Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Caer. The Swan Maiden of Aengus.
Description: A daughter of Prince Ethal Anbuail of Sid Uamuin in Connacht. Usually thought of as a Goddess of sleep and dreams and a less violent version of Mare.
She usually took the form of a swan that lived on a lake called Dragon's Mouth and she wore a golden chain with one hundred and thirty golden balls on a silver chain worn around her neck.
She is connected to the horse and the moon. Caer (pronounced Keer) had many names, often very flowery such as "shapely yew berry."
Caer was in fact a pan-Celtic goddess, worshiped in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. All three countries have claimed her as theirs. Her name is everywhere in the languages of these three countries; in Scottish perhaps the most well-known usage is "Caer Edin," which is the translation for the Scottish capital Edinburgh. In Welsh the town Caernarfon means "Caer Arfon." To the Irish, Caer is only used for the homes of kings, such as "Caer Arianhrod," home of the goddess of that name.
Caer rules Over: Dreams, prophetic dreams, falling asleep, music and magic.
In Celtic tradition the Swan is associated with deities of healing waters and the sun. They are associated with music, love, purity and the soul. They are shape-shifters, can take human form, and have mastered the elements of water, earth and air. They can always be recognized by the gold or silver chain that hangs around their neck.
Among Druids, the Swan represents the soul, and is associated with the Festival of Samhain. The swan aids us in travelling to the Otherworld. Swans are also sacred to Bards and their skin and feathers were used to make the tugen, the ceremonial Bardic Cloak.
Swans appear throughout Irish folklore. An Otherworldly bird, they are often the disguise of Fairy Women. At certain times of year, a swan maiden can transform herself back into a human, such as Summer Solstice, Beltaine or Samhain, when the veils between the worlds are thin.
The White Swans of the Wilderness were children of the Tuatha de Danaan, who settled Ireland, and became the sidhe after the invasion of the Milesians.
The night Cuchulainn was born, a pair of swans wearing Otherworldly silver chains attacked Emain Macha. In a later tale, the Princess Derbforgaill fell in love with Cuchulainn, and transformed herself and her maidens into swans to be near him. A hunter by nature, he threw a stone at one, none other than Derbforgaill herself, and brought her down. She transformed back into a woman, and lay bleeding at his feet. Cuchulainn restored her, sucking some of her blood, which rendered him unable to take her as his bride. She subsequently married his son.
In The Dream of Angus Og, the young God fell in love with a woman he saw in his dream, named Caer. So great is his longing for her, that he grew ill. He set out to search for her, and discovered that she is no dream, but a mortal woman under enchantment. She and her sisters are transformed into swans at Samhain, and must remain so for six months, until Beltaine.
Angus found her at Loch Gel Dracon, where the transformation took place. When he arrived, there were 150 swans, all with Otherworldly silver chains around their necks, and he could not distinguish Caer from the others. Aengus then called out to her, changing into a swan himself. In that shape, he recognized his beloved, and they flew off together, chanting such ethereal music that all who heard it fell into unconsciousness for three days and nights. He brought her home to Brugh Na Boinne (Newgrange).
The Children of Lir is the most marvellous swan tale of all. An Irish princess’s four brothers were condemned to live as swans for eternity by their jealous step mother, Aoifa, the wife of King Lir. The princess’s only hope is to remain mute for seven years while she wove four shirts of flax for her brothers, which will break the enchantment. There are several variations of this tale. In another variation, they were swans for 900 years, but when they were transformed back to humans, after being baptised by St. Kernoc, the priest of the new religion, they fell to the earth dead.