This is part of my series “The Story Threads” where I discuss various stories and myth, their many layers of wisdom, esoteric symbology, and how the themes found in these tales all relate to our current times and the evolution of our consciousness. Previous stories from my series include What Cinderella Knows, What Sleeping Beauty Knows, What Rapunzel Knows, Wild Marriage, The Gift of the Magi, What The Snow Queen Knows, The Dandelion Girl, What Snow White Knows, Beauty and Her Beast, Weaving Life, Skeleton Woman, True Lover’s Kiss, and many more that you can find in my folklore + myth section.
On the eve of New Year, I wanted to share with you all a beautiful love story from Celtic mythology. It is a story about a love beyond time and shape, a love that spans over a thousand years – the story about Étaín and Midir. We previously discussed this during my essay Wild Marriage, which you can read here, when we looked at many tales throughout history and culture about what happens when two lovers from two different worlds meet and unite. Sometimes the lovers are too different and cannot reconcile their worlds or they just can’t accept each others wildness, so they separate. Other times they lose one another like in East of the Sun, West of the Moon or in Eros and Psyche, but then find their way back to unite after they’ve been through self growth and self transformation. Sometimes we ourselves begin to wear masks to disguise the worlds we experience, and sometimes we need to take off the masks to find that we are not much different after all.
Photography is by Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone
We are reminded of the wildness we all have in our inner landscapes of the worlds we carry, and we are also humbled in the understanding that there will always be parts of our lovers that we will never know. We learn to love, be loved and be mystics on the path of love rather than limit ourselves in pre-conditions and musts and shoulds. The truth is that no matter how long we’ve lived together under the same roof with our lover, sometimes we’ll just need to learn how to re-build our fire from sticks.
And then, there is the changing nature of relationships itself – which is also part of the wild marriage theme. Love phases and reshapes, and we re-explore and re-discover the holding, the kissing and the caring. It is said that within one marriage there exist a few marriages – because we change as we grow and expand. We can’t resurrect who we were ten years ago, and there is no need too, we should only embrace ourselves and one another and re-discover our shades and nuances like a painting, while also learning how to paint new things with the colours we currently have – this is the art of loving.
Marriage is a kind of sacrament we enter into – it is a vow our souls make, not just our human lips. It is a sacred thing meant to help and support us on our path towards self and soul growth, to build us towards more faith and trust. It is a cross we choose to carry, a devotion, a church within, a commitment we make. Love itself is not there to make us happy always or to entertain us – it is there to peel the layers of our bark, to transform us, to shift us, to return us to love.
Love is what will take us on our knees, but we must always follow it. No matter where, no matter how hard, no matter if it makes sense or not, love is what matters, it is our guiding star and we must always have the courage that the passion of our heart gives us. If it’s love, always follow it. As Charles Perrault wrote at the end of Sleeping Beauty, better wait a hundred years for the right one than kiss a fool.
And now, let’s travel into the distant lands of Celtic myth and the story of Étaín.
Étaín and Midir: Love Beyond Time and Shape
Étaín was a most beautiful fairy and one day when she was brushing her shining long blonde hair near a lake, the fair-haired knight Midir who also lived in the fairy lands, the sidhe of Ireland, became enchanted by her at first sight. They fell in love and married – thereby becoming bound by the eternal vow, the thread of love that will bind them through all lives. But Midir’s previous wife Fúamnach grew so jealous of Étaín’s beauty, grace and purity of heart, that she cast a set of spells transforming her first into a pool of water, then a worm, and finally into a butterfly.
As a butterfly, Étaín kept close to Midir. He didn’t know this was his beloved, yet still he grew so enchanted by her and loved the butterfly that he spent all his time with it, watching it, adoring it, that he lost all interest and desire for women, especially for Fúamnach.
This angered Fúamnach even more and she cast a strong wind to blow the butterfly Étaín away for seven years – which is the number of spiritual awakening. One thing led to another, and one day the butterfly fell into a wine glass of a woman, who swallowed her, and then gave birth to Étaín as a mortal girl, which was actually her second birth, over a thousand years after her first birth.
As Étaín grew up in her new life, she never remembered anything from her past, though she always had a strong urge to go near the same lake where Midir had met her the first time in her previous life. She’d sit there by the lake shore, not knowing why, yet feeling so drawn to it and peaceful there.
Many more years passed by, until she married the high king of Ireland, Eochaid. By that time however, Midir had found her again in this life, having searched for so long; he met her by the lake and told her that he was his past life husband. At first she didn’t believe him but then he embraced her and she remembered everything. It’s a rather long story spanning thousands of years and Midir had to fight both Eochaid and the king’s brother Ailill who was also in love with Étaín, but Midir never gave up. He used his wits, intelligence and great courage and finally returned his beloved back into his loving arms. Étaín and Midir reunited and in a true lover’s embrace, they rose lightly into the air turning themselves into white swans, flying back to their fairy home land where they lived happily together ever after.
Like the pull of nature in the phases of a butterfly’s life – from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis and finally to its transformation into the beautiful butterfly, the magical story of Étaín leads the way of love through the various phases of our physical and spiritual lives. Known as “The Shining One” and Goddess of Love because of the purity and beauty of her heart, Étaín shines her light on our paths, reminding us that what matters is in our heart. And what’s in our heart, doesn’t change – love always reincarnates as love.
Despite Étaín’s external changing and shifting, she never lost the core of who she was; she never lost her true essence and the purity of her heart and soul. This is what makes her truly beautiful and inspiring. This is love.
There is also a sense of amor fati – a love of one’s fate – a sense of honouring, allowing and accepting, a perception of seeing everything as a gift and how we mustn’t reject it because the existence of today is a seed for tomorrow. Love too is an art of weaving with a patience of rhythm, weaving in and of itself the various threads, temperatures and textures, to weave something that will hopefully stand the test of time.
Relationships always go through their own phases but if we learn to pay attention to our beloved every day, then we can always re-learn and re-discover the kissing, the holding and the caring.
Even as a butterfly, somehow they still loved each other, somehow they still recognized each other in a language perhaps only our souls speak and understand.
Every marriage has its wild parts; the wild within us and the wild parts of our partners. There is an allowance and acceptance that we’ll never fully know another, but that’s okay. Our worlds too change as we change but we can always stay curious and explore one another like art, seeing beautiful new angels and shades every day in new light.
Gabriel García Márquez once said that “the weak will never enter the kingdom of love, because it is a ruthless and greedy kingdom.” Love demands all of us. The realm of love can only be reached through surrender, trust and a kind of sacrifice, a kind of selflessness.
On the roads of love, across the unique physical, spiritual and emotional wildlands, there will always be enchantment, temptations and sometimes even broken hearts. It is up to us to discern and understand what is worth fighting for. It is up to us to realize that what matters is found beneath the shroud of our skin. Sooner or later, we all unveil our true essence. And if it’s of true love, nothing will be possible to separate us, because love is love is love. Then. Now. Always.
For more of my writings, browse through my Art of Love.
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