February 1st was the festival of Imbolc and the first day of Spring, when the Celt's celebrated the goddess Brigid. Ruling over spring, fertility, and healing, as well as poetry and smithcraft, she would walk through the land bestowing the seasons bounty on those who left her tribute. If the day was bright, however, winter was still at hand. Something starting to sound familiar hear?
With Christianity, the feast became Candlemass and the goddess was replaced by St. Brigid, but the custom of First Day continued. If St. Brigid's Day was bright, spring would still be a ways off.
The Coming of Bride by John Duncan (1917)
There's more to the story though. It seems that Cailleach, the goddess of winter slept until February 2. If Imbolc, or St. Brigid's Day after the arrival of Christianity, was a bright day, Cailleach would wake up and be able to go out and gather more wood for the winter still to come. But if the day was dull, Cailleach would sleep through it and spring would arrive.
.The Celtic version of Ground Hog Day. Or maybe the ground hog is just have the modern version of this?
There are quite a few tales about Aengus, but the main one I want to talk about here is the one about his love of Caer Ibormeith, the goddess of sleep and dreams, because Ciaran refers to them in "The Book of Carraig".
As the god of love, Aengus could woo anyone he met, but he was also susceptible to the lure of love. He began to dream about a beautiful woman who would come to him in his sleep, but each time he'd reach out to her, she would disappear. Unable to find her, he grew heartsick, so much so that his father Dagda, the chief of the Tuatha De Danann went to look himself.
Finally, the girl was found, but was held captive and a curse put upon her whereby every other year she would turn into a swan for a year. Her captor told Aengus, he would release her if he could identify her in the form of a swan. Aengus was a shape shifter, and so turned into a swan himself, calling to his love, and thus winning her release.
They flew off together and sang such sweet songs that all who listen fall to sleep for three days and nights.
Aengus Og was the son of Doghna, chief of the Tuatha De Danann, and the goddess Boann. There was only one problem, his parents were married to others at the time of his conception. To hide their indiscretion, Daghna reached up and grabbed the sun, holding it in place for nine months, so that Aengus was both conceived and born on the same day. As a result, Aengus was eternally young.
Daghna thought the issue was settled, but Aengus was very clever and discovered the truth. When Daghna divided his land amongst his three legitimate sons, leaving Aengus nothing, the young man was furious. In a brilliant move, he went to Daghna and convinced him to let his stay at his land at Bru na Boinnes for a day and a night. Daghna agreed but soon realized that he had been fooled, for Aengus had worded it so that Daghna had agreed to let him stay there for day and night, virtually for the rest of his life.
Diarmuid ua Duibhne was the son of Donn, and a brave and handsome member of the Fianna, the skilled warriors who guarded and protected all the lands of Erui. Like many warriors of the time, Diarmuid had a geis or two placed upon him, one of which stated that he was never to pierce the skin of a pig. Easy enough to avoid. Just no boar hunting.
One day, the leader of the Fianna, Fionn MacCuhaill, announced that he was to wed the beautiful princess Grainne as his second wife, and all the Fianna were invited to the betrothal celebration. Of course, Diarmuid went along, happy to celebrate Fionn's good fortune.
By this time, however, Fionn was an old man, and Grainne was not at all happy with the arrangement. She thought she would be marrying his son Oisin (yes, the one from the previous tale) or his grandson, Oscar. On seeing the handsome Diarmuid, however, an idea came to mind. She made a potion and passed it to all in attendance, except herself and Diarmuid of course. When everyone was asleep, she approached Diarmuid and told him she loved him, and that they should run away together.
Loyal to his friend and leader, Fionn, Diarmuid was reluctant at first, but Grainne finally persuaded him, and the two ran away together. When Fionn awoke, he was furious, and together with his men, took off in pursuit of the couple.
Diarmuid and Grainne managed to keep one step ahead of Fionn, enlisting the aid of Dearmuid's foster father, Aengus (yes the same one from the previous story). At last, Aengus was able to convince Fionn that he should forgive the couple and let them live in peace. And so the couple lived happily enough and Grainne bore Diarmuid four sons.
Alas, the story doesn't end there. Dearmuid woke one night to the baying of a hound, and determined to protect his family, he went in search of the creature, eventhough Grainne begged him not to. The only one he found, however, was Fionn MacCuhaill. Suspecting the man had finally come to kill him, he confronted his one time friend, but Fionn looked at him as thought he'd lost his mind, saying that he was there searching for one of the Fianna's lost hounds. Fionn went on to add that Diarmuid should probably head home since a wild boar was said to be in the vicinity as well.
Now at first, you might think it was kind of Fionn to warn Diarmuid, since he knew of the geis set upon Dearmuid, but was it? Or did he figure the man would react just as he did, Letting his pride get in the way of his good judgment, Diarmuid refused to leave, saying he wouldn't run from a mere pig.
By and by, he did run across the creature, of course, and piercing him with his spear, killed the animal, but not before the boar had gored him with his tusk. Near death, Diarmuid begged Fionn to cure him. Fionn had the power to do so if he would but pour some water from his hands upon the wound.
Fionn agreed to do so, but as he went to get the water, the old jealousy and anger surfaced, and he let the water slip through his fingers before he could get back to Diarmuid. He went back a second time, but on returning, he stewed over Diarmuid's betrayal once more, and allowed the water to slip away once more.
Finally, on the urging of his grandson, Oscar, the son of Oisin, he relented, remembering how Diarmuid had once been his friend. He went to retrieve the water a third time, hurrying back to Diarmuid's side, but he was too late. Diarmuid had already passed away, for he had broken the geis that had been placed upon him and pierced the boar's skin.
Diarmuid was the son of Donn and a brave member of the illustrious Fianna, the warriors who protected all the lands of Erui. Like many warriors of the time, he had a geis or two placed upon his, one of which was that he could not pierce the skin of a pig under penalty of death. That seemed easy enough to avoid. Just no boar hunting.