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Life on the Fringe - 15: Drawing on Heroes - a Panoply of Gaelic Worthies

Updated on May 12, 2019

The Daghda, Wise father of the Gods - parallel or predecessor to Odin?

The Daghda, father of the gods, on one of the Gundestrup panels
The Daghda, father of the gods, on one of the Gundestrup panels | Source
Mt Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry - could this be the home of the gods?
Mt Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry - could this be the home of the gods? | Source

His name in Gaelic was 'the good god', with several variations being a father-figure, chief of the Tuatha de Danann and son of Eladu.

Often shown as a giant of a man who wore peasant clothing - a short tunic leaving his buttocks bare. The Celts might have opted to show him like this to stress his virility and fecundity. His virility was shown in some myths, such as when he mated with Morrigan before the second fight at Magh Tuiredh where he stood with one foot on either bank of the River Unius.

He also had Boann in a forbidden union that led to the birth of Oenghus. In the legend the Daghda always bore a very large club that had supernatural powers. One end of the club could be used to destroy, the other end had healing powers, it could heal the wounded and bring the dead back to life. It was so great, although the Daghda could easily wield it, wheels were needed to drag it around.

Besides being linked with the magic club the Daghda was associated with plenty. He had a magic cauldron with a limitless food source. No-one left his company hungry. As had the club the cauldron also had healing powers. A magic harp that was stolen by the Fomorii was returned.

Although being a strong figure, being chief of the Tuatha, he was shown as stout or gross, with a great appetite for food as well as for women. For example, a legend tells of the Fomorii trying to improve their luck in the second battle at Magh Tuiredh. They talked the Daghda into eating from a cauldron of porridge before the fighting began. No ordinary cauldron this, it was bottomless, so what it held went deep into the earth. Its content amounted to that of eighty ordinary ones, with whole hogs, sheep and goats. The Daghda ate it all, with a spoon big enough to seat a man and woman side-by-side. And when he had eaten all he showed no signs of fatigue.

The Tuatha de Danann beat the Fomorii, but were themselves beaten by the sons of Mil Espaine. After being beaten the Tuatha were made to take the underground realm of ireland whilst the victors ruled the surface. The Daghda gave each of the Tuatha a 'sidh' underground and then withdrew from the chieftainship, handing over to Bodb Dearg, one of his sons

Derbhorgill

Devorgilla or Derbhorgill, the slave girl freed from the Fomorii by Cuchulainn
Devorgilla or Derbhorgill, the slave girl freed from the Fomorii by Cuchulainn | Source

Jealousy and spite brought sadness...

DEOCA was betrothed to Lairgnen. She pleaded with him to bring her the singing swans - the children of Lir, whose stepmother had turned them into swans through jealousy of his fondness for them. When Lairgnen had the swans trapped and brought them to Deoca the nine hundred year spell ended and the swans resumed their human form.

Because they were now very old and wizened and no longer young, as he imagined them to be, Lairgnen fled horrified;

DEVORGILLA or DERBHORHILL was to be given as tribute to the Fomorii when she was saved by Cuchulainn. She and her hand-maidens shape-changed to swans to be able to follow Cuchulainn, she having fallen for him. Not knowing, either he or one of his followers brought down one of the swans with slingshot.

The swans took their human shape again and Cuchulainn sucked the shot from Devorgilla's wound. The wound healed, but as he had also taken in her blood they were tied by blood and therefore could not be wed

Dian Cecht

The god of healing, shown often as an outsized leach, he was particularly active at the time of both battles of Magh Tuiredh. After the first one he gave Nhada a silver hand to replace the one he lost in combat. during the second he busied himself dipping the dead and wounded of the Tuatha de Danann into a magic cauldron to bring them back to life or heal them for the duration of the long battle.

He had three sons, also healers. One, Midach, showed such a great gift for healing that Dian Cecht feared for his own good name and slew him. He also slew Meiche, son of Morrigan

Diarmaid or Diarmuid ua Duibhne

Diarmaid or Diarmuid ua Duibhne, slain by a supernatural boar - the chosen beast of Celt gods for shapeshifting
Diarmaid or Diarmuid ua Duibhne, slain by a supernatural boar - the chosen beast of Celt gods for shapeshifting | Source

Diarmaid or Diarmuid (pron. 'Dermot')

A name given to several mythical characters, but the best known of these was Diarmaid/Diarmuid ua Duibhne, son of Donn. He was either the foster son or grndson of Oenghus and was given a spot - widely known as the 'love spot' - on his forehead by a mysterious young woman. She told him that any woman who saw the spot would fall for him there and then - not that he would have needed a love spot, as it is said of him he was very handsome.

Although betrothed to the ageing Fionn mac Cumhaill, Grainne fell for Diarmaid. At the wedding feast before the ceremony she drugged Fionn as well as many of the guests, and put Diarmaid under a 'geis' or bond, to run off with her. Some of those not drugged would be witnesses to his bond. Fionn and his followers hounded them and laid siege to them in a woodland. As it was Oenghus saved Grainne, and Diarmaid escaped by leaping over the attackers' heads.

Notwithstanding having eloped with Grainne, during their flight he still felt he should be true to Fionn and refused her advances for a time. Finally, unable to bear her taunts about hid manliness he took her. They had four offspring. With help from Oenghus Fionn was reconciled with the couple. Diarmaid went hunting once with Fionn to catch the magic boar Beann Ghulban, although it had been foretold that the boar - in reality Diarmaid's foster-brother - would kill him. Diarmaid slew the boar but was himself badly wounded.

Fionn might have saved him with water from his own hands, as he had the gift of healing. Twice, recalling how Diarmaid had run off with his intended bride, Fionn let the water trickle through his fingers. By the time he had fetched a third handful of water Diarmaid was gone.

Next - 16: Donn Culailgne, Eisirt, Emer and a full supporting cast

See description below
See description below | Source

Morgan Daimler takes you through the myriad gods and goddesses the Celts of Ancient Britain worshipped, fought for and sacrificed to. This has to be the definitive guide and gives hints to naming places and physical features in the landscape across the whole British Isles.

Donn Cuailgne - the brown bull of Ulster

Donn Cuailgne, the brown bull of Ulster sizes up to his rival Finnbhenach, Medb's white bull
Donn Cuailgne, the brown bull of Ulster sizes up to his rival Finnbhenach, Medb's white bull | Source

The great brown bull of Ulster at the heart of the Tain Bo Cuailgne legend, of ho Medb, Queen of Connacht tried to gain him. The resulting war between Connacht and Ulster ended with the bull being taken to Medb's camp where it fought the white horned bull Finnbhenach and won. Finnbhenach was torn to pieces in the day-long fight and Donn Cuailgne was returned to Ulster where he died.

Finnbhenach was born into the herd that belonged to Medb. The bull 'wandered' into the ownership of her husband Ailill because 'it felt slighted at being owned by a woman'. Medb was envious of her husband owning the fine bull - interesting she didn't take up the issue of ownership with him, as the bull was born into her herd - and set her sights on owning Donn Cuailgne in order to vie with her husband. Doubtless Ailill had something to say about the matter but his feelings re not recorded in the legend - see Cuchulainn in the previous Hub-page.

The tree of life, much like the Norse Yggdrasil, the World Ash Tree

Constantly nurturing, sheltering against the vagaries of the weather, its boughs laden with green leaves to soothe the tired eye
Constantly nurturing, sheltering against the vagaries of the weather, its boughs laden with green leaves to soothe the tired eye

© 2013 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello again, again Graham. I've just added another tidbit to the page if you want to check the last entry. Another one tonight, so get your reading glasses out in the morning. Enjoy!

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Alan. I have said it before but your research and presentation are tip top. I have taken the poll on the previous hub. Only me up to now I'm afraid.

      Graham.

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