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).
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.
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.
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 known as 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.
© The Celtic Journey (2013)