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Casting The Women Of Ireland Beyond The Ninth Wave: We Face This Land

Ireland’s indigenous literature has long regarded the ninth wave, reputedly the outermost one surrounding the shoreline of the country, as a supernatural boundary. When the invading Clann Mhíle, the Irish race, heeded the pleas of the desperate Tuatha Dé Danann to temporarily retreat from the island they did so by anchoring their ships beyond the ninth wave. Their return to the country was imperilled by the Tuatha Dé druids who brought forth a terrible storm until the chief poet of the Family of Míl, diplomatic Amhairghin Glúingheal, issued a rosc or magical chant invoking the spirit of Ireland itself to calm sea and sky:

“I am a wind in the sea (for depth)
I am a sea-wave upon the land (for heaviness)
I am the sound of the sea (for fearsomeness)
I am a stag of seven combats (for strength)
I am a hawk upon a cliff (for agility)
I am a tear-drop of the sun (for purity)
I am fair (there is no plant fairer than I)
I am a boar for valour (for harshness)
I am a salmon in a pool (for swiftness)
I am a lake in a plain (for size)
I am the excellence of arts (for beauty)
I am a spear that wages battle with plunder.
I am a god who froms subjects for a ruler
Who explains the stones of the mountains?
Who invokes the ages of the moon?
Where lies the setting for the sun?
Who bears cattle from the house of Tethra?
Who are the cattle of Tethra who laugh?
What man, what god forms weapons?”

The sons of Míl won their eventual war with the Tuatha Dé and with it mastery of the island. The Peoples of the Goddess Dana withdrew beneath the surface of the earth – and ocean – into the síthe or Otherworld dwellings, becoming the Aos Sí or Otherworld People of Gaelic mythology and folklore. Ireland now belonged to the Irish.

Centuries after the Duan Amhairghine, the Song of Aimhirghin, was committed to manuscript by a Medieval scribe we are still dispatching the daughters of Míl beyond the ninth wave. For several decades the women of Ireland have journeyed overseas to seek clinical abortions, a medical provision denied to them in their own homeland. The freedom of choice that their matrilineal Gaelic ancestors enjoyed by law and custom, both before Christianity and for centuries thereafter, has been taken away from them by self-appointed custodians of female personhood. Legalised banishment by pregnancy is an ecclesiastical anachronism in our secular and revolutionary republic, one that must be brought to an end. Not because of some meaningless kowtowing to supposed “modernity” or other facile sentiment. But because it is the most Irish thing we can do.

10 comments on “Casting The Women Of Ireland Beyond The Ninth Wave: We Face This Land

  1. Sharon Douglas

    Can I adopt you? This is simply exquisite, Séamas.


    • Hah! Thank you! 😀 I wrote it in a couple of minutes which is always a sign of ok quality. Whenever I struggle with something I’m typing I know it will come out badly. Of course it is the middle of the night here so no one will see it but I’m proud of it. I will lose LOTS of readers and followers on Facebook and Twitter again for expressing pro-choice sentiment (I always do) but one has to remain honest to one’s own beliefs. I’m not in it to be popular!


  2. thanks for explaining the mythology underpinning the video – which i knew nothing about. fascinating tale. I’ve already re-blogged the vid – so i can’t add this, which i would gladly have done. beautiful post


    • I’m afraid the interpretation is mine, since the video immediately reminded of the native tradition. But then I’m sorta steeped in that stuff. It seems appropiate though 🙂


  3. Lord of Mirkwood

    This is the best argument I’ve seen for overhauling Ireland’s abortion laws. I’m not a huge fan of abortion for its own sake, but it’s probably not the government’s business, and finding a good way to do it that is “the most Irish thing” to do will get my support. Good on you, Séamas.


    • I’m in the same camp. I think abortion is a poor substitute for comprehensive sex education, widespread availability of affordable contraception, decent child care facilities, and so on and so forth. However at the end of the day, people will seek abortions and if so it is better that it is here in their own country with the minimum of fuss, delay or medical or financial burden.

      It astonishes me that the anti-choice lobby don’t see things in the former terms at least. Surely sex education, etc. serves their cause? But instead they oppose all such “solutions”. Which makes one believe it is all about patriarch control of female sexuality in the guise of religious faith.

      Thanks for the good words.


  4. Citing the prerogatives of the past to justify behaviors/rights in the present, can likewise be used to justify slavery. On what grounds then does one object to the Irish water controversy, or, pretty much anything? If there is no objective moral order we must bend a knee to, where then is the origin for our rights? The world is not a creation of our will, there is an objective reality. Women killing their babies is perverse, if babies aren’t safe in the womb, who is ever safe?


    • Women killing their babies is perverse
      So is forcing them to give birth to kids they don’t want.


    • Thousands of Irish women are travelling overseas each year to avail of abortions in other countries. If one really believed that they were baby-killers then they should be subject to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for murder. You cannot escape the argument that if abortion really is killing, the taking of a human life, then that must carry a penalty for it. That is how we deal with the murder of a “born baby” so why would an “unborn baby” be different?

      The truth is, the anti-choice movement itself recognises that a fetus is not a living baby, and that is why they are unwilling to push their arguments to their logical – and inescapable – conclusion. You cannot argue that abortion is murder without arguing that the women who avail of it are murderers. If so, again, why not lock them up after an abortion or return to the position of detention for the intent to carry out a murder?


      • the Phoenix

        So you are saying the unborn are not living human beings and have no rights? You realise we were all in that state at one time do you not?


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