The Half-Green's Wooing of AifeThis is a tale that I wrote in the vein of the Irish Mythological Cycle, a series of tales about the heroes, goddesses, and godlings of the Boyne River Valley, sacred to the Cattle goddess Boand.
Earrach Lethan-glas, which is to say 'Spring Half-green,' was conceived on the first day of Imbolc, grew throughout an Marta and an tAibrean, and was born on the first of Beltaine with a leap and a shout. The In Mac Og was his father, and his mother a princess if the Fir Bolg. That his time in the womb was while the world turned from winter to summer, this is his naming.
Upon his birthing, the Half-green girt and armed himself, and sought a wife. He searched for seven weeks, and on midsummer he saw Aife, daughter of Bodb, king of the Sid of Munster, brother to the father of the Half-green. For five weeks the Half-green sat on the Sid of Bodb waiting for Aife. Then he slept five days, awoke, and went to the spring where Aife was wont to bathe; this was the first of Lugnasad.
When the half-green heard Aife's footsteps, he lay beside the spring and covered himself with his brat, a cloak green like leaves. Aife came and sat beside him.
Aife spoke: "I know that beneath the grass lies brown earth, but it is strange that beneath this greenness are only two dun feet."
The Half-green wriggled his toes and said "yet each foot contains five roots, and with these roots this Greenness can encompass the world."
Aife replied, "Yet this greenness is not full, for I see that its roof is thatched with brown," and with this she tugged on a lock of the Half-green's hair.
The Half-green sat up and answered, "So it is, and so am I, Earrach Half-green."
Aife smiled. "And I am Aife, which is to say Reflection, though I see that you are the one reflecting on my riddles."
The Half-green said, "I would gaze on this reflection every day."
And Aife replied, "This reflection is not for every man to see."
The Half green said, "I would make this sight mine."
And Aife replied, "Such a sight is not easily earned."
Then the Half-green shouted, "Then I shall earn this!"
And Aife whispered, "Then the prize shall reflect your deeds. Three tasks I set, and I lay three geassa on you. You must cross into all of Eriu, but you may not do it by night or day. You must prepare a feast for my maidens and me, and it shall be of swine not born into this world or the other, fed from neither this earth nor the other. And you must also prepare a feast for my father and his warriors, and it must sate them all, and it must be of one cow." The Aife arose and left.
The Half-green sat and thought while the days lengthened and the nights grew cold. Then with a shout and a leap, he bounded from the Sid of Munster to Uisnech in Meath. There abode the Half-green until the eve of Samhain. Then, as the sun began to set and the world was cast into twilight, he leaped to the top of the five-ridged pillar-stone of Uisnech, the stone of division where the Sons of Mil had held converse with the Queens of Tuatha De Danaan, the Stone which is the navel of all Eriu. As Lug's golden orb slowly sank, he danced from ridge to ridge of the pillar stone, and each ridge was in a different province of Eriu. And he dismounted as the sun finished setting.
The Half-green then said, "I have crossed into all of Eriu, and I have done it by neither day or night."
Winter came and the Half-green slept.
On the first day of Imbolc the Half-green awoke and said, "I am a year old today, and I must see to my second task." He gained of his father fifty cattle and a pregnant sow, and he set his hands to working. Of the cattle he slew all but one Cow, and stitched together their skins beneath on oak tree, which he then fenced with hazel branches. Next he took the sow, and shortly before she was to birth he cut the piglets from her. He fed the piglets by shaking the oak mast so that acorns fell onto the skins. He then said, "now you have not been born, and the skins make certain that you eat not of the earth, which you shall not touch. But you are still too few, and have yet my third task before me."
The Half-green sat and thought throughout the Spring, rising only to shake the mast to feed the swine.
On the first of Beltaine the Half-green arose with a shout and a leap, and went to see his grandfather, the Dagda. And the Half-green learned of his grandfather the trick which the Dagda had used to beget the Mac Og on Boand, the Dagda's paramour. The trick was this: the Dagda desired Boand, the wife of another. So, the Dagda set for Boand's husband a task for one day, and the Dagda made the nine months of Boand's pregnancy seem as one day to the husband, and the husband was never the wiser. And this is the naming of the Mac Og, for when he was born Boand called him In mac Og, which is to say, "the Young Son," for he was born and conceived in the same day. This then was the trick which the Dagda taught the Half-green, the same trick the Dagda used to beget the Half-green's father.
The Half-green took the Dagda's trick of one day in nine months, and turned it, so that he made each day seem as nine months. He then took a bull of his father, and got the cow so that it was pregnant. he than did his trick of nine months in one day, and the cow bore what was to be a bull. Then the Half-green did his trick again so that the offspring of the cow and of the sow begat more offspring; he was always to the cutting of the piglets and the shaking of the mast. This he did from Beltaine to Midsummer, and Midsummer to Lugnasad.
On Lugnasad the Half-green made of the kine of one cow and the swine of one sow a feast, and with a leap and a shout he carried the feast to the Sid of Munster, where he waited for Aife.
When Aife came forth, the Half-green said, "I would have this prize which reflects the deeds I have done." Then he showed her the feast, and told her of his dance on the navel of Eriu on the eve of Samhain.
Then Aife said, 'You have done my three tasks, and you have not broken the geassa I laid on you. But were I to be your bride, then I must needs have a suitable steed upon which to ride. You must get for me such a steed, and it shall be neither horse nor ox, and it must be like no steed in this world or the other."
Then the Half-green sat and thought, and he replied, 'A beast of burden, were it kindly treated, would make for you a fine mount. You have heaped great burdens on me, and I would have you treat me more kindly, and I shall be your mount. And I am like no mount, in this world or the other, for none else shall ride me."
And then they were married, and the feast was the Half-green's feast, and this is the story of the Half-green's wooing of Aife.
NOTES FOR The Half-green's Wooing of
copyright 19 December 1986, by Earle B. 'Glas' Durboraw, aka Tighearna Glas de Carraig