Aine: A Radiant Celtic Goddess of Love, Summer, and Sovereignty
Aine is often remembered as a Celtic goddess of love. But she was also a deity of Wealth, Sovereignty, and Summer. Her sensitive and joyful personality gained her many followers in the Celtic world. The heart of her cult was located in Limerick, Ireland, though her fame spread like the sun’s rays over many other regions. She was a very complex goddess. One may assume the Goddess of Love would have had bright and happy myths surround her, however the legends about Aine are rather depressing. Stories often told of her being raped and murdered, as well as facing many other difficult situations.Yet these sad stories actually brought her closer to the women who lived in the tough Celtic world. It is important to remember that when the Celtic army worked for others or fought for their land, women also had to protect their homes, towns, and settlements. Therefore, death, cruelty, and sexual abuse were unfortunately quite common for ancient women. Despite the sad tales, Aine brought women hope and reminded them about the joys of summer and more pleasant times. This may be why she was worshipped over some other deities.
Celtic legends say that Aine was the daughter of Eogabail, who was a member of the legendary Tuatha Dé Danann. In folklore, she was also recognized as the wife of the sea god Manannan Mac Lir – a deity who was very important for Celtic warriors. In ancient Irish myths and legends, Aine is described as a Faery Queen, a goddess of the earth and nature, and a lady of the lake. It was believed she brought luck and good magic to her worshippers. Some identify her as a brighter side of the famous goddess Morrigan. Aine is also known as the goddess who taught humans the meaning of love. She had many human men as lovers and bore many Faerie-Human children. There are countless stories about her escapades with human lovers. Most of the stories about Aine and her lovers were happy and peaceful tales, but some were also sad or disturbing.
One such unpleasant legends speaks of a man who didn’t want to learn the meaning of love, but was only driven by his sexual desires. This lout was the King of Munster called Ailill Aulom. According to the traditional story, he raped Aine, so she bit off his ear – which made people call him ‘One-eared Aulom.’ In Old Irish law, kings needed to have a perfect appearance and a complete body. Thus, Aulom lost his authority. This story shows that Aine was also a powerful goddess of Sovereignty. As a deity, she granted power to good people, but also took it away from the bad ones.
Although Aine died in this story, she remained immortal in Irish mythology and in the pantheon of Irish deities. As a Goddess of the Moon, she also became a Deity of Agriculture and cared for the crops. Her celebration takes place on August 1st, a day otherwise known as Lughnassadh or Lammas. Aine is also part of the Triple Goddess group with her two sisters, Fenne and Grianne. Tradition says that during the full moon they ride their horses and play in the Lough Gur, a lake dedicated to Aine in County Limerick.
Aine, Summer Goddess of Love, Light and Fertility
Aine, (pronounced Ahn-yuh), was originally worshiped as a Sun Goddess. Like so many goddesses and gods, Aine has assumed many other roles over the years, being seen as a Moon Goddess, a Goddess of Love, a Fertility Goddess, a Healing Goddess, and a Sovereignty Goddess. Aine is also known as a Faery Queen. She is often called Aine, Goddess of Love, Light, and Fertility. Her name means “brightness, glow, joy, radiance; splendor, glory, fame” and she is associated with the abundance of summer.
Aine, Sun goddess nicknamed Bright, could take the form of Lair Derg, a red mare that no one could outrun. As Lair Derg, She walked among Her people, offering aide where needed.
Aine was the ancient Sovereignty Goddess of the province of Munster in South West Ireland. Cnoc Aine, in Knockainey, Co. Limerick is sacred to Her. This hill was once the most powerful, royal ceremonial center of Munster. In ancient times, the ritual marriage between King and Goddess was performed here, thus legitimizing his kingship.
As a Moon Goddess and a Fertility Goddess she ruled over and protected both crops and animals. At Midsummer celebrations, people honored Aine and Her sacred fire. The men lit torches on the top of her hill, Cnoc Aine, and then ran down through their cattle and fields asking Her blessings for an abundant harvest. It was believed that at the same time Aine and the fairies of Her sidhe undertook a similar procession in the Otherworld.
Aine, beautiful, bright and glowing, is a muse to every poet. She could inspire great works of creativity or drive the artist to madness.
Above all else, Aine was the people’s Goddess, who gave much to them and received their love and worship in return. An ancient myth tells the story of how Aine gave the gift of grain to the people of Ireland. In this account, Aine sat in her birthing chair on Lammas, August 1st, and gave birth to a sheave of grain. Thus the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Lammas are also her sacred days.
Aine was also associated with water and healing. The enchanted Lake (Lough) Gur, which lies only 4 kms from Cnoc Aine, was another site sacred to the Goddess. On the night of the full moon, known as All Heal Night, people were brought there to be healed. If they didn’t recover, then Aine would sing to comfort the dying and help them in their passage to the Otherworld.
Neolithic votive offerings, hut circles and caves have been discovered in the Lough Gur area, perhaps indicating that Aine’s worship dates back to our early Neolithic ancestors.
Aine’s popularity was increased by her role as Goddess of Love. She is known for teaching her human children about love, both by taking human men as lovers and by teaching humans how to express their love in a sacred manner. She gave birth to many children through her love of mortal men, creating what some believe to be a magical Faerie-Human race.
There are many differing accounts of Aine and Her human lovers. An early tale tells of how Aine was raped by King Ailill Aulom of Munster. Aine bit off his ear (“Aulom” means one-eared), thus rendering him unfit for kingship.
Various stories exist about Her marriage to Gerald, the Earl of Desmond. Some believe that Aine fell madly in love with him and enchanted him into marriage. A different version tells he fell instantly in love with her when he happened upon Her while she bathed in a lake. He used his magic cloak to win and marry Her. Yet another story tells that Aine was raped by the Earl. She retaliated by turning him into a goose, killing him, or both. But whichever way the Earl and Aine came together, the birth of a son is always recounted. Aine’s son was a magical child who became The Magician. Perhaps he was Merlin himself.
Another version of Her liaison with Gerald illustrates the non-violent power of the Divine Feminine. In this version, Aine struck a deal with him in which she would gain her freedom if he ever showed even the slightest bit of surprise at anything their son might do.
As Aine’s son was a powerful magician the day ultimately arrived when the Earl was unable to hide his surprise at one of his son’s amazing feats. Aine gained her freedom and she returned to Her sidhe, where She lived in peace and happiness. With the power of intelligence, ingenuity and determination, She freed herself from bondage.
The mists of time have veiled Aine’s lineage, yet some connection to the Sea God, Manannán Mac Lir is always present. In one version of Her story, She is his wife. Others claim She is the Sea God’s daughter. Yet others say Aine was the daughter of Eogabail, a member of the Tuatha da Danaan, who was himself the foster son of Manannán Mac Lir.
Aine, with long red hair held by a headband of fallen stars, was always seen wearing yellow, attire fitting for a Goddess associated with the sun and the moon. Her element is air. Her sacred animals are the red mare, rabbit and swan.
Call on Aine for aide in love, fertility and prosperity. Ask for Her help in claiming your own Power and in experiencing true Joy in life. On Her sacred days, Midsummer and Lammas, feel Her presence as the Divine Feminine while meditating on your own Divinity. May the Goddess of Light, Love and Fertility, who brings us the Sun’s Power and Life Force and the Moon’s Mystery, Intuition and Regeneration, be with you and protect you as you move through the days of your life.