I wrote this "Anglo-Saxon epic" a while back for an English assignment after reading Beowulf, and I just wanted to know what other people felt. Sorry for the length. The White Raven Prologue: [The Morrigan’s Rage] Long ago, Morrigan was spurned by Cúchulainn, And in revenge, the goddess worked her will Against the warrior, and Cúchulainn fell as she had desired For he broke a taboo, eating the flesh of a hound, his namesake Urged by three crones – the Morrigan, come for vengeance, And then he lived on only in tales and song. When Morrigan appeared to another warrior, Diarmid, He knew of Cúchulainn’s mistake, and did not spurn her, But the capricious mistress of battles did not aid him, For she discovered that Diarmid had taken another lover, Repaying her passion with naught but betrayal. With patience, she wove her spells in a spider’s weaving, Waiting for her vengeance, dark goddess of death, And Diarmid fell in battle, yet she rued that evil day, For not long after did she discover herself with child. [The Raven’s Birthing] There once lay a green land, verdant and fair, Created by the gods, peopled by the wild-folk, And they were content, for Varn ruled them well, Both sword-servant and voice-giver, lord of justice. Then came a woman, a stranger to the free folk, But they knew her as one of their enemy, For she bore their pale imprint upon her face, Flaxen braid coiled in a crown about her head, Small and slender, her green eyes made of fire. Yet the dark tribesmen wondered that she came here, For she was with child, and she claimed that his father Was one of the freemen, a man of the forests and seas Where she was of the soft plains and rivers. Varn’s people cried for her death, never heeding Her unborn babe, innocent of all wrong-doing – But Varn remembered, for though he was sword-servant, He was also the giver of justice, and he knew mercy, And so he offered her succor, and she accepted it, Staying in his abode until her child was born. His wife was a great-hearted woman, For she was barren, unable to give her husband A son, and yet she did not hold it against the stranger, And aided her as best she could – A true mother, though she bore no children. During her wait, the stranger offered no name save that Of ‘Raven’, and so the freemen called her, And they wondered yet more that this woman Would name herself after the bird of battles and death, Dark messenger, winged servant of the Morrigan. When her time came, Varn’s wife was by her side, As she labored far into the night, and finally Her child slipped forth, and gave her first cry at twilight, As the sun began setting and Morrigan’s cloak fell – an ill omen, Yet her work was not done, for she bore another. Then Raven named her children, calling her son Bran, Her daughter Deirdre, in token of ancient legends, And ate of Varn’s feast in celebration of her safe birthing. Yet later that night, Raven left the tribe, abandoning Her children to Varn’s wife, without explanation But in silence, departing forevermore from the forests. Varn searched for her long, but Raven had disappeared As if she had never been, faded into the air like the wind. Then did Varn and his wife take in her children, Wondering what madness had driven the woman To leave her children without a mother, But they cared for Bran and Deirdre well, And they knew happiness until one fateful day, When the lady of battles came to claim the raven’s children. [The Morrigan’s Claim] Bran was a youth of thirteen summers when that day came Tall and strong like his father’s people, yet with hair as flaxen As his mother, she who they called Raven, whilst Deirdre Was as dark as night, small like her mother, yet for all their Differences, brother and sister loved each other well, And were never far apart, born together at the same time, Sharing a mother and father. That day was an ill one, For Varn’s father lay dying, victim of old age, And fair Bran turned to dark Deirdre, saying: “Come, sweet sister, let us leave our parents awhile, that They may speak with our father’s father, to bid farewell And give thanks, without fear of being overheard.” So it was that when the Morrigan came, Both were together, wandering in the woods When their wyrd began its implacable course – cruel fate! And crueler goddess! that neither took mercy on such innocence. She came upon them in her favored form, That of the black raven, the bird of battles, The name of their mother who abandoned them in birth. She gave no greeting, no welcome, save to say: “I claim you, Bran and Deirdre, to guide and teach you, Come with me and follow me to learn Of your true destiny – and I will take you for my own, My children and servants, bound to my service.” But Bran replied, saying, “Then give us your name, Old carrion crow, warmonger and hoarder of corpses, And trouble us no more, for we will stay by Our mother and father, as duty and love demand.” The raven’s eyes burned bright with fury, and in a voice That throbbed with power, cried, “Then I give you my name, Impudent child, and may you be satisfied with it. I name myself Morrigan, goddess of battlefields, mistress of death, Badb Catha, Battle Raven, servant of war, And Raven, your mother, she who bore you in her womb. But when Lugh’s Eye flies the eagle’s trail once more, You will feel the bite of my power.” And so saying, Morrigan flew away, dark wings carried on a cursed wind, Her harsh caws boding no good. And Deirdre wept, Fearful of the goddess’ wrath, but Bran said, “Sweet sister, never will I allow any evil fate to befall you, For I am here to protect you, so dry now your tears.” And so she obeyed her brother, and together they returned, Where Varn’s father lay in state, ready for burial. Then did Bran and Deirdre lay down their heads As the silver lamp lit the sky, brother and sister Breathing in harmony, for together they were born And together had they lived, sharing the same mother. When they awoke, Deirdre had only fear, Remembering Morrigan’s words, that as The sun passed overhead to cross the sky once more, They would feel the bite of the goddess’ power. Deirdre was determined to stay by her brother – But alas, this was not to be, for Varn took his son aside, And his wife their daughter, in preparation for the funeral. So Deirdre did not see her Bran for a full day, And by that time, it was too late, as Morrigan’s curse Swooped down, like some fell carrion bird, To strike its prey – her own son Bran, and Worked her will upon the innocent child. Bran disappeared, never to be seen again living, And for three years did Deirdre mourn her brother. [The Black Boar] There came word to Varn’s tribe one day, That a great black boar had appeared in the woods, Ravaging all in its path with mindless fury, And leaving behind only sorrowful keening. At this, Varn’s young warriors sprang up as one, All swearing to meet this danger and defeat it. The next day, they left in a band, leaving behind only the weak – Thinking, perhaps, that their women, children, and elderly Would be safe whilst they hunted down this menace. But the boar had an evil mind, cunning and canny, And it fell upon Varn’s people that very day. Deirdre saw it all, for her foster-mother had bid her and others To go gather herbs and roots for them to eat with the boar, And they returned even as that evil beast finished its devilish work. Oh! Woe, woe, woe fall upon he who did not take pity As gentle Deirdre beheld this full horror, Who had no mercy, no compassion for the elderly, No gentleness for defenseless women and children – All it had attacked without compunction or discrimination, Leaving only a few survivors to rise from the ruins, And there went up a great keening and wailing, A dirge to the fallen – and only the most hard-hearted of men Would not have felt pity for Deirdre as she cried: “Lament, o my people, that kith and kin have fallen victim To this hellish beast, and weep! for to lose a precious child – What fell creature is this, and who does he serve, That they have not kindness for the elderly? This is no good day, that the blossoms of our tree Fall before our very eyes, and we helpless to prevent it!” Then did she sink down upon her knees, unable to hold back A loud keening not only from the throat, but the heart, As Deirdre sang her lament for that which should never have been. [The Raven’s Path] When Varn and his hunters came home, they saw The pyres’ smoke, and heard the wailing. Fearing the worst, they turned aside from their quest But they came too late, and were greeted with Deirdre’s lament. Grieving, they stood vigil for lost parents, wives, and children, Cursing cruel fate that they were helpless to prevent this slaughter. When the day dawned, and Lugh’s Eye prepared to travel its way, Varn led his warriors once more, despite Deirdre’s protest: “Dearest father, beloved of all your kin, If you have a single care for me or my mother – ” For Varn’s wife had been spared this destruction – “Then lead not your warriors, the pride of this tribe, To its death, and to ours – for what shall we do when you are gone? I beg you, turn aside from the raven’s path, And stay here with us to help rebuild – or perchance We may leave this place and found another home. Listen, for yesternight I had a dire dream, And in that dream, I heard naught but weeping, No laughter, no mirth made its mark, As ashes and smoke rose up about me in rings, And it seemed to me that I alone was left of my tribe. This too I know, that this dream had come about Because you had left us, and gone to hunt this black boar. So I implore you, my father, if you will not heed your child’s pleading, Perhaps this warning was one sent by the gods, and if so, Then we should obey it, for flouting the gods bring no good.” And this last she said knowing the sorrow that rejecting a god brings, For had not her own brother Bran, dearest to her heart, Fallen victim to the Morrigan’s rage and pride? And he replied, saying, “Dearest daughter, I must go, for it is to protect you and yours that I do this.” And in denial of her weeping and pleadings, he went forth, And came back bearing naught but blood and tears, For the boar had found them that day, and wreaked havoc. Deirdre had not seen false lies. From that day forth, Varn was a broken man, For though he had been sword-servant and giver of justice, To lose his son and half his tribe struck him sore, And his people despaired, for they knew not what to do As the malevolent boar, ill-content with what he had done, And longing to sow more seeds of grief, He haunted Varn’s people, long gleaming tusks Oft stained with blood that should have never been shed. Deirdre pled with her father to recall himself, But Varn was empty, for what did he have to live for? And his daughter despaired, for her mother lay dying, Another victim of the boar’s tusks, and despite all the maiden’s Efforts, Varn’s wife lingered between life and Arawn’s realm. “Ah, woe is me!” cried she, grief-stricken, “For had my brother been here, my dear Bran, My people would not lie low, nor my parents lost to me, But as Bran is gone, and there is no one else, It seems that I must needs go forth myself.” So Deirdre cut her hair and stowed it in some safe place, And armed with her courage and a boar’s spear – Taken from her brother, hoarded by her mother, She set forth from the village, intending to end this peril. [The Morrigan’s Curse] Scarcely had she stepped out and walked to the very place Where the Morrigan had cursed her brother, the boar came, Flashing its deadly tusks as he began his charge at her – Yet curiously, he stopped, and by his pawing gestures, Did she determine that the boar was telling her to go back. But gentle Deirdre’s ire had been aroused, and She held her spear in front of her, prepared to die If only it would end this threat to her people. And when she strode forth, her iron fang lusting for blood, The boar turned tail and ran. Deirdre gave chase For she was no weak woman, bound only to serve her husband, And her brother Bran had oft ran with her, laughing In delight as his sister contested with him, But never in such deadly earnest had Deirdre Let her fleet feet dance over the forest floor. At last, the boar was brought to bay, For he ran out of strength, whilst Deirdre seemed To have been given speed by some god’s kind hand, And she menaced it with her spear, intent upon her quest. Approaching the deadly monster, she cast a quick prayer heavenwards, Pleading only that she be allowed to be reunited with her Bran. “I am Deirdre, daughter of Varn,” she called out, “And I am come to claim my vengeance – Come to save my people. Attack me, then, and let me see What courage you have – yet even should you kill me, I, too, will drive my own spear inside you, Robbing you of life, and no sorrow will I feel.” Yet the boar held still as she wove her way through Its deadly tusks, then finally thrust her spear through the boar’s chest. Sweet victory! that Deirdre claimed, unharmed and untouched Yet she wailed, for Morrigan’s curse drew to its close – And the boar’s dead body transformed itself Into her beloved Bran, long thought lost. Ah, cruel goddess! that she had no pity for her children, Or any thought for their love, and Deirdre was now kinslayer, If deceived by Morrigan’s curse – yet how she wept, That her brother had been slain by her own hand, And indeed had held quite still so as not to harm his sister – Brought clearness of mind from her coming, For though Morrigan had locked him in A brutish mind incapable of intelligence, The sight of sweet Deirdre had returned some memories, That he must not harm his sister. Her people came, drawn by her keening, for in the boar’s running, The two had come close to Varn’s people once more. Then they bore Bran’s body home, Marveling at this magic – for though it was cruel, Yet it was strange, and all wondered at Bran’s curse. But Deirdre remained silent, bowed down by grief. Then they burned Bran’s body, and upon that pyre Deirdre cast her cut hair as an offering, Knowing that she was well-named for sorrow: Yet never once did she utter another word, even when Her father Varn took his own life, this time utterly broken, And her mother died, robbed of all will to live. Varn’s people did not disperse, but rather chose a new leader, But they, too, were harmed by this tragedy – Yet none felt this loss as keenly as Deirdre the silent, Who alone had survived, yet with a shattered heart. [The White Raven] For three more years did Deirdre live in Flidais’ sea In quiet solitude, and never did she speak, even to pray – For she had abandoned the gods. Yet they had not abandoned her, And one day even hard-hearted Morrigan took pity on her, Lost in sorrow as she wept her silent tears. Her people left her alone, for she did not acknowledge their presence, Only ignored them as she went her own way. A thousand times did she weep for her parents, And an innumerable number of tears fell from her eyes As she mourned Bran, her brother, Born at the same time and of the same womb – And how she cursed the Morrigan, goddess of death. But later, the same time that Bran and Deirdre Had been birthed of the Morrigan, Lugh’s Eye Set once more, leaving Deirdre alone in Morrigan’s cloak, The Morrigan came to her as an old crone, saying: “I am Morrigan, she who cursed your brother, And for all that I am a goddess of vengeance, I can have mercy. I can grant you peace.” Deirdre thought she meant death, and at this Her heart leapt with hope, but this was not to be, For as the goddess’ daughter, she could not be killed So easily, and nor would Morrigan raise a hand against her, Fearing to be named kinslayer, for although her spider’s weaving Had proved to be Bran’s death, yet it had been Deirdre’s hand Who wielded the spear to her own sorrow. Yet Deirdre accepted, for what did she have left? And she said to her hated mother, “I will have your mercy, Morrigan, For you showed none to my brother. Yet I will have this much of you, that someday My beloved Bran and I will see one another again.” And this Morrigan reluctantly promised, For though she was a vengeful goddess, Who could not help but take pity on gentle Deirdre, Innocent victim of her own mother’s curse? Then did the Morrigan gather her power, And cast her magic upon her grieving daughter, Saying that when the night had passed, Deirdre would witness her mother’s mercy. And when the day dawned, Deirdre no longer stood there, But Varn’s people saw a white bird soaring in the sky, Shrieking her sorrow to the winds, and all knew That Deirdre resided in the white bird’s body, Daughter of the goddess of ravens, And sister to Bran, a name meaning raven, So the White Raven Deirdre flew on, alone in her sorrow As she grieved for Bran, the Black Boar. Kenning: Spider’s weaving: a web, or a curse Sword-servant: warrior Giver of justice: judge, or leader Morrigan’s cloak: night, darkness Hoarder of corpses: scavenger Lugh’s Eye: the sun Eagle’s trail: the sky Silver lamp: the moon Blossoms of our tree: youths, children Raven’s path: battle, war Arawn’s realm: death Iron fang: spear Flidais’ sea: the forest A note: I’m afraid I mixed up a lot of Celtic goddesses in this poem, and yes, there is a reason why Deirdre became a white raven, as the White Lady was a goddess of death and destruction.