Falling into the land’s dreaming

This land dreams Horse. Of the Seven Sisters mountains who stand like a semi-circle of elders around this valley where we live, two are horses. An Eachla Bheag, the Little Horse, and An Eachla Mhór, the Big Horse. Look carefully at the image above, and perhaps you’ll see them: two horses, lying down. The body of An Eachla Bheag is on the left of the image, and her long nose (a paler shade of grey) is sloping down to the left, facing towards us. Curled up next to her, tail end to An Eachla Bheag’s head, and facing in the opposite direction, is An Eachla Mhór. Her neck curves away from us to the right, her nose pointing left, dipping down behind her own strong back.If this land dreams Horse, then I cannot help but dream Horse too. An Eachla Mhór towers over our little cottage deep in the hollow of the river valley, and it is along the boreens towards the foot of An Eachla Bheag that I walk each morning. Horse, a guardian spirit of this land. Ulster is Horse country, for sure, and Donegal’s mythology is Ulster mythology – no less so after Partition. The wounds left behind by such amputations take a long time to heal, but the myths and stories belong to the land, and do not reshape themselves to the tyranny of human maps. Way out to the east of us lies green Armagh: Ard Mhacha, the heights of Macha. Macha gave her name to that place: Macha, the woman from the Otherworld who was forced to race against a king’s horses while heavily pregnant, so that even though she won the race, she died, giving birth to her twins. Macha, the horse goddess. She rides in the hills of Ulster still. This land dreams Horse; these horse-mountains dream Macha.

This river dreams Heron. Flying high along the winding thread of her; standing still in the bubbling rush of her. Nesting in the heronry in the woods to the side of her. Always here, somewhere, there is a heron.

Heron river LR crop

If this river at the bottom of my garden dreams Heron, then I cannot help but dream Heron too. Old Crane Woman emerged from that mutual dreaming; she is as real to me as anyone else I know. If Horse is the guardian spirit of the high bog, Heron is the guardian spirit of the river.

This land dreams Horse and Heron; she also dreams Fox and Crow, Badger and Hare. The myths and stories of this land come from that long dreaming: from the conversations of stones and the crows who come to rest on them for a while; from the tall tales that the magpie tells to the old ash tree where he thinks of building a nest. From the quicksilver slinking of salmon and trout, to the pathways made through the soft bog by red deer. From all these threads and more, the land weaves her dreaming. The myths and stories of this place are the echoes of her dreams.

The land welcomes other dreamers; beckons them to her. Enfolds them into her own dreaming; bleeds out into theirs. This land dreams Horse and Heron; has dreamed them through the long ages of the world. Took them in; dreamed them back out as mountain-spirit and river-song. Now, this land also dreams me. What am I, in her dream? A fleeting visitor, for sure, playing the tiniest of bit-parts in the long ages of her life – but I will be there still in her dreaming, even when my physical body has gone. I am stored – and storied – in her, and she will remember me: the woman who walked the paths of myth through the bog each morning, whose sloughed-off skin and body fluids and breath have been incorporated, atom by atom, into her physical structure. The woman who brought bee-life to her river again; who brought hens to scratch up her old, dead growth, and a man to plant new trees for her, and dream his own river-dreams into her. The woman who loved her as a lover should: who fell headlong, eyes closed, arms outstretched, into the long dreaming of the land.

There, I am willingly caught. There, I will linger on. Not quite forever; I have no stories to tell of forever. But perhaps for long enough.

17 thoughts on “Falling into the land’s dreaming

  1. Your writing is, as ever, truly beautiful. Am I also a part of my land’s dreaming – I hope so.

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    1. It’s not a test we pass; I think it’s a question of awareness, and therefore of relationship. If we walk knowing that we walk in the land’s dreaming, we are a part of it. There’s a mutual awareness. She listens when we talk to her. In some places she may be surprised that someone is talking to her. I think that the land longs for listeners. Whether it’s us, or the birds, or the grass … I think relationship is built into the land. We just need to remember that it’s built into us too. Sounds to me as if you know 🙂

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  2. I enjoyed that very much. You sounded a lot like John Moriarty in Invoking Ireland. (Have you read that? I think you’d love it!)

    I am struggling to connect with, or hear from, the land where I have stood for the past eight years, while I still feel connected to another place, and very homesick for it. However, I really understand about Horse energy. She connects to both the land and to water. Have you noticed that?

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    1. I read Moriarty ages ago; I couldn’t decide at the time what to make of it. Much I loved, and much that irritated me. I’ll have to go back and read it again, with a few years’ distance!

      Those times when we live in places we find it hard to connect to are hard. But you are in that place nevertheless, and not to be fully in it is in a sense not to be fully alive. To me, now, such a thing would be like turning my back on a friend, mother, lover. Find some way to be in relationship with that place, even if you’re not planning on being there forever. Not all loves are forever, but life is all the sweeter for them. And I think our places deserve it from us 🙂

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  3. Thank you. To feel a deep connection to the land and her creatures is power giving, sustaining, sometimes lonely, and once experienced you are drawn, maybe even required, to never go away again. To share with horse as companion is grounding and strengthening.

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    1. Yes, I’ve written before about leaving a place that I had a similarly deep relationship with, and it still haunts me 🙂 This is a less lonely land than that was, but I feel a responsibility nevertheless.

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  4. Thank you for this. You speak the language of my soul and heart. I cannot wait to order your new book. I am wanting to share it with my women’s moon circle and start a reading group as soon as I can afford it!!

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  5. This is so beautifully written, I feel my heart rising in sheer celebration of such beauty and wisdom. Like Kris, I don’t feel connected to where I live – I feel its spirit, and have compassion for it, but there is so much water here, and although I try to tell its stories, my heart speaks a different language. Even so, I know that all land everywhere is dreaming, and to hear it is to feel never truly alone. Thank you for the old, earthy, wild magic you bring to the internet.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. And I know: in a sense it’s like loving people. It’s probably possible to find ways to love anyone or any place if you set your mind to it and have a loving heart. But there’s always that one special love, or even a series of special loves, which are more than that, and perhaps places are the same. In ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ I write about not looking for the perfect place as we might wait forever for the perfect love which never comes, because it’s an illusion – but if our heart speaks the language of mountain and we live by the sea it will be hard to give all that we’re capable of. I hope you find your place someday and feel that remarkable belonging.

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  6. Your writing captivates and carries me away from hard surfaces and shiney monitors, fans whirring in the background until I am lost in the imaginary, the sublime. I love it all. I began reading When Women Rose Rooted, got most of the way through the first chapter and began to weep. The western women, me included, have choices to make in finding what has been lost, in seeking our ancient wisdom and connecting with our ancestors. Small steps beget the larger ones and there is a renewed hope. Thank you for all this and more…Blessed Be.

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  7. Possibly the most beautiful thing that I have ever read. Thank you. I now live in a land that dreams Horse too and I am just beginning to learn what that means. Bless you and your land’s dreaming for the beauty.

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