Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Child of Danú


I really doubt anybody other than myself will ever read this blog, but, on the off chance that someone actually bothers, maybe I should offer an explanation of its somewhat silly and slightly ostentatious title.

First of all, I just want to point out that I am by no means claiming to be a ‘Child of Danu’ ( that, in my opinion, would be arrogant). Nor do I intend this to be a place where I’ll mull over the great goddess, or any of her demigod children.

I simply thought the term to be an apt, if a little irrelevant, heading for a scrapbook of my flights of fancy. Apt because it alludes to many such fanciful flights, irrelevant because it may be that after this initial post I’ll never refer to anything pertaining to it directly again. Who knows?

Anyway, here is as concise an explanatory note as to its meaning that I can provide:

The Children of Danu were the legendary Tuatha De Danann, a people strongly linked to my local area, my family name, and the imagination I inherited from my childhood.

They were a heroic, mystical race who inhabited Ireland in pre-Celtic times, yet they remain a pervasive force on the psyche of the Irish, whether they realise it or not, and stand for all that I love about the culture and mythology of my homeland.


Evidently enough, they worshipped Danu who was mother of all gods and goddess of all things. The Tuatha De Danann were themselves godlike, though mortal. They possessed ancient knowledge and commanded great magic, as can be seen in tales of their coming to this land, which they won following a battle with a race called the Fir Bolgs.

According to legend, upon their approach to Ireland the Tuatha De Danann “spread druidically-formed showers and fog-sustaining shower-clouds over the country, and caused the air to pour down fire and blood upon the Fir Bolgs,”  but their enemy had druids of their own who cast counter spells and enchantments.(Squire, 1905)

The story goes that due to a magical coastal mist summoned by the Fir Bolgs the Tuatha De Danann were forced to circle Ireland nine times before making landfall on the shores of present day Leitrim from whence they marched northwards, stopping to make first contact with the natives at a place dear to my heart.

      An Grianan

That place was An Grianan of Aileach, an iron-age stone ring fort perched on a hill not far from my hometown. From within the fort it is possible to access tunnels that apparently run underground for miles. It is said that deep within the labyrinth lies a room where a band of Tuatha De Danann horsemen still slumber. Just as in the tales of England’s Arthur, they will come again when Ireland needs them most, marking their return by lapping the island nine times.

But that’s just a local yarn, sourced from a story about a drunkard who fell in a ditch one night and found a hidden, external opening to one of the passageways. He claimed to have spoken with one of the horsemen who, astride his mount, woke momentarily to tell the bewildered gentleman of their apocalyptic-esque plans.

It is likely that the stories of the end of the Tuatha De Danann’s reign inspired the tale. You see, with the arrival of the Celts and the subsequent advent of Christianity, like the people of Avalon, the Tuatha De Dannan did not simply die away. Instead they retreated from the world of men into the mounds of the earth, supposedly revealing themselves on occasion to this very day. They are the Aes Sidhe (usually simply called ‘Sidhe’), more commonly known as the fairy folk.

According to a wee woman down the road, and probably American tourist guides to Ireland, they can still be found living in trees and caves, by ancient stones and sacred lakes, around ruined forts and craggy hills.

Indeed, the Children of Danu were not the first peoples to inhabit this isle, nor were they to be the last, but tales of their magical mastery and later demise have left their mark on our mythology and folklore.

When I was little I was often warned to stay away from the bells of purple foxglove lest I anger the fairies who made their homes there. The fantasy was somewhat spoiled when I discovered that the flowers are actually poisonous and it was more likely a clever conspiracy by my mother to keep me for picking them. But I believed it, if only for a time. *sigh*


Still, though, even in the commercial, money idolising society of Ireland today, where tradition and story-telling are fading away as fast as Aga cookers and local bakeries, you’d be hard pressed to find a child who’ll step in a ring of toadstools but on a dare, or a man who’ll cut down a fairy tree without a care to his own well being.

More than that, many of the practices and characters that litter the sagas of the Tuatha De Danann can be yet found in Irish society in the guise of saints, shrines and sacraments. From Danu herself (St Anne) to the patron St Brigit (Brigid, goddess of love and war), and in the now holy days of Beltane and Samhain. The list goes on and on… They weren’t the most inventive, the early Celtic Christians, but they certainly were adaptive.

7 comments:

The Pixie Knoll said...

This was a wonderful read! I enjoyed your penmanship very much and look forward to following your fanciful tales of fact and frivolty in your blog!

Hugs,
Lori

Megan said...

This is such a wonderful little tale. I found it ever so interesting.
I read in a book of mine that picking a foxglove would cause great offence to the fairies.
You have such a lovely lovely blog. I am delighed you found me x

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing, I enjoyed it!

Aingeal said...

Tá sé sin go hiontach,
Go raibh maith agat, thank you for this it is wonderful to read.

Benjamin Schmidt said...

Interesting.. :)

Julie Jenks said...

beautiful story. I am drawn to celtic mythology. I am researching Danu, the Tuatha De Danann. I am not from Ireland. But for some reason I feel so connected and want to learn more. Thank you for writing your blog.

Linguaphile said...

I've been doing some in-depth personal research into the Tuatha De Danann, and it seems that this mysterious race of humanoids have been recorded by ancient peoples all over the globe. For example, it would appear that the ancient Hindu text, the Mahabharata, is talking about a cosmic war between powerful beings that closely resemble the Children of Danu, versus the Children of Donn war accounts of the Celtic world. Every wondered about the mysterious race of very tall, pale, albino-like people that reside under Mt. Shasta? Could THEY be Children of Danu? And yes....the enticing "myths" handed down via the native Americans, talking about a race of "red-headed giants". Even in Africa, there are very old accounts of a race to tall, elegant people with icy blue eyes, golden or coppery hair, and skin so pale that sunlight reflects off of them. "The Shining Ones"? What about the ancient accounts from the Middle East, as mentioned in several texts, including the old Hebrew religious writings, concerning a race of angelic beings coming down to the summit of Mt.Hermon, and taking human females to breed with and produce the Nephilim? And this seems to be closely tied in with the stories of the Annunaki from Nibiru. Could it be that somehow this is all tied in with alternate realities, inter-dimentional portals, UFO's and "aliens"? Fascinating stuff - all this! One only has to wonder, yet accounts like this are universal. perchance its NOT only a myth, but a far distant historical reality that mankind is struggling to remember...or come to terms with. Sort of like a persisting ancestral post-trauma syndrome. Even now, the truth remains well hidden and people get ridiculed and even persecuted for uncovering and believing these things. Something strange going on in the world! Hmmm....

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