Tuatha De Danann
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Tuatha De Danann
The Tuatha Dé Danann as depicted in John Duncan's "Riders of the Sidhe" (1911)

The Tuath(a) Dé Danann (Irish: ['tu?(h?) d?e: 'dann], meaning "the folk of the goddess Danu"), also known by the earlier name Tuath Dé ("tribe of the gods"),[1] are a supernatural race in Irish mythology. They are thought to represent the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland.[1] The Tuatha Dé Danann constitute a pantheon whose attributes appeared in a number of forms throughout the Celtic world.[2]

The Tuath Dé dwell in the Otherworld but interact with humans and the human world. They are associated with ancient passage tombs, such as Brú na Bóinne, which were seen as portals to the Otherworld. Their traditional rivals are the Fomorians (Fomoire),[3] who seem to represent the harmful or destructive powers of nature,[4][5] and who the Tuath Dé defeat in the Battle of Mag Tuired. Each member of the Tuath Dé has associations with a particular feature of life or nature, but many appear to have more than one association. Many also have bynames, some representing different aspects of the deity and others being regional names or epithets.[6]

Much of Irish mythology was recorded by Christian monks, who modified it to an extent. They often depicted the Tuath Dé as kings, queens and heroes of the distant past who had supernatural powers.[7] Other times they were explained as fallen angels who were neither good nor evil.[8] However, some medieval writers acknowledged that they were gods. They also appear in tales set centuries apart, showing them to be immortal. Prominent members of the Tuath Dé include The Dagda, who seems to have been a chief god; The Morrígan; Lugh; Nuada; Aengus; Brigid; Manannán, a god of the sea; Dian Cecht, a god of healing; and Goibniu, a god of metalworking and blacksmithing as well as one of the Trí Dé Dána ("three gods of craftsmanship").[9] They have parallels in the pantheons of other Celtic peoples: for example Lugh is cognate with the pan-Celtic god Lugus, Nuada with the British god Nodens, Brigid with Brigantia; Tuirenn with Taranis; Ogma with Ogmios; and the Badb with Cathubodua.

The Tuath Dé eventually became the Aos Sí or "fairies" of later folklore.[10][11][12][13]


The Old Irish word tuath (plural tuatha) means "people, tribe, nation"; is the genitive case of día and, depending on context, can mean "god, gods, goddess" or more broadly "supernatural being, object of worship".[14] In the earliest writings, the mythical race are referred to as the Tuath Dé (plural Tuatha Dé).[1] However, Irish monks also began using the term Tuath Dé to refer to the Israelites,[1] with the meaning "People of God".[15] Apparently to avoid confusion with the Israelites,[1] writers began to refer to the mythical race as the Tuath Dé Danann (plural Tuatha Dé Danann).[16] The Old Irish pronunciation is ['t?ua?a de: 'd?anan?] and the Modern Irish pronunciation is ['tu?(h?) d?e: 'dann]. In Latin they are referred to as the Plebes Deorum or "folk of gods."[17] A poem included in the Lebór Gábala Érenn also refers to the Tuath Dé as the clann Eladan.[18]

Danann is generally believed to be the genitive of a female name, for which the nominative case is not attested. It has been reconstructed as Danu, of which Anu (genitive Anann) may be an alternative form.[1] Anu is called "mother of the Irish gods" by Cormac mac Cuilennáin.[1] This may be linked to the Welsh mythical figure Dôn.[1] Hindu mythology also has a goddess called Danu, who may be an Indo-European parallel. However, this reconstruction is not universally accepted.[19] It has also been suggested that Danann is a conflation of dán ("skill, craft") and the goddess name Anann.[1] The name is also found as Donann and Domnann,[20] which may point to the origin being proto-Celtic *don, meaning "earth"[1] (compare the Old Irish word for earth, doman). There may be a link with the mythical Fir Domnann[21] and the British Dumnonii.[22]


The Tuatha Dé Danann were descended from Nemed, leader of a previous wave of inhabitants of Ireland. They came from four cities to the north of Ireland--Falias, Gorias, Murias and Finias--where they taught their skills in the sciences, including architecture, the arts, and magic, including necromancy.[23][24] According to Lebor Gabála Érenn, they came to Ireland "in dark clouds" and "landed on the mountains of [the] Conmaicne Rein in Connachta", otherwise Sliabh an Iarainn, "and they brought a darkness over the sun for three days and three nights". They immediately burnt the ships "so that they should not think of retreating to them, and the smoke and the mist that came from the vessels filled the neighbouring land and air. Therefore it was conceived that they had arrived in clouds of mist".

A poem in the Lebor Gabála Érenn says of their arrival:

It is God who suffered them, though He restrained them
they landed with horror, with lofty deed,
in their cloud of mighty combat of spectres,
upon a mountain of Conmaicne of Connacht.

Without distinction to discerning Ireland,
Without ships, a ruthless course
the truth was not known beneath the sky of stars,
whether they were of heaven or of earth.

According to Tuan:

From them are the Tuatha Dé and Andé, whose origin the learned do not know, but that it seems likely to them that they came from heaven, on account of their intelligence and for the excellence of their knowledge.[25]

Led by king Nuada, they fought the First Battle of Magh Tuireadh on the west coast, in which they defeated and displaced the native Fir Bolg, who then inhabited Ireland. In the battle, Nuada lost an arm to their champion, Sreng. Since Nuada was no longer "unblemished", he could not continue as king and was replaced by the half-Fomorian Bres, who turned out to be a tyrant. The physician Dian Cecht replaced Nuada's arm with a working silver one and he was reinstated as king. However, Dian Cecht's son Miach was dissatisfied with the replacement so he recited the spell, "ault fri halt dí & féith fri féth" (joint to joint of it and sinew to sinew), which caused flesh to grow over the silver prosthesis over the course of nine days and nights.[26][27] However, in a fit of jealous rage Dian Cecht slew his own son. Because of Nuada's restoration as the leader, Bres complained to his family and his father, Elatha, who sent him to seek assistance from Balor, king of the Fomorians.

The Tuatha Dé Danann then fought the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh against the Fomorians. Nuada was killed by the Fomorian king Balor's poisonous eye, but Balor was killed by Lugh, champion of the Tuatha Dé, and who then took over as king.

A third battle was fought against a subsequent wave of invaders, the Milesians, from the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula (present-day Galicia and Northern Portugal), descendants of Míl Espáine (who are thought to represent the Goidelic Celts). The Milesians encountered three Tuatha Dé Danann goddesses, Ériu, Banba and Fodla, who asked that the island be named after them; Ériu is the origin of the modern name Éire, and Banba and Fodla are still sometimes used as poetic names for Ireland.

Their three husbands, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, were kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann at that time, and asked for a truce of three days, during which the Milesians would lie at anchor nine waves' distance from the shore. The Milesians complied, but the Tuatha Dé Danann created a magical storm in an attempt to drive them away. The Milesian poet Amergin calmed the sea with his verse, then his people landed and defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann at Tailtiu. When Amergin was called upon to divide the land between the Tuatha Dé Danann and his own people, he cleverly allotted the portion above ground to the Milesians and the portion underground to the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Tuatha Dé Danann were led underground into the Sidhe mounds by Manannán mac Lir and Tir na nOg onto a flowery plain/plain of honey attested to in the Voyage of Bran.

Preceded by
Fir Bolg
Mythical invasions of Ireland
AFM 1897 BC
FFE 1477 BC
Succeeded by

The Four Treasures

The Tuatha Dé Danann brought four magical treasures with them to Ireland, one apiece from their Four Cities:[28]

Tuatha Dé Danann High Kings of Ireland

The following is a chronology from the Annals of the Four Masters; based on reign-lengths given in Geoffrey Keating's Forus Feasa ar Erinn. Nuada's original reign lacks a precise start date.

  • Nuada (first reign) AFM unknown-1897 BC; FFE unknown-1477 BC
  • Bres AFM 1897-1890 BC; FFE 1477-1470 BC
  • Nuada (final reign) AFM 1890-1870 BC; FFE 1470-1447 BC
  • Lugh AFM 1870-1830 BC; FFE 1447-1407 BC
  • Eochaid Ollathair AFM 1830-1750 BC; FFE 1407-1337 BC
  • Delbáeth AFM 1750-1740 BC; FFE 1337-1327 BC
  • Fiacha AFM 1740-1730 BC; FFE 1327-1317 BC
  • Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine AFM 1730-1700 BC; FFE 1317-1287 BC

Additional references

In the Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius, the chief men of science of the Tuatha Dé Danann are listed with their partly Latin names and associations as follows:[17]

  • Luchtenus, artifex ("artisan")
  • Credenus, figulus ("shaper/builder")
  • Dianus, medicus ("doctor")
  • Eadon, daughter of Dianus and nurse of the poets - presumably Étaín, Brigid, or Airmed
  • Goibnen, faber ("smith/architect")
  • Lug, son of Eithne, with whom were all the arts
  • Dagda the Great, the King
  • Ogma, brother of the King, from whom came the letters of the Scots

In the Annals of Inisfallen, the following are listed as members of the Tuatha Dé who overcame the Fir Bolg:[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Koch, John T. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2006. pp.1693-1695
  2. ^ A brief guide to Celtic Myths & Legends, M. Whittock, section 5, Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2013.
  3. ^ A brief guide to Celtic Myths & Legends, M. Whittock.
  4. ^ MacCulloch, John Arnott. The Religion of the Ancient Celts. The Floating Press, 2009. pp.80, 89, 91
  5. ^ Smyth, Daragh. A Guide to Irish Mythology. Irish Academic Press, 1996. p.74
  6. ^ Ward, Alan (2011). The Myths of the Gods: Structures in Irish Mythology. p.9
  7. ^ Carey, John. "Tuath Dé", in The Celts: History, Life, and Culture. Edited by John T. Koch. ABC-CLIO, 2012. pp.751-753
  8. ^ W. B. Yeats (1888). Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. p.1
  9. ^ MacKillop, James (2006). Myths and Legends of the Celts Penguin guides to world mythology. Penguin. p. 90. ISBN 9780141941394. Three gods patronize the crafts: Goibniu, Credne and Luchta.
  10. ^ Koch, Celtic Culture, pp.729, 1490, 1696
  11. ^ Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2004. p.167
  12. ^ MacCulloch, John Arnott. Celtic Mythology. Dover Publications, 2004. p.49
  13. ^ Black, Ronald. The Gaelic Otherworld. Birlinn, 2008. p.xxxii
  14. ^ Dictionary of the Irish Language, Compact Edition, Royal Irish Academy, 1990, pp. 612
  15. ^ James MacKillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, p. 366
  16. ^ Joe, Jimmy. "Tuatha Dé Danann". www.timelessmyths.com. Retrieved .
  17. ^ a b "The Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius". celt.ucc.ie.
  18. ^ Wolf, Casey June (5 Sep 2015). "The Mythical Pairing of Brig and Bres": 13. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ James MacKillop, Myths and Legends of the Celts, Penguin, 2005, p. 136.
  20. ^ John T Koch & John Carey (eds), The Celtic Heroic Age, Celtic Studies Publications, 1997, p. 245
  21. ^ Lebor Gabála Érenn §49
  22. ^ MacKillop 1998, p. 129
  23. ^ "Life Understood from a Scientific and Religious Point of View: And the Practical Method of Destroying Sin, Disease, and Death", Frederick Lawrence Rawson. Crystal Press, 1920. p. 431
  24. ^ "The History of Ireland", Geoffrey Keating. Ex-classics Project, 2009. p. 82
  25. ^ "The Story of Tuan mac Carill". www.maryjones.us.
  26. ^ Elizabeth Gray, Cath Maige Tuired, Irish Texts Society, London 1983, pp 32-3
  27. ^ "Alt fri alt ocus féith fri féith!". Sengoídelc.
  28. ^ "Tuatha De Danann". www.ireland-information.com. Retrieved .
  29. ^ https://celt.ucc.ie//published/T100004P/text002.html Annals of Inisfallen "Pre-Patrician section," entry 31

Primary sources

External links

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