This is a time of endings and beginnings, a ‘thin’ moment in the turning of the year when death becomes life, and past becomes future. It is a time of short campfire stories meant to raise gooseflesh, and for sombre reflection upon the grand themes which shape our existence.
Allow me a moment to set the scene:
In an age long before the first mortal man set foot upon the Emerald Isle, there were four great cities hidden across an impassable sea, far to the north and west of that land.
It was in these cities that an ancient race of gods, the Tuatha Dé Danann honed their great skills before taking to the sea, riding within a great mist, and settling finally upon the shores of Ireland.
And when they came out of that otherworldly realm, they brought with them four great treasures – objects of such power that, in their absence, each of the great cities crumbled into the sea, even as our own mortal world was forever changed with their arrival.
When I first began writing here, in April of 2012, I considered the Four Treasures to be of only limited consequence. That I named this blog after the fourth of those treasures, The Stone of Destiny, had less to do with what the Stone represents, than with my belief that in visiting the Hill of Tara upon which the Stone is said to rest, I had reached a major turning point in my life – the ending of one journey and the beginning of another.
In the intervening years, I have found that the process of writing things down brings with it a clarity that I hadn’t known I was missing. Years spent studying comparative mythology, symbolism, folk tales and spirituality was meaningless until I began to use what I’ve learned as a lens through which to view my own life, and the world around me. The process of writing has revealed connections between fable and form that I had not previously recognized.
And as I have wrestled with my understanding of the gods, who are sometimes near enough to touch, and sometimes incredibly distant…,
And as I have cast my nets again and again, seeking that ever elusive Salmon of Knowledge who always seems to be swimming just out of reach…,
I find that my thoughts turn again and again to the four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and I begin to see that they are more than just the magical tools of the gods that the stories make them out to be.
In fact, I have begun to believe that their power is in many ways greater than that of the gods, although, unlike either gods or men, the Treasures have no power to act on their own.
It was not until November of last year that I felt confident enough in my thinking to write down my thoughts regarding the Third Treasure – the Undry Cauldron of the Dagda.
As for the Sword and the Spear…, I had hoped to write down my thoughts concerning them both before now, but each time I try they dance just out of reach. Their purpose seems so obvious, and much has been written already by people with greater scholarship than I on the subject of magical weapons. But I feel as though there are connections there which run deeper, and which I have not seen clearly enough yet to speak of.
And as for the Final Treasure…,
I have only just realized that I’ve been talking about nothing but else from the very beginning!
The stories that have been passed down to us say that it is simply a stone of coronation. In these tales, when the rightful king of Ireland comes into contact with its surface, the stone will roar with a sound that echoes across the countryside for all to hear.
Which is no small thing, but easy enough to dismiss in this modern age when monarchs are few and democracies (at least in principal – if not in practice) are the rule of the day.
But I have recently come to believe that there is much more to the Stone than its functioning as some kind of magical ‘king detector’. Not when the other Treasures are so much more powerful.
Before the Tuatha Dé Danann brought the Stone with them out of the wreckage of fair Failias, its master was a great teacher known as Morfessa, a name which means “grand knowledge”.
When the Dé Danann arrived in Ireland, the Stone was not bequeathed to any single god, as was the case with the Sword, the Spear, and the Cauldron, but was installed at the Hill of Tara, which served for both gods and men as the political and spiritual center of the island until well into the Christian era.
The Stone of Destiny.
The Stone of Grand Knowledge.
The Stone is not an object of myth.
The Stone is Mythology.
It is that special realm of understanding that does not make the common mistake of conflating truth and fact. For most people in this modern age, dominated as we are by the twin monotheisms of Abrahamic Dogma and Rationalist Thought, it is truly a foreign shore.
And yet, the more I watch the people around me, the more I listen to them, I am convinced that there is a great yearning in the human spirit, to find those fields again.
People have been taught, as I was, that mythology is the stuff of lies.
If an idea is not found within the covers of a certain holy book…,
If it is not reproducible within a laboratory setting…,
It must be a deception, to be avoided, or laughed at, or simply ignored.
People have an inborn yearning for mythology and they have been taught to avoid all the roads that would lead them there. Folks have become so used to the blinders that they wear that they don’t even realize there is an entire perspective that they are not even seeing. And when they do catch a glimpse, it’s like a whole new world opened up for them – which is exactly what has happened.
I’ve been lucky enough to see that transformation happen within a tiny handful of people, and it is, every time, a joy to behold. And maybe I’m greedy, but I want to see it again and again. And I want to see it on a bigger scale.
And I don’t think a handful of blogs is going to do it. Neither will the occasional Pagan Pride Day in the park, or the yearly spat of “What do the Pagans do on Halloween” stories on the local news channel.
I think the answer is in the mythology itself, it’s in hearing the voices and seeing the faces of regular people who experience the connection between the ancient and the modern within their daily lives, and in hearing the tales told with a passion and belief that most have never experienced outside of a Sunday church service.
That is something that I don’t think I can do alone, with a once-a-week blog post. And that is why I’ll be suspending my regular writing schedule for the time being.
But I’m still going to be around, and I’ll post here again just as soon as the spirit takes me.
In the meantime, I’m going to be looking for the means and the skills and the voices to make something happen. I’ll be reaching out to people in the coming months, but if you’ve got any ideas that you’d like to contribute, or if you have questions, please oh please, feel free to contact me in the comments!
Finally, I could not close without a heartfelt Thank You to everyone who has supported me this little endeavor of mine, to those who come back again and again to read these musings, and to those who have, over the last forty-two months, taken the time to leave me comment. I could not have come this far without you all.
Slán go fóill (bye for now).