Stories, Myths & Legends 

How the Boyne was born

Boand wife of Nechtán son of Labraid, went to the secret well which was in the green of Síd Nechtáin.  Now this was a magical well known only to the Sidhe and protected by Nechtán, Flesc, Lám and Luam the four cup-bearers and only they could withstand the powers of the well and return whole of limb.  For it was the source of all knowledge and inspiration.

Nine hazels grew over the well.  The purple hazels dropped their nuts into the fountain, and five salmon which were in the fountain severed them and sent their husks floating down the five streams.  These are the five streams of the senses through which knowledge is obtained.  And no one will have knowledge who drinks not a draught from out of the fountain itself and out of the streams.  The folk of many arts are those that drink them both.  These are the aois dána the poets who use inspiration.  This was the famous well in which the Salmon of Knowledge was spawned and swallowed the hazel nut of wisdom, and whom the bard Finegas finally caught but whose flesh was eaten by Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

Now Boand ignored all warnings and decided to see if she could test the power of the well because of her pride, declaring that it had no secret source which could shatter her form, and tempting fate she walked three times withershins (anti-clockwise) around the well.

At once a loud surging sound was heard which came from the navel of the earth and three waves rose out of the well, and one carried off her thigh, and one carried off her hand and the last carried off her eye.  Then thus disfigured, and fleeing her shame, she turned seaward, with the water roaring behind her until she reached the mouth of the Boyne ( Béal na Boinne) whereupon she was overcome by the force of the waves and was drowned, and thus was the end of Boand mother of Aengus the Young Son.

Source:  Dindsenchas, The Book of Leinster.

Matthews, Caitlín and John: The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Wisdom.  Element Books Ltd. 1994.

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