"Fergus said: ‘By the point of my sword,
halidom of Macha, swiftly shall we wreak vengeance.."
-Tain Bo Cuailgne
The topic of oaths has been on my mind lately. There are many different kinds of oaths, and none should be entered into lightly. The oaths we take often can shape our lives, our relationship to the Gods, and the very core of ourselves. Because once spoken, they can never be unspoken. They weave threads through our lives and choices.
This past Morrigan’s Call Retreat myself and a few priestesses were asked to facilitate a private dedication ceremony for a member of Morrigu’s Daughters. I loved how we all came together to create something meaningful and beautiful for that person. Challenges were met, and one of the items used in the ceremony was a sword that I had sworn my own oaths on, with the blade point resting again my chest. That sword has a story of its own. If our little tribe of Morrigan devotees have our own magickal treasures, like the Tuatha De, this sword would be one of them. You can check out Morgan Daimler’s blog posts about its creation which literally involves being forged in a storm (http://lairbhan.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-story-of-sword.html)
In the Tain there is a line about Fergus making an oath on a sword dedicated to Macha (again see Morgan’s blog for more about this) and it reminds me very much of that sword and my experience with it. I’ve seen people make grand oaths during ritual, oaths that are forgotten shortly after, not unlike new year resolutions, and then soon after they find their life is in an uproar and don't understanding why. In my experience the Gods expect us to make good on our promises, especially ones made in a sacred way.
I’ve made oaths during initiation rituals and when I dedicated as a priestess, but I think the one that has truly impacted me the most, shapes my life and myself by holding true to it, is the one I made upon that golden sword forged in a storm and dedicated to Macha.
Here is part of something I wrote about the experience after that first retreat.
After a devotional ritual to Macha deep in the woods of Massachusetts the rest of our companions had returned to their cabins and tents, while myself and two of the priestesses who had facilitated the ritual returned to the little screened in building we had created as a temple to the Morrigan and her many guises for our stay in the woods. The camp we were staying at had been using it as a mediation area, up high on top of the mountain, and that is where we had hauled our altars, swords, and statues for the Great Queen. And I’m not even sure how we managed to make it up the small dirt path, that we had been jokingly calling a “goat trail”, in the dark after an exhausting ritual. But we did. Nothing is easy with the Morrigan, at least not at first.
During the ritual one of the priestesses had channeled the Morrigan in her guise as Macha, and we had called for those who wished to speak to Macha to come forward to meet Macha’s challenge and offer her their oaths if they wished. I had felt the need, but resisted. I was helping facilitate the ritual, I was there to help the others move through the ritual. And that is how we have ended up here, in her temple, just the three priestesses, in the dark. Because there is more to say and more to be heard. The ritual isn’t over. Not until the Morrigan says it is. And when I look into my friend’s eyes they are not her own, there is a vast wild depth to them. I am almost afraid to be caught too long in their gaze, but I resist looking away all the same. Her voice has a new familiar edge to it, I have heard that voice in my dreams. And she seems taller, perhaps the only time I have ever felt short next to my friend who is easily a head shorter than myself.
Those eyes look at me expectantly and I say my oath, three in fact. Three promises that would shape the course of my life and practices for the next several years, and I have no doubt will continue to. Because once said an oath can’t be unsaid, it’s as binding as steel. And then the Morrigan speaks, and there is truth and warning in her words. And prophesy, always prophesy.
The Great Queen spoke for a long time that night. Afterwards we sat exhausted on the wood floor of the temple. Candle light illuminating her statues, my friend drained but back in possession of her own body again, the bronze sword returned to its sheath. The sounds of our friends’ laughter further down in the woods calling us back to the normal world. But the Morrigan’s words stayed with me. The feel of her blade pressed against my breast remained.
It would not be until a few years after that I fully understood all of what she had said or the path that my own words would set me on. That night in the woods I made what was both a heartfelt vow and one that I foolishly thought I could easily keep. I stood before the Morrigan and vowed to fight for my own happiness. Simple right? Well I thought so. I wasn’t happy with many of the circumstances or people in my life. And some part of me felt, if I just did the right spell, asked the right deity to help me, it would be easy to fix. All the puzzle pieces that I was desperately trying to force to fit together would magically connect with ease. Or perhaps my perspective would change. I couldn’t really be unhappy with my life, I was just looking at it the wrong way. I would gain a new perspective, and learn to be content. Of course that wasn’t the case. What I had to accept was that what I had to do was turn my life upside down, burn parts of it to the ground and remake myself out of the ashes. I would also make some unpopular choices, but ones that were for my own good, even if others did not like them. I would leave a long broken relationship. I found one that nourished and fulfilled me. I moved and found a better job. I pulled the dead things out of my soul, and realized I couldn’t please everyone. That I didn’t need to. Deep powerful magick, doesn’t come without a cost. Healing festering scars doesn’t happen until you burn the rot out of the wound. And the process isn’t easy, nor is it without pain. Nor does it happen without criticism. Yet I don’t regret it. I chose to fight for myself that night. I put myself first. Not everyone was happy about that, it is amazing the amount of enemies you’ll make when you stop placating people, and when you do what is right for yourself despite the opinions of others. Or when you speak your truth no matter the subject. But I can say that once you have burned your life down to ashes and risen up from them renewed, you’ll never be afraid to do it again. Because you’ll know exactly how strong you are, you wont put up with the bullshit of others so easily. You wont be as afraid to have unpopular opinions, because you’ll know yourself, and you wont loose site of who you are as easily.
An oath isn’t something you say once and forget, its something we are constantly reaffirming. Something we are constantly challenged to hold true to. A constant reaffirming of our devotion to the Gods and ourselves.