Tonight, Fionnuala is your nurse
Irish mythology comes from the oral Celtic myths of Central Europe, transcribed into manuscripts during pre-Christian times by the learned people in Ireland and Scotland. One of the best known, the Tuath Dé Dann, recounts the powers and activities of the tribes of the Goddess Danu. Fionnuala is one such tribal sub-goddess who was changed to a swan and cursed by her stepmother, Aoife, to wander the lakes and rivers of Ireland with her brothers for 900 years. She sang songs of peace and healing over the lakes and rivers of Ireland for centuries until the curse was lifted by the marriage of Lairgren and Deoch.
During this pandemic many loved ones must be left to the care of others on nights where there waking is not assured. Here, a departing loved-one is being replaced by a sub-goddess who will care for the sick person in their absence.
by Leanne O’Sullivan
Tonight, Fionnuala is your nurse.
You’ll hear her voice singsong around the ward
lifting a wing at the shore of your darkness.
I heard that, in another life, she too journeyed
through a storm, a kind of curse, with the ocean
rising darkly around her, fierce with cold,
and no resting place, only the frozen
rocks that tore her feet, the light on her shoulders.
And no cure there but to wait it out.
If, while I’m gone, your fever comes down —
if the small, salt-laden shapes of her song
appear to you as a first glimmer of earthlight,
follow the sweet, hopeful voice of that landing.
She will keep you safe beneath her wing.”