Aine the Fairy Queen of Midsummer
She was once the wife of the Earl of Desmond, and promised to stay with him as long as he kept his word to never show surprise at any of their son’s antics. Unfortunately, the Earl of Desmond couldn’t help but to be gob smacked when he witnessed his son jumping in and out of a bottle, so Aine promptly left him and returned to the land of the fairy, Cnoc Aine (Aine’s Hill) in County Limerick. The Earl of Desmond didn’t fair quite so well, and was turned into a wild goose.
Aine was also known to have been married to the great sea god, Manannan MacLir. But it seems she found mortal men quite irresistible, and had many mortal lovers, which resulted in many children that were half fairy and half mortal. Some say it is for this reason that she was bestowed with the title of “Fairy Queen.”
The sun and the vital spark of life’s fire are associated with Aine, so she is celebrated and honored during the Summer Solstice, which is also known as Midsummer.
The Summer Solstice marks the day when the sun is at its peak. It’s the longest day of the year, but now the days will grow shorter and the sun will begin to lose power. Aine was honored and celebrated with a feast and a procession of farmers carrying torches of hay and circling her hill counterclockwise. The bonfires would burn until the next morning, and the cattle and fields were blessed with the sacred fires to ensure fertility for the coming season.
Aine also had her dark side (as all goddesses do) and in fact she used magic to kill the King of Munster, Aillil Olom, after he raped her. But she serves as a timely reminder for Summer that just as all things grow, all things eventually fade. The trees that once blossomed and bore fruit will turn golden brown and lose their leaves. Wildflowers will die, and sleep will fall over the land. The fairy queen reminds us that life is in itself a season, a cycle and never ending. Give, live and love while you can, and always remember to feel your own vital spark of life’s fire.
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