Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Aengus MacOg & Caer
Eternally youthful, he rules at Newgrange, also called Brúgh na Bóinne for its situation on the Boyne River (named for his mother, or the other way around). He is a god of the otherworld, foster-father of Diarmud and accidental instigator of Etain's problems when he fell in love with Caer, a woman in the form of a swan.
He had a harp that made irresistible music and his kisses turned into birds that carried messages of love. His brugh, underground faery palace was on the banks of the Boyne River.
In one of the most well known myths involving him, Aengus helped the fugitive lovers, Diarmuid and Grainne escape Fionn MacCumhal’s vengeful wrath. He pleaded their case to Fionn and secured their freedom from his pursuit. He also abducted the unhappy Edain, the wife of Midhir, from her imprisonment in fairyland.
Sometimes he has been called a God of death or, more accurately, of fatal love, and his is often discussed in terms which credit him with powers similar to those of both Mabon and Apollo. He is most strongly equated with the Greek love God Eros.
Aengus dreams of a young girl for a year, but is unable to find out who she is and falls into a wasting sickness. His mother Boann goes in search and doesn't find her; the Dagda has Bodb go and find the girl, who is found at Loch Bel Dracon, chained to fifty other girls, all of which change shape into birds. The Dagda asks for Ailill and Medb's help, but is told to meet with Ethal, the local sidhe king and father of the girl, who is called Cáer Ibormeith. Eventually, Aengus is able to meet with the girl on Samhain; she only agrees to be with him if she's allowed to return to the lake. They turn into birds and sing the people to sleep, and Caer remained with Aengus after this.
In magick – call on Aengus for music magick, aid in romantic love, protection of lovers, dream work, creative inspiration.
Correspondences – bowls, sapphires, cinnamon, clay, red roses, copper, rose quartz
Once there was a young man named Angus Og who was surpassingly handsome, and so he was light-hearted and carefree when it came to "wooing" all the girls. He had many titillating romantic affairs, since he was completely confident that he deserved the prettiest girls and that they were just lucky to be with him. One night, though, he has a dream in which he sees the most beautiful woman imaginable. He wakes up stunned, and suddenly all the local girls seem dull and dim-witted in comparison. The next night, he dreams of the beautiful maiden again, and she sings to him a song of such sweetness that it could lull whole kingdoms to sleep. He sees that her wild, feathery hair is silvery-white, and she wears tiny golden chains adorned with bells all about her, draped around her waist and wrists and throat. He awakes the next morning having fallen completely in love with this dream-maiden, and yet he is intimidated by her beauty and wary of the golden chains. For the first time in his life, he finds himself full of doubt. He falls very ill, and for a year and a day, he lays weak and feverish in bed, refusing to see anyone or seek any help, out of embarrassment for his lovesickness. Every night, he dreams of the beautiful maiden, and she sings to him until his fever subsides.
Finally, Angus Og's mother convinces him to speak to his father, the Dagda. The Dagda advises his son to go and seek this dream-maiden, to see if she is real and if he can win her affections. (The story doesn't say this, but I think the Dagda just wanted to get Angus Og out of bed and moving around--fresh air does wonders for a bruised ego. The Dagda probably figured that after a little while of tracking down beautiful girls who fit the dream-maiden's description, Angus Og would forget his dreams completely and be back to his old self again.) Angus Og decides to take his father's advice. For another year and a day, he goes off searching the far corners of the world (by which they probably mean, Ireland) to find his dream-maiden and to prove his love for her. When all seemed hopeless--and Angus Og's obsession had not abated in the least--his brother, Bodb the Red, finally finds a woman who fits the description. Bodb brings Angus Og to the side of a lake called The Dragon's Mouth (catchy name, eh?) to see the maiden. And there she is, just as beautiful and strange as Angus Og first dreamed, bathing on the shore of the lake among one hundred and fifty other girls who are her servants and handmaids. For it turns out, she is Caer Ibormeith, the daughter of a Faerry King.
As is always the custom in polite fairy tales, Angus Og goes to her father, the Faery King, to ask his permission to woo Caer. The King responds, in short, "Good luck, man! She is willful and wild, more powerful than I am. I cannot bid her to do or not do anything she has not already decided for herself. You're welcome to try your luck... But one thing," the King says, "Caer has this little quirk about her--don't ask me why... Every autumn, she transforms herself into a swan, along with her one hundred and fifty handmaids, and they all fly off somewhere for the winter. The only chance you'll have of wooing Caer is if you go to the shore of The Dragon's Mouth on the morning of her transformation, and call to her by name."
Angus Og, mystified but still overwhelmed with love, is willing to try anything. And so, when that autumn day finally arrives, he goes alone to the shore of the lake at dawn. This time, instead of the many girls bathing on the shore, he sees one hundred and fifty swans gliding serenely across the glassy surface. While still in the form of a maiden, Caer was by far the most beautiful and easily stood out in a crowd, not least because of the golden bells she wore--but now, as swans, all the girls look almost exactly alike. For a moment, Angus Og panics, sure that he'll never be able to tell which of the swans is Caer, that he'll never be able to call to her by name and so win her love. Trembling with uncertainty, he closes his eyes and tries to remember the dreams in which he first saw the lovely swan-maiden, listening for the song she sang to him as he slept. For a moment, he imagines that he hears that same song drifting across the lake, and in a burst of eager self-forgetfulness, he calls out, "Caer! Caer!" When he opens his eyes, he sees a swan gliding slowly towards him from among the others, and as it reaches the shore, its form melts away to reveal Caer in all her beauty, still wrapped in a cloak of white swan feathers.
Caer smiles at Angus Og and asks him why he took so long to answer her call, why almost three years had passed since she first sang to him in dream. He admits that he, who had always been so casual and indifferent about pretty girls, had been embarrassed by the sudden sincerity of his love, and that it took a long time to overcome his doubts and seek her earnestly in the place where she dwelt in waking life. For so long, he had been content to dream.
The story ends with Caer agreeing to be his wife and lover, but only if he will transform himself into a swan and fly away with her. He agrees whole-heartedly, and together they unfurl their long, white wings and take flight across the lake, singing a song so sweet and wild and beautiful that the whole kingdom fell into a peaceful sleep for three days and three nights (during which, I'd imagine, they had their own fun). After this feathery honeymoon, according to Celtic mythology, they both transform back into human form and live "happily ever after" as the handsome god of love, and the beautiful goddess of purity and dream
Celtic Myth & Magick