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Tuatha De Danann and The Invasions of Ireland - Celtic Mythology
Danu Rose From the sea
People of Danu
The Tuatha de Danann are the people of Danu. She is their Mother goddess, who rose from the sea.
From out of the mists of the north they came. The mythology and history of the Tuatha de Danann goes far back into the legends of the Celtic pantheon. They were a race of deities, the people of the goddess Danu, the Mother goddess. They came from the four cities in the north of the world. The Dagda (the good god), son of Danu, was the father-figure and protector of the tribe and Nuada was their king.
Many were the mighty warriors of the Dananns. Nuada, their king, was great and loved, as was Manannan, son of Lir. Other leaders of the clan were Ogma, Nuada's brother. It was Ogma who taught the people to write. Dian Cecht knew the magic and ways of healing. Neit was a superior battle leader. Credenus the Craftsman and Goibniu the Smith crafted and forged the weapons and armor, the tools, cauldrons and other useful items they used.
The women of the clan were as great in their own ways as the men were. Many of them were warriors of power and strategy. Among the greatest was the Morrigan, three sisters of battle, the Triple Goddess. Morrigu was the goddess of battle. She knew who would die in battles nearing and she would wash their clothes in a creek to prepare them to be presentable in death. Badb was the one who claimed the dead to feed off of. Macha was the Crow who flew over the battlefields, watching for the fallen. The Morrigan, the hag, the crow and the youthful beautiful maiden, are often known to be one and the same. They are shape shifters. They are the supreme authority over who dies in battle. In early texts of Celtic legends she appears as one goddess or three separate goddesses, sisters.
Another important woman was the great and noble Brigit who was a healer and knew poetry. She was worshiped by all poets. Other women had great places within the clan and Danu the Mother goddess was above them all.
It is God who suffered them, though He restrained them they landed with horror, with lofty deed, in their cloud of mighty combat of spectres, upon a mountain of Conmaicne of Connacht. Without distinction to discerning Ireland, Without ships, a ruthless course the truth was not known beneath the sky of stars, whether they were of heaven or of earth.
- From the Lebor Gabala Erenn, 11th century
Tribes That Invaded Ireland
- Fir Bolg
- Tuatha de Danann
Cesair was the leader of the first of the clans to settle in Ireland. She was the granddaughter of Noah and daughter of Bith, Noah's son. Forty days before the Great Flood, Cesair left on her own ship. Fifty women besides Cesair, along with three men, were the only ones aboard.
Now, when they reached Dun na mBarc in what is now County Cork, Ireland, the group split into three groups, one man per 17 women each. Each group received one-third of the island. In this way they could populate Ireland. However, two of the men died (which is understandable), and that left Fintan of Cesair's group as the only man. Fintan, seeing what this would mean for him turned himself into a salmon and escaped into the sea. With her heart broken, Cesair died and without their leader, the rest of the women perished.
Silence reigned over the land for 312 years -- then the Partholonians arrived. It is believed that this group came from Spain.
Partholon was originally from Greece. He was the grandson of Sru who was the son of Sera. Sru was the king of Greece. Partholon murdered his parents and during the cruel deed, lost one eye. After he and his wife fled Greece with Partholon's followers, they wandered for seven years before reaching Ireland.
In their third year after settling, they came up against another tribe, the Fomorians. The Partholonians defeated the Fomorians and drove them out of Ireland.
Partholon died 27 years after defeating the Fomorians and the rest of the clan died from the plague 120 years later. Now, it is interesting to note that there was one sole survivor of the Partholonians -- Tuan, nephew of Partholon remained alive and hid from the next group of invaders. We will learn more of Tuan a little later.
The Fomorians never really settled in Ireland. It is believed they were wandering pirates who raided settlements. They are remembered as ugly, deformed giants who temporarily subdued the Partholonians, and the next two groups of invaders, demanding taxes and offerings from them, making their lives miserable and under constant threat.
The Fomorians were tyrannical, violent and very oppressive, causing much suffering.
The Nemedians arrived thirty years after the last of the Partholonians died. It is likely they also came from Spain, as the Partholonians did. For a a little over a year the Nemedians wandered over the seas. Originally there were about 30 ships and a little less than a thousand people.
Nemed, a descendant of Noah, was leader of the only group to survive. The other ships were lost at sea. Nemed, his four sons, and his wife, Macha were on the ship. Now, Macha was one of the sisters of the Morrigan, the immortal Triple Goddess, of the Tuatha de Danann. This is important to remember in years to come and after many battles had been fought.
Over time, the Nemedians were growing in numbers. Then the Fomorians returned and began to battle against the Nemedians, just as they did with the Partholonians. In four such battles, the Nemedians were victorious -- then a deadly pestilence struck and Nemedian population declined to less than two thousand, which left them vulnerable and forced them into submission to paying of taxes and tributes to the Fomorians. A revolt ensued and the Nemedians killed a Fomorian king and captured one tower. Yet it was almost total annihilation for the Nemedians, as only thirty survived the revolt. The survivors managed to escape and most fled to parts unknown. There is some history on a few who escaped.
One of the Nemedians who escaped, Fergus Lethderg, fled to Alba, which is now Scotland. He took his son, Britain Mael with him. The island they settled on was named after Britain, Nemed's grandson. Another survivor, Semeon, Nemed's great-great grandson, along with some others managed to reach Greece where they were enslaved. The descendants of these survivors were called the Fir Bolg clan.
There was another small group that found their way to Northern Greece. Iobath, great grandson of Nemed, and his followers became known as Tuatha De. They became Children of Danu, Tuatha De Danann.
Ancient Slaves in Greece
The Fir Bolgs were descendants of Nemed. Two-hundred and thirty years after some of the Nemedians escaped from Ireland and the Fomorians, the descendants of Semeon took their people from slavery in Greece and returned to Ireland.
They came into power in Ireland and divided the island between them. The Fir Bolgs never really progressed much during the generations in Greece. They had even slightly reversed and became an inferior race from being enslaved for over two generations. They were oppressed people and did not have any scholarly learning or training in warfare. Yet they managed to live in peace with the Fomorians.
The last king of the Fir Bolgs was Eochaid Mac Eirc. When Eochaid was killed in the First Battle of Moytura, Tailtiu his wife, was given a child, Lugh, of the Tuatha de Danann. Lugh was the son of Cian, a great warrior, and his wife Ethniu who was a Fomorian princess, daughter of Balor. Tailtiu took Lugh in to be his foster mother and continued to have him trained in the arts of warfare. Lugh would eventually become one of the greatest warriors of the Danann tribe.
Tuatha De Danann
The Tuatha De Danann were the second to last race of warriors to invade Ireland. They defeated the Fir Bolg in the First Battle of Moytura and reigned as the dominant pagan gods for 150 years. Their legends made them into supernatural beings of great power.
These descendants of the Nemedians had gone to the northern isles of Greece. Over time they continued to learn and grow ever stronger in many ways. The leader they followed to the northern isles was Iobath who was the grandson of Iarbonel -- Iarbonel was a great prophet, well loved by his people. They settled their own four cities which they called Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias.
These four cities each had a Druid as a leader, so they learned the magic of otherworld teachings. In all arts of creativity, philosophy, science, warfare and magic they excelled. None of them were just common people. They were warriors, scholars, bards, crafters and druids, each one highly proficient in their chosen field of study.
When the Dananns returned to Ireland, the land of their ancestors, their father god Dagda came with them. Nuada, son of Danu was their king and leader. Although the Fomorians were still in Ireland they had lived in peace with the Fir Bolgs and accepted the Tuatha De Danann.
The Fir Bolgs did not like or trust the Danann tribe. However, they sent Sreng their champion as a representative, to meet with the Danann champion, Bres. The two warriors met and spoke as they examined each others weapons. The weaponry of the Dananns was far superior to those of the Fir Bolg. Bres expressed the desire of his people to share the land with the Fir Bolgs. The two men exchanged weapons and parted in friendship.
Ancient Passage Graves in Newgrange
First Battle of Moytura
The Fir Bolgs refused to share the land with the Tuatha De Danann and instead declared war.
In this first battle, the Fir Bolgs lost 100,000 warriors and their king, Eochaid Mac Eirc. The Dananns won a victory in this battle, but also lost many warriors. Nuada, their king lost his right hand during the battle when he fought with Sreng, the Fir Bolg champion. Nuada lost his kingship due to the belief of the Dananns that a loss of a limb or any part of the body meant a new king would have to be chosen -- they chose Bres to be their king.
When a peace treaty between the two tribes was set, the Dananns received most of Ireland and the Fir Bolgs were given one small part for their settlement.
Bres was not the good and wise king that Nuada had been. He had no kingship knowledge of diplomacy or organization, nor was he kind to his people. He became tyrannical and leadership of the Dananns would suffer if something was not done to remedy this problem.
Dian Cecht, the god of healing, came up with a solution. He had kept the hand of Nuada in a jar of preservative. Using the hand as a model, he had Goibhniu, the master smith, fashion a hand of silver. Dian Cecht then attached this silver hand to Nuada's arm. The tribe dethroned Bres and restored Nuada to his kingship, naming him "Nuada of the Silver Hand".
Now, Bres was not pleased with this decision, in fact he was furious and wanted revenge. His mother was Eriu, but his father was unknown. Bres went to his mother and demanded to know who his father was. Eriu told Bres that his father was a king of the Fomorians, his name was Elatha. Eriu, no doubt wanting to be reinstated in the role of mother of a king, told Bres he must find Elatha and declare his inheritance. He was to ask for the signet ring of Elatha.
Upon the meeting, Elatha acknowledged Bres as his son, bestowed the ring on Bres and promised support of his warriors to help Bres regain the kingship.
Bres declared war on the Dananns, and with the help of the Fomorian King Balor of the Evil Eye, defeated the Dananns. The Fomorians installed Bres as king and took control of the Dananns.
The Tuatha De Danann would need a powerful skilled champion to save them.
Lugh was the son of Cian whose mother was Danu. Cian's father was Dian Cecht, the great god of healing and master physician of the Dananns. Cian was a Druid sorcerer and a shapeshifter.
Lugh's survival after birth was great good fortune. You see, Cian fell in love with Ethniu, the daughter of Balor, king of the Fomorians. Balor had been given a prophecy that one day his own grandson would kill him. So, to prevent that possibility, Balor had his only daughter, Ethniu, locked up in a tower. However, Cian found a way to his beloved and the union produced three sons. Furious, Balor ordered that the three babes were to be wrapped up in cloth and thrown into the raging whirlpool.
Now, Birog, a Druidess pulled some magic and one babe slipped out of the cloth wrapping. She saved this babe and took him to Cian, who named the child Lugh. Cian then put Lugh under the care of Goibhniu, Cian's brother and master smith.
Years later, when Cian was sent to find men of Ulster who would enlist to help the Dananns in war against the Fomorians, he shapeshifted into a pig so as not to be detected by his enemies, the Tuireann brothers. The brothers somehow realized that the pig was Cian and killed him.
Lugh set out to avenge his father's death. He captured the sons of Tuireann and told them if they wished to live they would have to accomplish some nearly impossible missions. They were sent round the world to obtain in any manner they could several very important items for the Tuatha De Danann, which were a magical spear from Persia, a pig skin that held the magic of healing, and a long list of other magical treasures. And the sons of Tuireann set out on their long quest.
With wit, poetry and trickery, the sons of Tuireann accomplished their goals and fulfilled Lugh's demands. However, on their last quest they were sorely wounded. When Tuireann begged Lugh to place the magical pig skin on his sons to heal them, Lugh refused. He told Tuireann that his sons had with great valor and honor retrieved the treasures and that he, Lugh, had forgiven them -- now they must die from their wounds, which was a better way than how Cian had died. When Tuireann told his sons they must die in honor, the three brothers held each other tightly and thereupon died. Tuireann, his heart broken, died also.
Lugh's Bloodthirsty Magical Spear
And These Were the Treasures Lugh Demanded of the Brothers for Ransom
- Three golden apples that grow in the garden of the Hesperides. The apples are large as the head of a babe and will heal any ills of the one who eats them, yet never shall the apples be less than whole.
- A pig skin that King Tuish of Greece holds near and dear. It is a healing skin that when laid upon a man with wounds will heal and make the man whole again.
- A magical spear that is poisoned, it belongs to Peisear, king of Persia. It is fierce and seeks death so must be kept sunk in a deep pot of magical herbs to keep it calm.
- Two horses and a chariot that King Dobar of Sicily owns. The steeds can journey everywhere, over land or sea and can never die
- Seven pigs of King Asal of the Golden Pillars. The swine can be slaughtered and roasted for meal every night, yet every morning they live again and would feed the Dananns forever.
- A whelp of a hound that belongs to the king of Iorroway. The hound is invincible and can slay any manner of beast.
- The cooking spit of the faery women on the island of Finchory.
- Three shouts on a hill -- each brother must give a shout on the hill of Mochaen. In the north of Lochlann lives Mochaen and his sons. It is forbidden for any one to shout upon the hill for it means certain death if captured. Now, Mochaen had trained Cian in the art of weapons and warfare. And Lugh said, "I can forgive you the death of my father, but, Mochaen would not forgive those who murdered his beloved Cian."
Seven years it took the sons of Tuireann to complete their quest.
Second Battle of Moytura
With the the magical and powerful treasures Lugh now had in his possession, he returned to the Tuatha De Danann and gathered them to prepare for war. Now, during this time, Dagda, the Dananns father god, travelled north and met a beautiful woman, the Morrigan. They became lovers and the Morrigan was to be an important part of the great battle the next day.
The battle ensued, with Balor of the Evil Eye leading the Fomorians. Nuada of the Silver Hand led the Tuatha De Danann. The battle was fierce and Balor killed many Dananns, among them Nuada.
Not long after the battle started, the Morrigan appeared as Morrigu, Badb and Macha -- the battle frenzy of the the Morrigan instilled fear and confusion in the Fomorians.
Balor was losing energy and could barely keep his evil eye open for killing. Lugh came up against Balor and the two were ready to fight. As Balor slowly began to open his eye, Lugh shot a stone from his sling and it was a direct hit to Balor's eye, which flew out the back of his head and the evil fell upon the Fomorian army behind Balor, killing most of them. Thus Lugh, having killed his grandfather, had fulfilled the prophecy that Balor tried to prevent.
During the battle Lugh had used the magical sword called Areadbhair that the Tuireann brothers had stolen from the king of Persia. Areadbhair was always true to the intention of its owner and hit the target then returned to the hand of its owner. Lugh became known as Lugh of the Longarms for his skill in handling the spear and the sling.
The Tuatha De Danann had won a great victory and the power of the Fomorians was destroyed, most of them had been killed. Bres was taken captive by the Dananns. He begged for mercy and offered many gifts in return for his life, all of which the Dananns refused. Since Bres was the god of agriculture, Lugh agreed to spare his life if Bres would teach them the art of planting, caring for crops and harvesting.
Nuada of the Silver Hand was sorely missed and greatly mourned. Lugh was elected as the High King of Ireland.
A Time of Peace
For nearly 170 years after the Second Battle of Moytura there were no invasions or battles in Ireland. The reign of Lugh of the Longarms was forty years of peace and good fortune. The day came when Lugh met his untimely fate. Lugh's wife had been seduced by Cermait, son of Dagda. Lugh killed Cermait in revenge and Dagda mourned deeply. Cermait had three sons who ambushed Lugh one day and killed him.
Dagda became High King of Ireland after Lugh and ruled for 80 years. There were three kings after Dagda who ruled for a total of 49 years.
Hercules Tower in Galicia, Spain
The Milesians had a settlement in Spain. Their original home land was Scythia. Mil Espaine had brought his people from Scythia, to Egypt and then to Spain. Breogan, Mil's father, founded the city of Brigantia in Spain.
Ith, Mil's uncle and son of Breogan, had one day ascended to the top of the tower that Breogan had built. When at the top, Ith spotted a beautiful island and wanted to sail to it and explore. The island was Erin (Ireland). Ith reaches Ireland with his two brothers and a crew, where he is welcomed by Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Greine, who were the three kings of the Tuatha De Danann. Some members of the Dananns did not trust Ith and his brothers and attacked them, killing all three. Ith's crew escaped with the bodies of the brothers and returned to Spain.
When the bodies of Ith and his brothers were returned to Mil, the Milesians invaded Ireland and a great battle ensued with heavy losses on both sides. An agreement between the two tribes was made for a three day truce. The Milesians were to sail out to sea, nine waves from land and remain there for the three days while both tribes could recoup.
However, when the ships were out in the sea, the Danann sorcerers conjured up a great wind that blew hard against the ships, preventing them from sailing back to land. Amergin, the Milesian sorcerer, chants a spell to reverse the wind. Upon arriving back on land, the two tribes agree to share the land, each taking half. The Milesians win all parts of Ireland above ground and the Tuatha De Danann had to take the underground.
To this day, the Dananns are of the underground and over time mixed with the faery and became a new race of supernatural beings, still called the Tuatha De Danann.
The Tower of Hercules is believed to be the oldest lighthouse in the world. In 415 to 417, Paulus Orosius in his Historiae adversum Pagonos, referenced this lighthouse as a commemorative work, looking towards Britannia. It is referred to as Breogan's Tower in the Book of Invasions.
Tuan and the Lebor Gabala Erenn
Now then, remember young Tuan? He was the nephew of Partholon. The Partholonians had defeated the Fomorians but all had died some 120 years later from the plague. Tuan was the only survivor of the Partholonians.
Tuan was a shapeshifter and in this way he was able to hide from all the tribes that invaded Ireland after his people were gone. Tuan lived for many generations, even till after the Tuatha De Danann had gone underground.
Tuan had seen all that happened in Ireland. When he finally came back to being a human, he wrote the Lebor Gabala Erenn -- History of the Invasions of Ireland.
Tuatha De Danann and the Invasions of Ireland
© 2014 Phyllis Doyle Burns