Danu (Irish goddess)

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In Irish mythology, Danu ([ˈdanu]; modern Irish Dana [ˈd̪ˠanˠə]) is the mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann (Old Irish: "The peoples of the goddess Danu"). Though primarily seen as an ancestral figure, some Victorian sources also associate her with the land.[1]


The theonym is of Proto-Indo-European age, and seems to have denoted a water goddess in origin. A goddess Dānu is attested in the Rigveda, and also the river names Danube (Latin: Danuvius), Dniestr, Dniepr and Don derive from the name.

The Rigvedic Danu was the mother of a race of Asuras called the Danavas. A shortened form of the name appears to have been . The Greek goddess Demeter (Da-mater), is also associated with water several times. [2] Julius Pokorny reconstructs the name from the PIE root da:-: "flow, river", da:-nu: "any moving liquid, drops", da: navo "people living by the river, Skyth. nomadic people (in Rigveda water-demons), fem.Da:nu primordial goddess , in Greek Danaoi (Danaans, Greek tribe, Egypt. Danuna). [3] [4]

The genitive form of Old Irish Danu is Danann, and the dative Danainn. Irish Danu is not identical with Vedic Dānu but rather descends from a Proto-Celtic *Danona, which may contain the suffix -on- also found in other theonyms such as Matrona, Maqonos/Maponos and Catona.[5][6]

In mythology[edit]

As the mother of the gods, Danu has strong parallels with the Welsh literary figure (or goddess) Dôn, who is the mother figure of the medieval tales in the Mabinogion.[7]

Danu was considered as the mythic mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Celtic tribes that first invaded Ireland. The Celts, also on the continent, had several goddesses, also of war. "Apart from these goddesses of war, there were other Amazonian figures who led armies into battle. Often they were also endowed with legendary sexual prowess..."[8] "The Celts included the cult of the mother goddess in their rites, as archeological evidence testifies.[citation needed] Indeed, the Tuatha Dé were the descendants of the goddess Danu, and in some local instances, the ruler of the otherworld was a goddess, rather than a god,[citation needed]just as some folktales represented the otherworld as 'the Land of Women'. Danu may be connected with Brigit, daughter of Kildare and of learning, culture and skills, as both of them have been described as daughters of the Dagda[9] at one point and also have been described as mothers of Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba.[10][11] Brigit was known as Brigantia in northern England is hypothesized to have survived as St Bride in Christianity.[12]


  1. ^ Squire, Charles Celtic Myth and Legend, p. 34: "Danu herself probably represented the earth and its fruitfulness, and one might compare her with the Greek Demeter. All the other gods are, at least by title, her children."
  2. ^ Spaeth, Barbette Stanley (1996). The Roman Goddess Ceres. University of Texas Press. p. 137. ISBN 0292785771. 
  3. ^ Julius Pokorny.Indogermanisches Etymologisces Woerterbuch. Entry 313 ISBN 0-8288-6602-3
  4. ^ More Word Histories and Mysteries: From Aardvark to Zombie. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2006. p. 72. ISBN 0618716815. 
  5. ^ Köbler, Gerhard, (2000). Indogermanisches Wörterbuch, (3rd Edition): p.181. Available at: [1]
  6. ^ Julius Pokorny’s Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Entry 313. Available at: [2]
  7. ^ O hOgain, Dáithí (1999). The Sacred Isle : Belief and Religion in Pre-Christian Ireland (1. publ. ed.). Woodbridge: Boydell [u.a.] p. 65. ISBN 9780851157474. 
  8. ^ Ions, Veronica (2005) [1974]. The World's Mythology in Colour. London: Bounty Books. ISBN 0-7537-1133-8 p. 150
  9. ^ Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Chancellor Press. 1996. p. 232. ISBN 0765193841. 
  10. ^ MacCulloch, John Arnott (1918). Celtic mythology, Volume 3 ([New edition]. ed.). Boston: Marshall Jones Company. p. 39. ISBN 048643656X. 
  11. ^ Barton, George A. (1917). The Religions of the World. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press. p. 292. ISBN 9780524033111. 
  12. ^ editor, John T. Koch, (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Vol 1. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 286. ISBN 1851094407. 

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