3-5 minutes. Until slightly tender but still crunchy. Drain well.
Layer cabbage and apples in a 2 - quart casserole, sprinkling sugar and bread crumbs on each layer. Pat top layer flat before adding last crumbs. Pour melted butter over top of casserole. Cover and bake at 350° For 45 minutes, or until hot throughout. Remove cover during last 15 minutes.

                Beltain Marrow
              White Tiger Spirit

Cherry Blossoms swirl around my limbs
Floating past quietly in the wind
Red, Pink, and White sweet smell so
Caressing the air and onto the ground they go

Tranquility flows everyone knows
Where ever life begins to show
So we will meet and begin anew
As with life around us grew

This time is now no longer past
We open our hearts, minds, bodies fast
Our lust and need to begin the new
Breed in our veins our hearts true

Passion arisen taken to new heights
Hours of lust joining the rights
We begin anew no more of the past
Morrow will speak and bring love fast

The trees, plants, flowers, all creatures
Know of this time and have seen our lust
Renew and regrown passion so hard
Ethereal loves spoken in bard

"We do not destroy religion by destroying superstition."
Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Daevas: Persian Demons

Originally, the Daevas, together with the Ahuras, were a classification of gods and spirits. In later Persian religion they were degraded to a lesser kind of beings, demons. The word 'devil' is derived from their name. The Daevas are; Aesma Daeva (madness) the demon of lust and anger, wrath and revenge. Aka Manah, the demon of sensual desire who was sent by Ahriman to seduce the prophet Zarathustra. Indra, the demon  of apostasy. Nanghaithya, the demon of discontentment. Saurva, Tawrich, the personification of hunger and Zarich, the personification of aging.
These seven demaon serve "Angra Mainyu" the God of Darkness. Their arch enemies are Spenta Mainyu, (the Holy Spirit) and his seven hosts. They are Ameretat, Armaiti, Asha vahishta, Haurvatat, Khshathra vairya, Sraosa and Vohu Manah.

Faery Section: Yumboes - West Africa.  These faeries are about two feet tall with light skin and silver hair. They live in subterranean caves. And are reported to be quite the hosts when entertaining human guests.

Divination Section: Scalpulomancy - The Babylonians would offer a sacrifice by burning. And then would do an interpretation on the burned shoulder blade. This was usually a sheep or goat.

Did you Know??? The first recorded medical use of copper is found in the Smith Papyrus, one of the oldest books known. The Papyrus is an Egyptian medical text, written between 2600 and 2200 B.C., which records the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and to sterilize drinking water.

Herb Section: Rue: Herb-of-Grace (Ruta graveolens)

It is used internally and externally as a remedy for tendonitis. In ancient Greece and Egypt,
rue was employed to stimulate menstrual bleeding, to induce abortion and to strengthen the
The "rutin" contained in the plant helps to strengthen fragile blood vessels and alleviates
varicose veins. Rue is also used due to its antispasmodic properties, especially in the
digestive system where it eases griping and bowel tension. The easing of spasms gives it a
role in the stopping of spasmodic coughs.                                                                        
In European herbal medicine, rue has also been taken to treat conditions as varied as hysteria, epilepsy, vertigo, colic, intestinal worms, poisoning and eye problems. The latter use is well founded, as an infusion used as an eyewash brings quick relief to strained and tired eyes, and reputedly improves the eyesight.                                                         
The main uses for rue are to relieve gouty and rheumatic pains and to treat nervous heart problems, such as palpitations in women going through menopause. The infusion is also said to be useful in eliminating worms.
The herb is used in sachets and amulets to ward off illness. The smell of the fresh, crushed herb will chase away thoughts or envy, egotism, and love gone wrong. Rue leaves placed on the forehead will chase away headacahes. Added to baths, rue drives away spells and hexes placed on you. Rue is said to grow best if it is stolen. A powerful herb of purification. Rue water (made fresh rue juice and morning dew) is sprinkled around a ritual site, or a branch of rue is used to sprinkle salt water. Rue brings protection and clears negativity. Add it to the bath to rid yourself of all hexes and curses. It is a good addition to mixtures and incenses used for exorcisms. The Romans ate it as a protection from evil, and carried to be safe from poisons, werewolves, and general evil. Rue is also a healing herb; on the forehead it relieves headaches. Worn around the neck it aids in recuperation and prevents future complaints. Sniffing fresh rue will clear the head, in matters of love, and improve mental abilities. An interesting note: toads do not like rue, so they will stay out of your garden (or that area of it) if rue is planted.
It should not be taken with meals, and it should never be used by pregnant women.
Juices from the fresh plant can cause the skin to blister.


                        Crick's Corner: Greetings folks: How serious do you take your pagan lifestyle? Do you incorporate the tenets of the Craft into your daily life? Or do you try and make time in your life to enagage in these tenets? Are the wonders and magick of the Craft a part of your every day life or do you have to make yourself an appointment to do such things? I personally believe that all of the elements that define the Craft are a part of our every waking moment, even when we are not aware of it. I believe that energy and dryads and wee ones are all about us. We only need to find the introspection that will allow us to open our inner eye and actually see. Realm traveling is something some folks do almost without thought and yet there are others who deny themselves such a wonderful experience. A walk through the woods should be an opportunity to engage in conversation with countless beings and yet some folks see nothing but the trees. We often talk of spiritual growth within the Craft, and yet some hesitate to take the first step. Each of us is responsible for our personal spiritual growth. And each of us has to decide the depth and commitment that w have to the Craft. Some will pay lip service while others will actually travel the path with open mind and heart. What will your decision be?
Until next time Cailleachs...

Ge milis am fìon, tha e searbh ri dhìol.
"The wine is sweet, the paying bitter."

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