Grey Heron Nights 5: Gathering the skins

Old Crane Woman is sewing. Look at the thread – could it be sinew? Look at the needle – could it be bone?

Old Crane Woman is making a crane bag. They are made from the skin of dead herons. She knows where the corpses lie – death is her friend, she does not fear it. She harvests the skins by the light of the full moon.

Old Crane Woman knows the power that lives still in a skin. Look at the crane bag she carries: the bag which once was made by a god from the skin of her sister, Aoife. From Manannán Mac Lir to Fionn of the Fianna, this bag has held the treasures. The treasures of the sea-god, which waxed and waned with the tide. The treasures of the warrior men, who sleep now in the hill till the time of need.

The crane bag holds the treasures.

The skirt of Manannan and his knife, and Goibhne’s girdle, altogether: a smith’s hook from the fierce man: were treasures that the Crane-bag held.

The King of Scotland’s shears full sure, and the King of Lochlainn’s helmet, these were in it to be told of, and the bones of Asal’s swine.

A girdle of the great whale’s back was in the shapely Crane-bag: I will tell thee without harm, it used to be carried in it.

When the sea was full, its treasures were visible in its middle: when the fierce sea was in ebb, the Crane-bag in turn was empty.


Old Crane Woman knows the making of a crane bag. She takes the skins of female herons, for only a woman can contain the secrets of the universe. A woman is a vessel, a cauldron, a grail. A woman is a bag, made from her skin and the skins of all of her sisters. The crane bag holds the scraps, the stories, the poems, the steps; it holds more that is still to come. What does it hold that is yours?

The crane bag contains the secrets of transformation. The crane bag is made from our skin. Our skin holds us together; our skin contains our essence; it defines us, protects us from the ravages of the long dark.

The crane bag protects us from the ravages of the long dark.

Old Crane Woman is sewing. Will you sew along with her?

What will you sew?

What will your crane bag contain?

What will your crane bag protect?


5 thoughts on “Grey Heron Nights 5: Gathering the skins

  1. I love this, Sharon. The málá naofa in Irish gaelic according to my Irish shaman friends. Mine carries the stones of the lineage, a bone awl, and a skein spun from Fionn’s hair, and a few secrets besides. Thank you for inviting me to connect with Crane Mother in this time of the solstice.


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