According to Irish mythology, Boann was the Irish goddess of the River Boyne, which is a momentous river in County Meath. It is said to have been created by and named after the goddess Boann.
Like most stories about the ancient goddesses, records of Boann don’t do her justice or explain the powerful goddess that she was. The very fact that she held sway over the River Boyne would suggest that she was a very important deity. The Boyne was hugely important to the Irish people for transporting goods and travelling to the rest of the world, so for Boann to have created it would have gained her great reverence.
How Boann created the river has always had two versions. The first is illustrated in the ancient text, ‘Dindsenchas’, which explains the origins of Irish place names. This version narrates the story of the magical ‘Well of Segais’, also known as ‘Connla’s Well’. Surrounding the well were nine hazel trees that grew the nuts of knowledge. When the nuts fell into the well, the salmon that swam in it became a source of wisdom. Boann’s husband in this story was Nechtan. He prohibited her from going near that well but Boann ignored her husband’s orders and continued to walk around it. Her circular motions stimulated the water to fiercely upsurge and the River Boyne came to life. During that process, goddess Boann lost an arm, eye, and leg due to the coursing flood. Eventually, she lost her life as well, but her spirit lived on in the river.
In the second version of the story, Boann doesn’t die but transforms into a salmon. Becoming a salmon made her the goddess of rivers and wisdom. Irish people called her the Mother of the river.
Boann’s son was called Aengus, the god of love and youth, and his father was the Dagda. She had a strong connection with Bru Na Boinne and was said to have lived there in ancient times.
Boann is strongly associated with poetry, and in early literature, it is written that drinking from her river, the Boyne, in the month of June, would grant the gifts of poetry and seership.