Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Earth-Shapers


"I am going to put my mantle round the Earth because it has dreamed of beauty."

My favorite Ella Young phrase is from her book Celtic Wonder Tales (1910) and her delightful creation story for Ireland entitled "The Earth-Shapers." Below is an excerpt from this tale in which Ella tells the story of how The De Danaans - the Shining Ones - used their magic to create a land of beauty and wonder.

Brigit was singing. Angus the Ever-Young, and Midyir the Red-Maned, and Ogma that is called Splendour of the Sun, and the Dagda and other lords of the people of Dana drew near to listen...
                     ...Let the wave break, let the star rise, let the flame leap.
                     Ours, if our hearts are wise,
                     To take and keep.

Brigit ceased to sing, and there was silence for a little space in Tir-na-Moe. Then Angus said:

"Strange are the words of your song, and strange the music: it swept me down steeps of air--down--down--always further down. Tir-na-Moe was like a dream half-remembered. I felt the breath of strange worlds on my face, and always your song grew louder and louder, but you were not singing it. Who was singing it?"

"The Earth was singing it."

..."O Silver Branches that no Sorrow has Shaken," said Brigit, "hear one thing more! The Earth wails all night because it has dreamed of beauty."

"What dream, O Brigit?"

"The Earth has dreamed of the white stillness of dawn; of the star that goes before the sunrise; and of music like the music of my song."

...Midyir the Haughty rose and shook out the bright tresses of his hair till he was clothed with radiance as with a Golden Fleece.

"I am fain to look into the darkness," he said. "I am fain to hear the thunder of the Abyss."

"Then come with me," said Brigit, "I am going to put my mantle round the Earth because it has dreamed of beauty."

"I will make clear a place for your mantle," said Midyir. "I will throw fire amongst the monsters."

"I will go with you too," said the Dagda, who is called the Green Harper.

"And I," said Splendour of the Sun, whose other name is Ogma the Wise. "And I," said Nuada Wielder of the White Light. "And I," said Gobniu the Wonder-Smith, "we will remake the Earth!"

"Good luck to the adventure!" said Angus. "I would go myself if ye had the Sword of Light with you."

"We will take the Sword of Light," said Brigit, "and the Cauldron of Plenty and the Spear of Victory and the Stone of Destiny with us, for we will build power and wisdom and beauty and lavish-heartedness into the Earth."

It is well said," cried all the Shining Ones.

Illustrations by Maud Young



  1. I love Ella's Celtic Wonder Tales, and usually I have an idea of her source material, however, I'm puzzled by the Earth Shapers, which I agree is very beautiful. Do you think this one is just Ella's fancy, or am I missing something obvious?

  2. I don't think there is any source material - I think she wanted to write a creation myth, drew on her knowledge and her imagination, and gave us this marvel. To quote her " "It is well said," cried all the Shining Ones." Kris, I am glad you you love Ella's work and thank you for stopping by.