Áine – Midsummer’s Celtic Faerie Goddess

 

aine Áine was both a Celtic Goddess and a Faerie Queen. She has been known by other names, such as the Lady of the Lake, the Goddess of the Earth and Nature, and the Goddess of Luck and Magick. As well, there are some people who actually believe that she might be an aspect of The Morrigan.

Áine was one of the most beautiful, feminine, and powerful Celtic goddesses and was one of the many goddesses that the Christian monks sought to do away with, mostly because of her many relations with men. Because of this Aine is not heard much of in the bardic literature, but she is still very prominent in the folk-lore of the neighborhood. She is known in some parts of Ireland as the Fairy Queen of Munster. Also, in the Irish legends we find in her son Earl an archetype of Lancelot in the later Arthurian legends, while Aine Herself is the Lady of the Lake.

In Celtic mythology, Áine ("awnya") is a goddess of summer, wealth, sovereignty, love, growth and cattle. She is a Sun Goddess and the feast of Midsummer Night was held in her honor, for at midsummer, farmers would walk through their fields and wave their torches, in the hope that Áine and her sacred fire might grant them an abundant harvest. They also burnt flowers and straw, as another way of honoring Áine, in the hope that she might grant them freedom from illness and evil throughout another turn of the Wheel of the Year. She is sometimes represented by a red mare.

Áine is symbolized by brightness, glow, joy, radiance, splendor, glory, magic, popularity and even fame. She is sometimes mistakenly equaled to Danu, because her name is somewhat similar to Anu. However, these are not the same Goddess.

Áine has always been known as an extremely versatile Goddess. She was both a Sun Goddess, and a Moon Goddess, with all the varying characteristics that belong to each. While she may be known by many different titles, Áine will always be thought of, first and foremost, as a Goddess of Love, and even more importantly, as the Faerie Queen who, in mating with her mortal lovers, created a whole new Faerie-Human race.

hill of knocainy There is an ancient cairn and three small ring barrows known as Mullach an Triuir on the summit of Cnoc Áine (Áine’s hill) which is near Knockainy village in County Limerick and was the site of rites in her honor involving fire and the blessing of the land.

About seven miles from Áine’s hill, is the hill of the Goddess Grian, ( Cnoc Gréine ). Grian ("sun") is believed to be either the sister of Áine, or another of Áine’s manifestations. Due to Áine’s connection with Midsummer rites, it is possible that Áine and Grian may share a dual-goddess, seasonal function with the two sisters representing the "two suns" of the year: Áine representing the light half of the year and the bright summer sun, and Grian the dark half of the year and the pale winter sun.

Tradition also places Lough Gur under the aegis of Áine, the fairy love-goddess who was believed to tempt mortals into acts of passion. Maurice Fitzgerald, the first Earl of Desmond, is said to have one day encountered her as she bathed in the Lough’s ice cool waters. Having taken her cloak, an action that magically placed her under his power, he was able to lay with her and from their union was born an enchanted son, Geroid Iarla. Although Maurice raised the boy at his castle on the shores of Lough Gur, Aine Lough_gur warned him that if he ever showed surprise at anything their son did, then the boy would be compelled to return to her world. When the waters of Lough Gur are tranquil and still, it said that Geroid Iarla’s enchanted castle is occasionally glimpsed deep beneath the surface. Here he lives waiting for the day when he can return to the world of mortals. But once every seven years, when a full moon bathes the Lough in its eerie hue, he emerges from its depths riding a white horse and leads a fairy cavalcade onto the land where, having encircled the shores, they dance and weave their way back onto the lake and sink once more into its mysterious depths.

Cradled by the protective embrace of a circle of low lying hills that keep the outside world firmly at bay, the glassy, grey waters of Lough Gur have long been regarded as a sacred Other World, the haunted preserve of fairies, gods and legendary heroes who are said to dwell both in its waters and on its land. "Lough Gur is enchanted," wrote David Fitzgerald, in his 1879 Popular Tales of Ireland, "… in the past, no minstrel, piper, or poet would willingly spend a night within a mile of its shore, such lough gurwas its fearful reputation and potency. Even to fall asleep in daytime on its banks was considered among them to be reckless folly".

Nearby, Grange Stone Circle (Rannach Croim Duibh) is the largest ring of stones in Ireland. The Irish name for this is Lios na Grainsi and it translates to mean “Stones of the Sun”.  The entrance is aligned with the rising sun on Midsummer’s Day. It is still used by local pagans. The Grange Stone Circle is a very interesting place and quite eerie even during the day. The locals won’t come near this place after sunset because the belief is that the place returns to the Fey and the other worldly beings. The entities tolerate visitors during the day, but at night it  belongs to them.

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