As described by Donal O'Sullivan, Aibell (also spelled Aoibheal or Aeval)
Fairy Queenof Thomondin Irish mythology; and her palace, Carraig Liathor The Grey Rock, is a hill overlooking the Shannon about a mile and a half above Killaloe, on the Clare side of the river." [ Donal O'Sullivan, "Songs of the Irish," page 127.]
In Seán Ó Seanacháin's song "An Buachaill Caol Dubh", Aoibheal appears to a young couple and offers the man a hundred Fairy servants if he will renounce his mortal lover in exchange for the bed of Aoibheal herself. He refuses, to the delight of his young paramour, and Aoibeal promptly disappears. This is a mis-reading of the poem. In this poem Seán Ó Seanacháin likens the grip that drink (An Buachaill Caol Dubh - the dark slender lad - probably a whiskey bottle) has on him to the love that a young man would have for him. In the last verse he expands by saying that, when Aoibheal met the two of them walking the road, she promised the lad a hundred men if he would let go of the poet. The lad replied that he was steadfast and true and would not desert his friends until they died. Thus Seán acknowledges his addiction will never disappear. A definitive version of this song is available on the CD "O'Riada sa Gaeity" sung by Seán O'Sé with lyrics in the notebook. This will support this reading of the poem.
"AND Aoibhell, another woman of the Sidhe, made her dwelling-place in Craig Liath, and at the time of the battle of Cluantarbh she set her love on a young man of
Munster, Dubhlaing ua Artigan, that had been sent away in disgrace by the King of Ireland. But before the battle he came back to join with Murchadh, the king's son, and to fight for the Gael. And Aoibhell came to stop him; and when he would not stop with her she put a Druidcovering about him, the way no one could see him.
And he went where Murchadh was fighting, and he made a great attack on the enemies of Ireland, and struck them down on every side. And Murchadh looked around him, and he said: "It seems to me I hear the sound of the blows of Dubhlaing ua Artigan, but I do not see himself." Then Dubhlaing threw off the
Druidcovering that was about him, and he said: 'I will not keep this covering upon me when you cannot see me through it. And come now across the plain to where Aoibbell is," he said, "for she écan give us news of the battle."
So they went where she was, and she bade them both to quit the battle, for they would lose their lives in it. But Murchadh said to her, "I will tell you a little true story," he said; "that fear for my own body will never make me change my face. And if we fall," he said, "the strangers will fall with us; and it is many a man will fall by my own hand, and the Gael will be sharing their strong places." "Stop with me, Dubhlaing," she said then, "and you will have two hundred years of happy life with myself." "I will not give up Murchadh," he said, "or my own good name, for silver or gold." And there was anger on Aoibhell when he said that, and she said: "Murchadh will fall, and you yourself will fall, and your proud blood will be on the plain tomorrow." And they went back into the battle, and got their death there.
And it was Aoibhell gave a golden harp to the son of Meardha the time he was getting his learning at the school of the Sidhe in Connacht and that he heard his father had got his death by the King of
Lochlann. And whoever heard the playing of that harp would not live long after it. And Meardha's son went where the three sons of the King of Lochlann were, and played on his harp for them, and they died.
It was that harp
Cuchulainheard the time his enemies were gathering against him at Muirthemne, and he knew by it that his life was near its end." [ Lady Gregory, "Gods and Fighting Men," Part I, Book IV.] [http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/gafm/gafm16.htm]
"Cúirt An Mheán Oíche"
Aoibheal also has a major role in
Brian Merriman's 18th century comic poem "Cúirt An Mheán Oíche." The poem begins by using the conventions of the Aisling, or vision poem, in which the poet is out walking when he has a vision of a woman from the other world. Typically, this woman is Irelandand the poem will lament her lot and/or call on her 'sons' to rebel against foreign tyranny. In Merriman's hands, the convention is made to take a satirical and deeply ironic twist.
In the opening section of the poem, a hideous female giant appears to the poet and drags him kicking and screaming to the court of Queen Aoibheal of the Fairies. On the way to the ruined
monasteryat Moinmoy, the messenger explains that the Queen, disgusted by the twin corruptions of Anglo-Irishlandlords and English Law, has taken the dispensing of justice upon herself. There follows a traditional court case under the Brehon lawform of a three-part debate.
In the first part, a young woman calls on Aoibheal declares her case against the young men of
Irelandfor their refusal to marry. She complains that, despite increasingly desperate attempts to capture a husband via intensive flirtation at hurlingmatches, wakes, and pattern days, the young men insist on ignoring her in favor of late marriages to much older women. The young woman further bewails the contempt with which she is treated by the married women of the village.
She is answered by an old man who first denounces the wanton
promiscuityof young women in general, suggesting that the young woman who spoke before was conceived by a Tinker under a cart. He vividly describes the infidelityof his own young wife. He declares his humiliation at finding her already pregnant on their wedding night and the gossip which has surrounded the "premature" birth of "his" son ever since. He disgustedly attacks the dissolute lifestyles of young women in general. Then, however, he declares that there is nothing wrong with his illegitimate children and denounces marriageas "out of date." He demands that the Queen outlaw it altogether and replace it with a system of free love.
The young woman, however, is infuriated by the old' man's words and is barely restrained from physically attacking him. She mocks his
impotentfailure to fulfill his marital duties with his young wife, who was a homeless beggar who married him to avoid starvation. The young woman then argues that if his wife has taken a lover, she well deserves one. The young woman then calls for the abolition of priestly celibacy, alleging that priests would otherwise make wonderful husbands and fathers. In the meantime, however, she will keep trying to attract an older man in hopes that her unmarried humiliation will finally end.
Finally, in the judgement section Queen Aoibheal rules that all laymen must marry before the age of 21, on pain of
corporal punishmentat the hands of Ireland's women. She advises them to equally target the romantically indifferent, homosexuals, and skirt chasers who boast of the number of women they have used and discarded. Aoibheal tells them to be careful, however, not to leave any man unable to father children. She also states that abolishing priestly celibacy is something only the Vatican can do and counsels patience.
To the poet's horror, the younger woman angrily points him out as a 30-year-old,
bachelorand describes her many failed attempts to attract his interest in hopes of becoming his wife. She declares that he must be the first man to suffer the consequences of the new marriage law. As a crowd of infuriated women prepares to flog him into a quivering bowl of jelly, he awakens to find it was all a terrible nightmare.
This theonym appears to be derived from
Proto-Celtic*"Oibel-ā". The name literally means "burning fire," which may have been a byword for the notion of ‘ardour’ (q.v. [http://www.wales.ac.uk/documents/external/cawcs/PCl-MoE.pdf] [http://www.wales.ac.uk/documents/external/cawcs/MoE-PCl.pdf] [http://www.indo-european.nl/cgi-bin/query.cgi?root=leiden&basename=%5Cdata%5Cie%5Cceltic] ). The Romano-British formof this Proto-Celtictheonym is likely to have been *"Oebla" (q.v. [http://people.pwf.cam.ac.uk/dwew2/diachrony.pdf] [http://journals.cambridge.org/article_S0022226702001706] [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=74849&query=available%20name&ct=] [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=74843&query=ogham&ct=] ).
She is mentioned repeatedly in Karen Marie Moning's Highlander Series as Queen of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, also called the "Fae." Consort to Mael, she is Queen of the Seelie Court on the Fae Isle of Morar. [http://www.karenmoning.com/ Karen Marie Moning]
* [http://www.shadowdrake.com/aoibhell.html Aoibhell]
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