The Goddess Boann (Spelled Bóinn in modern Irish) is the Irish goddess of inspiration, knowledge, fertility and water. She is also the goddess of the Boyne river that flows through the Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne) in County Meath. She has strong ties to this ancient land, particularly to Newgrange, as it is told that she created the river.
Boann is strongly associated with poetry, and in some early literature it is written that drinking from her river, The Boyne, in the month of June would grant the gifts of poetry and seership.
Creating The Boyne River
Boann created The Boyne river when she went to Nechtan’s well to draw water, though it was forbidden for anyone but he and his servants to do so. The waters surged upwards to meet her, and she suffered catastrophic injuries as it swept her down to the sea, thus creating the river.
In a different version of the story it was the Well of Seagais that chased her down. However, in both versions she lost an arm, a leg, an eye and ultimately her life when she called the water towards her.
Boann had a faithful dog named Dabilla, who jumped into the water after her when she was swept into the current. Sadly, Dabilla also perished in the raging waters, he was split in half and turned into two stones, which are called Cnoc Dabilla.
Affair with The Daghda
In the mythology, Boann is said to be the wife of the Nechtan, or Elcmar. And is also well known for having an affair with the Daghda. This affair is particularly well known because she became pregnant with the Daghda’s child and bore him a son named Aengus after a very unusual pregnancy.
In fact, Aengus was actually conceived and born on the same day, as the Daghda used his magic to stop the sun in the sky for nine months in order to conceal their affair from Boann’s husband.
There are no other children known to belong to her, but some people believe that the Daghda’s daughter Brigid may also be hers.
Boann also has an appearance in the Táin Bó Fraích text. In this story she helps her mortal nephew Fráech to impress Medb and Ailill, by giving him the garment of the Sídhe. She gives him fifty mantles and tunics, emblazoned intricately with different types of animals, fifty spears set with jewels that shine like the sun in the darkness, fifty black horses, fifty swords with hilts of gold, seven great dogs, seven trumpeters, three jesters, and three harpists.
Associations and Neo-Pagan Links
Boann is associated with cattle, particularly white cattle, as her name suggests. ‘White Cow’ in the Irish language is ‘bó-fhionn’.) This meaning actually helps us to confirm that these legends indeed come from antiquity, as Ptolemy’s Geography from the 2nd Century shows us that the Boyne River was called Bouvinda back then, deriving from the Common Celtic word for white cow.
For modern Pagan’s, Boann is associated with creativity, water, fertility and youth. Some believe her to be the mother of Brigid, or at least associated with Brigid. As there is much crossover in the two. It is possible that some stories about Brigid may have originally been attributed to Boann, but simply were retold as Brigid’s stories as time passed. As is often the case with minor Gods and Goddesses.