Tag Archive | stories

30 Days of Devotion – Brighid – Day 23

Day 23 Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity – I have many prayers that I have put up and the story of the Flames POV but these are still my favourite

The Littlest Druid celebrates La Fheille Brighde

Once upon a time, Aisling was sitting on the side of the hill above the flocks of sheep. She was thoroughly wrapped in a sheepskin coat and leggings and she wondered if the sheep cared that she was wearing one of their old friends. It made her feel funny until she remembered how cold she would be if she wasn’t wearing them. She was feeling marooned.

She’d been sent out here to watch for the ewes to start bearing their lambs. She wanted to be back at the village while they got ready for Imbolq but once again she had made herself unwelcome. Everyone was all excited for the feast and ritual. Most of her friends were more excited about the feast than the ritual. It had been a long time since the Winter Solstice festival and the winter had been cold and hard. It was time to celebrate spring’s return.

She had been trying to help out with all the preparations but her teacher and the Chief Druid had finally sent her out here to be with the sheep.

They had told her it was a very important job but sitting here alone in the cold it didn’t seem so important. It seemed like punishment. She lowered her head to her knees and felt a rush of self pity.

She always meant well but things just didn’t seem to ever work out well for her. She had been helping with the beeswax candle making but got distracted making wax build up on her finger. She couldn’t help how nice and warm the wax had felt on her hands and it smelled so good!

Somehow the druidess in charge of the candlemaking hadn’t seen it that way. She’d gone over to hold the wool that a group of women were spinning and some how it ended up in one big knot instead of a ball that they could use to knit.

So now she was here, by herself, while the regular shepherds went in for dinner and a nap. They had told her not to worry. None of the ewes were ready to give birth yet so all she had to do was sit.

So she sat in the dark surrounded by sleepy, stupid sheep even the sheep dogs had gone with the shepherds for their dinner. She gave a heavy sigh.

The Chief Druid had said this was an important job because they couldn’t start the celebration until the ewes gave birth and their milk came in. This usually happened around a full moon and a half after solstice so it was a few days yet. He had said someone had to be here because sheep sometimes got into trouble and the mother died giving birth so someone had to be with her and some one had to make sure the lambs would be alright. Aisling just felt punished and not important at all. The only thing she could see was that if there was extra milk there would be really good cheese and she loved cheese.

She was trying to stay awake by counting falling stars and watching the Aurora shift and move across the sky. One of the boys had said it was Brighid’s green skirt moving across the sky and she wondered if she tried hard enough she could see the rest of Brighid.

She was starting to get really drowsy when a ram hit her from behind and rolled her forward into the grass. “Hey!” The ram stood looking at her and then turned to run across the field. He stopped to see if she was following so she did.

He turned around and started running again toward the far eastern part of the field. She struggled to catch up. He was moving really fast. She had no idea a sheep could go that fast. She fell twice and each time he stopped and waited for her to get up.

What was happening here? The shepherds had promised nothing would be exciting in the least but she had a feeling they were wrong.  At the edge of the field was a dip and in that dip was a very pregnant ewe. She was bleating softly at the ram and she looked like she was trying to give birth. She was on her side and Aisling knew that wasn’t good. Sheep give birth lying down but she didn’t look right.

The ram butted Aisling again. Aisling knew she was in real trouble. The sheep’s side was heaving as she strained. Something was very wrong and Aisling was very scared. They had promised nothing would happen and as usual they were wrong! She had never even watched let alone help a sheep give birth and there was no one else around.

Aisling started praying to Brighid because she couldn’t think of anything else to do while she patted the sheep and tried to remember to breathe.

What was she going to do? If the sheep or the lambs died she’d be in real trouble then and it would mean a bad celebration and year.

She was too far away to call for help. She just kept stroking the sheep’s head and felt a tear down her cheek. She’d really done it this time. They had promised it wasn’t time yet!

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up. There was a woman in green kneeling next to the sheep. The woman smiled at her and began to touch the sheep gently to find out what was wrong.

She motioned to Aisling to hold the sheep’s upper body and rolled up her sleeves and reached into the sheep’s birth canal to straighten the lamb that came sliding out. The sheep gave a jerk and turned to lick her lamb while the lamb tried to stand. The woman gently pushed the lamb toward the mother’s teat and wiped her hands on the grass.

She watched the lamb and ewe for a moment and smiled. She stood up and gave Aisling a hug.

“You did well and now you better go tell the shepherds and the Chief Druid what has happened. It’s time for the feast.”

Aisling looked at the woman. She was dressed all in green with embroidery of red, black and white around her dress. The woman had red hair worn in braids like a crown and had warm blue eyes. Aisling wanted to ask her name but she had a feeling she knew who she was. She had asked her to come after all.

“Yes, I am who you think I am. You asked with all your heart and I came to help. Prayers are always answered when you ask. You just may not like the answer.”

Aisling looked at her with doubt. She looked at the Goddess and she looked at the ewe and her lamb. The ram had sat down with his legs folded under them and just looked at the two of them. She decided they were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

Brighid gave Aisling’s hair one final stroke. “You’d better go and tell them the news.” She said again and gave Aisling a slight push. “But don’t tell them I was here. Let it be our secret. They don’t need to know. Well, maybe the Chief Druid.”

She laughed and walked away over her shoulder she said, “Keep trying Aisling, just keep trying.”

Aisling took off running back across the field. The boys were right. The Aurora did look like Brighid’s skirt she thought as she ran.

The Littlest Druid Creates

Aisling watched the rain fall outside the stone window and expected that this was going to be a long day. It was a soft rain but steady and since it was just another day in a long line of rainy days. She sighed.

She supposed she could work on the piece she had been trying to write. It was almost La Fheil Brighde and she had been trying to write a new hymn to Brighid. It was the first time in almost a year she had been back to the village since she had been consecrated a Bard.

It had been a wonderful year but a lonely one. She had told all the stories she had learned. Learned some new ones along the way. Sung some songs and walked long distances alone except for sheep and a few wild deer she had been lucky enough to chat with along the way but now she was home for a rest and to celebrate Brighid’s day.

She wondered if Brighid was going to appear at the ritual. Here Aisling was one of many and the newest Bard still so she wouldn’t be part of the ritual unless she could come up with a good enough piece to please the Chief Druid and the Head Bard. The Head Bard had never forgiven her for her raven’s thievery so it was always hard to impress him.

She had a tune that kept circling her brain like her raven drifted in the sky but it wouldn’t settle in or enlighten her with the words that were supposed to go with it. She supposed she could go get one of the smelly sheep skins and wrap herself up in and find it but that had never worked well for her. All she could think about was the poor old sheep it had come from and they stunk. Sheep’s wool was still itchy on or off the sheep. She wondered if sheep itched from their wool but probably not and she couldn’t really ask them and get a good answer.

She decided to take a walk in the rain, maybe that would shake something loose. She grabbed her cloak and her carved staff which had gathered more carvings when she had been away and her bag with her whistle and started on the path out of the village to their standing stones. She could hear the sheep in the fold moving around and knew they would be out on the hills soon and giving birth. She wondered if her favourite ewe was pregnant again, she was an old friend.

It was too wet for the raven to be out and about so she walked alone up the hill. She pulled out the whistle and started to play the tune that was swirling in and out. It was lilting and she could almost hear the words but they were just out of her reach. She reached the circle of stones and sat with her back against one. Somehow these stones were always comforting. She could see the first snowdrops blooming on the hill behind the stones and she started to sing.

Spring comes and brings the lambs
Brighid comes and wakes our land
From darkest night to the coming of day
The light returns after darkest day

I sing of healing
I sing of new life
I sing of love and the return of the light

We are inspired and live to create
We use our hands, wonderous things to make
From nothing they come, to use they go
The coming of spring after winter’s snow

I sing of healing
I sing of new life
I sing of love and the return of the light

I sing of her guidance and the sense of peace
I sing of her patience while I try to create
I sing of inspiration and the raising of hope
I sing of her flame we keep in the grove

Brighid, I welcome you at the start of your day
Please guide me with your flames to light my way
Inspire me, create me a new every day
Forge me and make a flame for a day

I sing of healing
I sing of new life
I sing of love and the return of the light.

“Thank you.” a voice behind Aisling’s stone said and Aisling turned around quickly. Brighid was standing there in her beautiful green cloak and dress.

“You heard it?” Aisling finally squeaked out.

“Every word and note.” Brighid laughed softly. “It’s lovely and you had better share it.” She said with a twinkle. “Aisling, I thank you for honouring me with it. Blessings of the day, dear one” and she was gone.

Aisling shivered to herself. Brighid had liked it! That ought to be enough for the Head Bard but most of all it was enough for her. She settled back against the stone after tugging her hood back down on her curls. It was going to be a wonderous day.

The Littlest Druid and the Roses

Once upon a beautiful summer time, the Littlest Druid was out on the moor alone. She had been given an assignment by the Chief Druid. She was to sit and watch a wild rose bush. This was about the silliest thing she’d had been made to do yet.

She wondered if she had made so much trouble that she was being punished as far a way from the village as they could send her. She wondered if this was it. It had been hours and she was just supposed to watch this dumb old rose bush. Back in the village, work was going on as usual and she wanted to help. She really did.

It had been a great Beltane yesterday and it was time to clean up. The May pole had to be taken down and it was time for the sheep to be moved to a new pasture up the mountain. It was time to start brewing the summer ale so it would be ready for the harvest festival. The weavers were going to be carding wool so they could start weaving warm winter leggings and tunics. She had grown so much over the winter she was going to need all new clothes. Things were starting to pull and her leggings were way too short.

She looked down at her bare feet and wiggled her toes. Summer was nice. It was a warm day and the sun was shining down brightly for the first time this year. So far she had seen a family of rabbits hopping in and out under the wild rose. It was just starting to bloom and the lovely pink blossoms were nodding on the breeze and she was starting to get a little sleepy.

Suddenly there was a lot of howling and there was a big dog chasing a very small rabbit who was running as fast as it could for the rose. Aisling didn’t know whether to try and stop the dog or save the rabbit. She sat frozen in place but the rabbit dove under the rose and the dog ended up with a snoot full of thorns. Aisling relaxed. Served that old dog right chasing that bunny. Bunny hadn’t been doing anything but playing on the moor. She watched the dog slink off toward the village. She thought he was heading for the healers. That wasn’t going to be fun to have all those thorns removed.

She sat watching bees go in and out of the roses and hoped that they were going to be making lots and lots of honey. Honey meant honey cakes and spread for bread with new butter. It meant that those nasty medicines the healers made would taste better. It meant the Brewer would be happy making mead. Honey just seemed to make things happier even if you had to persuade the bees that it was a good thing to share. She watched them bumble along in their bumbly way. It was fun to watch them.

She sat watching absolutely still when a deer came up and started to munch on the rose blossoms. She wanted to shoo him away. No flowers, no honey but the Chief Druid had said she wasn’t to move and she wasn’t to make a single sound if she could so she sat watching.

The deer suddenly got a mouthful of thorns and reared back and decided the roses were too much trouble and headed off for the stream near by. And still Aisling sat. She couldn’t figure out what she was supposed to see sitting here and she was getting really bored. She was getting really suspicious about why she had been sent out here. They just wanted to do things without her being around. She knew it had to be because she punched one of the older boys who kept pulling her braids yesterday. It had really hurt and she wasn’t sorry she had done it either. He deserved it. Maybe not where she had hit him but it was as high as she could punch and it had been funny to watch him roll around on the ground. She hadn’t hit him that hard.

She watched the little wrens flying in and out of the thicket and wondered where their nests were inside the bush. She bet they were nice and cozy and she could hear the sleepy tweets of baby birds. She wondered if the mama and daddy birds got tired to feeding the hungry baby birds because there were a lot of worms going into that bush.

The sun was starting to set in the west when the Chief Druid came and sat down beside her. She had just gotten the idea for a pretty tune and was humming to herself not nearly as bored as she thought she would be after a day on the moor.

They sat quietly watching the sun set behind the thicket and watching the swallows and the bats come out in the gloaming to hunt their dinners.

The Chief Druid said quietly, “What did you see today?”

“I saw the rabbits that live in the thicket and I watched a big dog try to catch one and he missed and he got thorns up his nose. I saw a deer eating the roses but the thorns made it seem like too much work and he left. I watched the bees getting their pollen for honey and I saw all the birds who make their home in the roses.”

“Why do you think the rose has so many animal friends?” The Druid asked.

Aisling thought for a long while, “Because the rose is a safe place to be?”

“Very good,” said the Chief Druid nodding his head and watching the skies.

“What else? Why do you think it’s a safe place?”

“Because the rose is big and has sharpthorns and can protect itself when it needs to?” She looked up at the Chief Druid.

“How does it protect itself?” asked the Druid.

“By just being what she is?” said Aisling thoughtfully.

“So why are you out here watching a wild rose bush?” He asked looking at her directly for the first time.

Aisling thought for a long while, “I think it was naughty to hit someone where they really hurt and not just try a nicer way to protect myself. That I can be useful and helpful with just by being me and helping with what I’m asked to do.”

“Exactly,” said the Chief Druid, “And that it’s okay to defend yourself without getting to aggressive or mean?” He looked down at her smiling.

“He did look really funny though rolling all over on the ground and howling like that.”

The Chief Druid raised an eyebrow and then started to laugh. “Yes, he did, didn’t he? I think maybe he’ll have second thoughts about bothering you for awhile, especially since he spent the day cleaning the pig pens.”

They both were laughing as they walked back to the village in the gentle twilight.

30 Days of Devotion – Brighid

  1. Other related deities and entities associated with this deity

Well, there really aren’t any related deities that I can think of. The Celtic heroes and deities pretty much stand on their own. There are other healing deities and other smithing deities, (those are almost exclusively male) and I suppose other deities of inspiration but not any others that do all, so no there aren’t any.

So that being said, I guess her Flame is an entity of a sort, so I offer this:

I was born as I flew from the flint down through the air into the straw in a bowl many hundreds of years ago. The bowl was carried by a woman to a lamp and I have been tended by women ever since, a constant parade of ever changing and ever the same women, always 19 at a time.

Women of all sizes and shapes, at first they were mostly women with red hair like my flame or hair dark as the soot I leave behind or hair as grey as ash. I burned year after year tended by these 19 women but every 20 days and I was left alone. Then I was tended by the Goddess who seemed as ever changing as the women. Sometimes she was young as a spring lamb and as fresh as dew chanting poetry and singing as she kept watch. Sometimes she was older and had muscles and would come in blackened and sooty and smelling of iron and sweat. Sometimes she was much older and came in smelling of flowers and leaves and had a peace in her face as she tended me that soothed my fiery spirit.

It went for years like this first tended by women robed in white or green who sang to their Goddess and of the people they prayed for and much later the women changed to a somber black robe and were swathed in cloth and only their faces and their hands were visible to me. They sang different songs. Songs that didn’t always seem to be about their Goddess but the Goddess still came. She used to wink at me and tell me stories. She said they didn’t always know who she was anymore but she loved that they still faithfully tended her.

Then the men came, men in steel like the Goddess smelled of, men reeking of hate and with ugly looks on their faces and they tried to douse me with water and leave me as a steaming and cold thing. They didn’t know that the women had taken a gift from me and hidden me in a lantern and took me in a boat over the water. I burned and burned in that new land for hundreds of years and then, not so long ago more women brought me home and I am tended again in this place near a well, ever tended by women but now every once in a while a candle dips into me and I’m taken to a new lamp or a new candle or even sometimes a radiant and lovely bonfire and I am tended by new people. People of all colours and races, people whose faces shine back at me all over the world and not just women but men too. People whose face shines with love for their Goddess or saint, people who pray for other people to be well and strong or whole in what ever way that needs to be even if well and whole means a quiet ending.

And every twenty days my Goddess, Brighid returns to me. Telling me stories and smelling of herbs or of hard work before she goes out again into the world and the people she loves and I shine in many places, on many hearths and I shine for my eternal Goddess.

This story is also available in my book The Heart Town Witch and Other Stories.

The Littlest Druid Can’t Sleep

Aisling couldn’t sleep. She was really tired but she just couldn’t fall asleep. She tried counting sheep but even in her imagination they seemed to mill around and then the shepherd’s dogs arrived and then drove them away. She thought she’d be better off mentally counting Druids but they didn’t stay still in her mind’s eye either.

She listened to the drowsy tokking and muttering of the Raven who had now built her nest up in the thatch of the cottage. The other druid students in her cottage snored or muttered in their sleep as much as the Raven did. It wouldn’t have been bad if she could have understood what all the muttering was about but it was just an annoying mumble.

She could hear an owl from time to time out in the woods and finally she decided to get up and see what the owl was up to out there. She decided she might as well go outside and take a walk.

The village was quiet with just a few torches left burning so people could see their way to the latrines at night and not fall in although sometimes on festival nights people celebrated too much and fell in any way. Aisling decided to go sit out at the edge of the village and the beginning of the forest.

It was a perfect night at the beginning of summer, not too cold and not too warm. Aisling sat and enjoyed the light breezes hitting her face. She closed her eyes and could smell the woods and the scent of lilacs in the air so faint you could almost miss the sweetness. She listened to the leaves move and could hear the owl hooting from close by. You could never hear owls fly. Some people didn’t like that the owls flew so silently and found it scary. Aisling thought it was one of the things that made owls so special. She kept an owl feather in her ciorbolg that she had found in the woods. She took to pull it out of the bag at her waist and stroked its softness.

The bench she was sitting on dipped and she opened her eyes. There was an old woman with long white hair and a grey cloak. Her hair looked oddly feathery.

“You like my feathers?” The woman asked and smiled.

“Huh…Your feathers?” Aisling said rather surprised.

The woman smiled, “Yes, my feathers. Why do you think they call us old women of the night?” (An owl is called cailleach oiche in Gaelic.) The woman laughed softly. “There is nothing more beautiful than an early summer night.” The woman looked around her. There were some mushrooms softly glowing below the trees. She could see some moss glowing lightly too. The sky was a deep, deep purply blue with thousands of stars twinkling over head. She could hear the drowsy sheep over in the fields.

“So are you learning to be a good guardian of the woods like the Green One asked?” The woman said. Ailsing started so that was why owl woman was here?

“I guess so.” Replied Aisling. “I have so much to learn but Raven is helping me.”

“Well, it seems like you are having trouble sleeping?” The woman lifted an eyebrow. “How about some night help?”

“Okay…” Aisling was wondering if she was going to get in trouble if she went tromping in the woods at night with someone who said she was an owl.

“Come along.” The woman got up and started walking along. They walked into the dark woods and Aisling was very glad there was at least some moon visible.

“You have to use all your senses at night like you were doing on the bench. You have to listen for the movement of animals. I can hear a mouse family over there.” And she pointed over ahead. “But don’t worry I’m not going hunting with you…tonight.” The woman laughed to herself.

Then she continued. “You have to use your sense of smell. You have to use the eyesight you do have and you can use your sense of touch. Guardians are Guardians at night as well as day. Some day the Green One will want you to know the forest at night as well as during the day.”

Aisling was starting to stumble because she was finally getting sleepy. She wondered about all the life around her that was drowsy and sleepy too. “How will I know when he wants me?” she asked the woman.

“You’ll know. Trust yourself.” The woman turned and was gone. Aisling looked down and there was a flight feather on the ground. Aisling picked it up and wondered how many other strange people she was going to meet and why no one else seemed to have these experiences. Although for some reason she thought the Chief Druid might know.

BunniHoTep and the Three Fates

Once upon a time strange things started happening around BunniHoTep’s Temple. It started when all these multi-coloured threads started appearing up and down Temple row. BunniHotep hated to see such beautiful thread just laying around and she thought they were really pretty. One of her priestesses did finger weaving so she taught some of the other priestesses how to do it too. The priestesses had been sitting in the cool shade of the porch busily weaving belts for each other’s robes.

It made BunniHoTep feel happy to see her priestesses so engaged and busy. It felt her free to try and find out where all this thread was coming from. She walked slowly picking threads off the flowers and plants in the garden. Where was it all coming from? It wasn’t floating down from anywhere that she could see. It was just sort of appearing. She hopped down past the sphinxes on Temple Row filling her basket as she went. Down all the way to Neith’s weaving workshop picking up threads.

Neith was standing at the door of her workshop with a puzzled look on her face as she observed the threads. BunniHoTep hopped up to her holding a now heavily weighted basket.

“Are these all yours,” BunniHoTep asked holding out the basket.

“I was thinking Bast’s kittens had really been making a mess.”

Neith shook her head with a bemused look on her face. “They aren’t mine. They’ve been appearing for the last day and I never let my weaver’s waste thread like that. See!”

She moved aside to show BunniHoTep.

“All my leftover bits are used for embroidering or to make other household objects like potholders. And since it’s not my workshop where could they be coming from?”

“I don’t know. They just seem to be appearing. They were all over my cabbages and carrots when I left the Temple. I’ve been picking them up as I came. My priestesses are doing finger weaving with them because they so loved the colours.”

As she spoke she thought she saw someone transparent walk by. “Who was that?”

BunniHoTep pointed to the shade as it walked around the corner.

“I have no idea but it sure looks like the shade or ghost of someone who has passed but they’re dressed in Greek clothing. Who dresses in Greek clothing in our Temple Row? The Greeks rarely leave the Delta except for that pest Herodotus. He’s always around asking stupid questions.”

BunniHoTep was now very curious.”I think I’m going to have to find out what’s going on.”

She hopped back down Temple Row. There weren’t any ghosts heading in or out of Ma’s and Anubis’s Temple. It seemed to be a quiet day but there was more thread on the ground and on the sphinxes. This was very weird but BunniHoTep loved a mystery. She hopped some more down the Temple Row picking up thread as she went.

A very angry woman dressed all in white was standing at the end of Temple Row surrounded by the shades of many people, old, middle-aged and very young. They were milling about in a very confused fashion. As BunniHotep got closer she could hear the woman speaking.

“It isn’t my fault!”

The woman stomped her foot.

“I know you’re supposed to be on your way to Hades. I did not put you here!”

The woman was radiating her anger in every direction and BunniHoTep could see Ammit hiding from it under BunniHoTep’s Temple steps with a worried look on her face.

“Can I help you?” BunniHoTep asked the woman carefully. She didn’t want to make her any madder than she already was.

“I hope so!” the woman said angrily. “These people are all supposed to be going to Hades but due to a very bad pair of babies they aren’t. All my threads ended up in Egypt and from the feel of things they’ve been used to weave something else!”

BunniHoTep thought about all her happily occupied priestesses. Whoops!

“Who are you and can I do something for you?” She offered the basket with the threads she had been collecting toward the old woman.

The woman snatched away from her. “When I catch Eros and Discord I’m going make those two clean Zeus’ toilet for a hundred years. I’m Atropos and I cut the thread of life so people can go on to Hades or drink from the River Lethe and come back and now I have ghosts of people wandering all over. Because some of the threads have been rewoven into things some of them aren’t really sure they’re dead.”

BunniHoTep noticed she had a big pair of scissors hanging from the sash around her chiton.

BunniHotep was pondering what she should do when she saw two other women coming down the way each with a squalling baby tucked under their arm and a determined look on their face. The babies were wriggling and trying to get away. Both of them were flapping their small wings and stirring the goddesses’ hair. It was very clear those babies were not going anywhere very soon.

“These are my sisters Clotho and Lachesis and it seems they have Eros and Discord with them. I’m really tempted to tie these two up by their heels and leave them dangling over your god Sobek. Do you think he’d like a nice fat baby?”

She had a very thoughtful look on her face and BunniHoTep was afraid she was serious by the look on her face.

“Don’t you think Aphrodite should take care of that?” BunniHoTep asked quickly. Eros was squirming out the back because Clotho was distracted by the amount of thread in the basket.

“All of that was scattered here?” Clotho asked.

“And I’m afraid a lot more.” said BunniHoTep. “I have some in the Temple. And I think Neith has collected some at her workshop. Wait here and I’ll see about it.”

BunniHoTep hopped quickly to her Temple and up to her priestesses.

“Quick! Unweave all that thread. It belongs to the Fates and those are the threads of people whose life thread has been cut.”

The priestesses hurriedly started to pull the belts apart very carefully. BunniHoTep hopped around collecting the threads and gathering the threads they hadn’t been used yet.

“Quickly! Those Fates are very upset and we have ghosts wandering everywhere.’

BunniHoTep grabbed the last of the threads and raced back to the avenue.

“Here is all we have in the Temple.”
She hoped they wouldn’t notice that the threads had waves in them from being woven together.

Neith is bringing hers now.

BunniHotep pointed to the goddess that was coming down the way with a large basket.

“I think we got all of them.”

BunniHoTep looked at Eros and Discord to see if they agreed with her. The babies both nodded at her from behind Clotho and Lachesis. They looked very relieved. Atropos grabbed the three baskets and BunniHoTep put her paw out and stopped her.

“What do you do with the threads when you cut them?”asked BunniHotep.

“We burn them at the shrine in Delos, why?” said Atropos as she raised an eyebrow, “What else should we do with them?”

BunniHotep was thinking, was there something better to do with all these threads that wouldn’t leave ghosts wandering around? She just hated the idea of wasting all these pretty threads. She had an idea.

“How about we weave them like this?”

She grabbed a handful of red threads and started to weave them loosely in a square and then when she finished her small square, she grabbed a handful of blue threads and wove a blue square. The shades had gathered around again and the three Fates were watching what she was doing closely. Lachesis, the weaver was intrigued and so was Neith. Lachesis grabbed a handful of green threads and Neith a handful of yellow. BunniHoTep pulled a piece of twine out of pouch at her waist and tied her red square and then the blue and yellow square with the green square she had finished with the white that Neith was finishing. She now had what looked like a clothes line with small flags on it.

“It’s pretty but what is it?” asked the Fates and Neith nodded.

“Well, if the shades agree, these are prayer flags. We can have people who have prayers put them up and when they fray apart and birds take them for nests or they just fade and go back to nature they can carry the prayers of those people back to the gods.”

BunniHoTep turned to the ghosts.

“Wouldn’t you like to be useful a bit more?”

Most of the shades nodded.

“When your thread disintegrates due to wind and sun you will continue on to Hades carrying the prayer with you. Does that sound like a task you would like to do?”

The shades nodded again.

“We’ll have my priestesses and Neith’s priestesses weave them and give them to people to put on trees and over wells to carry their prayers.”

The three Fates thought about this. They had always been troubled by the disposal of all their beautiful threads. This would be a big help.

Lachesis turned the babe trapped under her arm and glared at him.

“I have a chore for you and Discord from now on you are to bring the baskets of thread to BunniHoTep and Neith. You obviously need a bigger job to keep you out of trouble.”

The two babies looked at each other and agreed. This was better than having to clean Zeus’s toilets for a hundred years. That was just gross. One never knew who had been using them in and in what form, it could be anything from a swan to a horse. Ick!

And that is why all over the world people have tied strips of cloth and colourful string to trees to carry their prayers to heaven. You can go to India and find a tree with string or up to Tibet to see the prayer flags on Mount Everest or to Ireland or Scotland and find them tied to willows above the wells. You can travel the earth and find them and know that they have an important job, taking a prayer to heaven.

The Littlest Druid finds the good in the bad

Aisling looked around at what was left of the tiny village, everywhere around her the building’s roofs smoked. Household goods were strewn over the landscape. People lay where they had been slain. The marks of the weapons clear to be seen. There was nothing here for a healer to do.

She looked at the other druids around her. Some were in tears, some were in shock, some were angry. Aisling wasn’t sure how she felt, numb?

In the middle of the night a young boy had come yelling into the Druid village about the sea raiders that had come to his village up the coast to the north. The Chief Druid had quickly roused all the people old enough to help and they had come as fast as their ponies would go but it wasn’t in time. It looked like the boy was the last one left from his village.

Aisling looked at a loom in pieces on the ground and the half finished wool blanket in slashed hunks around it. She could see it would have been beautiful when it was finished with all the colours of sea and sky in brilliant hues. It made her sad. What made people think that they could come and harm a small village? Aisling’s heart hurt.

She could see an abandoned butter churn milk and butter left to curdle on its own. Ravens and crows gathered in the trees above some of the cottages as if waiting for a meal and she was glad her Raven was back home and not here. She couldn’t stand the thought of her being part of this.

The blacksmith must have run to his forge and laid about with his big hammer but it had done no good but she could see he had taken some of the raiders with him to the Summerland.

The older men went to build a pyre to burn the dead. The ravens and crows would get no meal here today. She wondered if the raiders had taken anything of value or if the reason the devastation was so bad was because the village was so poor. It made no sense at all to her and the tears ran down her face.

What made some people do this? No one in this village had done any harm. They had lived quiet lives. They sometimes sold their extra crops to the Druid village. The Chief Druid put his arm around Aisling and gave her a hug.

“Why? Why do people do this?” she asked him. The Chief Druid looked around and shook his head.

“I don’t understand it myself.” He said. “But it makes me cling to the good I can see. Some people want what others have. Some people think they have the only way. Some people just enjoy doing evil.”

“But what’s the good in this?” Aisling asked. She couldn’t see anything good at all.

“Hamish is alive, he’ll have a broken heart but he is alive. People came to help even though there was nothing they could do about the raiders. People will rebuild this village together and new people will help Hamish rebuild the village and his life. This village will be able to show its best hospitality again as is our way.”

People were now starting the clean up around them. Stacking timbers, collecting the things that were spread around the village. Someone was herding the sheep that had been on the hill above the village. One of the women was getting ready to milk the village’s last living cow. The cow was not happy, She should have been milked hours ago. The cow had blood on her horns and none of it was hers. The cow had obviously fought in the battle. Aisling wondered if it was one of Brighid’s cows since it was red and white.

Aisling went to start help collecting the goods left around the village. Maybe they could collect enough to put one household back together for Hamish. Someone had said his grandparents and an aunt and uncle had been sent a messenger. Would they want to settle here?

She looked towards the fields that appeared to be untouched. The oats were just starting to grown and the fields were aglow with the green of new growth. Would Hamish’s family tend them? It was strange to see such a strong symbol of life when she knew if she turned around she would see the blacks and grays of destruction.

Aisling collected a set of wooden bowls, some linens from where they had been dumped. She found someone’s prized bronze pin of a wild boar. It had a broken clasp but she thought it could be mended again and worn with pride. As the day went on the village started to look more like it would have life again.

Men were up on the thatched roofs pulling down the old straw and the burnt parts so they could be re-thatched. They had found the village thatcher’s store of straw and reed in an outside shed.

Some women from the next village were washing out the cottages and mixing white wash. Soon the cottages wouldn’t show any burn marks.

Aisling was near the back of one of the cottages when she heard a soft cry. She looked around to see where the noise was coming from. There was a pile of old abandoned clothes she guessed wasn’t good enough to steal and gently went over to sort through when she heard it again. This time she could hear that it was a mew. And she dug through the pile. Nestled under someone’s old tunic was a tiny black kitten. Its eyes were barely open. Aisling looked around quickly to see if there were any more but this one was alone.

Aisling cradled the kitten to her chest, it crawled up to her shoulder and nestled into one of her long red braids. So there was still life in the village, she thought. The kitten purred into her ear as she gently stroked its back and she wondered how long it had been since it ate. She headed over to where the woman was taking care of the cow, she had tied it to the outside of the pig sty.

Aisling had grabbed a napkin and fashioned into the shape of a nipple. Maire took one look at the kitten and grabbed the napkin. “I see someone needs to be fed here at least,” and dipped the napkin in the bucket of milk and handed it back to Aisling. “Are you ready to be a mathair?”

Aisling nodded and looked at the kitten as it greedily sucked on the napkin, at least one good thing had happened this day. She looked at the kitten. The Chief Druid was right, it had felt good to help even when she wished it hadn’t been necessary, but there is always some good with the horrid. It just can be hard to find.

“I’m naming ‘Nuadh Bheath’. ‘New life’ seems a good name, Beo for short? Do you like that?” Aisling looked down at the purring sleepy kitten and smiled for the first time that day.

The Littlest Druid solves a mystery

Once upon a time, things were disappearing all over the village. Aisling was horribly worried that she was going to be blamed but she knew she wasn’t doing it but who was?

First the Chief Druid’s beautiful golden torc had disappeared. Then the Silver branch the bards had on their altar was gone and the Chief Bard was really mad. All that was left was one silver bell. Aisling could hear his booming voice all over the village as he raged. The head Healer was missing her favourite shiny cloak pin that was shaped like a mistletoe leaves and berries.

These were all very special items and some of them were very magical so for them to disappear was a big problem. There had been councils all day and they Chief Bard was threatening to go through everyone’s personal chests! That just wasn’t done! The village depended on trusting everyone there and things were getting bad.

The Teacher had gathered her students and gone into the forest the next morning to have a lesson on sacred woods and their characteristics in wand lore and divination and Aisling already was getting a bit bored on this fine spring morning.

She had been watching a deer and her fawn walk quietly past the group and when they left, she watched the hares that were frolicking in a clearing behind them. It was then she looked up and saw the raven looking at her.

Why was a raven looking at her? She hoped she wasn’t going to have another encounter with another one of the Tuatha De Dannaan that was getting a bit scary. Lugh, Brighid and Airmid were all right but she didn’t think meeting the Morrigan was what she wanted to meet right now. She only saw one raven so maybe that was okay.

The raven stared down at her and was looking her right in the eye with a cocked head. The teacher was talking about the properties of yew versus elder woods and since they both smelled good to her and it was warm in the sun of the clearing Aisling didn’t really care. She was just glad no one was yelling and she wanted to know what that raven was up to.

The raven hopped down the branch still looking at Aisling. Aisling got the distinct feeling that she was supposed to follow the silly bird. The bird flew to the next tree and sat waiting looking at Aisling. Aisling crept away and looked up the tree. The raven flew to the next tree and AIsling followed. This went on until Aisling and the Raven were quite deep in the forest. Aisling was wondering how long this was going to go on when the Raven stopped by her enormous nest. It wasn’t far off the ground and Ailing stood on tiptoe and looked in.

Aisling’s eyes opened wide, there were all the beautiful things that were missing and a lot more, sparkly shells from the beach, shiny agates from the streams, bits of bright cloth that had been stolen from clootie collection tree by a well. The nest was stuffed to the top with things that were precious to someone and she supposed precious to the raven. The raven worriedly hopped down to Aisling with the Bard’s branch in one claw. It was obvious to Aisling the bird knew she was in trouble. The raven dropped the branch in Aisling’s waiting hands and cocked her head.

What was Aisling going to do? If she returned it everyone would be sure she had taken it and demand all the other missing items. This was not good!

The bird hopped back to her nest and pulled out the missing brooch and dropped it to Aisling too.

“Oh, no, you don’t. I’m not being blamed for this.” Aisling said firmly to the bird. “I’ll take responsibility for things I do but I’m not taking the blame for your thievery!”

“I’ll be cleaning up poop in the stable for years because they will be sure I did it!” Aisling shook a finger at the bird.

The Raven stepped worriedly from side to side on the branch and hopped back up and grabbed the Chief Druid’s torc and dropped it on Aisling.

“Nope, I’m still not taking them back for you. If you want to return them YOU have to come with me.”

The Raven jumped in her nest and hunched down.

“They keep telling us about personal responsibility and owning up to our faults. We even had to do a ritual about it. I’m not taking responsibility for something I didn’t do. If you want to return these and stop the yelling, you have to come with me!” Aisling was roaring at the bird. The Raven ducked its head and looked thoughtful and Aisling began to get worried. What is she was yelling at one of the Morrigan? That might be a lot worse than stable duty. Meeting the banshee was scary enough for her.

“How about if you come with me? If we do this together it might not be so bad for both of us?” Aisling asked the bird.

The Raven walked up and down the branch with her head tucked down and her wings stuck out behind her. The Raven looked disturbing like the Chief Ovate when he was thinking about a particularly knotty problem and that made Aisling want to giggle. The Raven looked at Aisling and hopped down the branch towards her looking Aisling right in the eye and then flew and landed on Aisling’s shoulder.

Now what had she done? The bird was enormous and a lot heavier than it looked. The Raven settled in and started to groom Aisling’s hair.

“Hey! Stop that! I said we could do this together. I didn’t tell you I needed a cleaning! I don’t have bugs!”

Aisling headed back to where her class had been. She hoped she hadn’t been gone too long but Aisling got back to the group just as they were collecting their things. The Teacher looked at Aisling and then she looked at the Raven and at what Aisling was carrying in her hands and shook her head.

“Only you, Aisling, only you.” The Teacher laughed and started back.

They got back to the village and walked to the grassy gathering area. The Chief Bard was still yelling. Aisling wondered at his lung power and he lunged at Aisling when he saw what she was holding.

“YEOOOOW!” he shouted holding his head and jumping back. The raven had pecked him sharply on the top of the head and then on his hand.

The Chief Druid was laughing at his colleague. “I think you have been warned.” He said in his mild voice. “I don’t think Aisling is the one who did this.” The Chief Druid was looking at the raven who really was a beautiful bird. She shimmered in the sun with colours of purple and green in her feathers and the raven was looking back at him, daring him to say anything.

The raven hopped down off Aisling’s shoulder onto her forearm and grabbed the torc. She then flew over and dropped it at the Chief Druid’s feet and landed and ducked her head. She should have looked penitent but since she was also looking up with a calculating eye at the Chief Druid this wasn’t quite working. The Chief Druid reached down and picked it up.

“Thank you for returning this, it means a lot to me,” and he bowed to the raven. The raven bowed back. Aisling was amazed. If she had done this the yelling would be deafening. Aisling handed the silver branch to the glowering Chief Bard and then took the brooch to the head Healer who had just arrived.

The raven flew back up to Aisling’s shoulder and settled in against her red hair.

“It seems you solved a mystery and made a new friend. I never know what you’re going to do next but I look forward to learning what it will be.” The Chief Druid motioned to the dining hall. “Isn’t it lunch time? I’m hungry!” and headed off towards the noon meal.