Wednesday 31 January 2007


Firenne: the life force "truth" that under-pins all living things. The most complex and yet elegantly simple philosophy of my ancestors; a creation theory and blueprint for life rolled into one.
Firenne comes at a cost; those who would reduce our pagan heritage to new age charlatanry want to reduce the colour of our beliefs to a monotone should remember that Firenne brings life and death, light and shade and while it was the mainstay of Brehon justice by which even kings fell it is equally the weapon of punishment, the scourge of the filĂ­ on those who dishonour.

In modern paganism, websites, forums, groups and covens trot out the whitewashed version of ancient, complex and culturally contextual beliefs. The mantra is "it's my path...I can do as I please..." but Firenne remains immutable no matter how we try to change the world and shape it to our vox-pop imaginations. And those who claim to live by "honour" invoke Firenne whether they understand it or not - invoke both its duties and its rewards and most of all, its judgement.

The following piece was written, like Speak and be Damned, because of a campaign of hate and bullying that flared up in 2005 online, attacks by pseudo-pagans who wanted to use a project online to shore up their social lives and build up a little following or the faithful to pander to their egos. Those who opposed them found themselves in the centre of a bloody war of words; in the end it came down to a clash between those who actually follow a pagan path and those who wished merely to play at it, while gathering kudos and a little power over the gullible.

Sadly not exactly an unusual situation among neo-pagan groups, bitching and warring being only second to claiming extraordinary powers for oneself. But some wars are worth fighting; unless your beliefs are as shallow as theirs!

As a poem, it is based loosely on the rhythms and patterns of the Old Irish poems and roscanna. As a personal statement it represents the ties of loyalty, of standing by those who are in the right, of choosing honour over reputation or popularity; it is also a prediction, of the cost of betraying honour and Firenne. The cost is not always visible but in the end the one true loser is the dishonourable, reducing their inner landscape to desert, atrophying in a mire of lies. In Old Irish writing, to live without Firenne is to die.


I have seen
the best of my warband
struck by arrows
from treacherous hands
and yet they stand.

They are wrongly accused,
harrased by shrill jackals
whose minds are unshackled
by any standard of honour;
and yet they stand.

When you adopt
the cloak of lies,
how threadbare your clothes!
How ragged you are
how unfit to be seen.

When you bully,
crawl on your bellies
in filth, for the prize
of fool's gold -
you become lower than dust.

The people of honour
will not stand with you
nor breathe the same air
nor eat from your plate
for you are poison to them.

The land will not hold you
the very stones turn from you
how polluted you are
how tainted the blood
spilt from your veins.

The crows turn from you
the worms cannot feast
your bones are not part of us
you speak not our tongue
alone and unmourned are you.

I have seen
honest hearts pierced
truthful mouths stopped
loving hands bound
these are abominations.

I have seen Firenne
but I have been comforted
for the penalties are great
and they are inexorable.

No man need lift hand
Firenne brought down the ramparts
at Royal Tara on the breath
of a single word.
so too will it tumble you.
Geraldine Moorkens Byrne


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow...what a powerful poem! I love the ancient rhythm of it, matching the meaning so well. It is a truly impressive accomplishment for a modern author to do that so well. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.