Bloodlying of The Three Sisters
A Creature of Dispute
I Am the being of reason blue/ grey wolf/ dog
I go a howling and my killing is justified
I am dumb and disgraced by sin (here I am lost but can be found)
Borne On The Backs Of Women
Translation of three names from the Law of Bloodlying an Irish legal medical document of the 6th century. Looks distinctly like a language origin myth, but reason to believe these were also legal practical terms. Some of the themes are more familiar and more normally dealt with in the story of the male wild man. Earliest known European version of this story is British, thought to date from around the same period, it transfers to Ireland at a later date.
In practice it would seem to point to a limitation in women’s ability to maneuver in the public sphere and in cases of dispute. Legal compensation is limited, a standard feature found in Irish, Anglo Saxon, and Scottish legal texts. Places an economic drain on parties involved in violent dispute. Here the move seems to be to move women from this sphere all together, further lowering status and the ability to act effectively in political life of which violence was one means of furthering or holding family status.
Women are moving to occupy a differing role in early Christian Ireland. Out of the public sphere and into the private world of home and hearth. Mother of Christ with her spindle, absorbed in birth pangs or weeping for her lost son rather than a satire spitting participant on the field of dispute.
These changes in status are wrapped within a strong narrative that holds in imagination and is easy to retain. The pain and suffering of animal like status of the past is replaced by the pain and suffering of birth and the death of Christ. A role that women could become absorbed in through performance in song during the repetition and rhythm of their working life, the preparation of food, dying of cloth, washing of the dead.
A move to a more ‘innocent’ identity. This renegotiation of Identity came at a significant cost but it was an attempt to create a more stable society through limiting violence in the community. The reduction in status of a section of the population was a traditional legal move, which while it could be catastrophic leading to the eradication of the identity of targeted groups it was ruthlessly functional.
One significant feature that came with the establishment of the monastic system was the stability it afforded it lay populations associated with these houses of god. The ability of these elite sponsored stores of cultural memory to hold fast within the landscape through the generations is a significant achievement.
The modern urban settlement pattern of North was formed on the successes and ability of these religious settlements to hold fast in the landscape.
They must be viewed within the context of their time rather than through the eyes of the present. It is impossible to reconstruct a perfect picture of this period but we certainly can attempt to dissolve and understand this past in the present. The hardest part of of many craft’s is learning to let go.