A Tale from the Records of the North

Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger
Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on Pexels

The Northern Goddess

Of all directions, North is youngest; of all lands was North raised last: pole-clinging, mountain-bracing, glacier-bearing, winter-blasting, storm-wielding, darkness lair. Of all lands was North the best.

In the same North, a region cold and stern, a land stirred stiffly to life at Spring, made frostily bright at Summer, roused to blustery breath through Autumn, cloaked in restless dark at Winter: in this farthest North was such a goddess, and she was alone.

Then there was one of her own who approached her, seeking in her desolate land an answer to her own life, a response to her small soul from the darkness she was drawn to, walking on though fading in her mortal being, til blown thin, she tasted of the freedom her spirit sought, and on that threshold she was answered. Her goddess met her there, where mortal life departs.

Though but a flickering flame in the heart of a fierce land, she had strayed from herself, reckless in her seeking, relentless in her frailty…yet she was found, taken in by one who saw her as she was, one who had ever dwelt in the solitude of the North, who was the very life of it, rejoicing in its very severity. This one took her in, brought her to herself from the brink of the abyss, and gave her life from her own essence that she may stay if she choose it, or wander if her heart would not be quieted. Indeed it would not be, but there was nowhere else, none other who knew her nature, no land that met her so, and so she stayed with her goddess. She is the Lady of the North.

Lady of the North

An unyielding will alive in the lost places, a faint wisp of warmth drifting freely in the frigid regions, faint yet unwavering amidst the wild frenzy of the North, and slight, though never to be quenched, even in great darkness or deep cold. So was this one, who alone had known the goddess of the North, this same one who had sought the one called Winter’s mother.

The borders of that realm were the only bounds of her desire, and the fury of those wilds were the freedom of her own heart, but one day she stood looking Southward and was moved: a wanderer, a chieftainess, a queen among her people was approaching the precipice upon which she stood watch, now nearing the solitary pass through which she herself had once entered, that forbidding gate in the mountain wall, hid between great jagged ridges like arms reaching desperately toward the South.

She descended to see her come, staying hidden in the rugged folds of her beloved’s land, looking from a place where, by yet a fateful drop below her, the way became narrow. It was as she watched her from high above that pass, that the woman looked up, and there also she let herself be seen.

She dared let herself be seen by this one who walked below.

A moment later she withdrew, disappeared at once into the wilds of her Northern realm: it was for but a moment, but it was a moment too long. So she went back to her land’s heart, sullen, vexed, wanting to hide. She had no need of this, yet her own heart had stirred, and she thought herself more reckless in her choice to be seen that day, than in all her mortal daring before it.

Her goddess spoke: “Go to her.”

It would not be the last time. It would take a turning of heart, but the North knew her heart, and she would not have her cage her own nature now, turning from life if it come to her, for, ever before had she sought it without regard to her own, and the North herself loved her for it.

She spoke again: “Go, my heart. Do you deny she has moved you? Go then.”

The Art of Inspiration

Photo by Lukas Hartmann
Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels

The Celtic goddess Boann loosed an Otherworldly spring, and lost herself in the flood that came of it…or realized herself in its torrent. She and the spring together became the Boyne river, which flows today as ever it has since then, and Boann herself became the goddess of inspiration.

To seek the Otherworldly spring so boldly, to discover the wisdom of its waters in the hazels that encircle it, the salmon that swim it, to feel in your own five senses the flowing of its five streams, and then to walk round it three times counter-clockwise: this is daring to summon something greater than yourself. The art of inspiration begins with daring, with a willingness to lose oneself in it.

The story of Boann comes from a people who made an elaborate science of the nature of poetry, and the practice of channeling inspiration. It teaches us to seek deeply where others cannot reach, to approach what is sacred with all we are, but to start first with our own sensory experience. The world is always speaking to us. We do not act alone, and we get nowhere by looking past it. No one else can listen to the world for us.

It is said the oak tree must have roots sufficient to withstand the lightning strike of inspiration: it’s just as essential to attend to what is near before you seek what is far, or you won’t be ready for it when you find it. But it’s not drudgery. It’s a cultivation of presence through which the world opens up to you. Slowly you see you cannot be alone…the world is always there, always was, always whispering.

Water finds its way around, humbly seeks the lowest places, laughing softly as it goes. There is no stone that is not rounded, no barrier that does not give, and music is made of all it encounters on its way. There is no writer’s block for the one who flows of their own spring, who writes in the company of Boann, who walks with the living world. All that arises is met in dance, all that confronts, drawn into it. And when at last the river flows–who’ll be there to argue?

What about you? Will you listen? How bold will you be when the spring erupts?