For any of you who make a habit of reading the Dagda Bard blog by Jon O’Sullivan (and really, why wouldn’t you, he’s great!), the following post may seem familiar in style. It is – Jon often uses his conversations with the Dagda to explore themes, issues etc but this is the first time I’ve done so here. I’ve used fiction – but this isn’t fiction exactly. Think of it as me interpreting an experience I had over the weekend with the Dagda.
As I stood in circle, listening to the woman in charge calling in the quarters, making a decent attempt at it as well, I felt the Big Man settle in beside me.
“What’s all this then?” he muttered, much in the manner of an old friend catching up with the news at a funeral.
“Cacao ceremony” I replied, a bit nervously to be honest. I was reasonably sure the woman was doing this ethically, but sometimes his notions of ethics and mine are different. I felt him shaking with a fit of the giggles as she called in the Dagda, Father Sky.
“Father of many and now Father Sky as well? Isn’t that some responsibility I have now. “
He queued up behind me with a massive mug to grab some cacao anyway, after we sat through the explanation. I look at it in askance, I tell you, seeing as how the woman was measuring out every drop like a pub landlord. He winked and shrugged and sure enough, got his mug filled to the brim. Mind you, I’m almost certain I got a bit extra as well.
And then we sat, and sipped the drink in a companionable silence. I started the talking then.
“I think it’s ethical. She trained with them.”
“She did indeed,” he agreed. ” And sources it direct from the growers as well, helping their local economy”.
“And she’s trying to honour the locals here as well, using her bit of Gaeilge.”
“She did. I can’t wait to tell Manannán he’s now a goddess though!” He smirked. “Goddess of the sea, indeed.”
“Well, she’s trying at least and this stuff appeals more to women for some reason. “
“There’s 3 men here besides myself, y’know.”
“Yes, and 17 women to counterbalance them?”
“Fair point. Still, worse things to be doing on a Saturday night, sipping hot chocolate with friends and getting ready to dance.”
I started getting nervous. The Dagda dances like no one I’ve seen, but I’ve always seen him dancing with partners. This was solo ecstatic dance…
“Oh I know that right enough,” he said, giving me an image of himself and Brigid at a wedding, whirling away. “And I much prefer dancing with a partner, although usually not my daughter. Still it was her wedding… And I’ll do well enough here, you’ll see!”
I mean, he’s a deity, I prefer to keep my arguments to the really important stuff. Like exactly how much space he gets in my house.
“Ah sure, I have the small statue now and Brigid loans me some space when I need it.”
Bloody deities, reading our minds when it suits.
“Only when you broadcast your feelings on the matter so widely.”
I started focusing on the upcoming dance, and getting my body in the mood for the movement. We stood beside each other, me easing out my joints, flexing my limbs, getting ready to move; him a bit more solitary.
“It’s not like dance in and of itself is appropriation you know. Nor is trying new food from far off places.” He started.
“No, but we’re talking about the Cacao Goddess and the heart opening that follows.”
“True enough, true enough. Do you believe in the Cacao Goddess?”
“I’m a bit worried she’s a bit like the Irish Potato Goddess!”
He laughed at me, “Oh that’s a good one alright! Well I suppose when three quarters of the country was scrabbling in the ground for any remnant of a spud, while the ships were leaving the ports straining at the seams with food, it might seem like there was a religious element to it, alright.”
The music started and we both started to move. And he is a beautiful sight to behold when he dances. I couldn’t believe no one else noticed, as I plodded alongside him.
“Oh now this is the stuff” he yells as the drums kicked in and the beat got stronger, and it’s at this point the music took over and my body stopped thinking and started moving. I let myself fall into the beat and the rhythm, and just move. It was a joyous and happy movement, pain free for the first time in years, eyes closed, hands and feet tapping out the best and muscles moving in time. My body dripped in sweat, sometimes in time with himself, sometimes away in my own journey. Hair was flung, by both of us!
And as the music faded, he came to sit beside me again.
“Y’see, you need to think of it the other way around. If this was being run on another continent, by a teacher who had trained or learned from Irish people, was supporting Irish people by donating money, or buying authentic Irish goods, herbs, and the like, in their ceremony, would you consider that appropriation?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“Life doesn’t always have to be hard y’know. Sometimes, you can sit back, look at the stars, and just enjoy it.”
And somehow, while the meditation went on around us, we were really sitting on a grassy hill, watching the stars, in a companionable silence.