Aine is often remembered as a Celtic goddess of love. But she was also a deity of wealth, sovereignty, and the summer. Her sensitive and joyful personality brought her many followers in the Celtic world. The heart of her cult was located in Limerick, Ireland, though her fame spread like the sun’s rays over many other regions.
Associations between Aine with Venus, Aphrodite, and any other love deity are vague. She was a very complex goddess. One may assume that the goddess of love would have had bright and happy myths surround her, however the legends about Aine are rather depressing. Stories often told of the goddess being raped and murdered, as well as facing many other difficult situations.
Yet these sad stories actually brought her closer to the women who lived in the tough Celtic world. It is important to remember that when the Celtic army worked for others or fought for their land, women also had to protect their homes, towns, and settlements. Therefore, death, cruelty, and sexual abuse were unfortunately quite common for the ancient women. Despite the sad tales, Aine brought women hope and reminded them about the joys of summer and more pleasant times. This may be why she was worshipped over some other deities.
A Sunny Goddess
Celtic legends say that Aine was the daughter of Eogabail, who was a member of the legendary Tuatha Dé Danann. In folklore, she was also recognized as the wife of the sea god Manannan Mac Lir – a deity who was very important for Celtic warriors. In ancient Irish myths and legends, Aine is described as a Faery Queen, a goddess of the earth and nature, and a lady of the lake. It was believed she brought luck and good magic to her worshippers. Some identify her as a brighter side of the famous goddess Morrigan.
The Tuatha Dé Danann as depicted in John Duncan’s “Riders of the Sidhe.” (1911)
Aine is also known as the goddess who taught humans the meaning of love. She had many human men as lovers and bore many Faerie-Human children. There are countless stories about her escapades with human lovers. Most of the stories about Aine and her lovers were happy and peaceful tales, but some were also sad or disturbing.
The Legend of Aine’s Encounter with Ailill Aulom
One of the unpleasant legends speaks of a man who didn’t want to learn the meaning of love, but was only driven by his sexual desires. This lout was the King of Munster called Ailill Aulom. According to the traditional story, he raped Aine, so she bit off his ear – which made people call him ‘One-eared Aulom.’ In Old Irish law, kings needed to have a perfect appearance and a complete body. Thus, Aulom lost his authority. This story shows that Aine was also a powerful goddess of sovereignty. As a deity, she granted power to good people, but also took it away from the bad ones.
King Ailill and Aine by John Duncan.