Among the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland’s ancient past there was one who was known as ‘Olathair’. Though some translations and conflations with other Pagan Gods would have you believe this meant ‘All Father’ it instead means ‘Great’ of Ample Father’. This deity goes by many names in the tales but there is one that sticks to him based on the deeds he performs and that is The Dagda. In this post we will not be looking directly at this deity, but instead at the Children of the Dagda.
We find references to the children of the Dagda throughout the full extent of the mythical cycle of Ireland lore, but we also find mentions of them in the Ulster and Fenian cycles, and even a few references to grandchildren and other descendants down into the cycle of kings. It was well known that many leading families in Ireland’s later mediaeval period claimed various Tuatha Dé Dannan as their ancestors.
For some of these children of the Dagda there is extensive content as they themselves form a central part of particular stories or play a side part in others. Yet for some, there is nothing more than fragments left to us, making mention of tales of which we no longer have record. Her I will list a few of the more well known as well as one or two for which records have been lost.
Oengus Mac Og
One of the most famous of the children of the Dagda is Oengus known as the ‘Mac Oc / Og’ which means young son. Oengus is said to have been conceived and born all in one 9 month day. The Dagda and Boann made a tryst together whilst her husband was out for a day. The Dagda slowed the sun in its passing so that for everyone else a single day would pass, but for Boann she could give birth and be restored before her husband returned. Oengus turns up in many tales as he struggles to find his place in the world, and even in the later Fenian cycle where he is said to be foster father of Diarmuid and to protect him and his lover Grainne from the wrath of Fionn Mc Cumhall.
We find Cermait in the Story of how the Dagda got his magic club. In this tale Lugh is king in Ireland and he slays Cermait for having a tryst with one of his wives called Naas. The Dagda takes the body of his son out of Ireland into the East to find a power to restore life to him. Though the Dagda does find this power in a magical club/stave he slays the three owners of the item to take it. When life is restored to Cermait he berates his father for the injustice for why should he have life if it was taken from the three brothers. The Dagda restores the three brothers and binds his power in an oath to borrow the club/ staff and to use it justly.
There are many interesting things about Bodb Derg, not least of which is that he is said to have been a king of Munster and to hold some relation and with the peoples of the Sidhe. We see this most clearly in the Dream of Oengus where the Mac Og is struck down by love sickness and it is Bodb Derg who manages to find the cause of the ailment, a beautiful woman of the sidhe who is from the mounds of Connacht. He later helps his father and weakened brother to find this woman and lift the ailment as Oengus and his love are finally united.
We have but two mentions of Aine as daughter of the Dagda in lore I have found to date. One comes from a tale of the origins of Gaible’s wood. It was said that Gabaile, a grandson of Nuada stole a bundle of twigs from Aine. She had intended to make herself a tub from these as the one her father, the Dagda’ gave her ‘would not cease from dripping while the sea was in flood, but not a drop was let out of it during the ebb’. Gabaile threw the bundle of twigs and where it landed a wood grew up named ‘Fid nGaibli’ or ‘Gaible’s wood’.
The other mention we have is but a short line and a sad one indeed for it is recorded in ‘Lebor Gabála Érenn’ or the book of the Taking of Ireland that Aine daughter of the Dagda died for the love that she gave to Banba. Now according to the lore that we know Banba is said to be one of three sovereignty Goddesses wed to the grandsons of the Dagda when they ruled Ireland. It was those three who were in power when the Sons of Mil invaded to end the rule of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The name Banba is also said to be on the island itself so whether this is Aine dying for the love of the island, or another Goddess who is to know for sure.
This daughter of the Dagda has but one reference that we know of and it comes from the poem of the forty questions by Eochaid. What is interesting is that the poem queries the teller to reveal the parental lineage of Adare who was married to a noble Éber. The response is that she is ‘the daughter of the great Dagda’ but also that ‘the skilled Morrígan is the name of the mother of Adair’.
When we talk of missing tales there is one that is the most tantalising to my bard brain. Though we know that there are many tales lost to time and we get snippets or insights to them in references to place names and such, this next one really leaves me pondering for the language in the one reference we seem to have of it. It comes from the ‘Banshenchus’ or the Lore of Women which is found across tomes like the Books of Leinster, Lecan, Ui Maine, Ballymote.
All it says is;
Echtgi the loathsome (it was a spiteful story) was daughter of the noble Dagda.
For me the questions are many and I know I may never find an answer for them…unless I manage to hear the tale from Echtgi’s father himself at some time in the future.
These and Many More…
Of course these are not the only children of the Dagda. We also have Midir of Bri Leith in the otherworld, Aed and the tale of his death and the Dagda’s justice which followed it and who could forget probably his most influential daughter Brigid. Lets not forget though that children in ancient Ireland were commonly raised not with their biological parents but in fosterage with figures who might provide for them better or support them as part of the Tuath as a collective. The Dagda is said to have fostered Sig & Segdea the two sons of Rofer Singlespit and also the very famous and influential figure, Manannán Mac Lír.For all that we see the children of the Dagda in many places in the stories, we must add the clarification here that the ‘Olathair’ may be a father to many, but he is not the father of all the God’s as appear in some other pantheons of the world. The Dagda is as we see in his action for and with his many children a ‘great father’ or as some might say today, he has ‘Big Daddy’ energy.
No matter how we explore our connection to deities, its worth looking as the ‘Good god’ through the lens of the Children of the Dagda.