|Posted by Erin nighean Brìghde on April 17, 2015 at 2:45 PM|
In Irish myth, a Pact was made between the first Gaels, also called the Milesians, and the Tuatha de Danann, the beings who lived in Ireland when the Milesians arrived. This Pact formed the basis of their mutually-respectful and -beneficial relationship, and can stand as a model to us today in such living.
After the Milesians and the Tuatha de Danann battled for control of the island of Ireland, the two parties agreed to share it- the Milesians would live on the land, and the Tuatha de Danann would live below it, with the great tumuli being their palaces and portals to the Underworld. There had been battles of magic to test the druids, and battles of combat to test the warriors, and now there was to be a test for the farmers and ranchers, seemingly after terms had been reached. As soon as the Tuatha de Danann went underground, the grain wilted in the fields, and the cows dried up, giving no more milk. The farmers, desperate that the forces of life be renewed to them, went to the tumuli to where the Tuatha de Danann had retreated, and asked would they please return the bounty of the land and cattle to their people. The Tuatha de Danann agreed they would do so, upon condition. They stipulated that the Milesians, and their descendants after them, must respect the life-giving and -sustaining powers of the land, and the Tuatha de Dannan themselves who were a part of these powers. The tumuli where they lived must be left unharmed and undeveloped, and the people were to demonstrate their ongoing respect and gratitude by leaving gifts of milk and grain, 'ith agus blicht,' there at each of the four Fire Festivals, in recognition of these blessings given to them by the Tuatha de Danann. The Milesians agreed, and the grain and milk immediately revived and flowed, to support the people. The two tribes also went on to share their lives together in other ways, through fostering each others' children, and enacting rites to formally acknowledge and respect each others' presence in the land, that each party might continue to flourish in mutually-beneficial ways.
in this story, the land and its life forces are recognized as Persons, afforded the respect one would give any person, addressed as someone of awareness, consciousness, and intelligence. They are also deeply honored as sources of life, great powers capable of generating and supporting life for many. To harm them is to harm life for many, to break the oath that is the Pact, which would disrupt the livelihood of all. This Pact then provides guidance for living well, for protecting those forces which support all life, and living in harmony, or mutual-benefit with the many Persons who both support and surround us.
In other traditions, there are other similar Pacts. The Haida people of the Northwest american coast have made a similar pact with the Salmon People, through Salmon Boy. They teach that, so long as they follow the instructions given to them by Salmon Boy who came to instruct them, the Salmon People will continue to return to the river to feed them. The tribe agrees to welcome the Salmon People back with ceremonies of honor, return the first catch to the river as a sign of respect, and return the bones of the fish to the river, that they may have their bodies returned to them, swim bacl to their home, and return again for the next salmon run. The tribe also ensure the rivers are welcoming places for the Salmon People. This the, functions as the Pact of the Haida.
Similarly, the Lakota tribe of the Great Plains were instructed by White Buffalo Woman to treat the Buffalo People with honor and respect, so that they would continue to offer themselves to feed and support the tribe. This then, was their Pact.
We can see in the folklore how the Irish honored their Pact in how their tribal chieftains ritually married the Land Goddess of Sovereignty where each tribe or clan dwelled. If the chieftain were to rule unjustly, the land goddess would reject his right to rule by withdrawing Her life-giving support, Her fertility and life force, by blighting and wilting the crops in the fields. One of the goddesses of a major complex in Ireland was called Boann, meaning White Cow, and is the goddess of the Boyne River, said to be a seat of inspiration and wisdom to poets, nourishing their souls with Imbas as a cow nourishes the body with milk. Healing springs were treated as persons of honor, for their great power; it is said that if a healing spring is disrespected and polluted, it will get up and leave the place, removing itself and reappearing elsewhere.
We can still keep alive the Pact today. We can offer up gifts of milk, grain, produce, and eggs to the Tuatha de Danann on the Fire Festivals. We can treat uncultivated, wild spaces with respect for the life they provide for many. We can honor our local land goddesses through gifts and caretaking, cleaning up trash, and working locally to ensure they are clean and healthy, able to support life for all. We can grow, raise, and source our food ethically, in ways which do not damage and poison the land, plants and animals which feed us and support life for many. We can honor our water sources as persons, and work to ensure they are kept clean and treated with respect for their great life-sustaining power. In these ways and others we keep the Pact, as descendants of both our Gaelic and our other-than-human ancestors, ensuring a Good Life for our own descendants. The Pact is not only an agreement to ensure the betterment of our own lives, it is a responsibility we choose to carry, to ensure the betterment of life for all. In this, we demonstrate the essence of Living with Honor.