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  • Writer's pictureSheila R. Lamb

Who Were the Tuatha De Danann of Ireland?

The Danann cycle involves myths and stories of the early settlers of the Ireland, found in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, or the Book of Invasions. The Danann were the children of Danu, arriving on the island from four mythical cities. Tuatha refers to home of the Danann people, but also the tribe and its social structure. The modern Irish word “tuath” usually means fort or small kingdom.

Some believe that perhaps the Danann were descendants from lost Atlantis. They brought with them four magical weapons, including the Lia Fail – the stone of destiny – possibly the one located on the Hill of Tara. According to legend, the Lia Fail would choose the king of the Danann with her magical cry.

The Fir Bolg lived on Ireland, before the arrival of the Danann. In the first battle, the Battle of Magh Tuiredh, the Danann defeat the Fir Bolg using magic. They were known to become elements of the earth and sky and brought down fog and mist as a way to confuse their enemies. According to the Book of Invasions, this is where Nuada lost his hand.

The Danann also battle the Fomorians, another tribe that wished to settle Ireland, fighting in the Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh. Bres, who becomes the Danann king after Nuada, is the son of Eiru, a Danann goddess and Elatha, a Fomorian chieftain.

When the Celts landed on Irish shores, the mystical Danann fought again. The Milesians (sons of Mil) defeated the Danann. The children of Danu were sent below ground, into hiding. This is why the Danann are now more commonly known as sidhe – or fairies. Have they faded away over time? Or does their mystery and magic remain in the hills of Ireland?


CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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