Dearest monks and artists,
Next Saturday is the Feast of St. Muirgen, Ireland’s very own mermaid saint. Her story was written down in the 6th century and is a powerful metaphor for our own journeys of loss, descent, grief, and then finding our own sacred song. I will be leading a mini-retreat on Friday (the eve of her feast day) inviting you to explore her wisdom for your own life.
I am blessed to live by the sea. I go often to the water to listen to her ancient rhythms and the primordial voice whispering in the waves. I go because it is exquisite medicine.
I go 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 go because this adopted home of mine is an island and the edge where sand and shore meet is always a portal.
I go 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 go 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 St. 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 for a full year. 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 is pronounced a saint and given the name Muirgen (meaning 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 this points 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.
We will be diving deep together this Friday with our online Mermaid Retreat. I will be joined by Te Martin who will be offering their beautiful gift of song including a new song written specifically for this story and retreat.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
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