Having spent the past year and a half immersed in the study of Celtic Goddesses, I am intrigued by the sharing of many of their attributes, symbols, and associations – shape-shifting, magical birds, and apple orchards in the Otherworld to name just a few. One other common thread found in so many Celtic Goddesses is the existence of many contradictory folk tales about them. Their stories, like the otherworldly mists of the Celtic countryside, which materialize suddenly, obscure reality and then melt away again, exist on the frontier of myth and reality.
Chlíodhna (pronounced Kleena), Celtic Goddess of Beauty, the Sea and the Afterlife, is such a Goddess.
Chlíodhna of the Tuatha Dé Danann, is the daughter of the Sea God Manaan Mac Lir. She often took the form of a sea bird, symbol of the Celtic Otherworld. As Goddess of the Celtic Otherworld she is associated with light and happiness. As a Sea Goddess she was thought to be found in every ninth wave, which breaks higher and stronger than other waves.
The number nine is found frequently in Celtic mythology. Nine, is considered to be thrice sacred as it is composed of three trinities, the all-powerful 3×3. It represents perfection, balance and order – the beginning and the end.
As with many other Celtic Goddesses, She rules a particular area. A Faery Queen of the province of Munster, She is associated with the coastline near Cork. Carrige Chlíodhna is Her sacred hill in County Cork. She is also associated with the lake, Lough Derg located at the end of the Shannon River in County Limerick. Her wide and beautiful lake is located close to many sites associated with Grainne, Celtic Sun Goddess.
Like Rhiannon, Chlíodhna has three magic birds which can heal the sick with their bird song. Some believe that Her birds ate golden magical apples from an apple tree with silver leaves, which brings to mind Brigid and her apple orchard in the Otherworld.
But sometimes Chlíodhna grew bored in the Otherworld where life was alway bright and sunny. She would take human form as the most beautiful woman on Earth. Many men were seduced by Her charms but woe to them when that happened. Once returning with Chlíodhna to the Otherworld, they were never seen again in this world. She was most often seen on the seashore perhaps leading to the the old Irish superstition that to see a woman before one goes to sea is unlucky.
Many tales of her loves exist. One story, which perhaps speaks of our human resistance to that final transition to the Otherworld, tells of a young man who had learned her magic and planned to kill her. But she escaped by taking the form of a wren.
In another tale, She became enamored with Ciabhan of the Curling Lock. She left the otherworldly island of Tir Tairngire (“the Land of Promise”) to be with him. Similar to the disapproval which Rhiannon faced when she left the Otherworld to be with Pwyll, the Gods of the Otherworld did not accept Chlíodhna’s departure.
One day while Ciabhan was away hunting Chlíodhna fell into an enchanted sleep. Some accounts say that Mannan Mac Lir, the Sea God, caused this sleep; other accounts credit the enchantment to the Winter Goddess, The Cailleach. In any event once She lay in this enchanted sleep a large wave was sent to bring her back to the The Land of Promise. She was never allowed to return to the mortal world again.
It is believed that Her drowning occurred in Glandore Harbor. To this day, The waves which enter cliff caves near the harbor are called Tonn Chlíodhna – Chlíodhna’s Wave.
Call on Chlíodhna for beauty, love and healing. Chlíodhna’s blessing can help with the grief of the losses you experience on your life’s journey, including the loss of a loved one who has made that passage to the Otherworld. Through Chlíodhna let the unfathomed depths represented by the sea wash over your soul bringing you greater understanding of the eternal circle of life.
Sources: http://www.joellessacredgrove.com/Celtic/deitiesc.html, http://bardmythologies.com/cliodhna/, http://www.matrifocus.com/SAM02/foremothers.htm, http://www.silverenchantments.com/fairy-goddesses.html, http://www.crystalinks.com/numerology2.html
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Purchase Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000 through her website.
6 thoughts on “Chlíodhna , Celtic Goddess of Beauty, the Sea and the Afterlife by Judith Shaw”
Thanks for telling us this story (these stories?). Thanks especially for telling us how to pronounced this goddess’s name! I like the associations of goddesses with birds.
“Their stories, like the otherworldly mists of the Celtic countryside, which materialize suddenly, obscure reality and then melt away again, exist on the frontier of myth and reality.”
What a magical way of describing these stories. I opened this because I knew you would bring us a beautiful image, and you brought a beautiful story too. Thank you.
heriznow & Barbara Thanks so much for reading!
Thank you so much for this lovely article, I enjoyed it immensely!
May I please ask, if you have any further information, or sources I can check about healing birds in Celtic mythology? As you already know, researching Celtic myths is a very confusing task, and here I am, asking for as much help as I can get. I also read your article on Rhiannon (and other sources on said topic) but found it rather difficult on collecting information about the birds specifically.
So, if you have any suggestions, I’d very much love to hear from you.
Thank you and good day.
That’s tough one. Most sources focus on the goddesses and gods (with most emphasis on the gods), the heroes and the different mythological sources. Different animals are associated with each one. Here are the goddesses who are associated with birds in some way (from my research) – Branwen, Caer, Cliodhna, Fand, Medb, the Morrigan, Rhiannon. There is a woman in Ireland who leads a year long online course on Celtic mythology which might help. Her name is Sharon Blackie. I don’t know her but read one of her books and ended up on her mailing list so that’s how I know about the course.
Let me know if you end up taking her course and how you like it.