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What?

66

… And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over
Thought I’d something more to say…

 Gilmour/Wright

Caer Ibormeith

I suffer a serious case of sleep apnoea. The treatment is to sleep with the aid of a CPAP machine.  I love my CPAP.  I have named her Caer Ibormeith (Kyr-or Keer-Eebormay) because after I had suffered months of bad sleep and horrendous nightmares caused by the apnoea , she breathed into my nostrils the gentlest of rest and the sweetest of dreams.  She transformed my life.

Caer Ibormeith, daughter of Ethal Anbuail of the Tuatha de Danann, lived in Sidhe Uamuin in Connacht.  Caer was known as “Shapely Yew Berry” or “Yew Berry”. She was a shapeshifting goddess who spent part of the year as a  woman and part as a swan.

Accompanied by 150 handmaids and servants, she underwent a transformation every year on Samhain, a liminal time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.

Caer Ibormeith was an independent woman of the old way.   She had the right as all women did then, to choose her own man.   The man she chose was Aengus Óg, son of the Goddess Bóann of Brugh na Bóinne (Newgrange ) and The Dagdha, father of the Tuatha de Danann.

When Aengus lay sleeping one night he was visited by a beautiful young woman who sang to him and called his name.   When he woke he knew he was in love, but he did not know with whom, or what to do about it.   He told no one about it for a whole year during which every night the maiden visited Aengus in his dreams.  She sang and played sweet music.  Aengus lost his appetite and fell ill.  He wanted only to return to sleep to be with his mysterious love in the world of dream.

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A physician was called.  He divined the cause of Aengus’ illness and told Bóann, Aengus’s mother, to find the young woman of Aengus’ dreams.  Bóann searched for a year but to no avail.  Then they asked his father, the Dagdha, for help. For another year he searched with no result.

The Dagdha then asked Aengus’ brother, Bodb, king of the Sídhe of Munster to seek the maiden.   After a year Bodb returned to report he had found a woman who fitted the description Aengus had given.  He took Aengus to a lake where, just as beautiful as Aengus had dreamed, she was bathing on the shore with one hundred and fifty maidens, who were her servants and handmaids.  She was Caer Ibormeith, the daughter of Ethal Anbuail, a Faery King.

With the support of Medb and Aillil, whose territory was Connaught where Caer’s sidhe was located, they visited Caer’s father, Ethal Anbuail, and requested the hand of his daughter in marriage for Aengus.  He told them he could not grant such a favour.  Caer was her own woman and her power was greater than his own.  He offered to help, however, and confided that Caer would change in shape from woman to swan every Samhain.  If Aengus wished to win her he must be at the Loch Bél Dracon on the morning of Samhain and call to her by name.  If he could recognize Caer among her swan companions and call to her she might come to him of her own free will.  Whether she answered at all would be up to her entirely.

Aengus went.  He found 150 swans swimming along the shore of the lake, all with silver chains around their necks. They gathered around him.   He despaired of recognising Caer amongst them all.  As he was about to give up and turn away, he spied one swan with a gold chain.  She seemed more regal and graceful than the others.  He called to her by name; “Caer Ibormeith”.  The swan swam to the shore and before him transformed into the beautiful woman of his dream, wrapped in a cloak of snow white feathers.  She reproached him and asked why it had taken him three years to answer her call.   

(I really love this bit – I can just see this beautiful woman asking “What took you so long?”)

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Aengus replied he had become confused and lost when he was not with her in his dreams.  He asked her to come with him and be his wife.   She said she would agree if he swore to allow her to return to the water at her will.  To show he agreed wholeheartedly, he became a swan himself and joined her in the water.   Caer and Aengus embraced in swan style, entwining their necks around each other, and swam around the lake three times singing a  love song of such sweet transcendent beauty that it cast an enchanted sleep, lasting three days and three nights, onto all who heard it.   

After their honeymoon, they became human and returned to Aengus’ home at NewGrange, where they lived together in love and joy, half a year in human form, and half as swans.

I do love “Happy Ever After” stories.

In mythology, Aengus came to personify Love, Youth and Poetic Inspiration, his wife Caer Ibormeith the Goddess of Sleep, Dreams and Prophecy.

When the new tribes arrived in Ireland it is said the old Gods and Goddesses became the Faery Kings and Queens and retreated to underground mounds called sidhes.

Swans in Celtic mythology, are associated with love, purity, the soul, and music.

Swans are often linked with a goddess and will wear a gold or silver chain around their neck.  Swans of Samhain are said to act as guides to the Otherworld.

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A chance reference regarding Tolkien made me believe that Goldberry, wife of Tom Bombadil, may have been modelled on Caer Ibormeith or Yew Berry.

Justin Noetzel wrote a  paper “Beorn and Tom Bombadil: Mythology, Narrative, and The Most (Non) Essential Characters in Middle-earth”. In it, Noetzel suggests an association of Tom Bombadil with the Celtic Otherworld and tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  This is an interesting proposition because I read somewhere that Tolkien disavowed any Celtic origins to his tale.  This despite the fact there may be a Celtic association at least in that the name “Gollum” was inspired by a place he visited in the Burren, County Clare, Ireland; Poll na gColm (pronounced Pole na Gollum) “cave of the rock dove”.

In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Tolkien describes Goldberry as the seasonal changes in nature, and Tom Bombadil as the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside.

I have a feeling that Goldberry and Yew Berry are at least related.  Both are associated with water, and both had beautiful singing voices.  Goldberry’s voice was “as young and as ancient as spring, like the song of a glad water flowing down into the night from a bright morning in the hills.”

Odd too that Bombadil was the embodiment of song and music, and Aengus of poetic inspiration.

Bombadil and Goldberry represent the ancient water/land –  feminine/masculine principles and so, it seems, do Caer Ibormeith and Aengus.

Just musing…

Flow Softly

Sweet Thames Flow Softly

I met my love near Woolwich Pier

eneath the big crane standing
And all the love I felt for her it passed all understanding
Took her sailing on the river,
Flow, sweet river, flow
London town was mine to give her
Sweet Thames flow softly

Made the Thames into a crown,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Made a brooch of silver town,
Sweet Thames flow softly

From Shadwell dock to Nine Elms Reach we cheek-to-cheek were dancing
Her necklace made from London Bridge her beauty was enhancing
Kissed her once again at Wapping,
Flow, sweet river, flow
After that there was no stopping,
Sweet Thames flow softly

Gave her Hampton Court to twist,
Flow, Sweet River, flow
Into a bracelet for her wrist,
Sweet Thames flow softly

At London yard I held her hand. At Blackwall Point I faced her
At the Isle of Dogs I kissed her mouth and tenderly embraced her
Heard the bells of Greenwich ringing,
Flow, Sweet River, flow
All the time my heart was singing,
Sweet Thames flow softly

From Rotherhithe to Putney Bridge my love I was declaring
And she from Kew to Isleworth her love for me was swearing
Love! It set my heart a-burning,
Flow, Sweet River, flow
I never saw the tide was turning,
Sweet Thames flow softly

Limehouse Reach I gave her there,
Flow, Sweet River, flow
As a ribbon for her hair,
Sweet Thames flow softly

But now alas the tide has changed. My love she has gone from me
Winter’s frost has touched my heart and put a blight upon me
Creeping fog is on the river,
Flow, Sweet River, flow
Sun and moon and stars gone with her,
Sweet Thames flow softly

Swift the Thames flows to the sea,
Flow, Sweet River, flow
Bearing ships and part of me,
Sweet Thames flow softly.

Ewan MacColl 

Meaning.

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Alan of the Outback

I’ve been mad for feckin years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands….

I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad, like the most of us are…very hard to explain why you’re mad, even if you’re not mad…

Nick Mason/Roger Waters

Lore

It is Lore time.  Or Law time as some will have it.  The time when aboriginal boys become men.  The time for initiation rites.  I was away last year at this time, on leave, then trapped in Halls Creek by the weather.  This year I plan to be trapped here.

There are a lot of new faces in the community, all male.  The women and girls are making themselves scarce.  They are packing up and heading to visit relatives in Halls Creek, or in Warmun or Kununurra, centres where no Lore is practised.  Those remaining stay mostly at home.  There do not seem to be many children about either.

We gardia keep to ourselves and don’t stray near the men’s areas.

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When You Are Old

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats

 

Maud Gonne