Saturday, April 15, 2017

I See All Who are Born in the Blood-Zealous Vigorous Battle: The Morirgan and Peace

“I see all who are born [in the] blood-zealous vigorous battle,
In the mossy margins; the helpful raven drives strife to our hardy hosts”
- From the Second Battle of Moytura,Translation by Isolde Carmody

   In our continuing adventure of visiting battlefield we chose the Castillo de San Marcos as the next trip for our battlefield devotions in honor of the Great Queen. I thought that we would have to walk into a park or through another area to get to the fort, that it would be set aside from everything modern and ordinary but instead one moment we were driving down a normal looking street then bam you are driving next to a 17th century Spanish fort along a stretch of beach. Before walking into the fort itself we walked past an old graveyard that is still in use but also houses those who passed from yellow fever. After leaving an offering at the gates and trying to avoid the tourists asking what I was up to, we visited the fort itself and the surrounding grounds.  We walked along the low wall that surrounded the lawn surrounding the fort where other tourists walked.  We found a quiet place and took a few moments to connect to the land beneath us.  The smell of the ocean filled my lungs and below the wall on one side tiny crabs where waiving their claws at us as if challenging us. There is an eerie stillness to old battlefields.  Even ones that have been memorialized as state parks and are frequented by many people.  It was strange to see people flying kites and having family picnics on a patch of land that was once the home of several battles, and while there were no gravestones, was perhaps just as much of a graveyard as the one we had passed earlier.   
   We made our offerings to the Queen, and said our battlefield prayers as crows called out and flew overhead. And we spent some time just sitting and listening to the land.  I have said before I think if we really distill the essence of the Morrigan down to her core she is concerned with conflict in all its forms. Battle is simply one expression of this. As a modern polytheist you are often stuck between two worlds. The identity and function of a god in times past and the identity of that god now. I do think the gods evolve, they are real vital beings, they are not stagnant.  And I think in many ways we have chosen to see our war gods not as they actual are but in a tamer light that suits our modern mindsets about war, violence, and battle. Despite that modern attitude I don’t think that changes what the Queen actually is. She may have evolved with us, the battles she calls us to are different but that does not mean she is tame. She hasn’t transformed from a goddess of battle to a hippie, we just have forgotten how to relate to her. And I wondered as we sat on the battlefield, if we have forgotten what battle really mean, maybe we have forgotten what peace means too?  After all while the Morrigan goads us into battle, she is also the one who announces the peace.

“Now after the battle has won and corpses cleared away, the Morrigu, daughter of Ernmas, proceeded to proclaim that battle and the mighty victory which had taken place, to the royal heights of Ireland and to its fairy hosts and its chief waters and its river mouths. And hence it is that Badb (i.e.,the Morrigu) also describes high deeds…..
Peace up to heaven
Heaven down to earth
Earth under heaven “

(Ancient Irish Tales. ed. and trans. by Tom P. Cross & Clark Harris Slover. NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1936)

  As we drove home I contemplated what peace meant to me. Real peace, not the idealized clean version of that word.  I thought of all my own battles, all of the things that had lead me to my own sense of peace.  There were real battle scars there, even if they were inner ones and not visible. My own battles have fundamentally changed who I am over the years. Real peace it seems was born out of conflict, sadness, and strife. It wasn’t something conjured up from mediating in a lotus position. In the end peace means you’ve utterly destroyed your enemy, even if it’s a figurative “enemy” you are fighting.

   I think a lot of us within Paganism have been taught that to find peace (inner peace or whatever version of peace you relate to) that we have to spend a lot of time being positive, raise your vibration blah blah blah. 

I used to think that. I used to think all I had to do was become more positive even when things turned to shit and I could will the pieces of my life to become better. But a lot of times all that really is, is allowing yourself to be blind to the problems that are in front of you.  If I say nothing is wrong, then the things that are wrong will cease to exist.  This is probably one of the biggest hurtles the Morrigan swooped in and ripped out of me. And by swooped in a mean kept blocking my way and made it impossible for me to do anything else but see the ugly truths before me, and decide what I was going to do about it.  Peace is messy. Its something we have to fight and bleed for. It something that when the battle is over and done with we stand like the Great Queen on the heights counting the bodies, counting the sacrifices we’ve had to make for our victories.  We just have to decide if the price we paid was worth it. Peace really isn’t peaceful. Its earned only when you are willing to fight for it.


Daughter of Ermas

You who proclaim the battle

And the peace that comes after

You who proclaim high deeds

And mighty victories

You who see all who are born in the blood-zealous vigorous battle,

helpful raven woman who drives strife to the hosts

Hear us

May we remember why we sharpen our sword

May we remember what is worth fighting for

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