Tuatha Dé Danann

In Irish-Celtic mythology, the Tuatha Dé Danann (“People of the goddess Danu”) are the Irish race of gods, founded by the goddess Danu. These gods, who originally lived on ‘the islands in the west’, had perfected the use of magic. The traveled on a big cloud to the land that later would be called Ireland and settled there.
Shortly after their arrival they defeated the Firbolg at the first battle of Mag Tuireadh. In the second battle of Mag Tuireadh they fought and conquered the Fomorians, a race of giants who were the primordial inhabitants of Ireland. The Tuatha Dé dealt more subtly with the Fomorians than with the Firbolg, and gave them the province of Connacht. There was also some marrying between the two races.
The Tuatha Dé themselves were later driven to the underworld by the Milesians, the people of the fabulous spanish king Milesius. There they still live as invisible beings and are known as the Aes sidhe. In a just battle, they will fight beside mortals. When they fight, they go armed with lances of blue flame and shields of pure white.
Important members are of the Tuatha Dé are: Dagda, Brigid, Nuada, Lugh, Dian Cecht, Ogma, and Lir. The goddess Danu can also be identified with the Welsh goddess Don.

Related information
Other names
{thoo’a-haw day dah’-nawn}
Meaning of name
“People of Danu”


Such a great people were the De Danann, and so uncommonly skilled in the few arts of the time, that they dazzled even their conquerors and successors, the Milesians, into regarding them as mighty magicians. Later generations of the Milesians to whom were handed down the wonderful traditions of the wonderful people they had conquered, lifted them into amystic realm, their greatest ones becoming gods and goddesses, who supplied to their successors a beautiful mythology. Over the island, which was now indisputably De Danann, reigned the hero, Lugh, famous in mythology. And after Lugh, the still greater Dagda – whose three grandsons, succeeding him in the sovereignty, were reigning, says the story, when the Milesians came. The Dagda, was the greatest of the De Danann. He was styled Lord of Knowledge and Sun of all the Sciences. His daughter, Brigit, was a woman of wisdom, and goddess of poetry. The Dagda was a great and beneficent ruler for eighty years.


Tara, which attained the climax of its fame under Cormac, is said to have been rounded by the Firbolgs, and been the seat of kings thenceforth. Ollam Fodla first gave it historic fame by founding the Feis or Triennial Parliament, there, seven or eight centuries before Christ. It is said it was under, or after, Eremon, the first Milesian high king that it, one of the three pleasantest hills in Ireland, came to be named Tara – a corruption of the genitive form of the compound word, Tea Mur – meaning “the burial place of Tea” the wife of Eremon, and daughter of a king of Spain. In its heyday Tara must have been impressive. The great, beautiful hill was dotted with seven duns, and in every dun were many buildings – all of them, of course, of wood, in those days – or of wood and metal. The greatest structure was the Mi Cuarta, the great banqueting hall, which was on the Ard Righ’s own dun. Each of the provincial kings had, on Tara, a house that was set aside for him when he came up to attend the great Parliament. There was a Grianan (sun house) for the provincial queens, and their attendants. The great Feis was held at Samain (Hallowday). It lasted for three days before Samain and three days after. But the Aonach or great fair, the assembly of the people in general, which was a most important accompaniment of the Feis, seems to have begun much earlier. At this Feis the ancient laws were recited and confirmed, new laws were enacted, disputes were settled, grievances adjusted, wrongs righted. And in accordance with the usual form at all such assemblies, the ancient history of the land was recited, probably by the high king’s seanachie, who had the many other critical seanachies attending to his every word, and who, accordingly, dare not seriously distort or prevaricate. This highly efficient method of recording and transmitting the country’s history, in verse, too, which was practised for a thousand years before the introduction of writing, and the introduction of Christianity and which continued to be practised for long centuries after these events was a highly practical method, which effectively preserved for us the large facts of our country’s history throughout a thousand of the years of dim antiquity when the history of most other countries is a dreary blank.

As from the great heart and centre of the Irish Kingdom, five great arteries or roads radiated from Tara to the various parts of the country the Slighe Cualann, which ran toward the present County Wicklow, the Slighe Mor, the great Western road, which ran via Dublin to Galway, the Slight Asail which ran near the present Mullingar, the Slighe Dala which ran southwest, and the Slighe Midluachra, the Northern road. “Great, noble and beautiful truly was our Tara of the Kings.”


It is only recently that we have realised the all important part played by legendary lore in forming and stamping a nation’s character. A people’s character and a people’s heritage of tradition act and react upon each other, down the ages, the outstanding qualities of both getting ever more and more alike – so long as their racial traditions are cherished as an intimate part of their life. Of all the great bodies of ancient Irish Legendary lore, none other, with the possible exception of the Red Branch cycle, has had such developing, uplifting, and educational effect upon the Irish people, through the ages, as the wonderful body of Fenian tales in both prose and verse, rich in quality and rich in quantity. Fionn MacCumail, leader of the Fian (Fenians), in the time of Cormac MacArt, is the great central figure of these tales. The man Fionn lived and died in the third century of the Christian Era. It was in the reign of Conn, at the very end of the second century, that was founded the Fian – a great standing army of picked and specially trained, daring warriors, whose duty was to carry out the mandates of the high kin – “To uphold justice and put down injustice, on the part of the kings and lords of Ireland – and to guard the harbors from foreign invaders”. From this latter we might conjecture that an expected Roman invasion first called the Fian into existence. They prevented robberies, exacted fines and tributes, put down public enemies and every kind of evil that might afflict the country. Moreover they moved about from place to place all over the island. Fionn, being a chieftain himself in his own right, had a residence on the hill of Allen in Kildare. The Fianna (bodies of the Fian) recruited at Tara, Uisnech and Taillte fairs. The greatest discrimination was used in choosing the eligible ones from amongst the candidate throng – which throng included in plenty sons of chieftains and princes. Many and hard were the tests for him who sought to be one of this noble body. One of the first tests was literary for no candidate was possible who had not mastered the twelve books of poetry. So skilful must he be in wood running, and so agile, that in the flight no single braid of his hair is losed by a hanging branch. His step must be so light that underfoot he breaks no withered branch. In facing the greatest odds the weapon must not shake in his hand . When a candidate had passed these tests and was approved as fit for his heroic band, there were also vows to be taken as the final condition of his admission. There were three cathas (battalions) of the Fian – three thousand in each catha. This was in time of peace. In time of war the quota was seven cathas. Although the Fianna were supposed to uphold the power of the Ard Righ, their oath of fealty was not to him, but to their own chief, Fionn. The best stories of the Fian are preserved to us in the poems of Oisin, the son of Fionn, the chief bard of the fian, in the Agallamh na Seanorach (Colloquy of the Ancients) of olden time. This is by far the finest collection of Fenian tales, and is supposed to be an account of the Fian’s great doings, given in to Patrick by Oisin and Caoilte, another of Fionn’s trusted lieutenants, more than 150 years after. After the overthrow of the Fian, in the battle of Gabra in the year 280 A.D.,Caoilte is supposed to have lived with the Tuatha de Dannann, under the hills – until the coming of St. Patrick. Oisin had been carried away to the Land of mortal existence, and to Ireland, when Patrick is in the land, winning it from Crom Cruach to Christ.

Long, long ago beyond the misty space
of twice a thousand years,
In Erin old there dwelt a mighty race,
Taller than Roman spears,
Like oaks and towers they had a giant grace,
Were fleet as deers
With winds and waves they made their ‘biding place,
These western shepherd seers.

Their ocean god was Mannanan MacLir,
whose angry lips,
In their white foam, full often would inter
Whole fleets of ships;
Crom was their day god, and their thunderer,
Made morning and eclipse,
Bride was their queen of song, and unto her
They prayed with fire-touched lips.

Great were their deeds, their passions, and their sports;
With clay and stone
They piled on strath and shore those mystic forts,
Not yet over thrown
On cairn-crowned hills they held their council courts
While youths alone,
With giant dogs, explored the elks’ resorts,
And brought them down.