Manannan’s Daughter-Cantos five-Medb

She rides the gray stallion toward her village, stopping only to retrieve her weapons. It was good to run free, feel the wind, the sun on her skin. Time now to return. Her duties as chieftain’s daughter were many.

Sudden sound stopped her. Sliding from her mount, she was stealthy death moving through the undergrowth. Some slight sound warned her as she spun around, her sword struck from her grasp as she moved it to ready. She was slammed to her back before she could move to use her shield.

“The lady should return her toys to her father before her brothers miss them or she hurts herself.” He leaned down to help her up.

She easily evaded his hand, kicking his feet from beneath him, her sword kissing his throat. “I have no brothers. I’ll keep my toys.”

He rolled away from her sword, grasping his own, “Careful my lady, you could get hurt.”

“Better yet, I could hurt you.” She spoke through a wolf’s deadly smile.

They circle cautiously, watching each move of the other, studying, evaluating, planning. Shields ready, sword tips lazily circling, they watch for an opening.

She springs, slashing, then out again. The clang of her sword against his shield shatters the stillness. She hisses in disappointment at his escape. He swings his sword while she moves to balance again. She parries and spins, deflecting his strike.

Their dance of swords continues stroke for stroke, the advantage of one quickly taken by the other. Spinning, weaving, leaping, rolling, their bodies grow slick with sweat, lungs burning for air.

Approaching hoofbeats break his focus for just a moment, but enough. Her shield sweeps his legs from beneath him. Her sword dives for his throat.

“Stop.” Her father’s voice is imperious. “It is generally thought poor hospitality to kill the bridegroom before you bed him.”

“Lucky for you that my father arrived when he did.” Her sword still at his throat.

“I would not be lonely here.” He looks from her eyes, lower. His sword is at her stomach. She hadn’t noticed its light kiss. A scarlet thread seamed her belly.

She reached to help him rise, “My name is Medb.”

©2019 Maggie Grimes

Manannan’s Daughter –Cantos six

I remember, or perhaps I dreamed, another time. It was a long ago time. Much is hidden in the mists of the past but moments stand out as in sunlight. The first memory is actually the last memory of she I might have been.

There was a battle and I fought crippled, being alone. My shieldmate was gone, he who guarded my back as I his. Being alone and knowing my fate, I had chosen the site of this battle carefully. The oak tree was ancient when I was born. It watched me grow, speaking to me in the whispering wind. I did not feel alone with it behind me.

They came laughing, seeing easy prey. My sword drank hearts’ blood twice and my shield crushed an unwary throat before they learned caution. They were angry at my impudence, shouting at me, rattling their swords. I laughed at them and they grew angrier. They charged. I danced amid the gnarled roots, dealing death. Time and time they came and could not take me. The roots grew slippery with their blood and mine. The ground beneath was darkened with it.

Time stopped as we fought. I know not how long we battled so. It was sunset when I next held thought, the sun’s gleaming, gold beneath the storm dark clouds. My arms burned and my legs trembled. My lungs labored with each breath. Everything was still. I looked at my enemy and ‘though the bodies were many, more still stood watching me. One stepped ahead of the others. Bigger, stronger, he was their champion held in reserve. The others fell back. He lifted his sword in salute and nodded his head. His eyes were kind.

I straightened and looked around me. The wind was cool against my face, sweet in my laboring lungs. The colors of the trees and fields glowed in sunset splendour. The air sparkled with amazing clarity.

I turned to the champion waiting still, patient. My fatigue, pain were gone, replaced by fierce defience. I raised my sword, delighting in the sunlight that jeweled its bloody length. I looked at the champion and my vision grew red. I screamed as the bann sidhe screams. I know no more. Perhaps my heart burst or his sword found it. I know not, for only darkness echoes.

These are my first memories, dreams of the distant time. There are others that came later as I remembered the sword. It was his sword. The coming of my shieldmate to be and the gifting of his sword are other dreams, memories to be recalled some other time. Some I might share but others, others well, we shall see.

©2019 Maggie Grimes

“Manannan’s Daughter” begins in prehistoric Ireland with the selkie’s tale and continues now with ancient tales of Irish heroes. MJG

Brigit’s Hands

Her hands are stories
Knotted with aged strength
Tales of labor, loving,
Her sweet face speaking
Tear-creased soft and laughing seamed
At peace in each day greeting,

Her hands are stories
Gentle with patient strength
Tales of labor, serving,
Her sweet face speaking
In family toils content
At peace in each day greeting,

Her hands are stories
Holding with enduring strength
Tales of labor, praying,
Her sweet face speaking
Serene in sustaining faith
At peace in each day greeting,

Her hands are stories.

© 2019 Maggie Grimes

Brigit, daughter of Dagda and Bres, was protector of women, of hearth and home.To all the women of strength through time, they raised us, taught us, loved us. May we continue to live their stories. MJG

Fionn MacCumhail

Finn has grown through ages
His tales
Extending
Enlarging
Feats of marvel
Compelling,
Giant
Against giant
Standing
‘Til reason
Cleared his vision
Marking disparities
Discretion changing valor,
Home remembered
And soon reclaimed
Trailing troubles
In his wake,
Wise Oonagh
Perceiving danger
Warmly welcomed
Hospitality homely,

Beware the woman
Whose home
And family threatened
Force no match for wit.

©2019 Maggie Grimes

When Finn realized that the Scottish giant Benandonner was so much larger than himself, he suddenly remembered an urgent matter at home. The giant followed. Finn’s wife Oonagh recognizing the problem took charge. She had Finn lie in bed where she covered him up to his neck. She covered an iron griddle with bread dough and set it to bake. When Benandonner pounded on the door, Oonagh invited him in. She apologized for the absence of her husband but reassured Benandonner that Finn would be home shortly. In the meantime, she offered him bread still warm from the baking. Yelling in pain on breaking several teeth on the iron laden bread, he had to suffer the scolding of an irate Oonagh for waking the babe. She points to the swaddled figure of Finn stirring in the bed. On seeing the massive size of the baby, Benandonner suddenly recalled a prior engagement and left. The motto of this story is, “Don’t let your mouth get you in trouble unless you have a wise woman to back you up”. There is actually a more colloquial way of saying it but it’s rude. MJG

The Cat

The cat sits
Unblinking
Stationary on the hill
Dreaming ages past,

Rising wind sounds the Fae
Riding from the sidhe
Harness bells tinkling
Hounds baying
Horns calling, calling
Distantly lost,

The cat blinks
Then yawns lazily stretching
To saunter to his fireside
And home below.

©2019 Maggie Grimes

The ancient tales of Ireland are full of wonders and magic, heroes, Fae folk, and mystical creatures. We are too logical in these modern times to be distracted by these ghosts of our past. Perhaps cats see what we miss and hear what we ignore. At least they always seem to share less than they know. MJG

Dragon Eyes

Dragon eyes can never lie
Truth waits
In swirling opalescence
Enticing the unwary,

Dragon eyes can never lie
Promises tangled
In jeweled gossamer
Tempting the foolhardy,

Dragon eyes can never lie
Hope igniting
In ethereal gems
Daring the brave.

© 2019 Maggie Grimes

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a dragon to sit still for a portrait. MJG

The Dragon Rises

The dragon rises
Broken winged
And tattered
The mirrored scales
Tarnished
Dull are her
Jeweled eyes,

The dragon rises
Flame spent
And guttered
The proud crest
Ragged
Mute is her
Dulcet voice,

The dragon rises
Proud hearted
And undaunted
Her unconquered spirit
Free
Untamed is her
Wild soul,

The dragon rises.

© 2019 Maggie Grimes

Bard

The Old One wakes music stirring
His notes beckon to others reaching
Timeless youth his age masking,
The Old One plays music piping
His cadence speeds to start the dancing
Twining patterns his call heeding,
The Old One sings music soaring
His wild song speaks their hearts arousing
Embracing song shadows voicing,
The Old One frees music swirling
His magic shackled joy releasing
Forsaking time never ceasing,
The Old One wakes.

©2019 Maggie Grimes

What can I say, bards and music and Celtic magic. The photo is of my small bodhran, ancient drum of the Celts. MJG

Celtic Contradictions

I am afraid of the night
Yet I must see the stars,
I would cower before the storm
But I must heed its bidding,
I tremble beside the sea
Still I yield to her embrace,
I grow restless in the springtime
Weary in the fall,
Life beckons to me
I must follow if I can.

©2019 Maggie Grimes

The Giant’s Causeway calls the ancient Celtic mysteries and magics to mind. The stories they weave are spellbinding. MJG

Wisdom

In bitter sorrow
I walked beside the sea,
Felt the guttural roaring of the waves
Raging against the sand,
Trapped and lost
Feeling squandered in futility
Tattered sea foam blowing on the shore,
Dry and dying it sinks into the sand
Deep it reaches to find its level
Then in finding is drawn back,
Back to become part of the sea,
In awe of the sea foam’s wisdom
I felt laughter bubbling in my throat
And I, too, turned again home.

© 2019 Maggie Grimes

This, I think, is my Celtic nature. I may lose some battles and that hurts. But then I remember that I am still here and there is still joy. That’s the greater victory. MJG

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