With the colonising oppression of the Catholic church it’s fair to say that we lost all previous rituals and practices that honour the Dagda. Yet by taking the time to go back to the sources, explore the lore and tease out the beliefs of our ancient ancestors maybe some seed of old truth can be uncovered and grown anew in the spiritual landscape of our people. Maybe we can rediscover something of the ceremonies, offerings, and invocations associated with connecting to his divine energy. With time, patience and hard work we may be able to learn how to incorporate his presence into your spiritual journey, allowing us to deepen our connection with the divine and awaken the abundant energy within ourselves. It’s possible that even this effort in itself could be considered a ritual honouring the Dagda.
Ritual is as Ritual Does.
There can often be a lot of confusion when it comes to using the word ‘ritual’. For some it conjures images of full moon glades, bonfires and specific clothing requirements. Yet not every ritual needs to be a large performative production. When we look at a definition of the word ritual we find something like the following:
‘a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.’
Now though this definition pretty much covers the specifics of ‘what’ it in no way acknowledges the ‘why’. These series of prescribed actions in specific order need to be directed towards and intent. There needs to be a purpose, both for the creation of a ritual moment, but also for its completion. I have seen the negative impacts of a ritual without completion or ‘closure’ and would not recommend missing this important step.
So as we explore the possibility of ritual honouring the Dagda, we need to look not just to the form of the actions, and their order. We also need to know the Dagda well enough to align our intent with the energies he can help us manifest.
The Dagda is as the Dagda Does.
There is a lot one can learn about the Dagda, and to display my Dagda bias for a moment of indulgence, we ‘should’ learn about this ‘Good God’. In order to stay on topic for this blog exploring the concept of rituals honouring the Dagda, we could try to, in some way, summarise some core concepts that strongly align with this God. This would then allow us to centre the intent that we will need for our ritual moment and connect it to this specific deity. The challenge to that is that the Dagda is capable of so much that maybe we need to again look less at the what, and more at the ‘why’.
The Dagda is a God of many abilities, in fact his name Dagda can be translated as the ‘Goodly God’ in that he is good at all things. This we see most clearly in the story of the Second Battle of Moytura where to combat the pending Fomorian invasion many groups of the tribe come forward and their skills are offered, from hurling the mountains against the foe, hiding the rivers and lakes to weaken them, to rains of fire from the skies. All of these things are offered and more, yet when the Dagda steps forward and promises to take on the labour of every offered duty and see it done, no one disputes him. Not for his ability, his power, nor his authority to do so.
Time and again in the tales of our mythology, we see the Dagda performing many varied and powerful tasks, even things that may have seemed beneath his status as chieftain and king, from ditch digging, to forest clearing and more. He even placed himself at personal risk to confront the invading Fomorians and suffered much indignity and personal harm from them.
Yet the cause for all of this becomes clear when we look at the bigger picture of this big man. Almost every act that he undertakes is in service to someone else, be it the Tuath or tribe as a whole, or the specific needs of a child or partner. So it might be fair to say that rituals honouring the Dagda might be best performed not for the sake of self, but for the sake of family, community, or tribe.
Ritual Moments of a Dagda Bard.
At this point you might be hoping for some clearly defined ‘solemn ceremony’ of ‘ series of actions performed according to a prescribed order’ and though I would love to impart these to one and all, well, they don’t exist and so unfortunately I cannot meet that hope. What I can offer and I hope you might consider for your own explorations is a small look at my personal rituals, how I go about honouring the Dagda, and where they are inspired from.
Fruits of grain and Kine –
At the end of the mythical cycle the Sons of Mil take Ireland in conquest and drive the Tuatha De Danann into the Otherworld through the hollow hills. This leaves the land bereft of justice and so Ireland becomes a wasteland. The Milesians suffer without grain or with milk from their cows… until they ‘make friends with the Dagda’. In this agreement is believed the origins of offering grain and dairy to the people of the Otherworld, and for me the Dagda in specific.
Now I no longer leave out offerings solely at Lughnasa, or Samhain, but my own practice sees me offer the Dagda a portion of food I cook on occasion, but almost always the first pour from any new cream I open. As I have cream in my coffee, he also gets it in coffee. I take a moment to share my intent and honour of him and his bond with my island in this manner. The ritual moment is in the pouring of the cream, recalling the bond of agreement between this and the Otherworld, speaking his name as I stir the mug, then closing the moment with a clink of my mug to his and a sip of the freshly made coffee.
A space both somewhere and nowhere –
In the time of the impending invasion by the Fomorians, The Dagda journey’s across Ireland to a ford and there seeks the prophecy of the Morrigan to know where the invaders will come. The story tells us that the two deities meet in the ford on the river Unshin and couple there as wedded partners.
The imagery of the ford in this tale is the one that inspires my next practice. A ford is a place that is neither earth nor water, but both. It is neither river, nor road, but both. Even to this day many of Ireland’s country boundaries and borders exist in the central line of its great rivers, making a ford in a way a place that is in many ways nowhere.
This concept is what inspires my next ritual moment. Seeking places in our day that are both somewhere and nowhere. Seeking liminality, not just in distant river fords, but all around me as I move through each moment of the day. When I find the need of such a place in my day I will take a moment, stood in the ‘inbetween’. Consciously choosing to create a moment that is outside of all other regular motions, and in that space I speak my considered ask to the Dagda. With the words offered and the intent released in trust to him, I close the moment by stepping on from that space and carry on with wherever the next steps of the day need to take me.
Making a Mindful Murias –
In the ancient stories it was said that the Tuatha Dé Danann came out of four great cities in the North and East of the world. Each of these cities had a great seer and each held a great treasure. These four treasures were brought with the Tuatha De Danann into Ireland. A sword, a spear, a stone of kings, and the cauldron of the Dagda. It is not the cauldron of the Dagda that inspires this next ritual moment, but instead the place from which it came. Murias.
We know little of the great cities beyond their names, the names of their seer, and the treasures that each held, little that is except for Murais. Of all the cities Murias is given more description. It is called the ‘fortress of pinnacles’ ‘…of great prowess’ and said that ‘From which battles were won outside’.
It is with Murias in mind that I create my next ritual moment. Murias is a place not just of power and prowess, but also of security. A place where battles are won, but those battles occur outside its bounds. When I have a need of a moment in which to craft a success, gather my strength, or secure myself or those in need, I consider Murias and say its name with my intent and need clearly in mind. Whether this intent on Murias lasts a single breath, or a lengthy time of effort and energy work, it is an intentional space from which success can be created.
I close this ritual moment by recalling the cauldron of the Dagda which came from Murias. It was said of the cauldron that ‘no company left it unsatisfied’ and so when the moment of Murias passes I move forward remembering gratitude and satisfaction.
Old Seeds Grown Anew
As I said there is nothing of the rituals and practices of our ancient ancestors left to us, nothing except maybe the seeds of their impact and power upon the narrative of the land and its peoples.
Exploring the lore and beliefs of our ancient ancestors through the stories that we have handed down from them, coupled with the living spirituality of the island and its peoples today is the only path to connecting to these divine energies and their influences in our lives
I have given a lot of time in patience and hard work to incorporate the Dagda’s presence in my own spiritual journey and I have experienced many rewarding moments of connection with this fascinating and wonderful deity.
I am honoured to be able to share his name and his tales with so many people around our globe and honoured that for some it is my words that have helped them perceive this ‘goodly God’.
I refer to myself as but a Dagda Bard, but I have grown to accept that for some I’m not just a bard, but also a Dagda priest. Though this concept caused my initial concern, I accept that there is more work needed of me for the Good of the Dagda and those who wish to know him better in their lives. So I will continue to explore my bond with this God and share what I can of my personal practices inspired by him and his tales. Maybe even that effort in itself could be considered a ritual honouring the Dagda.
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: