What if I am taken from the land?
And what if I am taken from my Gods?
Am I not a candle that burns?
Am I not blood and salt water?
Am I not a living root?
Some Gods may follow still
Others will not
Salt water in my blood will never ebb
My soul will still shine forth if so I will
The root is mine to nurture
Be it so
I am the living root
I am the flame
Blood and salt water
Carries me home again
Kris Hughes 2013
I have been thinking a great deal, recently, about what it means to follow the gods of the Gaels and other Celts, and yet to be far removed from those lands. It has certainly been a hard journey for me, but I am trying to learn not to wallow in homesickness. To what extent can you divide the gods from the land? Have migrating peoples really carried their gods with them, or have they, like Europeans coming to the new world, merely appropriated old names for new things? We may call a red-breasted bird "robin" but it won't fill the same place in our heart, any more than it fills the same place in its eco-system, just because we have named it so. In a foreign place, have we any right to expect the land, itself, to feel, think or behave in the same way as the familiar old land? Do gods of green fire and silver branch even wish to visit places of red sand and merciless sun?
As you can see, I have a lot of questions. The answers I'm getting, from my habitually gnostic viewpoint, are not necessarily the ones that I'd like to hear. However, this poem should be taken as a sign of hope as well as a sign of acceptance. Back in the 1980s, when I first went to live in Edinburgh, I remember a straight-talking older woman I met in a folk club, saying something that made a lot of sense to my gnostic self. We were talking about me being a Yank and why I felt so at home in Scotland. "Well, hen," she said, "just because you were born in a stable, disnae make ye a horse." And so it is with the soul.
The juxtaposition of words and pictures seems to be very important to me, these days. However, since I know the words will be hard for some to see on this, I've repeated the poem, below. You can also click to enlarge.
What does Mabon mean?