Cliodhna, also known as Clíona, is considered both one of the Tuatha Dé Danann in older mythology and a Fairy Queen in modern folk lore. Her name may mean ‘the territorial one’, likely reflecting her earlier role as a sovereignty Goddess; her epithet is Ceannfhionn (fair headed or fair haired) and she is sometimes called ‘the shapely one’1. In many stories she is described as
Her sister is said to be Aibheall, and her father is Gebann, the Druid of Manannán mac Lir2. There are no references to who her mother might be or to her children among the Gods. Several mortal families trace their descent from her including the McCarthys and O’Keefes and she was well known for taking mortal lovers.
Cliodhna is said to have taken the form of a wren, a bird that may be associated with her, and she is also often associated with the Otherworldly Bean sidhe. By some accounts she herself is considered to be such a spirit, or their queen, although in other folklore she is more generally the queen of the fairies of Munster. She has three magical birds that eat Otherworldly apples and have the power to lull people to sleep by singing and then heal them3.
She is strongly associated with the shore and with waves, and the tide at Glandore in Cork was called the ‘Wave of Cliodhna’4. In several of her stories she is drowned at that same location after leaving the Otherworld either to try to woo Aengus or after running away with a warrior named Ciabhán. She has a reputation in many stories for her passionate nature and love of poets in particular, and in later folklore when she is considered a Fairy Queen she is known to abduct handsome young poets or to appear and try to seduce them. In folklore she has a reputation for seducing and drowning young men5.
Cliodhna is particularly associated with the province of Munster and especially with Cork, where she resides at a place called Carraig Chlíona (Cliodhna’s rock)6. It is likely that she was originally one of the sovereignty Goddesses of Munster and that her survival in folklore to the present period reflects how deeply ingrained she was in local lore.
Modern practitioners may choose to honor Cliodhna for her role as a sovereignty Goddess or as an ancestral deity related to specific families. I might suggest, given her more recent folklore related to the Bean sidhe and her penchant in stories for harming young men and poets, that she should be approached with caution. Offerings to her could include the traditional milk or bread given to the Gods and fairies, as well as poetry, of which she seems fond.
1. O hOgain, 2006; MacKillop, 1998
2. Smyth, 1988; MacKillop, 1998
4. O hOgain, 2006
5. Smyth, 1988
6. O hOgain, 2006
O hOgain, D., (2006) Lore of Ireland
Smyth, D., (1988) Irish Mythology
MacKillop, J., (1998) A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology