Contribution: Fabiana Elias Albino
With the Goddess Aine we wander into the realms of the unfettered powers of femininity. The Goddess Aine was one of the female deities that suffered from repression at the hands of the Christian monks. In Ireland around 500 BC it is fairly well attested that several sites in Munster and Connaught were dedicated to the worship of Aine. Her popularity even spread to the Western Isles of Scotland. Some accounts give her as the daughter of Manannan Mac Llyr, God of the hidden paths in the realms of the western ocean, while others say that she was no other than the great Morrigu herself. In my personal opinion the latter fits easiest in instinctive feeling.
We can see Aine in triple aspect in the powers attributed to her. Firstly as the Maiden in her ability to reward her devotees with the gift of poetry or with unfortunate madness. There is a stone that belonged to Aine high on her mountain, Cnoc Aine, which could bestow either poetry to the worthy or madness to those she rejected. Also, it was said that all the mad dogs in Ireland would congregate around this stone. It is not hard with her connection with poetry and hounds to see her Maiden aspects to be those of the Goddess Bride, who in the form of a Maiden was the muse of poetry and had the name Cu Gorm (grey hound).
Next, as a Mother deity Aine is associated with lakes and wells with great powers of healing. Tobar-Na-Aine (Well of Aine) was credited with life-restoring powers. 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.
She is in several tales strongly associated with the Yew tree which shows her as a Goddess of Life and Death. In all her aspects it is clearly shown that Aine was no deity to offend, for in spite of all her beneficent attributes, if crossed she could have coined the phrase "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". There are many tales of her revenge and her infinite patience in its pursuit. In one story she was offended by an Irish High King whereupon she caused a great battle to ensue in which he was killed. It was said that at his death her mocking laughter could be heard over the din of battle. The attribute of Aine which made her a great enemy of the early Church was undoubtedly her sexuality. If ever a Goddess was depicted as the Arch Rival of the institute of matrimony then it was surely Aine, whose promiscuity and freedom of spirit could not be encompassed by man, thus a threat to the self denial of chastity of these womanless monks.
Finally, in her third aspect of the dark Goddess, she has the ability to appear to mortal men as a woman of great beauty known as the leannan sidhe, which means "Fairy Lover". In this form her chosen subject would be totally spellbound into what could only be described as a fatal attraction, as the outcome was almost certain to result in the death of the chosen one.
This belief in fairy lovers still persists today among the more remote places of Celtic countries. It is said that a certain sign of this occurence could be seen in the nocturnal emissions of young men known as wet dreams. If steps were not taken to protect the victim they would lose the will to live and so die in a wave of ecstasy. It can also be seen where Graham Stoker drew some of his ideas from on the nature of vampires. He wrote his book Count Dracula while staying in his castle in the Scottsh Highlands where belief in lovers from the land of the Dead were commonplace at that time. Of course I should like to point out that the reason for these phantom lovers killing the loved one was so that they could be together in the Otherworld realms and this was not restricted to the male gender as fairy lovers could also be males. How would you feel, I wonder, if the male warriors among you found yourselves being smiled at by a beautiful woman dressed in green garments with eyes as green as emeralds and hair as red as blood.
[Copyright - S. McSkimming/L. MacDonald from: GODS OF THE CELTS 1992 -Dalriada Publications]
Áine is a very powerful goddess of the Irish tradition. Áine is the daughter of Manannan Mac Lir and is seen on the sea from time to time. A large stone in Ireland, Cathair Áine, is reputed to attract wild dogs from many counties around. These dogs are then seen running madly into the sea at Áine's call. She is seen in a boat with her father Manannan and sister Aoife going around Inishowen. Áine is often viewed as a goddess of sustenance, healing and fertility. Belief in Áine, and sightings of her have continued down the ages. During the Irish Potato Famine, for example, Áine was seen on the top of a hill where she offered food to those who were starving. Clearly the care of Áine transcends the ages and does not wane with time.
Áine is the spark of life that the Irish understand as traveling through the body during a 24 hour period. What this "vital spark" was is not known. It is perhaps related to native forms of Irish medicine that have been lost.
Days of the year that are set aside to honor Áine are the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, following Lúnasa. On these days some folk would climb to the top of Cnoc Áine with torches. They would circle the barrows there anti-clockwise in a dance, and then descend the hill taking the ashes from the hay torches with them to be sprinkled over their fields for a better harvest.
However, Áine has a dark side. She was once raped by a King Ailill Olom who coveted Áine's beauty. During the rape Áine fought back and bit Ailill's ear off earning him the name "Aillil Bare-Ear". After the rape Áine swore vengeance on Ailill and eventually contrived his death. This story is about what happens when a ruler decides to rape the Land rather than enter into a marriage with Her. Áine knows the energies of a righteous vengeance quite intimately. She said:
"Ill have you been to me, to have done me violence and to have killed my father. To requite this I too will do you violence and by the time we are done I will leave you with no means of reprisal."
To me this is a warning about what the Land will eventually do to us all if we continue on the path of resource rape, and environmental poisoning that our current society follows. Áine will protect herself.
The "Paps of Áine" are a set of two breast-like mountains in southern Ireland that have been sacred to Her for as long as memory reaches. The Paps are inhabited by the Sidhe and is a place of great brí. In Colorado, our group considers the Spanish Peaks, or Wahatoya, to be a place sacred to Áine. The Wahatoya are, in form and appearance, very similar to the Paps in Ireland.