Cana Cludhmor is celebrated as the creator of the Irish harp, now the national symbol of Ireland. Inspired by the perfect dance of nature, Cana Cludhmor's creation would become the core of traditional Irish music.

Show Transcript

Her story begins upon the ancient emerald isle now known as Ireland.

From within a small cottage a young woman bursts through the front door. Within the home heated cries of a man follow her as she makes her way into the nearby woodlands. The woman resists the urge to return one more slight back to the man. However, she knows it will not achieve anything. Instead, she looks to the trees and knows their company will soothe the ache in her heart.

Cana Cludhmor’s mind still churned as she strode deeper and deeper amongst the piles of leaves and moss, clambering over fallen logs and pulling her long skirt away from mushrooms and flowers lest she disturb the fairies. 

Within her head she played out how the argument with her lover began and escalated. They had both had opportunity over and over for it to stop but neither had chosen to take any. Cana Cludhmor was as angry with herself as she was with her lover. Then the anger which had felt like red hot embers within her mouth had sunk into her chest, settling into a dull pain in her torso.

Cana Cludhmor knew it had to end and the ending would begin when she walked away. Not only would the heated words stop between them but the lands around their home would help ease the regret now sitting like a clamp around her heart.

So she walked and climbed and scrambled until she was some distance from the cottage and her lover’s own pain. With that space between them Cana Cludhmor now slowed her pace and breathed in the wonders of the world around her.

She looked up into the trees and marvelled at the abundance of leaves upon their branches. Cana Cludhmor gazed down into the arrangement of rocks and rotting wood upon the forest floor, smiling as she imagined how many fairies and elves lived within the multitude of crevasses and gaps there.

Cana Cludhmor felt her breath slow down and the tightness around her heart began to ease. Though it was so tempting to lay herself down here to rest she knew the sea was close by and to look upon the vast water would be an even greater tonic to truly ease the pain she carried from the argument.

Soon she emerged from the woods and the sounds of the waves called to her. Cana Cludhmor walked along the coast, pulling her shawl tightly around her as the ocean breeze pulled at it. The air whipped at her face, sending her hair backwards then flying forwards to tickle her cheeks and block her view. 

It all felt delightful and as Cana Cludhmor reflected on all the beauty she had experienced since she had stormed from the cottage, she gave thanks to the Great Mother for putting all this wonder in place. How grateful she was to know such magnificence and to call it her homeland.

As she stopped to take a deep breath and offer her gratitude, a new sound made its way to her ears. A gentle melody was making itself known. It carried itself over the tumbling of the waves, the whipping wind, and the cries of the seabirds. 

Soon it was all that she could hear as her ears pulled the music deeper and deeper within her. Cana Cludhmor felt soothed as its gentle tones washed over her. She sat upon some soft grass and closed her eyes. The tune was all she cared for now and she wanted to know its every note. It was in this space of its caress that Cana Cludhmor lay herself down and fell into a deep sleep.

When she awoke it was as though the argument with her lover had never happened. The ache in her heart and the churning in her mind were the faintest of memories. It was like the music had washed it all away into the depths of the ocean.

Still the delicate melody was playing. Cana Cludhmor needed to know where it was coming from as she wanted to thank the musician for its beauty and healing.

Following the sounds, Cana Cludhmor made her way around some rocks into a small cove. Though the music was so close now, she could see no man or woman playing it. Instead, all she saw was the carcass of a whale, long ago washed into the cove and now barely more than a skeleton.

The great beast’s ribs still stood like a rounded cage. The muscles and skin that had wrapped between and around them were long gone yet hanging like ribbons remained the sinews that had once strapped the soft tissues to the bones.

The wind that played with Cana Cludhmor’s hair now did the same with these tendons. As it pushed past them each one emitted a tone and their glorious arrangement produced the melody that called and soothed her.

Cana Cludhmor put one hand to her heart, completely overwhelmed with the beauty that had emerged from that which would usually be seen as morbid or sad.

The dance of all this was in perfection; from her seeking peace, to the whale choosing this place to expire, to the precise direction of the wind. Once more Cana Cludhmor was in awe at the power of the Great Mother and how all her creations played together.

With the anger of the argument long gone, she now missed her lover and wanted to return to his embrace. She smiled as she imagined telling him of her discovery and hoped he might return with her to experience the music with his own ears.

Cana Cludhmor made her way back to the cottage as the sun sank on the horizon. When she arrived, she could see through the windows that candles were already lit and smoke curled from the chimney. Opening the door, she saw her partner crouching before the fireplace as he placed a small log onto the embers. 

When he heard the door open, he turned and Cana Cludhmor braced herself for any remnants of anger he still might hold. Instead, he smiled as he stood, opening his arms, calling her to embrace him. Together they sat by the fire, and she told him all about the music and the discovery of the whale bones and sinews that created the melody with the wind.

When they woke the next morning, the music was still within Cana Cludhmor’s ears. She hummed it as she made tea and her lover laughed as she poured his cup without missing a note.

“Take me so I can hear it too” he asked of her.

Together they made their way through the woods and out to the shoreline. Cana Cludhmor’s heart sank as she could not hear the melody as before. She imagined that this was simply because the wind was too soft at this moment and surely it would grow to the strength needed once more.

They climbed down to the cove and then Cana Cludhmor saw just why the music had stopped. The whale’s rib bones had finally collapsed upon the ground and the cage was no more. Part of her wanted to weep that the beauty of the music was now lost forever, but also she knew this was all perfectly natural and the order of life.

What remained of the soft tissues would be pulled at by sea birds and foxes. The bones would bleach in the sun and eventually wash back out to sea, crumbling with time into dust. All was as it was meant to be.

Her lover took her hand, squeezing it gently.

“Ah well, I still have your voice to be my music!”

Cana Cludhmor smiled for indeed the melody still played in her head. It did for many days to come. 

Yet still there was something about the whale bones and sinews that had made the music more beautiful than she could with her simple humming. The image of the rib cage standing upon the beach never left her mind.

One day her lover returned from hunting and as he slung his arrows and bow off his shoulder, Cana Cludhmor looked at the bow and smiled. 

“Why it’s just like the bones and ribbons that played my music,” she thought.

Picking the bow up, she gently plucked the string that was strung across its length. It sung out a note and Cana Cludhmor laughed. All this time she had imagined only the bones of a great animal could sing to her and yet right here before her, the simplest of tools could also do the same.

She made her way into the woods and before long she found the perfect curved branch, just like one that would be chosen for a bow. Though this was curved even more, rounded like the ribs of the whale. Cana Cludhmor took it home, where she smoothed the bark, then tied a string from one end to the other, much like the bow her lover used to hunt. 

Cana Cludhmor plucked this now and its sound was gentler than the bow. She played at pulling at it stronger, then softer. She even held it to the wind, all to see if it might begin to sing as the whale carcass had done. While it did, her simple curved branch and lone string sang one simple note, and though it was beautiful it was not the melody she had heard.

She remembered how the whale’s ribs had held sinews of different length and how they all sang together. Cana Cludhmor now took more strings and began to tie them within the curve until she had ten of different lengths. She began to pluck along the strings and heard parts of her whale song, but she also heard much more. 

When she plucked along them they also began to sing songs she had never heard before. Cana Cludhmor now not only had her healing song but much more.

She played the song that had healed her while her lover listened and tears filled his eyes as he finally understood why Cana Cludhmor could not forget it and why she ached to share it with him. 

Over the weeks Cana Cludhmor and her instrument created more music. Others gathered to listen, and they too had their hearts touched by the songs. They in turn would create their own stringed branch and write their own melodies which would inspire even more to do the same.

As the music become more abundant then so too did the very thing it was created upon. The simple branches of its frame become carved and ornate. It strings would become many more as the wooden outline became bigger.

Across the land the instrument now called the harp and the music born of it would be so beloved and intwined within the history of the people that it would become a symbol of the land. 

While it created and told so many new stories of the people and their land, the harp’s very beginnings were never forgotten. Cana Cludhmor as its creator would be whispered thanks when a new harp was born and called to for inspiration when a musician began to write a fresh song. 

Cana Cludhmor lives on in eternity as a muse for the songs of Ireland and its people.


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©2021 Marisa Calvi

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