Angus Óg

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[Ir., young Angus, Angus son of youth; mac Óc, mac Óg, young son].

Angus Óg is the god of youth and beauty among the Tuatha Dé Danann; he may also be the god of love, if any such god can be said to exist. His father was the Dagda and his mother Boand (the Boyne River), while she was still married to Nechtan. To hide their infidelity, the parents asked Elcmar to be the child's foster-father. In a lesser-known version, Eochaid Ollathair (Dagda) seduced through trickery the wife of Elcmar, Eithne (2) (perhaps another name for Boand), to produce the divine son, who was then fostered by Midir. Angus Óg dispossessed either Dagda or Elcmar to assume his usual residence, Brug na Bóinne [house, hostel of the Boyne], where trees were always in fruit and a cooked pig was always ready for the eating. In some versions Elcmar gains Clettech Sídh in exchange for the loss of Brug na Bóinne. Popular tradition attributes to Angus Óg and to Manannán mac Lir the bringing of cows from India to Ireland. Angus Óg drank the Ale of Immortality, and four swans circled over his head when he travelled. He was the protector of several heroes, most notably Diarmait of the Fenian Cycle; one of his important defences was a cloak of invisibility. He advised Eochaid, who had eloped with his foster-mother, not to camp on his (Angus's) meadow, and punished the hero for ignoring him. Angus Óg was also the father of Maga, the ancestress of the Red Branch (see ULSTER CYCLE). He is sometimes credited with a son, Nemanach, and sometimes with a wife, Nuamaisi. He mates with Eithne, the daughter of Balor, to produce Delbaeth (2). His magical sword is Móralltach. In addition, Angus Óg is cited in numerous Old Irish narratives as well as in later folk and fairy lore.

In a widely known story Angus Óg is wasted by longing for a beautiful young woman he has seen only in a dream. The Old Irish version is known as Aislinge Óenguso [Ir., The Dream of Angus], while the modern version is known as Angus agus Cáer [Ir. Angus and Cáer]. When she disappears from his dream, Angus Óg searches for her for a year; later, Bodb Derg discovers that she was Cáer, daughter of Ethal Anbúail. When the lovers are joined, they fly off together to Brug na Bóinne in the form of a pair of swans, chanting such wondrous music that no one who hears it can sleep for three days and three nights.

Angus Óg is the Irish counterpart to Continental Celtic divinity Mabon-Maponos. Scholarly speculation has made him the counterpart of such classical figures as Adonis, Apollo, and Eros (Cupid). Because Angus Óg displaced his father, some commentators have suggested that he might be the counterpart of Zeus in displacing Cronus.

See Françoise Le Roux, ‘Le Rêve d'Oengus’, Ogam, 18 (1966), 132–50. Christian -J. Guyonvarc'h, ‘Le Rêve d'Oengus’, ibid. 117–31. Angus Óg has been a popular figure with Anglo-Irish writers. See W. B. Yeats, ‘The Song of the Wandering Aengus’ (1897) and ‘The Harp of Aengus’ (1900); Liam O'Flaherty, The Ecstasy of Angus (1931). In James Stephens's The Crock of Gold (1912), Angus Óg, calling himself ‘Love’ and ‘Infinite Joy’, contends with the Greek Pan for the favour of the young heroine; see also Stephens's In the Land of Youth (1924).


Subjects: Religion.

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