Tuatha De Danaan

Also known as Irish Fae, Shining Ones, or Gods

The information on this page is based on the theories by Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess. Mr. Graves writes about his interpretations of ancient poems, and concludes that the Celtic people originated from Greece. I realize that this theory is highly opposed by some Celtic scholars, but I find his theory to be plausible.

The Tuatha de Danaan or the Tribes of the Goddess Danu were originally a sea-faring race called Pelasgians that lived near the Aegean Sea. The Danaans were a magical race, and possessed the knowledge of blacksmithing. They came to the British Isles after they were driven from their homes by invaders from the northeast and southeast. According to the Book of Invasions, the Tuatha de Danaans were driven northward from Greece as a result of invasion from Syria, and eventually reached Ireland by way of Denmark, to which they gave their own name, Kingdom of the Danaans and North Britain. The date of their arrival in Britain is recorded as 1472 BC. According to Herodotus in History, the Syrian invasion of Greece may be the capture by Phoenicians of the Danaan shrine of the White Goddess Io at Argos, then the religious capitol of the Peloponnese. The Cretans colonized it in 1750 BC. Herodotus does not date the event except that it happened before the Argo expedition to Colchis, which the Greeks dated 1225 BC and before Europa went from Phoenicia to Crete, a tribal emigration, which probably took place some centuries earlier before the sack of Cnossos in 1400 BC.

According to legend, when the Danaans landed in Ireland, they arrived from the sky on a ship of dark clouds on the eve of Beltaine. The Tuatha de Danaans brought with them the stone of destiny called Lia Fail, which was placed on Tara and used to choose the rightful kings of Ireland. They also brought the spear of Lugh, which made whoever wielded it victorious in battle. The third gift they brought was The Sword of Nuada or the Sword of Light, which none could escape from. There was a fourth gift, the Cauldron of the Dagda, which would always be filled with food so that none would starve.

They had to fight the Firbolgs, which they defeated on the hill of Moytura, but the Danaan king, Nuada, lost his hand in this battle.

Then they had to fight the Formorians, a race of ugly giants. The Danaans won the fight with the help of their champion, Lugh, and the Formorians were sent to live under the sea.

200 years after arrival of the Danaans in Ireland, people sailing from Thrace through the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic landed in Wexford Bay where they came into conflict with Danaans, but were persuaded to pass out into Northern Britain, then called Albany. They were known as Picts, or Painted Ones.

The Milesians arrived soon after. Instead of fighting the Milesians, the Danaans chose to retreat into the hills and mounds, living in raths that were invisible to humans. Because of this, they were referred to as “Aes Sidhe,” which means the people of the sidhe. The Danaans became the faery folk of Ireland, also called ‘the gentry,’ ‘the grey ones’ or ‘the others.’ They are not tiny faeries but are of normal height and shapeshifters. They are the spirits of the wood, river, and mounds. They are immortals and the only thing that can harm them is iron. The fact that only iron can harm the Tuatha de Danaans may have a deeper meaning. It is possible that the Danaans were a Bronze Age race that was defeated by an Iron Age race, the Milesians.


For this part of the page I used some of Robert Grave’s views and I also consulted Practical Celtic Magic by Murry Hope.

The Dagda: His name means “Good God.” The powerful leader of the Danaans, keeper of the cauldron of plenty, is a symbol of death and also of life. His weapon is a club, which killed with one end and brought forth life with the other end. He is not a handsome man. His gentle side is as master of music and magic. The Dagda is associated with Druids as the god of Wisdom. In one tale, the Dagda makes love to the Morrigan on the eve of Samhain, the turning point of the Celtic year. The god of life couples with the goddess of death, expressing the great universal forces.

Lugh: The God of Light or Harvest, the August festival of Lughnasa is held in his honor. One of the great warriors of the Danaans, he wields a spear and sling of great magical powers. He is thought to be very handsome. Lugh is the father of Cuchulain and the grandson of Balor, the Formorian king. Lugh is a master of all arts and crafts.

Angus Og: (Angus the Young) is the son of the Dagda and Boanna. His palace is believed to be at New Grange. He is the love god of the Irish Celts, and is associated with youth, beauty, music and charm. It is believed that he would restore to life those who gave their last breath for the cause of love.

Len of Killarney: He is brother of the Dagda and a goldsmith.

Midir the Proud: He is also a son of the Dagda and a youth of great physical beauty with shoulder length golden hair and eyes of a lustrous gray that wears a purple tunic. He is described as an underworld god who lives in a castle on the Isle of Man with three cranes guarding the gate. It is his duty to warn off visitors.

Nuada of the Silver Hand: He is the keeper of the invincible sword, which would mark him as one the very old Danaan gods. He was a king of the Danaans who was deprived of the throne because of the loss of his hand. Celtic kings had to be flawless. When he was given the silver hand, he was given his kingship back. Supposedly he was killed at the second battle of Moytura, but the arrival of Lugh seems to reveal what happened to him. Lugh was seen as a solar god and Nuada of the moon since silver represents the moon.

Lir and Mananan: Lir is a maritime divinity thought to reside in Slieve Fuad in County Armagh. It is his son, Mananan who was more popular as the Lord of the Sea, under which the Land of Youth or Islands of the Dead are supposed to lie. Mananan is a guide to these places. He is master of tricks and illusions, revealing that the Element of Water as represented by human emotions is devious by nature. Mananan also owns three magical items: The boat (Ocean Sweeper) which obeyed the thought of those who sailed it without the use of sail or oar, the steed (Aonbarr) which could travel on land or sea, and the sword (The Answerer) which no armor could resist. White crested waves are called the Horses of Mananan. Mananan wears a huge cloak, which could change colors. Tales were told of those who could hear his great cloak flapping as the god strode around in anger. His throne is believed to be on the Isle of Man.

Ogma: He is a deity of learning and writing, and was called “The Champion,” “the Sun Faced,” and “the Lion Skinned.” Credit was given to him for inventing the Ogham script.

Dana, Danae, Anu and Brigid: Dana or Danae is known as “the Mother of the Irish Gods and Goddesses.” She has long curly hair the color of honey, and lips the color of rowanberries. The Danaans are referred to as the Children of Dana possibly implying the predominance of the feminine principal in this Celtic sphere. The only children of Dana to appear in mythology are Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba, sometimes referred to as the sons of Brigid. This would represent the triple concept of a single deity, which is prevalent in Celtic mythology. Brian is derived from an ancient form called Brenos, the god to whom the Celts attributed their victories at Allia and Delphi, who the Romans thought was a human general.

Dana is often confused with two other goddesses, Brigid, whom some say is her daughter, and Anu, a local divinity. Dana, Brigid and Anu could represent the Triple Goddess with Dana as the maternal aspect, Brigid the maiden and Anu the crone. Mr. Graves, however, sees the matriarchal trinity as Ana, Babh and Macha, who together form the goddess the Morrigan.

Brigid (or Brigit, Bride, Brigantia) is the most enduring of the Celtic goddesses. She has survived to this day as St. Brigid. Brigid and Dana are givers of plenty, and are loved and respected by ordinary people. Brigid also is a deity of learning, culture and skills, which equal the Greek Athena. Brigid is the daughter of the Dagda in some tales. She is the goddess of poetry, inspiration and divination. Brigid may once have been Brizo of Delos, a moon goddess, whose name is derived by the Greeks from the word, “brizein” meaning ‘to enchant.’ But as Brigid she is seen as a sun goddess, her name “Breosaighit” means ‘fiery arrow.’ It is not known how this change transpired. Maybe as a moon goddess, she was seen as a death aspect, and feared by humans so she was transformed into a sun goddess, a giver of life, to win the love of the humans. She may have been a goddess of metalworking as well. It is thought that she has a face that is beautiful on one side and ugly on the other.

The Morrigan: The Morrigan means, ‘Phantom Queen.’ Mr. Graves views the Morrigan as one of the destructive aspects of the Triple Goddess. Her other forms are Badhbh, which means ‘Frenzy,’ and Nemhain, which means ‘Crow or Raven.’ The Morrigan appears as a singular being as both a war goddess and enchantress with prophetic powers, comparable to Circe, Kali or a female version of Loki. The Morrigan is associated with the washer at the ford, a gruesome hag who would appear before a ‘soon to be fallen hero’ and wash his bloody clothes in the river. She would act charming to heroes when in fact she was intent upon their undoing. Morrigan could be a good friend but also a great enemy if she is crossed.

Aine: Aine is the daughter of Owel, a Danaan, who was also a Druid and foster son of Mananan. She is a corn goddess and giver of fertility and love. In this way she is similar to the Greek Goddess, Demeter. Aine was worshipped many years after the advent of Christianity, especially among the Irish peasantry. They made torches of hay and straw, which they lighted and carried around her hill at night. Then they would wave the torches over their crops and cattle to ensure good luck.

Sinend: Sinend is the daughter of Lodan who was the son of Lir. She visited a certain well in faeryland and committed the sin of ritual omission for which the waters broke forth and drowned her, washing her body up on the Shannon shore, giving the river its name. Associated with fresh spring water is the myth of the hazels of inspiration and knowledge that runs throughout Irish legend. Sinend’s story warns that the gifts of science and poetry may not be attained without a degree of peril. Knowledge without wisdom is always dangerous.

Macha: Macha is a horse deity of Ulster, and represents the survival of a Mother Goddess that was worshipped in parts of Ireland prior to the arrival of the Celts. In myths, she appears as the wife to more than one heroic figure. The best-known story about her tells how she was forced to run a race while pregnant against the horses of Conchobar at Emain Macha. She won the contest but died while giving birth to twins. As she was dying, she put a curse on the warriors of Ulster, which subjected them for nine generations to the pangs of childbirth for five days and five nights in the hour of their greatest need.


Diancecht: surgeon who crafted Nuada's silver hand.

Flidais: woodland goddess

Gobnui: the Smith/Brewer

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