Historical manuscripts of Irelands folklore have been roughly divided into four cycles: the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle. The pseudo-history given below is of the Mythological Cycle. During this cycle, a magical people from the north (although as can be seen below, their origins were originally Mediterranean) invaded Ireland. They are famously known as the Tuatha de Dannan.
This is a summary of the Tales of the Tuatha de Dannan, based on the “Book of Invasions” as told in the Book of Leinster*.
The Tale of the Tuatha De Danaan spans many centuries and surprisingly begins in ancient Greece. There, long before the rise of the Mycenaens, there lived a race of nomads known as the Pelasgians. Tribal in nature, they were sea-farers who claimed to be born from the teeth of the Cosmic Snake Ophion, and the Great Goddess Danu.
Danu was known to be a lovely slender woman with an upturned nose, deathly pale face, lips as red as rowan berries, eyes of startling blue, and long fair hair. Able to transform into a sow, mare, bitch, vixen, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid, or loathsome hag. The Tuatha de Dannan translates as Children of Danu.
The Pelasgians ruled Greece for many years until the coming of the Achaeans, who invaded Thessaly from Syria in about 1900 B.C. They conquered Greece and many Pelasgians were assimilated into the new culture. However, not all of the Pelasgians were content to stay. A loose confederation of tribes fled, adopting their nomadic ways on a grand scale, departing from Greece altogether.
But it is of the northern fleeing confederation of Pelasgian tribes who called themselves the Tuatha De Danaan that we follow from here. As they migrated north they left their mark upon the races that they touched until at last they reached Denmark where they established a great kingdom. Denmark means “Kingdom of the Danaans.” They built four cities; great Falias, shining Gorias, Finlas, and rich Murias, which lay to the south. In each of these four cities there lived a wise man, which taught their young men skill and knowledge, along with perfect wisdom. These men were; Senias, of Murias; Arias, the Fair-haired poet of Finias; Urias of the Noble nature of Gorias; finally, Morias in Falias itself. Their king was named Nuada (succeeded by the Dagda), and their chiefs were Manannan, son of Lir; Ogma, the king’s brother, who taught them writing; Diancecht, who was their chief healer; Neit, a god of Battle; Credenus, the chief craftsman; and Goibniu, the chief smith.
Their great women were Badb, a great battle Goddess; Macha, who collected the heads of men killed in battle; Morrigu, the crow of battle; Eadon, the nurse of poets; and Brigit, the woman of poetry; and Eire, Fodla, and Banba, the daughters of the Dagda who would later become queens of Ireland and each for a time would lend the country their name. Eire was the last one to do so historically, thus her name is the one associated with Ireland today. Brigit was worshipped by poets as she was very great and noble. She was also a woman of healing, an excellent smith, invented the whistle for signaling across distances and much more. Her face it was said, was ugly on one side and comely on the other; her name means Breosaighit, or Fiery Arrow.
As a people they held three things above all others; the plough, the sun, and the Hazel tree.
It is not known what brought them to Ireland, but it was a mass and total migration, for they brought with them their four sacred treasures that were each kept in a separate city; A Stone of Virtue was brought from Falias, called Lia Fail, or the stone of Destiny. From Gorias they brought a sword, which would later be called the Sword of Lugh. The Spear of Victory was brought from Finias, and from Murias they brought the Caldron of the Gods, from which no company ever went away from unsatisfied. They landed in Ireland around 1472 B.C.
The land of Ireland in 1472 B.C. was ruled by a race of creatures known as the Firbolgs. The Tuatha De Danaan arrived in a mist, it is said, and that they came through the air and the high air to Ireland (believed to have shapeshifted their form to ravens). Legend says that they arrived on the first day of Beltaine, what is now known as May the first. They landed northwest of Connacht. But the Firbolgs, the men of Bag, saw nothing but a mist lying on the hills.
Now King Eochaid, son of Erc, who maintained his throne in Teamhair, ruled the Firbolgs. He had dreamed of the coming of the Danaans, or the men of Dea, as they were called. His Druids had told him that they were a great enemy. So it came to past that he sent his greatest champion, Sreng, to learn of this new race. And Sreng did indeed go to the settlement of the Tuatha De Danaan, in Magh Rein. There he was met by Bres, a champion of the Danaans, and they would learn much from each other. They made a pact between themselves that no matter what the future might bring, they would always remain friends.
The Tuatha De Danaan sent Sreng back with a message that they would not fight the Firbolgs if King Eochaid would cede them half the land. Needless to say this did not bode well with the Firbolg King, who decided to battle. They would meet in a place called Magh Tuireadh. To make a bloody story short, the Firbolgs lost the battle miserably. With their power crushed, the Firbolgs were given Connacht to dwell in as their own, and in time, they would foster Ferdiad, who fought Cuchulain, and Erc, son of Cairbre, who would later slay Cuchulain. The Tuatha De Danaan took Teamhair as their own, renaming it Druim Cain (The Beautiful Ridge). But it is also known as Liathdruim (Gray Ridge), and Druim na Descan (The Ridge of the Outlook).
The City-State was laid out as such; Nuada’s Rath lay to the North; The Hill of Hostages lay to the Northeast; The Green of Teamhair lay West, and the Hill of the Sidhe was Northwest of the Hill of Hostages. There was a great wall there called Nith, where the first mill of Ireland was built. To the north of the Hill of Hostages they placed Lia Fail, their sacred stone. The city was built surrounded by the Wall of Three Whispers, and near the wall was the House of Women. This House had seven doors on its east and west sides, and it was here that great feasts were held.
Close by was the Great House of A Thousand Warriors, and south of that was the little Hill of Women Soldiers. Thus, The Danaan’s first city on Irish soil came to be. For a time the Danaans grew in numbers and prospered, but in time they were threatened by the invasion of another race, the Fomorians. It is here that the great hero of Irish lore Lugh appears. It is said in the legends that he was the son of Cian of the Tuatha De Danaan, and Ethlinn, the daughter of Balor, the warrior king of the Fomorians.
It is said that when met by Nuada’s doorkeepers Gamal, the son of Figal and Camel, son of Riagall, he offered his services as a carpenter. But the job of carpenter was held by Luchtar, son of Luachaid. He then offered his services as a smith. But that post was held by Colum Cuaillemech of the Three Ways. He then offered to be a Harper. But Abhean, son of Bicelmos held that position. He offered to be a poet. But Erc, the son of Ethaman was Nuada’s poet. He offered to be a physician. But Diancecht was the Healer. A brass worker, he offered. But alas, as you may guess, that job was taken too. Credne Cerd worked the Brass. A champion warrior then. But Nuada had many champions. “But do you have a man that can do all of these things?” And thus, Lugh was admitted by the King.
As to Lugh’s part in the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh, he is credited with bringing the Riders of the Sidhe from the Land of Promise (Tir-na-n’og). The alliance formed by these two races would profit the Tuatha De Danaan much in later times. Thus it came to pass that the Fomorians were defeated. Once again, the Danaans enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity. But after two hundred years another invasion graced their shores.
In the Book of Invasions (supported by Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, a people sailed west from Thrace, through the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean. They made landfall on Wexford Bay, where a huge battle was fought. The Danaans were unable to defeat this wild race of warriors, so they bargained with them. They persuaded them to pass into Northern Britain, then called Albion. These warriors would later become the ferocious Picts, or Tattooed Men. The Picts had the same social habits that existed in Thessaly prior to the coming of the Achaeans, and in classical times among the primitive tribes of the southern Black Sea coast, along the Gulf of Sirte’ in Libya, Majorca, and Northwest Galicia. Their customs included exogamy, totemism, public coitus, cannibalism, tattooing and both male and female warriorship. Their descendants still retained their non-Celtic language in Bede’s day.
The Pictish invasion was a portend of things to come. In 1268 B.C., a race of people known as the Milesians invaded Ireland during the reign of the Three Kings MaCoill, MacCecht, and MacGreine, together with their Queens, Eire, Folda, and Banba (The Dagda’s daughters).
They landed first at the mouth of the River Slaney, but the Druids drove them back out to sea with a powerful storm. They eventually landed at Inver Skene, or Kenmore Bay, where the Bard of the Milesians, called by the name of Amergin chanted his now famous song, as his feet touched the soil.
The Song of Amergin
I am the wind on the sea
I am the wave of the sea
I am the bull of seven battles
I am the eagle on the rock
I am a flash from the sun
I am the most beautiful of plants
I am a strong wild boar
I am a salmon on the water
I am a lake in the plain
I am a word of knowledge
I am the head of the spear in battle
I am the god that puts fire in the head
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?
The Milesians marched to Druim Cain, (which was destined to become Tara, under their rule), and demanded battle for Ireland from the three kings. And so it was.
There were two major battles fought.
At Sleive Mish in Kerry, and at the final battle at Taillte, in Meath. Many were slain on both sides, but in the end, the Milesians won. The three kings of the Tuatha De Danaan were killed in the battle at Taillte. It took a full year for the conquerors to subjugate Ireland. During their march they encountered each of the surviving Queens of the Vanquished Danaans. First they met Banba, and she was aloof to the invaders. Still, she asked that they name Ireland for her, and it was done. For a while Ireland was called Banba. Later on the march carried them to Folda. She too was aloof to the warriors, but she as well asked of them to name Ireland for her. And it was so. For a time Ireland was called Folda. Toward the end of their great march, they came upon the Last queen of the Tuatha De Danaan. Eire. And Eire was not aloof. She welcomed them to the land that they would now rule, and offered them peace. She too, asked of the invaders to name Ireland for her.
And it was so.
Ireland to this day is known as Eire.
Eire impressed them so, that she became Eireanaig, Goddess of the Milesians. The Milesians would become under her guidance, the Irish of today. The Tuatha De Danaan met as an entire people to decide their fate at Brugh on the Boyne, and it was decided that they would not be the subjects of rule by the invaders. They built a massive underground fortress at the Boyne, known as New Grange**. After the battle, they used their Druids to blight the fields of the Milesians, until at last, the invaders made peace with the Danaans through Manannan. The first king of the Irish Milesians, Crimthan MacNair, is buried at New Grange, as his wife was Danaan. But the majority of the Danaans joined with the Sidhe and dwelt in the hills, and Manannan put invisible walls around their glades, and made them immortal, though they already were long lived. He brewed them his ale, and fed them his swine, and it was so.
And a new king was chosen from the candidates most eligible, who were Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, Ilbrech of Ess Ruadh, Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh (The Hill of the White Field on Slieve Faud), Midhir the Proud of Bri Leith, and Angus Og, son of the Dagda. And when it was done, Bodb Dearg became King of The Tuatha De Danaan, and he ruled in his seat in Sidhe Femen, which he enchanted greatly, and he had three sons, Angus, Artrach, and Aedh. He also had a daughter, Scathniamh, The Flower of Brightness.
Bodb Dearg was the last king of the combined Tuatha De Danaan. They would eventually meld with the Sidhe, those spirits of the mound, hill and wood, that lived in raths, which were round stockaded fortresses. They became a nation of roving warriors, their blue eyes and pale faces with long, curly yellow hair marking their race. They adopted the Sidhe military custom of organizing themselves in units of fifty men, and carried the white shield of the Sidhe. The Sidhe at that time were ruled by two virgin born kings, who were said to be sexually promiscuous without blame or shame. Eventually they left this world as a united people from New Grange, venturing back to Tir-na-nog, the paradise from which they had come from…so long ago. But a few stayed behind.
Knockainy in Limerick is ruled by Aine, Faerie Queen and Banshee, who became famous in A.D. 2 for cutting off the ear of Aillill Olvum, The king of Munster, giving him his name “O” (ear) “Lom” (Bare), meaning “Bare of one Ear”. She rules there to this day.
As does Cleena, the Queen of South Munster. Her place is five miles from Mallow, in the center of a great pile of rocks. Aibell, or Abinn, is Queen of North Munster. Her Palace is two miles north of Killaloe, and is called Craglea (Gray Rock), or Crageevil, or simply “Aibell’s Rock”. And the most famous, Grian of the Bright Cheeks, who rules from Pallas Green Hill, in Tipperary. Still today, their armies roam the Irish countryside, marching and riding out of the mists of time.
*The Book of Leinster in which these tales are chronicled is a medieval Irish Manuscript dated to about 1160 AD. It is now kept in Trinity College, Dublin.
**The story regarding the use of Newgrange does not match archeological records. Newgrange could not have been built by the Tuatha. It predates the Danaan by 2000 years. However, a stone henge surrounding the stone burial mound was built at a time consistent with the Book of Invasions.