Her teacher had drawn the shape of a person on a hide and now she was supposed to match what herb was good for each part of the body. Her teacher was copying the story of Airmid who laid out the herbs and because her father was jealous of her knowledge he mixed up the herbs so now no one really knew what herbs Airmid had found. Aisling had sat here long enough that she wished Airmid’s father would do the same to her hide.
What really depressed her was this was just the first test. She had to match the herbs as they looked in spring and she would have to do it again in summer and then in fall. And in winter she would have to match their roots. This was a big fat pain in her butt!
She had matched some that were easy. Lungwort was good for lungs, duh! Piss in the bed (Dandelion) was good for, uh, making orange egg dye? No, that was what she wanted to be doing. She had helped the day before to make lots of colours of egg dye. It had been so much fun! For once everything had gone right and they had made lots of colours. That had been a fun way to learn the herbs but she didn’t think her teacher cared that red cabbage made robin’s egg blue or that carrot tops made a really pretty yellow. She had to finish this assignment before she could go have fun again.
Oh, yeah, Piss in the bed was good for clearing the liver. She picked a flower head and blew it all over and made a wish that her brain would work better.
She wondered if the boys who had been sent to watch on the sun come up at Knowth were back yet. If it was then they could have the spring feast. They had left last night but she hadn’t heard any cheering yet from the village.
Today she was just supposed to learn the healing properties of each herb. Next year she would start to learn the magical properties. She was stuck with this hide for a few years. She sighed and picked up some catnip. Catnip was good for sleep and it was good for calming. She placed it by the head. Hawthorn was good for the heart. She put that there.
She studied the hide. She now had it about half full. And she heard the cheering start in the village. Drat! That meant the boys were back and everyone would start dying the eggs the students had been collecting for days. At least the feast wouldn’t be until dinner time.
They had hardboiled the eggs. She had helped cooking the cabbage. She really didn’t like cooking cabbage. It tasted a lot better than it smelled. She knew there would be new lamb to for dinner which made her a little sad. She loved all the lambs but she also liked to eat. She knew the lamb had been properly thanked and blessed by the druids but still one of her lambs was gone.
The Druid that had chosen the lambs had said he would be kind and make sure to do all the right prayers but it still hurt her heart. Sometimes giving thanks for a life you knew was really, really hard. She was glad she hadn’t named any of her sweet babies. But people had to eat and she wondered if the lambs had been sad. Then she started to wonder if the cabbage was sad when it was picked. She had been taught that all things were alive and knowing and the Druids said even the plants were aware. They did seem to know where the best places to grow were and sometimes the best places to hide. She rubbed an arm she had stuck in nettles. It still itched. She carefully picked up the nettle and placed it in an area that was mostly skin. Funny that something that could make you itch was good for hayfever. She moved it near the nose. This wasn’t so bad, maybe. The noise was growing in the village. She sighed again.
Aisling felt someone sit down beside her and looked up. A strange woman with blond hair was sitting there looking at her. The woman spoke, “Where do you want to put this?” Picking up a piece of sage.
Aisling thought a moment and looked at the woman. “The throat.”
The woman nodded and carefully placed the sage down.
The woman was dressed in shades of brown and green and she had a silver circlet made of leaves on her brow. Aisling knew she was important by the circlet and the embroidery on her robes. The woman picked up another herb, this time a piece of milk thistle. The woman looked at Aisling. “How about this one?”
“The liver again or lady parts?” said Aisling thoughtfully.
The woman laughed, “Lady parts?”
Aisling blushed, “Her womb?” The woman nodded.
“Can I ask who you are?” Aisling asked shyly.
“You can ask,” the woman laughed. Aisling looked a bit confused.
“I’m Airmid, couldn’t you guess?” The woman laughed again. “I saw you struggling with my puzzle and couldn’t resist. Want me to help you finish? By the noise in the village, I’m guessing you’d rather be helping welcome spring and dyeing eggs.”
Aisling’s eyes had gotten rounder and rounder. Another Tuath De Danaan visiting! At least this time she hadn’t done anything wrong… she thought.
Airmid’s said, “Let’s finish.” And picked up some red clover. Aisling pointed at an area that was mostly skin.
“It’s for rashes.” Aisling said. She’d had more experience than she liked with salves made of red clover.
They continued until the whole pile of herbs was gone.
Airmid said, “Time for fun?”
“Yes!” and the two new friends headed to the village.