CW: Sexual Assault
Áine (pronounced awn-ya) is a powerful Sovereignty Goddess centered in Co. Limerick, Ireland. She’s celebrated at the summer solstice, when farmers would (and sometimes still do) light torches from the sacred fire atop her hill – Knockainey – and patrol the borders of their fields with her fire. She’s a Goddess of fertility and the harvest, and while She’s currently called a “fairy queen” she most likely was originally a Solar Goddess.
You can’t long study Áine without hearing the story of Ailill Aulom. Ailill was a king in Munster, but not apparently a good one. The grass began disappearing at night while he slept, and in order to figure out why and hopefully fix it, his Druid, Ferchess, advised him to visit Knockainey on Samhain eve. He did so, but fell asleep while waiting for something to happen. He awoke in the middle of the night sometime to see a beautiful woman coming from the cairn atop the hill. Overwhelmed with lust and entitlement, he forgot about his duty to his people and raped her.
Obviously Ailill was a bad king. Had he been in right relationship with the Land and his sacred duties, the grass wouldn’t be disappearing to start with. The fertility of the land was directly related to the conduct of the king. But he proves the depth of his bad character (and lack of wisdom) by forcing himself on a woman he’s just laid eyes on.
Unfortunately for Ailill, this was no ordinary woman. It was Áine herself – the Sovereignty Goddess and therefore divine personage of the land he ruled. Unlike modern times, consequences for his detestable action were strong and swift. During the attack Áine bit off his ear. Not only did this Mike Tyson event hurt like hell and get nasty Ailill-blood everywhere (no doubt ending his lustfulness in the process – all women can relate to the moment a man goes from “damn you’re hot” to “fuck you, you bitch!” in the blink of an eye), it also left him disfigured. Uh-oh. Pretty boy isn’t so pretty anymore. Too bad only the unblemished can be king. See yourself out, Ailill. Buh-bye.
Lessons For Today
Besides the (should be) obvious lesson for men of “hey, don’t rape!” There is a lot for us to take from this story today.
We have a different relationship with the concept of Sovereignty than the ancient Irish did. We aren’t ruled by kings and queens anymore. Today, when you talk about sovereignty you think more about personal sovereignty. Owning your own body, your own being. Being in charge of yourself, free to make your own choices and decisions.
Ailill’s action metaphorically destroyed his right to sovereignty in the myth. But in today’s terms, it’s the same attack on bodily autonomy so many of us face on the daily. Whether it’s men who feel they have the right to grope, to demand or force sex, or even to legislate what a woman does if she becomes pregnant. And let’s certainly not forget the laws being passed right now targeting trans youth, denying them the right of sovereignty over their bodies and gender identities. It’s all equally shameful and wrong.
And Áine is not here for that noise. She won’t have it. She can and will destroy just as easily as she can bless.
Some Áine UPG
This is UPG (Unverified Personal Gnossis), K? But Áine was the very first Goddess I ever worked with. She came to my first ritual in a powerful way. And seeing her as the embodiment of the Sun, who’s renewal I had so movingly celebrated at my first Yule, I had the sads on Midsummer when I marked the peak of her power and the beginning of her decline.
And I felt she spoke to me. I get messages from the Other as a series of impressions in my mind, of just sudden knowledge that has clearly been dropped in from an outside source. On this particular day, I saw Áine being honored again as she is just after Lughnasadh. It’s always intrigued me that the hottest part of summer and the coldest part of winter come AFTER their respective solstices. The Dog Days of Summer, the bitter cold of January and February. In my mind I saw Áine as the sun growing hotter and stronger in August until she scorched the earth and the people she shone on.
She was showing me her immense power, but also why that power had to wax and wane throughout the year. She isn’t just a safe “love goddess.” She is powerful like the sun and, again, she can harm as easily as she blesses.
Áine As Sovereignty
Going back to our modern concept of sovereignty, Áine can symbolize our right to bodily autonomy. She encourages us to walk in our own power and own our own selves. And she is all about defending that autonomy by any means necessary. She is completely in tune with those who’ve had our bodily autonomy violated. She’s been there. And she stands ready to help us heal – if there’s a spot of revenge in the process she’s ok with that, too.
Have you worked with Áine? Do you have trauma she could help you with? Share your stories in the comments below.