Sometimes it’s good to take on a topic that’s a bit taboo so that you can straighten out your thoughts on it. the topic came up on one of the TaSTA podcasts recently and it wanted to go a bit more into it, so What does ‘Man Up’ Mean?
The phrase ‘Man Up’ has a bad reputation but honestly I’ve always seen it as a good thing. I understand why it’s a bit of a sensitive subject but associating the phrase with what has become known as ‘toxic masculinity’ is the absolute opposite of what I’d define it as.
Growing up in 1980s Ireland it wasn’t ‘manly’ to show feelings. I wrote last time about attending tons of funerals growing up and it was a rare event to see a bereaved man crying at a funeral in the village. It wasn’t gossiped about or anything like that, it just wasn’t really a thing. You’d see men crying at funerals on American television programmes or films but hardly ever in real life. The odd time it would happen but more than likely it wasn’t a thing.
Now this can be put down to a few things. The man was supposed to be the rock for other people to turn too. He would put his feelings aside for the time being and be there for others. At least that was the way I saw it, it wasn’t until I got a bit older that I understood that for many people in rural Ireland showing emotions publicly, particularly sadness, was showing a weakness. Thankfully things have changed now and men are a bit more open in public with their emotions and there’s no stigma surrounding it at funerals anymore.
It’s a weird thing to think that telling someone to ‘man up’ or ‘be a man’ has become entrenched with the whole idea of what we now call ‘toxic masculinity’. But first let me explain what I believe ‘man up’ to mean.
What does ‘Man Up’ Mean?
Luckily for me there was usually a bit of philosophy around my house, my uncle is a priest and he used to tell me about various philosophers, from Aristotle to Zoroaster, Plato to Nietzsche to Sts Francis and Thomas Aquinas. Martin Luther always got a bashing, not a philosopher of course but his name came up a fair bit, particularly as he came from the order of priests that ran my school, which wasn’t the one he’d gone to. Anyway, the wee geek that I am, I thought it was interesting stuff. These men of history wrote books and gave teachings on what were basically the ethics of being a good person. What’s not to like about that? It was back then I learnt about the four virtues, also known as the cardinal virtues in Christianity. They are; Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance. The Christian versions would list them as; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance.
So that was it for me and always has been. To be a good person you lead by example and try to strive towards seeking wisdom, being fair, being brave and having self-control. To ‘man up’ meant to be a good citizen of the world, an ethical person. Of course this is very much easier said than done but these four little words hold much power and you’d be hard pressed to argue against living a life that doesn’t involve them. They’re the opposite of what I’d think of when I hear the words ‘toxic masculinity’. Total opposite. Men who display toxic behaviour aren’t wise, just, brave or temperate. They’ve failed on all four counts. Failed spectacularly.
What’s gone wrong then? Or maybe I’ve misunderstood the term all this time? But for me, ‘man-ning up’ has always meant ‘be virtuous’. How could it possibly mean anything else? The Chinese philosopher Confusious once wrote “The virtuous is driven by responsibility, the non-virtuous is driven by profit.” and St Thomas Aquinas wrote “Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man’s own will.” Confucius saying there that a good person is driven by his inherent responsibility to be good while Thomas Aquinas says that man’s will is to be virtuous, which is what brings true happiness. While these ideals of eastern and western philosophy are nice to think about and to try and live up to growing up in a culture/society or household where emotions are denied cannot lead to emotional happiness at all. But we can all take it on ourselves to break the chain of emotional denial. It’s not ‘manly’ to push down your feelings, it’s cowardly. The courageous thing to do would be to face them head on and deal with them and the consequences.
There’s no need to go into a tirade about ‘toxic masculinity’ here. We all know what it means by now. There was a very interesting article I came across last week from Psyche.co entitled “Talk of toxic masculinity puts the blame in all the wrong places” where the author really went into why labelling a problem isn’t good enough to tackle it. There’s this common parlance on Irish radio where some pundit will come on a show and when they run out of ideas they’ll toss out something like ‘we need to have a conversation about XYZ’ all the while being totally unaware that they’re actually involved in a conversation at that very moment. But this is part of it, labelling something as a problem does very little, all it does is give it a name. Admittedly it’s a start but all too often we get stuck at the start of something and never progress, let alone bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Anyway, the article is quite good and really makes a great point of showing up middle class pontificating for what it really is; just that, all talk and very little action. If the west is to put an end to ‘toxic masculinity’ it has to tackle the root causes of social inequality.
So much of our behaviour comes from what we saw growing up and being raised by whoever it was that raised us and by our peers. If you’ve heard of mirror neurons you’ll know they’re bloody fascinating. Basically a neuron is a bit like a path builder in your brain, you take up a new habit and after a while a new neuron is established in your brain and it becomes associated with associated behaviours and triggers and the like. Mirror neurons pick up on the behaviour of others in your circle and your brain learns a behaviour from them. A bit like a crossroads or an intersection on a motorway. Fascinating stuff. This is probably why I would have voted for the same political party as me auld lad, or supported the same football team, or why we use the same swear words at similar moments. It’s hardwired into your brain from an awful long time ago.
But this is where we can break the chain of bad behaviour. Like stopping smoking or drinking it’s not easy because the brain has built some hardwired neurons in there and they’ve now part of the infrastructure. Finding a detour around them, over them, under them or just plain bulldozing right through them is how to break them on a personal level. If you want to give up smoking you need to stop the behaviour of having one while waiting on the bus, having a last one before bed, having one with a coffee at lunch etc.
I’d like to think that most people want to be a good example for others around them. Some are, obviously many aren’t. But I want to be and I try to be and on my bad days I even try to want to be. None of us are getting out of here as a perfect specimen but if we want to leave this world a better place when we depart it then we have a responsibility to be virtuous, to be brave, just, temperate, wise; to man up.
Marcus Aurelius is a name familiar with us all and with Stoicism making a bit of a comeback over the last few years (what a weird thing to write, a philosophy making a comeback, well, y’know what I mean, there are tons of Stoic-themed podcasts and YouTube channels now) his name has become even more widespread. Which is no bad thing. I hadn’t read Meditations until late last year so I can make no claims to be some kind of stoic hipster that was doing it before anyone else. What exactly would a stoic hipster be anyway? Wasn’t the school of thought prior to the early stoics Cynicism? No matter, Meditations is a belter of a book, it’s as simple as that and one of those rare books that you find yourself going back to time and time again because it’s full of globs of wisdom and pearls of philosophy.
There’s a passage in particular I want to have a look at for this post. If you have a copy of the book, it’s from Book 4, verse 1-3. What really struck me here about these few sentences is Aurelius’ way of acknowledging that the world is full of distractions and our minds will follow them to their unending ends but learning to quieten the mind and appreciating its connection to the universe/the One/etc./ gives us not only our sense of our true place in the cosmos but also total freedom within ourselves.
Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic Emperor
He starts off with acknowledging his, and all of ours, propensity to give in to desires…
“Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself.”
Poor auld Marcus gives out to himself quite a bit in the book, it was his personal diary after all, and here he is telling himself off for the horrible crime of even wanting a holiday. But here’s the thing; there comes a time when we all have to admit it; holidays aren’t relaxing. The preparation, the packing, the travelling, the puking kids, the getting lost, the tourist traps, being ripped off by taxi drivers, upset stomachs from water you’re not used to drinking, sleepless nights because the place is noisier or not as dark as your bedroom. We don’t need holidays to relax. You have everything you’ll ever need right between those floppy ears of yours. And yes, you might roll your eyes but give the former Roman Emperor a chance here…
“No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well-ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
Here’s a man who ruled over the biggest empire in the world at the time, saw off rebellions and won wars against invading forces, deflated the Roman denarius so more people would afford food and did what he could to save people from an outbreak of Plague during his reign. And, here he is, in his personal diary, telling himself not to become distracted by the outside world and to enjoy the fruits of a steady mind. A mind that knows its place in the world…
“Look at the speed of universal oblivion, the gulf of immeasurable time both before and after, the vacuity of applause, the indiscriminate fickleness of your apparent supporters, the tiny room in which all this is confined. The whole earth is a mere point in space: what a minute cranny within this is your own habitation, and how many and what sort will sing your praises here!”
We’ve a saying in Ireland ‘You’re a long time dead’ and the Stoics were big on this. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘memento mori’ before, if not then please do look it up. Nothing gives life more meaning than to know it’s all incredibly temporary. I’ve had a streak of existentialism in me for pretty much as long as I can remember and I’m not really sure where it came from. Maybe it was growing up in rural Ireland where there’s another saying ‘a good funeral is better than a bad wedding’ although this probably, well, more than probably, can be traced back to the Bible where in Ecclesiastes 7:2 it says “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart.”
Death was everywhere when I was growing up, it was, well, still is, a small village and when someone died you usually went to the funeral. You just become accustomed to it. Living in the different places I have over the years it always blew my mind that people didn’t attend the funerals of neighbours. I think it’s good to give the dead a good send off and to celebrate their lives with other mourners and as sad as it usually is it’s good to share stories about the deceased and even get to know them a bit better after the fact.
Anyway, we’re a long time dead and we’re not very significant. That’s something I’ve always believed. But we are significant to our friends and family and we should be able to set an example for how to live a good life. That doesn’t mean hedonism though, it means striving to live a moral life.
Back to Marcus…
“Finally, then, remember this retreat into your own little territory within yourself. Above all, no agonies, no tensions. Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. And here are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into. First that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgement. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is judgement.”
Quietening the Monkey Mind
Once you quieten the monkey mind you have the reigns and are the master. Can it ever really be mastered though? I think even the most enlightened of people still lose their grip of the reigns and the horse is always waiting for his chance to bolt. I’m reading this beast of a book of late: Living Theurgy and the author explains the ins and outs of what the Neoplatonists believed made up the soul/mind. It evolved as time went on but in early Greek legends the soul was made up of two parts, the rational and irrational, both were thought of as horses pulling a chariot (showing your Proto-Indo roots there lads) with one pulling in one direction and the other in the other. Balance being the key to a happy soul/mind it would seem. Funny how so many philosophies all hint at the same thing isn’t it?
Everything is temporary and as Aurelius says our anxieties come from our internal judgement meaning they are the fault of our monkey minds and when we control that beast we can control our reactions to what is causing the anxiety. Even hopefully being able to catch it early enough to stop it completely. All is change though and ever-changing, we have very little, if any, control of what happens around us, we can though, at least, attempt to control our minds and how we react. Indeed, we have a moral responsibility as good citizens of the world to do so.
On May 17th 2021, I had a vision. I was given a piece of paper on which nine things were written. I was told to teach them. They lead to All Together-ness; Oneness; OmniSyn. On the TaSTA podcast released on May 19th (you can listen here) we spoke about what I had experienced. Here’s the transcript:
Spud: I had this dream a while ago where, and I spoke about this on the end of the last podcast, where I became lucid in a dream and I was in a forest and I ended up walking down into a cave with something that I now know is called a torch…
Tommie: hahahaha…ahh so many people made a point of telling you. Haha, that was brilliant…
Spud: I’m so stupid…just because I wear glasses doesn’t mean I’m smart, it means I’m blind…
Tommie: I actually saw it on Discord, on YouTube and on Twitter…it was brilliant, I was so happy…
Spud: Hahaha! Well, I mean, thanks everyone for telling me…
Tommie: Some people even sent pictures which were extremely helpful. I found that really good.
Spud: Hahaha! Yea, so I ended up down in this cave and the stalagmites and the stalactites have grown together but it’s this ice cave and the whole way through the dream like, these different stages had happened; I’m in the forest or I’m in a meadow, I come to the cave, I always had this trudging sense of (sighs) ok, let’s get this over with because I kinda know what’s coming, y’know?
Spud: Or I know who I’m going to meet kind of thing. So, yea, I get down into the cave and even though I don’t see her I see this kinda thing, this lady passing between the pillars y’know? I don’t know who it is but I’m kind of thinking it’s Persephone, right? But then just as I’m about to meet her this like Monthy Python hand comes down and grabs me and pulls me back up to consciousness and I’m awake. Haha! It’s quite bizarre. But like, it’s happened before when I have these, when I’m lying down and I’m…I’m…I’m up somewhere, I’m not dreaming but I’m not awake either and it’s happened a few times where this hand, haha, just comes in and just grabs me and (shouting), Naw, you’re not ready! No, no, no, no! Don’t go there man.
So, again I find myself in a forest Tommie, right. So, not like the last one I’m….I have notes here in front of me so I might go to them every now and then…
Tommie: yea, yea, yea, yea, yea…
Spud: …because when this was all over that evening I went for a walk with the dog and I took out my phone and just blurted out what I could remember. Ended up being like half an hour long, like me, just talking. Maybe it was like channelling or I dunno…
Tommie: Right, yea?
Spud: like, I don’t know what the fuck was going on. I have no idea. Alright? Make of this what you will…
Tommie: Transcribe it. Stick it in a book! (laughs)
Spud: (laughs) hahaha. I’d like your opinion and I, like, I texted one or two of the lads on Discord yesterday coz there’s something coming tomorrow lads and I want yous to listen coz I’d like to know what yous think and some help with it or whatever.
Spud: Might be nothing, might be something. I don’t know. We’ll see. So, erm, like, erm, the last time I was kind of like (sigh) oh, let’s get this over with. This time I wasn’t like that at all. This time I was like, right, here I am, let’s see what happens. So I’m walking through this forest and then there’s this meadow; gorgeous sunrise is coming up, there’s, er, big, long grass, meadow, flowers, rabbits, hares, whatever…it’s gorgeous. It’s idyllic, y’know, this beautiful morning, a dew on the grass…
Tommie: A jew on the grass…?
Spud: …a heavy dew on the grass, just one. Rabbi! Shalom!
Tommie: Just a rabbi, just there, haha!
Spud: I didn’t say rabbit did I? I meant rabbi. A rabbi and a hare, the curly hairs, y’know those guys…?
Tommie: Yea, fine, fine, that’s normal….
Spud: hahaha, y’know, I was worried that this bit might get too serious, hahaha!
Spud: Anyway, so there’s this door. I don’t know like…sometimes they have these at like music festivals at Ireland, they’ll just have a door frame and a door and like there’s no wall, it’s just a door frame and a door and you open the door…
Tommie: yea, yea, yea….
Spud: …it’s like an Alice in Wonderland or Narnia-type situation. I think it was Narnia, wasn’t it? There was a door beside a lamppost? Anway…
Tommie: A wardrobe? I couldn’t tell ya I never read the books…
Spud: Well, the wardrobe was on our side and I think the door was on their side in Narnia. I think. But anyway, I open this door and straight away it reminds me of when we were scrying the Aethers. (accent) Ate-hers!
Tommie: (heavy West of Ireland accent) The Ate’hers! Scryting the auld Eigh’Hers!
Spud: (heavy West or Ireland accents) Scrything the Eigh’Hers!…and there’s this massive…hallway of doors. Just fuckin huge. And I’m a bit over-…very, very similar to the Aethers, it was the same kind of thing there were doors and she was saying ‘right, I’ll show yous around, where do you want to go’ type of thing.
Spud: But this was just me with all these doors out in front of me. And there were corridors off corridors kind of thing, just…all labyrinth-y style, just doors, doors, doors, doors. Kinda like a hotel if you’re looking down on it, y’know?
Tommie: Yea, yea, yea, or Scooby-doo cartoon (laughs)
Spud: (laughs) hahahaha! Oh jinkies! So I, eh, hahahaha, I eh, oh man! So…Next thing I get a bit discombobulated and everything is…becomes overwhelming for me and there’s too much of a choice and I don’t know where to go. It all starts spinning, revolving, moving and I start feeling nauseous, and I’m going, shit…I’m losing this and I want to stay in this and see where this goes. So, I’m like, right, I know where to go and so, my HGA’s number is 317 alright?
Spud: So I decide that’s the number I need to find, that’s the room I need to find…
Tommie: …can I inter…is the HGA number different from your number?
Spud: I’ve never looked up my own number, I don’t think…
Tommie: Do you not have a number, a three digit number that we’ve talked about before that follows you around that you can…
Spud: Ah yea, yea yea! Well, mines, four, but yea, naw, that’s different. Ha, I didn’t even think of that one actually. Funny. But as well like, even with say, looking up my own number, I mean what name do I go by? Spud, Paddy, Patrick? Do I use my surname? I’ve too many fuckin names y’know what I mean like, I don’t know…
Tommie: yea, yea yea. Ken Wilber would say, what was your name before you were born? What was your name before your parents were born?
Spud: Well, I know what my name would’ve been if I’d been a girl. They were gonna call me Dawn. That would have been..
Tommie: Dawn, like the morning…
Spud: …Get up on the crack of Dawn. Get up at Dawn, get up on Dawn. Get on top of Dawn. I mean imagine the bullying. It would have been horrendous.
Tommie: What’s that Irish for Dawn? It’s probably really pretty?
Spud: (laughs) Hair-in-moch-a-loch-a-toch…
Tommie: ….ár fad (laughts)
Spud: (laughs) So….317 is the number right?
Tommie: …sorry…is that the same number as the Stanley Kubrick documentary?
Spud: ohhhhh I don’t know. Maybe.Have a look. Google it there. And em, so err, yea, so I realise where I have to go and as I locate kind of where I need to go, the direction of where 317 is…as I get up to the door, herself is standing there.In her full, fuckin battle dress y’know. She has the…as, as she appears as a Roman goddess, right, she has the war helmet, she has the spear, she has the fuckin shield wrapped around her arm, the way the centurians used to do. Medusa’s head is on it.
Tommie: Right, right!
Spud: …and the little owl is around her too. She looks fuckin ready for fighting and I’m….
Tommie: So, it’s like the HGA in Dark Song, that similar? That kinda Roman…
Spud: Oh yea, yea, yea. Huh, that’s mad.
Tommie: Yea, Room 317 is a song and a comic but nothing to do with Stanley Kubrick. There’s actually a lot of stuff you could look at there…
Spud: OK, this is getting weirder then. So, I say to her ‘What’s going on?” And she said ‘Now you’re ready.’ I say..’Woah, like, for what?’ And she says ‘You know.’ (sighs) ‘Alright’ So, we open the door and there’s these steps going down to the cave like from the last one (vision) but the cave is a bit different, it’s not….I grab another torch…
Tommie: …Coz you know what it is this time…(laughs)
Spud: (laugh) Yea, coz I know what a torch is this time…
Tommie: Now, you’re ready…you were missing that information previously (laughs)
Spud: (laughing) so…(laughs) we’re both going down these steps looking like fucking Gandalf and Gimli, I’m Gimli obviously…
Spud: (makes angry Drawf noises and accent) …with my axe and my torch…Oh these beautiful caves, what it must have been like in the hayday of….anyway, so we go down but it doesn’t turn to ice like the last time with the pillars and the stalagmites and all this but it turns into…a bit like, maybe what the Mines of Moria were like in the Lord of the Rings book, well, not in the book because they were deserted but when they were busy. There’s this massive cavernous, huge cathedral-like…just huge bastard of a room, pillars, arches, yadda-yadda…it’s amazing, it looks like…it reminds me of…even in the dream I thought this is like the Salt Mines in Krakow because all along the walls, the walls were black or very, very, very, very, very, very, very dark blue, like Fr. Teds socks…
Tommie: haha, yea, yea…
Spud: Priests don’t wear black socks, just very, very, very, very dark blue ones…but in the rock there’s some minerals so it looks kinda shiny, it looks like a starry night, but on the walls y’know? So we’re standing there and over in the far corner of the cavern we can see there’s this, eh, table or an altar, big candles on either side of a box. So, I walk over to the box and on top of it is written The Great Work. So, I look at her and she looks at me and I open it up…and there’s another box…
Spud: And I says ‘So, I open the box yea?’ and she says ‘Yes, open the box.’ So, I open the box and there’s another box and I’m like, Ahhh c’mon…
Spud: haha, even in my dreams I’m taking the piss out of myself…So, I open the third box and there’s this er…. There’s a tree drawn on it and the numbers one to nine. But the numbers one to three are from the ground to the branches…
Spud: …and four to six are the roots underneath the ground and seven to nine are the branches and the upper parts of it. And so, one to three says ‘The Three ‘Shons’, and they are Meditation, Exploration and Divination. Four to six is Shadowland or Underworld, it has both of them, and this is The Guardian and Ancestors, Confrontation & Rebirth. And then seven to nine is Strengthening, Wisdom and Unity. Right….
Spud: So, I’m looking at this going, ehh, wow, like, what the hell is going on? And then she comes in. There’s this voice and she just starts…I’m getting all shaky now trying to remember…
Spud: It’s not Persephone though, I know it’s not her but I don’t know who it is…
Spud: This is like the master of feminine something. I don’t even know what she’s called.
Tommie: Well, Sophia? Sophia is the thing, yea?
Spud: Sophia, Gaia is another name? I dunno. This feminine…I dunno, is it Yin Yang. Ying? No Yang? Yang, yea? Maybe it’s her. I don’t know. It’s just this….woman. OK. (puts on angry Dublin accent) It’s just this feckin’ woman…)
Tommie: hahaha, yea, yea…women!
Spud: This is awful…It’s ‘her’ OK? It is her…
Tommie: Oh, that’s her name…what’s the film? Her that cannot be named?
Spud: She who cannot…isn’t that Minder?
Spud: No, that’s ‘her indoors’ isn’t it? Hahaha
Tommie: 1950s stand-up comedy. Take my wife…please, ba-dum-tish.
Spud: Wa-hey. So, it’s, it’s, her. It’s the feminine of the One. I’m not making any sense here. It’s so hard to…
Tommie: No, you are, you absolutely are…
Spud: OK. So, I finish reading this and the voice comes to me and she says ‘You can help teach people to be at ease with themselves, to be at peace, to live with love and compassion for the betterment of all and living this way people will learn their true nature and what they really are and that is One.’ So, there’s a few other bits and pieces, but I dunno how far you wanna go into it but there’s other stuff as well…
Tommie: Ohhh, I want to go into it…
Spud: You wanna keep going?
Tommie: Oh yea, oh yea…
Spud: I’m not freaking you out here, starting to freak myself out here bringing it back. She said to me…look this isn’t everything alright? When I clean up the audio… coz like I’m walking the dog, the dog’s barking, there’s people talking kinda stuff, even a kid ran out in front of me at one stage…
Spud: I’ll edit down the audio and I’ll send it to you, you can have a proper listen to it. And it’s weird as well, during the audio…
Tommie: D’you wanna put it on the feed or you want to keep it? We’ll see, we’ll talk about it…
Spud: I dunno, I think I’d rather have the opinion of people before releasing it.
Spud: haha, No Spud, you’re batshit, you need help hahaha. Or y’know…So, this isn’t everything but I will share ya that. So, I’m asking her questions about like who are we, where do we come from, all this kind of stuff that I want to know. But, towards the end of it she says ‘look, it’s not your responsibility to have places of worship, or dogmatic rules or even to look for people. People will find you when they need you or when they’re ready to learn. But, you will need help.’ And then she says ‘There are many teachings of this teaching but they all say the same thing; We’re all one, there is no separation, other than what is perceived. By teaching you learn more and by learning you’ll know more and teach more. Help your brothers and sisters and they, in turn, can help theirs when called on.
If you can help, then help. If you cannot, at least do not add to strife. Do good, accept yourself with love and compassion and others with the same love and compassion.’ She gave me a word, which is…
Tommie: Don’t say it…
Tommie: No, don’t. You can tell me later but don’t say it.
Spud: haha, what?
Tommie: Yea, you can tell me later but don’t say it…
Tommie: I’ve always a hesitation, don’t share the word(s) man.
Spud: Ok, ok, ok, we’ll keep that one. She spoke for a bit then about that and…there was a conversation and I was asking her more stuff. But I finished up and I said ‘So, the box said The Great Work, am I finished now with this?’ And she laughed (haha) and she said…but like, it was this…aww man, it’s hard to explain this…it was a laugh that cut me in two.
Spud: Destroyed me!
Tommie: right, right…
Spud: Abso-…just killed me. But at the same time there was a bliss in it as well.
Tommie: Yea, yea…
Spud: Does that make sense..?
Tommie: Yea, absolutely…
Spud: It’s this thing of she destroyed me and brought it all back again…
Tommie: It’s like that thing of realising you’re a arsehole but also realising you don’t have to be it anymore….the shame and the release…
Spud: …And then she said something like “My darling fool, the wheel is round and ever turning until you get off. This is a beginning, an end and a continuation.’ After that then she kinda faded off and yea, we were left alone. Minerva stooped down and gave me a hug and we just kinda…fused and there was just this light. Fuckin starlight man…
Tommie: Ohhh so weird when you did that…
Tommie: Your webcam totally lit up…that’s mental…hahaha. I wonder will that record?
Spud: hahahaha! Yea, fused into one and I just…I just came back to myself and err…yea, I just kind of lay there in silence. Nothing happened for a while. Now, I’ve no idea how long this…I was there for two, three, five minutes, an hour, I’ve no fuckin idea…
Tommie: yea, yea, yea
Spud: But even this after bit when I’m just lying there in thought. There was no bliss, no dejection, there was nothing. Just nothing. Emptiness. Emptiness isn’t even the right word coz emptiness means that there was something there…y’know, there’s a box where inside it is emptiness. Just nothing…
Tommie: A Void
Spud: Void, yea, blank. My mind is blank. And then a doubt starts coming in and I’m like…ah shit, she’s gone. Aww fuck, like..oh no and I start getting upset. Oh no, what have I done? Where’s this gone? But then I was able to see that because I’m upset about it I’m only upset because I’m perceiving that…I’m putting that onto it…
Spud: It’s a…ah what’s the word, I’m looking for…ah…a projection, I’m projecting that..
Spud: I’m projecting being upset onto it. If I can put being upset on it then what the fuck am I doing being upset about it, this is amazing. Y’know and then booooommmmmm (head explosion)
Spud: Just…woooooooowwww. Just amazing….ehh, Molly..
Spud: Holy fuckin shit. But it didn’t last very long. I’ve had these bliss moments before and they do last quite long. One time it lasted for a couple of days.
Tommie: Yea, I remember that. The Doctor’s one?
Spud: Yea, yea, yea, but this was just..bang! Fast. Boom! Explosion in my head and just going…and then I started crying…hahah, it was like that, y’know… men are so ugly when they cry, horrible…
Tommie: I’m extremely sexy when I cry. How dare you!
Tommie: I’m at my most beautiful…
Spud: The thing I wrote down here was Sylvester Stallone crying ‘Adriannnn!’
Spud: I’m like that, I’m just this sobbing mess..of just…emotions and yuaauauaa, what the fuck is going on? That was it then. Then I stopped crying and I eh, I gathered myself together and I went down and started carving some wood…
Tommie: …giving out to the kids hahaha
Spud: hahaha….that evening then I went for a walk with the dog and recorded everything I could remember.
I am a son of Poetry
Poetry son of Scrutiny,
Scrutiny son of Meditation,
Meditation son of Great Knowledge,
Great Knowledge son of Enquiry,
Enquiry son of Investigation,
Investigation son of Great Knowledge
Great Knowledge son of Great Sense,
Great Sense son of Understanding,
Understanding son of Wisdom,
Wisdom, son of Three Gods of Skill.
The quote is taken from Mark William’s Ireland Immortals – A History of the Gods of Irish Myth, page 166.
Many moons ago now when I was making flirty eyes at music journalism, like all good, failed musicians, I had a thing for Irish rap. Of course this led to plenty of interviews, free albums and gig passes but, unlike, the vast amount of musical genres what makes rap a load of fun is the rap battle.
Obviously enough you’re going to be thinking of lads in tracksuits free-styling lyrics over a beat with the aim of bettering their opponents. Lots of swearing and belittling goes on. You’re almost correct with your mental image though. In Ireland and Britain most rap battles don’t involve any music and it looks like what the Septics call Slam Poetry. It’s pretty bizarre in fairness, seeing working-class lads abuse the bejaysus out of each other in front of a crowd of young people in what is, basically poetry. But don’t call it poetry, it’s rap, but it’s rap without the beat, which is pretty much poetry but you just can’t call it poetry.
The Book of Leinster holds the oldest known Irish example of something not a million miles from today’s rap battles, the Colloquy of the Two Sages (Immacallam in dá Thuarad ). This 12th Century, 187-page book is home to some of the founding stories of Irish mythology. The Book of Invasions , Lebor Gabála Érenn (Irelands’ creation myths) is included in its pages, as is the most complete version of Táin Bó Cuailnge, the legendary story of a civil war in Ireland over a bull, and, used to hold, the Martyrology of Tallaght until the pages were lost. Why mention this last one? Well, the Martyrology of Tallaght was a book used by Irish clergy as it contains the Saint Days and an general entry about the day regarding Irish history, usually. It dated though from some time in the 8th-9th century meaning that our epic rap battle could be from around that time, although must accept it as coming from closer to the time of the Book of Leinster.
It’s quite a long poem and we don’t really need to go into it all here but the section at the beginning of the article is what really caught my peepers. But we need to have a quick synopses to get an understanding of it.
There was an ollamh called Adnae in Ulster. He was the foremost ollamh of science and poetry. An ollamh was a high-ranking poet or fili. Now the filí were basically the remnants of the druids. Men of learning. Adnae was a poet of the court of Conchobar mac Nessa, probably the most famous of the Ulster kings. Poets back then were also historians, story-tellers, bards, and what we would call these days genealogists. If you told this lad your full name he’d be able to trace back your roots to earlier tribes and chieftains. Adnae died suddenly and his role needed to be filled. His son, Néde, was studying the ‘sciences’ of the time in Scotland and one day at the seashore he heard the waves tell him of his father’s death and that another fili, Ferchertne, had been given his father’s fili robe after his death by a chap called Bricriu.
Bricriu’s name pops up a bit in the Ulster cycle and he’s a bit like Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. Scheming and disrespectful towards the Ulstermen he finds himself in a position of power but does get him comeuppance in the end. Anyway, for this Colloquy of the Two Sages he meets Néde on his return to Ireland and tells the young fili that he cannot become the ollamh as he’s too young. Néde casts a spell and the grass in his hand becomes a long, flowing beard and takes his place in Adnae’s vacant chair close to the king. Bricriu, being the whiny sod that he was, goes off and tells Ferchertne about it, who then storms into the court demanding an explanation as to why Adnae’s son is sitting in his courtly chair.
What follows then is a battle of wits and intelligence, guile and spirit in the form of a poem. Ferchertne ends up winning but is so impressed by Néde’s intelligence that he takes on the young fili to help him finish his education. A reminder then of the lyrics that caught my eyes:
I am a son of Poetry
Poetry son of Scrutiny,
Scrutiny son of Meditation,
Meditation son of Great Knowledge,
Great Knowledge son of Enquiry,
Enquiry son of Investigation,
Investigation son of Great Knowledge
Great Knowledge son of Great Sense,
Great Sense son of Understanding,
Understanding son of Wisdom,
Wisdom, son of Three Gods of Skill.
Just prior to this section Néde asks Ferchertne what gives him the right to be where he is. Ferchertne replies that he’s basically a lynchpin element in important things and without him they couldn’t work. Obviously enough implying the court wouldn’t function without him in his role. He asks Néde what does he know of the art of poetry and the scene is set for Néde to play his aces and make his argument to win.
Poetry was the highest artform in Ireland, it was through poetry and the oral tradition (eh now, stop the teenage jokes) that the druids and the later fili learnt their trade, or indeed, trades as the case was. Druids and fili were actually divided into subcategories, some were experts in history, some in law, some in spells, some in divination etc. But to be one you had to learn the ways of the language inside out so that you could eventually bend it to your will once you became a druid/fili. Here, Néde lays out his case that he’s the son of Poetry, i.e. the highest form of knowledge and that his knowledge comes from a long tradition of scrutiny, meditation, instinct, wisdom and so on. The last lines claim he comes from the line of the Three Gods of Skill who were Tuath dé gods.
The gods of skill were: Guibniu, a blacksmith, Credne, a bronze smith and Luchta, a wright (a master of woodwork). The three brothers were sons of the Tuath dé goddess Bridgit, herself the daughter of the All-Father god, the Dagda. So you see here that Néde is saying that the very roots of his wisdom and knowledge started with the three gods who worked with their hands to form masterful crafts. This mastery led on to wisdom, which then led to understanding, great sense etc.
What’s also implied here is that meditation, insight and investigation were all of great importance to the druids/filí. Something which has all but been washed out of Irish history and mythology. But the druids came from the Vedic tradition of India, of course they meditated. It was from the Vedic tradition that the Buddha himself learned to meditate after all. Eventually I’ll get around to an article about Celtic/Druidic mediation but to shorten an already long article it went like this:
Teinm Láida (a bit like today’s mindfullness meditation), Dichetal Do Chennaib (akin to mantra meditation) and Imbas Forosnai (forsight meditation/a bit like incubation or sensory deprivation meditation).
Looking back into our mythology we can at times catch real glimpses of what the spiritual practicioners did. There’s not much evidence but from what we do have we can put together pieces that show the druids weren’t just beardy-biker-looking dudes with sickles chopping mistletoe and sleeping under oak trees but were actually insightful mediators obsessed with acquiring knowledge, wisdom and mastering crafts.
Finally then, the Colloquy of the Two Sages, would seem to be an Irish version of Flyting, which dated from around the same time too, Flyting was an exchange of insults between two people. They weren’t usually written down but again, what’s interesting is that it wasn’t really the trading of insults here, but it’s more like they’re fighting verbally for a job that’s going. Imagine you had to do a rap battle to bag your next job, now that would be fun. Oh and Mark William’s book is fantastic. I’ll be writing a good bit more in it in the coming weeks and months.
These articles, for now anyway, well be wonderings on Daniel Ingram’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha…” where I’ll start with a quote and give my thoughts and feeling on it.
…awakening is about understanding the fundamental nature of all sensate experiences, and what they happen to be is ultimately completely and utterly irrelevant to awakening. Thus, very awakened beings understand something fundamental about whatever arises or however their lives manifest, that is, its impermanence, emptiness, luminosity, groundlessness, or however they wish to describe it. However, they have no more knowledge about the specifics of the world than they have acquired in just the way that anyone else acquires knowledge about the specifics of the world. They can even have all sorts of psychological baggage to deal with, and this is probably the norm.’ page 116-117
Well, I may as well start with something difficult to get my teeth into eh? Anyone who listens to the TASTA podcast will know that Tommie and I are taking on the mantel of the Baptist’s Head amazing twosome, Duncan Barford and Alan Chapman, and trying to plough our way to enlightenment on a fast track. Currently it’s very much a scatter-gun approach but we’re blind men in the dark and once we get to grips with finding the door and even the lightswitch for the room we’re in we’ll probably, maybe, become a little more organised. Or maybe we won’t. I don’t know. Does it matter? We’re playing it by ear at the minute. Sure, it’s nice to travel on the comfortable train and get to where you’re going but sometimes you just have to get on the next train that arrives. Let’s make a note Tommie, maybe we should try more 30-day challenges, like our Star Ruby thingy from a while ago.
Back to the quote above though. I’d said on the podcast before that this book really wasn’t singing to me at the beginning. And that’s on me, I just didn’t, and indeed, don’t know a whole lot about Buddhism. I had to put it down and thanks to both Tommie and a listener, can I namedrop D. here? Let’s leave it at D. in case he doesn’t want his name here, anyway, thanks to both I’ve been able to learn plenty more about it and going back to the book it feels like new eyes are on it and I’ve a bit more of a foundation to build upon.
Awakening, for me, must be the end goal of all this magic(k), consciousness hacking, psycho-technology whatever you want to call it. Honestly, calling it magic still doesn’t sit well with me. Images of Paul Daniels and David Copperfield just flood my head when I see that. I’m into this because I think there’s a road to enlightenment/awakening/individuation or whatever you want to call it. Basically, I think you can be a pretty decent human if you get yourself in order and be a better man. That’s my goal here. Simple as that. But as usual the simple things are pretty difficult to get correct.
Awakening, as Ingram say above, is ultimately the understanding of our sensing of reality. The knowledge and realisation that everything, every single moment is temporary and our moods, feelings, wants, needs, whatever, are the same. Knowing, or learning, that every moment is sacred is mind-blowingly humbling because it’s in those moments that we appreciate our transience and by embracing that we get a fleeting touch with the eternal.
Does that make sense? By being alive right here, right now and seeing it, really seeing and experiencing it; that’s touching the surface of the waters of eternity, that great big Sea of Infinity.
For some reason though we’ve come to think of those who are ‘awake’ as somehow smarter, more intelligent than then rest of us. This is a mistake here according to Ingram. It’s that old thing about the teacher and the student. The teacher can only really learn to teach from his students as y’know, every student is different and must be taught in a different way so you can share what knowledge you have with them. And just because someone is enlightened/awake certainly doesn’t mean they’re any more intelligent than you, they’re just a bit more wise when it comes to knowing their place in this mad universe.
Ahhh no….Nehura thought… “Are you dead…..?” He asked as he walked forward.
All that could be heard was the water crashing from the waterfall nearby and the loud calls of some of the ever-watch crows circling in the sky.
Then the antler shuck slightly in the sticky mud…
“What?’ Nehura asked.
He lifted his head out of the mud, ‘No Nehura, I’m not dead, you got me fair and square though. Bit of a sucker punch when I wasn’t expecting it but fair is fair, you’ve won. Now, some gawping and give me a hand to get up.
Nehura took a few more steps down over the rock and extended his hand to Cernunnos. ‘Maybe lad things wouldn’t been different if we were to do this over a riddle instead of a fight..”he said as he got up off of the ground.
“Aye maybe” said Nehura, “didn’t mean to hit you so hard but y’know…he looked for the words, you don’t knock out a god very often and you certainly don’t want to anger them after you’ve done it… “I had to win, didn’t I?”
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret lad, win, draw or loss in these trials and it doesn’t really make a difference, you can lose and show great heart and courage and cunningness and you can still be awarded pass…hardly anyone’s ever fought me though, it’s 100s of years since I had to fight.” Cernunnos stood a good two meters above Nehura in height and his antlers extended as far out as his height and the moss growing from his shoulders down to his arms shone a bright emerald in the sunshine. Nehura wanted to ask if he weighed much and hindered his movement but decided against it for fear it might sound foolish. He’d ask Tonnin when he got back to the druid.
“No, the moss doesn’t hinder me at all. Sure usually I’d have a few birds nesting on me, wee things, sparrows and finches and tits, they don’t even mind the moving about. Sure, it’s just that, I don’t really be moving about much. I just put my hand to the ground and I know what happening almost anywhere. I only move if I need to step in and help nature or an animal in a bit of bother but most of the time I just sit around peacefully in awe at the wonder of it all.”
“I didn’t know you could read thought Cernunnos…”
“I wouldn’t be telepathic or anything but I could see the question written on your face boy. Well done though, you beat me fair and I took the beating I deserved. Good luck with the rest of your trial, you’ve one left, yes?”
“Tell me this though, what’s your birth tree?”
“Oak, I was born June 12th of the modern calender.”
“I should’ve known.’ They walked on in silence, heading back to where Tonnin had told Nehura Cernunnos would meet him.
“Aren’t the sounds of nature wonderful?” Cernunnos ask. “They are Cernunnos, there’s little better in the world than a good walk in nature, you can nearly drink in how good it is for the soul.”
The god laughed… “You nearly can Nehura, you nearly can. Oak, yes, you’re physically stong but that’s not always a sign, you’re a stong head on your shoulders boy, I can see that. Justice is important for you. Don’t ever forget that as you get on in years, the little man has to be stood up for, the lions and the bears and the wolves might make the most racket in the wilderness but the voices of the beetles and the spiders and the wrens are every bit as important.”
Makes sense that you want to be a druid too, sure doesn’t it mean ‘speakers with the oak. I’d happily bet you’ll pass the final trial easily lad and I can see you going on to be a great knower and teacher of the ways of the Tuath. Now, I’m no clairvoyant and I can’t claim to see the future but I’ve been around an awful long time Nehura and I’ve a good feeling about you. You’ll do well…
“I don’t know Cernunnos, there’s not that many of us left, we might be the last of our kind. People keep going on and on about the prophecy and that there’s still time for it to come true but I’m not so sure, it’s been around for too long and hasn’t come to pass yet, I think they’re deluding themselves. I think we’ll be the last here and then men will leave the place in ruins. They’re like a disease, everywhere they go, the set up, start trading and then get greedy and take all the natural resources from a place, leave it in ruins and then move on or worse they build cities and towns on their trading and import everything from all over and…” He let out an exasperated sigh… “Can’t they see the destruction? Is it because they live such short lives? I know we’re not supposed to approach them but they’re going to kill the planet eventually…”
“Come on Nehura, don’t despair, the earth was here for an awful long time before even the likes of my kind came about. And then your kind came and then man. The earth will be here long after we’re all gone, man won’t kill the planet, they might kill themselves off but if they do, sure you know yourself Nehura, they won’t be the first mammals to go extinct. But I understand you, they’re still in their infancy as a species though, try not to be so hard on them, they’ve just advanced a bit too quickly is all. Things will balance out eventually, nature will always find a balance.”
The rounded a corner and were coming close to the spot Tonnin had sent Nehura to. They began their ascent up the small hill to the rock table at the top “Your prophecy still does have time and that doesn’t mean it will or won’t come true, I can’t tell you that but whether it does or not Nehura you know your role in life…don’t you?”
“Tonnin told me during my studies that you’re only role in life is to find your true role in life.”
“It’s been too long since I last saw Tonnin, when you see him tell him to pay a visit and tell him I’d love to share a smokepipe with him again. But that’s some sage advice lad, actually, it’s better than sage, it’s ideal for how your kind should see life.”
At the top Nehura stood on the rock table and called Tonnin’s name. “Thank you Lord Cernunnos. Again, I apologise for hitting you so hard…”
“All’s fair Nehura, good luck for your final trial and when it’s all done I’d like to extend a welcome invitation to you as well. Don’t be shy and when you ever need answers about the flora or fauna you’ll know how to contact me after you win in the final trial, which I’m confident you will.”
Nehura called Tonnin’s name again.
“Don’t despair about the fate of your people either. Time is long, very, very long and while your lifetime is so much longer than men’s it’s still little more than the blink of an eye for my kind. Nature always finds balance and if it seems dark now for the planet that just means it’s nighttime and the dawn will eventually come.”
The giant god extended his hand to shake Nehura’s. As Nehura put out his hand to accept it the antler’ed one took him by surprise and embraced him in a hug. At that moment Nehure could feel his body collecting some of Cernunnos’ wealth of knowledge, a tsumani of calmness and oneness with all of nature washed over him and he almost felt like he was floating in the nature god’s bear-like embrace.
Cernunnos let go… “Now you know my love for nature Nehura, go back to your world with a love for that knowledge and remain a seeker of truth and justice. You’ll make a very fine druid indeed. Now, step back onto the rock there and I’ll call Tonnin for the final time.”
The huge god turned around and faced the valley and let out the loudest gutteral-voiced shout Nehura had ever heard down across the valled. “Tonnin!” he shouted for what felt like an eternity as the ground shook beneath their feet, birds flews from their nesting places and pack animals ran in groups in the valley below them.
The Celtic god laughed again… “Oh, I enjoyed that, it’s good to give the animals a fright every now and then, gets their blood going. Goodbye Nehura.”
“Goodbye Cernunnos” Nehura said before closing his eyes.
With a flash and a crack of thunder Nehura opened his eyes and his was back in Tonnin’s ceremony room.
“That silly smile on your face tells me you won, what was the riddle? Or was it a quest that he set you.”
“A fight…you fought with him? Why would you fight the nature god.”
“Well, y’know, most of he druid just take him on with his riddles or quests, I wanted to be different and I had a feeling he’d be rusty in a fight.”
“And was he?”
“No, he wasn’t. But I got him as he was coming over over some rocks, I got a bit higher than him and hid, when he got close I surprised him and knocked him out with a swing of a club. I thought I’d kill him for a bit, he didn’t answer me when I called him.”
“I’m surprised that you asked him for a battle, but then again Nehura, you’re full of surprises, always thinking differently than everyone. I shouldn’t be surprised so I won’t be.”
“How long was I out for, it felt like I was there for a day?”
“No at all, I reckon it’s only about an hour since you drank. Now, off with you and get some rest. Your final trial is tomorrow.
Nehura put up his hood and walked home. He was elated with his success but putting his hood up meant he wouldn’t be distured by anyone on his walk home and even though he wanted to shout from the rooftops about his triumph he knew he had to get some rest for the final part of his ordeal.
Around midday the following day he returned to Tonnin’s house.
“This is it then Nehura, pass this final trial and you become a druid.Now, y’know, your days of learning will never end, a day I don’t learn something is a sad day and it will be for you too but you’ll have learned enough and tested yourself enough to become one of my kind. I’ve taken a shine to you since you became my apprentice Nehura so this is a little bittersweet for me, I’ll miss having you as a student but saying that I’m looking forward to having you as a colleague.”
“Thank you Tonnin. Those are kind words and I look forward to being you colleague too. You’ve taught me well…”
“Hold that thought lad, you’re not done yet. There’s a final one to go.” Tonnin stood up and took some herbs and dried mushrooms and a bottle of liquid from a shelf. “Pass me your cup Nehura and let’s get the process started.”
Nehura obliged. Tonnin mashed his herbs and mushrooms together in a stone pestle uttering spells as his did his work. Finally he added them to the liquid and poured most of the mixture into Nehura’s cup. He kept a little for himself. The both took their cup, toasted ‘slainte’ to one another and drank the concoction.
“Pass this trial and I get to teach you the recipe and you’ll be allowed make your own adjustments as well.”
“I’ll make it sweeter, that’s for sure.” said the trainee druid.
“You can if you want but it’s bitter for a reason, if it tastes nice too many people would be drinking it and we’d have nothing but villages of Tauth off journeying in distant lands and nothing would get done in this world….Anway, your first card was Morrigan and you passed her personal quest. Then came Cernunnos and you took him on in battle and now you’ve one more card to draw. Take a few moments to meditate Nehura and let the drink take effect, when you feel it coming on, draw your final card.
Twenty minutes of so passed before Nehura began to feel the effects of Tonnin’s drink. “I’m ready he said.”
“Take my deck of cards here, shuffle them, part them, scatter them, do what you will but chose one and turn it up.”
Nehura took the card and shuffled them. Then he placed them spread out on the floor in front of him. He calmed his thought and went into a slight trance and let his eyes scan over all of the cards. Finally his eyes came to rest on one. He reached forward and turned it up.
“The Dagda” said Tonnin. “Oh you poor devil, one of the toughest cards to turn up. I hope he takes a liking to you like Cernunnos did Nehura”.
Nehura walked towards the small bed attached to the wall and lay down, the potion was taking full effect now and colours we swirling. Tonnin was speaking but he couldn’t make out the words, they were blending with the colours and he was struggling to keep his eyes open. He gave in to the potion and closed his eyes for a moment.
When he opened them he was standing again on a rock table. This time he wasn’t at the top of a mountain though, he was beside a large banquet table and cauldron. It was set for a huge feast and some that smelled delicious was bubbling in the huge pot above the fire.
From behind him a voice boomed
“Who are you?”
Nehura turned around as he said “My name’s Nehura, I’m here for the third part of my trial.” As the word came out his his mouth it ramined open when he finished his sentence as he stared agap at the tallest being he had even seen. The Dagda was as tall as two oak trees on top of each other and his legs were just as thick.
“The final part? Great! Congratulations on getting so far boy. First we’ll eat and break bread together and drink some wine and then we’ll decide how this trial will go.
They ate and drank long into the night with The Dagda quizzing Nehura on his druidic knowledge and the goings on in the worlds of the Tuath and of men. Nehura has stopped eating hours ago but The Dagda seemed to have a bottomless pit of a stomach and continued to feast.
“So it’s actually true Dagda, your cauldon never empties…”
Dagda laughed “Of course it’s true Nehura, I didn’t invent magic, that was Anu but she gave it to me and as the first druid the first thing I did was make sure I’d never go hungry. I spent too many years hungry for that to happen again, but look, that’s a tail for another time. Tell me this; how do you want to do this, a quest, a riddle or a battle.”
“Dagda, I’m not stupid, I know a glance of your club kills a person instantly and you’ve never lost a fight, I don’t want to battle you. I choose a riddle, I want a test of knowledge.”
Dagda laughed again, “Oh you’re a smart one alright, come with me so, let’s go across that field there and we’ll get this started.”
The both stood up and walked towards one corner of the field. As they got closer Nehura could see that there were three battle clubs resting around the inside corner of a stone wall. He wondered what this riddle would be.
“Here’s your riddle boy, three clubs lie against that wall there, one is oak, one is ask and one is birch, each of them have their own magical properties, your question is…which club will you pick to fight me?.”
“But….but Dagda, I can’t beat you, you’re the King of the Gods….I chose riddle, there’s no way I can win.”
Again Dagda laughed “Pick your club Nehura before you annoy me. It’s time to fight.”
The story goes that a beautiful girl was born to the Reilly’s of Broadway and them being the richest family of the areas they had their pick of who she was to be married to. As she grew old more and more suitors and their families made a plea to be wed to her but her father refused and refused until he was blue in the face.
Finally though a royal proposal found it’s way to the Reilly’s. A distant descendent of Ireland’s last great king Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair travelled from the west of the country to the house of the Wexford woman and sure who could refuse a royal wedding. Albeit Ireland’s royal family long ago lost any power there’s still a few who claim lineage. The Reilly father agreed to the marriage proposal and young Grace was set to marry her prince, as she called him the following summer.
They courted over that year although he travelled to France for some studies over the winter but on his return and with spring in the air they feel deeply in love as youngsters do. Tragedy struck though two months before the wedding, young Daniel was struck down by an out of control horse and cart as he was passing when he was on a trip to his ancestral home of Cong in Galway.
The horse had been quiet all his life but that day he’d been agitated, the locals up there say a local old woman had put a hex on the horseman because he’d been spreading rumours about her around the village. Be that true or not the horse had indeed gone wild that day and Daniel was killed instantly. Grace was beyond grief, she shut herself away from the world and few say her for weeks after. Months turned into years and there’d be neither sight nor sound of Lady Reilly as she’d become known as. Had she emigrated to the new world, maybe to high society in France? The story around these parts shes she made her way to Tacumshane Lake one night and gave herself to the fairies.
Modern Irish Folk Tales
At the lakeside under a full moon she begged the good folk to being her Daniel back to life so that they could be married and live happily together until the end of their days. The good folk have a bad reputation but they’ve always a soft spot for a tale of love and told her she must remain at the lake until Daniel returned.
How can I remain here? she ask them. One spoke up for the fairies saying, we’ll turn you into a fish, that way you won’t notice time going so fast and when Daniel returns he’ll know you and kiss you and you’ll be wed soon after.
Grace took the deal and was turned into a majestic white trout and swan the small lake for many years to come.
As the decades and decades passed and turned into centuries the story of Grace and Daniel was forgotten but from time to time there were tellings of a mystical white trout seen in the small Wexford lake. A British army soldier, a keen fisher growing up in Whitby Bay had found himself stationed in Kilmore Quay not far from the small lake.
None of the local Irish fishermen were willing to being a British soldier out to sea for some fishing on their boats for love nor money, fearing it would be bad luck, but knowing they’d be shunned in the local villages really when it came to market days. The man took it upon himself to saddle up a horse and look for some inland fishing spots.
Sure enough he found Tacumshane and Lady’s Island close by and after a few trips had heard of a rumoured large white trout in the waters. Impossible he thought, white trout aren’t seen in this part of the world, you’d need to fish in the warmer waters off America’s gulf coast for such fish. These Irish must think I’m an idiot.
Irish Folk Tales
On his second time there he saw something that his eyes could hardly believe. Indeed there was a white trout there, as nice a fish he’d never caught before and at the pub that night he told anyone close enough to hear him that he’d be the one who’d finally catch the legendary white trout. One local pipped up and told him to leave the fish be, You’ll come to no good if you catch that fish, he says…..oh, why’s that Paddy, asked out soldier….she was put there by the good people, the fairies and when you go messing around with their world things don’t end up going well for the gobshites who trample in unwanted.
“Poppycock” said the soldier, “I’ve never heard such nonsense. There’s no such things as fairies and magical fish”.
“Believe what you like soldier, that’s your right” the local said back, but some of us know our history still and respect the good people because they give good fortune to those that do. Anyway, it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t have fair warning boy, so I’m only telling you that it’s said that whoever catches her will lose the tongue out of his head because it’s none of us men who she’s meant for.” The local finished his drink and walked up, absolutely delighted with himself thinking that he’d given a British soldier a sleepless night of worry and torment.
He didn’t though, the soldier slept soundly and dreamt of landing that trout and telling his friends all about it.
By and by the soldier returned to Tacumshane a few days later early one summer’s morning in the hope he’d land the fish over a full day’s fishing. He sat patiently most of the day, only drawing in his line very occasionally to change bait. The whole day past with nothing biting. As he was about to give up the line suddenly shot off and he instantly knew it was the big one. He was an experienced fisherman though and know who to reel in it, giving it some line and then reeling it slowing in, giving it more to exhaust itself and again reeling it back. All in all it took him nearly two hours to land the White Trout of Tacumshane.
It’s colour was like nothing he’d seen before as fishes go it’s a beauty. Too late to eat that night he decided to wait until morning for his deserved feast.
The following morning he awoke in his tent and rekindled his fire from the night before. He got out his pan and lay the fish on it and began cooking.
Celtic Irish Folk Tales
Now we all know how to fry a bit of fish, so what happened next was a bit odd. He went to turn it onto the uncooked side but when he did so the side that should have been hot was bone cold.
‘That’s odd’ thought our soldier friend but he just dismissed it, thought he’d been imagining things from not being fully awake and waited again to turn the fish. On turning it a second time the same thing happened, the side that should have been red hot from being cooked on the pan was stone cold when he turned it.
‘What the devil is happening with this fish’ he said aloud.
Again he turned it over, checking both sides, both were as cold as if the fish had just been plucked from the water. He reached into his bag and took out a knife wanting to poke a hole in the side of the fish on the pan. Just as he pricked the side of the fish, it leaped up out of the frying pan and onto the sand where it transformed right before his eyes into the most beautiful women he’d ever seen.
‘What have you done you idiot….” she said….’they told me to wait here until Daniel came back for me…..
Dumbfounded the British man just stared at her. He could hardly believe what he was seeing… He opened his mouth to say something but he was too awe struck to speak…
What kind of clothes are you wearing? The lady on the sand asked…..are you British army? Are you lot still fecking here…does this country not rule itself yet…
He shock his head.
Ah for god’s sake….it doesn’t matter, the fairy folk told me to wait here until Daniel returns, it doesn’t matter about anything else but he could come at any moment. I have to be in the form of a fish when he does come. You need to bandage me up and put me back in the lake….what kind of eejit are you stabbing a fish anyway. You English…that’s your way isn’t it, strick first and ask questions later. How yous rules the waves is beyond my comprehensions.
The soldier was on his knees by now looking in his bag for something to heal her wound with. He pulled out a needle and thread and began to sow up the wound on her side. When it was done he covered it with a bandage.
Over there, to the left of that tree there’s some driftwood, go and get it like a good man’ Grace said.
He ran like the hammers of hell and returned with the piece of timber. Now put me on it and push me back into the lake, if I can get swimming again hopefully I’ll turn back into the fish and when Daniel comes I’ll be waiting for him. The soldier put her onto the piece of wood and dragged her into the shallows and once deep enough gave a heave and pushed her out as far into the lake as he could.
“Thank you” Grace shouted as she rolled off the board into the lake. The soldier turned out and made his way back to his small camp site and he packed up his things. The experience forever changed him, he returned to England and joined a monastery, took a vow of silence, not that he could speak anyway, seeing as the fairy folk had taken his voice away, and prayed every day for the soul of Grace Reilly.
My name is Peter Jensen, I can see things before they happen. I don’t want to or like it, but I do.
“What you looking at butthead?.”
That’s my sister Gene. She’s older than me, but not much. They call us the Irish twins, this means we were born within a year of each other and since Irish people apparently breed like rabbits, we’re called Irish twins. As far as I know though we’re of Scandinavian stock, all blond haired and blue eyed, not a ginger hair between any of us. Dad likes Guinness though.
Gene doesn’t see things before they happen. I love her but she’s a bit of a dumb-bo. I know for a fact that she can’t see things before they happen because if she could, she’d probably be nicer to me than she’s being right now as she’d be able to see that she’s about to die.
I might be wrong, I’ve read that people like me cannot see our own deaths and just the deaths of others. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she can see me dying and we all die together. I doubt it though. Gene’s going to die and it’s going to happen very soon.
“Gene, You’re going to die,” I tell her.
“You better not be threatening me you little goth freak?” she says.
Gene is your typical popular, highschool girl, stereotypically so. I know she loves me, but I know too that she’s ashamed of me when it comes to school. She’s gotten better since we finished school for the summer, she thinks she’ll be popular at university, especially since I won’t be seen around cramping her style. She’s going to die though, but she’s been very nice to me since she finished high school. I’ve one more year to go. I want to study to be a vet, but I’ve already see that I’m going to end up as a military doctor thanks to some bullshit war nobody wanted, except for the suits of course.
Gene has two friends who are always around, Victoria and Emma. They’re not very nice, they look gorgeous, but they’re soulless, empty girls who will both get pregnant on prom night and marry their boyfriends who will both end up being jarheads. They’ll both get a military pension though, when they both die in an airstrike in Istanbul, so at least there’s that. Strange how their lives synchronise. Maybe they’ll end up being lesbian life partners after their husbands die, but I can’t see that far ahead. Maybe I just want them to be lesbians. Sorry, I’m a horny teenager.
Creepy Pasta Short Stories
At Gene’s funeral, they’re going to wear tight black dresses, sunglasses, have their hair done beautifully and tears will stream down their faces. I’ll never see them after that, but that’s a good thing. They don’t like me and it’s not that I don’t like them, they’re just such stereotypes and boring that they mean almost nothing to me. I love you Gene but if you weren’t my sister I probably wouldn’t and honestly, after you die my life is easier. Although Dad will blame me somewhat. Sorry Gene, but this isn’t, wasn’t, and won’t be my fault.
“No,” I tell her, “I just wanted to warn you. Gene, I love you. I do.”
“Oh my god, shut up. You’re such a creepy weirdo!” She punches me then. This will probably be the last time she touches me. I pretend it hurts to give her some satisfaction.
In the front seat Mom turns around and gives us a look of daggers, you know that look that parents give you when they’re regretting that they had children. Most parents never admit it publicly, or even privately, but they sure as hell think it. Mine do a lot anyway and yours probably do too. Mine like to think about where they’d be and what they’d have become in their lives if they hadn’t had kids. I’d like to have the gift to see those kinds of things, it exists, but so far I don’t have it. Maybe I can develop it, maybe not.
“You two are a bit too old now to be hitting each other eh?” she asks. It’s not really a question though, it’s a statement really. Adults love those condescending, passive aggressive bullshit comments. If you try and make comments like this as a kid you just come across as a bit of a douchebag.
Ahead in the road I see a sign that says Rest Stop 2 miles’ and in smaller writing beneath it ‘next rest stop 66 miles’ My Dad’s a fast driver, too fast to be honest, but at the speed he drives it’ll probably take him about 25 minutes. I need to pee, but I don’t want to stop. Gene’s about to meet her maker. I can’t see how it happens, only the aftermath but I know it’s going to be soon.
“Who wants to stop?” Dad says, “next one is 66 miles away’
We’d stopped at a KFC a couple of hours ago. I don’t really like their food, but I drank a huge Coke, it felt so good because it helps with my travel sickness. I hate having travel sickness, I know I should watch the horizon and I do, but as soon as I stop my head feels heavy and I get groggy. I really need to pee, but I don’t want to stop, I don’t want Gene to die.
Gene notices that I’m fidgeting around ‘He needs to pee, he’s going to pee his pants if you don’t stop. We don’t want a repeat of Aunt Sally’s do we’
“Come on Gene that was what, 13 years ago, you need to get over that, or was seeing a kid pee himself so traumatic.”
“Be nice to each other” Mom says. Yea, she’s right, but I’m trying to let my sister live longer…
“I need to go too” Gene says
Damn I think, that seals it then.
Dad pulls off the highway and we make for the rest stop. There are two lanes going in and probably out, one for trucks and one for cars. The place is huge, a gas station, some restaurants, even a small playground for kids. There’s a huge monument here too for some soldiers long dead in some war that was not needed. Maybe it’ll come loose and kill Gene? Squishing her like you’d squash a bug. That would be horrific, I hope that doesn’t happen.
We all pile out of the car, the boys going to the men’s restroom and the ladies to the ladies. They have those stupid self-flushing toilets. They must flush at least three times more than they’re needed to, wasting so much water all the time. Or does that just happen to me.
It’s so loud in there, toilets flushing constantly and those high powered hand dryers that make your skin move like there’s something underneath trying to escape.
“You want some chocolate, champ?” Dad asked. I don’t really but he does, so I say yes, sure, so we go and buy a huge pack of those cinema style maltesers.
We head outside and wait for my mom and Gene to return. Maybe Gene’s been sucked into the ever flushing toilets and she’s drowned. Is that what’s taking them so long?
No, they return a moment later, also with a bag of maltesers. My family really loves maltesers. But they’ll remind mom and dad of Gene, so we won’t be buying them ever again.
We get back in the car and I begin to think, maybe I’m wrong. For the first time one of my premonitions hasn’t come true. Thank god, Zues, Yahweh, whoever.. But this is great, Gene is sitting beside me and she’s alive and….no, I’m wrong, she’s still going to die.
Dad starts the car and as he does so I tell Gene ‘I love you Gene, I’ll miss you’ I say it at the moment the engine starts so Mom and Dad don’t hear me. Gene hears me though and for a split second I think she’s gets it, she knows something’s going to happen…but I’m wrong. She tuts, shakes her head and say’s ‘you’re so weird butthead, but I love you too.’
Mom hears that and turns around ‘What’s going on’ she asked.
Wanting to play the cool kid Gene says nothing, she grabs my drawing book off the seat and starts flicking though it
Dad heads toward the exit, there’s a truck ahead of us in the far lane.
“Oh my god, there’s so many naked women in your book, you’re such a perv” Gene shouts, laughing
“Well, they’re drawing practise, I’m just drawing”
Mom, looking at me, Mister are you drawing naked ladies, she’s teasing, I’m not in any trouble, she knows I love drawing and she knows I’m starting to think about girls and wanting a girlfriend.
“Hahaha, says Gene, one of these looks like Emma. Oh my god, do you have a crush on Emma? I’m going to text her and tell her, hahaha, she’s going to be so embarrassed….”
“No, give me that back, none of them look like Emma.”
Dad gets involved now as he’s speeding up to pass out the truck on the inside, rather than wait and let him go first like a normal driver…Emma’s a nice girl kiddo, you could do worse….
“Oh my god, Dad, Emma would never date a loser like champ here,” Gene says
With that, I make a grab for my book but Gene throws it into the front and the book hits Dad, it’s an accident, but he jerks the wheel and……time suddenly slows down. The truck driver obviously didn’t expect a car to try and take him over from the wrong side and our car hits his truck.
Maltesers everywhere, tyres skidding, glass breaking, metal crushing. Flesh tearing, bones breaking. The vehicles come to a stop, Silence. I pass out.
Clairvoyant Ghost Stories
I come too and the paramedics are attending me and Mom, we have some cuts and bruises. Dad and Gene have been airlifted to the closest hospital. It’s 21 minutes away by helicopter. Gene dies in the air from internal injuries. Dad has a broken collar bone and left leg. He’ll walk with a slight limp for the rest of his life.
The paramedic finds my drawing book and asks if it belongs to us. “It’s mine” I say “It’s the reason we crashed”
Don’t blame yourself she says, you’re dad and sister are in great hands, they’ll be fine”
Maybe she believes the lie, maybe she’s convinced herself over the years. In fifteen minutes she’s going to get a call to attend a murder scene where a man has decapitated his lover. It’s not the first time he’s done it and he’s going to do it 5 more times until he’s caught in a cabin in the Cherokee National Forest.
Dad gets out for the funeral 10 days later. Our relationship is never the same, even though I didn’t throw the book, he blames me for trying to grab it off Gene. Mom though hugs me for longer when we hug and she watches me for a second longer than usual every time she glances. I hope Gene is at peace and in a good place. Something tells me though there’s isn’t a good place after this.
Christ, this must be what those enlightened guru dudes on tele must feel. Zen or whatever it’s called. Is this Zen you ask yourself?
You’ve never had this before, it’s ecstasy but y’know, without the actual ecstasy.
Your head is rushing, no, swimming…swimming with ideas, boom, boom, boom, tangents connecting with tangents leading to insights and foresights. It’s like a river has burst its banks and has formed a new waterfall and it’s all cascading and crashing down, down, down on your mind and it feels utterly amazing.
What is this, you ask yourself?
What’s….what’s, what’s going on?
This moment, this minute, no, this second, right now, this is it, this is all we have, it’s all we can ever have and it’s all there’s going to be. Everything is connected and it’s all culminating in this experience of itself knowing itself and feeling itself for what feels like the first time ever.
You sit up, Am I awake?…, yes, of course, I’m awake, I’m in bed, the shine is shining in through the curtains, I can hear the birds singing outside, there’s a lawnmower going somewhere and someone is downstairs.
I’m conscious, obviously I am but it’s like I’m experiencing being really alive for the first time.
You lie back down…..woah.. that was intense but you don’t want the feeling to go. You close your eyes and try to recapture that spirit, that fleeting feeling of one-ness with the world.
How did I get here? Like, to be here, if you think about it, it’s too much of a coincidence for it to have all come together and happened. What did Carl Jung call it? Synchronicity? It’s a coincidence but a coincide where the universe is winking at you, like a coincidence that’s meaningful, like if when you think about someone and then see a Whatsapp off them just seconds later, or when you’re thinking about something from childhood and a song you remember from that summer comes on the radio.
The alarm goes off, disturbing your train of thought. Why am I letting it disturb me though, I’ve got something on my bedside locker that’s a billion times more powerful than the machines that put man on the moon, it’s a cliche but it’s true. Well, let’s not get all Eddie Bravo here and claim that the moon landings were fake. What’s that astronaut’s name, Edgar something….
Yea, Edgar something or other, he had a strange experience up there, he looked back at the earth and had this intense feeling of non-duality, we’re all one, each human, the planets, the stars, the universe, we’re all this one organism experiencing what’s on offer. Why can’t I think of his surname…Edgar, man, it’s on the tip of my tongue?
Man, I’d love to see the earth from above, I wish everyone could and we could all have this one-people feeling. End wars and racism and just be able to love each other. Dreamer, yea, but sure so many things we have came from dreams. Anyway… he established some organisation to do with Noetic Sciences, cool dude, kinda trying to get as much science out of the paranormal and woo as he could. And he did. Edgar…Edgar something, man, what was it?
What a life he must’ve had though, think of all the little things that must have happened and must have gone right, or even wrong from him to end up being an astronaut on that ship and experiencing that feeling and then going on to establish a new field in science, well, not really a new field, but giving legitimately to certain things that scientists would normally frown upon….
Sure how did I get here? All of the dumbass and stupid decisions I’ve made and all of the right calls I’ve made that have ended up with me being here? I wouldn’t have even met my wife if something like 10, or probably more, different in-no-way-possible to be connected things actually happened.
I was working in a shop and I hated it but I’d been working a 9-5 in some corporate meatgrinder of a firm and it was driving me insane, it was my first serious job after college and earning good money but it was sale after sale after sale, convincing people to buy stuff they didn’t really need, or want. You ever see those programmes about people burned by buying property in the sun? That was me, I’m so ashamed of it, we all knew those apartments were crap but people had money in their pockets to burn so we took it, but the guilt man, the guilt of doing it was making me depressed and I had chronic insomnia. I had enough money from the job to quit so I did and to make sure I wasn’t bored I walked into a local Tescos and got a job stacking shelves, it was perfect, I had like 10 trolleys to stack every day and I could listen to my music on headphones, the money was crap and the only stress was the uniform, it was bliss.
What Pronoia is
A friend in Australia I hadn’t met yet was crossing a road at a busy junction after a few pints one night out on the lash in Brisbane. A drunk driver speeds around the corner and flattens my new mate that I don’t know yet. He nearly dies but pulls through after a few weeks in hospital, a couple of close calls and going under the knife a few times.
I left my corpo job and worked in Tescos, that’s two big decisions right there. My mate decided to cross the street at that moment and the drunk driver had to choose to drive that night, we’re on 4 choices already and even then, do we count what came before those? Naw, that’s where I’m starting.
Anyway, Davey got a shitton of money as a settlement for his accident and did what all good Australians with money do, go to Ireland to track down their ancestors and any living relatives. I’m stacking baked beans one day and up he rocks asking for a job. I send him to the manager and a few days later I’m showing him the ropes in the shop.
We take a break together and get chatting, I tell him I want to go back to writing and playing music and he tells me he used to be a drummer in a metal band back in Oz. Christ man, let’s start a band, so we did. That’s a joint decision ain’t it, so five things.
In a town called Pula in Croatia my to-be wife has decided to take a year off college and earn some money (that’s Number 6), deferring a year that turns into two, and moved to Scotland (number 7) to earn some cash. She’s soon disappointed by the Scottish weather. Can’t blame her, what was it Billy Connolly used to say about the Scots….ooh yea, Irish people who loved rain so much they moved to a wetter country. She knows where Ireland is on the map, and what Guinness is but that’s about it.
Davey and I and a few of the lads get a band going and live the life of riley. Playing a few gigs here and there and living it up like lads in their 20s should. Guitars and girls and beer and drugs, it was probably the best couple of months any of us had had. And while we certainly could have made more of ourselves at the time had we been a bit more determined it wasn’t really about success, it was about making music with your best friends and enjoying what we had. Living each day as it came, Jesus, we were never so free as we were then.
With Aussies in Ireland though you only get a year’s visa, you can extend it but you need to advertise the job and if someone Irish and more qualified goes for it they get it, Davey was just working in a shop so didn’t even bother asking the boss so he decides to go to Scotland because in the UK you can stay for two years.
What are we on now? That’s decisions No. 8.
So the band kinda stops for a bit although a few of us keep playing and writing music for the fun of it. Once Davey settles into life in Scotland we head over to see him. When he moved over first he decided to stay in a hostel (Number 9) until he finds his feet. While there he meets this Spanish girl, they get on really well and start seeing each other, so they get a flat together. She’s in Scotland because after watching that Mel Gibson film Braveheart she falls in love with Scotland and decided to go there (Decision 10). Of course, as soon as she got there all the Scots tell her she’s bonkers because it was filmed in Ireland. My uncle was a set designer on that film, then again it was so big sure they were hiring the Irish army to play the extras.
What is Pronoia?
If the Spanish girl, Maria, had realised it was filmed in Ireland but about a famous Scot she would probably have ended up in Ireland, or maybe not. Anyway, on our second night in Edinburgh Davey and Maria have a house party. At Maria’s work that day she invites some of her colleagues, she tells them there’s some Irish friends over to see Davey for a few days and we’re all good craic and that they should come to the party, so, what’s that, she decides to tell them about us lot and asks them to come…two more, that’s 12 decisions and then 3 of them come, so they made choices and one of them was my future wife, that’s 13 things that had to have happened for me just to meet her at a random party in a random flat in Scotland coz I went over to see a friend after he ended up living with a Spanish girl who probably should have been living in Ireland who ended up living with Davey because they met in a hostel when he decided to leave Ireland for Scotland because his visa was out who I only met because he walked into a Tesco I was working in because I’d quit my corpo job because I hated it.
What are the odds though? That’s 13 things, so if each thing has y’know a 50% chance of happening, y’know, it either does or it doesn’t. But for 13 things like this to happen, the odds are crazy. 13 times of something being 50% chance is…or god, let me work that out…. odds of 0.012 of happening, so put it another way, for all of those 13 things to go our way and end up meeting, from those 13 decisions all of us made along the way, we had a 1.2% chance of meeting when I decided to leave my 9-5 job.
And think about all the other tiny, tiny chances that happened in between those bigger ones, all of the little things that could have happened that would have blown all of us off on a different course. But….they didn’t. All those things did happen. How wonderfully amazing is that?
Me and you, we had just a 1.2% chance of meeting, that’s nothing. And then we had to go and fall in love.
How could you not feel like the stars have aligned for all this to happen? And it’s not a centre of the universe, the world revolves around me kind of thing, it’s that, fuck in hell man, the universe has put us together, against all the odds and here we are.
This must be enlightenment, it has to be. To be able to look over things and realise just how unbelievably lucky we are to be where we are and how it’s all led up to this incredible moment of realisation.
Pronoia Short Story
Not to mention the fact that the world didn’t stop turning last night and we’re cradled in the sun’s loving gravity embrace and we live at just the perfect distance away from the sun for life to even exist here. There’s a roof over my head and food in the fridge and I’ve a job where I can earn some money to have enough food on the table. I want to climb on the roof and shout ‘I fucking love being alive, this is the single greatest moment that I’ve ever experienced and I’ve never felt so alive and so in love and blissed out and so fucking happy……
The door opens and she enters the room. Wow…all those thoughts come crashing back again. It’s insane we even met and to fall in love and have a family. Jesus,….it’s, it’s, it’s madness.
‘I’ve something to tell you’ she says….
Oh un, paranoia raises his bastard head…
‘The cat shit on the kitchen table last night……”
And I laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh….Mitchell? Hahaha, Mitchell shit on the table? I ask
I was doing a long haul, I don’t do them very often anymore with my back being the way it is, but I owed my boss a favour and anyway, I wanted to see my daughter one last time in LA before she moved north to Toronto for her final year of studies. Normally, I just drive now in the Dallas area in smaller lorries and avoid the big 18-wheelers, but yea, I wanted to see Kylie so it was a good excuse and I got to make some money too.
I was going from Dallas to Phoenix for the first delivery, up to Flagstaff for another drop and then onto LA. I wasn’t in a huge rush, but I was keen to get there before the weekend so Kylie and I could catch up. After a few hours sleep in Phoenix I got myself together for the short two hour trip up route 17 to Flagstaff.
If you don’t know the area, it’s where the Co-co-nino national forest is. It’s incredibly beautiful, full of red rock stacks and wild forest and rivers. It’s one of the old stops that people used to make crossing America on the old Route 66. Unfortunately though, I wasn’t going to get to see much this time as I was driving at night.
Just as I entered the area the heavens opened. The sky had been overcast for a while and mother nature let rip with one hell of a downpour. Soon I was driving no faster than 30 miles an hours, visibility was pretty bad and those roads are dark at night. As I came around a corner I saw a lady hitching. Usually I’d never stop, but in this weather, I dunno, I must’ve felt sorry for her and y’know, something felt off.
I slowed to a stop on the side of the road. I rolled down the passenger side window and could see her a bit more closely. She was soaked to the skin and shivering…well I thought she was shivering, she could have been shimmering looking back on it now. Her shoulders were slu
mped and her face looked at the ground, it looked like she hadn’t even noticed that I’d stopped. It was raining so heavy now, maybe she hadn’t heard me.
“Are you Looking for a ride?” I asked trying to shout over the rain.
She had heard me. She raised her head and lowered it again in a slow nod. I unbuckled my seatbelt, leaned over to the passenger-side door and opened it for her. She stepped into the cabin and it grew colder. My temp gauge said it was about 55, not bad for this time of year, but to me it felt like it had dropped to about 30. Her hair and clothes were wringing wet, but as she brushed her drenched hair away from her face I could see that she was incredibly beautiful.
“Where you going to ?” I asked my new guest
“Oh,” she said quietly, “I guess I’m going to hell.”
I laughed at her little joke, it wasn’t funny, but I wanted to make her feel welcome. She looked like she’d been through some god-awful event and I wanted to be helpful. My little laughter died when I saw her stern expression.
‘I going to Flagstaff and then on to Los Angeles if that’s any good to you. LA is as close to hell as you can get without dying in my opinion, I hate the place, I’m only going there because my daughter lives there at the moment.”
The hitchhiker ever so slightly smiled..
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s go to LA.”
I smiled at her and put my foot to the floor. It wasn’t long until a gloomy silence descended on us in the cab. I wasn’t freaked out or worried, I just thought, ok, this lady’s been through something, best not to ask about it unless she brings it up and anyway, this rain is so heavy I really had to concentrate on the driving and not killing us. Somehow it seemed like the weather was getting worse, there was the odd flash of lightning and the roll of thunder from far away. Unusual weather for the time of the year, but I suppose we can blame global warming, I guess. If you’re into that kind of thing. My windscreen wipers were going full tilt and I’d pretty much slowed down to 20 miles an hour now.
Eventually the silence was getting to me soon and I was starting to feel uncomfortable….
“Can I ask” I finally said. “What are you doing out in weather like this?”
She looked surprised that I wanted to speak to her as she continually stared out the truck’s window.
“Oh,” she said, “I hate the rain, I didn’t plan on being out.”
Strange answer I thought
“Yeah, you’ve lucky I stopped for you I guess,” I said. “I’ve heard this area can be prone to flash flooding. Although, not at this time of year. I’m from the Dallas area so don’t drive up here much, but in this old lady she’ll be able to take pretty much anything nature can throw at her.”
She seemed to shudder once I shut my mouth. Oh, course, I thought, she’s soaking wet and cold. I turned up the heat on her side and her underchair heating.
“Look, this might sound weird and I ain’t no pervert…but you must be freezing, there’s some spare clothes on the back seat there, feel free to take a tshirt or sweater if you want to get out of those wet clothes. I ain’t gonna look…I realise that might sound weird, but trust me I’ve been married for 25 years now and I’m very happy.’
Scary Hitchhiker Story
To my surprise she said “Okay,” he took off her coat and tshirt and reached into the back and grabbed one of my spare ones and a towel too. She put on the tshirt and then started to dry her hair.
I know I said I wouldn’t look, but out of the corner of my eye I could, of course, see. What I saw floored me…
“Jesus Chris,” I said.
With her coat and tshirt off I could see her neck. She had a huge, thick, purple and yellow bruise. I looked like she’d survived a lynching.
“Lady, are you alright?” I asked. “What the hell happened your neck, do you need medical attention?”
“Ambulances don’t often come out here,” she said. “Same for the police. It’s too remote and especially when the weather is this bad.”
“Ehhh….ok,” I said. I was now feeling incredibly uncomfortable and again silence descended and we sat in silence for what felt like hours, in reality it was probably only 5-10 minutes until she next spoke again as we were about to crest a long turn on a high hill.
“Please, stop the truck,” she asked.
I slowed down, but I didn’t stop. There was nowhere to pull over and I wanted to get to Flagstaff and make my last drop before LA. Honestly I wanted rid of this lady too, I was getting a little freaked out
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You need to stop the truck” she was becoming agitated
“I can’t, I’m sorry,” I said, “I’ve got to get to Flagstaff, make a drop and then head onto LA, I want to be there before noon. And anyway lady, sorry, you never did give me your name, I can’t leave you off in this weather, you’ll die of the cold.’
She turned towards me. Her face held no expression as she stared into my eyes. Man, she was beautiful, but that bruise at the base of her neck was disgusting. She grabbed the wheel and the trucked jerked to the right, I tried to wrestle the wheel back off her but she was a strong as an ox. I stomped on the brakes and the tires skidded. I tried my best to keep the truck on the road, but she was too strong, we hit the rail and the side mirror was smashed off the truck when it hit a tall tree on the side. We came to a quick stop on the verge in the mud, thankfully we were travelling still at a slow speed, it was still bucketing down rain.
“God damn it woman!” I shouted. “What in the name of Lord…., — why the hell did you do that….?”
She was gone.
Had she somehow fallen out of the truck as we were stopping? It’s impossible, the doors lock automatically and anyway we were going too slow. Where the hell is she? I was thinking.
Her seatbelt was still buckled. This was very strange and I was freaking out a bit. I hit the gas, but I was stuck, the 18 wheeler just spinned and I stopped because I didn’t want to get more embedded in the mud on the side of the road. I took out my phone and called the police to let them know a truck was stuck on the road, but they said they couldn’t reach me until weather conditions improved. My insurance company told me the same. They told me to put down a warning triangle a 100 yards back from where I was stuck and wait it out until morning or for the weather to pass.
There was nothing I could do, I was stuck where I was. So I made sure the doors were locked and decided I’d try and get some sleep.
In the morning I was awoken by someone knocking on the cab door. ‘Open up, it’s the police, you called last night, we’re here to get you out mister.’
Creepy Hitchhiker Stories
“ Well sir, you can believe it or don’t, but you might just be the luckiest SOB on the planet. I’d buy a lottery ticket today if I was you….”
“Sorry officer, I don’t follow you, what do you mean?”
“Come on son and get out of the truck, let me show you how lucky you are.”
So I got out of the truck and we walked up around the bend. Right there in the middle of the road just below where the road began to descend was a rock, stuck in a small mudslide, roughly the size of a 1970s Voltswagon Beetle.
“If you’d have come over that hill sir,” said the policeman, “you’d have never seen that rock in the rain and you’d be about as dead as disco now. You’re lucky you lost control of the 18 wheeler when you did….
“But I didn’t lose control Officer,” I said. “I picked up a hitchhiker last night, not too long after the downpour started and, well, she wrestled the wheel offa me and forced the truck off the road .”
“Is that so?” he said. “Where’s this hitchhiker now then?”
“Officer, I don’t know, she must’ve run off when we stopped, although I didn’t hear her or see her get out of the truck….”
He looked at me strangely, but not like he didn’t believe me.
“Sir, do you remember what she looked like?”
“I do,” I said. “She was very pretty, green eyes and long black hair and….errr…”
“Err….she had this large bruise around her neck. It was real nasty looking.”
The cop nodded.
“I would appear my good man that you met Lucille last night. She’s a bit of a local legend around here.”
“Lucille, what, what, do you mean?”
Lucille was a lady who lived in the area in the 60s and 70s, having moved here with her daughter after her husband died in Vietnam. She was very protective of her daughter who wasn’t exactly lucky when it came to her lovelife. One day Lucille went off to work and left her teenage daughter locked in at home. She was suspicious that she was going to run off with her latest, abusive boyfriend so Lucille shut up shop and went off to work. As I already mentioned this area is liable to flash floods and unfortunately Lucille’’s house flooded and the daughter drowned
Lucille was inconsolable—she walked into the forest with a strong rope and hung herself the day after her daughter’s funeral. She had left a suicide note that siad “I’m gong to hell to make amends for my sins and for killing my daughter.”
According to the legend, she didn’t go to hell though, she was forced to stay in the area and save people from the same accidental deaths as her daughter.
I know some people will think I’m crazy and that this old geezer banged his head during the crash after falling asleep at the wheel, there’s just one thing. The coat and tshirt that she was wearing, they were still on the back seat when I got to LA and mine were gone.