The Tuatha De Danann was the third group to invade Ireland. This third
conquest is one of the most mysterious and probably most important of the all the
The Tuatha De Danann, Children of Danu, is remembered today as the gods
of Ireland. There is also evidence to support that they were also the old gods of the
greater Celtic community in prehistoric Europe. They were also direct descendants of
Nemed, who had left Ireland and settled in the northern islands of Greece. There they had
learnt the arts of druidism in which they had become very skilled.
They had fought on the side of the Athenians against the Philistines
and had amazed everyone with their feats of magic, but eventually the Philistines became
to great to overcome and the Tuatha De Danann fled.
Among the possessions they took with them there were four sacred
objects: the Lia Fail, a stone which uttered a shriek at the inauguration of a rightful
king; the invincible sword of Lugh; the deadly sword of Nuada and the ever-plentiful
cauldron of the Dagda.
First the landed in Scotland but the land was so bleak that the life of
the exiles was harsh, so the Tuatha De decided to claim the land they believed was
rightfully theirs, Ireland.
They landed in secret at the festival of Beltain (1 May), the most
sacred of all Celtic feasts. Once everyone had landed the boats were burnt so that, no
matter what, they couldn't run.
They conjured a darkness around themselves and moved about the country
unnoticed. At Connacht they surprised the Fir Bolg into battle.
There were many fierce battles until the Fir Bolg admitted defeat. The
Fir Bolg who survived the battles fled to islands on the coast. The final battle between
the Tuatha De and the Fir Bolg is known as the First Battle of Moytura.
The Tuatha De could not claim Ireland yet, for the Fomorians still
lived on Ireland and had their own claim to voice. This battle is told in the tale of the
Second Battle of Moytura.
The Second Battle of Moytura
In the First Battle of Moytura the king of the Fir Bolg was slain and
Nuada, the king of the Tuatha De, was severely injured when his arm was cut off at the
shoulder. Diancecht the physician fashioned him an arm of silver to replace the one he
lost. Unfortunately the law of the Tuatha De states that a king must be whole and
unblemished, so Nuada lost his throne to a man named Eochaid Bres or Eochaid the
Beautiful. Eochaid's mother was of the Tuatha De but his father was a Fomorian, their
chief. Eochaid knew nothing of this and was brought up by the Tuatha De.
When he was made king a wedding was arranged between him and Tailltiu,
the widow of the dead Fir Bolg king. At the same time a marriage between Cian, son of
Diancecht the physician, and Ethne, daughter of the great Fomorian warrior Balor.
Bres was made king on the condition that if the people were not happy
with his rule he would abdicate.
It was not long before he began to favour the Fomorians and began to
oppress the Tuatha De. Eventually the Tuatha De rebelled and reminded Bres of the
condition. He agreed but begged to remain for seven years.
His request was granted and he used this time to gather the forces of
the Fomorians to destroy the Tuatha De. It was during this time that he learnt who his
father was, when his mother took him to the Fomorians and their chief acknowledged him.
It was also during this time that Nuada was healed. The skin around the
false arm began to fester and so Nuada sent for Miach, another son of Diancecht, who was
known to have great powers of healing. Miach examined Nuada and called for the flesh arm
to be found. It was found and was put in place of the silver arm. Miach chanted, "Let
this be joined sinew to sinew and nerve to nerve so that there is movement and feeling in
every joint." Nuada was healed in three days.
Diancecht became so jealous of Miach's healing powers that he hit his
son in the head with his sword. Miach was able to heal himself. Diancecht struck him again
cut him to the bone and again Miach healed himself. Again Diancecht struck, this time to
the brain and again he struck, destroying Miach brains too badly that even his powers were
defeated. This was not the end for Miach's powers though. When he was buried 365 herbs
grew from his grave. His sister Airmid gathered them and sorted them, but again
Diancecht's jealousy got the better of him and he mixed them up. If it had not been for
Diancecht's jealousy the cure for every illness would be known.
As Nuada was healed, he was reinstated as king of the Tuatha De Danann.
To celebrate this he held a feast at Tara. During the feast the doorkeeper saw a company
approach led by a fair, young warrior in regal robes.
"Who are you and what is your purpose here?" asked the
"Lugh Long Arm is here to see the king. Son of Cian, son of
Diancecht and of Ethne, daughter of Balor. Tell the king that I am here to see him and
that I can help him."
"What do you practise? No one can enter Tara without
"Questions me doorkeeper, I am a carpenter," Luch Long Arm
"We have no need of a carpenter, Luchta is our carpenter,"
the doorkeeper replied.
"Questions me doorkeeper, I am a smith."
"We have a smith, we have no need of another."
"I am a champion warrior," Luch said.
"Ogma is our champion and we have more warriors of our own."
"I am skilled in playing the harp."
"We have a harpist," the doorkeeper replied.
"I am a strategist."
"We have them."
"I am a historian and a poet."
"We have one."
"I am skilled in the arts of sorcery."
"We have the most powerful druids in all the land."
"I am a physician," Lugh said.
"Daincecht is our physician," the doorkeeper replied.
"I am a cupbearer."
"We have plenty."
"I am a metalworker."
"Credne is our metalworker," the doorkeeper replied.
"Then go and ask the king if he has anyone who has all these
skills and learning. If he has I will not enter."
In response to this message from his doorkeeper, Nuada sent his best
chess-player to test Lugh's mental skills. Lugh defeated him easily. The king invited him
into Tara and gave him the seat reserved for the wisest of them all.
Ogma was eager to prove his strength to the newcomer. He picked up on
the flagstones of the palace. He heaved it through a wall and threw it right outside the
fort. In response to this challenge Lugh picked up the stone and threw it back inside and
in an instant he repaired the damage to the wall.
Nuada knew that Lugh was a true champion and he made him responsible
for Ireland's defence against the Formorians.
A great conference took place as he Tuatha De Danann tried to decide
what to do about the Fomorians. Under Lugh's leadership everyone agreed to use what skill
they had to help in the fight against the Fomorians. Lugh, the Dagda and Ogma agreed to go
to the three warrior goddesses and to learn from them how the battle should be planned.
The Dagda met the Morrigan at Samain and he persuaded her to reveal the Fomorians' plans
and to fight on the side of the Tuatha De.
It took the full seven years to prepare for the battle and by the end
the Tuatha De were still not quite ready so the Dagda went to the Fomorians to seek a
truce to gain more time.
Knowing that Dagda loved porridge, the Fomorians made a large amount
and poured it into a huge cauldron sized pit. They threatened the Dagda with death if he
did not finish every last scarp because they did not want to be accused of not being
hospitable. They spoke with such sincerity that the Dagda seized his ladle, which was big
enough for a man and a woman to lie in, and finished every scrap of porridge even using
his fingers to scrape the bottom of the pit. He as so full that he fell asleep and the
Fomorians laughed at him. When he awoke and left he could hardly walk because his stomach
was the size of a cauldron. He leaned on his weapon, a great-wheeled club that as he
walked left a track so deep and enduring that it served as a boundary mark for the
The Fomorians mocked him but the Dagda had done what he had set out to
do and the Tuatha De had the time they needed to complete their preparations.
The Tuatha De decided that Lugh was to valuable to be lost in the
battle so when the army assembled he was surrounded by nine of his warriors. He was in
charge of strategy but he would not fight in the battle.
On the eve of Samain the to armies met with champions facing each other
in single combat. Mostly the Tuatha De was victorious but occasionally a Fomorian was
victorious. The Fomorians noticed that unlike their injured the Tuatha De Danann's injured
were well and ready to fight the following day and that their weapons were mended. They
sent a spy, Ruadan, to find out the Tuatha De's secret.
He went into the Tuatha De's camp and found Goibniu, the smith; Luchta,
the carpenter and Credne the metalworker working as a powerful team to mend the weapons.
He saw how Diancecht and his sons cast spells over a well and when the wounded and the
dead where thrown into its waters they were healed and restored to life. Ruadan grew angry
and he attacked Goibniu with his spear. Goibniu removed the spear and sent it into Ruadan
and sent him to die among his own people.
His mission was not a complete failure though, because with his dying
breath he told the Fomorians about the well and that night they went and filled it with
Now the two armies battled each other and as they confronted one
another the Fomorians saw a shining figure at the front of the Tuatha De. Lugh had escaped
his guards and was now inciting the Tuatha De to victory.
The battle was fast a furious with people falling on both sides. Then
Balor, the king of the Fomorians, killed Nuada Silver Arm and so Lugh fought to the front
of the line to confront his grandfather.
Balor was also known as Balor Evil Eye because once, when his father's
druids had been brewing an evil potion, some of the fumes from the brew had wafted into
his eye and the poison from the charm had entered it. One glance from the now poisonous
eye could destroy armies.
As Lugh confronted his grandfather he shouted a challenge so Balor
ordered his eye to be opened so that he could see him. Four men holding wooden pegs were
used to lift the heavy lid covering the evil eye.
Before the eye was half open Lugh used his slingshot to cast a stone at
the eye. It passed through the eye and carried it to the back of his head where it killed
27 Fomorians standing there.
With Balor dead, the Tuatha De fought with renewed vigour and with the
help of the warrior goddesses they drove the Fomorians into the sea and Bres fled with
When the battle was over, there were more dead than could be counted.
It is said that the standing stones on the plain of Carrowmore, near Sligo, mark the
graves of those who died in the Second Battle of Moytura.
With the land free of the Fomorians and the Tuatha De restored to their
former positions the Morrigan, war goddess of Ireland, climbed to the mountain tops to
chant victory to all those in the land.