Some of the most important characters met in Irish Mythology, and tell you a bit of their story.

Art by Anaïs Chareyre Art

Text by Stephen Roche

The Morrígan

 

 

The Morrígan is one of the Tuatha De Danann (People of the Goddess Danu). She is a goddess of battle, strife, death and fertility.

Her name translates as 'Phantom Queen" or "Great Queen" or "Battle Raven".

She appears as both a single goddess and a trio of goddesses, Anann Badb and Nemain, and sometimes in the form of a crow, flying above the warriors. In the Ulster cycle she also takes the forms of an eel, a wolf and a cow.

She is prophetess of all misfortune in battle and has knowledge of the fate of humanity. She is also the messenger of death as the dark lady/washer at the ford : Morrígan is seen washing bloody laundry prior to battle by those destined to die.

 

Her personality is associated with the sometimes frightening aspects of female energy, she is however also a protectress, empowering an individual to help him confront challenges with great personal strength, even against seemingly overwhelming odds.

 

The origin of the Morrígan seems to reach directly back to the megalithic cult of the Mothers.

The Mothers (Dísir) usually appeared as triple goddesses and their cult was expressed through both battle energy and regenerative ecstasy.

The next Celtic goddesses of sovereignty, such as the trio of Éire, Banba, and Fódhla, also used magic in wartime.

Éire, a goddess connected to the land in a fashion reminiscent of the Mothers, could appear as a beautiful woman or as a crow, as could the Morrígan. The Dísir appeared in similar guises. In addition to being battle goddesses, they were significantly associated with fate as well as birth in many cases, along with appearing before a death or to escort the deceased. It is interesting to note that Éire and the Morrígan were half-sisters.

She is the consort of the Dagda, while the Badb and Nemain are sometimes listed as consorts of Néit, an obscure war god.

 

 

Nuada of the Silver Arm

 

Nuada also known as Nuada Airgeatlámh, meaning "silver hand/arm"), was the first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann

When the Tuatha arrived in Ireland they first made contact with the Fir Bolg, the people who lived in Ireland before them. Nuada made an offer to them: they would share Ireland in two halves and there would be no bloodshed.

 

The king of the Fir Bolg, Eochaid, refused: the two sides would fight for Ireland’s kingship. The first battle was the great battle of Magh Tuiread, during which Nuada lost his arm, cut from him by the Fir Bolg Champion, Sreng. His life was saved by the Dagda, who protected him from further harm and got fifty of his men to take him away from the battlefield.

The Tuatha rose up and fought stronger for their king, meanwhile Sreng was shouting to Nuada to come fight again. Nuada accepted to fight Sreng, if he would fight with only one arm. Sreng refused and saw the Fir Bolg being beaten.

The Tuatha took three quarters of Ireland, and left one for the Fir Bolg.

With his arm lost, Nuada , by law, lost his kingship, for the tradition of the Tuatha De Danann was that a king must be physically perfect. He was replaced by Bres the Beautiful, an half Fomorian known for his beauty and mind.

 

Bres however happened to be a terrible ruler, he imposed great tribute from the Tuatha to give to the Fomorians, who were the enemies of the people of Ireland. Anger was slowly rising among the Tuatha.

Meanwhile Nuada was healing, and a new arm was forged for him by Dian Cecht, his physician. A strong arm, entirely made of Silver. Nuada was whole again, and his people followed him with joy and relief as he took back the kingship from Bres, and ruled for twenty more years.

 

Bres wanted his revenge. He sought help from the Fomorian ruler, Balor, and tried to retake the kingship. But Lugh, God of the Sun, was now on Nuada’s side, and he helped him to lead the Tuatha against the Fomorian threat.

During the Second battle of Magh Tuiread, Nuada was killed and beheaded by Balor.

Lugh fought against Balor and killed him with his Sling Stone and his spear, the Gae Assail. The Tuatha victory followed soon after.

Nuada was buried on a hill, in the great sorrow of his people. His great sword was laid by his grave, one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha De Danann.

 

She helped defeat the Firbolgs during the First Battle of Magh Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh.

She appeared to the Cúchulainn (son of the god Lugh) and offered her love to him. When he failed to recognize her and rejected her, she told him that she would hinder him when he was in battle. After he had wounded her, she appeared to him as an old hag and he offered his blessings to her, which healed her. On his way to his final battle, he saw the washer at the ford, who declared that she was washing the clothes and arms of Cúchulainn, who would soon be dead. When Cúchulainn died, she settled on his shoulder in the form of a crow.

His misfortune was that he never recognized the feminine power of sovereignty that she offered to him.

Amergin, Druid of the Gael.

 

Amergin the Druid was one of the sons of Miled and one of the Gael.

He helped lead the Sons of the Gael to Ireland, to avenge Ith, their brother who was killed in treachery when he came to the island. The Tuatha, when they saw the Gael’s ships coming, covered the island in a deep mist, but the trick didn’t stop them and the Gael eventually landed at Inver Sceine in Munster.

 

They marched to Slieve Mis where they met one of the three queens of the Tuatha De Danann. Amergin went to speak with her, her name was Banba, wife of Mac Cuill. Shortly after they went to Slieve Eibhline and met another Queen of the Tuatha. She was Fodhla, wife of Mac Cecht, Son of the Plough. Finally they came to the hill of Uisneach and the final queen revealed herself. She came to them and said "I am Eriu, wife of Mac Greine Son of the Sun."

 

The Sons of the Gael then traveled to Teamhair, where Cermait's three sons lived (Cermait was a son of the Dagda).This is where they held their kingship and their court, they were constantly arguing over their tremendous wealth that their father had left them. The bickering nearly reach to the point of fighting to its end. The Sons of The Gael were puzzled, watching all this quarrelling among the Tuatha who had enough wealth to share for all.

Amergin told them to give up the kingship of Ireland immediately, or they would fight them and take it from them.

Cermait's sons refused to battle and asked Amergin to make them an offer, adding that if the offer was not a fair one, the sons would kill them all with their spells and enchantments.

This was Amergin’s offer: his men would go back with him to Inver Sceine, back into their ships and go nine waves from the shore. If the Tuatha de Danann could make trouble and hinder his men from landing back onto the island, they would all return back to their own country and would never return. But if they managed to return to the shore, the Tuatha would give up the kingship, and be under the Gael leadership. The Tuatha accepted the challenge.

 

As soon as the Sons of the Gael left in their ships past nine waves, the Men of Dea raised a great wind against them. The wind was wild and unnatural, and spread the ships apart. Arranan, another son of Miled, died when the wind hit him and sent him to his death with his entire ship. The same fate applied to Donn, who was in command of another ship, and many of his men died swept away into the sea. His brothers heard his last cry before he disappeared in the waves.

 

In all five of the sons of Miled were destroyed by the spell storm and the enchantments that had been cast by the Men of Dea. But three survived. Amergin, Heber and Heremon.

Amergin rose up and cast another wind back with an enchantment of the winds and sea and he said:

"That all who are in the great sea may they now reach land!

That all who survive find a place in the plains, hills, mountains and valleys of Ireland. To drink from its lakes rivers and streams and to eat from the forests full of fruit and nuts.

That all shall have their gatherings and their races on this island and that a king of their own, will rule in Teamhair.

And that the sons of Miled may be seen on the land and that their men and women may honor the great Eriu.”

 

After this the wind died, and the sea went silent.

Amergin put his foot on the shore of Ireland and he said.

 

"I am the force in the wind.

I am the strong waves of the sea.

I am the horns of the bull.

I am the eagle wings spread.

I am the blazing sun.

I am a oak in the wood.

I am a boar from the hunt.

I am a salmon in the water.

I am a lake deep and endless.

I am the word of knowledge.

I am the sword and spear in battle.

I am the one who puts fire in its head.

 

Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?

Who can tell the ages of the moon?

Who can tell the place where the sun rests? "

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