Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Hermit in the Middle of the Sea

An episode in the Life of Mael Duin relates an encounter with an ancient man discovered on a rock in the middle of the sea. The old man tells Mael Duin his story. Once it was that his boat of tanned hide lay becalmed far from the sight of land. As he looked about him, he saw a man sitting on a wave. The man tells him that his aloneness on the waters is an illusion and that, in fact, the voyager is surrounded by demons, “as far as thy sight reaches over the sea and up to the clouds,” all because of his covetousness, pride, haughtiness, theft, and “other evil deeds.” “Fling ... into the sea all the wealth that thou hast in the boat,” the mysterious man counsels him. Having done that, the voyager is given a cup of whey-water and seven cakes. “So I went,” saith the ancient man, “in the direction that my boat and the wind carried me: for I have let go my oars and my rudder.” Thus he was cast on the rock, and there he had lived in contentment for seven years, surviving on the whey-water and the seven cakes.

-- from Carolyn Hares-Stryker, “Adrift on the 7 Seas: The Medieval Topos of Exile at Sea”


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