Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
I come to the sea to listen to ancient rhythms and the primordial voice. I come because it is exquisite medicine. I come because in another life I was a mermaid or a Selkie, diving beneath the dark surface of the cold water to find new worlds waiting. I come because this adopted home of mine is an island and the edge where sand and shore meet is always a portal. I come because when I sit and watch the waves roll and roil life makes sense, chatter quiets, I can drink from the well of stillness. Most of all I come because this vast vessel of brine holds the tears I have shed, a sign of how much I have loved this life, this world.
The story of Muirgen says that her village was swallowed in a flood and she and her dog dove under the waves and found a cave. As the only survivor the cave became her temple of grieving. It was the alchemical vessel for her transformation. She became mermaid and her loyal companion became otter. Shapeshifters. Taking new form to express the new identity their journey to the underworld bestowed.
Later she is discovered by monks because of the beauty of her singing and made a saint and given the name Muirgen (of the sea). I love that the Irish tradition has such a wide sense of possibilities and holiness.
If you ask is this story true in the sense of did it literally happen then you have a long way still to travel. But if you ask what truth does this point you to in your own life, there you find the glimmer of yourself, your shining face reflected back in the water’s mirror.
What are the great losses of your life? Where have been the caves calling you to enter, to rest, be, mourn, transform? How did this loss change you so profoundly you felt like your world and perspective shifted? Who companioned you during this time? What song do you long to sing?
And perhaps the cave is still calling. Maybe the floods came and stripped what you loved away and you have resisted diving under the surface of the water and are paddling frantically and choking on brine?
The cave is always waiting. There is always a portal before us. Transformation is our true nature. Dive deep my friends.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Dancing monk icon by Marcy Hall at Rabbit Room Arts.