This was supposed to be posted on Sunday, but I was too crook.
I like overcast Sundays. I've spent today in the company of Alanis Morissette, The Beautiful South and Caiseal Mor. I also spent some of it dancing with Miele, but that's best forgotten. (Miele is my vacuum cleaner, and I would have provided a link, but "Miele Black Jewel" is apparently a German extreme porno site).
I've decided today to flirt with copyright laws and transcribe a page or two of the book I'm reading that I particularly enjoyed. In the interests of fending off lawsuits I would like to introduce The Well of Yearning by presenting an excerpt of the chapter "Spirits" which begins on page 269. If you haven't read Caiseal Mor before, do not pick this one up first. This trilogy carries on from those previous and the story is worth beginning at, well, the beginning.
What are spirits? That's hard to say. I may never know the absolute answer to that question. But I'm certain they exist. I've sensed them since I was a girl too young to know aught but fascination and fright.
I feel their presence even more now that I'm old and my life may be coming to a close. Spirits are here in this house even as I speak. They're everywhere.
But they're not what you might expect them to be. They're not the same as ghosts. Ghosts are a different breed altogether. Ghosts are nothing compared to spirits.
This was a difficult concept for me to grasp at first. And I'm probably much brighter than you are. So I'll forgive you if you don't latch on immediately. Whisht and listen. I'll keep this as simple as I can.
Consider the cows. Imagine we're all cattle. A good farmer keeps his milkers happy.
He sleeps them in a warm part of the house or in a byre of their own if he's wealthy. Each day he takes them out into the fields where the lushest grass is growing.
A good farmer keeps a watch over his cows to make sure no harm comes to them from wolves or cattle thieves. And when their udders are bulging with milk he relieves the discomfort by draining out every last drop.
In the same way the spirits keep an eye on us. Every day they lead us into the fields of desire or disquiet to feed us up with fear or infatuation. Then at night they make sure we're bedded down all snug and safe. They often bait us with dreams and nightmares while we rest, but they prefer that no real harm come to us.
And, the same as cattle, we're largely unaware our keepers have only the daily milking in mind. For that's why the spirits keep us. They milk us for the soul-light that fires up our existence. That's the purest food of all for them. It's the sweetest nectar.
There are two-tribes of these beings which feed on the light of the soul. One tribe are called the Ailleacht. Then there are those known as the Eagla. The first tribe are Enticers and the second are Frighteners.
The unenlightened among the mortal kind refer to these spirits as angels and daemons. But such simple titles deny the true nature of these feeders. They're neither good nor evil - though they employ tactics that may seem benevolent or malevolent according to their will - they simply are.
It's the nature of Enticers to draw their nourishment from the soul-light kindled by infatuation and the like. They present themselves as beautiful, compassionate, alluring beings. Folk often find them so attractive it's assumed the Enticers must be servants of God. But they're not pure angelic forms. That's just the appearance they take on to inspire awe, obsession, worship and love. Those are the emotions they feed on.
Frighteners, on the other hand, feast on fear, anger, insecurity and apprehension. They rarely present themselves as pretty creatures. They want us to tremble. So they often appear as ugly, threatening, intimidating, uncouth or ghastly. That's how they earned a reputation for being minions of Satan.
But I urge you not to think of them in such simplistic terms. The world is a far more complicated place than it may at first appear. The holiest of saints is as much a slave to these two tribes as the rest of us.
So the Church fathers can't be entirely blamed for creating a doctrine based on fear and enticement. That's how they came to believe that Hell is a place of torment and Heaven a realm of eternal pleasures. Which is only part of the story. Such men of the cloth are merely dancing to a tune played for them by the feeding spirits.
Whenever you or I react to the Enticers or the Frighteners, whether it be with admiration or awe, deference or dread, they feast on those feelings and build up their strength. And let's make one thing perfectly clear: the Enticers are no better than their brethren the Frighteners.
The strongest and the oldest of these spirits are the most influential. They may steal the reins of the soul entirely. Then they'll set it off galloping wildly across ethereal fields of beauty or terror till you drop dead from exhaustion. Or until you meet some other murderous misadventure. Or you simply wear out.
Even a well-fed spirit is always looking to the next meal, arranging enticements or rousing fears. It's in their nature to do so. They may turn our lives to their whim if we allow it.
And there's no use denying it, most folks let them do just that. Spirits are ever leading us back and forth between the sweet grass that grows in the Fields of Enticement and the dark shadows that harbour horror in the Forests of Terror.
Now here's the interesting part. This is a great secret known to only a few. The spirits don't like this information spread about too freely. So you'll forgive me if I drop my voice to a whisper.
Each of us has our own personal Enticer and our own private Frightener. Generally they're not very forceful or greedy. They don't like to draw attention to themselves. So most folk never come to any awareness of them at all.
Many everyday objects are also inhabited by them. A spirit that takes up residence in a stone or tree has little opportunity to feed. So they tend to be more desperate and demanding than others of their kind.
Harps are most often inhabited by Enticers. I'm sure you'll agree that such instruments are the perfect abode for a being which feeds off feelings of admiration and appreciation. Harps are almost always given a name. That's done to acknowledge the spirit dwelling within.
For obvious reasons swords are more likely to be the abode of a Frightener. Weapons, too, may attain a name in acknowledgement of the terrifying teeth-chattering trouble they cause. But occasionally an ancient bored spirit sets itself a challenge and takes up residence in an object which at first seems contrary to its desires. A harp that holds a fear spirit can rouse folk to war with no more than a few notes from its droning bass. Such instruments attain a fame and fearsome reputation unparalleled among their kind.
And what of a sword which has an Enticer within? Such blades are revered far and near and coveted like no others.
The old angel on one shoulder, devil on the other conundrum. Good versus evil, but with a bit of Celtic mysticism thrown into the mix. I have to say that I have always liked the idea that spirits with varying agendas inhabit objects that may be in every day use. How else do I manage to tape so many programs incorrectly when I set the VCR. The habit of proving a name, gender and personality to your car may not be as innocent as you suppose.
I suppose one of the greatest benefits of this viewpoint is the ability to blame otherworldly, or at least external influences for the areas in your life which do not go according to plan. Many people would tell you to grow up.
I suggest listening more closely.