The Cliffs of Moher: Irish Merrows
Windswept, I stood overlooking the Cliffs of Moher.
A stinging rain lashed my face, like a thousand tiny needles. A fierce gale tore at my hair and outfit; it felt as though the winds would raise me up, promising me heaven, before dashing me on the rocks below.
They were a sight to behold, these jutting cliffs, carved from a cold grey sea.
It was awe-inspiring. But still, I couldn’t help but think of him. He had eyes the colour of blue-steel; they matched the blue-grey sky and churning sea. The wind, that whipped my long locks would have tousled and rustled his halo of golden curls. He looked like an angel who, with earnest eyes, had promised me salvation from a life of solitude. But would he raise me to heaven or dash my heart to pieces like the treacherous wind?
I balanced on a knife edge. Like the Irish merrows, those beautiful mermaids who sometimes sought love in a foreign element, I had found someone who had stolen my heart in a foreign land. And, much like the merrows of folk-tales, I was facing a dilemma. The merfolk of the UK are unique, as far as merfolk go, in the limitations of their magic. For above their green locks, Merrows wear a cohuleen druith – a magical red cap. It is said that merrows cast this cap aside when they set foot on land. They tuck it away safely, hidden from prying hands, while they dance upon the shore. For without their magical cap, they cannot return to the sea. The cohuleen druith represents both their identity and their freedom.
You see, the merrows are both one thing and another; but they cannot be both at the same time. With their cap, they are mermaids – beautiful, half-women and half-fish, bound to the sea. Without their cap, they are women, able to live on land indefinitely and marry human men. But to be one thing, they must give up being the other. Their cohuleen druith holds the key to their transformation.
Here I stood, on a literal precipice. My very identity was tied up in my singleness. I was uninterested in dating. I supposed I would never marry (and could not pretend sorrow at the suggestion). I was a proud spinster, through-and-through!
I viewed my singleness as my freedom. I shared that in common with the merrows. In the sea, they were free. As a singleton, I too was free. I could be myself and follow my own path, unshackled by the chains of love. For to love is to sacrifice.
There were merrows who had given up their caps (or had them unjustly stolen), who were condemned to live on land. They married and bore children. Perhaps they were happy. But the sea would always, always call them. They had metaphorical itchy fins – that yearning to be free of the chains of commitment. They had love, but it came at such a hefty cost!
I was wrestling with my own metaphorical cohuleen druith. Would I choose to keep my red cap and hard-won freedom? Or, would I give it up for romance, responsibility and stability?
I wrestled with the decision as I wrestled with the wind. It was a risk, to be sure. Singledom gave me freedom, but freedom is not without cost.
Was it possible to be in a relationship and maintain my freedom? The merrows of Irish mythology who found themselves caught in the web of love had been forced to choose between their identity (as creatures of the sea) and their relationships. Some had freely chosen. Many had the choice made for them.
I was not one to think inside the box. Was it possible that there was a third road? Could I have both the sea and the land?
My will was now set. I would not settle for less. I would find a way to have both love and keep my cohuleen druith.
I would swim the path less travelled.