Sunday, 18 June 2017

Knockainey, Midsummer and the scent of Meadowsweet.

Midsummer is almost upon us, our senses filled with colour, the heady scents of woodbine 
and wild sweet pea, the sound of bees and birds. 

Almost overnight, clouds of meadowsweet appear along the boreen. 

In folk medicine meadowsweet, Airgead Luachra, ‘silver rushes’
was used to cure fevers and colds as well as easing pain. 

In Co. Galway meadowsweet was placed under the bed of a person afflicted by wasting sickness brought on by contact with the Good People. The use of the flower was fraught with danger however, as patients risked falling into a deep and deadly sleep.

Also known as Cúchulainn’s Belt, meadowsweet was said to have reduced 
the heroes’ fever and calmed his fits of rage. 

It was Àine however, the ‘bright’ goddess often associated with the sun, who gave meadowsweet its’ perfume. 
In the old tales she is described as “the best-natured of women”.

Àine is found in several places in the Irish landscape, including Lough Gur 
where she is remembered as Bean Fhionn, White Lady. 

Link to previous post about Àine & Lough Gur ~
LOUGH GUR - “a personality loved, but also feared.”

Her main residence however is her hill, Cnoc Áine, Knockainey, which is steeped in myth.

Knockainey from Bóher Na Sceach, ‘road of the thorns’. 

Ritual once took place here on Oiche Fhéile Eóin, St. John’s Eve, June 23rd.
The celebration falls close to the Summer Solstice and many believe it has its’ roots in pagan ritual. 

In legend Áine, using her magic, helped to take the hill from the Firbolg so that her people, the Tuatha Dé Danann, could settle there. 
Her price for preventing bloodshed was that “the hill were given to her till the end of the world.”  

At 528 feet high, the summit provides views across the landscape to the hills around Lough Gur, 
to Knockfierna and to the sacred fires which would once have been lit on hill tops to celebrate the changing seasons. 

Knockfierna to the west of Knockainey. 

Folklore tells that the local fairies, led by Áine, used to play a hurling match against the god, 
Donn Firinne who lived beneath Knockfierna. 
Whoever was victorious would ensure a successful potato crop.

The top of Áine’s Hill, difficult to reach in the summer months due to grazing cattle, has the remains of three mounds. These were believed to be the dwelling places of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Eogabal (said by some to be Aine's father), 
Fer Fi and Áine.

Diagram of Knockainey mounds from Thomas J. Westropp, 
 “The Ancient Sanctuaries of Knockainey and Clogher, Co. Limerick and Their Goddesses”
Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 1917 - 1919 

After visiting Knockainey Westropp describes’s Áine’s cairn as

 “a defaced, insignificant heap of earth and stones wrecked by treasure-seekers.” 

As late as the 19th century celebrations were held at Midsummer and at harvest when burning brands of hay and straw were carried to the summit.

Evans-Wentz, W. Y. - 'The Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries', London: H. Frowde, 1911.

The goddess herself was believed to lead a similar rite. 

Several wells are marked on the old maps suggesting that there may have been rituals involving water. 
One ‘curious’ well which flowed down the slope beneath her mound was recorded as 
Áine’s Well and she was said to haunt the local river as a banshee, combing her hair beside the waters of the Camòg.

All that can be found today is Mary's Well in the village.  

A series of exposed rocks, the remains of an old quarry, hide the elusive Áine Clíar's Cave.

The Hill and land around Knockainey is filled with ancient monuments, mounds and standing stones once part of Bronze and Iron Age burial traditions and ceremonies. 

The landscape holds its’ secrets but still whispers, in the summer months, of forgotten rituals, celebrations to the sun and to Áine, the “ beautiful spirit crowned with meadowsweet”.

Offerings to Áine at the river.

Click link below to read more about Knockainey & view the surrounding landscape from the summit ~