Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saint Patrick and the old Fiann

As I am working on creating my own spell book (Book of Shadows, if you'd like, though I'm refusing to call it that), I am rediscovering stories I knew and ideas I had forgotten.  Bits of poetry from here and there are scrawled in old journals, waiting to be set down in their new home.  My notes on the magical, medicinal and practical uses of plants tangle with doodles and half formed thoughts scribbled on note paper.  The process is chaotic and frustrating and beautiful and illuminating.  It's not going as smoothly as I had anticipated, and it is not going to look a thing like the book in Charmed, but it will be a unique reflection of my journey.

Among the forgotten stories that I have rediscovered is the story of how the Irish once believed.  According to the legend, Saint Patrick asked an old Fiann, one of Finn Mac Cool's warriors, how the people lived before Christianity came to Ireland.  The man's answer was rather simple: "By the Truth in our hearts, the Strength of our arms, and the Promise on our lips"(this is also translated to read "the fulfillment of our tongues") .  I don't know what Patrick thought of that, but those words capture my heart.

I do know that I live by the Truth in my heart.  Whenever I have deviated from that Truth, I am miserable and feel out of place.  I think we should all be left to live by the Truth that we find within ourselves whether that Truth is the word of God (as in the THE God that many people invoke as being the source of all Truth), the whispers of a goddess, or by the simple reason that we believe that doing good is way to live for no reason other than it make life happier (my husband is an atheist, but he is also one of the kindest people I've ever met, and he believes that being a good person is simply the right thing to do when one lives in a society).  

I'm not certain which Strength the old Fiann referred to. It could mean the strength that one army has over another, it could mean hard work, or it could be the strength that we draw upon when times are rough. For me, I see Strength as the last two.  I don't want to live dominating others, but I appreciate my own strength of will.

Words have incredible power to change the world, especially now when it is so easy for us to reach out, across the world and communicate. Words can open our eyes to new possibilities or trap us in confining worldviews.  When we use words to make a promise, we our willingly joining our future with that of another.  I have made very few promises, and rarely have I found myself in a position where I cannot honor those promises.  I expect others to do the same when dealing with me.

I have heard several versions of this story. Some like Patricia Kennealy Morrison's "Deer's Cry" are embroidered with fanciful details and woven into the plot of other stories, and other versions are simple re-tellings that leave us wondering what happened next.  I had forgotten that this simple explanation of how people once governed their behavior is also powerful and applicable to my life.  As my children are growing and beginning to need to assemble the guideposts that will mark their path through life, I am looking for tools to hand them.   This is one that I think I'll teach them because it is not specific to a faith.  It is simple, understandable and unyielding.  As a foundation, it will be strong place for them to build their own spirituality on.


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