This article aims to provide the most comprehensive guide of one of Ireland’s most captivating mythological races; the Tuatha dé Danann.
Not all treasures are made of gold, yet they can still be invaluable to us. Our culture is a hidden gem, waiting to be discovered. Enchantingly, the Irish discerned its own cultural value through its unique customs, as well as the most fantastic of legends and folklore.
Mythology has always played a role in shaping a country’s culture. In the magnificent marvel of Ireland lies countless interesting tales, a parallel world of mystical phenomena and supernatural god-like creatures; groups of mystical races from which the Irish supposedly descended. The Tuatha de Danann is just one of many mystical races.
Irish mythology offers an insightful perspective on how our country evolved its legends into the rich culture we know today. The similarities and differences between the Tuatha de Danann Gods, and deities from other mythologies distinguish and highlight the truly unique aspects of Irish folklore
Table of Contents:
- A brief history about Irish Mythology
- The Supernatural Races of Irish Mythology
- Who was the Tuatha de Danann?
- The Story of the Tuatha de Danann
- The Four Treasures of the Tuatha de Danann
- The Most Prominent Gods of Ireland
- Where did the Tuatha de Danann end up?
A Brief History about Irish Mythology
Irish mythology is a vast world of legends and tales. All of them existed in the pre-Christian period and, according to some sources, they ceased to survive right after that. However, these tales are still passed from generation to generation; one after another.
Admittedly, while very interesting, Irish mythology can be very confusing sometimes. Thus, historians have divided it into cycles. Particularly, they are four main cycles and each one of them serves a certain period and theme.
The cycles’ main purpose is to categorise legends and tales according to their era. Each main cycle has a certain world or theme to evoke. These worlds could be ones of heroes and warriors or those of kings’ battles and history.
These four cycles in chronlogical order are the Mythology Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, and, finally, the Fenian Cycle, and finally, the Kings’ Cycle. We will introduce you to the fine points of each cycle shortly. The point of learning all about Irish mythology is to ease the process of identifying its tales, gods, and races. There is a lot to know about the mythical races of Ireland, especially the Tuatha Dé Danann. They were the spiritual race of Ireland and the most ancient of all of them.
The Cycles of Irish Mythology
What is the purpose of these cycles? In the past, researchers and mythology professors realised that the analysis of the Irish legends was hectic and chaotic. The mythology is actually too broad and hard to cram into one linear timeline. Thus, they decided to figure out a method that would make things easier for them. As a consequence, the cycles were brought into being.
They divided the tales and legends in accordance with their eras and specified each of them into four cycles. Most of the cycles embrace tales about the Tuatha Dé Danann. On the other hand, the Fenian cycle was concerned more with the Fianna rather than the Tuatha Dé Danann.
The Mythological Cycle
This cycle is mainly about myths and fantastic legends. It makes up most of the Irish legends. You may also find that this cycle embraces the most tales and magical legends among the other cycles. The world that this cycle evokes is one that revolves around gods and mythical races. It is a major cycle that includes most of the legends that involved races like the Tuatha Dé Danann.
The era of this cycle was at a time when Ireland was still unaware of the existence of Christianity. It revolves around gods that people of ancient Ireland used to believe in. Most of the tales embraced in the mythological cycles were ones that included the Tuatha Dé Danann. They were also stories that people passed down to the younger generations by word of mouth. These tales include the Children of Lir, Wooing of Etain, and The Dream of Aengus.
The Ulster Cycle
Whereas the mythological cycle focused on supernatural elements such as magic and Gods, the Ulster cycle focuses on warriors and battles
There were two major cities in Ireland; eastern Ulster and northern Leinster. Both of them were referred to as Ulaid. The Ulster cycle is actually one that holds more than a few tales that revolve around the heroes of Ulaid. Sources claim that some of the legends of this cycle existed in the Medieval period. On the other hand, other tales belonged to the Early Christianity period. The most significant tales of this cycle are Cattle Raid of Cooley and Deirdre of the Sorrows.
The Fenian Cycle
Folklorists and historians refer to this cycle with three different names. It’s called either the Fenian cycle, Finn Cycle, or the Finnian tales, but the Fenian cycle is the most well known title. The Fenian cycle shares a lot of similarities with the Ulster cycle, so there has been confusion between both of them.
This cycle, in particular, rotates around legends of warriors and heroes that existed in ancient Ireland. However, there is also romance involved in the tales of this cycle, making it different from the Ulster one. The Fenian cycle reveals a brand new part of the history of Ireland. It is concerned with warriors and heroes rather than gods. In this era, people regarded warriors as divine figures and worshipped them.
This cycle revolves around Finn McCool (also known as Fionn MacCumhaill in Gaelic), and the legendary group of warriors the Fianna on their many adventures. It also chronicles the life of Finn beginning with the story the Salmon of Knowledge.
While there are many variations of this legend, the general consensus is that a young boy was the apprentice of an old poet Finnegas, who after many years of searching had finally caught the Salmon of knowledge in the River Boyne. Druids had fortold that the first person to taste the Salmon of knowledge would receive unfathomable knowledge and wisdom.
Part of Fionn’s job was preparing food for his teacher, and while cooking the salmon he burnt his finger. Instinctively the boy sucked the blister on his thumb, unbeknownst to him obtaining the gift of immense knowledge and wisdom. The master realised his apprentice was now the wisest man in Ireland as soon as he saw him. This knowledge, along with his warrior skills allowed Fionn to become the leader of the Fianna tribe years later.
The Kings’ Cycle or the Historical Cycle
This cycle holds two names; the Kings’ cycle and the Historical Cycle. Most of the tales that fall into this category belonged to the medieval period. They were mostly about kings, bards, and the most significant battles in history.
Who are the Bards? Bards were Irish poets who existed during the medieval period. They lived in the households of kings and queens, serving them and their families. Besides, they were ones that played a magnificent role in recording history. Some historians believe that if it wasn’t for those bards, the Kings’ cycle would not have existed. They, sometimes, refer to them as court poets, too. Bards were actually the ones who reported history and made it easy for younger generations to learn about.
This cycle clasps a bunch of stories that are deemed to be quite popular. Those tales include The Frenzy of Sweeney and other tales of the High Kings, as Labraid Loingsech and Brian Boru.
The Supernatural Races of Irish Mythology
The Irish mythology is a deep ocean of marvellous tales. It feels like the tales of this mythology are endless; so it is right to expect that the characters are plentiful as well.
In fact, the significant characters of the mythology descend from supernatural races of Ireland. They all have origins that assisted in creating the long history of ancient Ireland. The Tuatha Dé Danann include most of the Gods and Goddesses that were worshipped. However, there were plenty of other supernatural races, including the Gaels, the Fomorians, and the Milesians.
The Fomorians and the Tuatha de Danann had a complex relationship, often being at war with each other, yet Breas, (a temporary king of the Tuatha de Danann when the previous king, Nuada was searching for a way to replace the arm he lost in battle) was the son of a Tuatha de Danann woman and a Fomorian man. The Fomorians were seen as hostile giants, whose abilities revolved around the harmful aspects of nature such as winter, famine and storms. They were ultimately defeated by the Tuatha de Danann.
The Gaels were the tribe that drove the Tuatha de Danann underground and who ruled for many years there after.
The Milesians were the final race to take power after the Gaels and are said to be the ancestors of the Irish population today. They were actually Gaels themselves who roamed the earth for centuries before settling in Ireland. You can find out more about the interactions of the races in Irish mythology here.
Who was the Tuatha de Danann?
As we have discovered, in ancient Ireland, there were more than a few races that existed. Among the most powerful was the Tuatha de Danann. The Tuatha Dé Danann was a magical race that possessed supernatural powers. Most of them were god-like creatures or divine beings that were being worshipped. This race was also known to believe in Goddess Danu. She was sometimes referred to as the mother, and another translation of their name is “followers of Danu”. The Tuatha Dé Danann came from four major cities; Falias, Gorias, Finias, and Murias.
The Tuatha Dé Danann brought fascinating skills and wisdom to Ireland when they arrived there. They gained those skills from four wise men who resided in the four cities; one in each. Senias was the wise man who resided in Murias; Morias in Falias; Urias in Gorias; and Arias in Finias. Over and beyond, the Tuatha Dé Danann brought four treasures from the four cities; treasures that were beneficial to Ireland. We discuss the four treasures in detail below.
The Tuatha de Danann are usually depicted as tall and pale people with red or blonde hair and blue or green eyes. They are often portrayed as extremely beautiful people which could symbolise the way in which they were revered for their supernatural powers. Some of the more powerful or famous Gods often had features which symbolised their abilities. Brigit the Goddess of light and fire for example had bright red hair that was believed to have sparked flames at her birth.
The Mysterious Origin of the Tuatha de Danann
It remains ambiguous how the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland. Some sources claim that they arrived by flying in the air and landing here. While travelling in the air, they were in the form of mist or fog. Other sources claim they arrived on dark clouds. The latter escorted people to believe they came from heaven rather than from earth. Surprisingly, some people professed that this race was actually aliens.
The only rational opinion regarding how they reached the shores of Ireland was on ships. One more theory was a mixture between two of the claims. It states that the smoke or fog in the air was actually smoke from the ships which were burned on their arrival.
Opinions regarding the origin do not cease, shrouding things in mystery. Sources suggest that the Tuatha Dé Danann come from the north while others claim they come from the West. There was even an additional theory that claimed they came from Denmark.
Traditions were the reason that this theory showed up. This lore admitted that the Tuatha Dé Danann lived in Lochlonn; a place that has been related to Denmark. And before Denmark, they stayed in Achaia which was suspected to be their real country. After Denmark, they moved to the northern side of Scotland for seven years. They stayed in Lardahar and Dobhar and particular before moving to Ireland.
More Claims about their Origin
Because there are always many sources, it is hard to believe which one claim is the truth. Some people claim that their origin goes back to Atlantis; however, they had to leave, for the city disappeared. Others say they stayed in a region that exists in Austria around the Danube River.
In ancient Greece, there were texts that was supposedly meant for the Tuatha Dé Danann. The text included the following “..in ancient Greece… there lived a race of nomads known as the Pelasgians. Tribal in nature, they were seafarers who claimed to be born from the teeth of the Comic Snake Ophion, and the Great Goddess Danu.”
It reveals that the Tuatha Dé Danann came from Greece. They tried to destroy the rulers of Greece, the Pelasgians, at that time and take over, but their attempts failed. They then had to leave for Denmark before heading to Ireland.
Whatever decision you believe to be most plausible on the arrival of the tribe, it is impossible to deny the impact they had in Ireland once they arrived.
Etymology of the Name
Most Irish names are rarely pronounced as written. Thus, the pronunciation of the Tuatha Dé Danann is actually “Thoo a Du-non.” The literal meaning of this name is “the Tribes of the God.” It makes sense as they were popular for being a spiritual and religious race; they believed in gods and goddesses, and many of their members had god-like abilities.
Above and beyond, some sources claim that the actual meaning of the name is “the tribe of Danu.” Danu was a goddess that existed in ancient Ireland; some people also referred to her as the mother.
Significant Members of the Race
Each race had its own leader and king. Nuada was the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. There were also chiefs where each of them had a task to handle. They all played significant roles among their folks.
Those chiefs included Credenus, the one responsible for crafting; Neit, the god of battles; and Diancecht, the healer. There were actually more than that. Goibniu was the Smith; Badb, the goddess of battles; Morrigu, the Crow of Battle, and Macha, the nourisher. Lastly, there was Ogma; he was Nuada’s brother and he was responsible for teaching writing.
The Story of the Tuatha de Danann
Tuatha Dé Danann was a magical race with supernatural powers. They represented ancient Ireland, for they were the folks who lived in Pre-Christian Ireland for centuries. Before their unexplained disappearance, they stayed in Ireland for around four thousand years. There have been more than a few claims regarding their disappearance; however, the truth remains ambiguous.
Fighting Against the Firbolgs
When they first snaked into Ireland, the Firbolgs were the rulers of that time. The march of the Tuatha Dé Danannn surprised them, resulting in the Firbolgs failing to resist them. Both races fought over the rule of Ireland. Legends have it that their first battle took place near the Shore of Lough Corrib on the Plain of Moyturey. Eventually, victory was on the side of Tuatha de Danann; they won the battle and took over Ireland.
The latter happened after defeating and slaughtering the Firbolgs. Their king died in the battle and they had to choose another leader. Eventually, the choice fell on Srang; he was the new leader of the Firbolgs.
While some sources claim the overthrowing of the Firbolgs, others seem to have a different opinion. The History of Ireland, Ancient and Modern was a book that had a manuscript that states a distinct version of the events. It states that the battle did not end with the defeat of the Firbolgs; however, both races agreed to compromise.
They both decided to split Ireland between them; however, the Tuatha Dé Danann shall have the greater portion. As a result, the Firbolgs only took Connaught while the rest was accounted to the Tuath.
Nuada had to Step Aside
Nuada was the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Some sources wrote his name as “Nuadhat.” However, in their battle against the Firbolgs, he had lost an arm. There was a law that stated that whoever was the king had to be in perfect shape.
Since Nuada was no longer considered to be in perfect shape, he had to abdicate or leave the drone, despite his popularity as king. The kingship was given to Breas, temporarily though. After seven years, Nuada took back the kingship. Credne Cerd was an Irish man who succeeded in giving Nuada a silver hand, so he became whole again. Miach, the son of Diencecht, was the physician who aided in fitting the hand. For that reason, the mythology sometimes refers to Nuada as Nuadhat the Silver Hand.
That whole process took them seven years to be as perfect as possible. It was evidence of the exceptional skills that this race possessed and brought to Ireland along with them.
The Fomorians: A Ceaseless Wheel of War and Peace
During the seven years of achieving the perfect arm of Nuada, Breas was the temporary king. However, he wasn’t purely from Tuatha Dé Danann; his mother belonged to that race, but his father was a Fomorian. Probably, his mother’s origin was the reason he made it to the kingship.
Anyhow, after the seven years were over, Nuada had to pick up where he left off. He retook the kingship; however, things were no longer as peaceful as they were. Breas seemed to be bitter about having to leave the chair, and was by all means an unpopular king who favoured the Fomorians over his people.
Thus, he initiated a war with the Fomorians against the Tuatha Dé Danann. There were also still refugees of the Firbolg around the area; they supported the war since they were enemies of the Tuatha de Danann.
Balor was the leader of the Fomorians. He was giant and incredibly strong. Also, the Irish traditions claimed that he had only one eye; however, that did not affect his strength. In that battle, Balor succeeded in killing Nuada, the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. However, he died aswell. Lugh Lamhfhada was the champion of the Tuatha Dé Danann; he managed to avenge Nuada’s death by killing Balor.
The Interrelation between both Races
Interestingly, there were several members who were half-Fomorians and Half-Tuatha Dé Danann. Both races happened to have the same ancestor. They were both descendants of the god of Battles, Neit. Lugh Lamhfhada, like Breas, was a result of intermarriage between the two races. Surprisingly, he happened to be the grandson of Balor, leader of the Fomorians. Well, this may sound a bit odd, but here’ the whole story:
In an Irish legend, Balor had been informed by a foretelling that his own grandson was going to kill him. Balor only had one daughter, Ethniu; he decided to lock her in a glass tower. IIt was a prison guarded by twelve women that would ensure she never met a man, so she could never have a child. Ethniu spent many lonely nights in the tower, occasionally dreaming of the face of a person she had never seen before.
On the contrary, Balor’s strategic plans did not go accordingly. His plans started to fall off the trail when he stole a magical cow from Cian. The latter happened to know about Balor’s daughter, so he broke into the tower in order to take revenge. Having met Ethniu, Balor’s daughter, the pair fell in love as Ethniu recognised Cian as the man that appeared in her dreams, and she became pregnant with three children. When she gave birth to them, Balor learned of the incident, and thus, he ordered his servants to drown them.
Fate had a different plan and one was rescued. That one child was saved by a druidess who took him to Ireland. The child happened to be Lugh; he lived among the Tuatha Dé Danann all the way through adulthood and fulfiled the prophecy that Balor tried so ruthlessly to avoid.
The Reign of Lugh
After Lugh avenged the death of Nuada by killing his own grandfather, Balor, he became the king. He had shown great courage and wisdom. Since he was half-Fomorian, he was also responsible for spreading peace between the two races. His reign lasted for almost forty years.
During that period, Lugh managed to establish what was known as the public fair. Those games took place on the hill of Tailltean. They were a means of honouring Taillte, Lugh’s foster mother. They remained around until the 12th century. The place is no longer working, but it’s still there and people nowadays refer to it as Lugh’s fair.
An interesting fact is that Lúnasa, or in old-Irish Lughnasadh is the Gaelic word for the month of August and highlights the reverence Lugh is treated with in Irish mythology.
The Sway of the Milesians
The Milesians was another race that existed in ancient Ireland. Legends refer to them as the Sons of Mil. In ancient times, when the Tuatha won the battle and took over, they had a deal with the Milesians. They kicked them out, but they said if they managed to land again in Ireland, the country shall be theirs. That was according to the rules of war.
The Milesians withdrew and went back to the sea. Then, the Tuatha raised a great storm to dash their ships and ensure their loss, so they wouldn’t come back. After that, they kept Ireland invisible.
In 1700 B.C, the Milesians arrived in Ireland to realise that the Tuatha Dé Danann was entirely taking over. Things had taken a twist when, in fact, the Tuatha Dé Danann thought that they had managed to keep Ireland undetectable to the Milesians. However, they managed to find the land and marched into Ireland. The Tuatha were not prepared for resisting the Milesians as they didn’t expect them to find the land that easily.
The Defeat of the Tuatha de Danann
Not long after the Milesians arrived in Ireland, ithe Tuatha Dé Danann disappeared for good. Regarding their disappearance, there had been several claims. But, in all cases, they were certainly defeated.
One of the theories states that the Tuatha Dé Danann did not fight the Milesians at all. That was because their foretelling skills suggested that they were going to lose the country anyway. Instead, they built their own kingdoms under several hills around Ireland. It’s said that they built them long before the arrival of the Milesians. This theory suggests that the Tuatha Dé Danann were what was referred to as the fairy folk of Ireland, or “Aes Sidhe”, the people of the fairy mounds.
The other theory has another suggestion to offer. It claims that the two races entered a battle in which the Milesians won. They took over Ireland and had most of the races around Ireland as their allies. What happened to the Tuatha Dé Danann after the defeat was divided into two different opinions.
Some say that their Goddess Danu sent them to live in Tir na nOg, the Land of the Young. On the other hand, others claim the Milesians came to terms with sharing the land with the Tuatha Dé Danann, allowing them to remain underground.
The Theory of “The Cave Fairies”
This theory is pretty similar to the previous one. It states that the Milesians did not defeat the Tuatha Dé Danann at all. Instead, they decided to keep them living side by side with them. The reason behind their claimed decision was the fact the Tuatha captivated them by their exclusive skills.
As we previously mentioned, the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland with fascinating incomparable skills. They also had great skills in magic and arts, including music, poetry, and architecture. For that reason, the Milesians wanted to keep them living around in order to take advantage of their skills.
Additionally, the Tuatha Dé Danann owned horses that all history professed could never be found anywhere else. Those horses had large eyes, broad chests, and were as speed as the wind. They exerted flame and fire and they resided in a place called “the Great Caves of the Hills.” Owning those horses escorted people to refer to the Tuatha Dé Danann as the Cave Fairies.
People of the Sidhe
The Irish mythology would usually mention a race named the Sidhe, pronounced as Shee. Historians believe that the Sidhe is another reference to the Tuatha Dé Danann. The latter was regarded as gods of the earth. There was also a belief that they had the ability to control the crops ripening and the cows’ milk production. Thus, people in ancient Ireland worshipped them with sacrifices to have their blessings in return.
When the Milesians first arrived in Ireland, they faced the trouble of rotten crops and unproductive cows. They blamed the Tuatha Dé Danann for that incident, thinking that they were avenging their stolen lands.
The Four Treasures of the Tuatha De Denann
The Tuatha Dé Danann’s origin seems to be mysterious. However, one part that the mythology is clear about was that they came from four different cities. Those cities were Gorias, Murias, Falias, and Findias.
From each city, they had learned valuable skills from four wise men. Above and beyond, they obtained valuable items as well. The mythology refers to those items as the four treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Some sources even call them the Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Each one belonged to a significant character and had a prominent function. Some people also refer to them as the Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Here are the four treasures and details about each one of them:
Lugh was half-Fomorian and half-Tuath de Danann. He was the champion of the Tuatha Dé Danann who killed his own grandfather, Balor. Lugh owned spears that were used in battles. Whoever used them never failed in a battle. Legends have it that this spear was the weapon Lugh used while killing Balor. He threw the spear into Balor’s poison eyes right before taking him down.
Some versions of the story state that Lugh used stones or slings. However, the spear seems to be the most reasonable weapon to use. In fact, Lugh owned more than a few spears; he had a fine collection of them. However, a specific one of them was the most famous and it had certain specifications as well.
This most famous spear is referred to as Lugh’s spear. Sources claim that it was brought to Ireland from the city of Falias. The latter was one of the four cities that the Tuatha Dé Danann came from. The spear’s head was made from dark bronze and it was sharply pointed at its tip. It looked fearful as well. Attached to it was a rowan that had thirty gold pins.
Most importantly, the spear possessed magical abilities, it was impossible to overcome in battle, or to defeat the warrior who wielded. Another spear that Lugh possessed was The Slaughterer. In Irish, its name is Areadbhar. According to the Irish mythology, that spear would burst into flame all on its own. So, its user had to keep it in cold water; that way the water would put down the flame.
Lugh’s spear disappeared somewhere along the way. Later, a hero among those of the Ulster Cycle found it once again. His name was Celtchair mac Uthechar and he was a champion of the Red Branch Knights. When Celtchair found Lugh’s spear, its name became Luin Celtchair instead. It was like the possession transferred from Lugh to Celtchair. Despite the transfer, it belonged to the Tuatha Dé Danann.
However, the spear seemed to be Celtchair’s own enemy. According to traditions, he once killed a hound with that spear. The hound’s blood was poisoned and it stained the spear. While holding the spear, a drop of this blood fell down and got into Celtchair’s own skin, causing his unfortunate death.
Oengus of the Dread Spear
Lugh’s spear appeared in more than a few stories, under different names. There was a story that belongs to the King Cycle. It revolves around four brothers who led Clan Deisi. Those brothers were Oengus, Brecc, Forad, and Eochaid. Forad has a daughter named Forach. Their enemy, Cellach, kidnapped and raped her. He was Cormac mac Airt disobedient son.
The four brothers negotiated with him to give up the girl and let go; however, he refused to do so. His refusal resulted in a battle where Oengus had a small army and attacked the residence of the High King. In spite of the army’s small number, Oengus managed to kill Cellach. The dread spear was the weapon he used in murdering him.
Oengus had accidentally hurt the eye of Cormac while throwing the spear. According to the law of war, the king had to be in a perfect physical state. Thus, Cormac had to renounce his position and hand it over to his other son, Cairpre Lifechair.
The Sword of Light
the Sword of Light is the second treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann. It belonged to Nuada, the first king of the race. It came from Finias city. The sword has actually made an appearance in plenty of the Irish folktales. It plays a part in Scottish myths as well. There were several names to it; Shining sword, White Glaive of Light, and Sword of Light. The Irish equivalent to its name is Claíomh Solais or Claidheamh Soluis.
There were many tales that featured the sword. Those which did feature it obliged the keeper of the sword to execute three sets of tasks. He shall also be a hag or an undefeatable giant. However, he shouldn’t do the tasks all by himself; he needed to have some helpers. Those helpers are usually animals with skills, supernatural beings, and female servants.
The sword makes the keeper insuperable and impossible to defeat. If someone ever beat the hero, then that was through secret supernatural means. It was one more item that ensured the strength of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Despite the strength of the sword, it was never enough in beating an enemy by itself. That enemy was usually a supernatural being, so the hero had to attack him on a defenceless body’s spot. As we previously stated, it could be a specific part of his body. Conversely, it could sometimes be in the form of an external soul. The soul could possess the body of an animal.
Stone of Fal or Lia Fáil
This stone is present at the Hill of Tara, at the Inauguration Mound in particular. It is the third treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann that comes from Falias city. The literal meaning of Lia Fail is the Stone of Destiny. Some people claim that the meaning is actually the Speaking Stone.
The High Kings of Ireland had actually used it as the coronation stone. Thus, some refer to it as the Coronation Stone of Tara. It was the place where every king of Ireland had gotten crowned.
The Lia Fail was a magical stone that roared with joy when the High King put his feet on it. It exists during the reign of the Tuatha Dé Danann since it was one of their treasures. Besides, it lasted for some time even after the Tuatha Dé Danann. More things the stone was capable of was awarding the king with a long reign as well as reviving him.
Unfortunately, the stone lost its abilities at some point along the way. Cuchulainn wanted it to roar under his feet, but it did not. Thus, he had to use his sword to split it into two pieces and it never roared again. Surprisingly, it only did under the feet of Conn of the Hundred Battles.
The Scottish Dispute
The Hill of Tara consists of several standing stones; ones that sit around the Lia Fail. There is a theory that may be surprising for some people, but some sources critique its authenticity.
The theory states that the original Lia Fail that the Tuatha Dé Danann brought is no longer around, it has been replaced keeping the original hidden and safe, until the reign of the High Kings is back once again.
On the other hand, the theory of the unoriginal stone has a different opinion; a belief that someone stole the original Lia Fail and brought it to Scotland. It is now the Stone of Scone that is present in Scotland. People there are using for crowning the Scottish royals.
Cauldron of the Dagda
The fourth and final treasure that came to Ireland all the way from the northern city of Muirias, brought by Semias; a skilful druid who taught the Tuatha Dé Danann some magical skills. Regarding the cauldron, like all of its fellow treasures, it was magical. The keeper of that cauldron was Dagda; the father god and one of Ireland’s High Kings. We will get to details about the father god later.
Sources claim that the power of this cauldron is very potent; it could do amazing good to the world. On the other hand, it could be a great misery if it happens to get into the wrong hands.
The Power of the Cauldron
The cauldron was a symbol of generosity as well as bounteousness. It was large in size and its function was ceaselessly providing food to the gods. In Irish mythology, there were texts that state “from which all leave satisfied.” The generosity and constant providence of the cauldron were obvious for everyone in ancient Ireland.
In fact, people at that time referred to the cauldron as Coire Unsic. The literal meaning of this name is “The Undry” in English. That’s because it never ran out of food to provide to everyone; in fact, it was overflowing with food. Above and beyond, food was not the only power that the cauldron possessed. It could also revive the dead and heal the wounds of the injured.
Where the original cauldron is has been a matter of debate. Some people claim that it was buried with the mounds, so it’s safe from the curiosity of earthly beings.
The Most Prominent Gods of Ireland
Ireland in the ancient times is known to have worshipped more than a few gods and goddesses; they were polytheistic. Those gods came from different races. in fact, there were lots of them who actually descended from the Tuatha Dé Danann. In this section, you’ll get to know the Irish gods and goddesses that were members of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a very spiritual race that believed in the power of gods and magic.
The Tuatha de Danann possessed powers that were beyond the abilities of human beings. For that reason, Irish mythology sometimes refers to them as god-like creatures rather than humans. Before, we have mentioned that the name Tuatha Dé Danann means the Tribe of the Goddess Danu. Thus, we are going to start with this Goddess and more Celtic gods and goddesses will follow.
Danu was the mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann. That is why their name means the People of Danu. She is one of the very ancient goddesses in the history of Ireland. Her modern Irish name is usually Dana rather than Danu. People usually refer to her by the Goddess of Earth or the Goddess of Land.
Her main duty was pouring her power and wisdom about the lands to bring prosperity. Danu possessed a lot of fascinating skills. The mythology states that she passed most of her skill to the Tuatha Dé Danann. As a consequence, most of the members of this race are either divine figures or supernatural beings.
Another name that people refer to the oldest ancient Celtic goddess with is the beantuathach. This name means the farmer; they call her that, for she was the goddess of the land. Not only did she nourish the lands of Ireland, but she was also associated with the rivers.
The Most Significant Folk Tales of Goddess Danu
Danu is one of the prominent gods of Ireland that Celtic mythology has always mentioned. Her appearance remains so mysterious that some researchers claim her to be imaginary. On the other hand, several stories and tales have had references to her. Those references helped in shaping a character to Goddess Danu, regardless of the authenticity of her existence.
Definitely, all the stories she appeared in were ones that included the Tuatha Dé Danann, her own people. Remember how the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland? Well, mythology claims that they were back in a magical mist after being kicked out. Some sources profess that the mist was actually Goddess Danu embracing her own people and returning them back home.
Goddess Danu was a symbol of magic, poetry, craftsmanship, wisdom, and music. Thus, the Tuatha Dé Danann was good at all of those aspects because of her impact on them. She also nurtured her people by taking them from weakness to strength. She used her magic and wisdom in influencing her people positively.
Danu was like a hypothetical mother for the Tuatha Dé Danann; consequently, they called her mother sometimes. She had all the aspects of a loving and caring mother who keeps fostering her children. On the other hand, some stories have revealed that Goddess Danu was a warrior as well. She was the perfect combination of a warrior and a thoughtful, compassionate mother who would never give up or surrender.
In essence, her appearance does not matter; she symbolised all that was good in nature; and was a nurturing and maternal presence felt by her tribe. she was equally compassionate and fierce, who taught the tribe that the arts, music, poetry, and craftsmanship was just as important to their survival as being warriors, a truly wise sentiment.
The Birth of the Dagda
One story that the Goddess played an actual role in was one with Bile. Bile is the god of healing and light. He appeared in the story in the form of an oak tree; a sacred one. Danu was the one who was responsible for feeding that tree and nurturing it. Their relationship was the reason for the Dagda to be born.
The Dagda: The Good God
The literal meaning of a Dagda is good god. He was one of the most important gods of the Celtic legends. As the ancient Irish perceived Goddess Danu as a mother, they similarily regarded Dagda as a father. Legends claim that they were the ones who started the Tuatha Dé Danann.
On the other hand, legends have it that Goddess Danu was the mother of God Dagda. It makes more sense to regard them as mother and son. The tuatha de danann family tree changes to suit the needs of a story, also contributing to this is the fact that most stories existed long before they were written down and recorded.
Dagda symbolised agriculture, strength, and fertility. Above all, he is the symbol of magic; one of the most important aspects of the Tuatha Dé Danann. This god was the one responsible for controlling almost everything in life, including time, seasons, weather, life and death, and the crops as well. Regular members of the Tuatha Dé Danann had superpowers, so imagine how powerful gods were.
The Dagda was a prevailing deity figure who possessed more than a few powers; he also owned magical items. One of those items was the Cauldron of the Dagda; it was among the four treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann
We have previously mentioned that cauldron. It never ceased to provide food to the gods. The Dagda also owned a countless number of fruit trees that were constantly productive. Besides, he had two pigs that were prominent in some tales of Celtic mythology. He was the god of wisdom who had the power to control life, death, and weather.
The Cauldron that never ran out of food was only one of the Dagda’s magical possessions. He also had a club which was so powerful that one end could kill an enemy while the other end revived them. He also owned a harp called Uaithne or the Four-Angled-Music that could control the seasons, and the emotions of people, from happines to lamentation to a state of sleep.
The Fomorians once stole Dagda’s harp, and as it controlled the seasons malicious use of it could have been fatal. Dagda was able to bekon the harp to it’s side as he was it’s true owner. He was able to put all of the Fomorians who outnumbered the Tuatha de Danann present so everyone could escape safely.
Considering the Dagda had control over life, death, food and the seasons there is no dispute over why he was considered the Father God. He was designated the title the “Good God” because of the many amazing skills he excelled at, not necessarily because he was a good person. Like many Gods across mythologies, some of the Celtic Gods had flaws such as greed, jealousy and infidelity, which often created the conflict that created the many tales we know so well today.
The Depiction of the Dagda in the Mythology
Seemingly, all the gods of the Tuatha Dé Danann were strong and giant. The portrayal of the Dagda often included an enormous man. He usually wore a cloak that had a hood. On the other hand, some sources contained a depiction of this god in a sarcastic yet comical way. He was wearing a short tunic that did not even cover his private parts. It seemed to be intentional to make him seem unsophisticated and crude; an image that contrasts the usual depiction of ultra-powerful, stoic gods.
The Story of the Dagda
The Dagda was once a leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann; probably, the second one. The Dagda ruled Ireland right after Nuada, the first leader of the race. Folktales claim that he had mated with several goddesses throughout his life. That’s why he had so many children. However, his real love was Boann.
Aengus’s one of his sons; he’s among the gods of Ireland that belonged to the same race as his father’s; the Taotha dé Danann
However, he was a result of an affair. His mother was Boann, the wife of Elcmar. Dagda had an affair with her and then learned she was pregnant. In fear of getting caught, Dagda made the sun stand still throughout his lover’s pregnancy. After that duration, Boann gave birth to their son, Aengus and things went back to normal. Seemingly, the list of the Dagda’s children goes on. It includes Brigit, Bodb Dearg, Cermait, Aine, and Midir.
The Dagda was a very generous father. He shared his own possessions with his children, especially his land. However, his son Aengus was usually away. When he came back, he realized that his father hadn’t left anything for him, unlike his own siblings. Aengus was disappointed with that; however, he managed to trick his father and take his own home. He asked him if he could live in the Brú na Bóinne, where the Dagda lived, for, sometime. Conversely, he took possession of the place for good and betrayed his father.
Aengus: The God of Love and Youth
Aengus or “Oengus” was a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann. He was the son of the Dagda and Boann, the goddess of the river. Mythology had depicted him as the god of love and youth. However, some tales claim otherwise, for his father refused to give him possessions that he only gave them to the gods. This may sugest that Aengus was not seen as a God.
Aengus’s portrayal usually included birds that fly above his head in circles. Aengus, despite being the god of love, seemed to be a bit ruthless. He committed several murders in many folktales. This juxtaposition creates a dynamic, three-dimensional character who is not defined by his role, and is admittedly quite an interesting perspective.
Aengus may have been the son of the Dagda; however, Midir was his foster father. Some legends also claim that Aengus was able of reviving people, which may explain his indifference towards killing them; if his lethal actions could be reversed, there was much less weight to them. He even brought his own foster son back to life after he died.
Aengus owned four lethal weapons; two swords and two spears. They all had names as well. His swords’ names were Beagalltach, which means the Little Fury and Moralltach, which means the Great Fury. The latter was a gift that Manannan mac Lir gave to him. Later, Aengus gave it to his son, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, before his death. The two spears were named Gáe Buide (yellow spear) and Gáe Derg.(red spear) and inflicted wounds that could not be healed. Gáe Derg was seen as more important and only used under special circumstances.
The Killing Tales of Aengus
Aengus had killed quite a few people for different reasons. He killed the poet of Lugh Lámhfhada because he lied to him. The poet claimed that Ogma an Cermait, Dagda’s brother, had one of his wives having an affair. As soon as Aengus learned that it was a lie, he killed the poet.
The other person that Aengus killed was his own stepfather. Again, Aengus was a result of an affair between Boann, the goddess of the river, and the Dagda. Boann was already married to Elcmar when she mated with the Dagda, so Elcmar was Aengus’s stepfather. According to the mythology, Elcmar killed Midir, the brother of Aengus and his foster father as well. Aengus decided to avenge his death, so he killed Elcmar.
The Wooing of Etain
The Wooing of Etain is a prominent story in the Irish mythology that embraced members of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Editors and researchers have divided the story into three different parts. Each part involves specific tales in which Aengus is included. Following are the three subtales of the Wooing of Etain.
Part One (I)
Aengus grew up possessing the land of the Brú na Bóinne, the palace that he forcefully took from his father. On a fine day, his brother Midir visits him to confess that he was blinded due to a group of boys’ ruthless play outside Aengus’s palace. After some time, Dian Cecht, the goddess physician, was able to heal him. Midir wanted to make up for the time he lost while blind.
So, he asked Aengus to help him with his plans to make up for lost time, his compensation for being blinded. He asked for several things that included marrying the most beautiful woman in Ireland. That particular woman was the daughter of the king of the Ulaid, Ailill. Her name was Etain. Aengus insisted to do it for his brother. Aengus performed all of the needed tasks to win over the woman and she became Midir’s second wife.
Etain was a goddess; she was the goddess of horses. Conversely, Midir already had a wife; Fuamnach. She was also the foster mother of Aengus and she played a vital role in this tale. Etain erupted a volcano of jealousy inside Fuamnach.
Thus, she changed her into a fly; one that mythology claims to have been beautiful. When Fuamnach knew the relationship between Midir and Etain was still strong, she sent her away with the wind. Aengus knew that his foster mother was the reason behind Etain’s disappearance. He had to kill her for her betrayal.
Etain flew into the goblet of a Queen who swallowed her and, 1000 years after being turned into a fly she was reborn as human.
Part Two (II)
The second part of the story revolves around the New High King of Ireland, 1000 years after pasrt one. tain had magically been reborn as a human with no recollection of her past. The new high king of Ireland was going to be Eochu Airem.
However, he would not be able to be officially a king until he had a queen. So, he had to find a wife as soon as possible. Just like Midir’s request in part one, he asked for the hand of the most beautiful woman in Ireland. Once again, this was Etain. Eochu fell in love with her and they both got married.
On the other hand, his brother Ailill also loved Etain and he got sick due to his one-sided love. For a tour around Ireland, King Eochu had to leave the Hill of Tara for some time. He had to leave Etain with his brother who was on his last legs.
Ailill then took advantage of his brother’s absence and confessed to Etain the reason for his sickness. Etain was surprised, but she wanted him to be fine, so she told him the words he wanted to hear.
Despite getting better, Ailill became more greedy and he asked Etain for more. He claimed that the healing would be complete if she met him above the house, on the hill. Ailill wanted to meet her outside of his brother’s house, thinking that it would be less shameful. He didn’t want to disgrace his brother in his house, especially because he was the High King at that time.
Midir in Disguise (II)
Etain agreed to Ailill’s request and she supposedly met him three different times. However, Midir learned about Ailill’s plans, so every time he put him to sleep and went to meet her instead. Etain never realised that fact because Midir succeeded in taking the appearance of Ailill. The third time, he confessed to her, uncovering his true identity and asking her to go away with him. Etain did not recognise or remember Midir, but she agreed to go with him if Eochu let her go.
Part Three (III)
Now comes the third part of the story. This is not a whole new story on its own; it is an extension of part two. The reason behind the researchers and editors splitting this part is unclear though.
The third part rotates around the duration when Ailill received a full recovery. It was at the same time when his brother, Eochu, returned back home from his tour. Midir learned about Eochu’s return, so he had a plan in mind that would get him Etain. He went to Tara and dealt with Eochu to play fidchell as a challenge. Fidchell was actually an ancient Irish board game where the loser had to pay up.
In their challenge, Eochu kept winning and Midir’s constant loss obliged him to build the Corlea Trackway. It is a causeway across the bog of Móin Lámrige. Midir was sick of losing all the time, so he offered a new challenge where Eochu agreed. He suggested that whoever won, he would embrace and kiss Etain. However, Eochu didn’t grant Midir’s wishings; he told him to leave and come back to collect his winnings after one year.
He knew that Midir would not leave that easily, so he had to prepare for his return. Later, Midir managed to get inside the house in spite of the guards that were trying to stop him. At that moment, Eochu suggested that he could only embrace Etain, in an attempt to placate Midir. While Midir was embracing her, Etain suddenly remembered her past life, and she allowed him to turn the pair into swans so they could fly away together. Swans were a recurring theme of love and fidelity in Irish mythology.
A Mission to Find Etain (III)
Eochu ordered his men to search in every fairy mound in Ireland and look for the whereabouts of his wife. Eochu would not settle down until his wife got back to him. After some time, Eochu’s men found Midir who gave up and promised to give Etain back to her husband. His promise was accompanied by some conditions though; it was a mental challenge for Eochu.
Midir brought around fifty women who looked the same, and similar to Etain, asking Eochu to select his real wife. After some confusion, Eochu went for the one who he thought to be his wife and took her home. They reignited their love life and the woman became pregnant with Eochu’s daughter. He thought that he would live in peace after taking his wife back; however, Midir reappeared to interrupt that peace.
Midir’s appearance was only to inform Eochu that he had fooled him. He confessed that the woman he had selected was not the real Etain. Shame had filled Eochu and he ordered to get rid of the young daughter.
Getting Rid of the Daughter (III)
They got rid of the baby girl and a herdsman found her. He raised her up with his wife until she grew up and got married. Her husband was Eterscél, the successor of Eochu. Later, she got pregnant and became mother of the High King, Conaire Mór. The story ended with Midir’s grandson, Sigmall Cael, killing Eochu.
More Details about Aengus
The Wooing of Etain is one of the most prominent tales where Aengus appeared. In fact, it is not clear whether he was among the gods of the Tuatha Dé Danann or not. He was a significant member of the Tuatha Dé Danann regardless though. Aengus only appeared in the first part of the story,the rest was concerned with Etain and his brother, Midir. Nonetheless, he was the catalyst that set the events of the legend in place.
There were more tales where Aengus played more vital roles, including the tale of The Dream of Aengus. It is a tale of pure love; this tale is one of the most romantic legends in Celtic mythology. Aengus was also a guardian of Diarmuid and Grainne.
According to Irish mythology, the two of them were once running from Finn McCool and his men. They bumped into Aengus on their way. He then gave them the advice to take a specific path along their journey. Aengus was very generous with them; he offered his protective cloak along with his sword.
The Dream of Aengus
Apparently, this tale was all about Aengus and searching for his lover. In this legend, Aengus had a dream about a woman with whom he fell in love. He wanted to find her, so he asked, the Dagda, king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and Boann, for help.
The Dagda wanted to help his son; however, he would not be able to do it all on his own. Thus, he asked Bodb Dearg for help; he asked him to search for the woman. Bodb spent a whole year doing his research until he claimed that he had found the the girl. She resided by the Lake of the Dragons Mouth; however, she was not the only one who lived there. Her name was Caer and she was a swan. Along with her, there were one hundred and fifty other maiden swans. Each pair was tied with gold chains.
Ethel Would Never Let Go
Aengus went to the lake and he quickly identified his own dream lover. He recognised her because she was the tallest among all of the other swans. She was also the daughter of Ethel; he for dubious reasons wanted to keep her around forever. That was why he turned her into a swan and refused to ever let her go.
Aengus was frustrated with her father’s decision, so he decided that he could carry her away. Unfortunately, Aengus’s strength wasn’t a good match for a swan’s weight, so he kept weeping for being that weak. Bodb wanted to help, but he knew he needed allies, so he went for Meadbh and Ailill. They went for Ethel, asking him to let his daughter go, but Ethel insisted on keeping her.
The Dagda and Ailill decided to use their powers against Ethel until he let her go. They held him as a prisoner and asked again to take Caer. At that point in the story, Ethel confessed why he was keeping his daughter in the body of a swan. He claimed that he knew that she was stronger than he was.
Later, Aengus went to the lake once again and admitted his love for Caer. At that moment, he changed into the form of a swan as well to live with her. The two lovers flew together to a palace on the Boyne. The tale professes that during their flying, there was music that put people to sleep for three consecutive days.
Nuada of the Silver Arm
Before the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland, Nuada was their king. He remained the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann for about seven years. After those years, they entered Ireland and fought the Fibolg. The latter were the inhabitants of Ireland by the time the Tuatha de Danann arrived.
Before fighting the Firbolg, Nuada asked if they could take a portion of the Island for the Tuatha Dé Danann. However, the king of the Firbolg refused and they both prepared for the upcoming war. As we previously mentioned, that was the Battle of Mag Tuired where the Tuatha Dé Danann won. Unfortunately, Nuada lost his arm in this battle and fifty soldiers carried him out of the field by Dagda’s orders. Despite the loss of Nuada’s arm, the Tuatha Dé Danann gained Ireland as land for themselves.
Sharing the Land with the Firbolg
Things were going in favour of the Tuatha Dé Danann; however, there was a change of fate. Sreng, the leader of the Firbolg, wanted to challenge Nuada in a man-to-man battle. While Nuada could have refused and gone on with his life, he actually accepted the challenge. He said he would fight Sreng under one condition; if Sreng tied one of his arms up, but he refused to do so.
That saved Nuada lots of trouble, for the Tuatha Dé Danann had already won. Sreng had to take his people and leave after the defeat. They had to leave the country for good. However, the Tuatha Dé Danann was generous enough that they left one-quarter of the land for the Firbolg. That part of Ireland was Connacht, the western province; the part offered was smaller than that dealt about before the battle. But, it was still a win-win situation for the Firbolgs who were expecting to be exiled.
Bres, the New King of the Tuatha de Danann
As we already mentioned, the king had to be in perfect shape. When Nuada lost his arm, he had to hand over authority to a more eligible king. Bres was the new leader though it is worth mentioning that he was half-Fomorian. The new king had very oppressive rules that worked in favour of his other half. He let the Fomorians into Ireland even though they were the country’s enemies.
Worse again he made the Tuatha Dé Danann slaves of the Fomorian’s. Bres’s kingship was unjust and it was only a matter of time until he would be challenged for the throne. As soon as Nuada had a replacement for his lost arm, he took back the kingship. Bres ruled only for seven years while Nuada ruled for seven years at first and then for twenty more years.
Bres was not satisfied with that twist of events. He wanted to restore his kingship back, so he asked Balor for help. Balor was the king of the Fomorians. They tried to retake it by force and constantly started wars against the Tuatha Dé Danann.
It is interesting tot hink about how the tuatha de Dananns laws allowed a good king to be dethroned and replaced by one who only brought pain and suffering, just because they belived a ruler could not have any disabilities. It was an important lesson for the tribe that the most important qualities for a leader are intrinsic internal values, nothteir physical capabilites.
More Claims about Nuada
Earlier, we have stated the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann. One of them was the great sword of Nuada. Dian Cecht was his brother; he was one of the gods of Ireland as well. Besides, he was a member of the Tuatha de Danann. Dian was the one who crafted the silver arm for his brother Nuada as a replacement. He did it with the help of the wright Creidhne.
Unfortunately, Nuada died in the second battle between the Tuatha de Danann and the Fomorians. It was the Second Battle of Mag Tuired. Balor, the leader of the Fomorians, was the one who killed him. However, Lugh was the one who avenged the death of Nuada by killing Balor. After Nuada was gone, Lugh was the next king of the Tuatha de Danann.
Goddess Morrigan Story
Danu was not the only goddess of the Tuatha de Danann. Apparently, there was more than a few ones. Morrigan was one of them. She was popular for being a shape-shifter and the Goddess of war, death, and fate in the Celtic mythology.
Morrigan was also capable of controlling all forms of waters, including lakes, rivers, oceans, and freshwaters. Celtic mythology usually refers to her with quite a lot of names. These names include The Queen of Demons, The Great Queen, and The Phantom Queen.
The Origin of Goddess Morrigan
The origin of Goddess Morrigan is ambiguous yet some sources claim that it has a connection to the triple goddesses. The latter is a trending Cult of Mothers that is very popular in the Irish legends.
However, other legends appear to depict her as a single figure rather than part of the triple Celtic goddesses. Different sources have different claims. Some say that she married the Dagda and they both had a child named Adair. Contrariwise, some say that she was not his wife, but they once met at a river and that was it.
The Celtic mythology seems to know very little about the life of Goddess Morrigan story. What is obvious from all legends is that she was part of the Tuatha de Danann. She also had quite a few siblings and that includes Macha, Eriu, Banba, Badb, and Fohla. Her mother was Ernmas, another goddess of the Tuatha de Danann.
The Morrigan’s Appearance in the Celtic Folk Tales
The Irish mythology never has one depiction of gods or characters and the Morrigan is no exception. She had been represented in different forms. However, that was mainly because she was a shape-shifter; she can shape herself into whatever creature she wanted to be. Most of the legends claim that the Morrigan was a very beautiful woman, yet a frightening one.
When she is in a human form, she is a young beautiful woman whose hair flawlessly flows. She possesses long, dark hair and usually wears black. However, her clothes were most of the time exposing her body. In some tales, she wears a cloak in order to hide her face away from recognition. Those descriptions apply when she’s in the form of a human being, which is a very rare case. Sometimes, she appears as an old woman too. Most of the time, The Morrigan appears in the form of either a wolf or a crow.
The Morrigan as a Banshee
Sometimes, the Morrigan appears in the form of a human being, but not that pretty young lady. In some cases, she appears as a frightening woman who is actually a laundress. Mythology refers to her as the Washer at the Ford sometimes. Morrigan had always had a connection to the wars and soldiers.
When she is a washerwoman, she appears as if she is washing the clothes of the soon-to-die soldiers. Sometimes she washes armours as well and the piece of clothes she holds are usually blood-stained as a symbol of death. This description escorted people to confuse her and the Banshee. The latter is a scary woman who only appears at scenes where death is going to take place, so it quite simple to see the correlation between the two.
The Shadowy Role of Goddess Morrigan
Based on the different guises that the Morrigan has, it is easy to guess that she had several roles. The Morrigan was part of the Tuatha de Danan, thus, she had magical powers. Her role mainly was all about the usage of magic.
Morrigan had always played her part in wars and the behaviour of the soldiers. Some sources even claim that she was the reason that the Tuatha de Danann defeated the Firbolg. They also claim that she helped the Tuatha de Danann in their battle against the Fomorians. Her control over wars and victory escorted the researchers to believe she actually was responsible for life and death.
Legends say that the Morrigan’s engagement in battles was through hovering over the field. She never physically engaged in them. At those moments, she took the form of a crow and manipulated the outcomes of the battles. In order to help throughout the battles, she summoned soldiers that would help the party she was with. After the battles ended, those soldiers would leave the battlefields and the Morrigan claimsed her trophies later; that is the souls of the soldiers who had died in battle.
The Symbol of Battle
Goddess Morrigan is often the symbol of battle, death, and life. In some cases, the legends depict her as a symbol of the horse, but that is very rare. There was a different perspective on the role of the Morrigan that the modern Pagans believed in. They view her role somehow differently from the Ancient Irish.
The Pagans believe that she was a protector and healer while the Irish believed she was frightening. People who follow her still honour her using items like blood bowls and feathers of crows. Some people even hold red clothing as a symbol of her being a laundress.
The Morrigan and the Legend of Cu Chulainn
Morrigan appeared in quite a few tales and legends of the Irish mythology. In some of them, she only appeared as a crow that controlled battles. And, in other stories, she appeared in her human form.
One of the most prominent stories of the Morrigan was the Myth of Cu Chulainn. In this story, she fell in love with a powerful warrior named Cu Chulainn. The Morrigan attempted several times to seduce him; however, he always rejected her. She never accepted the fact that he rejected her, so she decided to avenge her broken heart.
Her Revenge Starts
Goddess Morrigan used her ability to shift her shapes in order to distract Cu Chulainn and ruin his plans. Staying near him was her best way to gain more inner strength. The first time she appeared to him after the rejection, she was a bull. She tried to make him lose track of his path, so she told him that he had to run away. Cu Chulainn did not listen to her and he kept going on his way.
The second time she appeared as an eel and attempted to make his trip over. His tripping over would help her to use her magic on him and gain more strength. She failed once again. The third time she changed her appearance into a wolf, trying to scare him and send him off his track.
At last, she stopped changing into animals or strange creatures and decided to take the human shape, after enduring many injuries in her previous animal states. This was her final attempt. She appeared to Cu Chulainn as an old woman whose job was milking the cows. Cu Chulainn, weary after Morrigans trickery was unable to recognise her. She offered him to drink from the milk of the cow and he agreed. He was grateful for the drink and blessed the old lady, restoring the Morrigan to full health, which made her even stronger.
The End of Cu Chulainn
Morrigan did everything in order to make Cu Chulainn fail from accomplishing his plans. All her attempts had failed and that surged the rage inside of her. She decided that Cu Chulainn must die.
On one fine day, Cu Chulainn was roaming around on his horse. He noticed Morrigan sitting by a river and washing his armour. She appeared in the portrayal of the Banshee at that scene of the story. When Cu Chulainn saw his armour, he knew that he was going to die. It was the price he had to pay for discarding her love.
On the day of the battle, Cu Chulainn was fighting powerfully until a severe wound hindered his ability to fight. He realised that he was inevitably dying, so he brought a large stone and tied his body to it. Doing that would keep his body in an upright position when he was dead. He was already gone when a crow sat on his shoulder to inform the other soldiers that he was dead; who up until that very moment reused to believe that the great Cu Chulainn had fallen.
Brigit is one of the goddesses that descend from the Tuatha de Danann. Her name has always been a great confusion to the researchers of the modern world and so was her identity. Some legends refer to her as one of the triple goddesses for possessing several powers. However, other sources claim that she was two-person intertwined in one, resulting in the powerful goddess she was. Her story has always raised many questions and still does.
The Celtic mythology usually refers to the Catholic Saint Brigid of Kildare; scholars believe that both are the same person. The truth is not clear, for Goddess Brigit supposedly existed in pre-Christian Ireland. While her story remains mysterious, some conclusions state that she transitioned from a goddess to a saint. This statement claims that the two persons are actually one.
The reason for that transition was a method Brigit used to live in the Christian world. It is known that when Saint Patrick arrived with Christianity in Ireland, worshiping of other gods was inadequate in Europe, and the Gods of the Tuatha de Danann were retreating underground, losing their power and relevance.
The Story of the Goddess of Fire
Brigit was a Celtic goddess that existed during the Pagan times of Ireland. She was the daughter of the Dagda, the father god, and Boann, the goddess of the rivers. They were all members of the Tuatha de Danann. Brigit was the Goddess of fire; her name means the Glorious one.
However, she possessed another name in the ancient Irish times which is Breo-Saighead. The latter means the Fiery Power. The significance of her name is quite obvious though.
Legends state that when she was born, her head fired out flames to prove her control over the solar. Some state that she shared a great unity with the universe, for she had the amazing power of the sun. As the goddess of the sun or fire, the modern depiction of her usually includes rays of fire. Those rays usually stem from her hair as if she had fiery, scorching hair.
Worshipping of the Goddess Brigit
Brigit was one of the Tuatha de Danann prominent goddesses; she definitely had her own worshippers. Some of them called her the Triple Goddess, believing she had three different powers. Brigit was also the patroness of healing, music, fertility, and agriculture. She descended from the Tuatha de Danan who had always used magic with wisdom and skillfulness.
Apparently, the ancient Celts were not the only worshippers of that goddess; some islands of Scotlands worshipped her too. All of them remained faithful to their goddesses throughout the years. But, things had taken a slight detour during the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.
Brigit had to evolve in religious aspects. She did so because she faced massive pressures. Brigit had to keep her followers; she wanted to remain a worshiped goddess. Otherwise, the worshipers of her would exile her out of their lives for good. That was the evolution of Saint Catholic Brigid.
Celtic mythology used many names to refer to Brigit. Those names include the Goddess of the Well and Mother Earth. The names had significance for sure. Brigit is the symbol of the sun and fire; however, she had ties to the element of water as well. Her ties to the water stem from the fact that she was the Goddess of the Well. That well branches from the womb of the earth, according to the Irish mythology. For that reason, mythology referred to her as another Mother Goddess.
The Evolution of Saint Brigid
Once again, Brigit faced vast pressures when Christianity was popular in the Celtic community. Even the changed religious and spiritual places were Christianized. People would have started to attack her, for Christianity prohibited worshipping gods outside the religion.
Because Brigit was part of the Celts’ lives, she evolved from being Goddess of Sun and Fire to Saint Brigid. The latter was only a new version of the goddess. However, it was one that was more suitable for the community. Her transformation resulted in emerging a whole new story of Saint Brigid.
While many pagan Gods were forgotten and even demonized by the arrival of Christianity, Brigid was so popular that the church couldn’t downright remove her from society. Instead they morphed her into a suitable Christian saint, disregarding most of her supernatural elements, but retaining her generous and healing personality, which as evidence by her continued popularity today in Ireland, was what made her so loved.
St. Brigid of Kildare
The era of St. Brigid started around 450 AD. Legends refer to her as St. Brigid of Kildare. She was reborn again into a pagan family. When Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland, he converted most of the Irish people to Christians. Brigid’s family was among those who converted to Christianity. As a young girl, Brigid was very generous and compassionate. That was reflected in her behaviour towards those in need; she always helped the poor.
Brigid’s generosity had enraged his own father, the chieftain of Leinster. His name was Dubhthach; he thought of selling his daughter away after she gave away some of his treasured possessions. On the other hand, the king realised the saintliness of Brigid. That was because of her generosity and constant assistance to the poor. Thus, the king decided to gift Brigid with a portion of land to do whatever she would like with it.
Brigid made use of the land by building a church under an oak tree. The tree was prominent in the Celtic legends and its place is what now people refer to as Kildare. Kildare is actually pronounced as Kill-dara and it means the Church by the Oak Tree. The Holiness of Brigid became significant and girls learned about it, thus, seven girls followed her. All of them started a religious community there.
This is just one version of the story. another is more fantastical, instead of receiving the land, Brigid is offered as much land as her small cloak can cover, as a means by the pagan King to humiliate her. Brigid remains confidence in her faith and prays to God for a miracle.
The entire Kingdom watched as Brigid and her seven sisters pulled the cloak from each corner, and were mesmerized to see it grow in every direction, covering the full meadow. The King and his people were so shocked they converted to Christianity and helped Brigid to build the church.
Mary of the Gaels
The legend of St. Brigid of Kildare stated the powerfulness of Brigid. She had lots of magical powers which she used to heal wounds and do miracles. She definitely learned her magic from her people; the Tuatha de Danann. It was the reason behind the spread of her popularity around the country. People referred to her as the goddess-saint and people started associating her with the Virgin Mary. For that, people referred to her as Foster Mother of Jesus and sometimes as Mary of the Gaels.
On February 1st comes the day of the Celtic festival day, Imbolc. That day is when people celebrate the phenomenon of Goddess Brigit and worship her. On the very same day, the annual Saint Brigid Feast Day occurs as well. Irish people celebrate this day in modern times; they make St. Brigid’s crosses out of rushes from the hill. They are placed above the entrance of the home, in the hopes St. Brigid will bless the house with health and good fortune.
St Brigids Cross
Legends claim that the cross was first made at the deathbed of St. Brigid’s pagan father. He was sick and he asked his people to call for Saint Brigid before he was gone.
When St. Brigid showed up, she started telling him the story of Christ as per his request. She sat next to his bed and started to make a cross out of the rushes on the floor. That action was actually to illustrate what the cross looked like and what it meant. Yet, it turned into one of the most prominent symbols in Ireland that lives on to this day. Before he died, her father asked Brigid to baptise him.
Afterwards, people started customising the cross on their own. It became part of the festivities of the Imbolc holiday or the feast of St. Brigid, for people to make crosses. Making crosses out of rushes is a common tradition to this day in Ireland, crosses are often made in schools and then blessed in the church and displayed at home for the year, to protect the house.
Learn more about other symbols in ancient Ireland here, such as the Celtic tree of life and the trinity knot
Lugh the Champion of the Tuatha De Danann
We previously talked about Lugh of the Tuatha de Danann. A champion, member and deity of the tribe, Lughwas one of the most prominent gods of the Tuatha de Danann in the Irish mythology. The depiction of Lugh was usually all about strength and youthfulness. He managed to become a king after avenging the death of Nuada by killing Balor.
Lugh was the next king of the Tuatha de Danann after Nuada. Lugh was a truthful king; he believed in laws and oaths. He was the god of storm, sun, and sky. One of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha de Danann belonged to him. It was the spear; people referred to it as either Lugh’s symbol or the spear symbol. In some cases, they call it Lugh’s spear.
The spear was related to Lugh’s name. His full name was Lugh Lámfada; the literal meaning of this word is Long Arms or Long Hands. Probably, this name came from the fact that Lugh used the spear skillfully. He was, like the Tuatha de Danann, skilled in many of the arts.
Joining the Tuatha de Danann
Lugh Lamfada was half-Fomorian and half-Tuatha de Danann. However, he grew up with the Tuatha de Danann. When he was young, he travelled to Tara and joined the court of King Nuada. Lugh arrived at the Tara to find the doorkeeper refusing to let him in. Entering the court required having a skill that was going to be beneficial to the king, and it had to be something that no one else in the tribe could do.
As luck would have it, Lugh possessed quite a few talents that would provide the king with amazing services. Lugh offered himself as a historian, a hero, a harpist, a champion, a swordsman, a wright, and more. However, they always rejected him, for the Tuatha de Danann was not in need of the services that Lugh offered; there was always someone in the tribe who already fulfiled the role.
The last time Lugh went to the court, he was furious about the rejection. He asked if they had someone with all of those skills together. That time, the doorkeeper was not able to deny him from the entrance. After joining the court, Lugh became the Chief Ollam of Ireland. Lugh was capable of captivating the Tuatha de Danann and fascinating them. He got into a contest against another champion, Ogma, where they threw flagstones. Thus, Lugh won the contest and then he played his harp.
The Thriving Hope of the Tuatha de Danann
The Tuatha de Danann saw hope in Lugh; he was very persistent and determined. He actually joined the Tuatha de Dannan by the time the Fomorians oppressed them when Bres was the temporary king. Lugh was surprised how the Tuatha de Danann accepted that oppression and did not stand against them. On the other hand, Nuada liked his perseverance and grit, hoping that he would bring them freedom and justice. Thus, he let him take command over the army of the Tuatha de Danann.
Lugh presented hope for the tribe as a member with ancestry from both tribes, he embodied the aspiration that the two tribes could live in harmony, or at least without constant war. This contrasts Bres who disregarded his Tuatha de Danann heritage in favour of the Fomorians
Stories of the Champion of the Tuatha de Danann, Lugh
Lugh had been a prominent character in the Irish literature. His roles were significant in every tale he appeared. Lugh was a character of multiple skills and powers. He was the god of fire, an invincible warrior, and a just king. Those depictions have resulted in signifying his tales as some of the most interesting among all the other legends of the Celtic mythology. One of the most noticeable tales in which he appeared is The Cattle Raid of Cooley.
The Irish name of the tale is Táin bó Cuailnge and people sometimes refer to it as The Tain. It is one of the oldest tales in the Irish literature; an epic one though. The Tain is one of the tales that fall in the Ulster cycle. It is deemed to be the longest tale of the cycle. Following is the summary of the epic tale and the role of Lugh in it.
The Cattle Raid of Cooley
The tale of The Cattle Raid of Cooley revolves around the dispute that both Connacht and Ulster had. Each of them wanted to possess the brown bull of Cooley. At that time, Conor Mac Neasa was the ruler of Ulster. On the other hand, Connacht was ruled by Queen Maeve and her husband Ailill.
The conflict took place when the couple started acting arrogant and mentioning who was richer. Queen Maeve and Ailill both were equally wealthy; however, they compared the valuable materials each owned. Suddenly, Maeve realised that Ailill had something that she hadn’t, which was a great white bull that was incredibly strong. Jealousy and rage had grown inside of Queen Maeve, so she decided to get a bull greater than her husbands.
The next day, she requested her messenger Mac Roth. She asked him if he knew of any great bull around Ireland that its strength is equal to that of Ailill’s. To her surprise, Mac Roth knew about a brown bull. He told her that the brown bull of Cooley was much stronger than the white bull that Ailill owned. Queen Maeve was delighted and she ordered Mac Roth to help her get that bull right away.
Rumours Started the War
The brown bull belonged to Daire the king of Ulster. Thus, Maeve sent Mac Roth along with other messengers to Ulster. They asked the king if they can borrow the brown bull for a year in exchange for several benefits. In return, Queen Maeve offered a vast area of land along with around fifty cows. Gladly, Daire accepted her offer and throw a great feast for the queen’s messengers.
While the feast was supposed to be a cause for celebration, it turned things upside down. During the celebration, Daire overheard the queen’s messenger saying that Daire did the right thing. He said if Daire had refused to give Maeve the bUll, she would have taken it by force. That incident enraged Daire; he ruined the celebration, declaring that Maeve couldn’t have the bull unless she won the war.
Mac Roth and the other messengers had to go back to Connacht and tell the Queen what had happened. They did and Maeve was enraged. She gathered her army and decided to march to Ulster and take the bull by force.
The Battle between Ulster
Queen Maeve and her army marched toward Ulster. The Red Branch Knights, which is the army of Ulster, were waiting for them. Suddenly, a magic spell affected the army of Ulster and they all got sick.
However, Cuchulainn was the only one whom the spell did not affect. The army of Queen Maeve finally reached their destination, but the other army was too sick to fight them. Cuchulainn was the only warrior who could fight the enemies. To everyone’s surprise, Cuchulainn fought alone and killed most of Queen Maeve’s army on his own.
The best warrior of Maeve’s army was Ferdia. He refused to participate in this battle because Cuchulainn had always been his childhood friend. However, Maeve wanted him to fight against Cuchulainn, for he was equally strong. She told Ferdia that Cuchulainn was claiming that he didn’t want to participate in fighting him because he was afraid.
Ferdia was enraged and decided to fight his best friend. They both kept fighting for three consecutive days with no one gaining the upper hand. Besides, they still cared for each other by sending herbs and drinks back and forth. At the end, Ferdia betrayed Cuchulainn and hit him while he wasn’t aware. On the other hand, Cuchulainn hit his spear into Ferdia’s arm, sending him to death. Despite winning, Cuchulainn wept over his lost friend.
Lugh’s Little Yet Significant Role
Lugh, the champion of the Tuatha de Danann, is actually the father of Cuchulainn. He appeared during the long series of combat that Cuchulainn went through. Lugh healed all of his son’s wounds through the span of three consecutive days. In a different version of the story, it was stated that Cuchulainn was dying due to his severe wound. Lugh appeared when Cuchulainn’s body was getting transferred back to Ulster and revived him.
The Fight of the Two Bulls
Although that the Ulster army won, the queen’s army managed to take the brown bull before leaving back to Connacht. Maeve’s brown bull competed with Ailill’s white bull and the battle resulted in the death of Ailill’s bull. Surprisingly, the brown bull’s heart stopped suddenly after and it dropped dead. The story started with Ailill and Maeve arguing over their wealth and ended with none of them richer. However, many souls were lost through the tale due to the arrogance of those two and resulted in a war between previously amicable leaders.
The Goddess of River Boyne: Boann
The River Boyne is a momentous river in Ireland; iit is found in the Provence of Leinster. According to the Irish mythology, Boann was the Irish goddess of that river, River Boyne. She was a member of the Tuatha de Danann. Her father was Delbaeth, another member of the Tuatha de Danann, and her sister was Befind. In Old Irish, her name was written as Boand and later it changed to Boaan.
However, the modern version of her name is Bionn. The interpretation of her name is the White Cow; the symbolism behind this name remains mysterious. We have already given a brief description of Boann earlier. She was the wife of Elcmar; however, she had an affair with the Dagda. Their affair resulted in conceiving their son, Aengus, the god of love and youth of the Tuatha de Danann.
For some reason, today’s critics and analysts believe that there is a connection between goddess Boann and goddess Brigid. They speculate that since Brigid was more significant, Boann might be a minor symbolism rather than a whole different goddess. On the other hand, modern paganism suggests that Boann may be the daughter of the goddess Brigid. Their speculation was not supported by any Celtic sources, so it may just have been a random guess.
The Creation of the River
At some point, River Boyne was either inexistent or unknown to the people. Once it became a prominent river in Ireland, stories about its creation started to evolve. The creation of the river has always been associated with Goddess Boann. So, it is easy to speculate the reason behind her being the goddess of this river. The story of how Boann created the river has always had two versions.
The tale of Dindsenchas illustrated one of the versions. This version narrates the story of the magical Well of Segais, some people call it the Connla’s Well. Around the well were a lot of scattered hazels. Boann’s husband in that story was Nechtan and he prohibited her from going near that well. Those hazelnuts also fell into the well and the salmon ate them.
Boann ignored her husband’s orders which were staying away from the well and kept walking around the well. Her circular motions stimulated the waters of the well to fiercely upwell. When the water surged up, it rushed down forming a sea. That was how River Boyne came into life. During that process, goddess Boann lost an arm, eye, and leg due to the coursing flood. Eventually, she lost her life as well.
The Second Version of the Creation of River Boyne
Well, the difference between the two versions is very slight. The difference lies in the fact that Goddess Boann hadn’t died tragically. Different sources claim that Boann went to the Well of Segais. This well was the source of wisdom and knowledge. Like the other version of the story, Boann kept walking around the well. Her counter-clockwise spin caused the water to flush out of the well violently and throw her into the sea.
When Boann dashed into the sea, she changed into a salmon; like the ones that lived in the well. Becoming a salmon made her the goddess of the new river and the salmon of wisdom. Celtic people called her mother of the river. She was not only mother of the river Boyne, but also of the most important rivers around the world.
It is interesting that salmon is mentioned in both versions, as the salmon of knowledge is a very well known story in Irish mythology, which we described when we introduced the Fenian cycle.
Boann’s Role In the Irish Mythology
Boann was the goddess of the River Boyne and she had quite a lot of roles in the Celtic tales. She was once the protector of the mortal Fráech. She was his maternal aunt as well and this took place in the tale of Táin Bó Fraích.
According to many tales in the mythology, Boann had many husbands. No one is sure who the real one was, for they were different persons, varying from one tale to another. In one tale, Boann’s husband was actually the mortal Elemar and in others, he was Nechtan, the god of water.
Analysts speculate that Nechtan might have been the Dagda, leader of the Tuatha de Danann. They believe that both characters were actually the same person. However, there is a tale that contradicts their speculation.
There was a Celtic tale that claims that Boann had an affair with the Dagda while her husband was away. In this story, Elcmar was her husband. She got pregnant and the Dagda had to stop the time to conceal her pregnancy. It was the tale when Aengus, the god of love and youth, was born.
Boann and the Birth of Music
The Dagda, leader of the Tuatha de Danann, once had a harpist, Uaithne. In one tale, he was the husband of Boann. He used to play music for her that even sources attribute the birth of the music’s stains to her. Those three stains are sleep, joy, and weeping. Boann and Uaithne had three children together. With the birth of each child, Boann introduced one stain of music.
When they had their first son, Uthaine played the healing music while Boann was crying out. That was supposedly the first introduction of lamentation music to the world. The music of joy came to life with the birth of the second child, for Boann was crying in joy. She was in pain yet she was happy for the arrival of her second baby. Boann’s third delivery seemed to be so easy that she actually slept while Uthaine played music. That was the reason that sleeping music was born.
Dagda utilised these 3 types of music to escape from the Fomorians as we mentioned previously, which is a nice reference to the relationship between the pair.
More of Boann’s Contribution to the Celtic Mythology
Boann lived in Brug na Bóinne. That site was a popular destination for spiritual travellers. It was full of chambers where guests resided; interestingly, some chambers were meant only for the Fairy folk.
At this site, there were three fruit trees; they were magical where they provided fruits all year round. Sources claim that these trees produced hazelnuts although other sources believe they were apple trees. However, the theory of the hazelnuts makes more sense because Boann’s story mentioned the hazelnuts that fell in the well.
At those trees, visitors performed their spiritual rituals and connected with their inner souls. Here is when Boann’s role comes; she assists those visitors in getting in touch with their spiritual side. For that reason, people refer to her as the goddess of inspiration besides being the goddess of the river.
The mythology claims that Boann was able to clear your mind and banish any negativity with her powers. She was also the goddess of poetry and writing as well as music, though these traits were shared with many other gods of the tribe; so much so that it was probably seen as a given that one would possess these abilities inately.
Lir of the Hill of the White Field
In Ireland, there’s a hill that people call the hill of the white field. The Irish equivalent of the site’s name is Sídh Fionnachaidh. This field has great connections to a sea; the description of the sea resembles that of Lir’s. Lir was a god that descended from the Tuatha de Danann. He was the father of the sea god, Manannán Mac Lir, who also was one of the Tuatha de Danann.
According to the Irish mythology, Lir was a caring and considerate person. He was a fierce warrior and one of the gods of the Tuatha de Danann. In one of the Celtic tales, the Tuatha de Danann wanted to choose a new king for themselves. Lir thought of himself to be the best candidate; however, he wasn’t the one who got the kingship. Instead, Bodb Dearg became the King of the Tuatha de Danann.
When Lir learned about that result, he got furious and left without a word. He was very sad for not being able to become the King of the Tuatha de Danann. Bodb Dearg, sometimes named Bov the Red, wanted to compensate Lir. Thus, he offered Eve, his daughter, for Lir to marry; she was his eldest daughter.
Legends of Ireland claim that Eve was not Bodb’s real daughter. It states that he was her foster father while the real father was actually Ailill of Aran. Lir married Eve and they lived happily together. From their marriage comes the tale of the Children of Lir.
The Tale of The Children of Lir
The Children of Lir is one of the most popular legends in the Irish mythology. It revolves around the beauty of the swans and their symbolism. In fact, more than a few tales have included swans in their plots. They have always been symbols of love and fidelity.
The tale of The Children of Lir is all about love, faithfulness, and patience. The story is very sad yet heart-touching. Briefly, it tells the story of the life of four children who were forced to spend the rest of their lives as swans. Below are the details of how this came to be:
The Unexpected Death of Eve
The story starts with Lir who agreed to marry Eve, the daughter of the King of the Tuatha de Danann. They got married and lived happily. They had four children; a daughter, a son, and twin boys. The girl was Fionnuala, the son was Aed, while the twin boys were Fiacra and Conn.
Unfortunately, Eve died while she was giving birth to the youngest twins. Lir was really devastated and disturbed. He loved her so much, that after the death of Eve, Lir and his children became miserable and their home was no longer a cheerful place.
Bodb realised their sadness and wanted to act upon it. He had always been solution-oriented. To fix those matters, Bodb offered his other daughter, Aobh, to Lir. He thought that Lir would be happy again and the children would love to have a new mother.
Lir agreed to marry Aobh and he, along with his children, were happy again. He was a very caring and loving father who showered his kids with attention constantly. Lir even let his children sleep with him and Aoife in the same room.
Lir wanted his children to be the first thing he woke up to and the last thing to sleep to. However, Aoife was not satisfied with the situation and things started to go downhill.
Aoife’s Jealousy Takes Over
According to the Irish mythology, Aoife was a warrior that played several roles in lots of legends. She was Eve’s sister, Bodb’s stepdaughter, and Ailill of Aran’s real daughter. Aoife married Lir and was very happy with him until she realised his affection for his children was greater than his love for her. She was very jealous and decided to send the kids away.
However, she was too cowardly to kill them by herself, so she ordered one of the servants to do it. The servant refused to do so, thus, Aoife had to find a different plan. On a fine day, Aoife took the four children to play and have fun in a nearby lake. It was a nice little trip that the children enjoyed. However, that lake was the place where the trouble started.
When the children were done playing and swimming, they got out of the water. They were ready to go home, unaware of the fate awaiting them. Aoife stopped them by the lake and cast a spell that turned the four of them into beautiful swans. The spell would leave the children trapped in the bodies of the swans for nine hundred years. Fionnuala cried out, asking Aoife to take the spell back, but it was already too late.
Exiling Aoife for Good
Bodb learned about what his daughter did to his grandchildren. He was surprised and furious with her unbelievable act. Thus, he turned her into a demon and exiled her for good. Lir was so sad about what happened to his children. However, he remained the same loving father he had always been.
He wanted to stay close to his children, so he set up a camp and resided by the lake. The small site had developed into a residence to many people and they would hear the swans sing. Bodb joined Lir and lived near the children as well. Despite what had happened to them, they were all happy together.
Sadly, the spell that Aoife cast detailed that the children shall live nine hundred years as swans. Each three hundred years would be on a different lake. When the children’s time on Lake Derravarragh was over they had to leave their family to go to the Sea of Moyle. Their last three hundred years were on the Atlantic Ocean.
At times, they flew back to their home to look for their father, grandfather, and the other people that had lived there. Unfortunately, they were all gone and nothing was left. Even the castle in which they used to live in as humans were in ruins. The Tuatha de Danann already had gone underground.
As we previously mentioned swans symbolising love and fidelity was a common motif in irish legends. in this story the themes of love and fidelity are clear as Bodb and Lir gave up their castles to live out their days with the children who could not leave the lake, a silver lining in an other wise sad story.
Dian Cecht the Healer of the Tuatha De Danann
Among the gods of the Tuatha de Danann, there was a physician and a healer. Dian Cecht was his name and he was a significant member of the Tuatha de Danann. Dian Cecht was a great healer; he had always healed any man even those who had severe and deep wounds.
The mythology claims that his way of healing followed the Celtic rituals of bathing and drowning. Dian actually threw those who had wounds into a well and then he pulled them up. He healed the wounded and whoever was dead came out of the water alive.
People referred to that well as the Well of Health, or Slane in Old Irish. “Sláinte” is the modern Irish word for health. Dian Cecht blessed it and used it for curing the wounded soldiers of the Tuatha de Danann. Dian once used that well to replace an eye for Midir. He replaced it with an eye of a cat.
Dian Cecht’s Family Members
The Dagda was the father of Dian Cecht. Dian ruled a tribe of gods and was a prevailing healer for the soldiers of the Tuatha de Danann. He had two sons; Cian and Miach. Cian was the one who took revenge on Balor by sleeping with his daughter and conceiving Lugh. Miach was a healer like his father; however, Dian Cecht was usually jealous of his own son. Although Dian Cecht and Miach were healers, they both used different methods.
The Diancecht Porridge and Dian’s Jealousy
Dian Cecht believed in his own healing powers. He claimed that whoever was injured should make a payment in any form. This payment could be money or anything valuable stuff. Lots of people believed in this method and used it until 8 BC. They refer to it as The Diancecht’s Porridge. However, people in the modern world stopped believing in this porridge. His son used different methods of healing. Miach preferred using herbs and prayers for healing.
When Nuada lost his arm during the battle of the Tuatha de Danann against the Fomorian, he gained a new one. Dian Cecht crafted this arm; it was silver in colour. For that reason, people referred to Nuada as Nuada of the Silver Arm.
The hand looked and seemed real; its movement was so real that no one suspected its authenticity. On the other hand, Miach, his son, was more skilful at healing than his own father. He was capable of changing Nuada’s silver arm into a real one of flesh and bone; as if he never lost it at all. Thus, it made Dian Cecht erupt with fury and jealousy. Those emotions drove him to kill his own son.
Airmed was a goddess of the Tuatha de Danann, Miach’s sister, and Dian Cecht’s daughter. She cried for her brother and her tears contained lots of herbs. Those herbs contained the same healing powers that the Well of Health contained. She wanted to figure them out, but she couldn’t because her father’s rage caused him to the destroy the herbs.
There is something ironic about a healer, who did not want the best for his patients if it meant he wasn’t the one healing them. Dian Cecht’s character has very few redeeming qualities, instead of mentoring his children he prevented their attempts to advance medicine to protect his own ego.
The Myth of the Boiling River
Ireland possesses a river that people call The River Barrow. The literal meaning of the name of the river is “The boiling river.” Irish legends and myths are plentiful; they never seem to cease or have an end. The story of this river is one of them. People connect it to Dian Cecht, the healer of the Tuatha de Dannan. The tale claims that Dian Cecht saved Ireland. He did so by delivering Morrigan’s, – the goddess of war’s – child.
When the child came to the world, Dian Cecht suspected it to be evil, so he killed the baby. He took the baby’s body, opened its chest, and figured out the child had three serpents. Those serpents were capable of causing massive destruction to every living body. Thus, Dian demolished the three serpents and took their ashes to a river. He threw the ashes there and that was when the river boiled, hence the name.
Dian was one of the clever healers of the Tuatha de Danann. However, he was not the best father that anyone would wish for. The end of Dian Cecht life was a very tragic one. He died in the Battle of Moyture due to a poisoned weapon, but it is difficult to feel bad for him after his many despicable actions.
The Irish Goddess of War: Macha
The Tuatha de Danann had as many gods as they had the goddesses. Goddess Macha was one of them; she was a member of the Tuatha de Danann. The mythology refers to her as the goddess of war or of land. Crunnius was her husband and people believed she was one of the triple goddesses.
A lot of tales confuse her and the Morrigan. Both of them usually appear as crows at the battlefields and manipulate the battles’ results. However, the difference between both of them is that Macha usually appeared as a horse. Morrigan was sometimes a wolf and rarely a horse. One more similarity between the two goddesses is that both were described as Washers at the Ford. The legend of the Banshee has connections with both of them.
Some people believe she is part of the triple goddesses, infact she has three elements that make the name suitable. One of those elements was the maternal reproductive part; the second was the element of lands or agriculture. The last one was the element of sexual fertility. Those three elements were the reason behind forming the figure of a mother goddess. She was mother of land as well as war.
The Three Versions of Macha
The Celtic folk tales feature three versions of Macha. Each version illustrated Macha with specific personalities and different traits; they were all equally interesting. One common thing that the three versions claim is that Ernmas was her mother. However, the first version states that Macha’s husband was Nemed.
The literal meaning of his name is Sacred. Nemed was the one who invaded Ireland before the Tuatha de Danann. He fought the Fomorians and stayed in Ireland. Legends claim that there was a race, the Nemeds, that resided in Ireland long before the Tuatha de Danann came.
The second version of Macha was that where people referred to her as Mong Ruadh. The latter means Red Hair. She had red hair in this tale and she was both a warrior and a queen. Macha, in this version, had beaten her rivals and had power over them. She forced them to build Emain Macha for her and they had to do it.
At last, the third version was the one we stated at the beginning. It was that version when she was the wife of Crunniuc. The third version is actually the most popular one among all of them.
The Most Popular Tales of Macha
Macha appeared in several tales; however, there was a specific one that is the most popular about her. In this tale, the third version of Macha was very prominent. The story revolves around Macha who had supernatural powers. She was capable of outrunning any creature on earth even the fastest animals. Crunniuc was her husband in that tale and she asked him to conceal her magical powers. She did not want anyone to know what she had.
However, her husband ignored her demand and bragged about his wife in front of the king of Ulster. The king seemed interested in the secret that Crunniuc had let out. Thus, he ordered his men to capture Macha who was pregnant at that time. He wanted her to run against horses in a race, not caring about her condition as a pregnant woman.
Macha had to do what asked her to do. She ran the race and surprisingly, she won. However, her condition started to deteriorate as soon as she crossed the finish line. She gave birth at the end of the race and she was in extreme pain. One version claims that she died after giving birth to twins. The most popular scene was Macha cursing all the men of Ulster while she was dying. She wanted them to endure the pain of childbirth and suffer as they made her do.
Ogma the God of Language and Speech
Ogma or Oghma is another god of the Tuatha de Danann. He made an appearance in both the Irish and the Scottish mythologies. The two mythologies refer to him as the god of language and speech, for he had the gift of writing.
Ogma was also a poet; he had a prevailing talent that tales always mentioned. Who exactly Ogma was can be a bit confusing, for the mythology has different versions of that matter. The story of the Tuatha de Danann tells us about lots of people that goddess Danu and the Dagda conceived.
One tale claims that Ogma was the son of the Dagda and goddess Danu, mother of the Tuatha de Danann. Above and beyond, Ogma was the fairest son of Dagda and Danu. He even had hair that emitted sunrays from it as it was very bright.
Ogma was the one who invented the Ogham alphabet; he taught people to write in the Ogham language. For that, the mythology calls him the god of language and speech. More tales profess that Ogma invented quite a lot of languages and not only the Ogham. He was responsible for teaching people about the art of words and poetry. Yet he was an inconvincible warrior.
The mythology depicted him as one of the trios; Ogma, Lugh, and the Dagda. Lugh was his half-brother and the Dagda was their father. However, some sources claim that the Dagda was his brother as well.
Below you can see the Ogham alphabet. The department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has worked to preserve the many examples Ogham on archaeological sites around the country, and you can see more real life examples of Ogham here.
Interestingly, Ogham is read from bottom to top on the edge of rocks vertically. It has actually been converted to a horizontal line, read from left to right for academic purposes. It is one of few languages that does not contain traditional spacing between words, the line on which letters are wrote on is continuous. Many of the letters in the alphabet are named after trees, further correlating the importance of nature to the Celts alongside symbols such as the tree of life and of course fairy trees.
Considering how much time it would take to inscribe these markings onto stones using the tools available during the Celtic period, we can safely assume that Ogham was used for only the most important of messages, such as to mark important locations; such as boundaries of rival tribes or to commemorate highly important people, be that on tombstones or at coronations of kings.
Ogma’s Family Members and the Tuatha de Danann Prophecy
Again, the story of the Tuatha de Danann claims that the Dagda is Ogma’s father and Danu was his mother. Different tales claim otherwise; they state that the Dagda is his brother and he had different parents. Some sources claim that Elatha was the father of Ogma and Ethliu was his mother.
Besides, there are more sources that profess that Etain was Ogma’s mother. There had been more than a few debates about the parents of Ogma and who the real ones were remains ambiguous. Ogma was the father of Tuireann and Delbaeth although some tales show that he had three sons. The three sons of Ogma were married to three sisters. Those sisters were Eire, Fotla, and Banba. They had the talent of prophecy and prediction.
When the Tuatha de Danann was heading to Ireland, the land’s name was still Innisfail. The three sisters were usually predicting incidents that took place. So, Ogma promised to name the land after one of them.
The choice was according to which sister made the most accurate predictions about the Tuatha de Danann. Eire was the one who was very accurate in her prophecies. Thus, as soon as the Tuatha de Danann reached the shores of Innisfail, they called it the land of Eire. The modern version of the name Eire now is Ireland, which everyone is familiar with.
The Story of Ogma and the Tuatha de Danann
Besides being a poet and writer, Ogma was also an undefeatable warrior for his undeniable strength. Some sources also claimed that Ogma resembles Herakles or Hercules of other cultural mythologies in terms of his strength. When the Tuatha de Danann entered Ireland at first, they fought against the Firbolg in the Battle of Mag Tuired. Ogma participated in this battle and they won. However, the Tuatha de Danann had a new leader, Bres, who made them slaves to the Fomorians.
During the reign of Bres, Ogma was the one who carried firewood due to his athletic body. He was the champion of the Tuatha de Danann before Lugh became one. When Nuada got the kingship back, Lugh was a threat to Ogma. He had always been threatening since he stepped into the court of Nuada. Ogma challenged him to carry an unbelievable weight of flagstones. Surprisingly, they were both equally strong.
During the reign of Nuada, Lugh was the champion of the Tuatha de Danann. However, when Lugh became the new leader of the Tuatha de Danann, he made Ogma the champion. They entered another battle against the Fomorians, but the result was shadowy.
Some sources claim that Ogma got into combat against Indech, the king of the Fomorians, and they both died. However, other sources claim that the Fomorians ran away where the Tuatha de Danann pursued them. To be more precise, Ogma, Dagda, and Lugh were the pursuers. They wanted to retain the harp of Dagda’s harper, Uthaine.
Neit God of War
Neit was another god that the family of the Tuatha de Danann introduces to us. He was the grandfather of Balor of the Poisoned Eye; Balor was Lugh’s grandfather. Neit was a member of the Tuatha de Danann; however, his grandson was one of the Fomorians. But, that was not surprising, as the same applies to Balor’s grandson, Lugh who was from the Tuatha de Danann.
Irish mythology can be confusing. Neit was also the uncle of the Dagda and he gave him his Stonehouse. This place now is what people refer to as the grave of Aed, who was the son of the Dagda.
Sometimes, mythology refers to the wife of Neit as Nemain, another goddess of the Tuatha de Danann. However, it sometimes claims that Badb was his real wife. Some people believe that Badb makes more sense as the wife of Neit. That was because she was the goddess of war, just like him.
People usually confuse her with Morrigan as well as Macha. The Three of them bear the same depiction in Irish mythology. They were goddesses of war and appeared in the form of crows to manipulate the battles according to their favour. Maybe, that is why the mythology has what is called the Triple Goddesses. It describes the similar abilities of the three goddesses despite being different characters.
The Goddess Airmed, Healer of the Tuatha De Danann
Airmed is one of the goddesses of the Tuatha de Danann. She was the daughter of Dian Cecht and sister of Miach. Like both of them, she was a healer. Her name sometimes is written as Airmid instead of Airmed. Either way, she was one of the healers of the Tuatha de Danann.
Airmed helped her father and brother in healing the injured members of the Tuatha de Danann in battles. Not only was she the healer of the Tuatha de Danann, but she was also an enchanter. She was one of the prominent enchanters of the Tuatha de Danann, along with her father and brother. Their singing was capable of reviving the dead.
Tales of Airmed
Airmed was popular in the Celtic mythology as the only one who knew about Herbalism. She and her brother used herbs and incantations in healing the wounds. Her brother was so talented that their father was jealous of him. When Miach gave Nuada a real arm instead of the silver one that his dad gave him, Dian killed him.
In fact, Dian Cecht was jealous of both of his children, for their skills were obvious to everyone. People realised how skilful they were and knew that their skills were superior to their father’s. However, Dian Cecht killed his son in particular because he changed Nuada’s arms into veins, blood, and flesh. Airmed was devastated by her brother’s brutal death. She buried him and wept an ocean of tears over his grave.
One day, Airmed arrived at Miach’s grave to realise that healing herbs grew around and on the grave. She knew that her tears were the reason for their growth and she was delighted with that fact. They were about 365 herbs; people claim that they were the world’s best healing herbs.
Her Jealous Father Ruins Things Again
Airmed was joyful and started collecting the herbs and organising them. Each herb spoke to her, claiming the power of healing that it had. She separated them according to their powers and particular usage. Airmed hid them in her cloak to keep them away from the blowing winds.
However, her cheerfulness was not to last as her father realized what Airmed was hiding. He overturned the cloak so that the wind would blow away all of the herbs. Airmed remained the one person who knew about and remembered the herbs of healing. But, she could not pass them on to younger generations because of her father. Dian Cecht wanted to make sure no one would learn about the secrets of immortality. Apparently, his rage and jealousy had consumed him.
Airmed was furious, but there was nothing she could do about it. She made sure she remembered what the herbs told her about the healing powers. Thus, she used that knowledge in healing people with her magical skills. Some sources claim that Airmed is still alive and live in the mountains of Ireland. They believe she is still the healer of Elves and fairies, including the leprechauns and their hobbit counterparts.
More Gods and Goddesses of the Tuatha De Danann
The Tuatha de Danann was a big family and the most ancient in the Irish mythology. It is claimed that they were the ones who populated Ireland, so, for that, we should all be thankful.
We have created a huge list of the most prominent gods and goddesses that descend from the Tuatha Dé Danann so far. But, it seems like the Irish mythology has no end, there are more gods and goddesses that we would like to introduce to you. They were not among the most prominent ones in the mythology. However, they played their own roles as well.
Ernmas, an Irish Mother Goddess
Ernmas was an Irish mother goddess. She did not have any significant roles in the Irish folktales. That was because she died in the first battle of Mag Tuired when the Tuatha Dé Danann defeated the Firbolg. She was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Despite her insignificance, she gave birth to some of the most prominent gods and goddesses of the Celtic mythology. She was the mother of a trinity of sons; Glonn, Gnim, and Coscar along with two more, Fiacha and Ollom.
Some sources also claim that she was the mother of the three Irish goddesses Érie, Banba, and Fótla. The three of them were wives of the three sons of Ogma. At last, Ernmas was also the mother of the popular trinity of war goddesses, the Badb, Macha and the Mórrígan. They were the three goddesses that people usually confused with each other.
Nemain, another Irish Goddess
Nemain was part of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The modern spelling of her name is usually Neamhain or Neamhan. She was a goddess that interfered with battles and controlled the results of the battle according to her favour. The Irish mythology can make things confusing. But, this description makes Nemain another one of the goddesses of war.
This means Nemain was part of the trio of goddesses that make up the Morrigna. However, most of the sources claim the triple goddesses were actually Macha, the Morrigan, and Badb. The only explanation that would make sense at the moment, is that one of them was Nemain. In other words, Nemain was one of the three goddesses; however, she was known by more than one name.
While the next two Gods don’t have strong links to the Tuatha de Danann they are worth mentioning because of their impact on the people of Ireland at the time.
Cernunnos the Celtic God of the Forest:
Cernunnos is most recognisable by his mighty antlers, fitting for a hunter God who is known as protector of the forest. The translation of his name from ancient Celtic is literally “horned”.
Cernunnos is seen as the Celtic version of the Green man seen in other mythologies, a figure whose face is covered in plantation and foliage
As mentioned in our article about Celtic Gods “Such portrayals have left the Green Man seen as a symbol of growth and rebirth; a depiction of man’s life cycle. Those beliefs go back to a pagan notion that state humans were born from nature, hence the depiction of Cernunnos……. The downside of such a portrayal is the scholars’ misinterpretation of the horns as a symbol of the devil, with the arrival of Christianity.”
In mythology Cernunnos was seen as both protecteor of animals and nature as well as God of the hunt; as long as human were respectful to nature and did not harm animals unnecessarily, he would ensure their success in survival.
Cailleach the Celtic Goddess of Winter:
Contrasting the many beautiful and youthful Gods and Goddesses, Cailleach is usually depicted as an old hag, who slowly becomes a beautiful woman as the seasons change. This is most likely due to the fact that the Celtic deities revolved around nature, it is logical that winter, the harshest season to survive by far in those times, would have a bad reputation; this reputation extending to the Goddess herself in her depiction. She is symbolised by the color blue, and has many different depictions, from one blue eye to a full blue face.
Cailleach is seen as a Goddess of Sovereignty, her power over nature made her a respected figure to even the highest ranking of leaders.
Irish mythology merits a mention in this article.
Check out our ultimate guide to Celtic Gods and Goddesses to learn about all the Gods in ancient Ireland! Every God, Warrior and Hero is usually tasked with defeating a terrifying monster or creature, so don’t forget to look at the darker side of Irish mythology too!
Where did the Tuatha De Danann End up?
When the Milesians arrived in Ireland, they fought the Tuatha Dé Danann. Even though the Tuatha Dé Danann hid Ireland from the Milesians, they were able to come back. According to their deal, the Milesians had the right to take the land if they were ever to come back. There were two versions of what had happened when the Milesians came to Ireland. One of them professes that the two races fought and the Milesians won.
Thus, the Tuatha Dé Danann had to leave and they ended up taking the underground part. of the Emerald Isle. On the other hand, the second version claims that the Tuatha Dé Danann predicted what could happen if they fought. Thus, they withdrew from the beginning and went to the Otherworld for good. That was why the mythology, in some cases, refers to them as the Sidhe. It means people of the underworld.
It looks like the Irish mythology is a world that never ceases to evoke tales and stories. They all have different versions as well, making things more interesting, as we try to piece the puzzle together. The story of how the Tuatha Dé Danann disappeared has always taken different detours.
We have already mentioned the two most popular versions; however, there is one more that is worth mentioning. Celtic mythology gives us a tale that claims a new place that the Tuatha Dé Danannn went to. That place was Tir na nOg, meaning The Land of the Young. There is even a whole story about it.
What is the Tir na nOg?
The literal meaning of Tir na nOg is the Land of the Young. Sometimes, the mythology refers to it as Tir na hOige, instead, which means Land of the Youth. Regardless, they both have the same meaning and this place, actually, refers to the Otherworld.
At several points along the article, we have mentioned that the Tuatha Dé Danann went to the Otherworld. They had to do that after the Milesians were capable of capturing the lands of Ireland and residing there. Thus, the Tuatha Dé Danann are usually the residents of the Otherworld or Tir na nOg. They settled there and took that place as a new home for their race.
How Did it Look Like?
The location of Tir na nOg or the Land of the Young does not exist on the map. Some people claim that it does not exist on the map because it sits under the surface of Ireland. However, other people believe it is just a mythical place that exists in the tales of the Irish folklore. The depiction of this place is usually heavenly. The tales always illustrate the Land of the Young as a paradise.
It’s an empire where you forever stay young, healthy, beautiful, and happy. Besides, your race would never become extinct there. That explains the belief that the Tuatha Dé Danann is still alive in spite of being ancient. Above and beyond, they seem to be the only inhabitants of the lands of the Otherworld, but some fairies and elves live there, including the leprechauns. Legend has it that the leprechauns descend from the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Entering the Land of the Young
In many tales of Irish mythology, some heroes and warriors visit the Land of the Young throughout their journey. However, someone from the residents shall be the one who invited them, so that they can get into that world.
There were several ways for heroes to reach Tir na nÓg although it does not exist on the map. The most common way of reaching there is going underwater or crossing the sea to the other side. It usually involves waters and overcoming them. On the other hand, some tales claim that heroes entered Tir na nÓg through burial caves and mounds. They reached there through ancient underground passages that people have abandoned for a very long time.
Among the most popular Irish folktales lies the tale of Tir na nOg. There is an actual tale that bears that name and it describes how that place looks like. It also states how people there stay young and beautiful forever. The hero of this story was Oisin, pronounced Osheen. He was the son of Finn MacCool. One of the residents of the Tuatha Dé Danann invited him to come and live in Tir na nOg.
The Popular Tale of Tir na nOg
This popular tale of Oisin was the reason people became aware of the Tir na nOg. The tale falls in the Fenian Cycle. Oisin was an invincible warrior who descended from the Fianna. He was the son of Finn MacCool as well. The whole tale revolves around Oisin and Niamh, a beautiful woman of the Otherworld. She was one of the residents of the Otherworld, so she might be one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
There were no sources that claim this fact; however, it seems to make sense as a theory. In fact, there weren’t any sources that refer to other races that live in the Otherworld alongside the Tuatha de Danann. The tale does not revolve around the Tuatha Dé Danann themselves. However, it narrates the story of a woman, Niamh, that might have been part of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Niamh Luring Oisin into Her World
the story begins with Niamh going to Ireland and paying Finn MacCool a visit. She was in love with his son Oisin and she asked him if he can accompany her to Tir na nOg.
Niamh was a very attractive woman; Oisin fell in love with her the moment he saw her. He agreed to go with her to her own world and live there. Niamh brought her horse, Enbarr. It possessed a lot of magical powers. One of them was walking and running over the surface of the water. Waters were usually the most guaranteed passages to lead to Tir na nOg. Oisin mounted the magical horse and their journey began.
Oisin was happy there and stayed young for a very long time. He even had two children with Niamh. However, after three hundred years, he felt homesick. He wanted to go back to his home, Ireland, and see his people. Time moved faster in Tir na NÓg, from Oisíns perspective, he had only been there for 3 years.
IOisin asked Niamh to take the horse, Enbarr, and visit his place. She agreed, but she warned him that he should never dismount the horse or let his feet touch the grounf of Ireland. If he did, he would die right away.
Dying in Ireland
Oisin agreed to stay on the horse for as long as he was there in Ireland. He went to Ireland only to find his home covered in ruins and that the Fianna were no longer there. They died a long time ago as three hundred years had passed. Oisin was sad for not being able to meet his people one more time. He decided to go back to Tir na nOg.
While Oisin was starting his journey, he met a group of men who were building a wall. they were weak men and were struggling to lift a heavy stone. He believed they needed help, but he knew he could not dismount the horse as his wife warned him. Thus, he decided to help them while being on the horse.
Oisin was lifting something off of the ground when he accidentally fell off the horse’s back. Suddenly, he rapidly began to grow old; catching up with the three hundred years he had missed. As a consequence, he became an old man who died because of being wane and old.
Enbarr, the horse, had to leave Oisin behind and he ran away. The horse went back to the Land of the Young. When Niamh saw it without Oisin mounting its back, she realised what had happened.
Another Version of the Ending
Another version of the story claims that Oisin hasn’t died right away when he fell off the horse. It states that he remained old for a very short period of time. he told the men who he was and they rushed for help. Saint Patrick showed up to him and Oisin started telling him his story of Christianity. Before he died, Saint Patrick converted him to Christianity. Nobody knows which version was the original one, but they both share the same poignant ending of Oisin’s death.
Niamh in the Irish Mythology
The mythology professes that Niamh was the daughter of Manannán mac Lir, god of the Sea. Manannan was a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, so Niamh was, at least, half-Tuatha Dé Danann. Her name was pronounced as Niaf. She was a queen of Tir na nOg; there were many other queens along with her. While the sources are not definite about this fact, some claim that Fand was her mother.
Who was Fand?
Fand was the daughter of Aed Abrat. He was probably the son of the Dagda who has a grave in Ireland by his name; Aed’s grave. She had two siblings, Aengus and Li Ban. Her husband was Manannán mac Lir and, we suspect, Niamh was her daughter.
Most of the tales that she appeared in were ones of the Ulster Cycle. She appeared in the form of a bird that came from the Otherworld. The most popular tale of hers was Serglige Con Culainn, which means the Sick Bed of Cu Chulainn.
A Brief about Serglige Con Culainn
The story of Serglige Con Culainn is about another clash between the hero and a woman of the Otherworld. It claims that Cu Chulainn attacked the women of the otherworld. This time they don’t seem to refer to the Morrigan who fell in love with him. The Morrigan would go on to foretell his death in revenge in The Legend of Cu Chulainn.
However, in this tale, Cu Chulainn was cursed for his attacks. He decided to make up for his wrong deeds by giving military aids to whomever he offended. During his process of making up to the Otherworld, he developed a relationship with a woman of theirs. She was Fand, Niamh’s mother.
Cu Chulainn’s wife, Emer, learned about their affair and she grew jealous. She was sconsumed with rage. Fand realised her jealousy and decided that she shall leave Cu Chulainn alone. She then returned to her world.
To read the full tale of Serglige Con Culainn, Click Here. Or why not lean about Scáthach,, the mythical warrior Goddess and martial arts trainer who taught Cu Chulainn, who is said to be the Celtic Goddess of the dead, ensuring the safe passage of those killed in battle to the lands of the Eternal Youth.
Where the descendants of the Tuatha de Danann are today is shrouded in mystery, however if you’re enjoying learning about the rich folklore and mythos Ireland has to offer why not discover the real life locations from your favorite Celtic legends on our YouTube channel!
Start off with our videos of the Giants Causeway, a beautiful and iconic landscape forged by ferocious giants, and delve even deeper into its history with our dedicated blog post
Tuatha De Danann in modern media
The tribe of Danu has experienced its fair share of the spotlight in pop-culture, appearing as superheros in Marvel comics. With their history as characters in the marvel universe it may only be a matter of time until they are on the big screen in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time! Which Irish actors do you think should play the tribe of Danu?
Continuing on our journey through pop-culture, “Mad Sweeney” a character in the TV drama American Gods is thought to be heavily inspired by King Lugh. Want to listen to more tales of the Tuatha de Danann? Episode 2 of the Fireside podcast offers a concise and captivating summary of this legendary tribe.
The Legacy of Pre-Christian Ireland:
Our Irish ancestors have left a long-lasting impact on our culture, as we remember and even partake in some of their traditions on the emerald isle and beyond. Halloween is one of the most celebrated holidays worldwide. The 31st of October, now modern-day Halloween was once known by the Celts as Samhain, marking the end of one year and the beginning of the next.
Did you know that the Celts started the tradition of carving into vegetables, albeit turnips instead of the pumpkins we currently use, and lit bonfires for good luck. They also dressed up in costumes to trick roaming spirits into allowing them to pass by unscathed, as during Samhain the veil between our world and the spirit world was weakened allowing dangerous entities to enter. As the Irish emigrated around the world throughout centuries they brought with them their traditions, including Samhain which has evolved into modern day Halloween. For a much more expansive article on Samhain, why not check out our detailed blogs on Samhain and how it has evolved over the years.
Something to note about Irish Storytelling
Ireland has a rich tradition of “seanchaithe”, or storytellers who passed down legends and stories from generation to generation often preserving our history by word of mouth, especially in the past when literacy was much less common. This may be a contributing factor as to why there are sometimes different versions of famous mythological stories or different names for characters that appear to very similar.
It is also a contributing factor to the many different spellings of the Tuatha de Danann. Along with the transition from a Gaelic or Irish speaking country to English becoming the vernacular, many traditional Irish words were transcribed into English spellings. Variations such as the Tuatha de danaan, Tuatha de dannan, thua de Danann, Tuatha dé Danann, Tua de Danann, Tuath de Danann, tuatha Danann and so forth are examples of this. While “Tuatha de Danann” is the most correct grammatically, these variations are often used interchangeably.
All things considered, it is obvious to us that the culture of Ireland is full of captivating tales and unique traditions. What makes Ireland so special is the fact that it resembles many European cultures yet remains distinctly different.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who were the Tuatha de Danann?
The Tuatha de Danann was a magical race that possessed supernatural powers. Most of them were God-like creatures or divine beings that were being worshipped. This race was also known to believe in Goddess Danu.
What is the meaning of Tuatha de Danann?
The literal translation of this name is “the Tribes of the God.” It makes sense since they were renowned for being a spiritual and religious race; they believed in gods and goddesses and were themselves believed to be magical and supernatural. Some sources claim that the actual meaning of the name is “the tribe of Danu” as the race were devout followers of Danu who was referred to as the mother of the tribe.
How do I pronounce Tuatha de Danann?
The correct Tuatha Dé Danann pronunciation is actually “Thoo a Du-non.”
What are the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann?
The four treausures of the Tuatha de Danann are as follows: Lugh’s Spear, the Sword of Light, Lia Fáil or the Stone of Fal and Dagda’s Cauldron?
What were the symbols of the Tuatha de Danann?
Who were the members of the Tuatha de Danann?
Notable Tuatha de Danann members include: Nuada the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, chiefs included Credenus, the one responsible for crafting; Neit, the god of battles; and Diancecht, the healer, Goibniu was the Smith; Badb, the goddess of battles; Morrigu, the Crow of Battle, and Macha, the nourisher. Lastly, there was Ogma; he was Nuada’s brother and he was responsible for teaching writing.
What did Tuatha De Danann look like ?
The Tuatha de Danann are usually depicted as tall and pale people with red or blonde hair and blue or green eyes. They are often portrayed as extremely beautiful people which could symbolise the way in which they were revered for their supernatural powers.
What were the Tuath de Danann symbols?
There were many symbols in ancient Ireland, the four treasures of the Tuath de Danann symbolised the power and magic of the group, swans symboliesd love and fidelity, nature symbolised life such as the celtic tree of life.
What was the Tuath de Danann prophecy?
The three sisters were Eire, Fotla, and Banba. They had the talent of prophecy and prediction. When the Tuatha de Danann was heading to Ireland, Ogma promised to name the land after whichever one of them, made the most accurate predictions about the Tuatha de Danann. Eire was the one who was most accurate in her prophecies,so they called it the land of Eire. The modern version of the name Eire now is Ireland.
How did the Tuatha de Danann arrive in Ireland?
It remains ambiguous as to how the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland. Sources claim that they arrived through flying in the in the form of mist or fog. Other sources claim they arrived on dark clouds.
The only rational opinion regarding their origins of the Tuatha de Danann was through ships to the shores of Ireland. The smoke or that fog in the air was where their ships burned.
Where did the Tuatha de Danann come from?
Ultimately the most plausible theory is that the Tuatha Dé Danann came from Greece. They tried to destroy the rulers of Greece, the Pelasgians, at that time and take over, but their attempts failed. They then had to leave for Denmark before heading to Ireland.
Who were the Gods of the Tuatha de Danann?
The most notable Tuatha de Danann Gods and Goddesses were: the mother Goddess Danu, Dagda the father God, Aengus the God of youth and love, the three Morrigna, Goddesses of war, death and fate, the Goddess of the sun and fire Brigit, Lugh the warrior God, Baonn the goddess of the river Boyne, Dian the healer God, , Ogma the God of speech and Language, and Airmed the healer Goddess
Are the Tuath de Danann the Sidhe?
Historians believe that the Sidhe is another reference to the Tuatha Dé Danann. When the Milesians took over Ireland, the Tuatha Dé Danann went underground to the Otherworld for good. That was why the mythology, in some cases, refers to them as the Sidhe. It means people of the underworld.
What happened to the Tuatha de Danann?
While there are different versions of the tale, it is understood that after the Milesians arrived in Ireland, the Tuatha de Danann retreated into underground burrows. Other theories suggest that they travelled to the magical land of Tír na nÓg, a suitable residence for the divine beings. The location of the Tuath de Danann descendants today is unknown.
After reading this – and knowing all about the various tribes and clans – we wonder who their descendants would be today. If you have enjoyed reading this article, you may love to learn more about the peculiar Irish culture. Check out the different Irish dishs you can try. Also, indulge in our superstitions by learning about the traditions of Irish weddings.