Boann, Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Fertility, Inspiration, Knowledge and Creativity was one of the Tuatha De Danann (People of Danu). She was associated with the 70 mile long river Boyne in Northeast Ireland and its source, the Well of Segais. Some bards say that long, long ago when the world was young and wild places were everywhere, Boann initiated that spring by walking counter-clockwise around stones found there, causing the water from under the earth to spring forth with great strength and rush down to the sea. The pool formed by the spring was encircled by nine sacred hazelnut trees, whose nuts could impart knowledge when eaten. The salmon of wisdom swam in the waters of this hidden pool from which the river Boyne flows.
Other sources recount the creation of the river Boyne a little differently. In this version, Boann goes to the source of all knowledge at the Well of Segais. While she was walking around it counter-clockwise, the waters rose up and forcefully pursued her to the sea. She was turned into a salmon during this event, becoming the salmon of wisdom herself and the Goddess of the new River Boyne. She released the waters for all people, becoming the mother of many of the world’s important rivers.
She was also known as “White Cow.” Cows were sacred and associated with water in many ancient cultures. In the eyes of the ancients, both milk and water, the substances of life, flowed from the breast of the Goddess. In addition to being associated with rivers, some scholars connect Boann with the heavens. The Milky Way is also called the “Way of the White Cow.” Boann, as “White Cow” thus either becomes or rules over the river of heaven, the Milky way.
Boann’s husband changes from text to text. Some pair her with the water God Nechtan, and others with the mortal, Elemar, who guards the Brugh. Some scholars believe that Nechtan and the Dagda were the same being. But all accounts agree that She was the consort of the Dagda, leader of the Tuatha De Danann, God of the Earth, All Father. While her husband was away she lay with the Dagda and conceived Aengus. To conceal her pregnancy from her husband she (or the Dagda by some accounts) caused time to stop, making nine months appear as one day. Aengus, who became the God of Youth and Poetry by his birthright, was then given to his half-brother, Midhr, to raise. Aengus later married Caer Ibormeith in the romantic tale in which they both turned into swans and flew away to live forever at Brug na Bóinne.
Boann lived at Brug na Bóinne, the ancient gaelic name for the site known since the 14th century as Newgrange. Brug na Bóinne, located near the village of Slane, in County Meath, Ireland, has been carbon dated to around 3000BC, making it 1000 years older than Stonehenge and 500 years older than the Egyptian pyramids.
In Celtic mythology Brug na Bóinne was a site that offered great hospitality to spiritual travelers. It was a mysterious structure full of passageways and chambers, some of which housed guests and others reserved for only the Sluagh-Sídhe (Faeryfolk). When visitors from the mundane world first arrived they were greeted by three magical trees which were always full of fruit no matter the season. Some accounts say these were apple trees, others claim they were hazelnut trees. In addition to a constant supply of food from the trees, there was always a fire in the hearth with food cooking for the guests. Here visitors were able to nourish their bodies and souls while the magic of Brug na Bóinne and Boann helped them to access their own spiritual insight and creativity.
Boann rules poetry and writing in general, flowing water, spiritual insight, fertility, knowledge and creativity. Yet another husband is attributed to Boann, one which gives her credit for having birthed the three stains of music: lamentation, joy and sleep. In this version Boann coupled with (or was married to) Uaithne, The Dagda’s harper. At the birth of their first son she cried out in pain and Uaithne played healing music or the music of lamentation. Upon the birth of their second son, Boann cried with joy, birthing the music of joy. The birth of their third son was so easy that Boann feel asleep while Uaithne played, thus birthing the music of sleep.
In the same way that flowing waters clear debris in its path, Boann clears your mind of mental debris and negativity. She helps open your soul to receive divine inspiration. Call on Boann when seeking your own creative voice, an open door to spiritual insight and our connection to source.
Sources: The Triple Goddess In Celtic Tradition,
The White Goddess,
Henge of Keltria: Well of Wisdom Blog,
Jones Celtic Encyclopedia,
Brug na Boinne: Newgrange
Rainbow Light Foundation
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. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.
17 thoughts on “Boann, Celtic Goddess of Inspiration and Creativity by Judith Shaw”
Judith thank you for writing this about Boann … I have found it so hard to find Goddess frame story of Her, and I feel very connected with Her. I thought that the spelling of the Indigenous name of Newgrange was Bru-na-Boinne … that is how I have written it in all my writing about the place. I am interested that you write “Brug na Boinne … please tell me about that. We name our place here in Australia Bru-na-BigTree (we have a big Tree in our yard). We have the Triple Spiral within a window that is lit with the Winter Solstice dawn in our ceremonial space – lit for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere in 2008 – (there is a YouTube video about it). My great great grandmother is buried beside the River Boyne in Central Queensland Australia close to where it meets up with 2 other rivers (she was from the UK – Norfolk). I see you have written more about Brug na Boinne … I will check it out.
Glenys, during my research I saw the indigenous name of Newgrange spelled both ways “Bru na Boinne” and “Brug na Boinne”. There is also a Scottish word “brugh” which means town or borough. I’m not really sure why, I think it feels older to me, but I was more drawn to using “Brug na Boinne”. Your Bru-na-BigTree sounds really lovely. Perhaps you’d like to share the link to the YouTube about it. It’s amazing to see how Boann’s touch reaches all the way to the River Boyne in Australia. Thanks for sharing your experience of Boann.
I have recently been drawn to her as well. Though I’m extremely new on this path and finding sound recourse has been a feat. Do you have any that may be good for me to start with?
I really enjoyed reading this. I have Welsh and Irish bloodlines and am in sore need of help with my writing and where to go next in life – thank you!
Senlowes2013 I’m so glad to hear that Boann has begun Her magic with you. In working with the Celtic Goddesses some of them speak to me more deeply than others and Boann is one whose affects continue working on me long after I’ve finished the research and painting.
Though She focuses more on writing and poetry I feel Her power even as a poor painter. I’m working on a painting now which I began before my research on Boann. I was a bit stuck with its progress but now that painting is taking on aspects of Her – She has returned the flow of inspiration, guiding my hand as the image unfolds.
I not only enjoyed reading this essay I learned something. Boann, goddess of poetry and inspiration and associated with the precious waters that nurture us all seems to be a “sister” of the Celtic Fire Goddess Brigid… I am struck by the corellation between the writing of this essay and the terrible heat and raging fires that have become the norm this summer…. we need Boann and all the other water goddesses to rise up out of the waters…
Enjoyed your essay, Judith, some interesting research and fascinating mythology. And I always love those precious animals in your paintings!! Also I am moved by Sara Wright’s comment on Boann and the environment this summer. Apparently, an oppressive heat wave that began over the weekend in the American Southwest has made simply going outside a serious health matter.
Sara Wright I feel the same way – that Boann is like a sister to Brigid. Some scholars feel She is part of the triple goddess of Boann-Brigid – Ceridwen – all who preside over inspiration, imagination and intuition. The concept of Triple Goddess is very different in the Celtic tradition – it does not really reflect maiden-mother-crone. It’s more a joining of forces that rule over a certain aspect of life. For instance, Anu—Danu—Tailtu are a Triple Goddess of sources and destinations.
Sara and Sarah, yes the heat has been extreme this summer. Sara, thanks for making that connection to the heat and the need for the healing waters offered by Boann. Here in Albuquerque we have had 5 weeks straight of temperatures running from 98 F to 105F. I, usually a lover of summer, am longing for the return of winter. One does not even want to go outside. The Goddess, in Her many aspects and with Her many names, has been calling out to humanity for centuries to live in balance. Unfortunately human’s have ignored that and Her less gentle aspects are becoming very evident as She/Earth/Narture seeks a return to balance.
Sarah Whitworth, thanks for your comment on the animals which are appearing in my paintings. I think I never would have explored animals very much in my art if I had not gotten involved in this long project with the Celtic Goddesses. More and more now animals are showing up in my other paintings also. In fact the other day during meditation I heard a little voice that said “Paint the animals”…….
Reblogged this on GrannyMoon's Morning Feast.
Very interesting information. I hope to do a little more research on feminine goddesses now.