A History of the Goddess
Readers of Stone Heart and the Ailigh Wars Saga will know her well. Cáer, the Celtic goddess who appears frequently to the druid, Grainne, and reveals to her a future fraught with war. But who is she, and what importance does she have in Irish mythology?
All the gods and goddesses mentioned throughout the Ailigh Wars Saga novels are steeped in centuries of myth and history, in tales as old as time and passed down through the ages. Cáer, the swan-goddess, is no exception.
Cáer Ibormeith was the daughter of a prince, Ethal Anbuail, from Connachta (Connacht in the west of Ireland). She was a shapeshifting goddess who lived alternate years as a swan or a human, transforming each Samhain (what we now call Halloween) from one to the other.
Every night for a year, she would appear in the dreams of a man called Óengus Óg who lived at Newgrange. She would stand by his bedside and when he saw her, he fell instantly in love. But when he reached out for her, she would disappear.
The Dream of Óengus
Óengus, the son of the Dagda (father of all the Tuatha de Danann people), was sickened by his love for her and he told his mother, Boann (goddess of the River Boyne), who searched for the girl for a year.
When she could not find Cáer, Óengus asked his father, the Dagda, to search for her. He, too, spent a year looking for the girl, but was unsuccessful. Following this, Óengus asked the king, Bodb Derg (king of Munster) to find her – and he did.
The mysterious woman was chained together with 150 woman at the Lake of the Dragon’s Mouth (this has since been identified as Lake Muskry in Tipperary). But Óengus was told he could only be with the one he loved if he could identify her in her swan form.
Swans in Irish mythology are representative of wholesome love and purity and, to the druids, represented the soul. They appear frequently in the ancient tales (interestingly, swan feathers also made the ceremonial cloaks of the bards).
Óengus was able to identify her in her swan form (because love transcends all matter), and he, too, transformed into a swan. Óengus and Cáer flew away together and were wed. As they flew, they sang songs that were so sweet they put the people of Ireland to sleep for three days and nights.
Cáer Ibormeith and Óengus Óg became the foster parents of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, a skilled warrior who killed over 3,400 warriors in battle.
Cáer is known as the goddess of dreams and prophecy. And if you see her in your dreams, be sure to ask her about your future!