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Saturday, March 10, 2012

the interview

The six women were ghost-like, their features barely visible in the soft candlelight I had chosen over electricity—after all, they were from another time and place. I watched them settle around the table—their heavy cloaks and flowing dresses were long out of date but there was a grace about them that seemed lacking in a lot of present day women’s clothing.

Out of the twelve generations that had passed since Brigid’s birth in 1638, these were the only ones that showed up for my interview. Each one had made the trek to the Glass Mountain two times, once with their mothers and again with their own daughters, using the moonstone as their guide. With help from the moon goddess, Arianrhod, I had brought them together to share their experiences.

Brigid, the oldest, was tall and broad-shouldered with high cheekbones and green eyes like Catriona. On her right sat her granddaughter, Enid, and next to Enid, Anwen, Brigid’s daughter.

Brigid straightened her indigo woven shawl pulling it close as she gazed at me expectantly.

“Are you cold?” I asked, wondering how a ghost could feel anything.

She shook her head. “Nae, just a wee bit nervous, ‘tis nae often we are called from the spirit world.”

“I wish to feel my hand on this wood,” Enid lamented as her fingers disappeared through the table’s surface. “’Tis nae fair that ye are solid, Mamo. Ye are my grandmother, if anyone should be ghostlike ‘tis ye.” Enid glared at Brigid.

“Enid, please. We came together for a purpose. ‘Tis unseemly to argue so.” Anwen, trying to make peace, placed a hand on her daughter’s arm. “I feel your bone and muscle, daughter.”

Anwen had the flaming hair of her mother but Enid’s was more the color of flax, her eyes the blue of cornflowers. I wondered about the men in their lives, the husbands and fathers who had contributed their DNA but were unimportant in terms of these women’s journeys. I knew nothing about them.  But that was for another day.

I gazed at the others who hadn’t spoken yet: Enid’s daughter, Macha, born in 1696, her moss colored eyes wide. Her hands shook as she unfastened the silver clasp at the neck of her dark wool cape, flinging the hood back to reveal hair the color of chestnuts. Next to her sat Rhian, dressed in a long tunic of heavy wool, a dark shawl around her shoulders. Birdlike with auburn hair, she was barely visible as she shifted in and out of focus. The generations between Macha’s birth in 1696 and Rhian in 1900 were conspicuously absent and I wondered why.

Looking toward Brighid I asked, “Where are all the others?”

“They have moved on to their next life. We are the only ones left to guide our living sisters.”           

I nodded although many questions popped into my mind. “I don’t know how long the goddess will permit us to be together like this and I have questions for each and every one of you before you’re summoned back to the void.”

Epona, Rhian’s daughter and mother of Adair looked uneasy as she twisted her hands nervously in her lap. “Where is Adair?” she asked, looking toward the door, her brow furrowed.  After she spoke there were whispers and shuffling of feet.

“You don’t know?” I asked as gently as I could. Adair, mother of Catriona and Brandubh was a sorceress. It was she who had summoned the Oilteill back from beneath the earth.

“Epona!” Brigid’s voice rang out and everyone grew quiet. “Ye know what Adair has become. I am sorry for ye since she is your daughter but you must acknowledge the truth! Surely your granddaughter, Catriona, has spoken of this.”

Epona’s mouth opened in surprise. “I had forgotten,” she said, her voice low. “Tis been quite some time since I was of this world.” She bent her head forward and her  light-colored hair fell on either side of her face like a curtain. I thought I saw tears glittering on her cheeks but then I remembered she was a ghost.

“Who wants to go first?” I asked brightly, trying to break the growing tension.

“My trips were uneventful,” Anwen said in a rush. “Maybe another has a more interesting story to tell.”

“Mine was wonderful,” Enid said, her expression rapturous. “The Otherworld was such a delight back then, filled with birdsong and every kind of animal one could imagine. I fed them from my hand! Now ye never see them, they are so afraid of the hunter’s bow.”

Macha gazed at her mother with a frown. “How can ye say ‘twas wonderful? I was with child and ‘twas treacherous, with rain and snow and all manner of beasts chasing us. I hardly thought we would make it to the blessing ceremony!”

Enid nodded. “My first trip when ye were in my belly was close to Beltane and with ye ‘twas closer to winter. Ye experienced the wrath of Vasilia’s winds and the Calleich. No wonder ye feel that way, my daughter.”

The Caileach Bheur was the goddess of winter, a frightening apparition who arrived in late fall to bring the snows. But her appearance was deceptive as she also protected the deer herds. In spring she turned to stone to await the following winter.

“And my journey when I carried Epona was auspicious,” Rhian said. “I ran into my namesake, Rhiannon, goddess of the horses, as well as Habondia, consort of Cernunnos the god of the forest. They warned of the future. They already knew what would come from Epona, my unborn child.”

Rhian spat out the words making me wince as she stared at her daughter who had grown even more pale, if that was possible.

“How about you, Epona?” I asked, trying to appease the silent, wraithlike woman.

“On my second trip I almost died. I know ‘tis why my daughter turned out the way she did. I was afraid of my own shadow and I slipped and fell into a ravine.  If it hadn’t been for the druids and the moonstone, I wouldnay be here today.”

No one spoke for several moments and then Brighid said, “‘Twas an accident. As far as Adair goes, the sorceress she’s become has nothing to do with your fear.”

Epona twisted her hands. “But Adair was an impressionable girl, and to see her mother so weak-willed angered her. After that day she never respected me.”

“But what of the moonstone?”  I interrupted quickly. It was supposed to be the main focus of the discussion and yet I hadn’t asked a single question about it. I was beginning to doubt my decision to bring them here. A lot of emotion was boiling to the surface.

“Ah yes, the moonstone. Without the stone none of us would have completed the journey. I remember dropping it when I fell,” Epona continued, her small features contorting as she concentrated.  “The druids found the stone and then carried me to one of their dwellings. They gave me healing herbs as I rested and regained my strength.”

Was it my imagination or were the women fading? “Tell me quickly about the stone—how did it help you?” I looked from Epona to Rhian and then Enid. Enid opened her mouth to answer but I couldn’t hear her and when I gazed toward Brighid her eyes had filled with tears.  “Fare thee well,” she mouthed.

 “I’m sorry we didn’t have more…” I began, but before I finished the sentence there was no one left to hear it.

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