This is a special post for me. I’m reflecting on the first of what I expect to be many more contributions from ecoliterate creatives I am getting to know in my new Haumea online ecoliteracy course. I now have the good fortune to meet such talented creatives from all art disciplines and from across the world, in my efforts to bring ecoliteracy to the arts. Their work has nourished me in these challenging times.
I’d like to share this new work below from Irish writer, medieval scholar Fearghal Duffy who has a deep interest in Irish myth and who was a participant in my first 6-week ‘Haumea Ecoliteracy for Creatives and Art Educators’ pilot online course.
This new work from Fearghal came about as I invited my first cohort of participants to present a small work for our last online Zoom group meeting, to reflect on the ecoliteracy course material, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Haumea Day (Haumea is the name for the Earth Goddess of the Pacific that I use for my work, and our last meeting was on this special day). I gave little direction to what people could present but I was witness to an astonishing array of thoughtful, profound and moving work for these uncertain times.
Fearghal gifted this work to us and to share to others. He drew on the people in our fantastically creative group–dancers, makers, a sculptor, painters, a philosopher, writers, a graphic artist, a broadcaster, artists and art teachers–many of who were Irish or who have connections to Ireland.
Fearghal mixed a spell to recast us as mythic cultural warriors and presented Haumea in one of her Irish mythic guises as the Morrigán. This essay powerfully captures the spirit of what might happen if the arts were supported to rise up for Earth, for Haumea. Oh, my!
Thank you so much Fearghal for this essay, this timely provocation to the arts and those that support them. This new myth of Moytura is everything I could envision for the arts in Ireland and across the Earth, to embody and inspire ‘the wisdom, love and beauty’ we will need for a renewed and regenerating culture for the Earth’s and our wellbeing.
Because, in this frightening pandemic pause, we will need inspiring and wise creativity to pivot toward a more just, more beautiful and life-sustaining way of living as never before, for The Symbiocene era as I have written of previously. Also, and I’m delighted to share that my artist friend and tech-business mentor Mary Carty, who has long supported my Haumea work, supplied the wonderful illustrations. The references to ‘Wisdom, Love and Beauty’ are from my collaborator eco-philosopher friend, Dr Nikos Patedakis who has co-hosted my course meetings and so much more.
The Battle for the Soul of Ireland
by Fearghal Duffy
presented to the first online Haumea Ecoliteracy group, Earth Day 22 April 2020
Once upon a time, a great battle, the battle of Moytura was fought between the ancients of Ireland, the Túatha Dé (The Tribe of the Gods) and The Fomorians.
These two groups could not have been more different.
The Túatha Dé spent their time seeking wisdom, developing poetic insight, learning lore and practicing mysticism. Their artistic endeavours harmonized them to the natural world, so much so that they often became transparent to the places they inhabited, rendering them virtually invisible when encountered in a forest, on a mountain, or in a wetland.
The Fomorians were their complete antithesis. They had assumed a grotesque and horrific appearance, an ugliness that had shaped them over time, roughhewn by their avarice and insensitivity to nature. They treated nature with contempt. They treated the arts with contempt. They had no heed in wisdom, love and beauty. They were utterly hostile to them all.
The Fomorians, through subterfuge and deceit, had seized control of Ireland from the Túatha Dé. During their reign they abolished the arts. They undermined culture. “No value, useless”, they mocked. They debased artists, poets, and philosophers, subjecting them to menial tasks. They deracinated ancient forests. They dammed rivers. They contaminated lakes. They emptied the sea of its fish. They mined out mountains and plundered the deep earth. They despoiled and denuded entire landscapes, turning them into industrialized wastelands. Black smoke and filthy ash enshrouded the earth. Soon enough, birdsong was no longer heard, bees were no longer buzzing, flowers were no longer pollinated, stags were no longer bellowing from their wild places, the howling of wolves were no longer heard, forests no longer poured forth their fruits. The earth had ceased to sing its song during their reign. Despite the commercial wealth, it was an impoverished world. It was a dejected world, a world weighed down with solastalgia. And for reasons no one could fathom, the people who had been inveigled and enslaved by the Fomorians had themselves become like Fomorians. They developed Fomorian dispositions. They no longer loved nature, no longer loved wisdom, love and beauty. Their only concern was consuming; consuming, consuming, consuming.
But the Túatha Dé regrouped and decided something had to be done. They assembled the aés dana, the people of arts, their artists, poets, and philosophers. They endeavoured to work together, to collaborate by drawing upon their respective ancient tradition, their learning and wisdom, and to reinvent it, to reimagine it, to find new ways of speaking to and for nature, to first, revitalise themselves, then to revitalise nature, and then the hearts and minds of those enslaved, to break the Fomorian spell that had been cast over them.
And so, through their arts, by connecting with the imbas forosna, the great wisdom that illuminates, the Túatha Dé invoked nature. By so doing, they invoked their own true nature, their own deep nature. They entered into mystical states of being; gaining renewed otherworldly vision and perception. And so began the process of revivifying the spirit of nature. They recited earth healing poetry and myths. They sang earth healing songs. They danced earth healing dances. And soon enough, the earth itself joined in with all their creative energies and the rivers burst free of their dams, lakes detoxed, wild flowers sprang forth in cacophonies of colour, native broad leaf trees erupted earnestly from the earth, sonorous birds sang symphonically from their branches.
And as nature healed, the Túatha Dé grew stronger in courage and conviction. They were ready for battle with the Fomorians. Nature rowed in behind the Túatha Dé. The sun scorched the Fomorians. Rivers and lakes withdrew their healing waters from the Fomorians. Healing herbs disguised themselves from the Fomorians. The mountains hurled boulders down on their armies. The winds and rains assailed them. Before long, the Fomorian army has been all but defeated.
But the inevitable climax of the battle came down to being between the two champions of each tribe. For the Túatha Dé it was Lug Samildanach (i.e. Lug, he is who is skilled in many arts). For the Fomorians, it was Balor Súil Míldagach, Balor of the Evil Eye, Balor of the Poisonous Eye, Balor of the Economic Eye, Balor of the Ecocidal Eye. Balor’s eyelid was so large that it took four strong warriors to raise it open. Whatever Balor’s eye gazed upon became diminished and destroyed. A large forest could be razed in seconds by a more glimpse of Balor’s Ecocidal Eye.
But Lug, being skilled in many arts, meditated deeply, set his intentions; so that when it came time to do battle he was in such a deep transcendent state, that he bedazzled his foe with his radiating light. And when his evil eye was raised, Lug seized his sling and stone, and drove the ecocidal eye out through the back of Balor’s head. Its withering gaze fell upon the last of the Fomorian army, and destroyed them.
Nature healed. Culture healed. These two realms that had been separated overcame the distinctions between them so that, once again, to be living in Ireland was to be living in nature’s dream of itself.
But, lest it be forgotten that an eye and a mind can turn destructive, can turn poisonous, can turn ecocidal, can reduce everything in its sight and thought to a commodity, the Morrigán, the Great Queen, an Earth Mother, uttered a prophetic warning. She augured to the royal heights of Ireland, to its rivers and lakes, and its inhabitants, both human and more-than-human, that a time would return when the Fomorian disposition prevailed:
The Morrigán’s Prophecy
I shall not see a world that will be dear to me,
summer pastures will be without wild flowers and herbs,
cows will be without native grasses,
men without vision,
women without influence,
there will be conquests without kings,
knowing no borders,
sombre woods without mast,
forests without flora,
terrains without fauna,
seas without fish.
Armies fight storms,
many habitations abandoned,
their dwellings empty,
lakes, rivers, estuaries forsaken,
high hills will be refuge,
oceans will flood over many realms,
welcome to catastrophe!
laments for the arts and culture,
Withering in guilt,
Shrivelling with grief,
Many crimes against earth
Wars against nature,
Betrayal by legislators
A shroud of sorrows,
Lying maxims of authorities,
Every man a deceiver
Every youth corrupted
The son will follow his father’s lead
The father will lead his son astray,
No longer following nature’s way.
Evil is the time
When children dishonour their mother Earth.
The Morrigán then exhorted the multitudes to honour the earth,
that by doing so, they would honour themselves.
By exalting the earth, they would exalt themselves.
By caring for the earth, they would care for themselves.
By being true to the Earth, they would be true to their true selves.
Fearghal read the story again via zoom on Samhain 2020 (he begins reading the story at 1:40).
See more of Fearghal’s writing here.
PS – If you work in the arts, if you love and value the arts even more so now for these urgent times, please feel free to share! And if you are interested in my course, workshops, mentoring or cultural policy writing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Haumea_learn_ecoart on Instagram.