The Dream of Aengus
The god of love, youth & poetry meets his soul mate
There is so much to unpack in this tale! But I’ll come back to that at the end. I’ll also save most of the circumstances surrounding Aengus’s birth for another time. For now, enjoy how a goddess of dreams and prophecy lured a god of love, youth, and poetry to fall for her.
The young god Aengus was handsome, smooth-tongued, and had a beautiful voice. He enjoyed a life of charms and it’s said no woman could withhold herself from loving him.
But he was no pushover. As the youngest son of the High King of the Tuatha de Dannan, Dagda, he found out that he was excluded from his father’s inheritance. His three brothers each got an equal share, while he received nothing.
To right this wrong, Aengus used his powers of persuasive speech to trick the Dagda into giving him one of the most prestigious palaces. He asked his father for the hospitality of staying a day and a night at Bru na Boinne. When Dagda agreed, Aengus utilized the phase’s twisted meaning of “day and night” so there was no end. Basically, Dagda agreed to give it to him forever.
Having won a great prize, Aengus set up home there. He relaxed and fell asleep. During his slumber, a woman came to him and sang a song. It was the sweetest song he’d ever heard and she the most beautiful of all women.
When Aengus awoke, he distressed over the need to meet the woman who’d come to him in his dreams. He realized that no other woman would make him as happy. Over the next year, the two met every time Aengus slept.
He fell deeply in love with the mystery woman. In his anguish over not being able to meet with her in person, he wished only to sleep. He didn’t eat or drink or participate in anything else.
Aengus never told anyone about the woman or how much he loved her. During the year, Aengus’s health declined to a terrible level.
Physicians were called and lovesickness was determined to be the cause of the young god’s ill-health.
His mother, the goddess Boann, was called in after that and informed of the situation. She sent out messengers to scour the lands and find this maiden who held her son’s heart for an entire year. But she couldn’t find her.
Next, they brought the matter to Dagda who also searched everywhere for another year without a result.
Lastly, Dagda asked his son Bodb to search throughout his lands. He is finally the one who managed to find the woman at a lake known as the Dragon’s Mouth. There was an issue, however. Aengus would have to identify the woman only from her singing.
You see, Caer Ibormeith was in the form of a swan and swimming on the lake alongside a hundred and fifty other swans.
Aengus goes to the lake and all the swans have silver chains around their necks. Which makes it even harder for him to identify his love. But from them all, he hears her voice and picks her out. Caer then appears to Aengus. The only problem, she wanted to return to the water in her swan form. So Aengus chooses her form for himself, shifting into a swan also.
The two of them fly off together and their combined singing is so beautiful it makes everyone fall asleep for three days and nights. They then live together in blissful happiness forever, their love allowing them to live in human form from that point on.
There are several versions of this tale and they all say the same thing for the most part. Some tales say that the swans in the lake were chained together in pairs, some say they were all wearing silver chains, but Caer had one of gold. One I found said she wore both silver and gold.
All the tales connect Caer’s shifting between human and swan with Samhain. Some say it’s her choice and some say it isn’t.
I’ll be doing another post on Caer by herself in the future.
But for now, remember this tale is between a god of love and a goddess of dreams who took the forms of swans and it’s said that swans mate for life. Pretty good for a Valentine’s Day tale.
This is a somewhat different version (there are several), but it’s told in an entertaining way I thought you’d enjoy.