notes: “the pirate queen” by barbara sjoholm

Barbara Sjoholm, The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea, Seal Press, 2004

“the captain of a  pirate ship must be, hands down, the most transgressive role to which a woman could ever aspire.  dirty, greedy, sensual, tough, a nd charismatic; a gambler, a wife, and a mother, a leader of men, a politician when necessary.”  p.xvii

“the island where she’d grown up, clynish, was one of five that were inhabited.  in the past, more families had made their home out in clew bay.  but over the last centuray, in particular, people began to leave, either for the mainland or england or america, more because of isolation than anything else.
‘No one went hungry, here,’ said mary [gavin hughes].  ‘it was a rich life, between the fishing, the animals, and your potatoes and vegetables.  we always had fish to eat, and raiased cows and sheep, too, which we sold.  we used to put halters on the cattle and put them in boats or lead them across to the mainland during low tieddes.  islanders would also gather seaweed and sell it on shore.’
mary and her brother were first taken to school on the mainland by their father in a small boat with an outboard motor.  later she and her brother went back and forth by themselves.  ‘there were days when the motor didn’t work.  it was a long way.’ ” p24

“the mythological realm, where sea goddesses stirred up cauldrons of whirling water, storm kettles of surge and drag.  in gaelic these cauldrons are called coire, and one of the most famous of them lies not far from iona and mull in the hebrides, between the sparsely inhabited islands of scarba and jura.  there, the atlantic tide comes and goes so quickly and voluminously that the narrow gap between the islands becomes a watery conflagration of currents, creating waves that slap up twenty feet tall.  it is called corryvreckan, or coire breckan, “the cauldron of the plaid,’
this tub of violence is where the great winter hag cailleach was said to wash her cloak.  when storms came on, especially in the autumn, people told each other, ‘the cailleach will tram her blankets tonight,’  she washed her plaid and when she drew it up, it was white and the hills were covered with snow.. they used to say that, before a good washing, the roar of the coming tempest was heard by people on the coast for a distance of twenty miles.  it took three days for the cauldron to boil.” p41

“the northern waters have another sea goddess, the benign sea deity and summer spirit, the mither o’ the sea, often invoked by fishermen in orkney and scotland.  she brought warmth to the ocean and stilled its storms; she filled the waters with fish.  her enemy was the winter spirit, teran, and each march, around the vernal equinox, they fought each other.  it was teran’s voice in the howl of the march gales and the thunder of the waves.  when the storms subsided, the fishing folk knew the mither o’ the sea had defeated teran, wrapped him tight as a baby in swaddling clothes and thrown him to the bottom of the ocean.  sooner or later, in autumn, teran escaped again and fought the sea mither in a series of shrieking storms known as the gore vellye, or ‘autumn tumult.’  in winter he was victorious and she was bound and banished.  in this story it was the male who created storms, and the female who stilled them, quite the opposite of the cailleach, whose calender corresponded to teran’s.  in some tales cailleach turned to stone april 30 and came alive again october 31.” p45

“ran, the norse goddess of the sea, who lived in a great golden hall under the ocean with her husband, aegir, and their nine daughters.  it’s said that ran steered a ship with one hand, while with the other she swept her net through the waves.  with this net, this golden net, she snared sailors and carried them to her underwater palace, and there they lived as if they were on earth.  to die by drowning was ‘faring to ran’ or ‘falling into ran’s hands.’  many sailors, knowing her love for gold, carried coins in their pockets to allow them to enter ran’s domain, her bed.  ran-bedr, the ocean floor was called.” p203

“myth places ran’s golden palace near the island of hlesey, which could perhaps have been the island of hellisey in the westmann chain.  hellisey is home to a great many gannets, but no one else.  from the air it has the shape of a half-submerged horseshoe, clearly the visible C of a volcanic cone, with one side eroded and open to the sea.  i found it interesting that, unlike the celtic storm and sea goddesses, ran had a home.  in fact she was, like few norse mythological figures, in a stable relationship with many progeny, everyone in the household working together.  aegir kicked up the storms at sea, ran cuised underneath gathering drowned souls, and their nine daughters helped out however they could.  the nine daughters, the waves, had these names:  cold one, white one, grasper, howler, heaven-bright, billow, comber, dip, and bloody-haired.  medieval icelandic poets called them ‘the claws of ran’ and described a time ‘when hard gusts from white mountain-range teased apart and wove together the storm happy daughters of aegir, bred on frost.’ p204

freya introduced divination to mortals, and her cult of followers, many of them women, included seers and foretellers.  freya was also known for bringing discord among the gods.  but before freya joined the complicated pantheon of norse gods, and was relegated to a lesser position as female troublemaker, she’d been the great goddess herself.” p243

” [lars borge myklevoll] ‘myths have a function whether people are aware of it or not.  myths strengthen the roles between the sexes, and emphasize what is prestigious and what is not.  taboos keep women in their place.  taboos also disguise reality.  there were men who did not have sons, who took their daughters fishing.  the taboo made it seem as if that was not happening.’ ” p288


About jeanne

artist, grandma, alien

Posted on March 24, 2010, in pirate, research and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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