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Cliodhna

Cliodhna (Cleena in English) is the Queen of the Banshees of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In Irish literature, Cleena of Carrigcleena, and Aebinn or Aibell (Eevin, Eevil) of Craglea, is the potent banshee that rules as queen over the sheoques of South Munster.

It is said the wails of the banshee can be heard echoing the valleys and glens at night, scaring those who hear as the wail of a banshee is potent and instills fear in good people. Of the sheoques that beset the O'Donovans (the senior descendents of Eoghan Mor), Cleena is much less malevolent than Ainé, who inhabited Knockaine, near Loch Gur, and who has tormented the descendents of that illustrious warrior off and on since 200 a.d.

Legend

Cleena has been specifically associated with the O’Donovans for centuries. She will wail, as most people know, over the death of a member of the that ancient family. In her capacity as Sheoque (literally, faire woman of the hills), Cleena is thus mentioned by the Irish antiquarian John O’Donovan. Writing in 1849 to a friend, O'Donovan quotes said "When my grandfather died in Leinster in 1798, Cleena came all the way from Ton Cleena to lament him; but she has not been heard ever since lamenting any of our race, though I believe she still weeps in the mountains of Drumaleaque in her own country, where so many of the race of Eoghan Mor are dying of starvation."

Cleena is also referred to in Edward Walsh’s poem, O’Donovan’s Daughter Other references include the LÉ Cliona (03), a ship in the Irish Naval Service (now decommissioned), was named after her.

In some Irish myths Cliodhna (Cliodne, Clídna, Cliona, Cleena) was a goddess of love and beauty. She was said to have three brightly coloured birds who ate apples from an otherworldly tree and whose sweet song healed the sick. She left the otherworldly island of Tir Tairngire ("the land of promise") to be with her mortal lover, Ciabhán, but drowned as she slept in Glandore harbour in County Cork: the tide there is known as Tonn Chlíodhna, "Cliodhna's Wave".

In the Dinnsenchus, there is an ancient and heartwrenching story about Cleena, wherein 'it is related that she was a foreigner from Fairy-land, who, coming to Ireland, was drowned while sleeping on the strand at the harbour of Glandore in South Cork. In this harbour the sea, at certain times, utters a very peculiar, deep, hollow, and melancholy roar, among the caverns of the cliffs, which was formerly believed to foretell the death of a king of the south of Ireland. This surge has been from time immemorial called Tonn-Cleena, 'Cleena's wave.' Cleena lived on, however, as a sheoque. She had her palace in the heart of a pile of rocks, five miles from Mallow, which is still commonly known by the name of Carrig-Cleena, and numerous legends about her are told among the Munster peasantry.

Cliodhna's Wave

The story of Cliodhna exists in several versions, which do not agree with each other except insofar as she seems to have been a Danaan maiden once living in Mananan's country, the Land of Youth beyond the sea. Escaping thence with a mortal lover, as one of the versions tells, she landed on the southern coast of Ireland, and her lover, Keevan of the Curling Locks, went off to hunt in the woods.

Cliodhna, who remained on the beach, was lulled to sleep by fairy music played by a minstrel of Mananan, when a great wave of the sea swept up and carried her back to Fairyland, leaving her lover desolate. Hence the place was called the Strand of Cleena's Wave. One of the most notable landmarks of Ireland remains the Tonn Cliodhna, or "Wave of Cleena," on the seashore at Glandore Bay, in County Cork.

References


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