Irish Mythology | Étaín
When I saw Sacha Black’s writing prompt to write a piece from the viewpoint of an insect, this story popped immediately into my head, although life being life, it took me over a week to finally knuckle down and write it. Although I wrote it for Sacha, I decided to post it here too, because I have butterfly wings beating in my heart and my brain this week, and I can’t stop them. I’ll tell you more about that another time. For now, if you aren’t familiar with Étaín’s beautiful story, you can read a short retelling here.
And now, my version…
I am Etain. Once I was Sidhe, and a Queen, adored and admired. Now, I spread my wings, and they are beautiful, vibrant, shimmering. The wind catches them, takes me up into its arms, and I am airborne. Invisible lips blow me here, there, and I delight in my freedom, my weightlessness.
When I tire, I alight on a blossom. The petals are no match for me; they pale in my shadow, for I am a purple jewel carved from living flesh by an alien hand. The sun warms my body; I glitter in its light. I flutter my wings, and radiate bright ripples of colour and fierce joy.
But I am distracted. The flower hides a secret. Its scent draws me in, more powerful, more intoxicating than I ever experienced in my past incarnation. My wings fold as I feed on nectar sweeter than honey, more precious than the Gods’ ambrosia.
Giddy with sweetness, greedy for more, I leap from bloom to bloom, heedless of the darkening sky, and the wind which whips the trees into clumsy dance. Raindrops fall, hard and heavy, brushing the colour from my wings like dust. Bruised and battered, I realise the wind is no longer my friend, and I am buffeted before it without mercy.
Until kind Óengus takes me in. He builds me a crystal bower, where I rest and recover. He feeds me pollen and sugar, and I need do nothing more in return but shimmy my wings now and then for his pleasure. It feels good to be adored again.
But a wild creature needs its freedom. I exchange my crystal prison for air and sunlight, and journey where life takes me. Then one day, I hear a sound I have long missed, and I am lured by my longing.
A man is playing a harp, its light liquid notes falling through the air more silver than birdsong. Men and women gather to listen; they talk and laugh softly, and I am struck with the sharp pain of sudden loneliness. I perch on the rim of a goblet, but there is so much beauty around them, I am unnoticed.
When she lifts the vessel to her lips, I tumble into the swirling red depths. I desperately beat my wings, but they are immersed, trapped in the fluid as if it was glue. Unknowing, she swallows more than wine. I flutter my wings, and she feels those faint stirrings, for she places a hand softly over her belly.
I am Etain. Once I was Sidhe, then I was dealan-dhe. Now, from the dark, warm recesses of woman, I will be born mortal.