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Goddess Danu and the Leprechaun: Irish Mythology

Updated on February 11, 2012

Ireland has a culture that is rich in mythology and folklore. The goddess Danu is one of the Celtic world's oldest mythological figures as is the leprechaun.

Goddess Danu

The oldest Irish goddess known is the goddess Danu. She is also known as Dana and is also referenced in Hindu mythology. Her name means “swift flowing” in Irish and such rivers in Europe as the Danube and the Don are named after her. She is mainly seen as a river goddess, and often as Mother Earth. She represents the diving feminine exuding characteristics such as knowledge and wisdom and represents fertility. Danu was also able to transform herself into any creature, much like the gods of Greek and Roman mythology.

From The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells Of England, including Rivers, Lakes, Fountains and Springs. Copiously Illustrated By Curious Original Woodcuts
From The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells Of England, including Rivers, Lakes, Fountains and Springs. Copiously Illustrated By Curious Original Woodcuts | Source

Danu is considered the mother of the Tuatha De Danann or Children of Danu. The Tuatha were once considered gods but now are the “fairy-folk”, those ever-present, invisible beings that capture the imagination of many in Ireland and around the world. It is believed that there was a decisive battle for the soul of Ireland between the Children of Danu and the Children of Domnu, much like the epic battle between God and Satan in the Christian Bible. Ultimately, the Children of Danu won.


Leprechauns belong to the Tuatha De Danann and have come to be regarded as a symbol of Ireland. They are pictured on everything from cereal boxes to posters to greeting cards the world over. Many Irish people are not overly thrilled by the stereotypical view of their homeland and people perpetrated by the leprechaun legend. Still many people, usually in places other than Ireland, decorate their houses and offices with leprechauns to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and dress up as leprechauns for parties and parades.

Leprechauns are usually seen as old men wearing green coats, short green trousers, a tall buckled green hat and buckled black shoes, and they are as short as a young child. They are solitary creatures who spend their days making shoes for elves, and their nights playing practical jokes on unsuspecting humans. You supposedly know a leprechaun is around when you hear the tapping of hammers.

Pot of Gold

Each leprechaun is believed to have his own pot of gold, which is either hidden or found at the end of a rainbow. If a human catches a leprechaun, the fairy must give them his pot of gold. However, the human cannot look away for an instant of the leprechaun will disappear along with his gold.

Leprechauns are much written about. William Butler Yeats discussed them at length in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. And, according to David Russell McAnally, in his book Irish Wonders leprechauns are “not wholly good nor wholly evil.”

If you do see a leprechaun, hold on tight and remember, don't take your eyes off him for second!


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  • K. Burns Darling profile image

    Kristen Burns-Darling 5 years ago from Orange County, California

    My grandmother used to send me outside to look for leprechauns and other fairy wasn't until I was a bit older that I realised it was her way of getting me out from underfoot. When my middle daughter was around four, I told her about the legend of the leprechaun and how if you caught them they had to give you their pot of gold....she told me that was stealing and unfair.... Thanks for an interesting hub, voted up, useful and interesting.

  • ishwaryaa22 profile image

    Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 5 years ago from Chennai, India

    An engaging hub! I have heard about leprechauns and this hub have further enlightened me about fascinating Irish culture. I came to know about Goddess Danu thanks to you. I enjoyed reading your insightful hub on Irish mythology. Well-done!

    Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    I love this hub! Especially since I'm positive there are leprechauns in every green place and behind every fern! Great fun - voted up and awesome. Also shared with some friends, one of whom has a daughter named Danu.

  • DeborahNeyens profile image

    Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

    Interesting! I'm proud of my Irish heritage, but some of this was new information for me. It's good to know this just in time for St. Patrick's Day!

  • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

    Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK

    I am interested in mythology, and the real life events which sometimes inspire the myths, but I must admit I knew nothing about Irish mythology and the origin of the stories about leprechauns, so thanks for that.

  • tlpoague profile image

    Tammy 5 years ago from USA

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful hub. I have a bit of Celtic in my background and love reading about their folklore. Thank you for your wonderful support. It means a lot to me.

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 5 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks for the comments. I love all mythology and Celtic mythology has such great stories. I've written a couple of articles on other sites:

    Unfortunately, there are no female leprechauns. They are just called fairies. I guess the banshee can be a counterpart to the leprechaun...but she is mean :)

  • American_Choices profile image

    American_Choices 5 years ago from USA

    Delightful! Oh, I learned allot. I am a tad bit Irish and appreciate the history which you share. I have a business associate with the name Dana - I will have email her a link to this article.

    Silly question, are leprechaums ever female? Or the females just hide for the cameras?

  • tammyswallow profile image

    Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

    This hub is fabulous. I love Celtic and Irish tales, folklore and literature. My favorite poet is William Butler Yeats. Great hub!

  • JaneA profile image

    JaneA 5 years ago from California

    I am intrigued by the Hindu connection!

  • Teddletonmr profile image

    Mike Teddleton 5 years ago from Midwest USA

    Hey thanks for the tip, you can bet when I catch a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow. I will know better than to take me eyes off em.

    Here's to the luck of the Irishman.

    Make it a great day. Mike