Sunday, 17 January 2016

Æ, artist & mystic - “And the old enchantment lingers in the honey-heart of earth.”

‘The Spirit of the Pool via the Beauty of Art’

I first saw the work of the Irish visionary, George William Russell some twenty years ago and have been fascinated by his life ever since.  

Self portrait as a young man and an older Æ, described as having eyes 
“like well-springs in a wildwood of hair and beard.” 

Born in County Armagh in 1867, his family moved to Dublin when he was a child and it was here that Russell remained throughout his life. 

Plaque outside 84 Merrion Square, Dublin where Æ once worked.
You can read more about his life HERE

It was on a visit to his aunt in Drumgor, Co. Antrim when he was 16, that Russell experienced his first vision:

‘The Stolen Child’

"there broke in on me an almost intolerable lustre of light - pure and shining faces, 
dazzling processions of figures - most ancient, ancient places 
and peoples and landscapes lovely as the lost Eden"

‘Deirdre at the door of her Dun’

After hearing a voice whispering “AEON” to him as he painted, Russell used the pseudonym Æ to sign his work from then on.

Æ’s signature on the Autograph Tree next to that of WB Yeats at Coole Park.

Although known primarily as a poet, he was a painter, a committed worker for the Co-Operative Society, an editor and co-founder of the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin as well as a mystic.

Æ’s visions of the ‘many-coloured land’ and the Tuatha Dé Danann inspired many of his early paintings and he continued to paint the Otherworld throughout his life.

‘Spirit of the Sea’

His spirits and fairies were not the small, winged creatures of Victorian fantasy but huge, dominating presences, the ‘Shining Ones’, their heads crowned with ‘flames’ of energy. 

They were Warriors, 

‘The Crusade’

‘Wood chopper and Tree Spirit’

Spirits of wood, water and cave


‘Lissadell fairies cavern’

and the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland who demanded respect.



Russell, known as the ‘myriad-minded man’, died aged 68. 

He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin.

Many of his paintings are held in public collections throughout Ireland and others have emerged 
since his death.

Lying concealed beneath wallpaper at 3 Ely Place in Dublin are more of Æ’s visions. 
Two murals have been uncovered in the building which was once the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Ireland. Others may surface in the future.

Æ’s visions continue to inspire.

“And the old enchantment lingers in the honey-heart of earth.”

Russell's poem ‘A Dream of Angus Oge’ and Winter Solstice at Newgrange.  
A video by Mythical Ireland.

More about Russell and the Theosophical Society can be found HERE


  1. AE !
    I first met his words when I lived in Glastonbury. That was in the last century - the 1970's and The Candle of Vision had just been republished for the umpteenth time. It made a great impression on me
    for there in print was things that I was able to recognise.

    Brilliant blog as always x

  2. Thank you Heron. I love The Candle of Vision - probably my favourite of his works!

  3. What a lovely post and tribute to George William Russell. The Candle of Vision is one of my favorite books.

  4. And one of mine too Vivienne. Thank you.

  5. Truly beautiful paintings and representations of his visions, Jane. They are filled with ethereal light! Really lovely!

  6. Aren't they wonderful Val? I'm so glad you enjoyed seeing them. x

  7. And in the future,may your own visionary work be appreciated by the many, as it is by those of us today who find inspiration,comfort,solace and wisdom in your offerings. Thank you Jane.

    1. And thank you Froinsias! Glad you enjoyed his work.


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