The Cave of Transformation, Shapeshifting, and the Medicine of Song: A Mini-Retreat on Ireland’s Mermaid Saint
with Christine Valters Paintner and guest musician Te Martin
Friday, January 26, 2024
Join us on the eve of the feast of St. Muirgen, the mermaid saint of Ireland, whose story was written down in the 6th century and is a map for transformation.
Princess Li Ban (as she was first named) and her dog lived through a great flood which destroyed her family and community. They dove beneath the great waters and entered a cave together where they stayed for a full year grieving their loss and praying for transformation. It is a season of initiation where she emerges as a new being. After a full cycle of the sun, she transforms into a mermaid, half salmon which is the symbol of wisdom in Irish tradition, and her dog transforms into an otter. A year after entering her cave, she swims out to the sea where she lives for three years with her otter companion among the fish.
One day when monks from Bangor Abbey went out to fish, they heard her beautiful singing. She promised to return to them in a year’s time and was baptized as Muirgen (meaning “of the sea”). Muirgen died soon after. Miracles associated with her led her to being named a saint in Ireland.
We will spend our time together entering this mythic story and listening for what its symbols and movements have to say to our own lives. Li Ban survives a devastating flood and descends across the threshold into the underworld of the cave to grieve and mourn, and then shapeshifts into a mermaid.
In our world of extinctions and climate crisis, what does it mean to survive? What are the thresholds we have crossed? What are the caves which call us into the womb of life and rebirth? How are we being invited to descend, to rest in solitude, to grieve, and to transform? What are the ways we can learn to see in the dark, receiving the visions offered to us there? How can we be messengers between worlds, bringing the gifts from beyond the veil here? What are the initiations we are experiencing? What is the song we sing?
Ultimately this is a story of our call to enter the womb of our deepest grief for the world and to be initiated into newness, to bring our gift of song back to the world.
Through teaching, meditation, reflection, writing, gentle movement, and song we will lean into our own mythical journeys and call on St. Muirgen to help bring us clarity and guidance for next steps.
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Your Guides for the Journey
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE is the online Abbess for Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery and global community integrating contemplative practice and creative expression. Her programs draw on the wisdom of the desert, Celtic, and Benedictine spiritual traditions as well as the joy of the expressive arts, embodied practice, and Earth-cherishing wisdom. Christine is the author of numerous books on spirituality and creativity, including three collections of poetry. She lives on the west coast of Ireland with her husband John and dog Sourney. Find out more about her here.
Theresa “Te” Martin (they/them), has been studying and leading community singing since 2017. They were born on Ramaytush Ohlone land in san francisco and have been shaped by Ocean, Redwoods, circus arts, and theater games. Lately, some of the questions they have been asking are: “How can I offer song + ritual arts that are in service to healing?” and, “What are the sounds and stories of my Celtic ancestors?” Te holds a B.A. in Theology from St. Louis University and lives at the cross-section of spiritual practice, earth-connection, social justice, and artistic expression. Check out their EP, “Water & Bones”, and music video. Visit Te’s Patreon Page.
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