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Goddess of Spring

Goddess of Spring www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
Goddess of Spring

Happy Imbolc! Today is the first day of Celtic spring, a tradition known in Ireland as Imbolc. This weekend we’ve had snow, we’ve had torrential rain, we’ve had wild winds, and we’ve had fog… it certainly doesn’t feel spring-like, and I wonder if the seasons have gradually slipped out of sync with the calender.

Today I was going to bring you to somewhere special, to a place associated with Brigid, but I’ve been ill this week, and so have my kids, a voyage of discovery out in the countryside just wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about Brigid.

I feel a connection with many characters from Irish mythology, but of them all, Brigid is the one I am most drawn to. Brigid was the daughter of the Dagda, a Druid and High King of the Tuatha de Danann, an advanced race with seemingly supernatural powers, who invaded Ireland some 4000 years ago.

Her feast day is celebrated at Imbolc, which falls half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and is usually held on the first day of February to welcome the arrival of Spring.

Imbolc (pronounced I-molk) is one of four ancient Celtic/Gaelic festivals, the others being Beltaine, celebrated on May 1st; Lughnasadh, on Aug 1st; and Samhain, held on Nov 1st.

These major festivals were celebrated with the lighting of huge fires. My favourite explanation of the Old Irish word Imbolc comes from imb-fholc, meaning ‘to thoroughly wash/ cleanse’. To me, this is clearly a reference to the ritual cleansing and purification of fire and smoke.

However, it is generally accepted to mean ‘in the belly’, with reference to the pregnancy of ewes. Indeed, the C10th manuscript known as Cormac’s Glossary explains it as oimelc, or ‘ewe’s milk’. As such, Brigid has popularly become associated with the onset of the lambing season.

Sheep are not a native species of animal to Ireland; they are thought to have been introduced by Neolithic settlers some time after 4000 BC, so there would certainly have been sheep around in Brigid’s day. However, they don’t get much mention in Irish mythology, which is highly unusual; almost every other animal, wild or domestic, did.

The Danann were well known for their milk-white cattle, indeed, cattle were highly prized among our ancient ancestors, as the many stories of cattle raids, real and mythological, through the ages will attest. Queen Medb was famous for going to war over a bull, as told in the Cattle Raid of Cooley, for example. Cows were used as a measure of currency, as a measure of value, and as a measure of wealth.

In the ancient text known as the Lebor Gebála Érenn, Brigid was said to have kept  two royal cattle called Fea and Feimhean, the Boar King known as Torc Triath, and Cirba, who was King of the wethers. In case you don’t know, a wether is a castrated male sheep. She owned a number of castrated male sheep. No lactating ewes.

So it’s very interesting that in the tower on Glastonbury Tor, there is a carving which depicts her milking, not a sheep, but a cow.

Brigid was herself credited with the gifts of healing, of poetic inspiration, and metalworking. As with many of the Irish female deities, for example, the Morrigan (Badb-Anann-Macha), and the Sisters of Sovereignty (Eriu-Fodhla-Banbha), she was a Triune Goddess, meaning she was one and three all at the same time.

This triple aspect of their femininity related to the stages of womanhood, namely maiden-mother-crone. Unusually, Brigid’s triple aspect revolved around her skills, poetry- smithcraft-healing. I like that she stood out from the crowd, and I like her combination of skills.

Whilst we are on the subject of the triple nature of the Goddess, Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach, or Crone, gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. If she intends to make the winter long and hard, she will bless Imbolc with a bright sunny day, so she can gather plenty of firewood to last her a long time. If Imbolc is a day of foul weather, it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.

The name Brigid means ‘bright/ exalted one’, from the Sanskrit brahti, and is thought to refer to her association with fire and the sun. When she was born (at sunrise), a tower of flame was said to have extended from the top of her head to the heavens, giving her family home the appearance of being on fire. This is how the C10th text, Cormac’s Glossary describes here;

“Brighid, a poetess, daughter of the Dagda. She is the female sage, woman of wisdom, Brighid the Goddess whom poets venerated as very great and famous for her protecting care. She was therefore called ‘Goddess of the Poets’. Her sisters were Brighid the female physician, and Brighid the female smith; among all Irishmen, a goddess was called ‘Brighid’. Brighid is from breo-aigit or ‘fiery arrow’.”

I like the description of the fiery arrow. I think it is more fitting for her role as a poetess, that she would receive divine inspiration or knowledge in this way. It also corresponds with the glowing white-hot iron she would have manipulated in the fire of the forge, and the light she would have used as energy to conduct her spiritual healing. However, modern scholars are not in agreement with Cormac.

Brigid married Bres, of mixed Danann-Fomori heritage, with whom she had a son, Ruadan. Bres was an unpopular High King; he was mean and a tyrant, and after seven years, the Danann opposed his rule and reinstated Nuada as their leader.

Bres enlisted the help of his Fomori relatives and attacked the Denann. During the battle, Ruadan entered the Denann camp on a mission to kill Goibniu, their master-smith, but was himself killed in the attempt. According to an ancient text known as Cath Maige Tuireadh, Brigid collapsed in grief over her son’s body, crying her sorrow, and was thus said to have invented the act of keening (in Irish caoine, or cine) for the dead.

It is thought that following Bres’s death, she later went on to have three sons, Ichvar, Ichvarba and Brian, with a man named Tuirean. After that, her name seems to drop out of the stories.

You can read more about Brigid and Imbolc in my other posts…

Irish Mythology The County Cavan Cult of Brigid

Irish Mythology Brigid, Queen of Imbolc

Today it’s Imbolc, and of course it’s SNOWING!

Irish Mythology The Tuatha de Danann Come to Ireland

Ireland also has a Saint Brigid, whose feast day is also celebrated on 1st February. Some say she is the Christianisation of a much loved pagan Goddess that the Irish people refused to give up. It is also said that she started out as a Druidess who tended the eternal flame at the Shrine of Brigid, and was responsible for bringing about its conversion to Christianity. However, that is a post for another day…

Swanskin The Final Update

Swanskin the Final Update www.aliisaacstoryteller
Swanskin the Final Update

It’s been a difficult week; two children sick at home, and now I have contracted the dreaded lurgy myself. It’s not conducive to sleep, writing or creativity. However, I got all my re-writes done, and have just started the final edit before sending my new little book-baby out into the kind (I hope!) hands of my lovely beta-readers. Current word count is 30, 317, but I expect to reduce that as I edit. This is the last time I will post about Swanskin until nearer its launch date. Btw, if anyone’s interested, I’m looking for two more beta-readers.

Here is an excerpt. This piece is one of the re-writes I worked on this week. Cethlenn has something of a complicated relationship with her mother, as you will see…

The atmosphere in school was pretty hyper. There were groups of students everywhere, some happy, a few distraught, many hugging and screaming and doing little happy dances. The noise was intense. I felt sick as I moved through them, a part of it all and yet not.

I signed for my envelope, then turned to be confronted by a shrieking Sophie. She flung her arms around me. “I passed,” she yelled in my ear. “I passed. Well, only just, but still. It’s a miracle.”

She faltered when she saw my own envelope was unopened. “Congratulations. I’m happy for you,” I replied, and meant it. I had really missed her friendship over the summer. She took my arm and drew me over to a quiet corner.

“Go on. You’ve got to look some time. Might as well get it over with.”

I groaned, stomach jolting. “I don’t think I can.”

“You could always leave it to your Mam.”

I ripped open the envelope. “I don’t think so. I need to prepare myself. She’s gonna go mental.” I scanned the results and sighed. “Yep, she’s gonna flip. That’s her plans for me being a teacher down the drain.”

“You don’t even want to be a teacher,” Sophie retorted.

“I know, but since when did that matter?”

Sophie snatched the sheet of paper from my hand. “Well, it’s not that bad. But it’s not good enough, that’s for sure.”

“Maybe I can re-sit them.”

“Yeah.” Sophie regarded me seriously. “Are you still seeing that guy?”

I shook my head. “No. But I’d rather not talk about it just yet, if you don’t mind.”

She nodded. “And how are things at home?”

I tried to twitch my lips into a smile, but failed. “Not easy. It’s world war three between Mam and Cian lately. Don’t know what the hell he’s supposed to have done. He hardly ever comes home, just works on the farm with Dad and dosses with mates at night.”

“Well he’s gonna get a reprieve when you bring this home.” She handed back my results and I stuffed them into the envelope. “A few of us are going down the town for a celebratory coffee. Want to join us?”

I shook my head. “I think I’ll just go home and face the music. Better get it over and done with.”

“Ok. Well, you know where I am if you need me. And I’m sorry about… well, you know.”

“I know. Me too. And thanks.”

I headed down the road to wait for a bus. I was dreading Mam’s reaction.

She was surprised to see me. “I thought you were celebrating with your friends?” she said.

I didn’t reply, just handed her the envelope. She stared at me for a moment, compressing her lips into that awful white line. She sat down at the kitchen table, shook out the letter and read its contents without a word. She must have stared at it for ten minutes while I stood there, anxiously hopping from one foot to the other. I thought I was going to throw up over her freshly mopped floor.

Eventually, I couldn’t stand her silence any more. “Well say something, then,” I burst out. But she didn’t. Slowly, she tore up the results, allowing the pieces to fall from her hands onto the floor. Then she got up and left the kitchen without even so much as a glance at me. I fled to my room. I didn’t go down for dinner, and no one bothered to call me, or bring me anything on a tray.

And here’s a little snippet from Ruadhán, too…

Nothing exceeded the rush of flying. It was my only solace. I lost myself in the spaces between winds and soared, nothing but the roar of the empty air about me, and the landscape passing beneath me, glorious in its abundance and many guises.

Sometimes, I thought I would fold my wings and allow myself to plummet and end it all, but somehow, I was ever unable. Perhaps my soul still cleaved on to hope, even though my heart and mind did not.

I wandered, and the days and nights merged into one formless mass, as they had done for centuries, each one nondescript and indistinct from the other. Just loneliness, and an ache that could never be relieved. I felt so heavy beneath its weight, I wondered that my wings could lift me.

I sailed from river to river, drifted from lake to lough, flying and feeding in the day, hiding and sleeping in the night. I say sleeping, but oft times it eluded me completely. Or else I was mired in traumatic dreams and memories which served only as torment.

SWAN FACT NO.4  A swan has over 25,000 feathers covering its body. Wonder who took the time to count them, and how the swan felt about it at the time!

OTHER NEWS; I entered a piece of flash fiction into Sacha Black’s Writespiration, you can read it here. The prompt was ‘write about a struggle’. Mine was based on a true story.

I also entered a poem into Jane Dougherty’s Poetry Challenge. You can read it here. The prompt was to take a favourite line from a song, movie, etc and allow it to inspire a poem. I chose a line from Demons by Imagine Dragons, and wrote a villanelle (my first ever).

Ad that’s it for today. Have a great week!

Elixir of Youth Everlasting Irish Mythology

The Elixir of Youth Everlasting in Irish Mythology www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
The Elixir of Youth Everlasting in Irish Mythology

So the chalice she’s holding has bunches of grapes on it, but that’s not what’s inside, oh no. Come a little closer, and I’ll share with you a secret. It begins with bees…

In ancient times, Ireland was renowned for its abundance of honey. In fact, Gerald of Wales,who was arch deacon of Brecon (C12th) and was also known as Giraldus Cambrensis, claimed there would have been even more still were it not for the bitter and poisonous effect of the land’s many yew trees. (You can read about Ireland’s yew trees in my post Sacred Trees of Ireland | The Yew.)

The Irish word for ‘bee’ is beach, pronounced (ba-ch, with the ch soft in the back of your mouth). In Old Irish it was bech. Bees were considered so important, that they had a complete section all to themselves in the Brehon Laws, called Bech-Bretha, which means ‘bee judgements’.

I love the Brehon Laws; they had a section regarding the equal rights of women, another governing the rights of children and fosterlings, a section on the protection of trees, another on caring for the sick and injured and even the disabled; here, they are looking after bees. And we think ancient people were primitive? I don’t think so. Our current governments would be much improved by taking a leaf or two out of this book, I feel. However, I digress… back to the bees.

I’m not sure at what stage our Irish ancestors began keeping bees in hives. The Bech-Bretha talks a lot about finding swarms, which makes me think that perhaps most of the honey they obtained was from the wild, although hives are also known to swarm.

For example, if someone found a swarm on the training grounds (faitche) of a house, he would be entitled to keep a quarter of the bees and honey, but the rest would go to the house’s owner. If he found the swarm in a tree, he would get half. If he found it on common tribal grazing lands, he could keep all but one ninth, which must go to his clan chieftain.

An owner of bees was required by law to donate portions of his annual yield of honey to his neighbours, because his bees would be gathering pollen from flowers on their land. Every third year, he was to give them a swarm.

Destroying a swarm or hive of bees was considered a serious offence. If someone was stung by someone else’s bees, they were entitled to compensation. A woman separating from her husband was entitled to take a swarm with her, or be compensated with a year’s supply of honey. These lawmakers sure thought of everything!

There is a story in the Bech-Bretha about a King of Ulster named Congal. His epithets were Cáech and Cláen, meaning ‘squinting’ or ‘half-blind’. According to the Bech-Bretha, which was written within a generation of his death, Congal was blinded in one eye by bees owned by Domnall mac Áedo. This disability meant he was forced to relinquish his position as King of Tara, and thus High King of Ireland. In return, the men of Ulster demanded that the eye of Domnall’s son be put out, as punishment. An eye for an eye.

So, if the early people of Ireland had so much honey, what did they do with it all? You have to remember that this was their only source of sweetener, apart from fruit and berries. As such, it was a very valuable and much sought after commodity, probably  confined mostly to the more wealthy.

They mixed it with milk to make a drink; mixed it with lard as a flavouring; used it as a dip at mealtimes for meat, fish and bread; used it to flavour ‘stirabout’, a kind of porridge made from grains, and basted meat and fish with it during roasting or grilling.

According to mythology, when Queen Medb and her husband, Ailill hosted a local young chieftain named Fraech to a huge feast in his honour, the salmon he was served was basted in honey ‘that was ‘well made’ by their daughter, Findabair. Sounds like a bit of matchmaking was going on, to me!

When I did my Iron Age cooking experiment, honey was used in the wild boar stew, which surprised me. It turned out quite sweet, even though I actually used less than the recipe called for. Our ancestors clearly had quite a sweet tooth. You can read about this in my post Eating Like the Ancestors | An Experiment in Iron Age Cuisine.

In Ireland, the saint of beekeepers is Gobnait, who was a C5th nun. The anglicised version of her name, Deborah, means ‘honey bee’. She is said to have saved her village, Ballyvourney (in Irish, Baile Bhuirne) in Co Cork, from enemy soldiers by releasing her bees on them. She is also credited with aiding a devout local chieftain in battle by turning his bees into an army of men.

Today, we are all well aware of the health benefits and medicinal uses of honey. Healing with substances produced by bees has a name, apitherapy… who knew? Modern science has told us that honey has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-mutagenic (reduces the rate of mutation of cells… yeah, I’d never heard of this one either), anti-tumour and anti-diabetic properties, and speeds the healing of wounds. Our ancestors were well aware of all this, and made full use of it, too.

However, honey wasn’t the only golden treasure to be bestowed upon mankind by those industrious little creatures. Oh no. Man found something he could do with honey that he liked even better than stirring it into his porridge, or applying it to wounds, and he named it miodh (pronounced mee), or as we know it better today, mead, which originates from the Sanskrit word madhu.

Spanish-Roman writer Columella gave this recipe for mead in his book on agriculture, Res Rustica, about AD 60;

“Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius (a Roman measure equal to 546ml) of this water with a pound (a Roman measure equal to 328.9g) of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire.”

Please DON’T try this at home, people. If you fancy having a go at brewing your own mead, for H&S sake, buy a book and use all the right equipment.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. There are all kinds of mead. Metheglin involves the addition of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and herbs… all my favourite spices, and can also flavoured with apples. Melomel contains fruit such as blackberries and raspberries. Mead can be mulled in winter, just like red wine.

There is also mention of an elusive drink called hazelmead, which was said to be made from mead flavoured with hazel nuts. This is interesting, because hazel nuts were said to contain Otherworldly wisdom and knowledge, and hazelmead was thought to have supernatural powers. Even today, people are still searching for ways of making this mysterious drink, I have seen forums discussing it.

According to Irish mythology, Fionnuala, one of the Children of Lir, recalls drinking it in her home before the spell which transformed her into a swan;

“Gay this night Lir’s royal house,
Chiefs carouse, mead flows amain :
Cold this night his children roam,
Their chill home the icy main.

For our mantles fair are found
Feathers curving round our breasts :
Often silken robes we had,
Purple-clad, we sat at feasts.

For our viands here and wine —
Bitter brine and pallid sands :
Of the hazel mead they served
In carved vessels to our hands.”

From a poem in the BARDS OF THE GAEL AND GALL; examples of the poetic literature of Erinn, done into English after the metres and modes of the Gael.

by Sigerson, George, 1839-1925 Published 1907

I think that if hazelmead was commonly drunk at mealtimes, as Fionnuala leads us to believe, it cannot have had any special magical powers. Hazelmead is also mentioned in another poem, King and Hermit, a Colloquy between King Guaire of Aidne and his brother Marban.  King Guaire the Hospitable reproaches his brother Marban, a hermit and holy man, about his privations, and Marban responds by waxing lyrical on the gifts of nature provided by God; one of them is Hazelmead.

Which brings me to the elixir of youth everlasting I mentioned at the top of the post; you’d like a sip of that, wouldn’t you? Probably skipped the majority of my post to get to this part, right?

Achieving immortality by way of a drink fermented from honey is spoken of in many mythologies around the world; Nectar/ Ambrosia in Greek mythology, Amrita in Vedic mythology, Mead in Norse mythology, for example. In Ireland, we have such a myth, too.

When the Tuatha de Danann were defeated by the Milesians, and tricked into leaving Ireland and retreating into their hollow hills, they were gathered together by the Sea God Manannán and took part in a mysterious feast. You can read about the Exodus of the Danann in my post, Irish Mythology | The Retreat of the Tuatha de Danann.

Bodb Derg was elected as the new King, and then the Faeth Fiadha, also known as Manannán’s cloak of mists, was raised to protect them from prying eyes. The swine of Manannán were prepared, which could be killed and eaten, and yet the next day still live, thus providing endless bounty.  Finally, the Feast of Goibniu was shared, to ward off age and death from all those present.

This story is told in two ancient texts, one dating to the C12th, another to either the C13th or C14th. Acallamh na Senόrach, (The Colloquy of the Old Men}, refers to the feast of Goibniu as ‘an ale possessing healing and curing properties’, thus implying longevity if not immortality, for the Danann succumbed to death through illness or battle like anyone else;

“St Patrick spoke with an Otherworld woman called Aillenn Ilchrothoch ( meaning Aillenn the Multishaped; perhaps a reference to shape-shifting) who spoke to him thus:

Everybody who would be drinking the feast of Goibniu with us, neither illness nor disease comes upon them.”

Another passage claims that Caoilte, a warrior of Fionn mac Cumhall’s Fianna, complains of an old wound and says that an Otherworld woman called Bé Bind ‘has the drink of healing and curing of the Tuatha de Danann, she having the drink which survives from the feast of Goibniu.”

Some speculate that this drink was a type of beer. Strange that the drink itself is referred to as ‘the feast’, as if it were both food and drink; also, that the concoction was brewed by Goibniu, a smith, rather than a Druid or physician. I guess there is a kind of logic in it; in Bronze Age and Iron Age times, the magic possessed of a smith was considered mighty indeed, perhaps greater than any other. Perhaps only such a person  could wield the power to create such a brew.

Personally, bearing in mind all that we have learned about the ancient Irish peoples’ veneration of the bee and its precious honey, and that the honey-sweet Ambrosia and Amrita were the draught of Gods, I believe so too was Miodh the elixir of youth everlasting to the Tuatha de Danann. Maybe it was hazelmead.

Swanskin Update No3 I DID IT!

Swanskin | Update No3 http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

I did it! The first draft of Swanskin is complete! I wrote a mighty (for me!) 7033 words, and on Wednesday, the job was done. Swanskin is just a little book, my first novella. I anticipated around 30K words, and it came in at just under, but that could change. There are a few areas I need to rewrite. And of course, the whole thing needs a bit of spit and polish. The story came to me in such a rush, that I was in a hurry to get it all down and catch up with myself.

Strangely, once I got going, I became very emotionally invested in this story. I didn’t expect that. It was inspired by the lovely tale from Irish mythology called The Dream of Óengus, which I retold for my compilation, Conor Kelly’s Legends of Ireland. This story is one of the few Irish myth stories which ends on a happy note. Swanskin, I have to tell you, does not, but follows in the true vein of romantic tragedies.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter Ten, in which Cethlenn is considering whether to tell her bestie, Sophie, about Ruadhán…

“Where the hell have you been? You missed registration,” hissed Sophie.

“Well I’m here now, aren’t I?” I banged the door of my locker shut and turned to face her.

She gasped. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing.” I picked up my bag and shouldered past her.

“Doesn’t look like nothing.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.”

I stopped and stared at her, weighing up what I could trust her with. She was my best friend, and we had shared everything since we first met at primary school. We were more like sisters than friends.

“Really, it’s nothing.” I carried on walking.

She shrugged. “Ok, but you’re going the wrong way. First exam is in Room 12.”

“I know that,” I snapped.

She fell in beside me. “You sure you’re in a fit state to do this exam? Maybe you should tell old Poker-face you’re not well.”

I took a deep breath. “I’m fine.”

“Ok. Well, I covered for you. I told her you were so nervous you were puking your guts up in the bogs,  and that’s why you missed registration. I reckon you’ll get away with it.”

I grinned. “Thanks, Sophie. You’re the best.”

Here’s another little excerpt. Ruadhán had gone missing, and this is what happened on his return…

I opened my eyes, but blackness still pressed against them. I blinked just to be sure. Yes, pitch black. No moon. I reached for my phone; 2am. Great.

My eyes were swollen and tender from crying. I’d had a huge row with Mam. I squeezed them tightly shut again. I just wanted to sleep, so I didn’t have to remember, so I didn’t have to think, so I could just slip into oblivion and not have to feel so shit.

There it was again; the noise which had awoken me. Someone was throwing stones up at my window. But who? Sophie? No way, we hadn’t spoken in weeks. Besides, not much would drag her from her bed before lunch-time. Cian? Had he forgotten his keys again? I’d bloody kill him.

I yanked the quilt aside furiously, and went to the window. Although it was a dark night, there was no mistaking the long coppery hair which glinted under the starlight.


I flew down the stairs, heart hammering like a pneumatic drill. I wanted to scream at him, thump him, beat him black and blue for dumping me, but most of all, I wanted to lose myself in his kiss. Then I would kill him.

I fumbled with the key in the lock. Somehow, my fingers didn’t seem to know what to do, ten stubby fat sausages struggling to manipulate a key so tiny it must have been made for Barbie’s gaudy apartment. My whole body was shaking. But I managed it, and then I was in his arms, clinging to him like ivy to a tree.

So there you have it. Next week, I will begin  editing, and contacting beta readers soon after. Thank you to my lovely volunteers!

SWAN FACT No3: A swan can fly at speeds of up to  sixty miles per hour.

other news. 

I wrote a quatern poem for Jane Dougherty‘s prompt called The Bridge. Please pop along to her blog to read it, if you are interested. I love poetry, but it doesn’t come easy to me.

I also submitted a micro-fiction piece to Sacha Black‘s Writespiration, inspired by the prompt; ‘Write about a rusty thing’. So I did, but it’s probably not what you might think. Why not drop by her blog and check out all the other fab entries while you’re there.

Last but by no means least, I would like to thank lovely ladies Marje of Kyrosmagica, and Sally of Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life, who both nominated me for the #Girllove Blog Challenge. I am deeply touched and honoured, and hope to complete this challenge in the not too distant future.

#Girllove challenge was launched by Lilly Singh, a.k.a. Superwoman, on her  YouTube Channel. Lilly Singh is a Canadian vlogger, actress, comedian, and rapper, age 27. She is tired of ‘girl-on-girl hate’ in schools, workplaces, and social media, so she decided to reverse trends by promoting #GirlLove.  In her empowering video  young women speak out  about their respect and gratitude for other women in their lives. Proceeds from video views will go to the Malala Fund to help educate girls around the world. The goal of the fund is to “enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities”.


Who Did You Inspire Today? You Might Be Surprised!

(c) Seamus McArdle
(c) Seamus McArdle

A few days ago, I received the following sketch in a message, with the words, “Thanks for the inspiration for this.”

(c) Seamus McArdle

Seamus McArdle is an Irish author and artist who has featured on this blog before. You can read about him in my post, The Friday Fiction with Artist and Author Seamus McArdle. I have always loved the intricate detail, the colours, the symbolism, and the style of Seamus’s artwork, so to receive a sketch and message like this was intriguing and exciting, to say the least.

It turns out that Seamus had been inspired by a story I had included in one of my blog posts about a giant serpent-like creature which had swallowed a drunken harper, who had continued to play his harp from inside the beast, not realising where he was. Here is how I told it…

“One such creature, named Oillipéist (oll meaning ‘great’, péist meaningworm/ reptile/ beast’) is credited with having carved out the route of the River Shannon. Apparently, he swallowed a drunken piper by the name of Ó Ruirc, who, much to his chagrin, continued playing, unaware of his fate. Infuriated by the din, Oillipéist consequently coughed him up and spat him out in disgust.”

Now I can’t take any credit for the story, it already exists in Irish folklore, but you can read more in my post,  Lake Dwellers of Ancient Ireland. Little did I know when I wrote it that it would inspire someone to create a painting!

Writing isn’t just about number of blog views, or book sales. It’s about connecting with people, and I am so happy that in this case, a few words I wrote down one evening connected with someone to such an extent, that he was inspired to create a work of art. What a compliment that is.

A few days after sending me the initial sketch, Seamus messaged me with the final completed picture. Thanks, Seamus, you really made my day! I love it! I love the colour, I love the detail particularly of the hands, face and hair. I love the fish skeletons, and the molluscs. I love the eternal, circular aspect of it. It’s so full of colour and life and movement. You can see the finished painting in its glorious detail at the top of the post.

You can view more of Seamus’s art on his website, www.seamusmcardle.ie, and you can buy his enchanting book on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

The Book Awards The Big Guys Don’t Want You To Know About

Indie Authors living in Ireland, here’s your chance to win acclaim for your self published book and support a worthwhile cause, well, two worthwhile causes, actually. So get behind this splendiferous event, and who knows where it could lead? And may the luck o’ the Oirish be with yez… 🍀

Tara Sparling writes

We all know about book prizes. We know how important they are, and yet how unquantifiable.

There are basically two kinds of book prizes: those which are decided by a panel of estimable judges, and those which are decided by public vote. Both are problematic.

So What’s Wrong, Ya Big Whinger?

When it comes to panel-decided prizes, the route to the judge’s eye is too often fraught with unassailable obstacles such as elitism, fashion, favouritism, or the lack of a marketing machine.

The Book Awards The Big Guys Don't Want You To Know About

Which might make it look like we should go with a popular vote instead – if it weren’t for the fact that a public vote is more to do with the popularity (or social media reach) of the author, rather than the merit of their book.

In fact, popular votes are more liable to drive me mad than any other modern inconvenience. I’ve been forced to ask for them myself from time to…

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Swanskin | An Update

swanskin2So last week I set myself a challenge of adding four thousand words to Swanskin, and guess what? I did it! I finished last week on 15,629, and I have actually added 5470. Here is the picture to prove it…

Only another 10, 000 or so to go… first draft could be complete in a couple of weeks, if I manage to continue at this rate! I never imagined that at the beginning of the year.

Here is an excerpt. This is from the other main character in the story, Ruadhán. You pronounce his name Roo-awn. It means ‘red-haired’. He is Cethlenn’s love interest, and also a swan shifter. You met her in last week’s excerpt.

As we passed through the outer palisade walls and into the court, my eyes were on stalks, my head turning this way and that, anxiously searching for a sign of my lover. Could it be that I had imagined her? Had I flirted all night with some ghostly creature, an apparition born of my intoxication and imagination? Or was she a temptress of the Sidhe? It wasn’t unheard of for the folk of the magical realm to interfere with mortals when the will took them.

We joined the queue waiting to enter the great hall. “Will you ever stop fidgeting,” complained my father at last. “What has got into you?”

“Ruadhán’s in love,” announced Siadhal, and I blushed furiously.

“How wonderful,” exclaimed my mother, taking my arm.

“Who is she? Is she beautiful? Will we meet her tonight?” clamoured my sisters.

Father rolled his eyes. “Women!” he and Siadhal declared in unison.

Thankfully, I did not need to explain further, as we arrived at the High King’s hall and were ushered to our places.

The King’s hall was an oblong building with a large central hearth. His table stood at one end. My sisters nudged each other excitedly when they saw Cuchullain seated at the King’s side. Long tables with benches either side lined the walls and filled the central floor space. Servants scurried back and forth, serving food and drink.

“Not too far from the King’s table,” my mother approved.

“But far enough from the fecking O’Connollys,” Father glowered across the hall. We all instinctively followed his gaze.

The feud between us MacMahons and the O’Connollys stretched so far back into previous generations that not a one remembered any more who had started it, or why. It remained a matter of honour which could only be settled with the seizing of land and the raiding of cattle. The price? Spilled blood, and far too many families on both sides grieving over the loss of sons.

We watched now as two of the five sons helped their aged father, O’Connolly Mór, into his seat, followed by his attractive young wife, who they say was more interested in her stepsons than in her doddering old husband, and who could blame her?

Their assemblage of beautiful daughters of various ages filed dutifully onto a bench behind their parents. Like their mother, each one of them had a fine head of jet black hair and a pair of crystal clear blue eyes.

One of them was staring back at me. The blood drained from my face. It was Aoife.

Hope you enjoyed that. My plan for next week is to achieve another four thousand words. Watch this space…

SWAN FACT No.2    Swans do mate for life, and they touch beaks to kiss. When they kiss, their necks form a heart shape. No wonder they became associated with love and fidelity.

My first book, Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean picked up two reviews, one from Sacha Black, and the other from Eric Klingenberg. Thanks to both, just for reading, which makes me so happy, and for your reviews. You can read them here…

Sacha Black’s Review  4 Mistakes to Avoid when Transcribing Research into Fiction

(not what it sounds lol!)