Lúgh Lamhfhada: Master of All Crafts

I gathered a lot of information on Lúgh when I decided to ask him formally to be my patron and then I decided to write this essay for others who might be thinking about him too.  It is ironic that I wanted to do this because apparently (something I learned after my research) he is associated with sworn contracts!

Lúgh is the easiest god to talk about and he is also the hardest.  There is a lot of information on him but most of it is fragmented, however, it does give a good picture of who Lúgh Lamhfhada is.  Our information comes from iconography from the Pre-Roman period, place-names, iconography and epigraphy from the period of the Roman occupation, testimony of the Greek and Roman writers and literary traditions of the insular Celts.  Possibly the earliest mention of Lúgh is in the Leinster cycle of poems, specifically “Lugh sceith”–“Lugh’s shield”, a poem in praise of the legendary Labraid. Other major texts that mention Lúgh are the Lebor Gabála Érenn, which briefly mentions Lúgh and the battle with the Fomorians, the Cath Maige Tuireadh in which Lúgh comes to the Tuatha De Danann and battles the Fomorians, the Oidheadh Chlainne Tuireann is a side-story to Cath Maige Tuireadh, the Sons of Turenn kill Lúgh’s father Cian, and Lúgh extracts an eric that results in their death, the Compert Con Culainn tells of Lúgh’s siring Cuchulain on Dechtire, the Táin Bó Cuailnge where Lúgh appears to Cuchulain and tells him he is his father, the Baile in Scáil where Conn Ceadcathach is taken to Lúgh’s house and is told of the future high kings of Ireland by Lúgh and the goddess of sovereignty and “Ar an doirseoir ris an deaghlaoch” a late poem, this has Lúgh raised on Emhain Abhlach.

I’d like to start with his name as he has many; some are famous while others are not.  He is called Lúgh Lamhfhada, Lúgh Samhildánach, Lúgh Lonnbeimnech, Lugaid Lága and Lugaid Láigne.  Lamhfhada means “of the long arm” and this refers to his ability with the spear rather than having a long arm.  Samhildánach means “the one who possesses equal knowledge of all the arts”, Lonnbeimnech means “fierce striker” and both Lága and Láigne mean spear.  Looking at the proper name though gives a few confusing definitions for him.  Lúgh name is thought to mean “shinning one” or “light” and because of that he was thought to be a solar god, but that is not true.  His name is more associated with storms and rain as he is the beginner of the harvest.  So if his name means “light” it is likely that it is more like lightning flash as in thunder.  His name is also linked to the Old Celtic stem word lugi, which means “to swear, or oath”, which makes him associated with sworn contracts.  There also seems to be a little pun on his name because Lú also means little, in the sense that he is overlooked until his power is shown.

Now let us talk about Lúgh.  Lúgh is the son of Cian and Eithne.  Cian is the son of Dian Cécht, the physician of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  Eithne is the daughter of Balar, the champion of the Fomorians.  So in a patrilineal society that means that his allegiance is to his father’s family as opposed to his mother’s.  He is a part of a set of triplets, two of which were killed and he is the only survivor.  He was fostered to Tailltiu, who is a Fir Bolg Queen associated with clearing a large field for agriculture, he is also said to have been fostered to Manannán mac Lír.  He is youthful, athletic and handsome.  He is the divine prototype of human kingship.

Lúgh is associated with Lughnasadh, some link him to ravens though the evidence for that is circumspect.  During the la Téne period there was a god who was widespread and he was shown on the La Téne art of the period with birds, horses, Tree of Life, dogs or wolves, twin serpents and mistletoe.  We don’t have a name for him but because of the place names that are associated with where these artifacts were found we can guess that this god might be Lúgh.  During the Roman occupation the name Lúgh was not used a lot however, this could be due to the Roman habit of giving the local deities Roman counterpart.  From the evidence we have Lúgh is linked to Mercury and there were over 400 dedications to Mercury found.

So let us talk about Lúgh’s domain.  He is a warrior, a sorcerer, a smith, a harpist, a champion, a poet, a historian, a physician, a cupbearer, a skilled god of commerce and a brazier.  He is associated with heights, he has multiple forms, and he is a sovereign protector with warrior attributes.  He is a master of all crafts and arts.  He chants spells to encourage the army of the Tuatha Dé Danann, he is a warrior that succeeded by the skill of his magic as well as brute force.  He uses a spear, and a sling in combat.  He shows his skill as a physician when he uses herbs to cure Cú Chulainn (whom he is associated with as father or foster father depending on the story read) in the Ulster cycle (not surprising considering who his grandfather is).

Some conclusions on my part:

–       Originally he might have been a god of sworn contracts.

–       Through his connection to the Fomorians (who were originally thought to be land gods or spirits that granted agriculture or withheld it) and to Tailltiu we can say that he is a god of harvest, as he got the secrets of the agricultural cycle from the Fomorians (Bres) and he was fostered by Tailltiu who cleared the largest plain for agricultural use.

–       He seems similar to An Mórrígan in that he encourages his army by chanting spells, he seems to be associated with Ravens (for An Mórrígan it was the crows) and it is not a clear association.  They both have a strange relationship with Cú Chulainn.  They are both warriors that use magic as well as might to fight.  Both are associated with sovereignty.  It is said that magic cows are created by the advice of the god Lúgh in order to defy the oppressive demands of Bres, which in the end might have brought conflict and we know that An Mórrígan is associated with cows mainly stealing them to instigate wars.


Green, Miranda J.  Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend.  Thames and Hudson, New York. 1997

Ross, Anne.  Pagan Celtic Britain. Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago. 1967.

MacCana, Proinsias.  Celtic Mythology. The Hamlyn Publishing Group, London. 1970.

Mackillop, James.  Myths and Legends of the Celts. Penguin Books, New York.  2005

O’Rahilly, Thomas F.  Early Irish History and Mythology. Dublin Institute For Advanced Studies, Ireland. 1999.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí.  The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance.  The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. 2006

An Morrígan: War Goddess and More

My need to write this survey comes from the fact that I was trying to write a prayer to An Morrígan and found myself at a loss.  I know what she means to me, I know my thoughts about her and who she is but am I correct in my assessment?  I didn’t want to offend her so I decided to hit the books again and see what I could gather about her.  I was lucky.  I found a dissertation written by Angelique Gulermovich Epstein.  I had downloaded it from archives.org as her site, (the one she put the dissertation up on), is no longer on the Internet it seems.  She has done most of the hard work for me by listing almost all the places in the Irish myths that An Morrígan was mentioned in.

Sources Used:

Prose Glossaries:

–      Sans Cormaic (Cormac’s Glossary): It is thought to be written by Cormac mac Cuilennáin, a bishop and King of Munster who died in 908.  It appears in the Yellow Book of Lecan (14th century) and Book of Leinster (12th century).  It appears to be older than the manuscripts it is found in, it could be from the time of Cormac or a century or two after.

–      O’Mulconry’s Glossary: It appears in the Yellow Book of Lecan and it is thought to belong to at least the 13th or 14th century or even older.

–      O’Davoren’s Glossary: It appears in Egerton (18th century) and H.2.15 thought to date to the 16th century.

–      Michael O’Cleary’s Glossary: He was a member of one of the great literary families of medieval Ireland, and one of the “Four Masters”.

–      Séamus O’Bron’s Glossary: It is contained in Egerton, written in Cork in 18th century and its goal is to exhibit the vocabulary current among the Gaels of Alba.

–      Peter O’Connell’s Glossary: The author of this glossary died in 1810.

Metric Glossaries:

–      Forus Focal: It appears in 4 manuscripts, the oldest of which is the Book of Leinster.  It is attributed to John O’Duvegan but this is doubted.

–      Derbhshuir Glossary: This glossary is thought to be older than 1643.

–      Metric Glossary edited by Stokes: It was found in a fragmented copy of Egerton 90, it dated to before 1416 and it could even be older than 1300.

Myths and Lore:

–      The Lebor Gabála Érinn (The Book of the Takings of Ireland): A myth that talks about the pseudo-history of Ireland going back to before Noah’s Flood.

–      The Banshenchas: This is Lore that catalogues the important women in Irish mythology.  Funny enough they are catalogued via their husbands, brothers or fathers.

–      The Dindsenchas: This is the Lore of places.  It tells how places in Ireland got their names.

–      Cath Muige Tuired Cunga (The First Battle of Moytura): This is the story of the battle between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fir Bolg.

–      Cath Muige Tuired (The Second Battle of Moytura): This is the story of the battle between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fomoire.

–      Táin Bó Cúailnge: The center piece of the Ulster Cycle.  Revolves around a cattle raid that Medb leads into Ulster, and Cú Chulainn, who single-handedly defends the province.

–      And many of the Ulster cycle myths.


From reading all the texts and the analysis provided by the author of the dissertation, I got the following:

  1. An Morrígan appears as a single being or a class of beings, with different interchangeable names like Macha, Morrígan, Badb, Nemain, Fea and Danu or Anu.
  2. She is associated with death and woe.
  3. She can be a shape-shifter, she is known in the texts to shift into a cow, crow, raven, eel and wolf.
  4. Her areas of “expertise” are prophecy, incitement to war, direct assault either physically or magically, joy in the carnage of battle, she is capable of making so much noise that the enemy either dies of freight or runs away, and she proclaims victory.  She is also considered a satirist and a sorceress.

It should be noted that because of all of these things she is designated as a WAR GODDESS, because when taken as a whole everything we know about her from the myths and the lore corresponds to what Celtic martial practices were like, but that is not all she is.  She is also a sovereignty goddess as evidenced through some of her transactions in some of the myths.  She is a mother, though her children appear to be made up of either dangerous poisonous children or warriors that help her in combat.

In essence An Morrígan is a very complex goddess just like all the other Celtic deities that don’t quite fit into one specific mold.

Myth Work: The Book of the Taking of Ireland (Lebor Gabála Érenn)

This is my attempts at understanding the Irish Myths and what they could tell us.  The parts in bold are my thoughts on the subjects or things I want to highlight.

From the Mary Jones website:

This text–found in both the Book of Leinster and the Book of Fermoy–is the core text of the mythological cycle in Irish literature, as well as the earliest known history written by the Irish. It tells of the successive invasions of Ireland by different tribes, from the creation of the world to the coming of the Milesians (Iberian Celts).

The text is divided into eight sections:

1. Biblical History.

2. Gaedhil History

3.  Cessarians

4. Partholonian

5. Nemedians

6. Fir Bolgs

7. Tuatha De Dannan

8. The Milesians

In part one, The Biblical History, is probably the Irish Monks’ attempts to bring Ireland into the Christian world as it has its origins in the Old Testament book Genesis.  Part two is a pseudo-history of the Gaels that seems to have been based on the wanderings of the Israelites in the Old Testament book Exodus.  Parts three and four seem also to be attempts to Christianize the history of Ireland.  I also think that Partholon seems to have been brought in to give a sense of order and to explain how some plains and lakes came into being.

To me the myth really starts with the Nemedians and the Fir Bolgs. They are both related to each other and they are also later related to the Tuatha De Dannan.   Agnomain (of Greek of Scythia) has a son called Nemed who has four sons Starn, Iarbonel the Soothsayer, Annind and Fergus Re-side.  In Nemed’s time 4 lakes burst forth, 12 plains were cleared, and 2 royal forts were built.  Nemed won the battle of Ros Fraechain against Gand and Sengand (twin? Fomoire Kings).  [I keep wondering if this was the first wave of humans to come to Ireland, and could they have a agricultural economy] Nemed also won 3 other battles against the Fomoire, Badbgna in Connachta, Cnamras in Laigne, and Murbolg in Dal Riada.  Nemed died of the plague.

After Nemed died his sons were oppressed by More son of Dela and Conand son of Febar (both seem to be Fomoire).  They payed a tax of 2/3 of their children, the wheat, and the milk every Samhain to the Fomoire. (Why Samhain?  Could this be where our customs come from, where we give gifts to the gods for a good agricultural year?)

They decided to fight against the Fomoire.  Their leaders were Semul son of Iarbonel the Soothsayer, Erglan son of Beoan son of Starn and Fergus Red-Side.  They defeated Conand and his sons.  Then More fought the sons and grandsons of Nemed and no one survived but a ship with 30 warriors.  The water took them: is this a reference to the Otherworld? Or perhaps this is a reference to a flood or storm that hit around that time?

These 30 warriors left Ireland

–        Bethach died in Ireland of the plague

–        Ibath and his son Baath went to the north of the World

–        Matach, Erglan and Iartach sons of Beoan went to Dobar and Iardobar in the north of Alba.

–        Semeon went to Greece.  His progeny later became in the thousands and were enslaved by the Greeks, they escaped (5000?) and came back to Ireland 230 years after Nemed.  Their leaders are Gand, Genand, Rudraige, Sengand and Slanga (These are the Fir Bolg and the Fir Domnann)

–        Fergus Red-Side and his son Britain Mael filled up Britain with their progeny until the Saxons came and they were driven over the borders (to Scotland?)

–        The Fir Bolg divided Ireland into Five fifths.  They were the first kings in Ireland, they were the Gaileoins, the Fir Bolg and the Fir Domnann and collectively they were called the Fir Bolg.  They ruled for 37 years.

  • Slanga son of Dela son of Leth landed in Inber Slaine his fifth is from Inber Colptha to Comar Tri nUisce. (One thousand men and are the Gaileoins)
  • Gand and Sengand with two thousand men they landed in Inber Dubglaisi, and they became the Fir Bolg.
    • Gand’s fifth was from Comar Tri nUisce to Belach Conglais.
    • Sengand’s fifth from Belach Conglais to Luimneach
  • Genand and Rudraige land in Inber Domnann and they became the Fir Domnann.
    • Genand was king over the fifth of Medb and Ailell
    • Rudraige was King over the fifth of Conchobar.

–        The progeny of Bethach (who died in Ireland) son of Iarbonel the soothsayer son of Nemed were in the northern Islands of the world learning druidry and knowledge and prophecy and magic, till they were experts in the arts of pagan cunning.  (Is this where the TDD learned their arts??)

The Tuatha De Dannan are related to the Fir Bolg.  They came from the north of world, where they had become experts in magic, possibly via Greece and then Scotland.  Nuadu king 7y before arrival.    They arrived in dark clouds without ships, or in ships, which they burnt on arriving.   They brought 4 enchanted objects with them: Lia Fail, Lug’s spear, Nuadu’s sword, and Dagda’s cauldron.   They beat Fir Bolg at 1st Battle of Mag Tuired (Moytura, Cong, Co. Galway) but with heavy losses, inc. Ernmas, Tuirill Biccreo, Fiachra, Ectach, Etargal, and Nuadu’s arm.  Because Nuadu lost his arm he could not be king and the kingship went to Bress for 7y; then to it went back to healed Nuadu for 20y, and he fell defeating the Fomoire at 2nd Battle of Mag Tuired (nr. Sligo), 27y after TDD arrived. Macha, Ogma, Bress, Bruidne, Casmael also fell.  Lughnasa was instigated at Tailltiu (Telltown, Co. Meath) in memory of Tailltiu, foster-mother of Lug, who died

there.  The kingship went to Lug for 40y; then to Dagda for 80y over whom was made Brug na Boinne (Newgrange). Brigid had some magic animals, who produced demonic voices (whistling, outcry & groaning) after plunder. Lug demands wergild of 7 enchanted items from Brian, Iuchar & Iucharba for killing his father Cian in the Brug.  The Kingship then goes to Delbaeth for 10y;  then to Fiachna for 10y. After them the kingship goes to MacCuill+MacCecht+MacGreine for 29y.

Here is what I got so far on the gods:

Badb and macha: Wealth

Morrigu : Craftiness and source of bitter fighting

Goibniu: Smith

Luicne: Carpentry

Credne: Wright

Dian Cecht: Leech or Doctor

The three sons of Cermat son of Dagda: Mac Cuill: hazel god?  Mac Cecht: Ploughshare god  Mac Griene: Sun is his god?

They all seem to be connected to agriculture and hospitality.  And being married to the land goddesses Fotla, Banba, and Eriu I think this is likely.  Also there seems to be a lot of hostility between the Dagda and Lugh there at the end don’t you think?

It was during this time that Ith saw Ireland from top of his father Breogan’s Tower in Spain, and travelled there.  Ith helped MacCuill + MacCecht + MacGreine settle a dispute, and praised Ireland, but they killed him as a spy.  Milesians voyaged to Ireland to avenge Ith; Mil, Oige, Uige, Erannan, Scene and Ir died in transit.  The land was disguised as a hog’s back; on landing, the lake-burst of Loch Luigdech.  They fought the TDD (and possibly the Fomoire) at the Battle of Sliabh Mis, then Battle of Lifé.   They had a colloquy with Banba, Fotla & Eiriu regarding the name of the land.   In Teamair (Tara), MacCuill + MacCecht + MacGreine gain 3 days reprieve; while the Milesians sail, battling druidic storms, and Eber Donn drowns.  MacCuill + MacCecht + MacGreine and their wives are killed by the Milesians at Battle of Tailltiu by Eber, Erimon and Amorgen, respectively.

Éremón and Éber asked Amairgen who should be king he said that it should be Éremón first and then Éber, but Éber wanted to be king now so Ireland was divided into North and South.  Some versions said that Éremón took the kingship with him to the North and others say that he was king in the North.  Éber was a king in the South.  In many ways it can be seen that the Northern kingship was the more important one.  Éremón took with him seven chieftains to the North to Éber’s six and there are two ridges in the North while the south only had one.

This division gave certain attributes to the North and South.  When Éremón went to the North he took the poet with him (learned man), so the North was a place of dignity and learning.  The harpist went to the South, and it became the place for music and artistry.  It should be noted that these two kingships had a special relationship.  Though the Northern Kingship was the major one and the Southern one the minor one the Southern kingship was rich with food and produce and so in essence it is the stronger one.  There is always a rivalry between the two seats, but they also complement and complete each other.

The North is known as “Leth Cuinn” or The Half of Conn. Conn means head, chief, sense, and reason.  The South is known as “Leth Moga” or the Half of Mug.  Mug means servant.  After a year, Erimon fought and slew Eber, becoming sole king.  Lake-bursts and building of Raths, etc. continued in these times; also battles against the Fomoire and the kingship alternated by battle between the lineage of Erimon and Eber.

It seems to me in this myth a connection to agriculture was established though out with the references to lakes bursting and plains being cleared.  Also we get a sense of chaos versus order, light versus dark, and that everything has its place, and if this balance is shaken or if the ruler does something wrong it is not just the ruler that suffers but also the people who live on the land.  We also find the first references to how the land was divided.  The land was divided into fifths by the Fir Bolg, and into north and south by the Milesians.  In the division made by the Milesians the land is given attributes like kingship, artisanship and so on.  This does give a sense of cosmology.