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Dagda

Dagda

Nationality/Culture

Irish/Celtic

Pronunciation

DAHG-duh

Alternate Names

Eochaid Ollathair

Appears In

The Yellow Book of Lecan, The Book of Invasions

Lineage

Son of Elatha or Ethlinn

Character Overview

In Celtic mythology, Dagda (often referred to as “the” Dagda) was an Irish god who was head of a group of Irish gods called the Tuatha Dé Danaan (pronounced TOO-uh-huh day DAH-nuhn). He was considered the father of the gods and the lord of fertility, plenty, and knowledge. The word Dagda means “the good god.”

Major Myths

According to legend, Dagda had several possessions associated with power and position. One was a huge cauldron, or pot, that was never empty and from which no one went away hungry. The ladle was so big that two people could lie in it. Dagda also owned an orchard of fruit trees where the fruit was always ripe, and two pigs, one of which was always cooked and ready to eat. In addition, he had a club with two ends—one for killing living people and the other for bringing the dead back to life. Dagda used his magic harp to order the seasons to change. In spite of his great power, Dagda was pictured as a fat man, plainly dressed and pulling his club on wheels. His favorite food was porridge. As the god of knowledge, he was the protector of the druids, the priests of the Celtic religious order.

When the Tuatha Dé Danaan were forced to go underground, Dagda divided the land among the gods. His son Aonghus (pronounced AHN-gus), the god of love, was absent during the division, and Dagda did not give his son a section because he wanted to keep Aonghus's palace for himself. When Aonghus returned, he tricked his father to get his palace back, leaving Dagda without land or power. Dagda was later fatally wounded in battle by a woman named Cethlenn.

Dagda in Context

The Tuatha Dé Danaan were a group of gods founded by the goddess Danu who once ruled Ireland. They fought off many other invaders and older Irish gods to retain control, sometimes granting certain regions to other races as a way of setding a batde. The Tuatha Dé Danaan were eventually driven underground by a race known as the Milesians. However, the gods of the Tuatha Dé Danaan continued to appear in Celtic myths centuries later and appear to have taken on immortal status.

Key Themes and Symbols

In Celtic mythology, Dagda fulfills the role of provider. He can feed an army with his magic cauldron, his fruit trees, and his pigs. He also ensures that the seasons follow as they should by playing his harp. Harps figure prominently in Celtic and Irish mythology as powerful instruments, indicating the importance of music in Celtic culture.

Dagda in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

The Dagda is one of the gods pictured on the Gundestrup Cauldron, perhaps the most famous Celtic artifact. The large silver bowl is decorated with panels dedicated to different Celtic gods. The Dagda may also be the subject known as the Cerne Abbas (pronounced KERN AB-bus) giant, an enormous image of a nude man with a club that was dug into a hillside near Dorset, England, centuries ago.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The Dagda is a god who can provide food in abundance from his magic cauldron. For people in many parts of the world, however, hunger is an all-too-real daily struggle. Would you expect to find myths similar to the Dagda and his cauldron in places experiencing widespread famine? Why or why not?

SEE ALSO Celtic Mythology

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