• Morgan Fagg

Don't forget your mask Athlone

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

When you look upon his face remember the Devil’s in the detail.

While worshipping the devil, I heard a horror story from Athlone about a woman who drowned in the Shannon years ago but the town folk didn’t remember her name.

I met with some friends from Athlone just before Halloween last year when they were visiting Madrid and while showing them the beautiful Buen Retiro Park, I took them from the manmade lake and monument to Alfonso XII where a Spiderman posed for photographs with children and people rented rowboats and I brought them to see the devil himself.

Fiachra McLoughlin and his wife Orla Donnelly were visiting Madrid with their three children for the week, and I took them to see El Ángel Caído, the Fallen Angel while in this beautiful park.

Lucifer the fallen angel is depicted in Buen Retiro and is an unusual angel to sculpt and is believed to be one of only a few statutes dedicated to the fallen angel in the world.

Inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, the statue stands at a height of 666 metres above sea level

but the horror that I was told did not take place at sea and did not involve the devil but a Celtic goddess drowned in a river, that took her name.

Our heroine, forgotten though she flows through our souls. Swimming, snorkeling, boating both big and small, jet skiing, kayaking, fishing but never catching anything, no salmon of knowledge to call my own and taking part in triathlons along the wealthy banks of my town, I have enjoyed the Shannon for years without realising the myth and legend of the goddess Sionann.

Artists proposed their artwork for Athlone and a river god was selected and accepted but we forgot the devil in the detail, who was the bearded man the British depicted at Custom House?

Was it Poseidon with his devil’s trident beside him? Was it Zeus?

Was it Thor chiselling out rock with his hammer Mjölnir?

As Climate Change activist Greta Thunberg asks us to remember Mother Nature, we forgot our own river goddess. Where is the wisdom in forgetting the source of the Shannon's mythical power?

I believe a legend tells of the goddess Sionann who traveled to Connla’s Well where nine sacred hazel trees grew and drop their fruit into the waters below. These hazelnuts contain a substance known as éigse, the spirit and inspiration of poetry, within them where the Salmon of Knowledge lived inside the well and gained intelligence from eating these nuts.

Those who ate the fruit or salmon should share in this wisdom but when Sionann opened the well, holding the treasure she sought, without performing the proper rituals, a tumultuous wave escaped and swept poor Sionann away.

Sionann drowned and her divine power dissolved into what formed the River Shannon, a river that divides all Athlonians which was conveniently forgotten when we wanted to built a monument in the town.

What cents we have to invest in rock when our Celtic past is in ruin and the fact we knew that this shambolic statue had nothing do with Sionann or Luain in simply incredible.

What history do we tell ourselves when we build roundabouts round fairy-forts? How does Sionann not cross our minds when we cross the Shannon?

A Celtic goddess forgotten, another tragic case of heroine abuse in Athlone but a year has passed and Athlone is now closer to getting its own controversial statue just as the rest of the world has pulled down their demons and Orla Donnelly is still educating us about the devil in the detail as a FOI request recently revealed that the contract was only signed, after protests were already underway.

Happy Halloween Athlone, don't forget your mask

Based on a conversation in Madrid with Orla and Fiachra beside a statue to Lucifer, El Ángel Caído.

*Mythical Name Sionna explained: https://www.behindthename.com/name/shanna/comments/history

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