Irish Myths and Legends

Clíodhna of the Banshees

Clíodhna was the mythical Queen of the Banshees, the female spirits of the Tuatha Dé Danannan, and forever will be associated with the southern part of Ireland and Cork in particular.

She was a Goddess of love and beauty and is surrounded by three birds whose fabulous songs could cure all ills. Those who heard the songs were lulled into a deep sleep and when they awoke found that their sickness had been cured.

She was a fabulous beauty, perhaps the most beautiful woman in the world.

Other tales of Clíodhna are not quite so benign. She is said to have lured sailors to the sea-shore where they would drown, unconcerned as she was with the fate of mere mortals.

But it was one such mortal who was to cause her downfall. She left the 'land of promise' in the Otherworld, known as 'Tir Tairngire', to be with her mortal lover Ciabhán (Keevan of the Curling Locks). It was an amazing sacrifice for a Goddess from the Otherworld to remain in the mortal realm but that is what she chose.

When one day Ciabhán went off to hunt, Cliodhna remained at the seashore but was swept away by a wave incanted by Manannán MacLir, the sea Deity. Ever since that time the tide in Glandore in Cork is known as 'Tonn Chlíodhna' meaning 'Clíodhna's Wave', especially when a fiercely loud braking wave thunders out from the sea.

And since that time Irish legend has it that every ninth wave in a sequence is the strongest, and is known as 'Clíodhna's wave'.

Clíodhna was revered by many of the strongest Gaelic families of old. In the 'Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland', Donal III O'Donovan, one of the great ancestors of the O'Donovan families, is referred to as the 'Dragon of Clíodhna':

Domhnall's son, dragon of Cliodhna, is guardian of the ancestral name,
he will remit his authority to none other - he has accepted the law of his dynasty.

O'Donovan, Four Masters, vol. V, p. 1548

She is also associated with the McCarthys of Desmond, who adopted Clíodhna as their fairy woman. One member of the O'Leary sept was named Conor Clíodhna, again showing how well known and respected Clíodhna was among these ancient southern families.

Perhaps one of the most enduring stories of Clíodhna relates to the famous Blarney Stone.

While building his castle in Cork, Cormac McCarthy became involved in legal difficulties and appealed to Clíodhna for her help. In a dream she instructed him to kiss the first stone he found the following morning, and if he did so his problems would be resolved.

McCarthy did as instructed and when he argued his cause in the courts found that he was possessed of such eloquence and convincing language that he easily won his case. He honored Clíodhna by having the stone he had kissed set into a wall, where today it is visited and kissed by countless thousands of visitors from all parts of this world.

The legend of Blarney was enhanced even more when Queen Elizabeth I found that she could not successfully persuade Cormac McCarthy to surrender his castle to her. Such was his delaying tactics and now superior negotiating skills and turn of phrase that the frustrated Monarch of England described his communications as 'Blarney, as what he says he does not mean'.

And so it is that Clíodhna is well remembered in Ireland. Her Palace was near Mallow in Cork at a place that is still called 'Carrig-Cleena', meaning 'Cliodhna's rock'.

And every time a massive thunderous wave breaks on the seashore her memory rises from the history of Ireland, echoing from the mythic era that, although now at an end, is never forgotten.

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