Beautiful anyone until Etain Picture

" Caem cách co h-Étaín "
( " Beautiful anyone until Étain ")

Acrylic on canvas

40 x 50 cm

"At the well, the woman loosened her hair in order to wash it, and her hands appeared through the opening of the neck of her dress. As white as the snow of a single night her wrists; as tender and even and red as foxglove her clear, lovely cheeks. As black as a beetle's back her brows; a shower of matched pearls her teeth. Hyacinth blue her eyes; Parthian red her lips. Straight, smooth, soft and white her shoulders; pure white and tapering her fingers; long her arms. As white as sea foam her side, slender, long, smooth, yielding, soft as wool. Warm and smooth, sleek and white her thighs; round and small, firm and white her knees. Short and white and straight her shins; fine and straight and lovely her heels. If a rule were put against her feet, scarcely a fault would be found save for her plenitude of flesh or skin. The blushing light of the moon in her noble face; an uplifting of pride in her smooth brows; a gleam of courting each in her two royal eyes. Dimples of pleasure each of her cheeks, where spots red as the blood of a calf alternated with spots the whiteness of shining snow. A gently, womanly dignity in her voice; a steady, stately step, the walk of a queen. She was the fairest and most perfect and most beautiful of all the women in the world; men thought she was of the Síde, and they said of her: 'Lovely anyone until Étain. Beautiful anyone until Étain.'"
"...When the sun shone upon her, the gold would glisten very red against the green silk. Two tresses of yellow gold she had, and each tress was a weaving of four twists with a globe at the end. Men would say that hair was like the blooming iris in summer or like red gold after it had been burnished."

Étaín or Édaín is a figure of Irish mythology, best known as the heroine of Tochmarc Étaíne (The Wooing Of Étaín), one of the oldest and richest stories of the Mythological Cycle. She also figures in the Middle Irish Togail Bruidne Dá Derga (The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel).

Tochmarc Étaine :

When Midir of the Tuatha Dé Danann falls in love with and marries her, his rejected first wife Fúamnach becomes jealous and casts a series of spells on her. First Fúamnach turns Étaín into a pool of water, then into a worm, and then into a beautiful butterfly. Midir does not know that the butterfly is Étaín, but it becomes his constant companion, and he has no interest in women. Fúamnach then creates a wind that blows the butterfly away and does not allow it to alight anywhere but the rocks of the sea for seven years.

Eventually it lands on the clothes of Óengus, who recognises it as Étaín, but he is at war with Midir and cannot return her to him. He makes her a little chamber with windows so she can come and go, and carries the chamber with him wherever he goes. But Fúamnach hears of this and creates another wind which blows her away from him for another seven years. Eventually the butterfly falls into a glass of wine. The wine is swallowed (together with the butterfly) by the wife of Étar, an Ulster chieftain, in the time of Conchobar mac Nessa. She becomes pregnant, and Étain is reborn, one thousand and twelve years after her first birth.
When she grows up, Étaín marries the High King, Eochaid Airem. Eochaid's brother Ailill Angubae falls in love with her, and begins to waste away. Eventually he admits to Étaín that he is dying of love for her, and she agrees to sleep with him to save his life. They arrange to meet, but Midir casts a spell which causes Ailill to fall asleep and miss the assignation. However, Étaín meets a man there who looks and speaks like Ailill but does not sleep with him because she senses that it is not actually him. This happens three times, and the man who looks like Ailill reveals himself to be Midir, and tells her of her previous life as his wife. She refuses to leave with him unless her husband gives her permission. She then returns to Ailill to find him cured.
Midir then goes to Eochaid in his true form and asks to play fidchell, a board game, with him. He offers a stake of fifty horses, loses, and gives Eochaid the horses as promised. Midir challenges him to more games, for higher stakes, and keeps losing. Eochaid, warned by his foster-father that Midir is a being of great power, sets him a series of tasks, including laying a causeway over Móin Lámrige, which he performs reluctantly. He then challenges Eochaid to one final game of fidchell, the stake to be named by the winner. This time, Midir wins, and demands an embrace and a kiss from Étaín. Eochaid agrees that he will have it if he returns in a month's time. A month later Midir returns. He puts his arms around Étaín, and they turn into swans and fly off.
Eochaid and his men begin digging at the mound of Brí Léith where Midir lives. Midir appears to them and tells Eochaid his wife will be restored to him the following day. The next day fifty women who all look like Étain appear, and an old hag tells Eochaid to choose which one is his wife. He chooses one, but Midir later reveals that Étaín had been pregnant when he had taken her, and the girl he has chosen was her daughter.

"In Irish folklore, the butterfly represents a person's soul. Its light and airy wings allow the soul to cross into the Otherworld. "

The Celts believed in fly-souls and butterfly-souls which, like bird-souls, flew about seeking a new mother. It was thought that women become pregnant by swallowing such creatures. In Irish myth, Etain took the form of a butterfly for seven years :
" Midir's first wife Fuamnach, became jealous of Etain's beauty and grace, turned Etain into a butterfly, and drove her away from the magic palace with gusty wind. The wind blew the butterfly to many parts of Ireland, until she arrived in Ulster. Here, the butterfly fell in the cup of Etar's wife. Etar's wife drank her cup and unknowingly swallowed the butterfly, where she later became pregnant with Etain. When Etain was born, she became mortal, without any memory of her former life as a Danann."

Butterflies are also connected with Underworld and Otherworld and sometimes act as messengers of the gods and fae people.
Some old stories speak of women of the sidhe who change shapeshift into white butterflies in the night of full moon, luring mortal wanderers who lost their way to their destruction.

Continue Reading: Moon