Grey Heron Nights 11: Old Crane Woman greets her sisters


Look at her there, Old Crane Woman. Look at her there, part woman, part bird. How can a woman be sitting on a nest? How can a bird be speaking?

Old Crane Woman is waiting for her sisters. isten – can you hear them arriving? Here they come, two great birds flying. Here they come, two women walking. Here they come, the Old Crane Twins. Do you want to hear their stories? Do you want to hear their songs? They’ve some stories to tell, those ancient birds. They’ve some songs left still to sing.

See them all together now, there by the waterfall: the three great birds who guard the entrances to the Otherworld. The one who lives on Tir na mBan, the Isle of Women, far out in the western sea. If that’s your route to the Otherworld, she’s the one you’ll find. The other, who guards the Otherworld entrance through the great underground cave of Oweynagat. The Cave of Cats is her business, and you can be sure she takes it seriously. See the length of her beak? See the length of her shadow? And Old Crane Woman, the one who guards the river. All the rivers come from the Otherworld, Old Crane Woman says. All the wells and waters. She’s the one who guards the source.

There they are together, the Old Crane Sisters. The three great birds who guide us all in our journeys. Here they are, the Old Crane Twins, helping Old Crane Woman to hatch her egg.

It’s a cause for celebration.

The Old Crane Sisters know how to celebrate; they know how to dance up a storm. See the Twins there, down by the river. One on her left leg, playing the fiddle; the other on her right leg, beating the bodhran. And Old Crane Woman is singing. Can you hear her shrieking through the long night? Lay-la-lay-la-lay ….

The Old Crane Sisters guard the gateways to the Otherworld. You’ll meet them there, one day. What story will you have for them? What is the song you’ll sing? Practice your dance now; it’s the price of entry. The Old Crane Sisters love to dance. See them now? They’re dancing up a storm.



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