The chief of Ireland’s gods was The Dagda, the giver of life and the bestower of all bounties. He was the keeper of the ‘club of creation.’ One end of the club brought death, the other end could restore the life of a dead person.1 The Dagda lived at the Sidh of Brug na Bóinne, the finest of all faerie mounds in Ireland. Here he kept — in addition to the club of creation — a magic harp and a magic cauldron. 2
One day Dagda saw a beautiful water spirit, Boann (protectress of the River Boyne), and he felt a great desire for her. The attraction was mutual; however, Boann was married to the powerful Elcmar. Dagda sent Elcmar on a mission to deliver a message to Bress, son of Elath. Then he wove a spell upon Elcmar causing time for him to stand still. For nine months Elcmar was under the spell; he did not eat, sleep, or even move about. During this time Boann conceived and bore Dagda’s son, Oenghus.3 Dagda carried the boy off to be raised by Midir the Proud; Elcmar returned and suspected nothing.
Oenghus believed he was the son of Midir until he was 9 years of age. One day during play, Oenghus engaged in an argument in which he called another boy, Tríath (who was a member of the defeated Tribe of Firbólg) a ‘slave.’ Tríath responded with repugnance that such words could be spoken by someone who was ignorant of his own father and mother. Shocked by this news, Oenghus demanded the facts from Midir. Then, determined to suffer no further mockery, he set out make his father acknowledge him. He petitioned the help of Manannán Mac Lir, a potent sea god and renowned master of trickery. Manannán was also the god who found dwellings for other gods because he understood all enchantments and could find them places where they would be safe.
Manannán Mac Lir instructed Oenghus to go to his father during the time of Samhain, because this was the time when the use of magic was the strongest and most effective. At the witching hour on Samhain, Manannán instructed Oenghus to go to Dagda and ask for permission to occupy the Sidh of Brug na Bóinne for one night and one day. Manannán concocted an enchantment so that Dagda would not refuse.
When Oenghus reached the Sidh of Brug na Bóinne, Dagda readily agreed to his request to be king of the mound for one night and one day. When Dagda returned, he requested the return of Sidh of Brug na Bóinne. Oenghus refused. He said he was now the rightful owner of Sidh of Brug na Bóinne; and since the passage of time consists of nothing more than night and day, following each other in endless succession, he was now the king of Sidh of Brug na Bóinne for eternity. Dagda realised he had been tricked and went away, taking his household and some of his people, in anger.
Oenghus settled happily at Sidh of Brug na Bóinne , and soon learned the magic of the cauldron that Dagda had left behind — it supplied the dweller of Sidh of Brug na Bóinne with an endless supply of roasted boar’s meat and Goibhniu’s ale — which rendered the partaker immune from illness, disease and death.
1. Dagda is also called the Red Man of All Knowledge
2. In the early 1950s, a staff was found in Munster. The staff is believed to have been constructed in 2500 BC, and it contained Samhain symbols. The staff was made of stone and measured over 36 metres.
3. May also be written as Angus Og.
Dames M. Mythic Ireland. Thames and Hudson, London. 1992
Lady Gregory. Irish Myths and Legends. First US Edition. Courage Books, Philadelphia: 1998.
O’Ríordián SP. Antiquities of the Irish Countryside. London. 1965.
Zaczek I. Irish Legends. Gill & McMillan, Ltd. Dublin: 1998.
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