The Dagda

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The Dagda
God of fertility, agriculture, manliness and strength, magic, druidry, wisdom
Member of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Abode Brú na Bóinne
Weapons Club
Battles Magh Tuiredh
Personal Information
Siblings Fiacha, Delbáeth, Ogma, Allód

The Dagda (modern spelling: Daghdha) is an important god of Irish mythology. One of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Dagda is portrayed as a father-figure, chieftain, and druid.[1][2] He is associated with fertility, agriculture, manliness and strength, as well as magic, druidry and wisdom.[1][2][3] He is said to have control over life and death, the weather and crops, as well as time and the seasons.

He is often described as large man or giant wearing a hooded cloak.[4][5] He owns a magic staff or club (the lorg mór "Great track/club" or lorg anfaid "Storm/Tempest track/club") which can kill with one end and bring to life with the other, a cauldron (the coire ansic) which never runs empty, and a magic harp (uaithne) which can control men's emotions and change the seasons. The Dagda mates with many goddesses, including Boann and the Morrígan. His children include Aengus, Brigit, Bodb Derg, Cermait, Aed, and Midir.[1][5]

The name Dagda is believed to come from Proto-Celtic: *Dagodeiwos, "the good god". He is also known by the epithets Eochu or Eochaid Ollathair ("horseman, great father" or "all-father"),[6] Ruad Rofhessa ("mighty one/lord of great knowledge"),[3][7] Samildánach ("many-skilled"),[3] Aed Abaid of Ess Ruad,[8]Fer Benn ("horned man" or "man of the peak"), Cera (possibly "creator"),[9] Cerrce (possibly "striker"),[2] Easal,[10] Eogabal and Crom-Eocha.[11] Dáire also appears to have been another name for the Dagda.[12] Furthermore, some scholars have linked him with the harvest god(s) Crom Cruach and Crom Dubh,[13] as well as with the death and ancestral god Donn.[14]

The Dagda has been likened to the Germanic god Odin and the pan-Celtic god Sucellos.[1]


Tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power, armed with a magic club and associated with a cauldron. The club was supposed to be able to kill nine men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life. The cauldron was known as the Undry and was said to be bottomless, from which no man left unsatisfied. 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.

The Dagda was a High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann after his predecessor Nuada was injured in battle. 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. His lover was Boann and his daughter was Breg. 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.[15]

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.[15] 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."[16]

The Dagda had an affair with Bóand, wife of Elcmar. In order to hide their affair, Dagda made the sun stand still for nine months; therefore their son, Aengus, was conceived, gestated and born in one day. He, along with Bóand, helped Aengus search for his love.[17]

Whilst Aengus was away the Dagda shared out his land among his children, but Aengus returned to discover that nothing had been saved for him. Aengus later tricked his father out of his home at the Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Aengus asked his father if he could live in the Brú for láa ogus oidhche "(a) day and (a) night", which in Irish is ambiguous, and could refer to either "a day and a night", or "day and night", which means for all time, and so Aengus took possession of the Brú permanently. In The Wooing of Étaín, on the other hand, Aengus uses the same ploy to trick Elcmar out of Brú na Bóinne, with the Dagda's connivance.[17]

The Dagda was also the father of Bodb Dearg, Cermait, Midir, Áine, and Brigit. He was the brother or father of Oghma, who is probably related to the Gaulish god Ogmios; Ogmios, depicted as an old man with a club, is one of the closest Gaulish parallels to the Dagda. Another Gaulish god who may be related to the Dagda is Sucellus, the striker, depicted with a hammer and cup.

He is credited with a seventy or eighty-year reign (depending on source) over the Tuatha Dé Danann, before dying at the Brú na Bóinne, finally succumbing to a wound inflicted by Cethlenn during the second battle of Magh Tuiredh.[18]

In some texts the Dagda's father is Elatha, and his mother is Ethniu.

The Dagda's siblings include the gods Ogma and Ler.

In a poem about Mag Muirthemne (Plain of the Darkness of the Sea or Plain Under the Sea's Roof), 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!"[5]


The name Dagda may ultimately be derived from the Proto-Indo-European *Dhagho-deiwos "shining divinity", the first element being cognate with the English word "day", and possibly a byword for a deification of a notion such as "splendour". This etymology would tie in well with Dagda's mythic association with the sun and the earth, with kingship and excellence in general. *Dhago-deiwos would have been inherited into Proto-Celtic as *Dago-deiwos, thereby punning with the Proto-Celtic word *dago-s "good".

Appearances of the Dagda[edit]

Under the name Aed of Ess Ruaid, the Dagda is named as the son of Badurn, the Lord of Emain, and the Grandson of Argatmar.[19] The rapids in which he supposedly drowned were named Ess Ruaid and were previously called Ess Duind after Dond, the grandson of Bile.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d Koch, John T. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2006. pp.553-554
  2. ^ a b c An Dagda. Mary Jones's Celtic Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ a b c Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2004. pp.113-114
  4. ^ Ward, Alan (2011). The Myths of the Gods: Structures in Irish Mythology. pp.9-10
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^ Koch, pp.553, 1632
  7. ^ Maier, Bernhard. Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture. Boydell & Brewer, 1997. p.90
  8. ^
  9. ^ Monaghan, p.83
  10. ^ Monaghan, p.144
  11. ^ Ward, Alan. The Myths of the Gods: Structures in Irish Mythology. CreateSpace, 2011. pp.9-10
  12. ^ Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend & Romance: An encyclopaedia of the Irish folk tradition. Prentice Hall Press, 1991. p.147
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend & Romance: An encyclopaedia of the Irish folk tradition. Prentice Hall Press, 1991. pp.165-166
  15. ^ a b Cath Maige Tuireadh. Trans. Elizabeth A. Gray.
  16. ^ Coir Anmann. [1]
  17. ^ a b Tochmarc Étaíne. Corpus of Electronic Texts
  18. ^ Lebor Gabála Érenn.
  19. ^ a b

Further reading[edit]

  • Bergin, Osborn (1927). "How the Dagda Got his Magic Staff". Medieval Studies in Memory of Gertrude Schoepperle Loomis. Paris and New York. pp. 399–406. 
  • Sayers, William (1988). "Cerrce, an Archaic Epithet of the Dagda, Cernnunos, and Conall Cernach". The Journal of Indo-European Studies. 16: 341–64. 
Preceded by
High King of Ireland
AFM 1830–1750 BC
FFE 1407–1337 BC
Succeeded by