Pangur Ban

Chickadee adores the movie Secret of Kells…and as kismet would make it, I ran across a blog post that reminded me of the true depth of its mythology references and imagery. The movie has sparked many a discussion on history, religion, and culture in our family. And, you know, its just beautiful animation and music!

The song is about the cat Pangur Ban (both kids want a white cat next, which they plan to name Pangur Ban…which thwarts my plan of Jellicle Cat and Pollicle Dog), and is Chickadee’s favorite song from the movie. Coincidentally (or not, I tend to think it was incredibly intentional), the kitty in the movie is named after the cat in a poem written by an unknown 9th century Irish monk.

Pangur Ban

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

tr. attributed to Robert Flower, though I’ve not been able to difinitively source this
(here you can learn a bit more about the document where the poem was found)
(two other translations…I prefer the one by Eavan Boland)

The child in each of us
Knows paradise.
Paradise is home.
Home as it was
Or home as it should have been.

Paradise is one’s own place,
One’s own people,
One’s own world,
Knowing and known,
Perhaps even
Loving and loved.

Yet every child
Is cast from paradise-
Into growth and new community,
Into vast, ongoing

(from Parable of the Sower, by Olivia Butler)

In Honor of Seshat

Originally posted on Temple of Athena the Savior:

In Honor of Seshat

by Amanda Sioux Blake


I sing now in honor of Seshat, All-seeing Goddess

The female scribe, inventor of writing, stylus in hand
She Who records


Since the beginning of the Universe, unto its end.


Lady of Builders, to Whose ears the pounding of hammers is as sweet music

The Engineer’s Goddess, Who inspired the architects of old Aiegyptos,

To build the great pyramids in the Valley of the Kings

Through which they achieved immortality

Goddess of architecture, of structures long standing

Of firm foundations and ancient stones


Numbering Goddess, Lady of Mathematics

Calculating Goddess, Lady of Measurements

Lady of education in all forms

Friend of Neith and my Goddess head-born Athene

Three Goddesses of scholars, of the marble halls of learning

Lady of the House of Books, Holy Librarian,

Record-keeper of the Gods, wife of wise Thoth


I offer this song…

View original 56 more words

I taught myself to live simply

by Anna Akhmatova*

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life’s decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

*If I were to name the greatest poets in the world, at the top of the list I would put Anna Akhmatova. I first read her poem Requiem (which made me cry) in an anthology of women’s poetry in the 8th grade…my mom was working on her master’s degree, and I would wander the library at the university while she did research.

Anna Akhmatova chose to remain in Russia when many of her contemporaries were leaving, standing witness to the atrocitites of the Soviet regime. Her poetry is a reflection of that time…the good and the bad, the simple and the simply tragic. This poem, is among my favorites of hers. And I think, perfect for this time of the year’s first waning.

a creation myth of the big bang

We struggle, just as the ancients did, to know where we fit on this planet and how we should conduct our lives, and we wonder on occasion, just as they did, whether (or not) our lives and actions are all part of some grand plan.When earlier civilizations struggle with these problems, they wrote stories to help them see their world and their place in that world more clearly. The Greeks had a word for it, all right; to them, the word for “story” was mythos.

~William F Russell

The greatest myths have revealed themselves to be less like dogmatic structures than garments…woven and unwoven and rewoven through the generations, composed always of the stuff from the same source: wisdom from the heart of mankind. Revision (is) essential for understanding and overcoming our past (and) that great human promise of moving towards the future with the spirit of truth.

~Ignatio Varitan

Today the word myth means a story that is not true–but to call a story that is not true a myth is, in and of itself, a myth… Myths are traditional stories that explain a culture’s historical beliefs on the origins of the world and mankind, the relationship of mankind with the gods, the place of gods and man in the world, the values of the culture and the desired behaviors of members of that cultre (usually by demonstrating what happens when one doesn’t fulfill them). They are absolutely true, but not literal. More importantly, myth is the collective search of humanity for truth, meaning and significance in the experience of life, so that it resonates beyond the merely physical (and short) time that we are alive into something more. While myths can be rooted in factual events or completely made up (but often believed to be true), they embody a truth that deeper and more meaningful that a literal truth could be, because it is not merely a literal truth (and even when one knows they are not). Myths are the collective ideas that define us–our values and what we value (which are not always the same thing), and how we view and interact with the universe and with each other.

Nearly every culture has its own creation myth (though not all of them). But we live in a new culture, one with far more information at our fingertips than ever before in human history, information that can go back millions of years, information that does not rely on dozens of generations of playing the telephone game. It seems to me that we need a new myth (or many new myths). So, I challenge you to write your own creation story. Where did it all come from? Where have we been? Where are we going? Take a story that means something to you and retell it metaphorically. Then retell it again and again and again. Even if you are the one rewriting it each time, it will change. A story has a life of its own, and even when its based on an observable fact (in the case of my creation myth to the kids, the Big Bang and the nebular hypothesis), it changes and grows and takes on nuance and differential meanings in each retelling.

Until it is something true, but not literal. Something with meaning beyond just facts. Something that speaks to more than just our brain, but to our core.


In the beginning was Nothing.

But Nothing was lonely and sad. Nothing thought very, very hard about what to do so he wouldn’t be lonely any more.

He thought, thought, thought, and thought some more. I don’t know exactly how long he thought for, but he thought so hard that all of the sudden Something burst forth and exploded into billions upon billions upon billions of pieces of a Song where there had been only Nothing before.

Now, Something was very different from Nothing. She was loud and hot and fast and just plain chaotic… She was so different that that Nothing was afraid and tried to hide. Something’s Song seemed to chase Nothing, it was was so expansive and it echoed and vibrated everywhere that Nothing tried to go. It made Nothing very upset…but curious too.

But there wasn’t anywhere that Nothing could escape to.

Over time, Nothing got used to Something. And in the places where Something and Nothing met, she taught him a little bit about being Something and he taught her a little bit about being Nothing. Something learned to move more slowly, to quiet down her Song, and Nothing learned not to be afraid.

Eventually, Something and Nothing learned that they could be Together, but he could still be himself and she could still be herself. And in all of the places that they came together, magic happened.

The smallest of these magics were called Atoms, but we can talk about these on another day. The biggest (maybe not absolute biggest, but in the top 5) became the Galaxia.

Now, there are many Galixia, but since I’m no astronomer, I can only tell you a story about one of them…

You see, in one of these places where many of the pieces of Something came together with Nothing, the Song of Something began to change. And from this new tempo, the pieces of something began to dance to a new beat. They whirled and twirled until they became the Galaxia that we call the Milky Way–but according to Chickadee, her name is really Kaias.

Kaias coralled the currents of Nothing to gather the pieces of Something together. She sorted and arranged them, planting them like seeds in a garden.

The largest pieces of Something were planted in the center, forming the heart of Kaias, so Something’s Song could stay as true to her original form as possible. Between the smaller pieces of something, she let Nothing move freely, so he could be as true to his original form as possible as well. And in these smaller (but not the smallest) places where they met (not just here, but in every Galaxia), the magic continued to happen.

One of the song-seeds of Something danced itself into being as Sol, our sun. And as he danced, he couldn’t hold all of the Song. Some of it broke off and became what the Greeks called the Astra Planeta (Phainon–the planet of Kronos; aka Saturn, Phaethon–the planet of Zeus, aka Jupiter; Pyroeis–the planet of Ares, aka Mars; Eosphoros–the planet of Aphrodite, akaVenus); and Stilbon–the planet of Hermes, aka Mercury), as well as our Astra Planeta, Earth and her Moon (which Chickadee calles Terra and Luna), the other planets, asteroids, comets, and other bodies in our solar system.