Sages and Seers

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T,he spiritual seers and shamans of Celtic myth were endowed with extraordinary gifts of prophecy, wisdom and healing. They enjoyed a profound rapport with natural and supernatural forces, and acted as intermediaries between the realms of the living and the dead, between the visible world of men and the invisible otherworld, a realm of wondrous spirits. Most famous of all was Arthur's wise counsellor, Merlin; but other inspired druids - Amairgen, Taliesin and Cathbad - feature in Celtic myths as prophetic bards and counsellors to clan chiefs and kings. Some lived as hermits in the wilderness, while remaining powerful in Celtic society. Although on the whole helpful to mortals, some dark sorceresses, such as Morgan, Nimue or the Calatins, used their supernatural gifts to bewitch and manipulate mortals for their own ends.

Morgan Le Fay (above right), Queen of Avalon, the otherworldly Isle of Apples, bears an apple bough, the Celtic symbol of peace and plenty. A gifted sorceress, she is often portrayed as a dark soul, thwarting Arthur and manipulating heroes. At a deeper level, she is a winter goddess of darkness and death, opposing Arthur, the Lord of Summer. She reveals the redeeming aspect of her character in her role as sovereign healer of Avalon and guardian of Arthur's body in death. (Illustration by Stuart Littlejohn, 1994.)

Merlin (right) is best remembered as the fatherly and spiritual guardian of Arthur. A wise seer, Merlin counselled the young king, sometimes sternly and sometimes gently, but always with wisdom. Merlin was also a peerless sage, credited with the design of the Round Table, the plan for Camelot and the stone ring at Stonehenge. He learnt his craft from a master, Bleise, portrayed here as an historian recording the deeds of Arthur's reign, as reported by Merlin. (Manuscript illustration , c. 1300.)

Sir Lancelot Queen Guinevere With RingStonehenge Knights The Round TableSorceress Myth

Hellawes (below) was a sorceress in the Arthurian myths who had set her heart on the noble knight Sir Lancelot, whom she had loved from afar for some seven years. Eventually, she managed to lure him into her Chapel Perilous and there she tried all the methods she knew to inspire his love for her. But it was to no avail because the steadfast and loyal knight loved one woman only, Arthur's queen, the fair Guinevere, and he had come to the chapel with but one mission in mind, which was to collect healing talismans for the wounded knight Sir Meliot. When Lancelot left with the talismans, he was completely untouched by Hellawes' love and even her magical craft. The sorceress finally realized that he would never love her and she died of a broken heart. (Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley, c. 1870.)

Druids (above) held both political and spiritual power in Celtic society and were gifted not only as shamans and seers but also as legal and moral advisors. Druids underwent a long apprenticeship of at least twenty years, learning the mysteries and laws by heart. Here, druids on a snowy hiil celebrate the winter solstice by gathering a bough of mistletoe, cut with the sacred golden sickle borne by the foremost druid. (The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe by g Henry and E a Horned, canvas, 1890.)

Taliesin (left), a prophetic poet and shamanistic seer, was gifted with all-seeing wisdom after consuming a "greal" of inspiration from Ceridwen's cauldron. Wales's greatest bard, he foretold the coming of the Saxons and the oppression of the Cymry as well as his own death. He appears here as an eagle, the bird often chosen by shamans on their spirit-flights or trance journeys to the otherworid. The eagle's gold nimbus symbolizes Taliesin's radiant brow. (Illustration by Stuart Littlejohn, 1994.)

CONALL, in Irish mythology, was the foster-brother of the Ulster hero CUCHULAINN. As children, they swore that if either was killed first the other would avenge him. When Queen MEDB of Connacht invaded Ulster, Cuchulainn faced her army single-handed, but he was doomed because he had offended the war goddess MORR1GAN. After Cuchulainn had been killed, and his head and sword-hand cut off by the enemy, the warriors of Ulster were stirred by Conall to wreak bloody revenge. They caught up with Queen Medb's army and Conall slew those who had killed his foster-brother. Later, Conall went on to ravage the whole of Ireland as he punished Queen Medb's allies one by one. In doing so he earned his title, Caernach ("of the Victories").

conchobhar mac nessa, in Irish mythology, was an Ulster king. He was the son of Fachtna Fathach and NESSA, a local beauty who, according to one tradition, conceived Conchobhar on the eve

CONCHOBHAR MAC NESSA, a high king of Ireland, granted arms to the young Cuchulainn, but when the boy grasped his spears, they splintered in his hand; next, a chariot shattered beneath his stamp. No weapons withstood the hero's mighty grasp until he was given the king's own arms. (Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1910.)

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CONALL of the Victories, a veteran warlord, avenged Cuchulainn's death by slaying his killers one by one. From the brain of one of his victims, Mac Da Tho, he made a magic brain ball, a lethal weapon. Conall here is welcomed by his Ulstermen at a feast in Mac Da Tho's dun. (Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1910.)

CONALL of the Victories, a veteran warlord, avenged Cuchulainn's death by slaying his killers one by one. From the brain of one of his victims, Mac Da Tho, he made a magic brain ball, a lethal weapon. Conall here is welcomed by his Ulstermen at a feast in Mac Da Tho's dun. (Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1910.)

of her royal marriage through a secret affair with a druid. When her husband died shortly after the wedding, Nessa was courted by his half-brother and successor, FERGUS MAC ROTH. But she would only agree to become his wife on the condition that he would first let her son Conchobhar rule as king of Ulster for a year. An ambitious and determined woman, Nessa instructed her son how to be a great ruler so that when the time arrived for Fergus Mac Roth to return to the throne, the people of Ulster simply refused to let Conchobhar step down.

Although he was married, King Conchobhar fell deeply in love with DEIRDRE, who was sometimes called Derdriu ("of the Sorrows"). She was the daughter of an Ulster chieftain, and at her birth the druid CATHBAD had warned that, though Deirdre would be the most beautiful woman in Ireland and would marry a king, she would be the cause of death and destruction throughout the land. By the time Deirdre grew up, Conchobhar was an old man, and she in disgust refused his advances and eloped with a handsome young warrior named NAOISE. But the king never gave up his passion, and so eventually he had Naoise killed and was married to Deirdre. She found her situation so intolerable that she committed suicide by throwing herself from a speeding chariot. Fergus Mac Roth, appalled by Conchobhar's behaviour, offered his services to Ulster's enemies and a long war ensued. Conchobhar was himself killed by a magic slingshot. It was the famous "brain ball" made by Conall out of the brains of a slain Leinster king. The ball lodged in the king's skull, and his doctors advised him to avoid any strenous exercise and excitement. Some years later Conchobhar Mac Nessa got into a rage and the "brain ball" caused his death.

CONLAI, sometimes known as Connla, was the doomed son of the great Ulster hero CUCHULAINN. According to one Irish tradition, Cuchulainn had visited the Land of Shadows in order to challenge the warrior woman AOIFA to single combat. After the fight, which the hero just managed to win by the use of cunning, they became lovers and Conlai was conceived. When he left, Cuchulainn gave Aoifa a gold ring. Years later Conlai wore this ring on a visit to Ulster, where he challenged the local heroes to combat. Just like his father, Conlai was quick to anger and soon overcame CONALL, Cuchulainn's foster-brother. Despite the misgivings of his wife EMER, Cuchulainn could not resist fighting the young stranger himself. Too proud to announce his own identity when challenged by Cuchulainn, Conlai accepted the possibility of death and drew his sword. Although Cuchulainn was impressed by sword-play that matched his own, he lost his temper the moment Conlai cut off one of his locks of hair. The terrible combat only conlai, the ill-starred son of Aoifa and Cuchulainn, grew up in Skye, a stranger to his father When he went to Ulster to challenge the heal heroes, he met Cuchulainn in single combat and was killed. Recognizing his son too late, Cuchulainn was overwhelmed with grief. (Illustration by James Alexander, 1995.)

Cormac Mac ArtCuchulainn MythologyAssassin AoifaCormac Mac Art

CORMAC MAC ART'S (above) reign was distinguished by peace and plenty. A wise and good man, he was favoured by the Tuatha De Danann who invited him to their hidden world, and gave him a curative apple branch. In tune with Christian kindness, he warmly welcomed St Patrick at his court, (illustration by James Alexander ¡995.)

CORMAC (below), returning home after his long, voluntary exile, stopped by a roadside hostel where he was lulled to sleep by the soft notes of a harp. Defenceless in his enchanted sleep, he was shin by assassins, sent by the harpist, Craifiine, in revenge for Cormac's affair with his wife. (illustration by Nick Beale, 1995.)

cormac mac Art was the

High King of Ireland during the period that FINN MACCOOL led the Fenian warrior band. He was the most famous of the early rulers of Ireland, his reign being tentatively dated from 227 to 266. Cormac Mac Art was the Irish Solomon, a wise and powerful king, who was well served by the brave exploits of Finn MacCool. His wisdom seems to have impressed the TUATHA DE DANANN. These gods and goddesses invited Cormac Mac Art to their home in the otherworld, where they gave him wonderful presents. One of these was a silver branch that bore golden apples, and when shaken produced music that could cure the sick and wounded. On his own death Cormac Mac Art had to hand back this incredible talisman. One of Cormac's sons, Cellach, raped the niece of Aonghus of the Terrible Spear. In the ensuing fight, Cellach was slain and Cormac lost an eye. As a High King could have no imperfection Cormac had to step down and his son Cairbe took his place. The reputation of the High King remained so strong that later the Irish Christians also adopted him. It was claimed that Cormac Mac Art learned of the Christian faith before it was actually preached in Ireland by St Patrick, with the result that he ordered that he should not be buried at the royal cemetery by the River Boyne because of its pagan associations.

Creidhne was the goldsmith of the TUATHA DE DANANN and the brother of GOIBHNIU, the smith god, and Luchtar, the carpenter. During the second battle of Magh Tuireadh, when the De Danann finally defeated the FOMORll, the three brothers could be seen on the battlefield making and repairing spears with magical speed. As Goibhniu fashioned a blade with three blows of his hammer, Luchtar carved a handle in a flash, and Creidhne crafted rivets that flew into place and bonded at once.

ended when Cuchulainn drove his spear through Conlai's stomach. Only then did Cuchulainn notice on his young opponent's finger the gold ring he had given to Aoifa. Cuchulainn, overwhelmed with remorse and grief, carried the dying Conlai to his house and afterwards buried his forgotten son.

CORMAC MAC ART'S (above) reign was distinguished by peace and plenty. A wise and good man, he was favoured by the Tuatha De Danann who invited him to their hidden world, and gave him a curative apple branch. In tune with Christian kindness, he warmly welcomed St Patrick at his court, (illustration by James Alexander ¡995.)

CORMAC was the son of the Ulster king CONCHOBHAR MAC NESSA. An Irish myth tells of his distaste at his father's treachery in killing NAOISE, the husband of DEIRDRE, and of his going into voluntary exile with the deposed Ulster ruler FERGUS MAC ROTH. Not until he received an invitation from his father Conchobhar, when the dying king had nominated Cormac as his successor, did he consider returning home. However, a druidess had warned Cormac that if he went back to Ulster he would be killed, but he set out anyway and on the journey he fell into a deep magic sleep and was slain by a group of warriors. The attack was said to have been arranged by a jealous husband, whose wife had fallen in love with Cormac.

CORMAC (below), returning home after his long, voluntary exile, stopped by a roadside hostel where he was lulled to sleep by the soft notes of a harp. Defenceless in his enchanted sleep, he was shin by assassins, sent by the harpist, Craifiine, in revenge for Cormac's affair with his wife. (illustration by Nick Beale, 1995.)

CUCHULAINN as a youngster lived at the court of the High King, where he trained with other sons of chieftains, whom he soon outstripped in arms and might. Although small, he glowed with an inner divine light and warmth, which he inherited from his father the sun god Lugh. (llustration by Stephen Re id, 1912.)

CUCHULAINN as a youngster lived at the court of the High King, where he trained with other sons of chieftains, whom he soon outstripped in arms and might. Although small, he glowed with an inner divine light and warmth, which he inherited from his father the sun god Lugh. (llustration by Stephen Re id, 1912.)

cuchulainn, in Irish mythology, was the champion warrior of Ulster. His name means "the Hound of Culann", although he was usually called the Hound of Ulster. Cuchulainn was the Irish Achilles, a larger-than-life fighter whose bouts of temper often caused grief to himself and others. Anger certainly made him slay his son CONLA1, when the young man travelled from the Land of Shadows to visit Ulster. The fifteen-year-old warrior was Cuchulainn's son by the warrior-princess AOIFA. Neither father nor son would identify themselves, so a tragic fight ensued. A gold ring on Conlai's finger revealed too late that he was Cuchulainn's own offpsring,

Cuchulainn's mother was DECHTIRE, the daughter of the druid CATHBAD, an advisor to the King CONCHOBHAR MAC NESS A. It was Cathbad who foretold that Cuchulainn would become a great warrior but die young. Shortly after her marriage to SUALTAM MAC ROTH, who was the brother of the deposed Ulster ruler FERGUS MAC

ROTH, Dechtire along with fifty of her kinswomen flew to the other-world in the form of a flock of birds. During the wedding feast she had swallowed a fly and dreamed as a result of the sun god LUGH, who told her to make this journey. Cathbad reassured his son-in-law by saying that Dechtire had merely gone to visit her otherworld relations, for her mother was a daughter of the god AONGHUS. In fact, Lugh kept Dechtire there for his own pleasure for three years.

When Dechtire and her women returned to Emain Macha, the stronghold of the Ulster kings, in the form of brightly coloured birds, Dechtire was expecting Lugh's son, Setanta. Sualtam Mac Roth was so pleased to have his wife home again that when the boy was born he accepted him as his own child.

As a youth, Setanta quickly learned the ways of the warrior, but it was not obvious to everyone just how strong and brave he was until he killed an enormous hound with his bare hands. One day, arriving late at the gate of a house where King Cochobhar Mac Nessa was being entertained by the Ulster smith CULANN, the young hero was attacked by the ferocious guard dog and only saved himself by dashing out its brains on one of the gate's pillars. Their host had now lost a faithful guardian, so Setanta offered to take the hound's place while a replacement was found. When Culann thanked the young warrior but declined his offer, it was decided that henceforth Setanta would be known as Cuchulainn ("the Hound of Culann").

Even though Cathbad warned that anyone going to battle for the first time on a certain day was destined for a short life, Cuchulainn could not wait to deal with Ulster's enemies and he soon took up arms against three semi-divine warriors named Foill, Fannell and Tuachell, as well as their numerous followers, all of whom he killed. In this combat Cuchulainn displayed for the first time the dreadful shape of his battle-frenzy. His body trembled violently; his heels and calves appeared in front; one eye receded into his head, the other stood out huge and red on his cheek; a man's head could fit into his jaw; his hair bristled like hawthorn, with a drop of blood at the end of each single hair; and from the top of his head arose a thick column of dark blood like the mast of a ship. Returning to Emain Macha in his chariot, "graced with the bleeding heads of his enemies", and with the battle-frenzy still upon him, Cuchulainn was only stopped from circling the defences and screaming for a fight through a ploy of the Ulster queen Mughain. She led out of Emain Macha some hundred and fifty naked women carrying three vats of cold water. An embarrassed or amazed Cuchulainn was swiftly womanhandled into the vats. The first one burst its sides. The second boiled furiously, but the last vat became only very hot. Thus was the young hero tamed after his first taste of blood.

In his calm, everyday state of mind Cuchulainn was a favourite of womenfolk. But he fell in love with EMER, the daughter of Fogall, a wily chieftain whose castle was close to Dublin. Cuchulainn asked for Emer's hand but Fogall, who was against the match, pointed out that Cuchulainn had yet to establish his reputation as a warrior and suggested that he should go and leam

CUCHULAINN, the Irish Achilles, performed many mighty deeds in his brief years. The hero's dreamy eyes reflect his idealism, which is expressed in the inscription beneath this portrait, "I care not though I last but a day if my name and my fame are a power forever." (Cuchulainn by John Duncan, canvas, 2913.)

Image Celte CuchulainCeltic Hero Cuchulainn

CUCHULAINN, mortally wounded in his final combat but determined to fight to the end, lashed himself to a pillar and died on his feet. At the end a crow settled on his shoulder, signifying death. This memorial symbolizes all those who fought for Irish independence, (the death of Cuchulainn byOSheppard, bronze, 1916.)

Cuchulainn John Duncan

cuchulainn journeyed to the Isle of Skye to train in the martial arts. On the Isle he met a man who gave him a flaming wheel to guide him through the deadly quagmire. The guide was his father, the sun god, Lugh. (Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1912.)

CUCHULAINN, mortally wounded in his final combat but determined to fight to the end, lashed himself to a pillar and died on his feet. At the end a crow settled on his shoulder, signifying death. This memorial symbolizes all those who fought for Irish independence, (the death of Cuchulainn byOSheppard, bronze, 1916.)

from the Scottish champion Domhall. Domhall told Cuchulainn that his best trainer in arms would be SCATHACH, a warrior-princess in the Land of Shadows. So he travelled to this mysterious land and served Scathach. She taught the young hero his famous battle leap.

For a year and a day Cuchulainn was taught by Scathach, and became the lover of her daughter UATHACH. Scathach seems to have feared for the safety of Cuchulainn, and she warned him without success not to challenge her sister Aoifa. But Cuchulainn beat Aoifa by cunning, and afterwards she became his mistress, conceiving the unfortunate Conlai. Cuchulainn finally returned to Fogall's stronghold and claimed Emer, but only after a heated battle with Fogall and his warriors, during which Fogall leapt to his death escaping the hero.

Acclaimed as the champion of Ireland in a beheading contest, Cuchulainn was soon unbeatable in combat, a skill he was to need dearly in his last campaign, which was a single-handed defence of Ulster against the invading army of Queen MEDB of Connacht. The main reason for this large-scale cattle raid was a famous brown bull which was kept in Cuailgne. But the tyrannical ruler of Ulster, King Conchobhar Mac Nessa, also played a part in gathering rebellious Ulstermen and others from many parts of Ireland to Queen Medb's side. One prophecy told the queen that there would be "crimson and red" upon her forces because of Cuchulainn's prowess, but she was determined to invade and she also had three advantages. First, the great hero had made bitter enemies of the CALATIN family, whose daughters were witches. Just prior to his last stand along with his faithful charioteer LAEG, they cast a spell on Cuchulainn which withered a shoulder and a hand. Second, Medb attacked when Ulster's heroes were laid low by MACHA's curse, and were unable to fight for five days and nights. Finally, Cuchulainn had lost the support of the goddess MORRIGAN, because he had rejected her passionate advances. Yet he still managed to conduct a successful single-handed defence and was able to slow the advance of Queen cuchulainn journeyed to the Isle of Skye to train in the martial arts. On the Isle he met a man who gave him a flaming wheel to guide him through the deadly quagmire. The guide was his father, the sun god, Lugh. (Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1912.)

Medb's forces by the use of clever tactics and lightning attacks, until the effects of Macha's curse had almost worn off, and the dazed warriors were able to respond to Sualtam Mac Roth's call to arms. But their help came too late for Cuchulainn. Pressed on all sides by his enemies, the Ulster champion was overcome in spite of aid from his divine father, the sun god Lugh. His only companion, Laeg, was laid low with a spear, then Cuchulainn himself suffered a terrible stomach wound that even Lugh could not heal. Finally, Cuchulainn tied himself to an upright stone in order to fight till his last breath. As soon as he died Morrigan, in the form of a crow, settled on his shoulder and his enemies cut off his head and right hand, leaving his body for the carrion birds. Conall, his foster-brother, managed to recover the missing parts, but Ulster wept for the loss of their champion. Indeed, so widespread was Cuchulainn's fame that his exploits influenced the development of the Arthurian myths in Britain and France. (See also MAGIC AND ENCHANTMENT; CELTIC ROMANCE)

culann, in Irish mythology, was an Ulster smith who was thought to be a reincarnation of the sea god MAN ANN AN MAC LIR. It was his enormous guardian dog that young Setanta killed with his bare hands. Culann was angry about this so Setanta offered to become his hound until a new one was trained. Thereafter the young man was known as CUCHULAINN, "the Hound of Culann".

culhwch, in Welsh mythology, was the son of Cildydd, one of King ARTHUR'S knights. His stepmother hated Culhwch so much that she placed a curse on him that he could marry only OLWEN, the daughter of the giant Yspaddaden. This fate, however, seemed less dreadful once Culhwch found Olwen, a task which took over a year, for they fell deeply in love. Culhwch's next problem was how to persuade her giant father to agree to the match. Like the Irish Cyclops BALOR, Yspaddaden's eyelids needed to be levered up with supports in order for him to see

CULANN (below), the Ulster smith, and the High King Conchobhar gaze in amazement at the young Cuchulainn who slew Culann's fierce hound outright when the great guard dog had attacked the hero at the gate. To compensate for killing his hound, Cuchulainn offered to take its place. (Illustration by Stephen Re/d, 1912.)

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CU ROl and his comrade, Cuchulainn, on one wild escapade, raided Inis Ter Falga, carrying off the king's booty and beautiful daughter, Blathnat. When the heroes fell out over the girl, Cuchulainn was at one point beaten and buried up to his arms while Cu Roi galloped off with Blathnat. (Illustration by James Alexander, 1995.)

Culhwch. Also like Balor, the Welsh giant did not favour the idea of his daughter marrying a man. At interviews held on successive days Yspaddaden threw a poisoned spear at Culhwch and his companions, but they managed on each occasion to catch it and throw it back. When Culhwch finally put out one of the giant's eyes with a return throw, Yspaddaden agreed to the marriage on condition that Culhwch perform a whole series of difficult tasks. With the assistance of King Arthur's men and a couple of divine allies, Culhwch successfully completed these trials, then killed Yspaddaden and married Olwen. (See also HEROIC QUESTS)

cumal (whose name means "sky") was the father of the Fenian hero Finn Mac Cumal, more commonly known as FINN MACCOOL, who was bom after his father's death. Cumal was also a renowned leader of the F1ANNA and chief of the Clan Bascna. He was killed by Jadhg, a druid, who had been enraged when Cumal eloped with his daughter.

cu roi (whose name means "hound of Roi") was a Munster king. It was King Cu Roi who transformed himself into l/ATH, the dreadful giant, in order to choose the champion of Ireland. The three

CULHWCH (right), on his quest for Olwen, arrives at Arthur's court, seeking help and counsel. This Victorian painting evokes a medieval mood, portraying the hero as a courtfy hunter from the Age of Chivalry. The surly steward could be Arthur's brusque seneschal, Kay. (kilhwych, the King's Son by Arthur Gaskin, wood, c. ¡900.)

Celtic RoiArthur Gaskin WoodDagda Celtic Mythology Images

DAGDA, father of the gods, owned a wondrous cauldron of plenty and a double-edged magic club, carried on wheels. This bronze relief of a powerful Celtic deity, with a wheel, is regarded by some to be Dagda, with the wheel symbolizing his treasures, (gundestrup Cauldron, gilded silver, c, 100 BC.)

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contenders for the championship -Laoghaire, Cuchulainn's foster-brother CONALL, and CUCHULAINN himself - were invited by Cu Roi to a beheading contest, which only Cuchulainn had enough courage to go through with. Later, Cu Roi and Cuchulainn carried off BLATHNAT, a beautiful woman. Although she expressed her love for Cuchulainn, Cu Roi took her to his castle in Munster. When Cuchulainn laid siege to the stronghold, Blathnat betrayed Cu Roi by showing how the place could be entered.

CYNON, according to a late Arthurian myth, was a knight who encountered a black man with one foot and one eye, and bearing a large wooden club. This Fomorii-like fighter, doubtless a cousin of the violent and misshapen Irish sea gods, ordered Cynon to go to a fountain and fill with water a silver bowl that he would find there , and then to throw the water against a marble slab. Sir Cynon did as he was instructed and a Black Knight appeared to the sound of thunder and the singing of magic birds. Sir

CYNON, an Arthurian hero, battles with the Black Knight, a mysterious warrior who appeared by magic. Although defeated, Cynon returned home on foot to tell the tale, and thus inspired Owain to set out on his memorable quest. Years later Cynon retraced his steps in search of Owain. (illustration byH Theaker, 1920.)

Cynon then fought his mysterious opponent but was defeated.

DAGDA means "the good god". He was in fact the great god of Irish mythology, and was usually depicted as a man in rustic clothes dragging an enormous club on wheels. With one end of this weapon he could slay his enemies and with the other he could restore the dead to life. Dagda was believed to be wise, full of knowledge and well versed in the magic arts. He was a chief of the TUATHA DE DANANN.

Dagda was a great fighter and the lover of MORRIGAN, the war goddess. The bones of his enemies were described as "hailstones under horses' hooves" when he wielded his mighty club. Like an all-powerful chieftain, Dagda led the Tuatha De Danann on the battlefield, slaying all those who dared to confront him. Yet he was also associated with abundance, being able to satisfy the hunger of everybody by means of an inexhaustible cauldron. That Dagda took great pleasure in eating was apparent, when just before the second battle of Magh Tuireadh he visited the camp of the FOMORII, his bitter enemies, during a truce at the time of the New Year festival. There they made for him a porridge of milk, flour, fat, pigs and goats, enough for fifty men.

On pain of death Dagda was |

ordered by the Fomorii to consume this massive meal, which he readily did with a huge wooden ladle "so big that a man and a woman could have slept together in it". This test turned Dagda temporarily into a gross old man, but it did not prevent him from making love to a Fomorii girl, who promised to use her magic on behalf of the Tuatha De Danann. The story may recall, in a distorted form, a holy marriage between a chieftain and a maiden at the beginning of each year; similar to

DANA, the great mother goddess, gave her name to the Tuatha De Danann, a race of wonderful, beautiful but often vulnerable gods who lived in the sparkling otherworld. Here, they gather to hear the poignant song ofLir's children, ill-starred gods who were turned into swans, (illustration by Stephen Re id, 1912.)

DAGDA, father of the gods, owned a wondrous cauldron of plenty and a double-edged magic club, carried on wheels. This bronze relief of a powerful Celtic deity, with a wheel, is regarded by some to be Dagda, with the wheel symbolizing his treasures, (gundestrup Cauldron, gilded silver, c, 100 BC.)

the sacred rite that was performed by a Sumerian ruler and a priestess in Mesopotamia. This union was meant to ensure prosperity, strength and peace.

Although the eventual defeat of the Fomorii at the second battle of Magh Tuireadh was really due to the sun god LUGH, it was Dagda who was held in the greatest respect, even after the Tuatha De Danann were in their turn overthrown by the sons of MILESIUS, the ancestors of the present-day Irish.

To Dagda fell the important task of settling the defeated Tuatha De Danann underground. Just as the Fomorii had retreated beneath the waves, so the vanquished De Danann disappeared underground. Over the centuries these powerful deities were gradually transformed into fairies - the bean sidhe or BANSHEES of Irish folklore. (See also WONDROUS CAULDRONS)

DANA, another name for ANU, was the goddess after whom the TUATHA DE DANANN were named -"the people of the goddess Dana".

Tuatha Danann Mythology

dechtire, in Irish mythology, was the mother of CUCHULAINN. She was a daughter of Maga, the child of the love god AONGHUS and of the druid CATHBAD, advisor to King CONCHOBHAR MAC NESSA of Ulster. When Dechtire married SUALTAM MAC ROTH, a fly flew into her cup during the wedding feast and she swallowed it. She fell into a deep sleep and dreamed that the sun god LUGH insisted that she and fifty of her kinswomen follow him to the otherworld as a flock of birds. Three years later a flock of brightly coloured birds reappeared at Emain Macha, the capital of Ulster. The Ulstermen went after them with slings, but were unable to hit any of them. It was decided, therefore, to surprise-the birds at night as they rested. So it was that the warriors came upon Dechtire, her women and Lugh sleeping in a hut on a site renowned for its magical properties. When Conchobhar was told of of this he sent for Dechtire at once, but she told her captors that she was too ill to be able to travel for another day. The next morning she showed them her new-born son, a gift to Ulster.

DECHTIRE, who had disappeared mysteriously on her wedding day, returned three years later with the shining sun god, Lugh Dechtire brought with her a gift from the otherworld - her child, Setanta, who became Ulster's greatest hero, Cuchulainn. (Illustration by G Denham, c, 1900.)

DEIRDRE grieves for the death of her beloved Naoise and his brothers, slain by the jealous King Conchobhar. Over the brothers' grave, she sang her pitiable lament, "May my heart not break today for the sea-tides of our everyday sorrows are strong, but I am sorrow itself..." (deirdre of the Sorrows by John Duncan, c. 1912.)

half FOMORII, took his place. But Bres was a tyrant and became very unpopular, so Nuada was restored to the leadership, once Dian Cecht's son Miach had made him a new hand of flesh and blood. Apparently the god of healing grew jealous of his son's medical skills and so killed him.

deirdre was the cause of Ulster's sorrows, according to Irish mythology. The druid CATHBAD foretold this before she was born, as well as telling of how beautiful she would become. When she grew up, King CONCHOBHAR MAC NESSA wished to marry her, even though he was already advanced in years, but Deirdre would have none of this. She persuaded NAOISE and his brothers to run away with her to Alba. After living for many years in their voluntary exile, they were tricked into returning to Ulster on the understanding that they would come to no harm. But Conchobhar arranged to have Naoise killed and then forced Deirdre to agree to marry him. Once married, however, Deirdre remained sad and kept her distance from the king, with the result that he handed her over to the killer of Naoise. Rather than sleep with this man, she threw herself from his speeding chariot and smashed her brains out on a rock. From each of the graves of Naoise and Deirdre grew a pine, which eventually inter-| twined and grew as a single tree.

derbforgaille was the daughter of a ruler of Lochlann. When her father left her on the shore as a tribute for the FOMORII, she was rescued by the Ulster hero CUCHULAINN and fell in love with him. In order to follow him, she turned herself into a swan. However, unaware of the bird's true identity, Cuchulainn brought her down with a sling-shot. She returned to human form and he sucked the stone out of the wound, but now they were linked by blood and so he could not marry her.

dian cecht was the Irish god of healing. It was said that with his daughter Airmid, he had charge of a spring whose waters restored the dying gods to life. After NUADA, the leader of the TUATHA DE DAN ANN, lost his hand fighting the firbolg at the first battle of Magh Tuireadh, Dian Cecht gave him a silver hand, thus earning him the title Nuada "of the Silver Hand", Impressed though the Tuatha De Danann were by Dian Cecht's handiwork, Nuada was felt to be no longer fit to be a war leader and BRES, who was

Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, or Diarmuid "of the Love Spot", was the foster-son of the Irish love god AONGHUS. His mortal father gave him to the god as a child, a gift that was returned when Diarmuid received the famous love spot as a young Fenian warrior. One night, when out hunting, Diarmuid and three companions took shelter in a small hut in a wood. There a beautiful young woman received them but chose to sleep only with Diarmuid. She told him that she was Youth, and that the love spot she put on his forehead would make him irresistible to women. As a consequence, Diarmuid's life was almost continuously troubled by desperate women, the worst being GRAINNE, the passionate daughter of High King CORMAC MAC ART. Grainne was betrothed to FINN MACCOOL, the Fenian commander, but she wanted Diarmuid and forced him to elope with her. For sixteen years the Fenians pursued them until, at the request of the king and the love god, a peace was grudgingly made.

It seemed that Diarmuid and Grainne would settle down to a contented family life and they had several children. But Diarmuid's own destiny was about to catch up with him. His mortal father had killed his brother at birth because

DIARMUID (below), a gifted Fenian warrior, was lured underground by the De Danann who often recruited champions to fight in their otherworldly battles. To test his skill, they sent a mysterious warrior to challenge him as he drank from their forest well, (illustration by Stephen Reid, 1912.)

Adonis Mythology HeroFate Diarmuid Grainne

DIARMUID, gored by a wild boar, was denied healing water by Finn, still smarting over Diarmuid's love affair with Grainne. A Celtic Adonis, the hero was loved by women often against his will, and, like Adonis, was killed by a boar, but enjoyed some form of immortality. (Illustration byH ] Ford, 1912.)

Adonis Mythology Hero

DlAN CECHT (above), god of healing, guards the sacred spring of health with his daughter, Airmid. Its miracle waters cured the sick and restored the dead to life. Known as the father of medicine, Dian Cecht is credited with a remarkable sixth-century Brehon Law tract on the practice of medicine, (illustration by Nick Beale, 1995.)

DON (below), the Welsh mother goddess, was as popular as her Irish counterpart, Dana. This female figure, surrounded by birds and children, is widely assumed to be a Celtic mother goddess. She is one of several Celtic deities embossed on the gilded panels of the Gundestrup Cauldron. (Gilded silver, c. 100 BC.)

he believed that Aonghus' steward, Roc, was responsible for the pregnancy. However, Roc revived the infant as a magic boar and told it to bring Diarmuid to his death. When hunting one day with Cormac Mac Art and Finn MacCool, Diarmuid came face to face with this creature. His hounds fled in terror, his slingshot had no impact on the charging boar's head and his sword broke in two, so the irresistible Diarmuid was left bleeding to death on the ground. Finn MacCool refused to fetch the dying Diarmuid a drink of water, and by the time the other hunters arrived on the scene, he was too near to death to be saved. Grainne was devastated by the loss, although she was moved by the way that Aonghus took care of Diarmuid's corpse. He took the body to his own palace by the River Boyne, where he breathed a new soul into Diarmuid so that they could converse each day. This was how the young man came to live with the TUATHA DE DAN ANN, who had by this time left the upper world and lived beneath the soil of Ireland.

DIARMUID, gored by a wild boar, was denied healing water by Finn, still smarting over Diarmuid's love affair with Grainne. A Celtic Adonis, the hero was loved by women often against his will, and, like Adonis, was killed by a boar, but enjoyed some form of immortality. (Illustration byH ] Ford, 1912.)

don was the Welsh equivalent of the Irish mother goddess DANA and was the daughter of Mathonwy, sister of MATH, and the wife of Beli, the god of death. She had many children, including AMAETHON, AR1ANRHOD, Govannon, GWYDION, Gilvaethwy and NUDD.

DlAN CECHT (above), god of healing, guards the sacred spring of health with his daughter, Airmid. Its miracle waters cured the sick and restored the dead to life. Known as the father of medicine, Dian Cecht is credited with a remarkable sixth-century Brehon Law tract on the practice of medicine, (illustration by Nick Beale, 1995.)

DON (below), the Welsh mother goddess, was as popular as her Irish counterpart, Dana. This female figure, surrounded by birds and children, is widely assumed to be a Celtic mother goddess. She is one of several Celtic deities embossed on the gilded panels of the Gundestrup Cauldron. (Gilded silver, c. 100 BC.)

DIARMUID (below), a gifted Fenian warrior, was lured underground by the De Danann who often recruited champions to fight in their otherworldly battles. To test his skill, they sent a mysterious warrior to challenge him as he drank from their forest well, (illustration by Stephen Reid, 1912.)

Welsh Don GoddessDana Celtic Goddess
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