DELBAETH after The Dagda, ten years in the kingdom of Ireland, until he and his son (Ollam) fell at the hands of Caicher son of Nama, brother of Nechtan.¹
Named as the successor to the Dagda and the sixth king of the TDD dynasty, much has already been touched upon in relation to Delbaeth. In the previous post, I identified Delbaeth as the first ‘god king’ – a mortal who in his role of king was empowered with political authority at Tara. As Tara was also the chief worship centre of the TDD, the king was required to adopt a divine persona to make plentiful the crops.
This assumed divinity of the ‘god king’ already mentioned in TDD – Lug is supported by a list of ‘gessa’ or restrictions to which the king was bound while at Tara. As a representation of a god incarnate on earth discussed in TDD – Bress, Delbaeth in his kingship, assumes the persona of the deity Bress, as evidenced by their shared parentage to the three gods of Dana, the former under the pseudonym Tuirill Bicreo.
When Delbaeth dies he is succeeded by his living son Fiachra, the first of the TDD king’s to do so. As the ‘god king’ he is both the mortal Delbaeth and the immortal Bress succeeded by his mortal son Fiachra who in turn assumes the immortal persona of Lug. In one tradition, when Bress ‘dies’ at the hand of Lug it is really Delbaeth’s immortal persona who is succeeded by Fiachra’s.
In the chronological order of the LGE texts, as edited and translated by R.A.S. MacAlister (1870-1950) further accounts of Delbaeth include;
TUATHA DE DANANN: Min & R1 (310) (Min) Ernmas, and Echtach, and Etargal, and Fiachra, and Tuirill Piccreo fell in the same battle.
TUATHA DE DANANN: R1 (316) The six sons of Delbaeth s. Ogma s. Elada s. Delbaeth s. Net, were Fiachra, Ollam, Indui, Brian, Iucharba, Iuchar. These were the three gods of Danu, from whom is named the Mountain of the Three Gods. And that Delbaeth had the name Tuirell Bicreo.
TUATHA DE DANANN: Min & R1 (319) The adventures of Tuirill Biccreo and of his sons, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba. This is what will here be related: Now Delbaeth s. Ogma had the name of Tuirill Piccreo, and it is his sons who slew Ethlend father of Lug, whose name was Cian, when he went in the form of a lapdog to the Brug. So Lug came to avenge his father upon them, or till they should pay him the wergild for him. And this is the wergild which he demanded of them … With those things was the wergild of the father of Lug paid. Of the sickness of Tuirill Biccreo, and of his adventures. He sought everything patent and hidden for its healing, and found it not, till Dian Cecht cured him, for Etan his mother was Dian Cecht’s daughter. He made an emetic draught for him, so that he vomited forth three belches from his mouth. Where he drank the draught was in Cnoc Uachtar Archae: and three belches burst forth from his moutn, a cold belch in Loch Uair, and iron belch in Loch Iairn, and a belch in Loch Aininn, and, according to this story, it is thence they (the lakes) take their names.
TUATHA DE DANANN: R2 (342) The six sons of Delbaeth s. Ogma were Fiachna, Ollum, Innui, Brian, Iuchar, Iucharba. Donann d. Delbaed was mother of the three last; from her are named the three gods of Dana, and the Tuatha De Danann.
TUATHA DE DANANN: R2 (348) The six sons of Delbaeth, s. Ogma s. Elada s. Delbaeth s. Net were Fiachna, Ollom, Indui, Brian, Iucharba, Iuchar. Donann daughter of the same Delbaeth was mother of the last three. Of her are named the three gods of Dana, and the Tuatha De Danann, and the Hill of the Three Gods.
TUATHA DE DANANN: R3 (368) The two sons of Etan were Dealbaeth Dana s. Ogma Grianainech and Cairpre the poet. This is one of the two Tuirenns of the Tuatha De Danann, Tuirenn s. Cait Coiditcenn who was slain in the battle of Mag Tuired, and Tuirenn s. Ogma Grianainech.
TUATHA DE DANANN: R3 (368) His three daughters were Bobd, Macha and Morrigu. The Morrigu, daughter of Delbaeth was mother of the other sons of Delbaeth, Brian, Iucharba, and Iuchair: and it is from her additional name “Danann” the Paps of Ana in Luachair are called, as well as the Tuatha De Danann.
In the above passages we first find Delbaeth under the pseudonym of Tuirill Piccreo (variously styled), as one of the victims who fell at the First Battle of Mag Tuired, an improbable ending for a figure who would reign long after the event. The discrepancy was not lost on a more fastidious scribe who attempts to explain it away in the third redaction by providing TWO Tuirenns, where one, the son of Cait ‘Cat-head’ was slain in battle and the other given the epithet Delbaeth ‘the skilled’, as if to reinforce the future king’s pedigree.
In the adventures of Tuirill Biccreo as noted by MacAlister,
The story of the sickness of Tuirill and of the drastic emetic draught by which he was cured, is an independent narrative, told to explain the names and probably also the origins of certain lakes.²
The scribes are so committed to the idea of Delbaeth’s semi-divinity that amongst the mortal children he fathers are included the sons, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba, named the gods of Danand, from whom we are told the entire race of the Túatha Dé Danann are named.
Donann / Danand is identified as Delbaeth’s daughter and also mother to the three gods by her father. She is later styled as Morrigu (great queen), among her sisters Macha and Bobd, known in other narratives as the war furies. This statement is repeated throughout the texts no doubt intended to incite a healthy disdain for an ancient Irish custom.
When we consider that the LGE is mostly vague about the inner workings of pre-Christian culture, its memory purposely sanitised from the texts, the likelihood of a genuine recorded practice of an illegal act of incest, seems all the more plausible.
However, had the scribes of the 11th century had at their disposal the knowledge of ancient customs practiced up to the relative present day in cultures found in Asia and Australia, they would have understood that such arrangements in an endogamous community was quite legal. In his published book Ireland in Pre-Celtic Times, MacAlister writes;
The word “exogamy” implies that a man must seek his wife outside the tribal unit to which he happens to belong. The converse expression is endogamy, in which marriages take place within the tribal unit. With us Mr. Smith is at perfect liberty to marry Miss Smith, provided that certain definite relationships, clearly tabulated in the law on the subject, do not exist between them.
In an exogamous community the restrictions are far more drastic; such a marriage is absolutely prohibited, even though the parties may have no traceable blood relationship. One of the Smith tribe must seek his bride from some different stock. A curious result follows from this. If a Smith man marries a Robinson woman, under the matriarchal system all the children will be Robinsons; they will belong to the mother’s tribe, which by the law differs from that of the father. A moment’s thought will show that while a man’s own children will thus belong to a tribal unit differing from his own, his sister’s children will belong to his own unit. This result is recognised among all matriarchal communities: with the result that sometimes a man dare not chastise his own children, for fear of the vengeance of the tribe to which they belong; but when chastisement is necessary he must beg their maternal uncle to administer it, for naturally a man may do what he likes to his sister’s children.
Further, this principle of exogamy explains another point. Under the ordinary social system of civilised Europe, a wedding of father and daughter is unthinkable. In an exogamous matriarchate it may be quite right and proper, for the two people belong to opposite tribes. Now such marriages do appear several times in the Irish genealogies; and the late redactors who have transmitted the genealogies endeavour with indifferent success to explain them away. But there is no necessity to do so when we have identified the social system under which they are legal.³
¹ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1941) Lebor Gabála Érenn, The Book of the Taking of Ireland, Irish Texts Society Dublin, p.125.
² MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1941) Lebor Gabála Érenn, The Book of the Taking of Ireland, Irish Texts Society Dublin, p.303.
³ MACALISTER, R.A.S. (1921) Ireland in Pre-Celtic Times, Munsel & Roberts, Limited, Dublin & London, p.298.
Cait Coiditcenn (KAWt QUIT-Keyoun)
Cnoc Uachtar Archae (KNOK OOHK-tar ARE-kay)
Danu (DAN-ah / ooh)
Dian Cecht (DEAN KYeckt)
In Dagda Mór (IN DAG-da MORE)
Delbaed / Delbaeth Dána (DAOL-bathe DAWN-a)
Loch Aininn (LOK ANN-in)
Loch Iairn (LOK EAR-n)
Loch Uair (LOK Ooh-are)
Mag Tuired (MAWG tir-id)
Ogma Grianainech (UG-mah)
Ollam / Ollum (UL-am)
Túatha Dé Danann (TOOHA day DAN-ann)
Tuirill / Tuirell Bicreo / Piccreo (TIRELL BIK/PIK-re-oh)
Bank of the Boyne
Hill of Uisnech
Dana / u
The Great Good God
Delbaed / Delbaeth ‘the skilled’
Plain of Towers
Ollam / Ollum
People of the Gods of Danand
Tuirill Bicreo / Piccreo