Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents?
© 1998 Alexei Kondratiev All Rights Reserved
May be reposted as long as the above attribution and copyright
notice are retained
[Originally published in An Tríbhís Mhór:
The IMBAS Journal of Celtic Reconstructionism Vol. 1, No. 4,
It is now commonplace among people with an interest in early
Celtic tradition to believe that the gods of pre-Christian Ireland
were the Tuatha Dé Danann, the "peoples of the goddess
Danu". This goddess is pictured as their progenitor and
as a general Earth-mother, tying both the nature of the gods
and the manner of their worship to the physical reality of the
Land. In Neo- Pagan circles a vivid sense of the character and
personality of this goddess has emerged, so that some people
can now describe themselves publicly as "ardent devotees
of Danu". Also widespread is the notion that Danu's consort
is Bile, and that he is either the first male ancestor of both
gods and mortals and therefore a kind of Lord of the Dead, or
that, because of his name (which means "tree"), he
represents the World Tree that is the axis of the universe and
of any ritually consecrated area. These are powerful theological
concepts, which provide revived Celtic religion with some much-needed
focus and depth. Yet what are our textual sources for them?
How solidly are they rooted in the historical record?
most immediate sources are certain popular Victorian and Edwardian
books (many of them still in print) that first attempted to
bring the complicated and chaotic material from mediaeval Irish
and Welsh manuscripts into a form that the non-scholarly public
could understand and enjoy. They transmitted the conclusions
of more scholarly discussion about the nature and meaning of
the texts, without, however, going over the arguments of the
discussion in detail, or indicating the reservations some scholars
might still have had about the conclusions. It is in these books
that the Tuatha Dé Danann are first presented unambiguously
as "the peoples of the goddess Danu", with Danu and
Bile as the most ancient ancestors within the pantheon. In the
words of Charles Squire, for example:
The most ancient divinity of whom we have any knowledge is Danu
herself, the goddess from whom the whole hierarchy of gods received
its name of Tuatha Dé Danann
She was the universal
Her husband is never mentioned by name, but one
may assume him, from British analogies, to have been Bilé
[sic], known to Gaelic tradition as a god of Hades, a kind of
Celtic Dis Pater from whom sprang the first men. Danu herself
probably represented the earth and its fruitfulness, and one
might compare her with the Greek Demeter. All the other gods
are, at least by title, her children." 1
us examine the foundation for these statements, beginning with
the figure of Danu herself.
it must be recognised that *Danu is a reconstructed form: it
never occurs as such in any Irish source. If one assumes that
Danann (as in Tuatha Dé Danann) is the genitive form
of an n-stem noun, one can also assume -- on the analogy of
other n-stem nouns like Ériu gen. Érenn, brú
gen. bronn, etc. -- that its nominative form would be *Danu.
However, even this supposed genitive form is of very limited
distribution (usually found only in the expression Dé
Danann), and when it occurs in other constructions it seems
to refer to a male name (e.g. in the patronymic mac Danann meic
Bratha, which clearly indicates a *Danu son of Brath).2
it should be pointed out that nowhere in the Lebor Gabála
Érenn (Book of Conquests of Ireland) -- our earliest
source on the material related to the Tuatha Dé Danann,
compiled between the ninth and the twelfth centuries -- does
Danu appear (under any form of her name) in the role of primordial
mother. The one figure who appears prominently in the text and
has a similar name is Danand (or Donand) daughter of Delbaeth
son of Ogma, who cohabits with her own father and has three
sons by him, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba. These three come to
be known as the tri Dé Danand, the "three gods of
Danand", and we are told that all the Tuatha Dé
Danann took their name from them, although no logical reason
for this appears in the narrative, nor any sense of why the
three alone are "gods".3 A story already current at
the time of the compilation of the Lebor Gabála made
them the enemies of Lúgh, because they had killed Lúgh's
father when he was in the shape of a lap-dog.4 The magical tasks
which Lúgh imposed on them and the cruel death they suffered
in spite of all their efforts were the subject of a literary
tale from the later Middle Ages, Oidheadh Cloinne Tuireann (The
Violent Death of the Sons of Tuireann), which was counted as
one of the "three sorrowful tales of Ireland" (Tuirell
[or Tuirenn] Biccreo was, according to the Lebor Gabála,
another name of Delbaeth).5 Elsewhere in the Lebor Gabála
the "three gods of Danand" are stated to be Triall,
Brian and Cet, sons of Bres (presumably also by Danand), the
half-Fomorian ruler who is the antagonist of Lúgh in
Cath Maige Tuired, the story of the great climactic battle between
the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann; indeed, the compilers
of the Lebor Gabála seem to have been uncertain as to
which trio merited the name.6
is described as having four daughters: Airgdean, Barrand, Be
Chuille and Be Thedhe.7 Elsewhere they are presented as her
sisters, and in that context all of them are said to be the
daughters of Flidais.8 Be Chuille is particularly linked to
Danand: they are mentioned in several places as di bantuathaig
("two female farmers [or landowners]")9 among the
Tuatha Dé Danann.10 These are surely the same pair as
Be Culde and Dinand who are called upon by Lúgh in Cath
Maige Tuired to serve as bantuathaid ("witches", practitioners
of destructive magic) in the battle.11 Finally, to make matters
even more confusing, one passage states that the Morrígu
was the mother of the Three Gods, and that her other name was
Danand -- despite the fact that elsewhere in the same compilation
the Morrígu and Danand are presented as sisters, both
daughters of Earnmhas who was herself a bantuathach.12
we undoubtedly have here is the work of loremasters dealing
with a vast number of regional tales, many of them very similar
to each other but involving differences in detail and in the
names of their protagonists. In attempting to weave all of these
elements into a consistent whole they were unable to avoid some
confusion, giving incompatible genealogies to some characters
and assigning the same narrative role to different characters
in different passages. Thus the role of the "three gods"
appears to shift between several triads of characters (the three
sons of Delbaeth; the three sons of Bres; the three sons of
Cermait) at various points in the text. Also, harmonising different
stories from different sources required coming up with a single
name for each functional character. Some of the names used (Lúgh,
Brigit, Nuadu) are corroborated by ancient Celtic sources and
are certainly authentic survivals of pre-Christian Celtic theonyms.
Others (In Dagda, Goibniu, probably Dian Cecht and Oengus),
though not confirmed by the same kind of evidence, appear equally
authentic on the basis of their structure. But some (e.g. Partholón,
Cessair) are obviously complete inventions, and others appear
to be adaptations of names found in Classical sources (as has
been suggested in the case of Ogma, whose name appears to be
borrowed from Lucian's Gaulish god Ogmios). Thus the Lebor Gabála
is no trustworthy guide to the names and relationships of the
figures in pre-Christian Celtic mythology. What evidence it
gives us of the earlier tradition is to be found in the overall
patterns of the stories, and in the basic functions exercised
by the more important characters.
the case of "Danu"/Danand, one particular element
should hold our attention: her relation to a specific feature
of the Irish landscape, the Dhá Chíoch Anann,
two hills in Luachair in West Munster whose shape suggests the
breasts of a vast supine woman whose body is the Land itself.
This was the site of one of Fionn Mac Cumhaill's most famous
boyhood deeds (his victory over the fairy woman of Síd
Brég Éle) and was recognised as a place of importance
in some of our earliest written sources. Many linguists have
supposed that Anann is, like Danann, the genitive of an n-stem
noun whose nominative form would be *Anu. In the Lebor Gabála,
however, the di chích Anand are linked to a figure named
Anand who is also a daughter of Earnmhas, and who in another
passage is stated to be identical to both Danand and the Morrígu
(dia forainm Danand o builed Da Chích Anann for Luachair,
7 o builed Tuatha Dé Danann - "from whose supplementary
name 'Danand' the Two Breasts of Anann in Luachair are called,
as well as the Tuatha Dé Danann").13
should also make note here of a phrase used several times in
the Lebor Gabála: Danand máthair na ndée
("Danand, the mother of the gods").14 In context,
it clearly refers to her as mother of the Three Gods only; but
it would suggest something rather different to a later readership
with different expectations.)
the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, the Lebor Gabála
remained the prime authoritative source on the origins of Ireland.
All literate people were expected to be familiar with its basic
plots and characters, and it gave rise to countless secondary
tales and poems. In the seventeenth century, as the native lore
was coming to be challenged by a new elite of foreign settlers,
the great Irish scholar Geoffrey Keating (Seathrún Céitinn)
produced his encyclopaedic work Foras Feasa ar Éirinn
(Foundation of Knowledge About Ireland), an updated and re-organised
compilation of material from the Lebor Gabála and related
sources that made the lore more accessible to the people of
his time. Keating was a man of formidable erudition and had
a deep understanding of the traditions he collected. It is thus
significant that he stresses the link between Danann and the
two hills in his native Munster. He explains the "divine"
status of her three sons by their excellence i gceardaibh gintlí
("in pagan crafts"), which led to their people worshipping
them as gods and calling themselves "Tuatha Dé Danann"
after them. And he adds: Is ón Danann ba mháthair
don triar seo ghairtear Dhá Chíoch Dhanann den
dá chnoc atá i Luachair Dheáidh i nDeasmhumhain
("And it is from the Danann who was the mother of these
three that the two hills that are in Luachair Dheáidh
in Desmond are called The Two Breasts of Danann").15 His
choice of spelling -- Dhanann instead of Anann -- has led many
scholars to suppose that the second name was derived from the
first. Since in modern Irish pronunciation the lenited d sounds
like a voiced guttural spirant, coming after the other guttural
spirant ch it would tend to be assimilated, and one might hear
Dhanann as Anann. So this would seem to be a tidy solution to
the problem of the two goddesses Anann/*Anu and Danann/*Danu:
Anann is simply a corrupt form of Danann, and they were always
the same figure.
is this really the full answer? There are many reasons to think
that it isn't. For one thing, the name Danand was already associated
with the two hills during the Middle Ages, when the lenited
d had a quite different sound and was less likely to be dropped.
Also, the name of the hills is already di chích Anand
in the earliest sources, which suggests that Danand is the secondary
rather than the primary form. Most importantly, the prominence
of the cult of santez Anna ('St. Anne') in southern Brittany,
often associated with pre-Christian religious sites, strongly
suggests the widespread worship in the region of a Land-goddess
with a name that sounded like "Ana". The origin of
the name is obscure, and may even be pre-Celtic. But another,
similar-sounding name -- Danann -- was known to Irish scholars
of the Middle Ages, who decided that it referred to a figure
of identical function, and led to both being conflated with
each other in the syncretistic history that became the Lebor
Gabála. One can speculate that the name Danann was introduced
by one of the later Celtic groups that had an influence on Ireland.
Since, as we shall see, it has a Welsh cognate, a good guess
is that it was a Belgic name; and its probable derivation from
a root dan- meaning "low ground" or "moist earth"
makes it plausible that it was the name of a Land-goddess.
this point we may want to consider the provenance and original
meaning of the term Tuatha Dé Danann. Whether or not
it ever meant "peoples of the goddess Danu", it isn't
likely to have originally been a theonym: there's no precedent
in Indo-European tradition for gods or groups of gods being
referred to by a term of this kind. Indeed, it fits perfectly
into the pattern so well-attested in the Lebor Gabála
of using the names of historical ethnic groups to designate
mythological peoples: Fir Bolg (Belgians), Fir Domnand (Dumnonians),
Fir Gaileoin (Gauls), and so on. It is not unreasonable to suppose
that the Tuatha Dé Danann were also an ethnic group known
in Ireland's distant past -- perhaps the people who worshipped
the goddess whose name we have been considering. This is not
to suggest that the compilers of the Lebor Gabála were
the first to apply that name (arbitrarily) to figures based
on Celtic gods: the name is too deeply entrenched in Irish literary
and folk tradition to have been invented in the Middle Ages.
But it may have been in use for some centuries to mean "magical
ancient people", ascribing all strange, unexplainable structures
in the landscape to a real people vaguely remembered from the
distant past -- much as rural French folklore today ascribes
all ancient ruins indiscriminately to the "Romans"
or "Saracens". The makers of the ancient wonders would
have been imagined with godlike traits, which would have made
it all the easier to place the gods of the older religion among
them, reducing them to mortals with magical powers (with the
exception of Danand's three sons, the Lebor Gabála never
portrays them as actual gods). A tradition existed that they
were demons and beings from the Otherworld, but the compilers
of the Lebor Gabála preferred to think of them as ordinary
humans with arcane knowledge.16 Their association with the síd-mounds
and ancient burial sites made it possible to conceive of them
as both supernatural creatures and human ancestors.
us now turn to Bile, *Danu/Danann's supposed consort. A figure
by that name does appear in the Lebor Gabála, but is
not related in any way to Danand in the narrative. Bile is one
of the ten [some recensions say six] sons of Bregon [or Breogan]
who originally lived in Spain. One of them, Íth, first
saw the land of Ireland when gazing out to sea from the top
of a tower, and mounted an expedition to investigate it. Arriving
just after the death of Nét son of Indui at the hands
of the Fomorians, he gave advice on the matter of that chieftain's
inheritance, and then was murdered by the Tuatha Dé Danann,
who were jealous of his charisma and wisdom and suspicious of
his motives. His body was brought back to Spain, whereupon the
other sons of Bregon decided to go to Ireland themselves to
avenge their brother and seize the island, taking with them
their own sons and retainers. Bile's son was Mil, after whom
the "Milesian" invasion of Ireland was eventually
named, since it was from Mil's sons alone that the Gaels were
said to be descended. Bile, therefore, can indeed be seen as
a "first ancestor" figure, and was explicitly declared
to be such in mediaeval Irish literary tradition, since the
Lebor Gabála states several times: Bile 7 Mílid,
is dia cloind Gáidil uile ("Bile and Mil, it is
from their progeny that all the Gaels come") -- obviously
a well-known item of historical lore.17 It is not Bile, however,
but his grandson Donn who takes on the role of "first ancestor
to die in Ireland" and therefore the leader and host of
all those who will die subsequently in that land -- something
like the "god of Hades and Celtic Dis Pater" suggested
by Squire. Donn (whose name means "lord") was the
chief of the eight sons of Mil and commanded one of the ships
in the invasion. A magical wind sent by the Tuatha Dé
Danann wrecked his ship against a small island off the southwestern
coast, drowning three of the sons of Mil (Donn himself; Airech
the steersman; and the youngest, Éraind [or Érennán]
the lookout on the mast, who fell into the sea), as well as
their grandfather Bile.18 Although all of these characters could
have qualified as "first dead in the land" and leaders
of the later dead, and were perhaps recognised as such in parallel
traditions,19 Donn gave his name to the islet where the wreck
took place (Tech Duinn, "the House of Donn"), after
which it became the focus of folk traditions about the Otherworld,
with himself as Lord of the Dead.20 As for Bile, apart from
his position of primacy and the manner of his death, he plays
no active role in the narrative at all.
grounds do we have, then, for linking Bile with *Danu/Danann?
Squire mentioned "British analogies". There is indeed
in mediaeval Welsh literature a figure named Dôn whose
name appears to be a cognate of Danann. She never appears as
a character in the stories, but is known only as the mother
of the Plant Dôn, a group of figures with traits suggestive
of pre-Christian divinities, very similar to the Tuatha Dé
Danann in concept and function and most probably cognate to
them. Unlike the Tuatha Dé Danann, however, whose precise
relation to *Danu/Danann is somewhat confused, the Plant Dôn
are explicitly Dôn's children. Although there are more
than three Plant Dôn, three among them are set apart by
the similarity of their names, which are descriptions of occupations
with augmentative suffixes: Gwydion ("Great Wizard"),
Gofannon ("Great Smith") and Amaethon ("Great
Farmer"). Not only does this at once suggest an Indo-European
functional triad, but it also obviously presents an analogy
with the trí Dé Danand who are Danand's sons.
The names in both traditions are sufficiently different to make
certain that one wasn't simply a borrowing from the other, but
that both are descended from a common theme in the Celtic past,
whatever role culture contacts may have played in the subsequent
development of the stories. However, the main source in which
the Plant Dôn appear (the Four Branches of the Mabinogi)
makes no mention of Dôn's husband, and the only male figure
of her generation who plays a major role in relation to her
is her brother Math, the magician-ruler of the Plant Dôn
(in an arrangement many scholars have found to be reminiscent
of a matrilineal social system). The only place where Dôn's
husband is fleetingly identified is the Trioedd Ynys Prydein
(Triads of the Isle of Britain), a collection of lore in triadic
form, found in several manuscripts from the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries, which was intended to serve as a memory aid for native
Welsh storytellers, linking characters by common themes relating
to their roles. Many of the stories would now be completely
unknown to us if we didn't have these brief, cryptic allusions
to them in the triads. Triad 35 (Tri Chyuor a aeth o'r Enys
hon, ac ny doeth dracheuyn yr un onadunt - "Three emigrations
that went from this island, and not one of them ever came back")
mentions Arianrhod -- the daughter of Dôn who is famous
for being the mother of Lleu in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi
-- as Aryanrot merch Veli, "daughter of Beli".21 This
is evidently Beli Mawr son of Mynogan (or Manogan), who appears
frequently in chronicles and genealogies relating to Celtic
Britain. Like Bile, he plays no active role in any story, but
is important chiefly as the "first ancestor" of virtually
all the lineages of native British rulers, most of whom claimed
kinship with one of his descendants, Coel Hen ("Old King
Cole") of Colchester. According to Genealogy 10 in the
Harl. MS 3859, Beli's grandson was Afallach, whose name is directly
linked to Ynys Afallach, the Island-Paradise of Apples, cognate
to Eamhain Abhlach of Irish tradition; and, most importantly,
in the same source his wife is called Anna (quam dicunt esse
consobrinam Mariae virginis - "who was said to be the cousin
of the Virgin Mary").22 We have already noted the confused
relationship between Danand and Anand in the Irish texts, so
it is significant to see a similar relationship suggested between
the names Dôn and Anna. The linking of Beli to Dôn
by way of Arianrhod appears very tenuous, of course, especially
since the figure of Arianrhod in Triad 35 bears little resemblance
to her character in the Mabinogi. Here she has a husband, Lliaws
son of Nwyfre, and two sons, Gwenwynwyn and Gwanar, who join
their uncle Caswallawn son of Beli (the same character who was
depicted as ruling Britain in the Second Branch of the Mabinogi;
he was modeled after the historical figure Cassiuellaunos) in
an expedition to pursue Julius Caesar's army after the latter's
attempted invasion of Britain. One could well be tempted to
assume that this is a completely different character coincidentally
bearing the same name as Lleu's mother. Yet Arianrhod's name
is both unique and extremely well-known in Welsh tradition,
so that if there really had been "two Arianrhods"
in the literature of the Middle Ages some allusions to that
fact surely would appear elsewhere in the extant poetry, contrasting
the two and making it clear that one and not the other was meant.
It is actually simpler to accept that there was a sequel to
the Mabinogi, in which she married and had two other children
besides Dylan and Lleu (the chronology of the stories indeed
makes this possible). So the thread uniting Beli and Arianrhod
and Dôn, though barely visible, still holds plausibly.
their roles and names appear strikingly similar, it is in fact
difficult to find an etymological link between Bile and Beli.
We will deal with the name Bile in the next paragraph; Beli,
despite its close similarity to the former, doesn't seem to
be either a cognate or a borrowing -- although the resemblance
between the two names may have guided the development of the
characters' parallel roles in Irish and Welsh tradition. Since
in Latin texts Beli sometimes appears as Belinus, it was once
widely assumed to be related to the Gaulish theonym Belenos,
but this no longer seems so likely. It is most probably derived
from the stem bel- meaning "battle, tumult", exemplified
in words like the British theonym Bellatucadros (Beautiful in
Battle) and perhaps early Welsh belu "to kill" (although
there may also have been some influence from Breton beli "power,
most plausible etymology of Bile (though even this isn't certain,
since the mediaeval copyists seemed unable to decide whether
the i in the name was long or short) derives it from a word
that means "tree", especially in the sense of "sacred
tree". Throughout Irish tradition the term bile has been
used to designate particularly large and ancient trees that
served as focal points for ritual spaces or tribal territories.
The lore of places frequently mentions the trees that marked
the centres of the provincial divisions, with the centre of
Ireland as a whole indicated by the biggest of them all, the
Craeb Uisnig (Tree of Uisnech), an ash tree of such proportions
that it was said to have covered twenty miles of ground when
it finally collapsed. It was described as dor nime ("door
of heaven"), suggesting that it was a means of gaining
access to other worlds, a role often played by great and wonderful
trees in Celtic stories, and which certainly points to the fundamental
Indo- European motif of the world-tree or world-pillar which
serves as the axis of the entire universe and whose immense
height penetrates all the levels of existence and unites them
all.23 The importance of this concept to the Celtic theory of
sacred space is further reinforced by the architecture of the
later temples of the "Belgic" type (like the particularly
elaborate one discovered at Gournay-sur-Aronde), where great
posts were strategically placed to indicate the centre and the
four quarters, exactly like the famous bilí of Irish
sacred geography.24 The term bile is also known (as a rare and
archaic term) in Scots Gaelic, while in Manx billey has become
the ordinary word for "tree". It has its origins in
Old Celtic bilios, attested in Gaulish place- names like Biliomagos
"Plain of the Sacred Tree" (modern-day Bilem).25 No
cognate has survived in Welsh, but in Breton bilh can still
mean the trunk of a very large tree that has been cut down.
linguistic and theological features could indeed suggest that
the figure of Bile, "first ancestor" of human lineages
in time, is also "first point in space" out of which
all subsequent spatial dimensions grow. That the name of the
character did have such symbolic associations cannot be ruled
out by any means, but there are simpler reasons why a human
could be compared to a bile. In literary Irish -- and especially
in the praise-poetry the filí addressed to their aristocratic
patrons -- the term bile is often applied to the scions of noble
families, with the sense of "eminent warrior".26 Sometimes
a poet might make a playful allusion to the "tree"
meaning (as when, for example, we read in the Metrical Dinnshenchas:
mac Golláin cen imduibe/ba bili bán Bregmaige
- "the son of Gollán without darkness of dishonour
was the white bile of the plain of Brega"),27 but the basic
characteristics invoked were visible glory and solid, immovable
strength. These are, in fact, the main qualities suggested by
bile when it refers to a tree. The word is ultimately derived
from an Indo-European root *bhel- applied to things that are
bulky and swollen, or in the process of swelling and growing
(it is, in particular, the root from which the word "phallus"
developed). The idea, then, is great size and solidity with
a specifically masculine, virile flavour. In relation to the
trees, it originally expressed their size rather than their
sacredness, although the longevity of a giant tree, remaining
as an unchanging landmark for centuries in the shifting landscape,
would have naturally made it the focus of religious awe. But
given the generalised meaning and diversified usage of the term,
and even while noting the fascinating correlation between trees,
maleness, and the centre of ritual space, it becomes less compelling
to link the literary character Bile directly to the concept
of the World Tree.
does this leave our original pair of "primordial parents"?
The evidence linking the two figures to each other in a literary
context is, as we have seen, almost nonexistent. Bile/Beli is
indeed associated with a "first ancestor" motif (and
in both Irish and Welsh traditions he has a grandson who rules
an Otherworld place for the dead), and his name (at least in
its Irish form) does contain a possible reference to sacred
trees, but this seems to be little more than an instance of
a widespread Celtic metaphor (albeit a powerful one) in which
male strength and dependability are compared to the solidness
of a giant tree. As for *Danu, although it remains possible
that this was the original nominative form of the name, in all
extant sources the nominative in fact appears as Danand (modern
Danann).28 The scant literary evidence concerning her places
her within the now-familiar Celtic pattern of a Land-goddess
linked to three male divinities who represent either a functional
triad, the three vertical divisions of the universe, or something
less clearly defined. In the mediaeval texts these goddess-figures
are never shown as primordial mothers, but always as daughters
of some pre-existing character. Danand is specifically identified
as a bantuathach ("female farmer or landowner" --
one can assume that the term bantuathaid "sorceress, witch"
used in Cath Maige Tuired came from a misunderstanding of the
original word), which links her to the world of third-function
activities, and may indicate the context of her worship in pre-Christian
times. Squire's comparison of her to Demeter is particularly
apt, since the Greek goddess was, despite the more exclusive
Eleusinian mystery cult that grew up around her, first and foremost
tied to the processes of the agricultural cycle, and relevant
to the lives of farmers (as she still is in her guise of St.
Demetra); and although her name meant "Mother Earth"
(suggesting that she once had a more primordial role), the official
theogony didn't portray her as the progenitor of the other gods,
but made her a child of Rhea and Kronos. The association of
Danann with a probably much older figure named 'Anann' or 'Anna'
also suggests that she may have been superimposed on a goddess
with more primeval "Mother Earth" traits.
earth" and "pillar of strength": although one
can no longer point to them as characters in an explicit mythology
of origins, they are still powerful archetypes of the primordial
qualities of the divine female and the divine male, as expressed
by the Celtic imagination. As symbols, they remain basic to
the vocabulary of Celtic myth, and exploring the intricate patterns
into which they have been woven throughout the literature and
lore of the Celtic languages will continue to be a fruitful
and enriching endeavour.
1. Squire:1979, 50-1.
2. DIL:1983, 182.
3. LGE:1941, 128, 156, 160, 192.
4. LGE:1941, 134-6.
6. LGE:1941, 162, 198.
7. LGE:1941, 182.
8. LGE:1941, 132, 158.
9. Tuathach can also mean "lord, chief representative of
a tribe", which complicates the picture. However, since
the term bantuathach is unique to this text (and to texts derived
from it), I have chosen to retain R.A.S. MacAlister's interpretation.
10. LGE:1941, 150, 182.
11. CMT:1982, 52-4.
12. LGE:1941, 122.
13. LGE:1941, 188.
14. LGE:1941, 182, 216.
15. FFE:1982, 86.
16. LGE:1941, 134, 165.
17. LGE:1956, 44, 90.
18. LGE:1956, 38, 54-6, 70, 80.
19. Ír, another son of Mil, was drowned at Sgeilig, which
also became an important sacred site associated with death and
20. Davidson:1988, 176.
21. TYP:1979, 75-82, 277-8.
22. TYP:1979, 281-3.
23. Davidson:1988, 178-81.
24. Brunaux:1986, 20.
25. Ross:1967, 34.
26. DIL:1983, 73.
27. LL:1965, 867.
28. In some later texts, Danann is given a new genitive form
Danainne, treating it as a feminine noun of the second declension
(cf. DIL:1983, 182).
Book of Leinster (vol. 4), ed. by Anne O'Sullivan. Dublin Institute
of Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1965. [LL]
BRUNAUX, Jean-Louis. Les Gaulois: Sanctuaires et rites. Éditions
Errance, Paris, 1986.
Cath Maige Tuired, ed. by E.A. Gray. Irish Texts Society Vol.
LII. Dublin, 1982. [CMT]
CÉITINN, Seathrún (Geoffrey Keating) (ed. by Padraig
de Barra). Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, vol. 1. FNT, Dublin,
DAVIDSON, H.R. Ellis. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe. Syracuse
University Press, Syracuse, 1988.
Dictionary of the Irish Language, (E.G. Quin, general editor).
Royal Irish Academy, Dublin,1983. [DIL]
Lebor Gabála Érenn, parts IV and V, ed. by R.A.S.
MacAlister. Irish Texts Society Vols. XLI and XLIV. Dublin,
1941, 1956. [LGE]
ROSS, Anne. Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and
Tradition. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967.
SQUIRE, Charles. Celtic Myth and Legend, Poetry and Romance
(original title: The Mythology of the British Islands). Bell
Publishing Company, New York, 1979 .
Trioedd Ynys Prydein, ed. by Rachel Bromwich. University of
Wales Press, Cardiff, 1978 . [TYP]
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