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If you should happen to come upon a little plot of forest in County Clare, Ireland, behind the McDermott estate, what would you do? If you should happen to see a trail or rather a phantom of a trail, would you see where it led? If you saw a triskel carved into one tree and another carved into a tree not too far away, would you look for another, and still another? If your curiosity were piqued by this triskel laden phantom trail, would you have the courage to continue into a forest you do not know?
If you should have such an adventurous spirit, you might find yourself lost, for nothing can be found if nothing is lost. And in your search for your way back, you might come upon a clearing. In the center of that clearing you might see a strange figure. As you inch closer, you might see that the figure is actually a statue of a woman. You might see that her hands are raised and her knees are slightly bent, as if she were contemplating a jump. Her face would exude inexplicable sadness, appearing as if she was frozen in time. If you should be so bold as to touch her in amazement, you might notice something strange. You might hear music, so softly at first you will not notice it. As you continue to gaze at this statue, you might notice that her eyes seem a little more green, her hair a little more red, and her skin a soft pink. You may notice indentations in her cheeks running from her eyes to her chin, proving that it is possible to carve your face with tears. You might hear the wonderful music of flutes and fiddles as she grabs your hands and twirls you around. She might introduce herself. She might tell you that her name is Moira.
Moira is a cursed fairy, but she was not always so. She was well-loved by all the fey, except for one rogue fairy who hated her. This fairy's name was Fachtna. Fachtna was jealous of Moira, her hair, her eyes, and most of all, her graceful ability to dance. Not fully fairy and not fully goddess, Fachtna had been ostracized from both groups. Fairies all had talents in the arts, whether it was dancing, music, or poetry. Goddesses had special power in magic. Fachtna did not have any creativity nor did she have any dexterity. She was adept at magic but did not have the pure blood of deity. Thus she was ridiculed and hated for most of her life. In return, she hated all members of fairies and goddesses, but she detested Moira especially. Scrutinizing Fachtna’s every stumble and pointing out her every flaw, Moira had brought Fachtna’s jealousy and hate upon herself. Fairies are not known for being “nice” to people they dislike nor are they known for being wise. She did not realize that Fachtna envied her beyond all belief and avoided her and the rest of the fey at all costs.
One spring afternoon, Fachtna was collecting herbs in a clearing, minding her own business, when she was suddenly bombarded with acorns and rotten fruit. Fairies from all sides attacked Fachtna for they were mischievious beings and they particularly disliked her. Leading the charge was none other than Moira. Fachtna saw this and grew stiff and red with rage. She pointed her finger at Moira and chanted,
“Stiff and brittle,
No more to dance,
No step, big or little,
Shall you dare to chance.
Never shall you tap your feet,
Never shall you dance home,
Never shall your legs leap,
But be forever frozen in stone!”
Moira had been jumping from Fachtna when she heard the beginnings of the spell. However, she did not realize that that particular spell traps you wherever you are. When she could not move, she looked down at her legs in confusion. Confusion soon turned to horror as she saw her beautiful legs turn to stone. She screamed and screamed and screamed! Tears ran down her cheeks, for now she could never dance. Dancing was what Moira loved most. The other fairies bolted away, frightened to death. Laidech, Moira’s sister, hurried to fetch Fand, their fairy queen. Fachtna stood in front of Moira, watching the stone gray curse slowly crawl its way through Moira’s body. Moira pleaded with Fachtna to undo this spell. She promised Fachtna official pardoning from the fey, invitations to revelries, even private dance lessons, but Fachtna remained adamant, relishing in her revenge and anger.
Soon Laidech appeared with Fand at her side. The spell had made its way to Moira’s waist. Moira cried out to Fand, her queen, and begged her to undo the curse. Fand placed a loving hand on Moira’s tear-stained cheek and said, “I cannot. Spells, once cast, cannot be taken back. I can, however, cast another spell on you to help make this unfortunate curse more bearable.”
“No! Do not interfere!” cried Fachtna, fearing her revenge would be less pleasurable to her.
Fand cried in response, “Fachtna, how dare you touch one of my own! You will pay for what you have done! I will take nothing less than your dead bones!” Fand steely gazed upon the incensed outcast. Her eyes flashed a terrible red as the surging fury within her exploded, consuming Fachtna in flames and leaving nothing but a scorched patch of earth.
Moira screamed as the curse continued into her chest, her breathing became labored as her lungs hardened. Laidech tried desperately to comfort her beloved sister. Fand turned to Moira and positioned her arms as if she were dancing. Moira’s shoulders stiffened and turned a cold gray. Her eyes glistened with tears as she gazed upon her sister and her queen. Fand chanted gently, as if she were singing,
“In this pose you shall be
Until a mortal touches thee.
When this happens warmth shall return,
You shall dance until the mortal’s dry eyes burn.
In the mortal’s eye should a tear appear,
Your pose shall return to as it is here.”
When Fand finished her chanting, all that stood before her was a statue of the dancing fairy Moira. Laidech wailed and threw herself on her sister’s stone figure. Garbled murmurings of “don’t leave me” and “how could this happen?” were all Fand could distinguish from Laidech’s sorrowful outpour. Fand tried to comfort Laidech but her tears still continued unabated. Laidech claimed that all she desired was to be with her sister, as they had not been separated since birth. Fand took pity on her and held her in a comforting embrace. Then Fand started humming gently, and in that soft melody were the words of yet another incantation,
“As she is named â€˜bitter’,
So your name â€˜songful’ is ever sweet,
Forever you will be together,
Forever she will dance to your musical beat.
You shall be the song.
She shall be the dance.
Together you will rejoice,
When a mortal touches â€˜bitter’ by chance.”
Laidech’s crying stopped as she was lifted into the air by an unseen force. Her body glowed and the glare grew with intensity until it was impossible for Fand to keep her eyes open. Then, Laidech was gone, but Fand could feel her, hear her singing and whispering in the trees. Fand looked over her surroundings once more, the scorched patch of earth, Laidech’s presence in the whispering trees, and Moira herself. As she stared at that statue, she realized she had not only lost a subject, but a companion. Fand remembered with a smile Moira, the liveliest dancer, with her sister Laidech, the best fiddler and singer. Now the dance, music, and laughter would never be the same. They would never dance with the fey again. She could not awaken them. This was, perhaps, the only time Fand wished she were mortal. Fand turned, and whispering one final goodbye, returned to her fey court.
If you should happen to see that scorched patch of earth, and if you should be able to hear that joyful forest music, you might notice a statue. If you should be so bold as to touch that statue, you might dance with an extraordinary fairy. And if you should so happen to dance with her, please tell her that Fand said hello.