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A Quick Primer of Tuatha Mythology
Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:08 pm
The Imbolc Story: How Brighid Robbed the Forge of Lugh
After Lugh gave the gift of iron to the tallfolk, there was a quarrel between Lugh and his daughter Brighid, who was herself a great craftsman and often served as her father’s handmaiden at his forge. Like her mother Danann, Brighid favoured the Tuathailli in all things; but unlike Danann, who always sought the most peaceful way, Brighid was bright and impetuous and not afraid to put noses out of joint if it was for a good cause. And this, she thought, was a fair and noble cause. At last Lugh had enough of her pestering and turned her out of the forge for good, claiming she would not be allowed back without an apology.
Brighid was incensed. Put out like a pestering child, and for such a reason! “I’ll kick the moon in the face before I’ll apologise for speaking the truth!” she told her father. She snatched up her bright red cloak, took up the lightning-bolt she used for a walking-stick, and stormed out. Of course, this being Brighid of the Storms, it was quite a literal storming-out.
She ran all day and all night and never stopped to drink or rest, so that by the time she reached the Sea at the Edge of the World, she was nearly done in and decided to set up a camp for the night. She jammed the point of her bolt between two stones and went away to fish for her dinner. But when she came back, the two stones had fused together in a single solid lump. It was, in fact, a great vast boulder of solid bronze, the remains of which can be seen to this day if one knows where to go looking. It was stronger than the copper and tin from which it had been made, and stronger yet than the flint knives of the Tuathailli, but it did not have the deathly chill of iron to it, and Brighid thought that such a metal might be useful to the Tuathailli. But, she realised, she could not go about striking all the stones in the world with her bolt.
Instead, she went to her brother, Gwydion, the magician, because no one loved a good trick better than Gwydion, and together they made a plan.
Gwydion came to his father’s forge. “You look dreadful, Lugh,” he said.
“If you had all these women conspiring against you, you’d look dreadful too,” muttered Lugh. “Between your mother and your sister Brighid, I have not had a single moment’s peace.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that,” said Gwydion, very politely. “Why don’t I play for you and help you relax?”
“There’s no time to relax,” said Lugh. “I’m far too busy.” But when Gwydion brought out his pipes and began to tune, Lugh sighed in comfort and sank into his chair to listen. Soon his golden head nodded forward onto his chest, and his eyes closed, and the world fell into darkness.
Gwydion carried on playing, for fear of waking Lugh unexpectedly, but now the pipes sang, clear as a voice, “Sister, sister, come inside!” Whereupon Brighid slipped into the forge with a pail and began to steal the glowing coals out of Lugh’s forge, the coals that could never be quenched. When she had filled her pail, she slipped back out again, and Gwydion quickly finished his song and went away with her, leaving Lugh snoring in the warmth of his forge.
But when Lugh awoke, an angry man was he, for Lugh knows the number of coals in his fire as well as a man knows how many fingers are on his own hand, and at once he went out to see where the coals had gotten off to. But Brighid had hidden the coals deep in a cave, for Brighid knew that her father had a fierce temper, but a short one, and that soon enough he would be distracted and forget.
And forget he very nearly did. Only the next day, as Lugh was passing overhead, he overheard Gwydion laughing with his cousin Math Mathonwy. “I never knew she had it in her,” he was telling Mathonwy “No cat could have been quieter slipping into old Lugh’s forge! We’re all lucky Brighid’s otherwise so honourable, because she has the heart of a born thief.”
Now Lugh knew who had robbed him, and all he had to do was wait until evening fell. For Brighid’s red hair and her red cloak on earth shone at night like the light of a bonfire, and as soon as he saw her, he could swoop down and snatch her up.
But Brighid had thought of this too, and secretly she called to a Tuatha man. “You and all your kin must go up to the hilltops tonight and light a bonfire there,” she said. “Let every hill be lit, and miss not a one, and if anyone comes asking about me, give him this.” And she gave the man a little doll made up with red hair and a red dress.
So when night fell, Lugh looked down and saw nothing but blazing red flames on every hilltop as far as he could see. Finally settling on one that he could have sworn was his daughter, he dropped feet-first to the ground and demanded of the Tuathailli that they give up Brighid. “Here she is,” said the Tuathailli, and handed over the doll. Lugh was so blinded by rage that he did not even realise that it was a doll, and by the time he did, he was halfway back to the summit of heaven. So he went to the next fire and again demanded his daughter, and to the next, and the next. Meanwhile, Brighid slipped back behind him, always going straight to the last place her father had been, until Lugh was so exhausted from travelling back between heaven and earth that he came home and slumped over in a dead sleep. But when he awoke again, he had worn off the worst of his temper.
Last edited by Fortuna on Mon Dec 28, 2009 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
|Mon Dec 28, 2009 2:20 pm
Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:08 pm
Mathonwy Tricks Epona and Cernowain:
One day, in the depths of the forest, Epona spotted a fine red stag with a massive rack. Silent as a stream, she raised her bow, pulled her arrow to her cheek, and fired.
At the very moment her arrow flew, another arrow hissed out of the brush, fired by Cernowain. Both arrows struck at the same moment, and the stag fell down pierced between them.
Now there was a problem. Both Epona and Cernowain were archers beyond compare, with no equal save one another. Epona had her swift, sure arrows, forged by Lugh, enchanted never to miss what they aimed for. But Cernowain had an equal gift, bestowed on him by Danann, that any quarry he struck, even if it was but a grazing wound, would die without taking another step.
Epona and Cernowain approached and glared at each other through the bramble of the stag’s great rack. “See here,” said Epona, “didn’t you see that stag stagger forward a step before he fell? That proves that it was my shot that slew him.”
“That wasn’t a step,” Cernowein said. “He never moved, he slumped forward on his knees.”
“He did so take a step,” protested Epona. “Nearly two steps ere he dropped. You must have flinched as you let fly or you would have seen it too.”
There is absolutely no greater insult to an archer than to suggest that he flinched as he let go his shot. Cernowein turned red with rage. “We’ll see about that,” he said, and before Epona could so much as take the breath that would let her say another word against it, Cernowein raised his bow once more and shot Epona’s horse through the heart.
Epona let out a wail and slapped Cernowein across the face, then ran off to throw herself on Lugh’s lap and cry her eyes out.
Now, Cernowein was never a man to lose his temper lightly. Only the jape at his archery could have made him do such a terrible thing. But it was too late: the horse was dead, there was no curing it, and Epona would no doubt never forgive him.
Cernowain was a simple man, more used to animals and wildling creatures than to the caprices of women. He had no gift for sweet speech or consoling words. But if any man or god in the world could be said to have a way with women, that man was Math Mathonwy, the magician. So Cernowain went to Mathonwy in hopes that the magician might have a plan to make Epona forgive him.
Now, what Cernowain could not have known was that only very recently, Mathonwy had placed a bet with his old friend Gwydion, declaring that he could talk Epona into bed. He had spent week upon week wooing her, only to have her find out, at the worst possible time, that he loved her not a whit, and it was all done as a wager. Epona swore all aloud that if Mathonwy ever came within grabbing distance of her again, she’d twist his balls into a knot and leave him to untangle them. Needless to say, Mathonwy had been laying low from Epona ever since.
But now he had an idea. “You mustn’t go to Epona yourself,” he counselled Cernowain. “You know what a terrible temper she has. Surely, you’ve heard what she threatened to do to me.”
“As a matter of fact,” said Cernowain, “I haven’t.”
Mathonwy looked more cheerful at this development. “She told me that if I didn’t come back with a crown of lavender for her hair, she would never speak to me again,” he said. “And I haven’t and she hasn’t. She’s a woman of her word. But if she’s angry with you, your dull wit will only make you say something foolish in front of her, and she’ll be angrier than before.”
“I know it,” said Cernowain miserably. “Can’t you help me?”
Mathonwy pretended to think. “Tell you what,” he said. “You and I shall swap our shapes. I’ll go to her as you, and I’ll make such a speech that she can’t help but forgive you. And, just to make things fair, you can bring her her flowery crown, and we’ll call it even.”
So Cernowain, much cheered, glammed himself as Mathonwy and went out to pick the lavender for the lady’s crown, while Mathonwy, glammed as Cernowain, found Epona out burying her horse. “So,” she said coldly, “come to kill something more of mine?”
Mathonwy opened his mouth, and what came out of it was a speech so long and so passionate and so sincere that it has since been locked up in a box of iron and buried under the root of an oak tree until the day when the world needs such a speech again. He went on, and on, and as he spoke Epona’s eyes went wider and wider, and her jaw dropped lower and lower, and her whole head swooned, and by the time he was finished she had fallen to her knees on the ground, unable to do more than look up at him in a daze. And of course Mathonwy-as-Cernowain won his wager with Gwydion right then and there.
Meanwhile, Cernowain finished the crown and set out to find Epona and fulfil his side of the bargain. He found her asleep, bare naked on the turf, and alone (for of course Mathnowy knew better than to linger long enough for the lady to wake). And so Cernowain-as-Mathonwy considerately covered her up with his own cloak, then leaned down to shake her shoulder.
As soon as her eyes opened, Epona laid hold of both Cernowain’s balls and squeezed them as hard as she could in her hunter’s fist. She led him up the hill and down the other side, with Cernowain shrieking for mercy all the way, and by the time she had done with him he had apologised for everything up to and including the world being round. Then Epona shoved him down without ceremony and ran away to cry in Lugh’s lap again.
As soon as he could walk, Cernowain was seething for revenge against Mathonwy’s trickery. He rushed to a birch to cut down a rod to beat Mathonwy. “Where are you going?” the birch asked.
“Going as far as to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” answered Cernowain.
“Never no help you’ll have of me,” said the birch, “until you fetch the axe.”
So Cernowain went to where an axe was imbedded in a stump. “Where are you going?” said the axe.
“Going to fetch the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernowain replied.
“Never no help you’ll have of me,” said the axe, “until you fetch a whetstone to grind me.”
So Cernowain went to fetch the whetstone. “Where are you going?” the whetstone asked.
“Going to fetch the whetstone to grind the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernwain replied.
“Never no help you’ll have of me,” said the whetstone, “until you fetch the water to wet me.”
So Cernowain went to the river for water. “Where are you going?” the river asked.
“Going to fetch the water to wet the stone to grind the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernowain replied.
“Never no help you’ll have of me,” said the river, “until you find the fish to swim me.”
So Cernowain went to fetch a fish. “Where are you going?” asked the fish.
“Going to fetch the fish to swim the water to wet the stone to grind the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernowain replied.
“Never no help you’ll have of me,” said the fish, “until you find the cat to catch me.”
So Cernowain went to fetch a cat. “Where are you going?” asked the cat.
“Going to fetch a cat to catch a fish to swim the water to wet the stone to grind the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernowain replied.
“Never no help you’ll have of me,” said the cat, “until you fetch me some milk.”
So Cernowain went to find a cow. “Where are you going?” asked the cow.
“Going to fetch the milk to give to the cat to catch the fish to swim the water to wet the stone to grind the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernowain replied.
“Never no help you’ll have from me,” said the cow, “until you feed me a wisp of straw.”
So Cernowain went to the threshers. “Where are you going?” the threshers asked.
“Going to fetch the straw to feed the cow to get the milk to give the cat to catch the fish to swim the water to wet the stone to grind the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernowain replied.
“Never no help you’ll get from us,” said the threshers, “until you bring us a comb of honey from yonder tree.”
So Cernowain went to the tree. “Where are you going?” asked the honeybee.
“Going to fetch honey from the bee to give to the threshers to get the straw to feed the cow to get the milk to give to the cat to catch the fish to swim the water to wet the stone to grind the axe to cut the rod to beat that trickster Math Mathonwy,” Cernowain replied.
“Never no help you’ll get from me,” said the honeybee, “until you bring me a garland of flowers.”
“Will these do?” asked Cernowain, holding out the lavender crown he had made for Epona.
“Yes, that’s fine,” said the bee, who gave him a comb of honey that he took to the threshers who gave him the straw that he fed to the cow who gave him the milk that he brought to the cat who caught the fish that swam in the water that wet the stone that sharpened the axe that cut the rod, and when he had it ready . . . Math Mathonwy was a good ways up the road.
|Mon Dec 28, 2009 2:25 pm
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