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Boann or Boand (modern spelling: Bóinn) is the Irish goddess of the River Boyne, a river in Leinster, Ireland. According to the Lebor Gabála Érenn and Tain Bo Fraech she was the sister of Befind[1] and daughter of Delbáeth, son of Elada, of the Tuatha Dé Danann,[2] her husband is variously Nechtan, Elcmar or Nuada Airgetlám. With her lover the Dagda, she is the mother of Aengus. In order to hide their affair, the Dagda made the sun stand still for nine months; therefore, Aengus was conceived, gestated and born in one day.[3]

As told in the Dindsenchas,[4] Boann created the Boyne. Though forbidden to by her husband, Nechtan, Boann approached the magical Well of Segais (also known as the Connla's Well), which was surrounded, according to the legend, by nine magic hazel-trees[5]. Hazelnuts were known to fall into the Well, where they were eaten by the speckled salmon (who, along with hazelnuts, also embody and represent wisdom in Irish mythology). Boann challenged the power of the well by walking around it tuathal; this caused the waters to surge up violently and rush down to the sea, creating the Boyne. In this catastrophe, she was swept along in the rushing waters, and lost an arm, leg and eye, and ultimately her life, in the flood; the poem equates her with famous rivers in other countries, including the River Severn, Tiber, Jordan River, Tigris and Euphrates.

She also appears in Táin Bó Fraích as the maternal aunt and protector of the mortal Fráech.[6]

Her name is interpreted as "white cow" (Irish: bó fhionn; Old Irish: bó find) in the dinsenchas.[7] Ptolemy's 2nd century Geography shows that in antiquity the river's name was Bouvinda [Βουουίνδα],[8][9] which may derive from Proto-Celtic *Bou-vindā, "white cow".[10]

She had a lapdog, Dabilla, which was swept out to sea. Torn into pieces by the water, the two halves became the rocks known as Cnoc Dabilla, or Hill of Dabilla.[11][12]

Modern-day commentators and modern paganism sometimes identify Boann with the goddess Brigid or believe Boann to be Brigid's mother;[13] however there are no Celtic sources that describe her as such, it is also speculated by some modern writers that, as the more well-known goddess, and later saint, the legends of numerous "minor" goddesses with similar associations may have over time been incorporated into the symbology, worship and tales of Brigid.[14]


  1. ^ "The Cattle-Raid of Fraech". Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  2. ^ Lebor Gabála Érenn §64 Archived 2010-07-15 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Tochmarc Étaíne (ed. and trans. Osborn Bergin and R. I. Best) at CELT
  4. ^ Metrical Dindshenchas, Vol 3, poem 2: "Boand I" (ed. Edward Gwynn) at CELT.
  5. ^ C. Squire, Celtic myth and legend, Dover <Publications, p. 55, 2003.
  6. ^ “The Cattle-Raid of Fraech” Archived 2013-12-30 at the Wayback Machine, trans. A. H. Leahy, Heroic Romances of Ireland Vol 2, 1906.
  7. ^ Metrical Dindshenchas, Vol 3, poem 3: "Boand II" (ed. Edward Gwynn) at CELT
  8. ^ Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Müller (editor & translator), Klaudiou Ptolemaiou Geographike Hyphegesis (Claudii Ptolemæi Geographia), Volume 1, p. 79, Alfredo Firmin Didot, Paris (1883)
  9. ^ Ptolemy, Geographia 2.1
  10. ^ T. F. O'Rahilly, Early Irish History and Mythology, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1946, p. 3
  11. ^ Clark, Rosalind (1991). The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen Ní Houlihan. Colin Smythe. p. 137. ISBN 9780861402908.
  12. ^ Coitir, Niall Mac (2015-09-28). Ireland’s Animals; the Collins Press. ISBN 9781848895256.
  13. ^ Essay: St Brigid; Brigit's Forge: Sarasvati and Brigit part 4 Archived 2005-02-20 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Condren, Mary (1989) The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland. New York, Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-250156-9 p.57