Some prose about the Goddess Macha who cursed the men of Ulster.....
The dappled mare beside me stomps the ground impatiently just as the child within my womb begins to kick. She eyes me wearily, perhaps knowing better than the men who gather around us what I am. Another kick from the life within me, the mare dances nervously in place kicking up clumps of packed earth with her hooves, and I run a hand over my swollen stomach. Although I know it is pointless I call out to the crowd again. It is too close to my time, will they not wait till after I have brought this tiny life into the world to test my husband’s foolish bragging? But my plea is met with laughter. I look at the bearded faces around me, did a mother not bare each of them? How can they listen with such deaf ears and stony hearts to my pleas? I place a protective hand on my belly again, and think that if this had been a crowd of women I would not be answered with gears. Little do they know this was never about the race, the race is already won.
My pleas unanswered, the signal is given and the horses run free. I begin slowly, following behind them on the track. Their hooves pound against the earth, like distant thunder, like the beat of the drums within the Sidhe hills. I concentrate on the sound, and as I run I change. What the men see I do not know. Do they see the pale woman with hair the color of flame? Or do they see the roan mare? Perhaps both? When I run I am free, the weights of the world disappear as if a great yoke has been caste off my shoulders. There is nothing I cannot outrun. I am as eager as that dappled mare to challenge the wind, and so I run, and run, and run. The crowd blurs around me, a few shout in disbelief as I easily pass the king’s chariot. This was not what they expected. They were so certain these beasts where the swiftest that ever lived. Perhaps they are, but at this moment I am the Great Mare, I am the primal essence of every horse that ever was, and there is nothing that I cannot outrun, nothing I cannot overcome. But this magick has a price, and I will have to pay it all too soon.
When I cross the finish line I collapse, no longer the Great Mare but a woman in the final stages of labor. The crowd circles around me. These men of sword and spear, who spill blood and glory in death, I wonder, do they know the value of life? They are so close, life and death, both forged in blood and pain, whether it be the pangs of labor or the sting of a blade. Transitions are never easy, whether we are coming into this world or leaving it behind. They look at me in astonishment, unsure of what to do or say. They should have waited as I had asked. Did I not deserve that much mercy? Do they think my husband’s boast was so bold now? I think not, but it was never about the boast, or the race. I knew from the very moment they arrived at my doorstep that I would win. It was about the mercy of men. It was about honoring the women who bore them, and the women who will bare their own children, and their children’s children.
I feel myself fading as I hear my child cry out. No, as my children cry out. Twins. Despite the pain I smile. Someone places them in my arms, a tiny mercy, although it is too little too late. I look into my children’s faces and both a fierce love and rage sparks within my broken body. I feel the blood pouring from me. It comes too quickly. The womb that brought life into the world will soon end mine, but there is still some magick left in me, and when I speak it is not as a dying woman but as a Goddess.
Some will call it a curse. But in my mind it is a blessing. For nine generations, in the hour of their greatest need, the bearded men of Ulster will know the pangs of a woman in childbed. If men will take life and throw it away so carelessly on idle words they will know the pain, the sacrifice it took to bring life into the world. Perhaps then they will not throw is away so carelessly.
With the last word of my spell my human body gives way. Once more I am myself, shining spirit, immortal fay, Goddess. My sisters never understood my desire to take on mortal flesh for a time, they both warned it would only cause me pain. And it has, but it has also brought two new lives into the world. Two flames that will shine brightly, if only for a little while.
The crowd stands in stunned silence around my discarded mortal frame. As I watch my spirit begins to take on a familiar shape, sleek wings, and black glossy feathers like a cloak of midnight. No one sees the crow now perched on one of the raceway’s posts. As I fly away I wonder if they see my curse for what it truly is.