“The beauty of the eyebrow” is a name that I have given to a tale that I think explains one of the Briatharogam kennings for Birch (Beith). This is the Word Ogam of Cú Chulainn known as Maise Malach ('beauty of the eyebrow'). In the tale that follows ideas about life and death follow one another through the eye of the beholder. I hope that my telling of the tale and discussing of its possibilities does not cause travail.
From Cormac's Glossary we have the story:
"A tale for you of the oratio of every wretched man and of every one who is heavy in disease or injury. Each of these people desired the release that seeing a certain hair of Silan's eyebrow would bring to them, so that they might be freed of their travails. For the nature of that hair was that whosoever saw it early in the morning would die immediately that same day. Their spirits would yield to the quick release of death.
“Now a certain Molasi happened to come early one morning to the burial ground and cemetery of Imlech Cassáin in Cúailnge. On that occasion, he met Silan of the Hair coming towards him. "This hair" said Molaisi, “shall not be about killing everyone, it shall be no more" said he, plucking it out of Silan's eyebrow by force. Upon beholding the fruits of his labor on that early morning, Molaisi then died after seeing the beauty of the eyebrow in that single hair."
This is also the entry in the Calendar of Oengus the Culdee for 9/11 of the Celtic year in the Leabhar Breac, the Speckled Book. One wonders at the coincidence of the entry for death early in the morning for that date, and what is meant by the beauty of the eyebrow in regard to the awful tragedies for this day during modern times. As a Word Ogham for Birch or Beith, its Ogham kenning means the "Will to Live." In that meaning we might find a deeper meaning.
Those who gave up their will to live in the tale of Molaisi and Silan were those seeking death due to their wretched nature or to disease and injury. They died immediately, a swift death and a quick release of life from pain and spirits freed from suffering. The guilty and the innocent died on that day. One can wonder at the mix of such spirits in the air of 9/11 so recently. There were those who thought that they were martyrs. There were those who were their victims. There were many, many who heroes were. Almost all who looked upon the horrors of that day saw all these things and more in a flash of lives and deaths. In life importance is not measured by time but by energy and power. The power of innocence was great that day. It changed the way that the world works for each of us. We thought we'd lost our innocence in the horror of the moment then and later, but hope springs eternally forth in every birth of renewal. Each of those who were taken on 9/11 looked at Silan’s eyebrow that morning and was given an immediate death and a life beyond, as well as a return to this life.
Some of us are long or should I say slow in seeing and recognizing the beauty of the eyebrow, because we cling so tenaciously to life. We sometimes consider death to be a fearful horror. We see ourselves as the lone white tree springing up on a charred black landscape. Deep within us and sometimes beyond conscious knowing is the hope that springs eternal in the human heart and breast. When that hope blossoms for us life, is longer than a day or a flash and then gone. Life is long. Life is eternal. Our days are many, much more than a moment, yet as surely as Molaisi looked at his fate in the plucking of a single hair from another’s eyebrow, so each of us will eventually see the beauty of the eyebrow for ourselves in our own time. We will see it many times in many lives. We will embrace it in many deaths. What is the meaning of this? Why should we look at a thing that surely has our death or the deaths of others within it? Why does the lone white tree struggle to renew the land? Indeed what is it that we embrace in life if it is not living? What is in death if not dying? What is the meaning? What is the answer if not this? The will of the spirit is the answer and the love that sustains it in lives is the very truth of being. No act can be so horrible that spirit and love cannot overcome it.
Spirit lives on. Spirit lives forever. Spirit is the creator and the creation of worlds, lives, loves, death and hopes. Spirit flows within families. Spirit links love to love. Spirit empowers a people and anoints a Land. Spirit brings the sunrise and the moonset. It is found in the circuits of the stars and the wanderings of the lords of the Sky. Spirit is a river that makes its home in the Sea. Spirit is the Land’s blessing to us and her assurance that no matter what might come, she will endure. So long as she endures, her children will be born again and again. Her stewards will comb her locks and her hunters will grace her smile. Each of her creatures will be a part of her blessings as they also share life with life. Death does not stop the love of the Land. It does not limit the love of father for child, mother for children, lovers for each other, husbands, wives and children all in communion of family and spirit. Death is an easing of the temporary pains of some lives while it is a separation of form from purpose in others.
Ongoing will and the struggle for life assures us and insures for us that the world will continue. As the children of the land we can do no less than to honor our Mother and/or brothers and sisters in form who have been free for a moment. They are the beauty that we see when we also see the beauty of the eyebrow. There is none that can sully that embrace even in misguided actions or poorly advised radical belief. Spirit will survive as it always has and love will reign beyond beauty and sight. It is because of spirit that all things exist and it is this spirit that can never be denied. The eye that sees truth, acknowledges it completely. The ear that listens completely hears a music that is beautiful beyond imagining. The spirit that embraces spirit banishes horror, evil, pain and avarice. That spirit is your spirit an my spirit in a confluence of harmony so beautiful that it must be lived. So be released from the toils of the troubles and sleep for a while in the embrace of the Mother. Your time will come again and with it even time will yield to beauty.
I hope that my words have been understood and that they have not fostered anguish. For it is the intention of my spirit to welcome your own in truth. We shall meet many times in this world and the next. Sometimes we will journey together and at other times we will contend. The certainty is that there will come a gathering of spirits in which we each embrace the other. On that day the winds of spirit will come to the center from every direction. On that day, the beginning, middle and ending will be one and the same. It is at its center that the Tree of Life grows for us all. The beauty of the eyebrow is life transcending death for each of us.
Each of the Ogham kennings probably has two or three teaching tales like this associated with it. In our mutual studies we will from time to time discover these and hopefully add them to our teaching curricula and study materials.