Chapter 6 – Cliodhna

May 24th, 2018 | By | Category: Book News, Books, Fairy Queens, Morgan Daimler

Clíodhna – Fairy Queen and Bean Sí

 

Clíodhna (old Irish Clíodna – pronounced KLEEuhn-uh) is a Fairy Queen and is also sometimes counted among the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland. The meaning of her name is uncertain but may be ‘the territorial one’, likely reflecting her earlier role as a sovereignty Goddess associated with the province of Munster and especially with Cork (O hOgain, 2006). She formed a triad of such deities with Áine and Aoibheall who we have previously discussed and all three are now understood as Fairy Queens showing that while how people understand them may have changed their importance remains. In modern folklore she is the Queen of the Munster fairies, and one poet in the mid-19th century refers to ‘the troops of Clíodhna’ in a poem about fairies pursuing a human in revenge over a death (Carraig Cliona, 2018; O’Kearny, 1855).

Clíodhna’s epithet is Ceannfhionn (fair headed or fair haired) and she is sometimes called ‘the shapely one’ (O hOgain, 2006; MacKillop, 1998). In many stories she is described as exceptionally beautiful. She has a reputation in many stories for her passionate nature and love of poets in particular, and in later folklore when she is considered a Fairy Queen she is known to abduct handsome young poets or to appear and try to seduce them. In folklore she has a reputation for seducing and drowning young men (Smyth, 1988). Several mortal families trace their descent from her including the McCarthys and O’Keefes and she was well known for taking mortal lovers.

There are no references to who her mother might be or to her children among the Gods, but we know her sister is Aoibheall, and her father is said to be Gebann, the Druid of Manannán mac Lir (Smyth, 1988; MacKillop, 1998). In one story Clíodhna and Aoibheall were both in love with the same mortal man; he favoured Aoibheall so Clíodhna used magic to first sicken Aoibheall and then turn her into the form of a white cat so that the man would choose her instead, which he did (O hOgain, 2006).

She is often connected to the Otherworldly bean sí – anglicized as banshee – the fairy woman who is attached to certain families and who appears before a death in that family to cry and keen for the dying person. By some accounts she herself is considered to be such a spirit, as is her sister Aoibheall, and she is also known as the queen of all banshees. Banshee folklore is rich and unique, often misunderstood, and like Clíodhna herself the folklore of these spirits shows a likely shift from sovereignty goddesses protecting important families and mourning the deaths of leaders to Otherworldly figures who are omens of death (O hOgain, 2006).

She has three magical birds that eat Otherworldly apples and have the power to lull people to sleep by singing and then heal them (Smyth, 1988; MacKillop, 1998). In another story Cliodhna took the form of a wren, a bird that may be associated with her. The banshee is also associated with birds, at least in so far as she is said to take the form of a bird in some folklore, perhaps another layer of connection between Clíodhna and those Otherworldly spirits.

Clíodhna lives at Carraig Chlíona [Cliodhna’s rock] in Cork as well as a wave at Glendore; both might be seen as entries to the Otherworld. Her stone in Cork is said to be so hard that even iron drills couldn’t pierce it (Carraig Cliona, 2018). She is strongly associated with the shore and with waves, and the tide at Glandore in Cork was called Tonn Chliodna ‘Wave of Cliodhna’ (O hOgain, 2006).  In several of her stories the wave was given its name because she is drowned at that location after leaving the Otherworld either to try to woo Aengus or after running away with a warrior named Ciabhán.

Clíodhna is one of the more obscure deities among the Tuatha De Danann and modern practitioners who do choose to honour her may look to her as a sovereignty Goddess or as an ancestral deity related to specific families but it’s important to understand her role as a Fairy Queen. Clíodhna’s more recent folklore and her place as a Queen of the fairies of Munster is an important part of who she is, just as those seeking to connect to her as a Fairy Queen need to also understand her role as a Queen of the Banshees. Every layer of Clíodhna’s history and each of her roles matters as we seek to understand who she was and is.

An altar to Clíodhna could be decorated either with sea imagery or with things relating to the earth, like stones and wood. Because she is also known to take the form of a bird and to have birds around her you might want to use imagery related to that as well. For example if you were focusing on Cliodhna more for as a Fairy Queen you might focus on her ocean aspects while if you wanted to connect to her healing qualities birds would be a better way to go.

Offerings to her could include the traditional milk or bread given to the Gods and fairies. I have also had success offering her clear fresh water, whiskey, and also treats like cakes and cookies. Whatever you offer should be given sincerely and with pure intentions.

 

Journeying to the Queen of Elfland

 

Remember that Cliodhna, like her sister Aoibheall, can be tempestuous and unpredictable as the sea. As with several of the other Fairy Queens Clíodhna requires a bit of extra caution in dealing with, particularly if you are someone who falls into a demographic she is known to be prone to taking, including poets. Before you begin the journey, take a moment to settle yourself and focus on what you would like to gain in meeting this Queen.

 

“Relax and breathe deeply…in and out…in…and out…

Feel the solid earth beneath you. Let your spirit move down, out, into the earth. Fill yourself with the energy that rests deep in the soil…When you feel empowered by this energy pull your spirit back up, out of the earth.

You find yourself sitting on the ground at twilight.  Next to you is a staff of Rowan carved with symbols. The ground is warm beneath you, but the air is starting to chill as darkness falls. There is a light wind and you can smell the scent of a fire somewhere in the distance and of fallen leaves close by. You hear the sounds of birds calling to each other as they settle in to roost for the night and the murmuring of water over rocks. Although it is deep twilight and the world around you is dark you can see clearly. You are sitting in a field between an old forest and a river. At the other end of the field the shape of a hill rises up, a gentle curve in the earth.

As you look at the hill something catches your eye, flickering like firelight. You stand up, pick up the staff, and move towards the light…as you walk across the field towards the hill the light grows. As you get closer you can see that the light is coming from a door that opens up into the hill midway up the incline. Using the staff to help, you climb up the hill to the door.

At the entrance to the fairy hill you meet your guide, the same one that you encountered in your last meditation. Your guide greets you and welcomes you back into the hill again, leading you through the doorway and into the hill. You step through into the familiar hall you have visited before but this time your guide leads you through and out into the wider world of Fairy.

You cross an open expanse of grass and enter into a greenwood following a wide path. Your guide leads you on and on, through the forest as it grows thicker and then begins to thin. You keep moving forward, your guide close by your side, as the trees slowly give way and finally open up to shoreline. To each side of you a beach spreads out, the sand meeting the tree line and stretching down to the waves.

Your guide gestures you forward and as you cross towards the water there is a particularly large wave that sends white water crashing upwards towards you – instinctively you pause and throw your hands up to cover your face. When you look again there is a woman standing in front of you. She is tall and regal, clad in a dress that is all the shades of blue of the ocean. She tilts her head and looks at you thoughtfully, her eyes measuring.

(take time here to experience whatever occurs and let the experience unfold organically)

When you have done what you need to do your Guide gently tells you it is time to leave. You politely tell Cliodhna that you appreciate the time she’s taken to speak with you before backing up towards the trees. You don’t turn your back until she has left first, then you return to the forest path and begin moving back towards the hill where you entered. The trees grow thicker around you as you walk, the shoreline falling behind you. Eventually you emerge and find yourself at the open field that will take you back to the hill. You cross the green grass and return to the familiar doorway. Your guide leads you back through the hill, through the hall, and to the doorway where you first entered.

At the entrance you put your token somewhere safe and say farewell to your Guide before stepping out the door. You pick the staff back up and as you do the door closes and the doorway vanishes into the hill. You are standing alone on the fairy hill in the dark night. Carefully climb down the hill and walk back across the field. The night is silent now, and dark, and the wind is cold. Put down the staff and sit down, resting on the earth.

Feel the solid earth beneath you. Let your spirit move down, out, into the earth. Fill yourself with the energy that rests deep in the soil…When you feel empowered by this energy pull your spirit back up, out of the earth.

Return to your body; feel yourself solidly back in mortal earth.

Relax and breathe deeply… in…and out…in and out…

Move slowly, reconnecting to your body, until you are ready to open your eyes.

Write down everything you saw or experienced in your journal.

 

References

O hOgain, D., (2006) Lore of Ireland

Smyth, D., (1988) Irish Mythology

Cussen, M., (1929) Cork Weekly Examiner, October 8th Issue

MacKillop, J., (1998) A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology

Lane, J., and Clifford, B., (1993) A North Cork Anthology

O’Kearny, N., (1855) Feis Tighe Chonain Chinn-Shleibhe, Or, The Festivities at the House of Conan of Ceann-Sleibhe, in the County of Clare

Carraig Cliona (2018) Duchais.ie archive https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4921783/4906795/5178148?ChapterID=4921783

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