The Origin of Medicine in Ireland – Part 3

Last week, Airmid discovered her brother’s dead body…

Stone-faced, Airmid buried Miach by the brook where he had died. She didn’t cry when she was made hot and sweaty from shoveling earth. She didn’t cry even when she lifted her brother’s body into the grave. But as the last glimpse of her brother’s face disappeared from view, she dropped the shovel and fell to her knees.

She didn’t know how long she cried for. But before the sun rose she had filled the grave and gone home, to pace the fort and wonder what on earth to do next.

Arrange a cairn for her brother. Of course.

She gave the sad news to the servants, who all hurried with her down to the brook when the sun was setting. With them they carried as many rocks as they could, and they were all ready to fetch more, to gather as many stones as they could to honor their young master.

The solemn party arrived at the freshly dug soil, about to drop the first lot of stones, when Airmid frowned through the gloom. Flinging up a hand to stop them, she bent down.

Miach’s grave was already covered in hundreds of tiny seedlings!

In an instant, Airmid knew what they were. Plants for healing! She didn’t know how she knew, but she did.

Miach always said he wanted to use plants, not just magic, to cure people, she wondered, and was a little comforted. In death, he had given humanity a great gift.

She dispensed with the cairn, and in the months to come, watched over the tiny seedlings day and night. When they were ready to harvest she selected a careful portion of each plant she could find, and spread them out on her cloak.

Three hundred and sixty-five different plants. One for each day of the year! She couldn’t wait to find out what each one was capable of.

A shadow fell across her, and Airmid looked up.

“Father!”

She jumped up, bitter anger mixed with fear filling her heart.

Dian Cecht laughed, “Don’t worry, daughter, I’m not going to kill a woman.”

Her eyes flashed.

But her father ignored her and bent down. “What have you here, Airmid?” He glanced from her cloak to the grave, sprouting plants like a small jungle.

“Do you have – plants for medicine?!”

Like a stone statue, Airmid stood calm.

“You do. I know it!” cried her father, lashing himself into a rage. “Miach’s last gift to the world. Well, it will not last.” He flung out his arms. There was a rumbling from the nearby crags.

With one hand Dian Cecht picked up Airmid’s cloak, and with a mighty swing, flung it off into the sky. Airmid was transfixed in horror. She looked the other way and saw a huge rock rolling onto her brother’s grave, crushing any remaining plants.

“There,” Dian Cecht nodded with satisfaction. “Now the secrets of herbal medicine will be vague and confused until the end of time. I will forever be the best physician!”