This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Please note, the below story is fiction, based on myths in Ireland about Brigid being present at the birth of Christ and, indeed, serving as his foster mother (which in Ireland was a much bigger deal back in the Iron Age, and even later, than it currently is). This is not fact, not even generally accepted, but a story to show Brigid, her Da and a few other important figures at a time of change.
“You don’t have to come with me.”
“It’s been a while since I was over that way.”
“I am a grown woman y’know, well capable of looking after myself.”
“A bit of company on the journey will make it all the shorter.”
“That’s what I was hoping, but having me Da along will cramp my style a bit, don’t yeh think?”
“Ah sure I wouldn’t know anything about that…”
“Sure yeh wouldn’t… and I suppose it was always cold and lonely yeh slept the last time yeh went on walkabout?”
“That’d be my own business.”
“Hmph. You’re not coming.”
“It’s a free country, be the gods, and you can’t stop me.”
“Da, I’m a woman grown, I don’t need my da looking after me.”
“Sure it’s been a while since I had a decent stretch of the legs.”
“Since when is 5,000 miles a decent stretch of the legs?”
“Well, I suppose we could call it a stroll, but that seems a bit overly modest, like.”
“It’s me they need y’know. It’s woman’s things…”
“And I suppose I know nothing about it?”
“If you come out with the same-as-a-mare-birthing speech again…”
“No, no, but there are similarities y’know.”
“Will yeh not be needed here though? I mean the place is in a bit of a mess.”
“The others can manage it. They’ve done so before.”
“Just the two of us is it?”
“Well that depends on how lucky we get on the road.”
“Have yeh got everything?”
“Of course I’ve bloody well got everything!”
“Just checking, you remember the time-”
“Yeh’ll never let me forget it yeh auld goat, will yeh, it was my first trip out.”
“Still, no harm in checking.”
“I suppose if you’re coming along, there’s a few more things I can bring along. Wait a mo.”
She disappeared into the cabin, reappearing in seconds with a nice big pack, bursting at the seams.
“Don’t come, Da, was it. I don’t need yeh, Da, was it.”
“There was no point telling yeh it was my idea, was it? Come on, daylight’s wasting.”
The pair of the set off, leaving the cabin safe and secure behind them.
“Did you remember any bit of a snack to keep me going, darlin?”
“Left pocket, Da.”
A bit later on: “Da. the distance between Ireland and the big land seems to have gotten a lot shorter.”
“I’d say the distance is the same as it always was, now.“
“Have you completely reversed the tides for the last few hours then?”
“Ah no, just asked an gealach for a bit of a helping hand, like…”
“Da, we’re really not meant to be doing that – look at the poor fish!”
“Fair point, don’t worry, I’ll send them back once we’re over.”
“You could’ve just let me help, you know”
“My poor baby girl? I couldn’t be doing that now”
A bigger bit later on: “Da seriously – someone is going to notice the bloody mountain just moved half a continent away!”
“You’d be surprised what people don’t notice… and sure I put it back, didn’t I?”
“I’m telling Aengus when we get home. No cheating, kids, a job worth doing is a job worth doing right.”
“Well and it is worth doing right – I didn’t do it wrong, did I? Time’s awasting, pet and we need to be getting on really.”
“I wasn’t the one who spent 3 weeks in that last camp.”
“I didn’t notice you leaving”
“You hid the bloody packs on me!”
“You do know you’re a deity, pet, don’t you? I mean technically, you don’t need the packs.”
“I’m starting to see why Ma insisted you come with me – she needs the break!”
“I love you too, pet. Now look, yer Ma was clear – arriving too early is as bad as arriving too late. That poor cratur is going to need help so we have to be accidentally sharing the bloody stable with them. I mean a stable? I get the whole humble origins myth making, we have a few ourselves, but a bloody stable? The poor woman deserves better than that. We need to have a word with the man in charge of this.”
“You can have a word after I get that child safely birthed and the mother happy and well. You know what he’s like Da, there’s no reasoning with him on some of this stuff.”
“I know, I know – sure aren’t you lucky your head of pantheon is so reasonable and affable like…”
“I don’t think anyone’s ever described Ma as affable, Da.”
“Bloody brats, don’t know why I bother”
He elbows her in the side.
“Race you to that next mountain – go!”
“Hey, no fair, you cheated, Da!”
Nearing the end of the journey now: “Da you are not going into that town looking like that.”
“I don’t remember you being this fussy as a youngster?”
“I grew up. Look compared to home, the water will be nice and warm really. Just strip and get in, I’ve got clean clothes for you.”
“Who’s the bloody parent here and who’s the child??”
“You and me. Or possibly the other way round – just bloody wash yourself, would you?”
“Bloody kids, once they reach your shoulder, they think they can order you about….”
Nearly there: “Now look Da, there’s no need for a hullaballoo going in the gates. Do your ‘I know no Latin’ impression”.
“They don’t need to think we’re a bunch of ill educated louts, pet.”
“I know, I know, but we’re here incognito, remember?”
“All right, all right. So instead of a nice polite Im homini negotiatori, we’ll try the old negotiator, negototiator chant?”
“That’s it Da.”
“This is how those rumours of our countrymen being incapable of education start, y’know.”
“No, Da, that’ll be the millenium of others doing their damndest not to educate us. Now come on, your best effort on a non-Latin speaking, yet wealthy enough trader please?”
So close I can almost taste it: “Is this it?”
“I dunno, there’s at least one pregnant woman in there. Look at it, they’ve not even had the sense to put the straw into a mattress for her!”
“Easy now, pet, sure they’re wealthy, don’t forget, this is the worst hardship they’ve known…”
“Still, it’s the man’s wife, could he not make an effort?”
“His wife who he knows damn well isn’t pregnant by him.”
“Fair point, I suppose. OK you’re going to be all earthy midwife then – ow!”
“Serves you right, you auld goat. Right, I’m going in to sort out some bedding at least, you make sure those bloody wise men turn up on time will you?”
“What about the cowherds?”
“Shepherds. They’ll be grand, all they have to do is follow the sheep.”
“Fair enough. Need a hand?”
“I might later on with the husband, but for now, I’ll be grand.”
The stable smelled about as fragrant as any stable, although there had been goats in there at some point. The lady was sitting on a pile of straw, looking miserable and in pain. Her husband was not quite wringing his hands, but he looked close. Sure what could you do? I poked my head round the door, let out as merry a “Bhur ndéithe daoibh” as I could, and bustled in. They looked confused ,obviously, but it was unlikely they’d heard the Irish before I suppose.
The stables were big and airy – well built really, even Da wouldn’t have too many problems with them – but stables they were. Piles of straw for the animals, a tackroom over in the corner (room might be overstating the case there, but it was sectioned off), upper floor for more storage. Now this lot didn’t have any of the usual travel amenities to help them along. They hadn’t planned on staying this long of course, aiming instead to have been home at this point. But it was too late now. I could tell by looking at her, the child was coming along soon. Slight problem there since it was barely daybreak, and the shepherds wouldn’t be along til there stars were out. Still, maybe Da could do something about that.
Now look, it was Aramaic these people spoke, but seriously, translating and writing in that language after all this time would take me too long, so just trust me on it alright? I had a few words of it, and enough Greek to back it up, so we muddle along. This isn’t a precise rendition, more of an overview, anyway.
Not wanting to butt in too early, I prepped up our sleeping arrangements and made sure Da’s midnight snack was handy. The woman was staring at me as if she’d never seen a bed made before. Alright, I might have made one slightly fancier than usual to make a point, but still. Anyway, even in her pain, she knew my version of sleeping arrangements would be far more comfortable than hers. Her husband, being a devout man, was reluctant to talk to me, but she was less shy. She called over, I went over to their side and we had a bit of a chat.
Now a woman in labour is not a woman to be pulling and prodding at straw, shaping it and placing it, so I did most of the work, but by the end of it, we were close enough that I could make a few enquiries as to how things were going. Her first child, her midwife at home (wasn’t allowed travel with them for some reason), her husband not even having Da’s experience with mares (just don’t get me started) – sure the poor thing was terrified about it all. Added on to that, the pressure of needing a live birth because she was delivering the Saviour of the World… well you can imagine the state she was in. I always thought if the child was that important, that particular Deity could have managed a bit more help and comfort for the poor woman, but Da reckons we were enough. Some people make things harder on themselves for no good reason. “No direct influence” indeed. What good is free will when people are dying?
Must remember we are not puppet masters and our people deserve to make their own mistakes. Doesn’t mean I can’t drop a few warnings every now and again though…..
Anyway, back to the woman in question. Well, I was just about to figure out how to ask how she was doing in broken Greek, when Da popped his head round the door to get the husband out of there. I looked a bit surprised since the baby wasn’t due til starlight, but he was muttering to himself and indicated that things might be moving a bit quicker than expected. Or maybe, perhaps, the stories we knew were coming to our people weren’t 100% accurate….
Either way, I looked at the woman who was moaning quietly away to herself, probably trying not to make a fuss, but definitely starting to feel the labour pangs. Someone messed up somewhere with the distribution of pain in childbirth, but I had been hoping the birth would be as easy as it could be. I mean, if you were in charge of bringing your son into the world, wouldn’t you try to make it as easy as possible on the woman who was going to be rearing him? Obviously, that particular Deity and I have different views on these things.
Now, the birth was straightforward I suppose – the babe was in the right position, no cords round his neck, etc, etc, etc, but the poor woman suffered something awful with the pain she went through. I used any of the herbs I had that I thought might help, but they were older than I’d like and I didn’t know enough to be able to send Da out to get some local ones. Plus, by the sounds of it, he had the husband chopping wood and it wasn’t going too well. Now, I had thought he was a carpenter, but he’d obviously not been involved at this stage of the process before…
Still, the babe was alive and healthy, the mother was also alive and healthy, and recovering nicely, so that it was about sunset when I was able to let the husband and Da back in. Da had his hand on the poor man’s back – I was sure if he was holding him up, or propelling him forwards, but the man was moving like he was in a trance towards the woman on the bed, nearly tripping over the haybox I’d put the child in for the minute.
Da made all the usual noises over the child (isn’t he the spitting image of you, fine healthy lungs, etc) before muttering something about more visitors arriving.
The first lot weren’t too bad. The night was cold alright and a few sheep are as good as any blanket or hot water bottle once you persuade them to lie down where you want them. The shepherds had brought gifts of food and firewood, bless them, cos really, there’s only so long you can keep a fire going without adding anything to it before people start noticing. Even brand new parents would cop there’s something going on there. Between the sheep and the food, it was a bit of a feast we had going then. I even brought some out to Da, who I found rummaging through the packs – destroying my system he was, but you know Da. He got most of it back where it should have been. Eventually.
The next lot weren’t as useful in my opinion. Da reckons they were the propaganda people, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been useful as well. I’ve heard he claims 12, but all I remember is a crowd of them anyway, all done up in fancy gear and arguing between themselves. They could have been some of our own folk debating a prophecy really. Not a decent gift between them though. I mean, these are first time parents, you’d think a bit of cash towards this and that would’ve been sensible, but they were so concerned with the Saviour of the World bit, they forgot about the newborn baby with first time mother bit. Honestly. I don’t think any of them were married. Still, gold is always welcome and Da’s bits of frankincense and myrrh were useful as well – even if they sold it for more gold, it would come in handy.
I have to admit, they didn’t look too impressed with the new baby. I mean he was lying there, snoozing away to himself, looking as cute as all newborns do (well, otherwise, they’d never survive if they didn’t look so cute!) and all they could do was mutter to themselves and point at me and the mother as if trying to figure out who was who. Well the breastfeeding sorted that out. Shocked them a bit, mind, but they deserved it really. Eventually, I had to get Da in to shoo them out again cos the father had fallen in love by this point and would put up with anyone as long as they weren’t interrupting his oogling of his baby. (Oh the child was his now, alright, never mind any discrepancies of timings)
The major problem with prophecies, as far as I can see it, is that once they’re made, anyone can get hold of them. So when the ruler over there, Herod I think it was, got wind of the fact that someone important was born and of course, those bloody Important Visitors were too important to get away without having to pay him a visit. To their credit, I suppose, they did their best to mislead him, but it was still time to get this little family away from that place, or indeed any place where that man had power.
Seeing as how I was meant to be a simple midwife and not knowing much about the world, I couldn’t just say something, but Da had a word with Someone and the next thing is, Joseph’s had a dream to get out. Well that was handy now, wasn’t it?
Da had to head home at that point. (He doesn’t like to admit it but ever since that business with Cermait and the club he doesn’t like being away from home too long). But I could hang around for a while longer and frankly, they were going to need the help. The whole issue of heading for Egypt and not for home took a while to sort out, but eventually, the father was persuaded it might be an idea to lay low while the massacre of the innocents was underway. (Look it up, we didn’t hang around, so I can’t vouch for the veracity of any of the stories, but the rumours were horrible. His own sons, even!)
I waved goodbye to Da as he hit off for home and the rest of us turned towards Egypt. I’m still not 100% sure why we chose Egypt, but it was reasonably close. I think they might have had family there or something.
But the soldiers were close after us (I mean they took their time at the start, we had time to stop off at the temple in some town or other to get the birth rites seen to – actually, I wonder if that’s why Da left us in the stable?) But there were times in Egypt when it got a bit close for anyone’s liking.
Now I will say now, I never did anything as daft as wander about with a crown of candles on my head. I’m not vain, but if there was ever a recipe for losing your hair…
I did intercede with the spider though. Lovely thing, very obliging, whipped us up a grand web in no time – and over a fairly hefty cave mouth as well. As for the legend of the mother with the date palm and the well – I’m my father’s daughter, alright. Asking the water to flow a bit differently for a few days wasn’t a massive deal. Not that little trickle. And in that dry place, a trickle goes a long way.
In the end though, it was mainly exhausting. We had to mostly do things without my help since the local folk look to different power sources than we do at home. I got very good at cleaning the child’s backside on the run though. Even the most unexposed soldier can tell a baby’s output smell…
We got word from someone (don’t ask me who, the familial connections would rival an Irishperson’s for complications and 3rd cousins twice removed etc and in a foreign language, sure I could hardly follow at all), anyway, we heard that the old king was dead. Painfully, it must be said and I can’t say I was overly sorry to hear it. Now it still wasn’t exactly safe, what with all the upheaval and hassle that comes with a change in rulership, but certainly, there didn’t seem to be anyone specifically after the child any more. Plus, they needed to settle down and raise him now, not be gadding about over half the Middle East. Not that it was called that then, being part of that wonderful Roman Empire.
I was sad seeing them go – sure didn’t we know even then the man wouldn’t live to see his grandkids. Still, he’d have a good life for a few decades before the burden of saving the world started weighing on him. He was a gorgeous child though – I mean, they all are, but even so. You spend long enough looking at a baby in the hours before dawn and you’ll fall in love too.
The journey home was fierce long though. Don’t tell him I said it, but Da does know how to make time pass and miles pass. Even if it does involve jumping half a continent to move things along. When I arrived home, the fire was going in my little house, the hearth not the forge, and there was bread and cheese laid out. There are some advantages to having not-quite-human parents.
I still gave out to them about going through my stuff behind my back though.