Emerald Isle

Dagda Mor

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from the Mythological Cycle

The Great Lord of Skill

One of the chiefest and most powerful kings among the mystical Tuatha Dé Dannan was the one called Dagda, or Dagda Mór, which means “of shining skills”. He had other names too, such as Eochu the horseman, Ruad Rofhessa, lord of great knowledge, Dáire the fertile one and Aed, he of the fiery temper. Others yet called him Fear Benn, which meant the horned man or as some would have it, man of the peak, Cera the creator, Cerrce the striker, Easal and Eogabal. Some even call him Deargdeirc, the red eye, after the rising or setting sun.

With so many names you might think he was a hero of great deeds and talents – and you would be right! He battled the wicked Fomorians shoulder to shoulder with Nuada, cleared the plains of Ireland, and built many houses for himself and his family across the countryside.

Legends tell that he had power over the wind and weather, over livestock and the crops, magic, the seasons and even time itself – so he was often called upon by the Druids who lived long after his reign. It is from this power that the solstice, in Irish grianstad, came to mean sun-standstill.

Dagda owned numerous magical artifacts which his people had brought with them when they arrived in Ireland from the sorcerous cities of Falias and Gorias, Murias and Findias where their learned their sciences, wisdom and witchcraft. First among these was his black staff, the lorg mór or lorg anfaid, the staff of wrath, which could slay nine men with a single blow but could raise the dead to life if the other end was used!

He swung his staff with deadly might, telling Lugh that he “will take the side of the men of Eriú both in mutual smiting and destruction and wizardry. Their bones under my club will be as many as hailstones under feet of herds of horses”.

He had a cauldron with no bottom called the coire ansic, that which is never dry, and a ladle so big that a man and a woman could lie in it side by side. This he put to good use when he was sent by Lugh to spy on the Fomors and to delay them, for when he came to their camp they dug a deep trench and filled it with a broth of milk, fat and meal boiled with the meat of goats, sheep and swine. No less than twenty gallons was in it and probably more!

This troubled the Dagda not at all, nor was he bothered when the Fomorian King Indech said he must eat every drop or he’d be slain for offending their hospitality. Out came the giant ladle and he set to with gusto, finishing by scraping his finger along the bottom of the trench and collapsing asleep with his belly swollen to the size of a cow.

Oh how the Fomorians laughed to see his torpor, but the Dagda knew his game and played it well!

His ornate oaken magical harp was called Uaithne, the Four-Angled Music, and he could wake the deepest sleepers, command armies, straighten or change the seasons and put his enemies to sleep by strumming its strings. He had two pigs, one forever roasting, the other in full and cherry health, and fruit trees whose branches were ever bowed with glimmering fruit.

At Samhain he went to the battle-witch Morrigan and learned by their union of the strife to come, and some say they were betrothed. But his appetites were no less in that matter than any other, and he had many dalliances and children, who were called Brigid, Cermait, Aengus, Bodb Derg, Aed and Midir.

He lived in Brú na Bóinne for the most part, which are a collection of Neolithic mounds on the banks of the River Boyne in County Meath. These are much older than even Stonehenge and the pyramids, and at Newgrange they align with the rising sun during the solstice, signifying his power over the seasons.

Some say that he perished after receiving a terrible poisoned wound from Cethlenn, the Fomorian queen, during the Second Battle of Moy Tura although he took many decades to die, and others say he left with the rest of the Dé Danann when they went beneath the hills to their fairy country.

As it was written in Tochmarc Étaíne, the Yellow Book of Lecan “and they came to Uisnech of Meath in the centre of Ireland, for ’tis there that was Eochaid’s (An Dagda’s) house with Ireland stretching equally far from it on every side, to south and north, to east and west.”

This place is marked on the map below!

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