Túatha Dé Danann – In Dagda Mór (Part 2)

He had the three sons, Oengus, Aed, and Cermat the fair. Upon those four did the men of Ireland make the Mound of the Brug

Eochu Ollathair

In my first post about In Dagda Mór we began MacAlister’s investigation as to how Temair became to be called. Tea, named a daughter of Lugaid (sun-god) son of Íth (corn) and wife to Eremón (ploughman) in the LGE led us towards his theory that she personified the spirit of vegetation. In the Dindshenchas or ‘lore of places’ she appeared again to explain how the pairing of her name (Tea) with the wall (Mur) that enclosed her grave came to be called Temair or Tara. That burial site was built in imitation of a grave made for Tephi called Tephirún or “Tephi’s secret”. MacAlister theorised that Tephi’s real secret lay in a cryptic ogham inscription that when manipulated revealed the name Scota, a Celtic ancestress. Tephi here identified as Scota is named a daughter of Forenn, who MacAlister suggested was a pre-Celtic deity whose name appears on a number of Pictish standing stones. I return now to these findings which ended that post on a cliff-hanger with MacAlister’s own question, “But why should this Celtic ancestress be made the daughter of a pre-Celtic divinity?”²

As extensively covered in that post, MacAlister had already begun circling around the answer: syncretism. The same device that the early Christian converters had grabbed with both hands to encourage the adoption of Christ alongside the worship of pagan gods was simply history repeating itself. The incoming Celtic speaking invaders, equipped with their own deities, adopted the gods of the indigenous people in order to safeguard and propagate their own. MacAlister cites this device used in the songs of Amergin explained by Baudís as hymns created to incite the deities of the invading culture.³ The Celtic speaking invaders who worshipped Scota, made their ancestress the daughter of the aboriginal god of the pre-Celtic tribe, Forenn. That same device was used to create In Dagda Mór “the great good god” who it will be remembered was also given the title Ollathair, the “great father”. The deity’s title spoke truer than is known. As will be here revealed, the Ollathair at one point in time held the highest honour; that of ‘father’ to all the gods whom the human kings personified.

The next question might be to what gods was In Dagda the father and how or why did this come about? By returning to the folklore found in the Dindshenchas and LGE surrounding Tea and Tephi / Scota, those answers are to be found.

To recap, the poem VD (ii), tells us that Temair was founded by Tea the wife of Géide and also of Eremón who gave her name to the burial place after her death which was built in imitation of Tephi / Scota’s grave. Tephi / Scota in that poem is identified as a Spanish native and wife to the king of Bregon. She is abducted by Camsón who asked his god Etherún to help him restore her dead or alive.

In Section VIII of the LGE concerning the Sons of Mil, the incoming tribe after the TDD, we find the Milesian Breogan. The Milesians we are told in the LGE were the Gaels thought to have originated from Spain and from whom the Irish and said to be descended. The reason given in the LGE for the Milesian invasion was to avenge the death of one of their own, Íth, who made his way to Ireland with a small company of mariners only to be murdered by the TDD for fear he might return with an army to overtake the country. However in the prose of the Dindshenchas relating to VD (ii), Camsón altered to Canthon, is named son of Caithmiu king of Britain of non-Celtic stock. In effect the scribe’s explanation for the naming of Temair has resulted in providing an alternate reason for the Milesian expedition; to avenge Tephi / Scota’s abduction.

Etherún, the idol of the Britons, was asked by Camsón to secure her return “dead or alive”. MacAlister thought this was a curious plea for Camsón to ask of his god. He suggests a parallel to the story found in the personas of Demeter and her daughter Persephone in Greek mythology.⁴ Demeter is depicted as the goddess of harvest and agriculture, presiding over the fertility of the earth. In one tale her daughter Persephone is abducted by Hades and taken into his underworld. Demeter, preoccupied by her loss and grief, causes the seasons to come to a halt, where nothing grows further and crops begin to die. Zeus, concerned with the livelihood of crops above ground sends a messenger to Hades to release Persephone, which he agrees to on the condition that she fasts while underground. Persephone breaks the condition which binds her to the underground for some months each year. Her time in the underworld is said to correspond with unfruitful seasons such as drought or winter and her return above it, with springtime.⁵

Tea already identified as the spirit of vegetation would in this analogy represent Persephone and Tephi / Scota the mother goddess Demeter. Indeed their ‘relationship’ is already so. Tea is named daughter of Lugaid son of Íth a tribal ancestor of Míl. Eremón is identified as one of her husbands. In a separate body of folklore Scota is assigned wife to Mil and mother to Eremón. The ‘relationship’ would make Tephi / Scota mother-in-law to Tea.⁶ As the spirit of vegetation it is Tea’s abduction and Tephi / Scota’s cessation of the fruitful season that results in winter with the promise of Tea’s return in the spring. To sum up, the Milesian expedition, a tribe originating from somewhere on the European Continent, in seeking out new lands, applied their own custom and belief system to ensure the success of their crops and their deities were added to the pre-Celtic pantheon.

We continue MacAlister’s journey with Tea. She is said to be a wife of Géide. MacAlister notes that in the Roll of the Kings, the later section of the LGE, a Géide Ollgothach “Stormy Big-voiced” is listed as son of Eochu, surnamed Ollom Fodla. He refers to this list as the Ulidian dynasty as it is said to belong to the province of Ulaid which derived its name from Oll-flaith “Big Prince” a reference to Eochu Ollom Fodla. His first son to succeed him in the kingship is named Elim, surnamed Finnachta derived from fin-schnechta or “wine-snow”. The folklore explains that “snow with the taste of wine fell in his time”. Another of his sons who succeeded Elim is named Slánoll derived from “slán-oll” or “healthy-great”. Eochu Ollom Fodla’s third son Géide Ollgothach or “Big-voiced” succeeds Slánoll. The next successor to the kingship, Fiachu Findoilches, is the son of Elim. Of him we are told that every calf born in his reign had a white head and he invented cistern-digging. He is succeeded by Berngal son of Géide Ollgothach who in turn is succeeded by Oilill son of Slánoll. ⁷

In Skene’s Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, Géide Ollgothach appears but is given greater importance than the Ulidian dynasty as we are told his ancestor Cruidne son of Cing, the eponym of the Picts reigns for 100 years, is succeeded in turn by his seven sons who held the throne for 224 years. The kingship is then passed to Géide who rules for eighty years in comparison to the twelve assigned to him in the Ulidian chronicle. As Cruidne’s ‘sons’ are widely recognised as representing the provinces of Scotland, Géide’s importance increases as he is assigned the head and founder of the Pictish monarchy.⁸

In the Book of Lecan the Pictish version of the Ulidian dynasty lists the same kings. Ollamh (Eochu Ollam Fodla), hEilim Ollfinsnechta (Elim Finnachta) Findoll Cisirne (Fiachu Findoilches) Geithe Ollgothach (Géide Ollgothach) Bagag Ollfiacha (Oilill) and Bearngal (Berngal). Only the last two listed switch places with that of the Ulidian chronicle. MacAlister then compares the Ulidian dynasty list with the kings of the Fir Bolg contained in the LGE. Dela’s son Slainge is named as the first Fir Bolg king of Ireland. He is succeeded in turn by his brothers Rudraige, Gann and Genann in joint rule, and Sengann who is then succeeded by Rudraige’s grandson Fiachu Cend-findan who is succeeded by Genann’s son Rinnal, then Sengann’s son Foidbgen and finally Eochu mac Eirc the son of Rinnal.

MacAlister notes that while only the name of Fiachu appears in both lists, they are each placed fifth in the list and share the same folklore about cows having white heads in their reign. In both lists the kings after the third met their death at the hands of their successors with the penultimate name in each list the descendants of the fourth and the final king descended from the third. MacAlister believes that the two dynasties are one. The name Eochu appears in both but in different places; the head of the Ulidian list and the last named king of the Fir Bolg list. Slainge who MacAlister believes is a corruption, is named after the river Slaney, from where the Milesians entered the country. Slainge is to be removed and Eochu mac Erc reinstated to the head of the Fir Bolg list.⁹

A third dynasty of kings, those of the Túatha Dé Danann enters the stage. As will be remembered Nuadu Airgetlam, the first named king of the TDD in Ireland was said to be son of Eochu mac Erc. He is succeeded in order by Bres, Lug and Eochu Ollathair. Eochu Oll-athair is closely cognate with both Eochu Ollam Fodla’s Oll-flaith “Big Prince” and Géide Ollgothach’s “Stormy Big-voiced” characteristics. All three appear as the fourth named in the Pictish, Ulidian and TDD dynasties.

In the Fir Bolg list we see that Sengann meaning “old Gann” reigned after his sons. MacAlister suggests that Sengann made up the triplicity of Gann and Genann and as the ‘old father’ represented the old gods of that tradition. He puts forth the suggestion that Géide Ollgothach, Eochu Ollathair, In Dagda Mór and Sengann are different identities for closely related deities as a consequence of a variety of syncretism. That none of the named Eochu’s are mentioned in place of Géide Ollgothach is explained in the theory that this group represent the first demi-god.¹⁰ As a semi-divine figure he is ‘killed’ by his successor in the kingdom and descends to earth. He is the ‘stormy big voiced’ the ‘great father’ ‘great good god’ and the ‘old god’. To secure the legitimacy of invasion he is ‘married’ to the incoming Celtic ancestress Tea, and afterwards becomes lord among the dead.¹¹

In Dagda Mór and his son Oengus have had a long association with the largest passage tombs known as Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth which lie close to the area once known as Temair, the seat of all the High Kings of Ireland.

I have has shown and alluded to in the posts of Bress and Lug; Nuadu, Bress, Lug and In Dagda Mór all represented deities. They form the pattern where they are said to ‘die’ in battle, not at the hand of their own people and their living ‘sons’ do not succeed them.

All future kings from this point are ‘god kings’ believed to be empowered with political and divine authority. The specific gessa imposed on kings when living in Temair protecting them from injury or from the injury of others, alludes to the king’s assumed divinity as well as his own mortality. In Dagda Mór, the “great father” of the ‘god kings’, begins the tradition where contenders to the kingship personify deities as living beings on earth.

¹ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1941) Lebor Gabála Érenn, The Book of the Taking of Ireland, Irish Texts Society Dublin, p.181.
² MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.297.
³ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.298.
⁴ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.300.
⁵ WIKIPEDIA (2017) Demeter, http://www.wikipedia.com
⁶ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.300.
⁷ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.305.
⁸ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.306.
⁹ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.309.
¹¹ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1919) Temair Breg: a study of the remains and traditions of Tara, P.R.I.A. Dublin, p.316.
Aed (AYE)
Bagag Ollfiacha (BAGAG UL-fee-aka)
Bearngal / Berngal (BURN-gal)
Breogan / Bregon (BRO / BRAY-gon)
Bress (BRESS)
Brug (BRU-g)
Caithmiu (KAT-mew)
Camsón (KAM-zone)
Canthon (KAN-thon)
Cermat (KER-mat)
Cing (SING)
Cruidne (KRID-neh)
In Dagda Mór (IN DAG-da MORE)
Dela (DELL-ah)
Delbaeth (DAOL-bathe)
Dindshenchas (DIND-shan-CUS)
Elim (AY-leem)
hEilim Ollfinsnechta (AY-leem UL-FINN-SCHN-okta)
Eochu mac Eirc (OCK-OO mak ERK)
Eochu Ollathair (OCK-OO UL-A-HAR)
Eremón / Érimón (AIR-im-OOhn)
Etherún (ETH-er-OON)
Feron / Ferón (FER-on / own)
Fiachra (FEE-ak-ra)
Fiachu Cend-findan (FEE-ak-ooh KEND-find-an)
Fiachu Findoilches (FEE-ak-ooh FYND-ilk-es)
Findoll Cisirne (FIND-ULL KISS-er-neh)
Finnachta (FINN-okta)
fin-schnechta (FINN-SCHN-okta)
Fir Bolg (fir BOLG)
Foidbgen (FOYB-gen)
Forenn (FORE-en)
Gann (GONE)
Géide / Geithe Ollgothach (GAY-de / GAY-HA UL-go-hock)
Genann (GENN-ann)
gessa (GAY-she)
Íth (IH-th)
Lug (LUG)
Lugaid (LUG-id)
Míl (MEEL)
Múr Tephi (MWIR TEP-hee)
Nuadu (NEW-ad-DO)
Oengus (AEN-gus)
Oilill (IL-eel)
Ollamh (UL-ave)
Ollathair (UL-ah-her)
Oll-flaith (UL-flay)
Ollom Fodla (UL-am FUD-la)
Rinnal (RINN-al)
Rudraige (RUD-rig-eh)
Sengann (SCHEN-gone)
Slainge (SCHL-ang-eh)
Slánoll (SCHL-awn-ULL)
Sons of Míl (MEEL)
Starn (STERN)
Tea (TAY-ya)
Tea Mur (TAY-ya MUIR)
Temair (TE-MARE)
Tephi (TEP-hee)
Teipe-mur (Tep-e MWIR)
Tephi-rún (TEP-hee ROON)
Túatha Dé Danann (TOOHA day DAN-ann

Bagag Ollfiacha
Bank of the Boyne
The Great Good God
Delbaeth ‘the skilled’
lore of places
hEilim Ollfinsnechta
Eochu son of Eirc
Great Father of the Horseman
Eremón / Érimón
Fiachu ‘white head’
Fiachu Findoilches
Findoll Cisirne
‘wine snow’
Fir Bolg
‘stormy big winded’
Tephi’s wall
‘great father’
Big Prince
Ollom Fodla
‘healthy great’
Sons of Míl
Tea’s Wall
Tephi’s wall
Tephi’s secret
People of the Gods of Danand