Part 7 – Aengus Óg
I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.
I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.
WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.
Placement ~ Mythological Cycle
Pronunciation: Eng-guss Owe-g. Also called Aongus, Aonghus, Aenghus, Oengus, Mac Óg, Mac Óc, Mac Ind Óg, Mac in Dá Óc.
Known as Young Aengus, he is often spoken of as a God of love and youthful pleasures. Daragh Smyth referred to him as the “greatest and wisest of magicians of the Tuatha De Danaan”.
His name has been translated in many ways. Aengus means ‘true vigour’, this is generally agreed upon. But the ‘Mac ind Óg’ part, though often translated to mean ‘son of the two young ones’, would be grammatically incorrect as such. Dáithí Ó hÓgáin states it is accepted that the original form of this name would actually be ‘maccan óc’ or ‘in mac óc’, which instead puts him as ‘the young boy’. There are many tales that survive that illustrate Aengus as a youthful expression of Irish deity.
His conception and birth story is an obvious example. From a 9th century text we learn that the Dagda is his father, having desired his mother, Bóann, Goddess of the river Boyne in county Meath, and wife of Nuada (later known as Ealcmhar). Brugh na Bóinne (pron. Broo nah Boy-nah, which we know as Newgrange) was their home. The Dagda was king of all Ireland then, and he sent Nuada away on a journey. He then magically stopped time, making the night disappear and Nuada feel no hunger or thirst. The Dagda lay with Bóann, nine months went by, and she bore him a son – after which Nuada returned, not having noticed the passage of time and remaining in the dark (so to speak) about what had happened. His mother named him Mac Óg, as she said “young is the son who was begotten at the beginning of a day and born between that and evening”. Aengus was fostered and reared until he was 9 years old by Midhir at the otherworldly rath of Brí Léith (now known as Slieve Golry and located on Ardagh Hill, in County Longford). He became a champion hurler in that time, but during a quarrel on the field one day, another player told him that Midhir wasn’t his real father; actually he called him a hireling whose parentage was unknown. Aren’t kids lovely?! This set Aengus off on a mission to find and secure his true heritage. He was advised by Midhir (whose name may have originally meant something like ‘judge’) as to who his real parents were and where his inheritance lay, and proceeded to meet with the Dagda at Uisneach, in County Westmeath. In the Book of Leinster the story then runs thus:
Mac Óg asked for his share of land after the Dagda had apportioned all of the Sidhe mounds to the lords of the Tuatha De Danaan. He was told there was none, for the Dagda had completed the division. “Then let me be granted”, said the Mac Óg, “a day and a night in thy own dwelling” (Newgrange). When that time was up and the Dagda asked for his home back, Aengus’ reply was quite cunning. “It is clear,” he said, “that night and day are the whole world, and it is that which has been given to me”. In the story ‘The woo-ing of Étaín’, it is given that the dwelling belongs to Nuada, not the Dagda, and the latter advises his son on how to gain possession, notably on Samhain eve, which he does after the day and night similarly on the grounds that “it is in the days and nights that the world is spent”. Nuada is named as Ealcmhar for this tale, which meant ‘the envious one’. Although he was given another dwelling as compensation for his loss, I suppose Nuada can’t really be blamed for being a wee bit envious after such trickery.
As far as source material on Aengus Óg goes, we also have a rather interesting text which is called Aislinge Oenguso (pron. Ash-ling Eng-guss, meaning ‘the vision of Aengus’). The story was given in Revue Celtique III, by E. Muller, and by Francis Shaw in 1934, and goes like this.
Aengus is asleep one night when he sees a beautiful maiden approach, but as he reaches out to touch her, she disappears. As a year goes by and such visits become a regular occurrence, he pines for the lack of her. He falls in love with her as she comes to him in his sleep, and plays him music, but he can never reach her nor find out who she is. As he continues to sicken with longing, his physician approaches his mother for help. Bóann searches Ireland for a year, but fails to find the maiden, and Aengus continues to waste away. The Dagda is sent for, and with the help of Bodbh (pron. Bove, a king from the Province of Munster whose knowledge was celebrated through all of Ireland), and another year’s searching, the girl is finally named and located. The maiden is Caer Iobharmhéith (pron. Care Eevor-vay-th, meaning ‘Yew Berry’), and they find her at Loch Bél Dragan (now known as Lough Muskry, in the Galtee Mountains of County Tipperary) in the midst of a hundred and fifty maidens, each pair linked by silver chain. They track her back to her father’s home in Connaught, only to discover that he has no power over her, and that she spends alternative years as a maiden and as a swan. They determine she can be found again at Loch Bél Dragan the following Samhain with a hundred and fifty swans about her. Unable to recognise her at first in that form, Aengus calls her to him with the promise that he will return to the lake with her, and when she comes he puts his arms around her, and sleeps with her by taking the form of a swan himself. He then encircles the lake three times in her company, thus fulfilling his promise, and the pair fly off together back to Brugh na Bóinne, where their sweet song puts all who hear it fast asleep for three days. Caer stays with her lover in his dwelling after that.
Aengus Óg is given as being concerned with love, both his own entanglements and those of other couples, in many sources. In a story of unfulfilled love, when his intended went with Midhir instead of him, he cast “the blood red nuts of the wood”, his food, down onto the ground in anger. Clíodhna is said to have loved him, and indeed one tale says she drowns as she goes in search of him. He lends his horse to an eloping couple, who is said to have been so huge that when they stop for a rest and the horse urinates, it forms Lough Neagh, which is the biggest lake in all of Ireland. Aengus also appears as the patron and protector of the later Diarmuid, a Fenian warrior, who elopes with the intended bride of Fionn Mac Cumhaill – Gráinne – helping the pair escape their pursuers at least twice when all seems lost. Eugene O’Curry, writing in 1873, relates how a mediaeval text describes how he forges four of his kisses into four birds “which charmed the young people of Ireland”.
Dáithí Ó hÓgáin attributes his ownership of a “wonderful multi coloured mantle” (which only appears to be a single colour to a man about to die), to the suggestion of the exuberance of youth which lingers about him. Daragh Smyth puts his role in later medieaval romances as a somewhat wily character down to the possibility that Christian scribes may have found it necessary to belittle such an important and powerful figure. He also ascribes the survival of Aengus into Irish folklore as a frightener of cattle – as illustrated by Lady Augusta Gregory, who wrote “…every sort of cattle that is used by men would make way in terror before him” in her ‘Collected Works’ – as perhaps due to the fact that his mother is the cow Goddess, Bóann.
To my mind, Aengus Óg does indeed seem to still be concerned with lovers and with guidance of youthful exploits and experiences. A close friend of mine related to me an experience she had of being spontaneously contacted by him in a time of loneliness and despair. This is not a girl who is given to flights of fancy or wishful thinking, be sure on that. During a personal meditation, which took place in her home, in which she was seeking… something – guidance, answers, help perhaps – she experienced the following:
I got an image of a man standing in front of me (around where my altar is, I was kneeling in front) and he handed me a white flower, and I just (don’t know why) figured it was Aongus. But I’d never worked with him or called him or anything before, or thought about it even. I don’t really know why I thought it was him, I just thought it was, so I figured I should find out some more information. He wore a tunic I think, but my idea of a vision wouldn’t be as clear as yours. I remember the flower and the man and the hand handing it to me. And, I felt comforted.
From a modern magical perspective, Aengus Óg can be seen to be primarily concerned with, or representative of, the following:
- Search for love, inspiration of love, the comfort of a lovers embrace.
- Protection and aid for lovers, especially those who find themselves put upon or kept apart by others.
- Youth, and the rise of the young to replace the old.
- Perception of time, the importance of a single day.
- Hope, and comfort, for those who pine or long for companionship.
- Charm and wit, the intelligence and ‘street smarts’ to make a situation or an opportunity work to your desire or in your favour.
If you choose to work with Aengus Óg, or indeed, he chooses to work with you, pay special attention to birds, either physical ones presenting themselves to your notice or those that appear as imagery or visionary visitors. Depending on what aspect of his help you seek, a lakeside setting might be appropriate. For general knowledge, you might try to focus in on the image of his kisses as birds, his multi coloured mantle, his huge horse, his relationship with cattle, the swan imagery, or soothing music. Samhain Eve has figured in relation to him, so this would be an appropriate timing for your work, again depending on what aspects you wish to attune to. Time wise – the turning of night to day or day to night, the magical span of dawn or dusk, will be potent power points to work with this deity. The ancient site of Newgrange itself would also be a good place to figure in, or indeed any of the locations mentioned above in connection with Aengus Óg.