Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jack and The Morrigan

Story 1 of Halloween Retellings For The Telling:
Jack and The Morrigan

Lifetimes upon lifetimes ago on the Emerald Isle, everybody knew Jack; by his gleaming eyes and pointed little nose and gap toothed grin, but most of all by his filthy dirty tricks.

If a farmer found his hand tangled in a plow horse bridle just before the giant animal spooked, if a milkmaid found her labors curdling in the bucket as she ran to the kitchen, or a lad found himself with ten apples for the price of one and each with five worms in it, Jack was to blame. And by the time he had become infamous among the living and was running out of victims, he had become a legend among the immortals.

Even the Celtic goddess of Death and Life, The Morrigan herself, was curious.  So when the veil between the worlds was thin as a spider web and just as fragile, she walked out on the Samhain in disguise of course, as do mortal, immortal and dead on that night.

Now, the Morrigan most often appears as an old woman in a cloak of raven feathers, unless she's giving passage to the souls of the dead, whom she cradles in her lap, chomping down their sins bones and all, then launching those souls, now free and clear, through a shaft of blinding lightening into the next life.  But on that night she wore a plain hood and cloak, grey as mist. And she walked down the road to meet Jack.

Well, the king of dirty tricks greeted everyone with what rudeness he could muster.

"Ugly old woman!"  He yelled, realizing he did not know her face, and that she was fresh meat for a trick, "Come and have a drink with handsome young Jack!"

"You're neither," she said.

"To you I am, well enough.  Come share my bottle.  Warm those crumbling bones,"

Jack was arrogant, but so was the goddess of death and life, who on a drunken dare from Jack got herself tangled high in the branches of a tree, and nodded off, snoring like a bear.  And Jack then set to bellowing for all living and dead and undead and immortal to come and take a look.  Well, the Dearg Due, the Dullahan, the Bainshee all knew better than to laugh and looked away, hands over their mouths as they hurried off, but humans laughed so loudly that they woke the old woman stuck in the tree with her skirts far above her head.

Jack lived a few more years and tricked as he was able, but he had bitten off a hard time.  No farmhouse caught sight of him without sending out the meanest dogs to chase him off, no pub would let him darken the doorstep, no boat would bear his feet.  And so starving and freezing and absolutely alone, on a winter's night in the driving sleet, Jack lay his head down on the side of the road and died.
And woke a minute later on a stone floor at the foot of a clawed stone throne on which sat the Morrigan.

"Well, if it's not my old friend!  It's Jack, is it?"

Jack, now afraid for his soul, put on his rudest manner.  "Shut up you old bag of bones!  I'll be taken my passage now.  It's my right,"

The Morrigan laughed.  "That's what you think is it?  You're in my house now, Jack, and you have naught but what I give ya.  I think you won't be moving on.  For I want to hear all the cruel stories of all your dirty tricks, which gave me many souls as you know.  I want you to stay.  You'll be my entertainment,"

"You fool old bag!  I can't supply fresh tales for eternity if I stay here!  You'll have to let me out!"

"Hmm..." thought the Morrigan, clicking her black claws on the arm rest of the clawed stone throne, "Yes.  I think one night a year,"

"One night a year won't furnish tales for a year, you daft old harpy!"

"Hmm..but on that one night, I could give you a hundred heads to watch all the mortals and their half hearted tricks, nothing to match what you could do.  I'll give you a thousand thousand heads. And that will furnish tales for each year.  But you.  No more tricks for you. You'll light up the night on Samhain, and give everyone a grin.  But then you're mine for the year again,"

So when Jack casts his flickering grin on Halloween night, give that old trickster a wink.  After all, the trick was on him.

No comments:

Post a Comment