The Dagda

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The Dagda
Member of the Tuatha Dé Danann
AbodeBrú na Bóinne
BattlesMagh Tuiredh
Personal information

The Dagda (Old Irish: In Dagda, Irish: An Daghdha, pronounced [daɣða]) is an important god in Irish mythology. One of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Dagda is portrayed as a father-figure, king, and druid.[1][2][3] He is associated with fertility, agriculture, manliness and strength, as well as magic, druidry and wisdom.[1][2][4][5] He can control life and death, the weather and crops, as well as time and the seasons.

He is often described as a large bearded man or giant[4] wearing a hooded cloak.[6] He owns a magic staff, club, or mace (the lorg mór or lorg anfaid), of dual nature: it kills with one end and brings to life with the other. He also owns a cauldron (the coire ansic) which never runs empty, and a magic harp (uaithne) which can control men's emotions and change the seasons. He is said to dwell in Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Other places associated with or named after him include Uisneach, Grianan of Aileach,Lough Neagh and Knock Iveagh. The Dagda is said to be husband or lover of the Morrígan and Boann.[4] His children include Aengus, Brigit, Bodb Derg, Cermait, Aed, and Midir.[1]

The Dagda's name is thought to mean "the good god" or "the great god". His other names include Eochu or Eochaid Ollathair ("horseman, great father"), and Ruad Rofhessa ("mighty one/lord of great knowledge"). There are indications Dáire was another name for him.[4] The death and ancestral god Donn may originally have been a form of the Dagda,[7] and he also has similarities with the later harvest figure Crom Dubh.[8] Several tribal groupings saw the Dagda as an ancestor and were named after him, such as the Uí Echach and the Dáirine.

The Dagda has been likened to the Germanic god Odin, the Gaulish god Sucellos,[1] and the Roman god Dīs Pater.[4]



The Old Irish name Dagda is generally believed to stem from Proto-Celtic: *Dago-dēwos, meaning "the good god" or "the great god".[9][10][11]


The Dagda has several other names or epithets which reflect aspects of his character.[12]

  • Eochu or Eochaid Ollathair ("horseman, great father" or "horseman, all-father")[13]
  • Ruad Rofhessa ("mighty one/lord of great knowledge")[5][14]
  • Dáire ("the fertile one")[4]
  • Aed ("the fiery one")[15][16]
  • Fer Benn ("horned man" or "man of the peak")
  • Cera (possibly "creator"),[17]
  • Cerrce (possibly "striker")[2]
  • Easal[18]
  • Eogabal[6]

The name Eochu is a diminutive form of Eochaid, which also has spelling variants of Eochaidh and Echuid.[19] The death and ancestral god Donn may originally have been a form of the Dagda, who is sometimes called Dagda Donn.[7]


Tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power. He is said to own a magic staff, club or mace which could kill nine men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life. It was called the lorg mór ("the great staff/club/mace") or the lorg anfaid ("the staff/club/mace of wrath"). His magic cauldron was known as the coire ansic ("the un-dry cauldron") and was said to be bottomless, from which no man left unsatisfied.[20] It was said to have a ladle so big that two people could fit in it.[21] Uaithne, also known as "the Four Angled Music", was a richly ornamented magic harp made of oak which, when the Dagda played it, put the seasons in their correct order; other accounts tell of it being used to command the order of battle. He possessed two pigs, one of which was always growing whilst the other was always roasting, and ever-laden fruit trees. He also described as being the owner of a black-maned heifer that was given to him for his labours prior to the Second Battle of Moytura. When the heifer calls her calf, all the cattle of Ireland taken by the Fomorians as tribute graze.[22]

The Dagda was one of the kings of the Tuatha De Danann. The Tuatha Dé Danann are the race of supernatural beings who conquered the Fomorians, who inhabited Ireland previously, prior to the coming of the Milesians. The Mórrígan is often described as his wife, his daughter was Brígh,[23] and his lover was Boann, after whom the River Boyne is named, though she was married to Elcmar. Prior to the battle with the Fomorians, he coupled with the goddess of war, the Mórrígan, on Samhain in exchange for a plan of battle.[24][25]

Despite his great power and prestige, the Dagda is sometimes depicted as oafish and crude, even comical, wearing a short, rough tunic that barely covers his rump, dragging his great penis on the ground.[24] Such features are thought to be the additions of Christian redactors for comedic purposes. The Middle Irish language Coir Anmann (The Fitness of Names) paints a less clownish picture: "He was a beautiful god of the heathens, for the Tuatha Dé Danann worshipped him: for he was an earth-god to them because of the greatness of his (magical) power."[26]

The Dagda has similarities with the later harvest figure Crom Dubh.[8] He also has similarities with the Gaulish god Sucellos, who is depicted with a hammer and a pot,[1] and the Roman god Dīs Pater.[4]


The Dagda is said to be husband of the Morrígan, who is called his "envious wife".[4][27] His children include Aengus, Cermait, and Aed (often called the three sons of the Dagda), Brigit and Bodb Derg.[1] He is said to have two brothers, Nuada and Ogma, but this may be an instance of the tendency to triplicate deities.[4] Elsewhere the Dagda is linked exclusively with Ogma, and the two are called "the two brothers."[23] In the Dindsenchas, the Dagda is given a daughter named Ainge, for whom he makes a twig basket or tub that always leaks when the tide is in and never leaks when it is going out.[28] The Dagda's father is named Elatha son of Delbeath.[29] Englec, the daughter of Elcmar, is named as a consort of the Dagda and the mother of his "swift son".[30] Echtgi the loathesome is another daughter of the Dagda's named in the Banshenchas.[30]


The rising Sun illuminates the inner chamber of Newgrange only at the winter solstice.

Before the Second Battle of Mag Tuired the Dagda builds a fortress for Bres called Dún Brese and is also forced by the Fomorian kings Elatha, Indech, and Tethra to build raths.[23] In the lead up to the Second Battle of Mag Tuired, when Lugh asks Dagda what power he will wield over the Fomorian host, he responds that he "will take the side of the men of Erin both in mutual smiting and destruction and wizardry. Their bones under my club will be as many as hailstones under feet of herds of horses".[23]

The Dagda has an affair with Boann, the goddess of the River Boyne. She lives at Brú na Bóinne with her husband Elcmar. The Dagda impregnates her after sending Elcmar away on a one-day errand. To hide the pregnancy from Elcmar, the Dagda casts a spell on him, making "the sun stand still" so he will not notice the passing of time. Meanwhile, Boann gives birth to Aengus, who is also known as Maccán Óg ('the young son'). Eventually, Aengus learns that the Dagda is his true father and asks him for a portion of land. In some versions of the tale, the Dagda helps Aengus take ownership of the Brú from Elcmar. Aengus asks and is given the Brú for láa ocus aidche; because in Old Irish this could mean either "a day and a night" or "day and night", Aengus claims it forever. Other versions have Aengus taking over the Brú from the Dagda himself by using the same trick.[31][32]

It has been suggested that this tale represents the winter solstice illumination of Newgrange at Brú na Bóinne, during which the sunbeam (the Dagda) enters the inner chamber (the womb of Boann) when the sun's path stands still. The word solstice (Irish grianstad) means sun-standstill. The conception of Aengus may represent the 'rebirth' of the sun at the winter solstice, him taking over the Brú from an older god representing the growing sun taking over from the waning sun.[33][32]

In Tochmarc Étaíne, Dagda and Bóand help Aengus search for his love.[34]

In a poem about Mag Muirthemne, the Dagda banishes an octopus with his "mace of wrath" using the following words: "Turn thy hollow head! Turn thy ravening body! Turn thy resorbent forehead! Avaunt! Begone!", the sea receded with the creature and the plain of Mag Muirthemne was left behind.[35]

In the Dindsenchas the Dagda is described as swift with a poison draught and as a justly dealing lord. He is also called a King of Erin with hosts of hostages, a noble, slender prince, and the father of Cermait, Aengus, and Aed.[36]

He is credited with a seventy- or eighty-year reign (depending on source) over the Tuatha Dé Danann, before dying at Brú na Bóinne, finally succumbing to a wound inflicted by Cethlenn during the battle of Mag Tuired.[37]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Koch, John T. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2006. pp. 553–54[ISBN missing]
  2. ^ a b c An Dagda. Mary Jones's Celtic Encyclopedia.[ISBN missing]
  3. ^ The Irish Version of the Historia Britonum Nennius, "Of the Conquest of Eri as Recorded by Nennius" Historia 8[ISBN missing]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend & Romance: An encyclopaedia of the Irish folk tradition. Prentice Hall Press, 1991. pp. 145–147[ISBN missing]
  5. ^ a b Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2004. pp. 113–14[ISBN missing]
  6. ^ a b Ward, Alan (2011). The Myths of the Gods: Structures in Irish Mythology. pp. 9–10[ISBN missing]
  7. ^ a b Ó hÓgáin, pp. 165–66
  8. ^ a b MacNeill, Máire. The Festival of Lughnasa: A Study of the Survival of the Celtic Festival of the Beginning of Harvest. Oxford University Press, 1962. p. 416[ISBN missing]
  9. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 231.
  10. ^ Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental. Errance. p. 134. ISBN 978-2877723695.
  11. ^ Martin, Scott A (April 2012). "The Names of the Dagda". hdl:2027.42/138966. Retrieved 1 March 2023. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Ó hÓgáin, p. 245
  13. ^ Koch, pp. 553, 1632
  14. ^ Maier, Bernhard. Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture. Boydell & Brewer, 1997. p. 90
  15. ^ Berresford Ellis, Peter. The Druids. W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994. p. 123
  16. ^ Smyth, Daragh. A Guide to Irish Mythology. Irish Academic Press, 1996. p. 15
  17. ^ Monaghan, p. 83
  18. ^ Monaghan, p. 144
  19. ^ O'Brien, Kathleen M. "Index of Names in Irish Annals: Eochaid, Echuid / Eochaidh". Index of Names in Irish Annals. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  20. ^ "Celtic Myths". Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  21. ^ "The Dagda, the Father God of Ireland".
  22. ^ Stokes, Whitley. "The Second Battle of Moytura". Corpus of Electronic Texts. University College, Cork, Ireland. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  23. ^ a b c d Stokes, Whitley. "The Second Battle of Moytura". Corpus of Electronic Texts. University College, Cork. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  24. ^ a b Cath Maige Tuireadh. Trans. Elizabeth A. Gray.
  25. ^ "Dagda | Celtic deity".
  26. ^ Coir Anmann. [1] Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ The Metrical Dindsenchas "Odras" Poem 49
  28. ^ "Dindsenchas "Fid n-Gaible"".
  29. ^ Borlase, William Copeland (1897). The Dolmens of Ireland. Indiana University: Chapman and Hall. p. 349. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  30. ^ a b "Banshenchus: The Lore of Women". Celtic Literature Collective. Mary Jones. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  31. ^ Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend & Romance: An encyclopaedia of the Irish folk tradition. Prentice Hall Press, 1991. p.39
  32. ^ a b Hensey, Robert. Re-discovering the winter solstice alignment at Newgrange, in The Oxford Handbook of Light in Archaeology. Oxford University Press, 2017. pp.11–13
  33. ^ Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore. "Chapter 8, Newgrange: Womb of the Moon", Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers. Liffey Press, 2008. pp.160–172
  34. ^ Tochmarc Étaíne. Corpus of Electronic Texts
  35. ^ The Metrical Dindshenchas poem on Mag Muirthemne. Corpus of Electronic Texts.
  36. ^ "The Metrical Dindsenchas poem 22 "Ailech I"".
  37. ^ Macalister, Robert Alexander Stewart (1938–1956). Lebor gabála Érenn : The book of the taking of Ireland. Kelly – University of Toronto. Dublin : Published for the Irish texts Society by the Educational Company of Ireland. pp. 314, 124–125 (Cetlenn), ¶366, pp. 184–185, Poem LV, str. 32 on p. 237.


Further reading[edit]

  • Bergin, Osborn (1927). "How the Dagda Got his Magic Staff". Medieval Studies in Memory of Gertrude Schoepperle Loomis. Paris & New York. pp. 399–406. Archived from the original on 27 March 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  • Sayers, William (1988). "Cerrce, an Archaic Epithet of the Dagda, Cernnunos, and Conall Cernach". The Journal of Indo-European Studies. 16: 341–64.
  • Daimler, Morgan (2018). The Dagda: Meeting The Good God Of Ireland. Moon Books. ISBN 978-1785356407.
  • O'Brien, Ravenna, Lora, Morpheus (2018). Harp, Club, and Cauldron – A Harvest of Knowledge: A curated anthology of scholarship, lore, and creative writings on the Dagda in Irish tradition. Eel and Otter Press. ISBN 978-1722813208.

External links[edit]

Preceded by High King of Ireland
AFM 1830–1750 BC
FFE 1407–1337 BC
Succeeded by