Áine, Celtic Goddess

Water had a special magic for the Celts as a symbol of vitality and inspiration. The fact that it could capture lights (for example, a reflection of the setting sun) could not be rationally explained and was taken as proof of supernatural properties. Wells and springs were charged with magic powers. Lakes and rivers were the dwelling-places of otherworldly beings, like the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian legend.

Áine is the Celtic Goddess of love, the sun, fertility, water, summer and sovereignty. She is honored for her ability to grant abundance and fertility over the land. Being a Goddess of the sun Aine is said to have been given the nickname “bright”. Áine is also known as a Faery Queen and was honoured as such in the province of Munster. It is said in myth that Áine made love to many humans which created a magical race of faery people. Some people today are said to be related to this race. Daughter to Eogabal, king of the síd of Knocking. Áine is also honoured as a lunar deity. She is said to have been able to shape-shift into “The Red Mare”, the horse who could never be outrun.

In Celtic myth, Áine was almost raped by King Ailill Aulom of Munster. This ended with Áine biting off the king’s ear which gave the him the name “Aulom” which means “one-eared”. Because of this Aine saw the king unfit to rule and took away his sovereignty over the land. There is another tale in which Aine did not get out so lucky. While bathing, Áine was approached by Gerald, Earl of Desmond. She was not able to protect herself from being raped this time. Áine became pregnant and gave birth to a son, the second Earl of Desmond. It is said that she did indeed make Gerald pay for what he did by turning him into a goose.

Áine is honoured at Mid-Summer when the land and animals are at their peak of abundance and fertility. She is also celebrated at Lughnasadh. Áine is a nature Goddess and is associated with all the animals, flowers and the land. Aine was worshiped in the province of Munster and in Co Limerick there is a hill that is sacred to her called Knockainey Hill. She is also associated with lakes and rivers.

Image by Caroline Evans

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