This trip has been growing for years. There are things to be done and songs to be sung that have to happen in Ireland, England and Scotland. I don’t expect to get to all of them this time, but there are a few biggies that absolutely have to happen. There are three of my songs in particular that have to be sung this time. The first one is The Pangs of Macha.
Back in college, I took a Celtic literature course. It was the most important course I ever took. My instructor let me write a song for my final project, based on one of the pieces we read. I chose one of the pre-tales from Kinsella’s translation of the Tain. He included a selection of stories that an Irish person of the time would have known, and which made the tale more intelligible to people of our time. It explained the reason why Cuchulain was facing Medb’s army alone.
I chose it for a variety of reasons. First, before that class, I hadn’t known who Macha was, beyond a vague awareness that she was a goddess. I’d known of the Cu since childhood. I felt her story needed to be told. I also knew what it felt like to be wronged by the men of Ulster, a story best forgotten now. I also was struck by the fact that of all the provinces of Ireland, Ulster was the one that was still not free, torn by violence. It was as if Macha’s curse was still operating, her lessons not yet learned. So I told that story, fully, leaving nothing out, adding nothing, from the only version I had that I felt was trustworthy.
I knew when I wrote it that someday I would sing it at Emain Macha. So I need to go to Navan Fort in Armagh (Ard Macha?) and do so.