Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Gloria in Equilux

I like the alternative name for vernal, or Spring, equinox - equilux, the equal light, this brief balance before we tip into the increasing daylight and lengthening days, the 'doing-ness' part of the year.

At this point when the the earth is equally poised between light and darkness, what stories do you tell yourself?  How do you frame your life's passage? Is there a single, unifying theme or thread? Or is it a tapestry with intricate workings of warp and weft? Where is the balance between the personal and universal in your story?

Today is my husbands birthday. He and his twin brother were born in the last degree and minutes of Pisces at a new moon in 1950.  A couple hours holding out and they would have been Spring Equinox babies. They were born in a little village on the outskirts of Armagh City, in  Northern Ireland. They were premature and they looked 'like a pair of skinned rabbits', as his mother once told me. Tony, the second to be born was completely unexpected. (Oh my goodness, there is another one here, Mrs!) He weighed as much as a bag of sugar. The doctor who delivered them at home told their mother not to get too fond of them.

But she had not reckoned with the canniness of their maternal grandmother, Granny Dobbin. A farmer's daughter, she knew what to do with orphan twin lambs, also born at this time of year. She nailed a thermometer to the wall, built up the turf fire and maintained a steady temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the next three months. It is said she dozed by that fire for the following three months, tossing yet another piece of turf to make sure the fire didn't go out or the temperature drop.  With that act, she echoed the old Celtic belief that to let the fire go out was to let a life go out.

They put the twins in cots and rigged up a tent with blankets over it, making, in effect, an incubator. Well, in 1950 Northern Ireland they didn't even have those in hospitals and this was a home birth after all.  A diary of feeds was kept: first feed breast milk, second feed formula, third feed formula laced with a teaspoon of brandy. And so it went for both twin in turn.

They defied the odds given their granny's native wit. They became known as the Miracle Twins of that townland outside Armagh City, not a stone's throw from Macha's Height (Emain Macha), now known as Navan Fort. Macha gave birth to twins as she reached the finish line, having raced the king's horses and won. The tale tells about Ulster warriors being cursed when she fell exhausted in a labouring heap. But it does not tell us the fate of Macha's twins. A goddess is immortal, but would her half-mortal twins have fared as well? If they were boys, they, too, would have been accursed.

As an aside, there is another parallel to the myth in that the Miracle Twins' mother's maiden name was Dobbin, a fond name for horses in Ireland. Armagh has kept up the horse connection. Even today, the Hunt rides to Hounds on Boxing Day. And in the 18th century a mile long race track was the centre piece of the Georgian city of Armagh, given that the Archbishop liked a wager.

But at this time of Equilux, equal light and dark, what does one remember of the old myths and how one's personal story weaves its way in and around them. Is it about birth and cursing? Is it about native wit and an old woman's persistance and survival? Is it about the 'twin-ness' of things, two halves that make one whole.

Is it that we should never allow the fire to go out so as not to allow the tribe to die out or be diminished?

Ben Okri says that "A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make their nations sick. And sick nations make for sick storytellers."

How do you tell your stories? How can you frame stories to make your tribe whole and hearty?

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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


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