I have been asked over the years by many people how one should pray to the Dagda.
You might be surprised to know that I don’t consider myself very good at answering this given that I grew up a catholic in Ireland and was late coming into my paganism and deprogramming much of what I had been taught in my early years.
What I do have in my favour though is a passion for the ancient Irish stories, a good memory, and a few years worth of actively building what I believe to be a Right Relationship with this ancient – and in my opinion awesome – Pagan God.
So, with that said, I guess I will share with you some insight into my connection with this Good God.
Being a Bard
My journey towards the Dagda was one that, well to be honest with you, I was very reluctant about. I had always had ‘odd’ or ‘out there’ experiences growing up but for the most part I put this down to reading a lot of books and a very active imagination. The thing is, at some point stuff starts to happen that can’t be so easily explained away and so, once I accepted that fact, my quest for knowledge began. Turns out, the knowledge I needed was in books, but these books are some of the oldest in Ireland.
The stories of the Dagda come to us from the ancient oral tradition of Ireland and were eventually set down on the manuscripts by the first christian monks who came to this island. Books like the famous Book of Kells, the Book of Ballymote, and the Book of the Dun Cow, some dating from the early 12 century, but containing language as old as the 9th century.
From these varied tales told by Ireland’s bards over centuries, the first thing I learned was how I was completely wrong. How everything I had thought I knew about the Dagda was out of context and had left me with a twisted vision of this powerful deity.
So the quest had to go deeper, deeper into the lore, not just of the Dagda but of the Tuatha Dé Danann and Ireland around them. For how can we really understand any deity if we are not open to exploring the true context in which they exist, both in the past and in the now.
So it was that I saw not just the powerful druid, the passionate lover, the just and righteous King. I saw the emigrant, the musician, the labourer, and the caring father.
It was with these stories that I began to see myself for what I had become, a bard. One who remembers the tales and wants to share them with others so they too can know the Goodly God.
A Personal Practice
Over time people who heard my tales, heard the name of the Dagda from me, and shared in the context I had recovered, grew to understand and appreciate the Dagda for themselves.
In that time I had grown my connection to this deity beyond just learning and telling his tales. I came to view him as a source of inspiration, a great example worthy of emulating in my own life and indeed as a friend that I would speak to in my mind, my heart and out loud when occasion called for it.
I had grown not just in knowledge of this deity, but in understanding of his many roles and their importance, not just to him, but to everyone he lived with and served through his wide variety of deeds.
I saw how important something like hospitality really is in our world, how it forms the basis of connection and community, and how without those things our species would never have survived.
I saw how the Dagda’s music formed the basis of a healthy acceptance and processing of emotion and that it was not just something to manage and endure as my masculine upbringing had taught me. Emotions, the whole range from happy to sad, anger to peace, and everything in between were as natural to me as anyone else and again it was these emotions and their healthy expression that allows us to connect and share in the experiences of our existence together.
I saw how The Dagda, as a father, a brother, and a man formed and maintained relationships with others around him and how those many varied connections could give me insight into how I too could support and in some ways go beyond my upbringing to inspire me to be a better person.
This is why I developed my own personal practice working with the Dagda in my life.
So Here is How I Do it
So in the interest of giving the warnings and disclaimers before the teaching, I will just say that what I am sharing here comes from my own personal experiential approach to connecting and working for and with the Dagda.
There is no ‘one true way’ and anyone saying such is probably trying to sell you on something. Heck, there isn’t even a ‘wrong way’ but there will be things that of course are more effective than others when approaching and building connection to deity. For example, you wouldn’t make offerings of cheese to Maeve given that she was slain with some. Nor should you consider the Morrigan as open to familial connection as some other deities might be.
Again, one ‘could’ do these things when approaching a deity, but building what we at the Irish Pagan School refer to as ‘Right Relationship’ must start from a place of acknowledging the deity as they are in themselves, not what we might want them to be, or want from them for ourselves.
So with that said, Here is how I do it.
Prayer for me is something that can fit in many different forms, from the short off the cuff supplications like, ‘Dagda give me patience’ usually found when I’m up against some challenge or other, to the long intentional prayer involving some form of offering.
The first thing I always do is call for him by his name. Now of course I don’t use his full name cause to be honest that’s a mouthful in and of itself, but what I do say most commonly is “An Dagda, Olathair”. This is his given title as the Dagda, and the epithet that I and most folk connect to him using, that of ‘Great or Ample Father’.
Next I say ‘Tar agus fáilte’ which translates as ‘ come and be welcome’. For me I feel it’s important to use the Irish language where I can, but again this is not strictly necessary as prayer is always about a personal direct communication with deity.
From here, I tend towards a conversational interaction with this deity given our history working with each other. I express my intention in connecting with him, be it to share a concern, seek some advice, or even just to offer an open moment of companionable connection with someone I consider an importance and friendly influence in my life. This doesn’t have to be in Irish, but I am trying to improve my own connection with my native language whenever I can and doing this as part of prayer connection to him has meaning to me.
As with any conversation one would have, it’s impolite to just stop talking and suddenly walk away. I mean, again there is no ‘wrong’ way to end a prayer to a God or Goddess, but there are usually more effective and polite ways to handle things.
For me I always finish my saying ‘go raibh maith agat, a chara, agus slán’ this translates as ‘thank you, friend, and goodbye’. It allows me to have a respectful yet still personal way to step away from the moment connection, because that really is all prayer is, with the deity.
I try to make time for this moment of connection at least once a day. For me this is offering my deity my attention and awareness on a regular basis so that I’m acknowledging the relationship we share in, and not just turning up with requests or pleas whenever times are tough. I mean those happen too, I won’t lie, but in my opinion connecting to deity, any deity should be seen as an investment in a mutual relationship and not just a transactional exchange of prayer or offerings for favours.
So, you’re probably wondering what I mean by offerings? Well to be honest that’s probably worthy of a whole separate post, or you could if inclined take the class Making Offerings to Pagan Gods & Goddesses over at the Irish Pagan School.
When it comes to the offerings I make to the Dagda I look to the old stories for inspiration, so cows and grain are mentioned in the time of the Milesian invasion and famine. So I offer the Dagda the first of any fresh cream I open in our home to cover the cows and connection to dairy and the sidhe. As for grain, well that is usually offered in the form fresh baked goods or even fermented liquids, ie. beers of spirits.
I also make a specific offering of my time, energy and voice is speaking the Dagda’s name aloud each day so that it can be heard in Ireland, and offering the service of telling his stories as the Dagda Bard.
This works for me and my connection to the Dagda and at the end of the day that is what prayer is for, building and maintaining a connection to deity. Hopefully this has helped answer this question for you, or inspired you to consider more deeply now just the how, but also the why of your own prayer practices.
Where To Now?
If you think that the Dagda is interesting, and might even be something you’d like to explore further, you can always: