'From lands afar they did travel for the 'Come hither' was upon them and that is a call that can only be ignored at ones peril. Carried upon the very winds in a sky ship they they came. Across the ninth wave until their feet did at last alight upon the isle of Erin.
The Priestess. The Knight. The Wolf.
There in the lands of the Tuatha de Dannan they did meet with The Bard, for into his keeping had the vessel been entrusted, and from there, the labors of the party would begin.
Then came the time of marking, for the Call of the Good God lay heavy upon The Bard and time once again came for the The Dagda's mark to be carried.'
Sounds kind of epic when written that way right? Sure that's just story craft though. The truth is, well, tattoos hurt and are permanent. Whats more choosing to display a publicly visible mark such as this is a big deal for me. Do you want to know Why?
Let me break down this doodle I made one day in my call centre office job days at eBay. Hopefully I might give you some insights on my perspective. With many of our ancient tales, I often look for the 'why' behind the thing, no less so when designing this image to be marked in blood and ink upon my skin.
“From Muirias was brought the cauldron of The Dagda; no company would go from it unsatisfied.”
(source: Lebor Gabála Érenn, Macalister,Vol. 4, p. 107, 145,169)
To me this represented hospitality, of openly giving to one and all what you can. Yet more that just an unending pot of food, hospitality is also about safe space, protection, rest. In ancient Ireland there was a person known as a Briugu. It was a title that not many could achieve and hold because it involved a lot of requirements upon the individual, one of the main ones being an obligation to offer hospitality to everyone. Never refusing a person food ,drink, comfort and protection.
This was a big task in a time of hunter gathering, early farming, and rival chieftains. In the hall of the Briugu, everyone found food in proportion equal to their merit, yet no one went without.
Here there was safety assured for all for, though not a King, the Briugu could command a 'kings price' and any transgression could cost a person 'Royally'.
The cauldron would be central on a hearth. The Hearth, a place of warmth and light. The hearth, a seat of fire and we all know what folk have always been like when sitting round a fire. It’s offering that companionship that sharing space, listening and telling stories, even giving council where needed. It’s service.
‘From which no company went unsatisfied’
Satisfaction for me, is not just a full stomach. Maybe this is the 'why' of the Dagda's Cauldron.
“The great staff that you see,” said one, “a gentle end here and a violent end. One end kills the living, and the other end restores to life the dead.”
(Source: “How the Dagda Got His Magic Staff.” Bergin, O,. (1927) )
One end restores life, the other end takes it.
In this story, Dagda finds a way to overcome death to restore life to his son, a power which he had not previously possessed. He took this power from three brothers by an act of murder. It was only when his restored son calls him out on it that he restores the three brothers to life. He then gives assurances that he will return the club and binds himself with a oath, not only about the return, but also about the use of the club.
He guarantees his loan by his powers over ‘Sun and moon, land and sea (pretty much the whole world right?) And secures himself by his word in the ‘Right’ use of the power ‘provided that I slay my foes with it and bring my friends to life.’
In this the Dagda takes power over life and death...but more so takes on the burden of responsibility that comes with such power. The club on my skin reminds me of Responsibility for my power. To ensure 'Right' use of that which is given me and to consciously carry the weight of my actions and inaction. All power can be used in many ways, the club reminds me to be balanced. If I can heal, I can also harm. I am responsible for my impact, regardless of my intent. The club reminds me to accept my power and the ability it brings, but also to not neglect the responsibility I hold because of it.
Not just a chunk of magic wood after all huh?
Come summer, Come winter!
Mouths of harps and bags and pipes!
Now that harp had two names, Daur-da-bla "Oak of two greens" and Coir-cethar-chuir "Four-angled music." '
(Source: Ancient Irish Tales. ed. and trans. by Tom P. Cross & Clark Harris Slover. NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1936)
The harp is a tool the Dagda uses to set the seasons in their right place and ensure they turn as they are supposed to.
In the tales he uses it to play the 3 strain of the Harper’s expertise in recovering it from its theft by the Fomorians. The wailing strain - made everyone weep. The smiling strain - made everyone laugh and sing. The sleeping strain - made everyone fall into a deep restful slumber.
For me the harp represents both Order and emotional well being.
This tool sets seasons turning, not rapid change or alteration, but the slow and steady progression of the cycle of death and rebirth upon which the world is based.
When Bres tries to retain his life after the Battle of Moytura (‘Part II - the Rebellion’) he offers that the people of 'Ireland shall reap a harvest in every quarter of the year'.
The proper order is explained by Lugh's Lawer: 'the spring for ploughing and sowing, and the beginning of summer for the end of the strength of corn, and the beginning of autumn for the end of the ripeness of corn and for reaping it. Winter for consuming it.'
If we don’t sow, we don’t reap. If we don’t rest then we can’t sow. The harp reminds me that there is a natural Order, and no one is above that.
As for the emotion side...the three strains. Well that’s the source of one of my catch phrases:
‘Gotta feel your feelings. Thems Dagda Rules!’
Every emotion is valid. Every emotion is an expression of self.
For this I look to the language of Ireland.
‘Tá Bron orm’ translates poorly as I am sad. What it literally means is ‘The Sadness is upon me’.
Orm - upon me. It’s not a definitive eg. I am.
Orm (upon me) expresses a temporary or transient state for the emotion. The sadness may be upon me...but I’m still Me and not defined solely by my emotional state.
Tá fearg orm - the anger is upon me, means that I can be angry, but not defined by my anger.
This is the important lesson of the harp for me. It reminds me that I should acknowledge and accept my feelings...but also know that they do not define or control me. I can allow them to be, to the extent that they need to be...because I know that they will pass. Feel the feelings, accept them as part of me and in the end I always find a good nights sleep. The Harp is my reminder.
This one has an extra layer for me - one of the largest demographics for death by suicide in my Ireland is young males. Males who in our current society, are told to deny their emotions. ‘Man up’ ‘Boys don't cry’....these terms cripple and distort emotional growth until males are either drinking themselves into blackouts or drug overdoses, driving themselves into walls or jumping in front of trains. I have lost personal friends from as far back as my first class in school because of this. The toxic angry and abused state of the world today could well be down to men being taught that only anger is a valid emotion for them to feel and anything else is weakness. Maybe there are more 'Thoughts to be shared on this topic in the future.
The harp reminds me to care for my own emotional well being...but also to encourage it in others.
Who knows, maybe enough people will accept the lessons of the 3 strains and we can set the world back to proper Order.
There is no definitive meaning to this symbol. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, or so 'They' say.
It’s a symbol seen in many places but for me it’s most pronounced inside Síd in Broga (Newgrange). At the very back of the passage in the rearmost alcove on the left wall. (When you’re facing out).
It made it onto my tattoo design and on to my skin before I had fully figured out it’s meaning, and I’m still not sure that I have.
What I choose to believe is that it represents Mind, Body, and Spirit. The three aspects of a person and how they are three paths which a person follows....though all of these paths are connected and therefore all are One.
To me, it’s a passage of life to follow the turns of each aspect of myself knowing that all of the journey along any path is all for the completeness of me. Sometimes I need to work on the spirit, sometimes the mind and sometimes the body. None of these things alone can be called Me. Any part or pair is still not enough. Only in the the combination of all three will I be Me.
There is no lore or story here. There is no explanation to look to, so in the absence of that I look to my own story and choose an explanation that is important to me.
So there you have it. What it all means from a guy who will never permanently scar his flesh unless it’s a multilayered, mental and emotional reminder that I know I will be glad to look at everyday for the rest of my life....seriously...getting tattooed freaks me out...but I will do it if it means enough to me.
What this Tattoo means to me may hopefully be clearer for the telling of this story. I accepted it as part of an initiation and acceptance of the obligation, responsibility, order and path that is my life as a Dagda Priest.
I still prefer the 'epic' version of the tale. Who knows, I might just write more for that style in the future.
If you enjoyed this along with my other work, and would consider buying me a coffee or a pint for the purposes of a chat, maybe pop over to the Patreon.com/Dagda
An Scéalaí Beag
We all have thoughts and perspectives and opinions. Its simply part of the human condition as a socialized species. So In the interest of insight, this is where I will share my perspective and opinions.