The Tuatha De Danaan

The Tuatha De Danaan (people of the goddess Danu) were Celtic gods who were conquered by the ancestors of the modern-day Irish, the Milesians. After this conquest, they retired to the Sidhe, their personal fairyland.

Some notable members of this group:

Danu, the only goddess on this list, was the founder of the Tuatha de Danaan. She was the mother of many of the Danaan (in some cases through incest).

Dagda (the good god) was the leader of the Tuatha De Danaan. He was the son of Danu and her husband Bile (god of death). His many children included Aengus Og, the love god, by a river goddess, and Ogma (god of language) by Dagda's own mother, Danu.

Dagda looked like a huge stocky man with superhuman strength and appetite. He was once taken prisoner by the evil Fomors, who threatened to kill him if he didn't eat all the porridge in a giant pit. Dagda ate it all using a wooden spoon so large that a man and a woman could sleep in it! He also possessed magical objects like a magic cauldron that was never empty of food and a harp that could change the seasons and weather. His most famous attribute, however, was his club that was so heavy it had to be rolled on wheels. This club could kill as well as revive.

Apparently, Dagda was mortally wounded, but he lived and ruled for 80 years before finally dying from the wound. Yes, it seems the Celtic gods, like the Norse gods, were mortal.

Nuada (the cloud maker) was the god of war and brother of Dagda. He was married to one of the war goddesses - either Macha or Nemain.

Nuada lost a hand in battle; though the hand was replaced with a silver one by Dian Cecht, Nuada had to abdicate from the throne of Ireland. The Danaans ended up choosing a handsome god named Bres to rule, but he was a tyrant. So Dian Cecht's son Miach fashioned Nuada a new hand, and Nuada reclaimed the throne.

But the story doesn't end there; Bres reconquered Ireland with the help of his grandfather Balor, leader of the Fomors. The Danaans had to suffer under Fomorian rule until a new god, Lugh, came of age and overthrew the Fomors; however, Nuada was killed in battle during the rebellion.

Nuada was the grandfather of the giant hero Finn MacCumhail.

Bres (beautiful) was the god of agriculture and fertility. He was the son of a Danaan goddess and a Fomor ruler (not Balor). He married Dagda's daughter Brigit and had one son, who was killed when he tried to murder another Danaan.

Bres became king of Ireland after Nuada lost his hand. He quickly became a tyrant, as he lacked talent for ruling. When Dian Cecht replaced Nuada's hand, the Danaans eagerly put Nuada back on the throne. However, Bres retook the throne with the help of his father's side of the family; the Danaans were ruled by the Fomors until the new god Lugh came of age. When Lugh helped overthrow the Fomors, Bres was captured but spared when he promised to help the gods by telling them when to sow and harvest crops.

Ogma was the god of language and poetry and the inventor of Ogham, the Celtic script. He was the son of Dagda and Danu.

Dian Cecht was the god of healing and the physician of the Tuatha De Danaan. He was the father of Goibhniu and Cian, and likely the brother of Dagda and Nuada. He made Nuada a silver hand after Nuada's real hand was cut off in battle, but eventually his son Miach surpassed him and made a flesh-and-blood hand. Dian Cecht became extremely jealous and killed Miach.

Bile was the god of death (sometimes the god of light as well) and the husband of Danu.

The brothers Goibhniu, Luchtaine, and Credne were the gods of smithing, carpentry, and goldsmithing respectively; they were called the Three Divine Craftsmen.

Angus Og (Angus the Young) was the god of love and youth, and the son of Dagda and a river goddess. He once became lovesick for a woman he had seen in a dream. The woman was Caer Ibormeith, the daughter of a Danaan ruler, and she was a swan maiden. He went to a lake to find her and declare his love for her, and he was turned into a swan - from that moment he could shapeshift into one, just like Caer. The pair were a happy couple.

Lugh (bright?) was the god of light, the sun, and crafts. His parents were Cian (son of Danu and Dian Cecht) and Ethlinn (daughter of Balor), so like Bres, he was half-Fomor and half-Danaan.

Lugh Conquers the Fomors

Long before Lugh was born, Balor was told that his grandson would kill him. Balor imprisoned his daughter Ethlinn in a tower on an island, but Cian stealthily entered the tower, found Ethlinn, fell in love, and later slept with her. (This story seems quite similar to the Greek tale of Acrisius, Perseus, and Danae.) When Balor found out Ethlinn had given birth to three sons, he ordered the children drowned. The babies were rolled in a sheet and dropped from the top of the tower into the nearby water; however, one of them fell out before the rest and didn't land where Balor had intended him to. Balor still presumed the baby drowned, but a minor sea god saved the baby and brought him back to Cian, who named him Lugh.

Lugh was raised by his uncle Goibhniu, the smith god; he also visited the Land of Promise under the sea, where he received many magical objects. He grew up learning many crafts, particularly (of course) that of metalcraft. He later went to seek service with Nuada, but he was refused entry; he was successively told that Nuada already had a carpenter, smith, warrior, bard, and physician. Finally, Lugh asked if Nuada had someone who could do anything; if he did, then Lugh would leave. Nobody who knew all of these trades was found, so the doorman revealed himself to be Ogma (god of poetry) and tested Lugh's strength. Lugh had to throw four large pieces of a boulder to Ogma; he not only did this, but mended the stone. He then had to play a harp, which he did - and he influenced the emotions of everyone in the room! Nuada promptly employed Lugh.

And remember, Lugh had some treasures from under the sea; Nuada quickly noticed that these would help the Danaans overthrow their Fomor overlords. Lugh and Cian gathered together an army from the far reaches of Ireland; however, Cian was murdered in the process, and Lugh got his revenge on the murderers. After seven years, the preparations were complete. Then Dagda (whom Lugh had sent to spy on the Fomors) slept with the Morrigan, who gave him some valuable information - the Fomors would land at a place called Mag Scetne, and Dagda must gather troops immediately. Dagda later went to the Fomors' castle and requested a truce (really so the Danaans could prepare for battle), but the Fomors took him captive and made him eat that big hole-ful of porridge. To everyone's surprise, Dagda accomplished the feat, but his belly grew to a gigantic size. Then he left, and after some adventures, returned home.

By this time, Miach had made Nuada a new flesh-and-blood hand; now the Danaans fully supported their no-longer-maimed leader. Finally, the two armies met at Moytura (presumably near Mag Scetne); Goibhniu and Luchta repaired armor and weapons as they broke, a magic cauldron and pig skin fed and healed the soldiers, and Morrigan and her companions scared the Fomors. Unfortunately, Balor's single poisoned eye killed Nuada and Macha, and some say Dagda and Ogma died of their wounds. But Balor couldn't keep his eye always open, so as it closed, Lugh launched a stone at it from his sling. Balor died as his eye was put out. And thus, Lugh killed his grandfather.

The remaining Fomors escaped and stole Dagda's harp, but the latter took it back. The fighting continued and Elatha, the last Fomor king, was killed, and Bres was captured but spared. The Danaans had taken back their rightful throne, and Lugh succeeded Nuada as King of Ireland.

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