Tuatha Dé Danann

The gods of Ireland.

While the word tuatha is a common enough word meaning "tribe" or "people", a translation of the phrase Dé Danann is difficult--it may mean "the Goddess Danann" or "the Goddess Danu", or it may mean "The Skillful Gods". Some portions of the Lebor Gabala refer to a Danann as the mother of the gods, or only as other of three specific figures, the sons of Turenn. On the other hand, an earlier text refers to Ana--in LGE Anann or Anand--as the mother of the gods, and this Ana is somtimes identified with Danann/Danu. Due to the late date of composition, it is a confusing mix. At any rate, the term may also refer to their position as the gods of skills, as opposed to their enemies the Fomorians, who are more like the Vanir or Titans--more concerned with fertility aspects than with skills.

Either way, the term is used to refer to that tribe which was the last to invade before the Milesians, who drove them off into the hollow hills. The Annals of the Four Masters and subsequent historians attempted to demythologize them, saying they came to Ireland in Anno Mundi 3303--ca. 701 BCE. The Second Battle of Magh Turedh also attemts to euhemerize them:

§2. They burnt their ships at once on reaching the district of Corcu Belgatan (that is, Connemara today), so that they should not think of retreating to them; and the smoke and the mist that came from the vessels filled the neighboring land and air. Therefore it was conceived that they had arrived in clouds of mist.
while the Lebor Gabala Erenn paints them in more mythological terms:
§55. So that they were the Tuatha De Danann who came to Ireland. In this wise they came, in dark clouds. They landed on the mountains of Conmaicne Rein in Connachta; and they brought a darkness over the sun for three days and three nights.

At any rate, the TDD are said to come from four cities:

  • Murias: from which came the Undri, Inexhausible Cauldron of the Dagda, fashioned by Semias the Druid
  • Finias: from which came Cliamh Solais, Nuada's Sword of Light, fashioned by Uscias the Druid
  • Gorias: from which came Sleá Bua, Lugh's Spear of Victory, fashioned by Esras the Druid
  • Falias: from which came the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny at Tara, originally protected by Morfessa the Druid.

    Once in Ireland, they battled the Fir Bolg in for dominion, and established their own kings over the land:

  • Nuada
  • [Bres mac Elatha--half Tuatha, half Formorian]
  • Lugh Lamhada
  • Eochaidh Ollathair a.k.a. the Dagda
  • Dealbhaeth son of Oghma
  • Fiacha the son of Dealbhaeth
  • Mac Cuill, Mac Ceacht, and Mac Greine together, the sons of Cermait son of the Dagda.

    It was under the three brothers that the Milesians came to Ireland and drove the TDD into the hollow hills. While Manannan divided up the sídhe for the TDD to dwell in, Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, then became king; this drove Manannan's father Ler to nearly leave the island. However, Ler is likely not TDD anyway. No, Ler and his family appear to be a seperate group from the Tuatha Dé Danann. This may be because Ler, Manannan, et al., are oceanic gods, and the Celts were originally land-locked. They were already on the island before the Tuatha came. At any rate, this mirrors the relationship between the Plant Dôn of Wales--the equivalent to the Tuatha Dé Danann--and the Children of Llyr.

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    Mary Jones © 2004