I received a personal message from the Rain Gods

Rainbow2

 

Thank God it’s spring!

After a long and particularly arduous winter we were rewarded last weekend with this stunning double rainbow over the Miramar peninsula. Set at the very end of the peninsula, it really was an amazing sight from the other side of the harbour. In some respects it felt like a personal message from the Gods along the lines of “All right, lads! Enough’s enough. You can have some sun now.”

When my kids were growing up here in Wellington, I taught them a little poem to help them remember the names of the colours in Irish. It went:

Dearg agus glas – red and green
Gorm agus buí – blue and yellow
Feach sa spéir – look up at the sky
An bogha báistí – the rainbow!

Because of their sheer scale and striking visual impact, it’s hard not to be impressed by a rainbow, particularly the big ones that span large swatches of space. Its’ hardly surprising so, that every culture has some associated mythology or folklore. In Hindu mythology, their Thunder God uses a rainbow as a form of bow to shoot arrows made of lightning. Maori have a legend about Hina (the mother of Maui), the moon, who causes a rainbow to span the heavens for her husband to return to earth. In Ireland of course, the most famous legend is the story of the leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Although most Irish people hate the plastic paddy shite associated with leprechauns, I have to admit the central concept of this particular story is quite clever. Rainbows don’t have an end so you can never get the gold. In fact, to see a rainbow you have to have the sun behind you. Hence it’s only got one side as well – truly a no-win situation!!

Ironically then, I once saw the end of the rainbow. This happened when we were kids and my Dad was driving the family home from a weekend in Beara. Naturally, this being West Cork, it was raining but as we drove through the Cousane Pass the clouds cleared and this beautiful rainbow opened up, one end filling the field with the standing stone at the top of the Cousane.

Needless to say, the event caused some consternation amongst the four kids stuffed in the back of the car. My poor Dad nearly crashed when we started screaming at him to stop so we that could run in and get the gold. We were smart. We all knew that you could only reach the gold for as long as the rainbow remained.

For some reason, my father ignored the screeching from behind and kept on driving but I’ll never forget how galling it was to see the rainbow’s end just alongside, marking untold wealth and riches. And us driving placidly (not) by.

I’ve never really forgiven my father for that excruciating lapse of judgement. If he’d only stopped the car for twenty seconds, we’d all be multi-millionaires today.

Update on Forthcoming Productions: Irish Imbas Books

It’s all been a bit quiet on the communication front from my end as there’s been a lot of changes going behind the scenes with the Irish Imbas Books website at the moment. Anyway, here’s the update since March 2015.

The Fionn Series:

For once, I actually  seem to be holding to schedule (on some books at least). I’m on the last chapter of Liath Luachra – The Grey One which is on track for release in Oct/Nov 2015. I’ve been spread pretty thin these last six months so I haven’t completed any further progress on Fionn 3: The Adversary but I’m still looking to release that later this year – probably in December now, given the delays.

Beara 2:

Still only three chapters in. Given the complexity of the storylines, I am seriously going to have to commit to taking a large segment of time aside to make a further dent in this. Because of family and other commitments, I’m not really free to do that yet.

Fionn: The Stalking Silence – Audiobook

I had great plans for an audiobook and although providing information and books through audio is something I’m keen to do, this has now been postponed until late next year. Too many other pieces of work to finish first.

Another Book:

Yes, I know. Considering all the whinging above, you’re absolutely right. Whys the hell am I even looking at producing yet another book?

The truth is, I was going through my files the other day and came across some old short stories I’d put to one side at least seven years ago. Two were relatively decent drafts which don’t require too much work to finalise. A third is a longer and more complex story that I wrote more than ten years ago but which I was never able to finish in a way that satisfied me. Last year, I finally developed an ending that works (yes, it’s been mulling around in my head that long) so I’ve decided to make this into a minor collection of stories – a bit like Leannan Sidhe – the Irish Muse. All three stories are set in Kinsale – a coastal town in Cork – so I’m probably going to call make it a specific Kinsale-themed book. I’m having a cover drawn up at the moment under the title ‘Sleepwalking at Altitude.’ This probably won’t be available until mid- to late next year.

The Non-Fiction Book: Project ‘Tobar’

I first mentioned this book back in March and explained that its something I’ve been wanting to write for several years.  Aaaaaaanyway, I’ve finally decided to get off my butt and do it. I now have the structure I need to use pretty much sorted out so I’m hoping to get the bulk of this out of me and into draft form by Jan/Feb next year. Given the title ‘Tobar’  (the Irish word for ‘well’ – as in a source of water), you may be able to work out what it’s going to be about but I’m only going to offer vague hints for the next wee while at least. I think it’ll be mid next year before this is available and given that it isn’t really something that will work well as an ebook, I’m looking at different options for publication. Possibly, I might just distribute this in some form from my own site. Speaking of which …

Selling Directly from the Irish Imbas Books Website:

In a week or so, I’m hoping to be able to sell some books direct from this site. This, essentially, allows me to get around the whole DRM issue (which for those of you who don’t know what ‘DRM’ means, stands for ‘Digital Right Management’ ). DRM essentially establishes monopolies for large companies.  In a practical sense, it means that if you download a file for Kindle e-readers, you can’t use it on another e-reader such as Apple or Kobo etc. (and vis-versa). This essentially locks readers into a particular device and prevents sharing of files. By selling them on my site, I can make works available in different formats so that nobody is locked out. More importantly, it means I have more control over my own work and I can actually make new work available on the website that isn’t available elsewhere.

Cover, covers covers:

I went a bit mad on covers this year and produced, or commissioned quite a few different ones. To my surprise, the one I liked most was one that my designer Marija sent to me out of the blue yesterday. Basically, she went off and rejigged the covers for the Fionn series and sent me a number of associated wallpapers – all of which are stunning (I’ll probably make those available on the website for anyone who wants one when I actually work out how to do that).

I really love Marija’s work and have also commissioned her to do the ‘Sleepwalking at Altitude’ cover. I’ve added the new look of Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma in this post. What do you think?

Defence of Ráth Bládhma minor

Newsletters:

Finally learning how to do these. I feel a bit guilty as these were supposed to start going out earlier this year. At the moment, I’m assuming they’ll be quarterly only, have a section on folklore, news from me and some pieces of what I’m working on so people can add feedback or comment if they want to.

Righto!  That’s all for me. I’m off for a beer!

 

 

Emptying the Sea with a Bottomless Bucket (Irish Folklore and Mythology)

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Emptying the sea with a bottomless bucket is probably one of the more unusual punishments ever handed out but this particularly penalty was one supposedly assigned to a woman known as ‘Kitty Ath na hEorna’ or ‘Cailín Ath na hEorna’.

The story of Kitty is associated with a section of the Martin River located at Ath na hEorna just off the Waterloo to Grenagh Road. Accessible now via the motorway lay-by, back in the day the ford would have been one of the main routes for people wishing to cross the river. Indeed, its name – Ath na hEorna (Ford of the Barley) – suggests that it was a route commonly used by people to carry harvested barley across the river in relative safety. The river Martin is fed near its source by streams from Knockantota and Lyradane (the word Lyradane is actually derived from an Anglicization of the word ‘laghar’ which means a fork in the river) and in the past, after the rains, it would have swollen much more dramatically than it does nowadays.

I first heard this story as a kid, half-asleep in the back or the car on a visit home from visiting relatives in Grenagh. Even at the time it fascinated me. According to local legend, Kitty was supposed to have murdered her unbaptised baby in the river sometime in the early to mid- 1800s. An alternative version of the legend suggests that Kitty was actually a ghost and haunted that particular site looking for her dead baby out of remorse. In fact, both of these are probably wrong.

Like so many of our local legends, there’s always a deeper story beneath the more commonly known legends. Given the patterns here, it’s more than likely that ‘Kitty’ was some variation of one of the pre-Christian land goddesses or river-goddesses (figures such as Sionann, Bóinne etc.). Keen to demonstrate their superiority over the early pagan beliefs, a substantial number of stories were introduced by Christians from the medieval period onwards, all of which relegated the female ‘goddesses’ to the status of fallen women (i.e. unmarried, child-murderer etc.), witches etc. Naturally, the ‘evil’ associated with these women is overcome only through the power of Christianity. In the case of Kitty, this was actually carried out by a local priest who exorcised the area and banished her to empty the Red Sea with a bottomless saucepan.

A tad ironic then that the promoters of this particular tale saw nothing “unchristian” with such a cruel and extreme penalty.

I Don’t Believe in Countries

 8HolidaySligo 26 April 2011 028 (2)

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly ceased to believe in ‘countries’. Nations and borders always have been an artificial construct, basically created in the past by ruling dynasties to maintain power over a territory. I can’t think of many examples where they were actually intended to represent the population that actually resided within its borders. The only exception to this are those smaller ‘countries’ who broke away from larger ‘countries’ who did not represent them or failed to recognise their culture (think Bosnia and Herzegovina and other states who broke up from Yugoslavia, East Timor which separated from Indonesia, Kosovo, Ukraine etc.). In fact, 34 new countries have been created since 1990.

The concept of a country seems to serve exclusive minorities because it allows a large population to be structure and controlled, often to their own detriment. That’s why some nationalist governments (the new ruling classes) continue to condition their young, programming them to obtain an emotional response from a waving flag or the tune of a national anthem. People are essentially trained to love their country without questioning why.

From an early age, we’re encouraged to adhere to a false concept – that we’re part of some mutually beneficial collective or brotherhood. Here in New Zealand, there’s currently a laughable attempt by the government to divert attention from its poor management of the country by trying to rally interest in the design of a new national flag. Unfortunately for them, it’s like the party that nobody turns up to. People actually aren’t that stupid, despite the money desperately being thrown at it.

It’s true that some countries have populations of a similar cultural background and heritage. Ireland is a classic example of this, particularly as our island status ensured a relatively consistent cultural system over the centuries. Northern Ireland of course is the exception. Planted with a new population that had different belief systems to the existing system, such an act was bound to create adversity and violence. It’ll take a few more generations to smooth that particular wrinkle out but it is inevitable (despite what politicians with their own agenda tell you).

When you see growing inequality within a nation, when your ‘countryman’ is more than happy to screw you for his own personal benefit, you have to ask yourself if you really want to be associated with that particular grouping?

If you’re someone who flies your national flag outside your house – something I confess to having done in the past – you might want to consider the potential that you’ve been manipulated.