I met Michael Mitchell of Knockainey when I first greeted his son who directed me to his house at the foot of Knockainey hill in county Limerick between the two unusually named towns of Bruff and Hospital in County Limerick. It is on a road I travelled by often as a child in my fathers car on the way to Limerick from Tipperary.
|Spiritual/Esoteric ref||Gaeilge||Eytmological Root|
|The Star||Cnoc Áine||The Hill of Áine|
He was most helpful and courteous and happily directed me up to where the peak of the hill was on his land and he appreciated that I asked for his permission and allowed me to enter the hill at the back of his home. Other tourists please take note.
Nothing I have read mentions the most interesting aspects of Cnoc Áine. To my eye, on the way up on this approach from the Mitchell Home there is a wide stone in the field which no doubt had some place in the original complex surrounding the hill, it looks strikingly like the back of horse lying in the grass with its hind quarters apparent. Maybe this was associated with the famous Red Mare the form in which Áine might appear and use to allow the goddess to wander the fields and meadows of the lands associated with her. It is an intriguing rock form in any case. I Imagine it was a great deal more important in its hey day.
The image of The Red Mare of course may refer to the setting or rising sun . She was associated strongly with our nearby star and also the moon. In fact Áine took on many associations This is one of the five main royal sites and is named after “Áine Cli,” (or Áine Clair) that is, Áine of the light, the Beautiful”. It is the light itself she seems to be associated with rather than the heavenly Bodies from which the light comes.
The area around her Hill is known as “Little South” and was a microcosm of the entire province of Munster. This part of Limerick was called the Seignory of Any (Áine) right up to the 1700’s. Like… Annies Place! Local landowner Michael Mitchell told me that this area in front of his house was famous for many years for the annual fair that was held there where horses and other farm animals would be traded. This I understand took place around the first weekend of Lughnasa.
Apparently the site has been destroyed during battles. So it takes a time to read the landscape properly, but you can still see the three small mounds, cairns in fact beneath the grass very clearly if you pay attention. In a 1999 interview (right), local schoolteacher Seán Smyth identified these cairns as “the graves of the three warriors…those three chieftains were supposed to have died defending the hill. And they’re buried on top of the hill. From the top of Knock Áine one can see the hills around Lough Gur, and the cairn on top of Knockfierna more than 20 km (12.5 mi) away.
The hill is surrounded by the three nearby rivers of Lubach, Saimer and Camóg. Nearby is the legendary lake of Lough Gur that is said to empty every seven years to reveal “The Tree of The Otherworld” that has the power to rejuvenate the earth. There are also important sacred wells nearby with healing powers such as Patrickswell.
Áine is recognised an Irish goddess of summer, wealth and sovereignty. She is strongly associated with Midsummer and The Sun . She is the daughter of Egobail, also known as The Dagda , the Oll Athair (All Father) the sister of Aillen and/or Fennen (The Burner) and descent from her is claimed by many Irish families. As the goddess of love and fertility, she has command over crops and animals and is also strongly associated with agriculture. Rituals in her honour, involving fire and the blessing of the land, are recorded as recently as 1879.
“Some say that Áine’s true dwelling-place is in her hill; upon which on every St. John’s Night the peasantry used to gather from all the immediate neighbourhood to view the moon, and then with torches (cliars) made of bunches of straw and hay tied on poles used to march in procession from the hill and afterwards run through cultivated fields and amongst the cattle.”
Áine’s siblings are also the Bodb Dearg, Cermait, Midir, Brigit and her half brother Aengus. Her mother is Boand (The Goddess Boyne after which the river is named).
“In early tales she is associated with the semi-mythological King of Munster, Ailill Aulom, who is said to have raped her, an assault ending in Áine biting off his ear, hence the name Aulom “one-eared”. the story goes that The king was having a problem as, every night when he went to sleep, the grass would disappear. His Druidess, Ferchess, advised him to visit Knockainy the next Samhain Eve. He did as she suggested but fell asleep, lulled by the drowsy sound of the cows grazing on the hillside. Walking disoriented in the middle of the night, he saw a beautiful maiden coming from the cairn with her father it was then that he raped her . By Old Irish law, only an “unblemished” person can rule; by maiming him this way, Áine rendered him unfit to be king. As an embodiment of sovereignty, she can both grant and remove a man’s power to rule. The descendants of Aulom, the Eóganachta, claim Áine as an ancestor and the lands centred in this area and around Cashel are associated with this name through the ages.”
She is also associated with sites such as Toberanna (Tobar Áine) Co Tyrone ; Dunany (Dun Áine), Co. Louth, Lissan ( Lios Áine), Co. Derry ; and Cnoc Áine near Teelin, Co. Donegal.
This special light mentioned above associated with Áine is embodied in the image of the Star . The form chosen is that of a Tetrahedron with the number of 8 points. In other cultures it is associated with the Goddess of Love as the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and the Roman name for that Goddess, Venus. The planet Venus appears as the morning or evening star on our Horizon and has always been associated with the eternal presence of Love in the world.