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Ancient Ring Fort of “Grainan of Aileach” - Inishowen

Burt, County Donegal, Ireland

Gareth Wray Photography

A mystical & magical seat of power were once Kings & Queens of Ireland reigned from. The “Grianan of Aileach” is the best known monument in Inishowen and easily one of the greatest in all Ireland. Situated on a hill top 800 feet above sea level the view from Aileach is breathtaking. The glistening waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly are clear as is the form of the entire peninsula. A windy and exposed place, Grianan Fort has been a silent witness to the history of Ireland throughout the ages.

The fort was first constructed around 1700 BC (probably with earthen walls), by the Tuatha de Danann. It has been ascertained that it was the Palace of the Northern Princes, from a period long before Christianity (AD 400) up until the 14th century. Legend states that the giants of Inishowen (Princes of Aileach) are lying sleeping but when the sacred sword is removed they will spring to life reclaiming their ancient lands!  -Gareth Wray

Celtic Deities: Óengus/Aengus

Óengus is a God of Love, Youth and Poetic Inspiration. He is the son of The Dagda and Boann, and was said to live at Brú na Bóinne.

Óengus’ father, The Dagda, had an affair with Boann, the river Goddess who was the wife of Nechtan. To disguise Boann’s pregnancy, The Dagda stilled the Sun for 9 months so that Óengus was conceived, gestated and born in one day.
Midir became Óengus’ foster father.

  • Abode(s): Brú na Bóinne.

  • Weapons: Moralltach, Beagalltach, Gáe Buide, Gáe Derg.
  • Animals: Swans.
  • Consorts: Etain, Caer Ibormeith.
  • Parents: The Dagda & Boann  (Midir acted as a foster father).
  • Siblings: Oghma an Cermait.
  • Children: Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (foster son).

When he came of age, Óengus dispossessed The Dagda of his home, Brú na Bóinne (an area of the Boyne River Valley that contains the passage tombs Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth). He arrived at his father’s home after The Dagda had shared out his land amongst his children, and none was left for Óengus so he asked whether he could instead dwell in Brú na Bóinne for “a day and a night”, - to this, The Dagda agreed.
Now, bear in mind that the Irish language has no indefinite article, so “a day and a night” is equal to “day and night”, which covers all time, therefore enabling Óengus to take permanent possession of Brú na Bóinne.

Tales of Óengus:

Óengus also killed Lugh Lámhfada’s (yes, Lugh as in Lughnasadh) poet for lying about his brother, Oghma an Cermait. The poet claimed that Oghma was embroiled in an affair with one of Lugh’s wives.

In the “Tale of Two Pails”, a sidhe woman, foster daughter of Óengus, became lost and wound up in the company of St. Patrick where she was then converted to Christianity. Unable to win her back, Óengus left and eventually, consumed by grief, she died.

Óengus fell in love with a girl who appeared in his dreams. His mother, Boann, Goddess of the river Boyne and a cow Goddess who’s milk formed the Milky Way (known as Bealach na Bó Finne, - the White Cow’s Way - in Irish), searched the whole of Ireland for a year. The Dadga did the same. It was the King, Bodb Dearg who finally found the girl after a further year of searching.

Óengus travelled to the lake of the Dragon’s Mouth and there he found 150 girls chained in pairs. Among them was his girl, Caer Ibormeith. Caer and the others would take on the form of swans for 1 whole year, every second Samhain. Óengus was told that if he could identify Caer in swan form, he could have her hand in marriage. Instead, he turned himself into a swan and the pair flew away, singing a beautiful song that would put all who listened to sleep for 3 days and 3 nights.

He owned a sword named Moralltach, the Great Fury, given to him by Manannan mac Lir. This, he gave to his foster son, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, along with another sword named Beagalltach, the Little Fury. He also gave him two spears of great power: Gáe Buide and Gáe Derg.  When the young man died, Óengus took his body back to Brú na Bóinne where he breathed life into it whenever he wished to speak to Diarmuid. 

In other legends, Óengus was able to repair broken bodies and return life to them.

Celtic Deities Series [2/101]