Tag Archives: Lugh

Nuada of the Silver Arm

Nuada Airgetlám, Nuadu, Nodens (Gaulish), Nudd / Ludd / Lludd Llaw Eraint (Welsh)

Nuada was the first king the Tuatha Dé Danann, equivalent to the Gaulish Nodens and Welsh Nudd/Ludd.  He was also called Nuada Airgetlám (Nuada of the Silver Hand/Arm) or Lludd Llaw Eraint (Lludd of the Silver Hand).

Nuada was the god of the sea, healing, and warfare, linked to the Roman gods Mars and Neptune, and also the Norse god Týr/Tir.  He is also associated with the sun, youth, beauty, writing, sorcery and magic.

Nuada is associated with the Invincible Sword, the Sword of Light, one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  It was crafted by the poet (fili) and wizard Uiscias/Uscias in Findias, one of the ancient great cities of the Tuatha Dé.  The sword was thought to only inflict mortal blows when drawn, cleaving its enemies in half.

Nuada was king of the Tuatha Dé Danann before they arrived in Ireland.  Upon reaching the emerald isle, they met the Fir Bolg, and challenged them to battle after unsuccessfully bargaining half the land for themselves.  This was the First Battle of Mag Tuired, in which Nuada lost his hand/arm to the Fir Bolg champion Sreng.  The Tuatha Dé Danann won the battle, and Sreng and the Fir Bolg were granted a quarter of the island, of which he chose Connacht.

Since Nuada lost an arm in battle, he was no longer allowed to rule, as Tuatha Dé Danann kings must be physically perfect and ‘unblemished’.  He was replaced by the half-Formorian Bres, who was quickly found unfit by rule by the Tuatha Dé people for his tyranny.

Nuada’s brother Dian Cecht and the wright Creidhne crafted a beautiful silver arm for Nuada that would allow him to once again be king.  Bres was removed from the throne, which led to the Second Battle of Mag Tuired.  By this time, Lugh had joined Nuada’s court, and was a fierce opponent to the Formorians.  During the battle, Nuada was killed by the Formorian Balor of the Evil Eye, however was avenged by Lugh who then killed Balor.  Lugh then took over as king of the Tuatha Dé Danann and reigned for many years.

Wiki – Nuada
Wiki – Tuatha De Danann
Wiki – Four Treasures
Pantheon – Nuada

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Lugh, Master of Skills

Lug, Lugus/Lugos (Gaulish), Lugh Lámhfhada (Irish), Lleu Llaw Gyffes (Welsh), Lugaid/Lugaidh, Lonnansclech

Lugh (LOO) is a popular Celtic sun god known for his many skills.  Because of this, he was also called Lugh Lámhfhada (Lugh of the Long Arm), Lleu Llaw Gyffes (Lleu of the Skillful Hand), Samildánach (Skilled in All the Arts), Lonnbeimnech (fierce striker, sword-shouter) or Macnia (boy hero).

File:Autel tricephale MuseeStRemi Reims 1131a.jpg

Lugh is thought to be a form of the pan-Celtic/Gaulish god Lugus/Lugos.  The ancient Romans associated Lugh with the Roman god Mercury/Greek Hermes, as well as Apollo through his association with Lugus.  It is also possible that Lugh/Lugus was also a triple god, comprising the Gaulish gods Esus, Toutatis and Taranis.

Lugh was known as a sun god and a fierce warrior.  He is also known as a god of storms, particularly thunderstorms.  He was associated with the raven, crow, and lynx, and had a magic hound.  Lugh possessed several magical weapons, including an invincible Spear, one of the treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  It is said that the Spear never missed its target and was so bloodthirsty it would often try to fight without anyone wielding it.

File:Lugh spear Millar.jpg

Lugh’s father was Cian, son of Danu and Dian Cécht of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother was Ethniu/Ethlinn, daughter of Balor of the Fomorians.  It was said that Lugh’s grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, learned that he would one day be murdered by a grandson.  He tried to confine his daughter Ethniu, however Cian released her and she bore him three sons.  Balor arranged for the children to be killed, however Lugh was saved.  Lugh was later given to Tailtiu, a Fir Bolg, who raised him as her foster son.

Lugh had many wives, including Buí and Nás, daughters of Ruadri, King of Britain, as well as Echtach, Englic, and Rosmerta.  Lugh’s most famous son was the Irish war hero Cú Chulainn, some say through the mortal maiden Deichtine/Dechtire.

SciFi and Fantasy Art Portrait of Lugh by Ingrid ´GrayWolf´ Houwers

One story of Lugh explains how he travelled to the Hall of Tara to join the court of Nuada, High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  The guard at the door will not grant him access unless he had a skill that was of help to the King.  Lugh said he was a smith, wright, craftsman, swordsman, harpist, poet, historian, sorcerer, physician, and champion, however the guard tells him they already have experts with those skills.  Lugh then asks if any one man has all of those skills together, which the guard could not answer, and Lugh was allowed to enter the Hall.

It is during the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh against the Fomorians that King Nuada is killed in battle by Balor. Lugh then faces Balor, who opens his poisonous eye that kills all it looks upon.  Lugh however shoots a stone from a sling-shot that drives his eye out the back of his head, killing Balor.

Lugh later finds Bres, the half-Formorian former king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, beaten and scared.  Bres begs for his life, and Lugh agrees to spare him if he shares his secrets of the land, including when to plough, sow, and reap.  At the end of the war, Lugh becomes High King of Ireland and rules for many years.

Cermait, the son of Dagda, later seduces one of Lugh’s wives.  Lugh kills him in revenge, however Cermait had three sons MacCuill, MacCecht and MacGrené/ Gréine, who avenged their father’s death by killing Lugh at Uisnech in Loch Lugborta.

Lugh held a harvest fair in honour of his foster mother, Tailtiu, which fell around the time of the first harvest in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1.  The festival was named Lughnasadh (“Festival of Lugh”) and celebrated corn, grains, bread and other symbols of the harvest.  Lúnasa is also the Irish name for the month of August.  In Christian England, this festival was later renamed Lammas, after the Saxon phrase hlaf maesse or “loaf mass”, also celebrating the first harvest of the year.  Even today, many people in Ireland celebrate Lughnasadh and Lammas with dancing, song, and bonfires.

Wiki – Lugh, Lugus
PaganWiccan About.com – Lugh
Timeless Myths – Lugh

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Ireland – The Mythology

This is the second post about Ireland (mostly because dealing with thousands of years of a country’s history would take quite a lot more blog space then I’m willing to deal with).  While my previous post dealt with historical Ireland, this post deals with the mythology of Ireland.

Although much of pre-Christian mythology in pagan Ireland did not survive the conversion to Christianity, manuscripts written in medieval times attempted to preserve this important history.  Books such as the 12th century Lebor na hUidre (Book of the Dun Cow) and the Book of Leinster helped scholars identify several cycles of Irish history; the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle.

BookOfInvasions

The Mythological Cycle, also known as the ‘Golden Age’ of Irish mythology, is one of the least preserved of the cycles, but I see as one of the most interesting.  The Book of Invasions, Lebor Gabála Érenn, written in the 11th century, tells the story of the ‘taking of Ireland’ with a combination of history, mythology, folklore, and Christian-inspired flair.  It tells of the six successful cycles of invasions in Ireland starting with the Irish creation myth.  The first three invaders were the Cessair, Partholón, and Nemed people.  A group of exiled Nemesians from Greece, called the Fir Bolg, were next to invade.

TuathaDeDanann

After only a short time, a group of exiled Nemesians from the North came to Ireland and challenged the authority of the Fir Bolg.  These fair-haired people were known as the Tuatha Dé Danann, or “children of the Goddess Danu”.  They were known to have great magical knowledge and a priestly class of people called Druids.  They carried with them four magical treasures; the Sword of Nuada, the Spear of Lugh, the Cauldron of Dagda, and the Stone of Fal (Lia Fáil), or the Stone of Destiny.

The Tuatha Dé Danann battled the Fir Bolg in the First Battle of Mag Tuired, eventually pushing them into exile.  However the Tuatha Dé Danann king, Nuada, lost an arm in battle, deeming him unfit for the throne.  A half Formorian King, Bres, took the throne, however his tyranny led to the Second Battle of Mag Tuired.  This resulted in the death of Nuada by Balor of the Evil Eye, with Lugh killing Balor in revenge, taking the throne himself.  The Tuatha Dé Danann enjoyed a prosperous reign, which is thought to correspond to the Bronze Age in Ireland.

The Book of Invasions ends with the Milesians, or Sons of Míl Espáine, the first Gaelic speakers and probably the earliest “Celtic” people.  They are thought to have brought iron to Ireland, representing the beginning of the Iron Age.  During their invasion, the wives of the Irish High Kings, and matron Goddesses of Ireland, Banba, Fodla and Ériu, asked that the new land be named in their honour.  The name Éire remains a poetic name for Ireland today.  The Tuatha Dé Danann were exiled underground, where they represent the sidhe, or faery folk, of Ireland.

The next literary cycle, the Ulster Cycle, takes place around the time of Christ in the Ulster and Connacht regions of Ireland.  This is also called the ‘Heroic Age’, as many tales are devoted to the heroic actions of Conchobar mac Nessa and the great hero Cú Chulainn, the son of Lugh.  The main story of the Ulster Cycle is the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, The Cattle Raid of Cooley or The Táin.  The Táin tells of the story of Queen Medb (Maeve) and King Ailill of Connacht attempting to steal the prized bull Donn Cuailnge, with the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn saving the day.

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The Fenian Cycle takes place around the 3rd century CE in the Leinster and Munster regions of Ireland.  Mainly from the manuscript Acallam na Senórach (Colloquy of the Old Men), the Fenian Cycle contains stories about the famous Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) and his enemy Goll mac Morna.  Two famous stories from the Fenian Cycle include Oisín in Tír na nÓg and Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne, most likely the source of the story of Tristan and Iseult).

The Historical Cycle, or the Cycles of the Kings, records the history of High Kings of Ireland, from the mythical Labraid Loingsech around 431 BC, to the historically accurate High King Brian Boru in the 11th century.

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The Hill of Tara, Cnoc na Teamhrach, was noted in the Book of Invasions as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland.  Although it is uncertain whether the hill held the same significance throughout the ages, archaeological evidence prove that the area had been used since Neolithic times.  The Hill of Tara is also the site of the Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny, one of the treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

Although the legendary capital of the Tuatha Dé Danann and seat of high-kingship over the ages is not used as a seat of power today, the Irish still seek to preserve this important site.

Pagan’s Path – Celtic History
Pagan’s Path – Lebhar Gabhála Éireann
Wiki – Lebhar Gabhála Éireann
Wiki – Irish Mythology
Wiki – Hill of Tara

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Tuatha De Danann

The Tuatha Dé Danann, or “People of the Goddess Danu“, were an ancient race of supernatural beings in Ireland.  They were said to have arrived from four great cities to the north, Failias, Gorias, Findias, and Murias, with several treasures.

The first was the Stone of Fal (Lia Fail) from Failias, which would scream whenever a true king of Ireland would place his foot on it. This was eventually placed on the mound at Tara, the mythical seat of the High Kings of Ireland. The next was the Sword of Nuada from Findias, a weapon that only inflicted mortal blows when drawn. The third was the Spear of Lugh from Gorias, which never missed its target. The last was the Cauldron of Dagda from Murias, from which a constant supply of food came forth.

When the Tuatha Dé Danann first came to Ireland, they met the Fir Bolg and tried to bargain half of the land for themselves.  This led to the First Battle of Mag Tuired, in which Nuada lost his hand/arm to the Fir Bolg champion Sreng.  The Tuatha Dé Danann won the battle, and Sreng and the Fir Bolg were granted a quarter of the island, choosing Connacht.

Since Nuada lost an arm in battle, he was no longer allowed to rule, as Tuatha Dé Danann kings must be physically perfect and ‘unblemished’.  He was replaced by the half-Formorian Bres, who was quickly found unfit by rule by the Tuatha Dé people for his tyranny.  The physician Dian Cecht and the wright Creidhne crafted a beautiful silver arm for Nuada that would allow him to once again be king.  Bres was removed from the throne, which led to the Second Battle of Mag Tuired.  By this time, Lugh had joined Nuada’s court, and was a fierce opponent to the Formorians.  During the battle, Nuada was killed by the Formorian Balor of the Evil Eye, however was avenged by Lugh who then killed Balor.  Lugh then took over as king of the Tuatha Dé Danann and reigned for many years.

The Tuatha Dé Danann were eventually defeated at Teltown by the mighty Milesians, thought of as the earliest “Celtic” people.  During their invasion, matron goddesses of Ireland, Banba, Fodla and Ériu, asked that the new land be named in their honour.  The name Éire remains a poetic name for Ireland today.  The Tuatha Dé Danann were exiled underground, where they represent the sidhe, or faery folk, of Ireland.

The Tuatha Dé Danann people are surrounded by myth and legend.  Ancient manuscripts depict the Tuatha people as real-life kings and queens, however they exhibit many ties to pre-Christian deities of Ireland.  The Tuatha Dé Danann included great heroes and deities, including Lugh, Danu, the Dagda, Brigid, Aine, Oghma, and the Morrígan.

And although defeated, they still exist in legends today.

Wikipedia
Magick and Mythology
Tuatha De Danann

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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The Singing Stone

The Singing Stone O.R. Melling (1988)

 

Following anonymous clues and increasingly strong dream-visions, modern-day Kay travels to Ireland and enters the Bronze-Age. She and a De Danann foundling, Aherne, are charged with finding the lost treasures of the De Danaans. Ultimately, their quest will redeem the ancestors and reconcile warring invaders and settlers moral concerns that mirror modern ones.

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This was the book that started it all for me, peaking my interest in magic, adventure, and all things Celtic.  Imagine my surprise when I grew up and realized that much of what the author wrote about was from existing Celtic folklore and mythology, rather then a figment of her imagination (well, ok maybe a bit of figmental imagination thrown in).  The Tuatha de Danann, the Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, Amergin, Eriu, and the four magical treasures; Dagda‘s Cauldron, the Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Nuada, and the Stone of Destiny…  all from Celtic folklore.  Even though I first read this book many, many years ago, I think its a great young adult book for children and adults alike.  Definately my favourite from O.R. Melling.

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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