Mena and the Red Moon

When the Gods created humankind, They gave the first people many gifts, such as fire, medicine, and horses. The Gods also gave them metals: gleaming bronze and dark iron. The first people shaped these metals into tools for working the land, weapons for hunting animals, and armor for protection. In this way, humanity thrived beneath the warmth and light of Sauil’s gaze.

However, when Sauil retired to Her mother’s house at the end of the day, creatures that preyed on men emerged from the darkness. They were grotesque things, with twisted bodies: many-headed giants, dragons that breathed fire, and other monstrosities too terrible to name. The first people called them unhulþans, no matter what shape or form they took, for they were all destructive and hungry. Human weapons and armor were no match against their claws and fangs. Many people walking around at night died in the jaws of an unhulþa. And so, humanity feared leaving their homes after sunset.

Fairguneis saw the plight of man and arranged a meeting of the Gods. When all had gathered, He said, “These creatures called unhulþans plague our creations. Our children cannot defend themselves. It is right for Us, the strong, to protect those who depend on Us. Let Us look after the humans and kill these monsters that hunt them.”

“I shall go,” Gapt said immediately, taking up His great spear. “I am skilled at war and have drenched the world in blood. It will be easy for Me to slay monsters.”

“I shall go, too,” said Teiws. “I am familiar with guarding the realm of men. After all, it is the duty of a commander to protect his soldiers.”

“And I shall go,” said Hroda. “My horse is the swiftest in all the worlds. Before Gapt and Teiws have killed their first monster, I will have returned with My trophies, as proof of My skill.”

Fairguneis nodded. “Go, then,” He said to the three volunteers. “Return tomorrow with the heads of those You’ve slain.”

And so Gapt, Teiws, and Hroda rode out on horseback in three different directions. The other Gods waited patiently in Fairguneis’ house for Them to return. When daybreak came and Sauil’s burning horse leaped into the sky, the three hunters returned, but emptyhanded.

“What happened?” Fairguneis asked, concerned.

“By day, We searched for the unhulþans’ nests where they sleep, but could not find them,” admitted Teiws. “They must rest in the far reaches of the worlds where no light shines.”

“And by night, We tried to track them down, but they know the shadows better than We do,” Hroda said begrudgingly.

“Perhaps if We went out in greater numbers, We would catch them,” Gapt suggested.

But before the Gods could discuss further, Mena spoke up. “I will go tonight,” He said, “and I will go alone.”

A few of the other Gods laughed. “Alone? But You are not a hunter or skilled at war, Mena,” They said.

“You only carry knives,” They said. “You do not have a bow or sword of Your own.”

But Mena was not troubled by these statements. Fairguneis saw this and nodded at Him. “Very well. Go tonight. We will wait here for Your return.”

And so, the Gods remained in Fairguneis’ house, drinking, eating, and sharing stories while They waited for the sun to set. Mena waited, too, and sharpened His knives.

When night fell, Mena went out alone. After an hour had passed, Laguhwaþo stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. She gazed up at the sky and gasped; She was always first to notice Her brother on His travels through Her domain. “Look!” She exclaimed. The other Gods joined Her outside and craned Their necks to see.

The moon hung low by the horizon, taking up the entire eastern sky, as red as fresh blood spilled on snow. The Gods had never seen anything like it before.

The moon rose higher and higher as Mena continued His journey through the night. At last, it reached its destination in the west. Mena returned to the house of Fairguneis with His prize: three monstrous heads, severed at the neck, which He threw onto the floor at the Gods’ feet. They all cheered, praising Mena and toasting to His prowess.

“How did You do it, Mena, when our best warriors claimed They could not even track these beasts?” Fairguneis asked.

“It’s true their dens lie in darkness, and that they cling to shadows in the night,” Mena replied. “But I am the shadow, and I am the light. The vilest horrors and the greatest hopes — they are Mine to hide and to reveal at will.”

All the Gods nodded in agreement, for Mena spoke true.

“In that case, let this task fall on Your shoulders alone, Son of Airþa,” declared Fairguneis, “and may the worlds be safer for it.”

And that is why, when the moon is swollen with blood, we make offerings to Mena, Red of Knife, and toast to His victory.