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Dreaming Aengus and the Inner Self

I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a silver trout.

(The Song of Wandering Aengus, William Butler Yeats)

The twentieth century poet, W.B. Yeats, voices Aengus’ eternal wanderings yearning for love. And, that Yeats lyricism captures Aengus’ desire of his love to be returned in equal proportions. The Celtic-Welsh mythical figure of Aengus (the God of love, youth, and the arts) reminds us of that little thread that dangles loosely in the realm of fantasy strongly differentiating its essence from time, space, and event. The purpose of such a reminder is to reach out to the inner-consciousness that is constantly in touch with its surrounding and is constantly in dire need to question. In other words, it’s a method of retrieving the succinct information that our mind obtains from its constant association. One may say that the abyss of our inner consciousness is progressively deepening, and that this is the truest nutrient to ‘being’.

Aengus’ story begins with the affair between his parents, The Dagda (Father) and Boann (Mother). The Dagda, one of the central figure of Tuatha De Danann (the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland and also a tribe of the Goddess Danu living in the otherworld but in direct contact with the human world), impregnates Boann (Irish Goddess of the river Boyne, and at that time she was wife to Nechtan) with Aengus. Then The Dagda hid Boann’s pregnancy by making the sun standstill for nine months so that Boann could give birth in one day. Aengus grew up with Midir; who was The Dagda’s son.  When Aengus reaches puberty, he leaves home for a short while and, later, returns to find The Dagda had distributed all his property among his children and had kept Bru na Boinne for himself. So, he asks his father to allow him to live in his city and the father agreed. This story is followed by a very interesting episode in the wooing of Etain (a horse Goddess, and a daughter to Ailill - the king of Ulaid).

Aengus’ self-journey takes him through another very interesting event when he falls severely ill and has a dream (lasting a little more than a year) about the beautiful Caer Ibormeith (daughter to Prince Ethal Anbuail) standing by his bed. When he wakes up from his unending dream, he decides to look for her and asks his parents to help him. Finally, King Bodb Derg of Munster finds her by the Dragon Mouth lake with a hundred and fifty girls chained in pairs. Every second Samhain, these girls would turn into swans and live like that for an entire year. Thus, they turned into humans for only a day. So, Aengus was given the task to identify his lady love amongst the swans and if he did it right then he could be with her forever. Aengus successfully identifies Caer Ibormeith, which helps him in materialising his plans with her, but with the same fate as Caer Ibormeith’s.

This story is an exemplary analogous to our contemporary lives that gives us an insight to the deeper recesses of our minds. Our inner consciousness is constantly at a peak in receiving information and to keep a track on it, we need to incorporate healthier lifestyles. A good night’s sleep is so essential, which is why Aengus in his comatose state can (re)collect the information that is buried deep within his own awareness.

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The author, Dr. Satarupa Bhattacharya, is a writer, reader, and researcher. She is perpetually planning to pack her bags and live in the quiet discontent of ‘not belonging’. She has a PhD in literature and cultural studies from English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India. Her areas of interests are psychosocial studies and psychoanalysis, violence, cross-border politics, power, gender and sexuality, history, the arts, performance (studies), popular culture, and socio-political issues.


2 comments

  • I love this story and have read it many times, I appreciate your thoughts on it. I am in love ,although 67, and nothing stirs my mind like the sort of love Aengus has and is found in the early Irish,Welsh and Scottish tales. Thank you for brightening my day and making me think !!! s

    spencer kirkpatrick
  • Wonderfully written

    Shubho

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