The Daghdha

Gundestrup

Gundestrup Cauldron

The Daghdha or Dagda, likely from Proto-Celtic: Dagodeiwos, “the good god” is an important god of Irish mythology. The Daghdha is a father-figure and a protector of the tribe.

In some texts his father is Elatha, in others his mother is Ethniu. Other texts say that his mother is Danu; while others yet place him as the father of Danu, perhaps due to her association with Brigit, daughter of the Daghdha. The Daghdha’s siblings include the gods Ogma and Lir.

He is also known by the epithets Eochaid Ollathair “All-father”, Ruad Rofhessa “lord of great knowledge”, Samildanach “many-skilled”, Cera “creator”, Fer Benn “horned man” or “man of the peak”

meltingpot

Tales depict the Daghdha as a figure of immense power, armed with a magic club and associated with a cauldron.

The club was supposed to be able to kill nine men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life.

The cauldron was known as the Undry and was said to be bottomless, from which no man left unsatisfied.

Uaithne, also known as “the Four Angled Music”, was a richly ornamented magic harp made of oak which, when the Daghdha played it, put the seasons in their correct order; other accounts tell of it being used to command the order of battle.

He possessed two pigs, one of which was always growing whilst the other was always roasting, and ever-laden fruit trees.

The Daghdha was a High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann after his predecessor Nuada was injured in battle. The Tuatha Dé Danann are the race of supernatural beings who conquered the Fomorians, who inhabited Ireland previously, prior to the coming of the Milesians. His lover was Boann and his daughter was Breg.

Prior to the battle with the Fomorians, he coupled with the goddess of war, the Mórrígan, on Samhain in exchange for a plan of battle.

Despite his great power and prestige, the Daghdha is sometimes depicted as oafish and crude, even comical, wearing a short, rough tunic that barely covers his rump, dragging his great penis on the ground. Such features are thought to be the additions of Christian redactors for comedic purposes.

The Middle Irish language Coir Anmann (The Fitness of Names) paints a less clownish picture: “He was a beautiful god of the heathens, for the Tuatha Dé Danann worshipped him: for he was an earth-god to them because of the greatness of his (magical) power.”

gundestrup man

The Daghdha had an affair with Bóand, wife of Elcmar. In order to hide their affair, Daghdha made the sun stand still for nine months; therefore their son, Aengus, was conceived, gestated and born in one day.

Whilst Aengus was away searching for his love the Daghdha shared out his land among his children, but Aengus returned to discover that nothing had been saved for him.

Under the guidance of Lugh Aengus later tricked his father out of his home at the Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Aengus was instructed to ask his father if he could live in the Brú for láa ogus oidhche “a day and a night”, which in Irish is ambiguous, and could refer to either “a day and a night”, or “day and night”, which means for all time, and so Aengus took possession of the Brú permanently.

In The Wooing of Étaín, on the other hand, Aengus uses the same ploy to trick Elcmar out of Brú na Bóinne, with the Dagda’s connivance.

Daghdha is credited with a seventy or eighty-year reign over the Tuatha Dé Danann, before dying at the Brú na Bóinne, finally succumbing to a wound inflicted by Cethlenn during the second battle of Magh Tuiredh.

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