With Valentine’s day fast approaching and with online stores start stocking up with heart-shaped chocolates and red roses, this is a time which is literarily synonymous with the mythological figures Eros and Cupid. However, there is one deity of love that is often forgotten and lies a little bit closer to our shores.
In Irish mythology, Clíodhna (translated to Cleena) is the Queen of the Banshees of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In some Irish myths, Clíodhna is a goddess of love and beauty and the patron of County Cork.
According to myth, she leaves the otherworldly island of Tir Tairngire, ‘the land of promise’, to be with her mortal lover, Ciabhán. But tragedy is intertwined within her mythical tale as she is taken away by a wave as she sleeps – due to the music played by a minstrel of Manannan mac Lir in Glandore harbour. Whether she drowns or survives the wave depends on which version of the myth that you read, but her legacy remains in County Cork as there is a wave named in her honour: ‘Tonn Chlíodhna’ which translates to Clíodhna’s wave.
Clíodhna also appears in the traditional story of the famous Blarney Stone, built into the battlements of the Blarney Castle situated just outside of Cork.
The builder of the castle, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy became involved in a lawsuit during construction in 1446 and appealed to Clíodhna for her assistance. She told him to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, so he did, with the result that he pleaded his case with great eloquence and won. The legend thus states that the Blarney Stone gives the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness and the tradition of visitors kissing the Blarney Stone stems from this very tale.
Despite her archaic origins, Clíodhna still has a place in our modern romances. Her qualities of beauty and desire are obvious contenders for desired qualities in a partner, but her gifts of persuasiveness and eloquence have proved essential in a locked-down world. As it turns out the gift of the gab is needed more than ever when relationships are confined to facetimes and phone calls, which can sometimes seem prolonged if you are lacking the eloquence of Clíodhna.