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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

the Story of the Sword

 "Fergus dixit ’ ‘Fó fer fris tibther manip sceó mera mórgnímo merthar airbiur mo chlaidib mache mind mosdísem calga de Galión gáir..."

"Fergus said: ‘By the point of my sword, halidom of Macha, swiftly shall we wreak vengeance on swords following on a cry (for help)..."
-Tain Bo Cuailgne

Macha's sword, my ritual blade

  I have long known that I needed to find a bronze sword for ritual use, but I never felt a huge need to get it done, just a general sense that eventually it would be needed. Late last year that sense started to become more urgent, and I realized why after finding out that I had to have a sword for a ritual I had volunteered to participate in at a retreat. I cannot work with iron so finding a bronze blade became a top priority...and so this is the story of Macha's sword and how I came into possession of it. 
   I knew that the only realistic option would be to commission the sword and several people recommended that I check out Neil Burridge's site *. His selection is good and the quality was vouched for by multiple people so I decided to email him. Because he offers replicas of blades found in Britain and I was looking for an Irish blade I requested the closest sword in style to what I wanted. I was pleasantly surprised when the sword maker contacted me and opened a dialogue offering an opportunity for me to explain exactly what I was looking for, and even more pleasantly surprised when he offered another option, a slight variation on one of his stock swords. This blade was very similar, he said, to an archaeological find from the Nooan area of Inchiquin in Ireland and he provided a link with some information. The find was associated with Lake Inchiquin, itself a place rich in fairy lore, and I was pretty quickly won over to the idea. 
  This all occurred around Imbolc this year and I knew I needed to get the blade within a few months; however I was forewarned that the actual forging might take some time. Things proceeded faster than expected though and I was contacted again on the 14th of that same month and told that the blade had been cast. That day Cornwall, where the sword was being made, was experiencing severe storms similar to what we in the United States would call a hurricane and it was in the midst of this storm and its immediate aftermath that the sword was made. It seemed entirely appropriate that this sword, intended to be dedicated to Macha, was born in a storm with all that energy around it. 
   It also came about that the sword was blessed at a holy well in Cornwall**, the Madron Well. Triple blessed, actually, being taken to a clootie tree at the site as well as laid on the stones of the well itself and dipped in the waters. I felt extremely lucky and honored that this was able to be done for the blade, but somehow also not surprised; at this point it was clear that the sword wasn't an ordinary commissioned piece. It had a spirit of its own already and a sacredness to it.
the sword at Madron Well, photo courtesy of Neil Burridge
  After being forged, hilted and blessed it was duly packaged and began its journey across the pond. This was a rather nerve wracking process, as it ended up being held in customs for several weeks, and the idea of it being lost in transit was rather appalling as it could never have truly been replaced. But finally a few days shy of the spring equinox it arrived safely. (I'll add here - if you ever order a sword from over-seas anticipate it being held in customs and be prepared for a longer wait time. Expecting the delay won't make it any less stressful, but at least you'll know it takes longer than usual)

   The blade was blessed here and dedicated to Macha on the equinox. It traveled with me to the Morrigan Retreat this past June and played its part in a ritual for Her - and truly has proved to be a sacred thing of Hers. It rests near Her statue and devotional items on my altar now, until it is needed again. 
  My next project is to make a scabbard for it, with appropriate bronze age style decorations.

* I can't recommend Neil highly enough. His work is amazing and more than worth the cost. 

** this is another story, but not properly mine to tell. I will say that the sword seems to have  a bit of its own agency...even before I got it.