Emerald Isle

The Death of Lugh

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

The end of an age of myth and legend

Many are the tales told of Lugh, the mightiest king of that ancient and mystical sorcerer race of Ireland, the Tuatha Dé Danann, but only one is told of his death. Now Lugh, lord of many warriors, had four wives, which back in those days wasn’t too unusual, and their names were Echtach, daughter of white-toothed Dagda, Englec, Nás and guileless Buí, two sisters who were the flower of gracious queens.

It was they who led to his downfall after forty years of rulership, and I’ll tell you just how it happened.

Nás and Buí were daughters of Rúadrí Rua, the King of the Britons, and little enough is known of them save that Buí died of grief when she heard of the death of Nás, as close in death as they were in life, and Lugh was just as close to them as they were to one another.

It is written that Ogma invented ogham writing to warn Lugh that his wife Buí was in danger, carving three beith marks to indicate that, unless this woman was protected by the birch, she would be carried away to the síd beneath the mound seven times.

Echtach was the sister and rival of Echtge, the cannibal daughter of Nuada.

But however it happened, or whether it was the result of druid mischief-working, Lugh came to hear that his beloved wife Buí had lain with one of his great captains, whose name was Cermait Milbel or Conan the mighty, son of the Dagda, the honey-mouth, he of the battle squadrons, he of form all-fair.

In the grip of a terrible fury Lugh went to Cermait and slew him before he had a chance to say anything, and the Dagda was made miserable with sorrow upon hearing of the death of his son. He wept tears of blood and went to the body, carrying it with him to the east, where he found a staff and raised him back to life with the smooth end.

The three sons of the Cermait were likewise sorrowful and plotted their vengeance for this deed – but they knew Lugh to be a deadly warrior, so they sent him a message that they should meet in peace at Caendruim, later called Uisneach, to clear the air over the killing.

This suited Lugh well enough as he had washed his hands of the whole business, but the three sons, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, concealed weapons nearby and when Lugh came to them with empty hands, they drove a spear deep into his foot and pinned him to the ground so that he might not use any of his hero-feats.

Even this was not enough to stop Lugh, for he managed to get free and dive into the nearby lake, but they followed him there and slew him in turn. They say that the cairn which stands on the shore, called the Sidan, was raised over his body and hence come the names Loch Lugborta and Carn Lugdach. The three brothers then went on to become joint High Kings of all Ireland.

And so died Lugh, his death marking the beginning of the end of the age of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

Loch Lugborta can be found on the map below!

More Stories from the Mythological Cycle

If you'd like to leave a tip, just click here!

Archaeological information is licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence from the National Monuments Service - Archaeological Survey of Ireland.

Note that this license DOES NOT EXTEND to folkloric, mythological and related information on the site. That data remains under full private copyright protection