Tuatha Tribes

From Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894

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Professor Rhys speaks of the Tuatha as Tribes of the goddess Danu; though the term, he says, "is somewhat vague, as are also others of the same import, such as Tuath Dea, the Tribes of the goddess—and Fir Dea, the men of the goddess." He further remarks—"The Tuatha de Danann contain among them light and dark divinities, and those standing sometimes in the relation of parents and offspring to one another."

Massey has the following philological argument for the Tuatha, saying:—"The Tuaut (Egy.), founded on the underworld, denotes the gate of worship, adoration; the worshippers, Tuaut ta tauan, would signify the place of worship within the mound of earth, the underground sanctuary. The Babylonian temple of Bit-Saggdhu was in the gate of the deep. The Tuaut or portal of Ptah's temple faced the north wind, and the Irish Tievetory is the hill-side north. The Tuaut entrance is also glossed by the English Twat. The Egyptian Tuantii are the people of the lower hemisphere, the north, which was the type of the earth-temple. The Tuatha are still known in Ireland by the name of the Divine Folk; an equivalent to Tuantii for the worshippers."

The Rev. R. Smiddy fancies the people, as Denan or Dene-ion, were descendants of Dene, the fire-god. An old MS. calls them the people of the god Dana. Clive, therefore, asks, if they were simply the old gods of the country. Joyce, in Irish Names says, 'This mysterious race, having undergone a gradual deification, became confounded and identified with the original local gods, and ultimately superseded them altogether." He recalls the Kerry mountain's name of Da-chich-Danainne. He considers the Tuatha "a people of superior intelligence and artistic skill, and that they were conquered, and driven into remote districts, by the less intelligent but more warlike Milesian tribes who succeeded them."

Lady Ferguson, in her Story of the Irish before the Conquest, has the idea of the Danaans being kinsmen to the Firbolgs, that they came from the region of the Don and Vistula, under Nuad of the Silver Hand, defeating Eochaid, King of the Firbolgs, at Moytura, and ruling Ireland two hundred years.

They were certainly workers in metal, and have therefore been confounded by monkish writers with smiths. St. Patrick's prayer against smiths, and the traditional connection between smiths and magic, can thus be understood. They—according to the Book of Invasions

"By the force of potent spells and wicked magic
And conjurations horrible to hear,
Could set the ministry of hell at work,
And raise a slaughtered army from the earth,
And make them live, and breathe, and fight again.
Few could their arts withstand, or charms unbind."

They were notorious in Sligo, a county so full of so-called Druidical remains. In Carrowmore, with its sixty-four stone circles, there must once have been a large population. "Why," asks Wood-Martin, "is that narrow strip of country so thickly strewn with monuments of the Dead?" But he learned that the Fomorian pirates, possibly from the Baltic, swarmed on that wild coast. He especially notes the tales of Indech, a mighty Fomorian Druid, grandfather of the dreaded Balor, of the Evil Eye.

The mythic Grey Cow belonged to Lon mac Liomhtha, the first smith among the Tuaths who succeeded in making an iron sword. At the battle of Moytura, Uaithne was the Druid harper of the Tuatha. Of Torna, last of Pagan Bards, it was declared he was

"Sprung of the Tualtha de Danans, far renown'd
For dire enchanting arts and magic power."

But, as Miss Brooke tells us, "most of the Irish romances are filled with Dananian enchantments, as wild as the wildest of Ariosto's fictions, and not at all behind them in beauty." It was Dr. Barnard, Bishop of Killaloe, who traced the race to visitors from South Britain; saying, "The Belgae and Danmonii, whose posterity in Ireland were called Firbolghs and Tuatha de Danan."

In the destructive battle between the "manly, bloody, robust Fenians of Fionn," and "the white-toothed, handsome Tuatha Dedaans," when the latter saw a fresh corps of Fenians advancing, it is recorded that "having enveloped themselves in the Feigh Fiadh, they made a precipitate retreat"

Jubainville's Cours de la littérature Celtique does not omit mention of these wonder-workers. He calls to mind the fact that, like the Greeks of the Golden Age, they became invisible, but continued their relations with men; that the Christian writers changed them into mortal kings in chronicles; that their migrations and deities resemble those of Hesiod; that they continue to appear in animal or human forms, though more commonly as birds; that ancient legends record their descent to earth from the blue heavens.

He brings forward a number of the old Irish stories about the Tuaths. When defeated by the sons of Milé, they sought refuge in subterranean palaces. One Dagan, a word variant of the god Dagdé, exercised such influence, that the sons of Milé were forced, for peace' sake, to make a treaty with him. His palace retreat below was at Brug na Boinné, the castle of the Boyne. The burial-place of Crimtham Nia Nair, at Brug na Boinné, was chosen because his wife was a fairy of the race of Tuatha. In the Tain bô Cuailnge there is much about the Sid, or enchanted palace. Dagdé had his harp stolen by the Fomorians, though it was recovered later on.

The son of Dagdé was Oengus. When the distribution of subterranean palaces took place, somehow or other, this young fellow was forgotten. Asking to be allowed to spend the night at one, he was unwilling to change his quarters, and stayed the next day. He then absolutely refused to depart, since time was only night and day; thus retaining possession. The same Tuath hero fell in love with a fair harper, who appeared to him in a dream. The search, aided by the fairies, was successful in finding the lady, after a year and a day.

It was in his second battle that Ogmé carried off the sword of Tethra, King of the Fomorians. This sword had the gift of speech; or, rather, said Jubainville, it seemed to speak, for the voice which was heard was, according to a Christian historian, only that of a demon hidden in the blade. Still, the writer of this Irish epic remarked, that in that ancient time men adored weapons of war, and considered them as supernatural protectors.

The Book of Conquests allows that the Tuatha were descended from Japhet, though in some way demons; or, in Christian language, heathen deities. One Irish word was often applied to them, viz. Liabra, or phantoms. It is believed that at least one Tuath warrior, named Breas, could speak in native Irish to the aboriginal Firbolgs.

A writer in Anecdota Oxon is of opinion that very different notions and accounts exist at the different periods of Irish epic literature concerning them. He declares that, excepting their names, no very particular traces of them have come down to us. The most distinct of the utterances about the race points to the existence of war-goddesses.

Wilde gives a definite reason why we know so little about the Tuatha de Danaans. It was because "those who took down the legends from the mouths of the bards and annalists, or those who subsequently transcribed them, were Christian missionaries, whose object was to obliterate every vestige of the ancient forms of faith." The distortion of truth about these singular, foreign people makes it so difficult to understand who or what they were; to us they seem always enveloped in a sort of Druidic fog, so that we may class them with men, heroic demi-gods, or gods themselves, according to our fancy.

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