In A Coruña there is a lighthouse called Torre de Hércules (Hercules’ Tower). Its name stems from a legend in which the Greek demigod Hercules buried the head of the fearsome giant Geryon once he beat him. The same place where the head is supposedly buried is the place in which the lighthouse was built in the time of the Roman Empire and still stands today.
Between the lighthouse and the first rocks that are bathed by the spray of the sea lies the rosa dos ventos (compass rose). It’s a large circle of colored tiles that marks where the cardinal points lie, and between each of the points is a picture of a Celtic symbol and its name. Seven of them represent the six Celtic nations plus Galicia, and the last one is related to the legend of the Torre de Hercules:
- ALBA: Scotland, represented by the flower of the milk thistle, or Silybum Marianum.
- MANNIN: Isle of Man, represented by three legs joined together at the top of the thighs.
- CYMRU: Wales, represented by a winged snake.
- KERNOW: Cornwall, represented by a yellow circle, a red half circle and salmon-colored half circle.
- BREIZH: Brittany, represented by three small black diamond and a bigger, arrow-shaped geometrical figure.
- EIRE: Ireland, represented by a three-leafed clover.
- GALIZA: Galicia represented by a scallop shell.
- TARSIS (written as SISRAT): a skull and bones that supposedly represents Tartessos, the home of Geryon, a semi-mythical city that was said to be in the South of Spain and that is often linked to Atlantis.
Other necessary vocabulary:
- Meiga: witch in Galicia
While I was in A Coruña with some friends, we sat next to the rosa dos ventos and wondered about its meaning. We didn’t know much, and what little we guessed turned out to be completely wrong, but me and one of my friends (You can find her at her blog Inky Fingers (radiatelove-staystrong.blogspot.com)) got inspired, and used the words written on the rosa dos ventos to make up our own story. Here it is:
Perched on top of the cliff, she looked out at sea. The night was dark, darker than the last, for black clouds covered the few stars that dared brave the tempest. The sea rocked back and forth, urged on by frantic gusts of wind, and slammed against the rocky cliff wall. Even stronger were the bursts of lightning that hit the foamy waves, followed by thunder that made the water tremble. Her impenetrable eyes burned through the chaos stirred up by the gale surrounding her, and lifting tendrils of her hair in the wind, while the white alba roses swayed around her feet.
When she first saw it, she’d thought it was her imagination. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, a light drew nearer to the rocks on which she stood. The light approached haphazardly through the waves, and she soon glimpsed the outlines of a ship. The wind had wreaked havoc on the sails, which were mostly torn, but the three masts stood tall and sailors hurried about, trying to control the ship’s path.
As the vessel neared the coast, she descended from her perch and made her way towards where the sailors were lowering their anchor into the bay. The captain sauntered down the gangway onto firm land and ordered the ship’s crew to follow, all the time holding on to his tricorn while his long coat swayed behind him in the wind. The girl approached:
“Who are you and what do you want?” said the woman, coldly.
The men looked at her for the first time. She stood straight and impassive, with her long red hair waving in the air like a flame. She stared at them with steely eyes as the men raised eyebrows and shared smirks among each other, but before they could move the captain stepped forward and looked her up and down:
“What do we have here laddies? Girls like you shouldn’t wander around alone at night, especially when there’s a storm a-brewing.”
“And barbarians like yourself shouldn’t set foot on this land if they know what’s good for them.”
The captain laughed with his mate before turning back to her with a more serious expression. He took a few steps toward her, and when he was so near that she could smell the rum on his breath:
“Naive little girl, if you knew what’s good for you, you wouldn’t talk to us like that.”
She didn’t answer, but kept her cold gaze upon him while the wind picked up, swirling around them and knocking the captain’s hat off his head and onto the sand. The sky darkened even more and so did the sea. The men looked around frantically, not knowing why the elements were suddenly against them, until they saw that the girl’s grey eyes had gone totally black, not even a sliver of the white of the eye remained visible.
“Who… who are you?” The captain asked, fear now evident in his voice.
“I am a Meiga, a spirit of nature and the guardian of these lands on which you are standing.”
The men tried to climb back on to the ship, but the waves moved to stop them every time they approached. The captain stood frozen with fear, oblivious to the yells of his men. The Meiga lifted her arms and face to the sky, and with a voice that came from the deepest part of her being she proclaimed:
These heartless men and arrogant strangers
who dare ignore the laws of nature
must now pay for what has been done
and with these acres become one.
Men to flowers, captain to shore,
they will remain here forever more.
Before my witnesses land and sea,
by the power of Galiza I curse thee!
Yells filled the air as the crew flew into the air and slowly transformed into the white alba roses that already covered the land until there was silence, and only the captain and the meiga remained.
The captain feared at first that he too would spend the rest of his days as a flower, but then remembered what the meiga had said: ‘captain to shore’. The woman approached him, her eyes still ablaze.
“As for you” she said, “your travels end here.”
She waved her hand and said:
“You will never lever this land, so you’d do well in learning to love it.’
Lightning struck where she stood, forcing the captain to cover his eyes. When he lowered his hand, she was gone.
END OF PART ONE