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  • Jo-Anne Blanco

Cliodna, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World

Fairy Queen - Sophie Anderson
Fairy Queen - Sophie Anderson

Cliodna is an Irish goddess or heroine considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Also known as Cleena or Clídna or Cliodna of the Fair Hair, she lived in a fairy hill called Carrig Cliodna in Cork. She was accompanied by three magical, brightly coloured birds whose song was so sweet that they could send the sick and the wounded into peaceful sleep. Cliodna fed her trio of birds with apples from the Land of Promise, Tír Tairngiri.

Goddess Under the Sea.
Goddess Under the Sea. Joseph Noel Paton

Unlike other fairy queens of Ireland, Cliodna seems to have more of a connection with the sea than the land. She is associated with offshore rocks called Carrigcleena and there are stories of her being engulfed by the sea. In one, she is courted by the hero Ciabhan, who travels over the sea with his fellow warriors, Lodan and Eolus, to Tír Tairngiri and they persuade Cliodna and her sisters, Aeife and Edaein, to elope with them. They escape in ships but, when they reach shore, a huge wave rolls in and drags them under. All are drowned – though some versions state that Cliodna and her sisters do not drown, but are carried home on the sea back to Tír Tairngiri. In another version, Ciabhan takes Cliodna to Glandhore (“Golden Harbour”) and goes hunting on the Irish mainland, leaving Cliodna asleep on the ship. In his absence, a huge wave crashes over the ship, engulfing the fairy queen. But somehow Cliodna never dies, and returns to have other romantic adventures in folklore and legend. This is perhaps why, as Irish legend tells it, in every series of nine waves, the ninth wave is the largest, and that ninth wave is called Cliodna’s Wave.

Cliodna appears in Fata Morgana Book I

Read the first two chapters here.

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