Celtic Goddess Danu
The Meaning of the Celtic Goddess Danu: This page on the Celtic goddess Danu is actually a backgrounder piece to my page on the four Celtic Symbols of the Tuatha De Danann. I love the potential Danu offers because to me, she is the epitome of artful class, craftsmanship and devotion to creative expression.Like any type of bright beautiful ancient peoples, the information lineage is bound to get boggy over time.
With a goal to keep this page about the Celtic goddess Danu light and fun (and with the assumption you’ll do your own fact-finding), I’m going to highlight the story of the Tuatha de Danann.
Why? Because little is known about the goddess Danu. So, if an entire people are her namesake, it only makes sense to observe the people to know about the goddess they hail.
What does Tuatha De Danann mean?
These are people of the goddess, Danu. Tuatha refers to a type of people who hail from the north. A magical kind of people who were agriculturally inclined. De points to the word goddess, and Danann refers to the deity, Danu.
Bear in mind, the Tuatha are those who we see the most often in terms of Celtic myth, deific pantheon and arcane symbolism. Prior and former inhabitants of Ireland certainly contribute, but the stuff that makes us love the Celts like fairies, esoteric naturalism, and magical wisdom is largely, born from the Tuatha de Danann.
Who are the Tuatha De Danann (The Tuatha)?
Irish mythologists will begin their storytelling of the ancient Celts were a series invasions occurring over the rolling hills of Ireland. The fifth round of invaders were the Tuatha, who were descendents of Nemed (the leader of the third rein of invaders).
Nemed had conquered the people inhabiting Ireland (Fomorians) at the time of his arrival by sea (which is another interesting story jam-packed with cool symbolism). However, the Fomorians returned after Nemed died of illness and drove off Nemed’s descendents
Stay with me. I’ll get to the Celtic goddess Danu.
Legend goes on to tell us these warrior-descendents were scattered about land and sea. The one’s we’re interested in, the Tuatha De Danann, were adrift at sea until they reached the remotest isles of the north.
Here are these unwilling ex-pats, driven out from the place they forged into their home, adrift at sea and finally settling in these remote isles. How much more forlorn can these people get?
What interests me most, is that in spite of their bleak circumstances, these people didn’t roll over in abject obscurity. Nope. They took this time of exile to hone their skills, identify their specialized abilities, and fine-tune their abilities.
I look at this time of exile philosophically. It’s a perennial theme: The warrior retreats, wounded. Warrior endures a time of (usually) painful introspection. Warrior awakens to an epiphany of his/her greatness. Warrior, renewed and reinvented rises above the mire to conquer once again.
Legend won’t tell me when precisely these wandering warriors encountered the goddess Danu. I like to think it was during that time of soulful inspection. And, I like to think she came to them in recognition of their willingness to succeed, live, thrive and develop as a people – even in the face of adversity.
Who is the Goddess Danu?
You’re going to read a lot of different perspectives about the goddess Danu. There’s not much written about her, and so her positioning in the Celtic pantheon is unclear. You’re going to read that she is a magnificent mother goddess. Or, mighty, mighty earth goddess. These perspectives could very well be true – there is nothing to refute them (least of all me).
However, I do know the ancient Celts believed in equal-opportunity-deities.
This means, Celtic gods and goddesses rarely pulled rank, and were considered (mostly) equal in status.
What we do know is Danu is the namesake of the Tuatha de Danann. Legend indicates she greatly influenced them, nurtured them, even imparted her magic and esoteric wisdom to them.
Given what is known of the Tuatha, here are my observations about who the goddess Danu is…
This is the Celtic Goddess Danu
♦ She is a lover and a giver.
How could she not be? We see a small band of weary warriors and their families dredged up on northernmost island shores. It takes a goddess of compassion to want to nurture a broken people back to strength.
♦ She is a goddess who recognizes potential.
In spite of their incredible fighting skills, and their magical proclivities these were a bedraggled lot, having endured great hardships. I’m sure they were a sad sight for goddess eyes when the washed up. The Celtic goddess Danu exhibits discerning judgment when she chose to share herself and her gifts to these people. She knew talent when she saw it (even in its raw, unrevealed form).
♦ She is an artist, craftswoman, and creative
How do I know this? Take a look at the craftsmanship of the Tuatha. Magnificent. So too is their prose, music and poetry. And, the magic (which is truly the highest of creative arts) of the Tuatha is legendary. Christian monks (from whom we get much of our textual understanding about the Celts) had a tendency to denounce divine powers in re-telling the Celtic sagas. However, even they could not deny the super-human, magical propensities of the Tuatha. There can be no doubt, a goddess who inspires a people to create such marvelous beauty and magic, must be the embodiment of the same.
I hope this tactic of understanding the Celtic goddess Danu, by way of her people, the Tuatha De Danann has been as enlightening to you as it has been for me in writing it.
If you enjoyed this page, be sure to check out my page on the Celtic Symbols of the Tuatha De Danann.
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