Danu Modergudinna, Keltisk gudom

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är Modergudinna och Keltisk gudom

Danu är en irländsk modersgudinna, moder till gudafolket Tuatha De Danann. Danu är OCKSÅ en hinduisk gudinna, moder till Danava eller Danaya.

Alias: dana, danand och danu


Danu är en svårgreppad gudinna. Samtidigt som alla möjliga kopplingar gjorts till hinduism, till Don i det welshiska, till platser såsom Danus bröst (två kullar på irland), en flod Danube mm, så finns ingen irländsk berättelse om Danu i de gamla källorna. Den hänvisning som gör henne så stor dock, är att genetivformen av Danu är Danann, vilket säger att det irländska gudafolket är hennes folk: Tuatha De Danann.

Hon kopplas ofta ihop med floder, hon ses som en variant av Moder Jord. Hon är urmodern, som kom före allt annat, alla färger, alla dofter. Hon kan påminna om Gaia som moder av gudar, men det mesta av det här är spekulationer.

Nedan kommer jämförelser med Blavatskys information om den hinduiska Danu, och en akademisk utläggning om vad vi egentligen kan veta om Danu från de irländska källorna.

Koppling mellan Danu i hinduism och Danu i irländsk myt

Jag har sökt efter information om Danu, med tanken på den irländska gudinnan som rent lingvistiskt skall vara ledare eller förälder till Tuatha De Danann - Danus folk/stammar.
I de irländska äldre skriftliga källorna finns ingen direkt hänvisning till Danu själv, utan enbart som en härledning av Tuatha De Danann, där Danann är en genetivform av Danu.
Tuatha De Danann sägs ha blivit besegrade och drivna till underjorden, där de lever i håligheter som blev kallade Sidhe. Med åren blev även själva invånarna i dessa håligheter banämnda Sidhe.
Blavatsky hänvisar också till Danu, men som en ordform av ett sanskrit-ord och sedemera en hinduisk term:

The caves of the Rishis, the abodes of Tiresias and the Greek seers, were modelled on those of the Nagas -- the Hindu King-Snakes, who dwelled in cavities of the rocks under the ground. From Sesha, the thousand-headed Serpent, on which Vishnu rests, down to Python, the dragon serpent oracle, all point to the secret meaning of the myth. In India we find the fact mentioned in the earliest Puranas. The children of Surasa are the mighty Dragons. The Vayu Purana replacing Surasa (of Vishnu Purana) by Danayas or Danavas -- the descendants of Danu by the sage Kasyapa -- and those Danavas being the giants (or Titans) who warred against the gods, they are thus shown identical with the Dragons and Serpents of Wisdom.

Blavatsky påstår alltså att Danus barn, om vi kan anta att vi talar om samma Danu på irland som i hinduismen, inte är gudar, utan jättar. Som sådana är de i myterna gudarnas motståndare, och Danu är deras urmoder.
Vad jag funnit så nämner Blavatsky aldrig det faktum att det finns en Danu i den irländska mytologin, men andra likheter kan hittas här. Blavatsky skriver om Nagas, som bodde i klippors hålrum under jorden - precis som Sidhe.
Vidare kopplar Blavatsky ihop druiderna med samma väsen:

The Druids of the Celto-Britannic regions also called themselves snakes. I am a Serpent, I am a Druid, they exclaimed.

...och i det keltiska kan man även höra landet refereras till som den stora draken.
I första stycket från Secret Doctrine ovan står också om Danus barn: they are thus shown identical with the 'Dragons' and 'Serpents' of Wisdom. Det för mina tankar till den första dikten jag läste om Danu:

I am the son of Poetry,
Poetry, son of reflection,
Reflection, son of Meditation,
Meditation, son of Lore,
Lore, son of Research,
Research, son of Great Knowledge,
Great Knowledge, son of Intelligence,
Intelligence, son of Comprehension,
Comprehension, son of Wisdom,
Wisdom, son of the three gods of Dana.

Danu and Bile - an academic examination

It is now commonplace among people with an interest in early Celtic tradition to believe that the gods of pre-Christian Ireland were the Tuatha Dé Danann, the peoples of the goddess Danu. This goddess is pictured as their progenitor and as a general Earth-mother, tying both the nature of the gods and the manner of their worship to the physical reality of the Land. In Neo- Pagan circles a vivid sense of the character and personality of this goddess has emerged, so that some people can now describe themselves publicly as ardent devotees of Danu. Also widespread is the notion that Danu's consort is Bile, and that he is either the first male ancestor of both gods and mortals and therefore a kind of Lord of the Dead, or that, because of his name (which means tree), he represents the World Tree that is the axis of the universe and of any ritually consecrated area. These are powerful theological concepts, which provide revived Celtic religion with some much-needed focus and depth. Yet what are our textual sources for them? How solidly are they rooted in the historical record?

Our most immediate sources are certain popular Victorian and Edwardian books (many of them still in print) that first attempted to bring the complicated and chaotic material from mediaeval Irish and Welsh manuscripts into a form that the non-scholarly public could understand and enjoy. They transmitted the conclusions of more scholarly discussion about the nature and meaning of the texts, without, however, going over the arguments of the discussion in detail, or indicating the reservations some scholars might still have had about the conclusions. It is in these books that the Tuatha Dé Danann are first presented unambiguously as the peoples of the goddess Danu, with Danu and Bile as the most ancient ancestors within the pantheon. In the words of Charles Squire, for example:

... The most ancient divinity of whom we have any knowledge is Danu herself, the goddess from whom the whole hierarchy of gods received its name of Tuatha Dé Danann ... She was the universal mother.... Her husband is never mentioned by name, but one may assume him, from British analogies, to have been Bilé ""[sic], known to Gaelic tradition as a god of Hades, a kind of Celtic Dis Pater from whom sprang the first men. Danu herself probably represented the earth and its fruitfulness, and one might compare her with the Greek Demeter. All the other gods are, at least by title, her children. 1

Let us examine the foundation for these statements, beginning with the figure of Danu herself.

First, it must be recognised that Danu is a reconstructed form: it never occurs as such in any Irish source. If one assumes that Danann (as in Tuatha Dé Danann) is the genitive form of an n-stem noun, one can also assume -- on the analogy of other n-stem nouns like Ériu gen. Érenn, brú gen. bronn, etc. -- that its nominative form would be *Danu. However, even this supposed genitive form is of very limited distribution (usually found only in the expression Dé Danann), and when it occurs in other constructions it seems to refer to a male name (e.g. in the patronymic mac Danann meic Bratha, which clearly indicates a Danu son of Brath).2

Next, it should be pointed out that nowhere in the Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Conquests of Ireland) -- our earliest source on the material related to the Tuatha Dé Danann, compiled between the ninth and the twelfth centuries -- does Danu appear (under any form of her name) in the role of primordial mother. The one figure who appears prominently in the text and has a similar name is Danand (or Donand) daughter of Delbaeth son of Ogma, who cohabits with her own father and has three sons by him, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba. These three come to be known as the tri Dé Danand, the three gods of Danand, and we are told that all the Tuatha Dé Danann took their name from them, although no logical reason for this appears in the narrative, nor any sense of why the three alone are gods.3 A story already current at the time of the compilation of the Lebor Gabála made them the enemies of Lúgh, because they had killed Lúgh's father when he was in the shape of a lap-dog.4 The magical tasks which Lúgh imposed on them and the cruel death they suffered in spite of all their efforts were the subject of a literary tale from the later Middle Ages, Oidheadh Cloinne Tuireann (The Violent Death of the Sons of Tuireann), which was counted as one of the three sorrowful tales of Ireland (Tuirell ""[or Tuirenn] Biccreo was, according to the Lebor Gabála, another name of Delbaeth).5 Elsewhere in the Lebor Gabála the three gods of Danand are stated to be Triall, Brian and Cet, sons of Bres (presumably also by Danand), the half-Fomorian ruler who is the antagonist of Lúgh in Cath Maige Tuired, the story of the great climactic battle between the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann; indeed, the compilers of the Lebor Gabála seem to have been uncertain as to which trio merited the name.6

Danand is described as having four daughters: Airgdean, Barrand, Be Chuille and Be Thedhe.7 Elsewhere they are presented as her sisters, and in that context all of them are said to be the daughters of Flidais.8 Be Chuille is particularly linked to Danand: they are mentioned in several places as di bantuathaig (two female farmers ""[or landowners])9 among the Tuatha Dé Danann.10 These are surely the same pair as Be Culde and Dinand who are called upon by Lúgh in Cath Maige Tuired to serve as bantuathaid (witches, practitioners of destructive magic) in the battle.11 Finally, to make matters even more confusing, one passage states that the Morrígu was the mother of the Three Gods, and that her other name was Danand -- despite the fact that elsewhere in the same compilation the Morrígu and Danand are presented as sisters, both daughters of Earnmhas who was herself a bantuathach.12

What we undoubtedly have here is the work of loremasters dealing with a vast number of regional tales, many of them very similar to each other but involving differences in detail and in the names of their protagonists. In attempting to weave all of these elements into a consistent whole they were unable to avoid some confusion, giving incompatible genealogies to some characters and assigning the same narrative role to different characters in different passages. Thus the role of the three gods appears to shift between several triads of characters (the three sons of Delbaeth; the three sons of Bres; the three sons of Cermait) at various points in the text. Also, harmonising different stories from different sources required coming up with a single name for each functional character. Some of the names used (Lúgh, Brigit, Nuadu) are corroborated by ancient Celtic sources and are certainly authentic survivals of pre-Christian Celtic theonyms. Others (In Dagda, Goibniu, probably Dian Cecht and Oengus), though not confirmed by the same kind of evidence, appear equally authentic on the basis of their structure. But some (e.g. Partholón, Cessair) are obviously complete inventions, and others appear to be adaptations of names found in Classical sources (as has been suggested in the case of Ogma, whose name appears to be borrowed from Lucian's Gaulish god Ogmios). Thus the Lebor Gabála is no trustworthy guide to the names and relationships of the figures in pre-Christian Celtic mythology. What evidence it gives us of the earlier tradition is to be found in the overall patterns of the stories, and in the basic functions exercised by the more important characters.

In the case of Danu/Danand, one particular element should hold our attention: her relation to a specific feature of the Irish landscape, the Dhá Chíoch Anann, two hills in Luachair in West Munster whose shape suggests the breasts of a vast supine woman whose body is the Land itself. This was the site of one of Fionn Mac Cumhaill's most famous boyhood deeds (his victory over the fairy woman of Síd Brég Éle) and was recognised as a place of importance in some of our earliest written sources. Many linguists have supposed that Anann is, like Danann, the genitive of an n-stem noun whose nominative form would be *Anu. In the Lebor Gabála, however, the di chích Anand are linked to a figure named Anand who is also a daughter of Earnmhas, and who in another passage is stated to be identical to both Danand and the Morrígu (dia forainm Danand o builed Da Chích Anann for Luachair, 7 o builed Tuatha Dé Danann - from whose supplementary name 'Danand' the Two Breasts of Anann in Luachair are called, as well as the Tuatha Dé Danann).13

(One should also make note here of a phrase used several times in the Lebor Gabála: Danand máthair na ndée (Danand, the mother of the gods).14 In context, it clearly refers to her as mother of the Three Gods only; but it would suggest something rather different to a later readership with different expectations.)

Throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, the Lebor Gabála remained the prime authoritative source on the origins of Ireland. All literate people were expected to be familiar with its basic plots and characters, and it gave rise to countless secondary tales and poems. In the seventeenth century, as the native lore was coming to be challenged by a new elite of foreign settlers, the great Irish scholar Geoffrey Keating (Seathrún Céitinn) produced his encyclopaedic work Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (Foundation of Knowledge About Ireland), an updated and re-organised compilation of material from the Lebor Gabála and related sources that made the lore more accessible to the people of his time. Keating was a man of formidable erudition and had a deep understanding of the traditions he collected. It is thus significant that he stresses the link between Danann and the two hills in his native Munster. He explains the divine status of her three sons by their excellence i gceardaibh gintlí (in pagan crafts), which led to their people worshipping them as gods and calling themselves Tuatha Dé Danann after them. And he adds: Is ón Danann ba mháthair don triar seo ghairtear Dhá Chíoch Dhanann den dá chnoc atá i Luachair Dheáidh i nDeasmhumhain (And it is from the Danann who was the mother of these three that the two hills that are in Luachair Dheáidh in Desmond are called The Two Breasts of Danann).15 His choice of spelling -- Dhanann instead of Anann -- has led many scholars to suppose that the second name was derived from the first. Since in modern Irish pronunciation the lenited d sounds like a voiced guttural spirant, coming after the other guttural spirant ch it would tend to be assimilated, and one might hear Dhanann as Anann. So this would seem to be a tidy solution to the problem of the two goddesses Anann/Anu and Danann/Danu: Anann is simply a corrupt form of Danann, and they were always the same figure.

Yet is this really the full answer? There are many reasons to think that it isn't. For one thing, the name Danand was already associated with the two hills during the Middle Ages, when the lenited d had a quite different sound and was less likely to be dropped. Also, the name of the hills is already di chích Anand in the earliest sources, which suggests that Danand is the secondary rather than the primary form. Most importantly, the prominence of the cult of santez Anna ('St. Anne') in southern Brittany, often associated with pre-Christian religious sites, strongly suggests the widespread worship in the region of a Land-goddess with a name that sounded like Ana. The origin of the name is obscure, and may even be pre-Celtic. But another, similar-sounding name -- Danann -- was known to Irish scholars of the Middle Ages, who decided that it referred to a figure of identical function, and led to both being conflated with each other in the syncretistic history that became the Lebor Gabála. One can speculate that the name Danann was introduced by one of the later Celtic groups that had an influence on Ireland. Since, as we shall see, it has a Welsh cognate, a good guess is that it was a Belgic name; and its probable derivation from a root dan- meaning low ground or moist earth makes it plausible that it was the name of a Land-goddess.

At this point we may want to consider the provenance and original meaning of the term Tuatha Dé Danann. Whether or not it ever meant peoples of the goddess Danu, it isn't likely to have originally been a theonym: there's no precedent in Indo-European tradition for gods or groups of gods being referred to by a term of this kind. Indeed, it fits perfectly into the pattern so well-attested in the Lebor Gabála of using the names of historical ethnic groups to designate mythological peoples: Fir Bolg (Belgians), Fir Domnand (Dumnonians), Fir Gaileoin (Gauls), and so on. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Tuatha Dé Danann were also an ethnic group known in Ireland's distant past -- perhaps the people who worshipped the goddess whose name we have been considering. This is not to suggest that the compilers of the Lebor Gabála were the first to apply that name (arbitrarily) to figures based on Celtic gods: the name is too deeply entrenched in Irish literary and folk tradition to have been invented in the Middle Ages. But it may have been in use for some centuries to mean magical ancient people, ascribing all strange, unexplainable structures in the landscape to a real people vaguely remembered from the distant past -- much as rural French folklore today ascribes all ancient ruins indiscriminately to the Romans or Saracens. The makers of the ancient wonders would have been imagined with godlike traits, which would have made it all the easier to place the gods of the older religion among them, reducing them to mortals with magical powers (with the exception of Danand's three sons, the Lebor Gabála never portrays them as actual gods). A tradition existed that they were demons and beings from the Otherworld, but the compilers of the Lebor Gabála preferred to think of them as ordinary humans with arcane knowledge.16 Their association with the síd-mounds and ancient burial sites made it possible to conceive of them as both supernatural creatures and human ancestors.

Let us now turn to Bile, *Danu/Danann's supposed consort. A figure by that name does appear in the Lebor Gabála, but is not related in any way to Danand in the narrative. Bile is one of the ten ""[some recensions say six] sons of Bregon ""[or Breogan] who originally lived in Spain. One of them, Íth, first saw the land of Ireland when gazing out to sea from the top of a tower, and mounted an expedition to investigate it. Arriving just after the death of Nét son of Indui at the hands of the Fomorians, he gave advice on the matter of that chieftain's inheritance, and then was murdered by the Tuatha Dé Danann, who were jealous of his charisma and wisdom and suspicious of his motives. His body was brought back to Spain, whereupon the other sons of Bregon decided to go to Ireland themselves to avenge their brother and seize the island, taking with them their own sons and retainers. Bile's son was Mil, after whom the Milesian invasion of Ireland was eventually named, since it was from Mil's sons alone that the Gaels were said to be descended. Bile, therefore, can indeed be seen as a first ancestor figure, and was explicitly declared to be such in mediaeval Irish literary tradition, since the Lebor Gabála states several times: Bile 7 Mílid, is dia cloind Gáidil uile (Bile and Mil, it is from their progeny that all the Gaels come) -- obviously a well-known item of historical lore.17 It is not Bile, however, but his grandson Donn who takes on the role of first ancestor to die in Ireland and therefore the leader and host of all those who will die subsequently in that land -- something like the god of Hades and Celtic Dis Pater suggested by Squire. Donn (whose name means lord) was the chief of the eight sons of Mil and commanded one of the ships in the invasion. A magical wind sent by the Tuatha Dé Danann wrecked his ship against a small island off the southwestern coast, drowning three of the sons of Mil (Donn himself; Airech the steersman; and the youngest, Éraind ""[or Érennán] the lookout on the mast, who fell into the sea), as well as their grandfather Bile.18 Although all of these characters could have qualified as first dead in the land and leaders of the later dead, and were perhaps recognised as such in parallel traditions,19 Donn gave his name to the islet where the wreck took place (Tech Duinn, the House of Donn), after which it became the focus of folk traditions about the Otherworld, with himself as Lord of the Dead.20 As for Bile, apart from his position of primacy and the manner of his death, he plays no active role in the narrative at all.

What grounds do we have, then, for linking Bile with Danu/Danann? Squire mentioned British analogies. There is indeed in mediaeval Welsh literature a figure named Dôn whose name appears to be a cognate of Danann. She never appears as a character in the stories, but is known only as the mother of the Plant Dôn, a group of figures with traits suggestive of pre-Christian divinities, very similar to the Tuatha Dé Danann in concept and function and most probably cognate to them. Unlike the Tuatha Dé Danann, however, whose precise relation to Danu/Danann is somewhat confused, the Plant Dôn are explicitly Dôn's children. Although there are more than three Plant Dôn, three among them are set apart by the similarity of their names, which are descriptions of occupations with augmentative suffixes: Gwydion (Great Wizard), Gofannon (Great Smith) and Amaethon (Great Farmer). Not only does this at once suggest an Indo-European functional triad, but it also obviously presents an analogy with the trí Dé Danand who are Danand's sons. The names in both traditions are sufficiently different to make certain that one wasn't simply a borrowing from the other, but that both are descended from a common theme in the Celtic past, whatever role culture contacts may have played in the subsequent development of the stories. However, the main source in which the Plant Dôn appear (the Four Branches of the Mabinogi) makes no mention of Dôn's husband, and the only male figure of her generation who plays a major role in relation to her is her brother Math, the magician-ruler of the Plant Dôn (in an arrangement many scholars have found to be reminiscent of a matrilineal social system). The only place where Dôn's husband is fleetingly identified is the Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Triads of the Isle of Britain), a collection of lore in triadic form, found in several manuscripts from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, which was intended to serve as a memory aid for native Welsh storytellers, linking characters by common themes relating to their roles. Many of the stories would now be completely unknown to us if we didn't have these brief, cryptic allusions to them in the triads. Triad 35 (Tri Chyuor a aeth o'r Enys hon, ac ny doeth dracheuyn yr un onadunt - Three emigrations that went from this island, and not one of them ever came back) mentions Arianrhod -- the daughter of Dôn who is famous for being the mother of Lleu in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi -- as Aryanrot merch Veli, daughter of Beli.21 This is evidently Beli Mawr son of Mynogan (or Manogan), who appears frequently in chronicles and genealogies relating to Celtic Britain. Like Bile, he plays no active role in any story, but is important chiefly as the first ancestor of virtually all the lineages of native British rulers, most of whom claimed kinship with one of his descendants, Coel Hen (Old King Cole) of Colchester. According to Genealogy 10 in the Harl. MS 3859, Beli's grandson was Afallach, whose name is directly linked to Ynys Afallach, the Island-Paradise of Apples, cognate to Eamhain Abhlach of Irish tradition; and, most importantly, in the same source his wife is called Anna (quam dicunt esse consobrinam Mariae virginis - who was said to be the cousin of the Virgin Mary).22 We have already noted the confused relationship between Danand and Anand in the Irish texts, so it is significant to see a similar relationship suggested between the names Dôn and Anna. The linking of Beli to Dôn by way of Arianrhod appears very tenuous, of course, especially since the figure of Arianrhod in Triad 35 bears little resemblance to her character in the Mabinogi. Here she has a husband, Lliaws son of Nwyfre, and two sons, Gwenwynwyn and Gwanar, who join their uncle Caswallawn son of Beli (the same character who was depicted as ruling Britain in the Second Branch of the Mabinogi; he was modeled after the historical figure Cassiuellaunos) in an expedition to pursue Julius Caesar's army after the latter's attempted invasion of Britain. One could well be tempted to assume that this is a completely different character coincidentally bearing the same name as Lleu's mother. Yet Arianrhod's name is both unique and extremely well-known in Welsh tradition, so that if there really had been two Arianrhods in the literature of the Middle Ages some allusions to that fact surely would appear elsewhere in the extant poetry, contrasting the two and making it clear that one and not the other was meant. It is actually simpler to accept that there was a sequel to the Mabinogi, in which she married and had two other children besides Dylan and Lleu (the chronology of the stories indeed makes this possible). So the thread uniting Beli and Arianrhod and Dôn, though barely visible, still holds plausibly.

Although their roles and names appear strikingly similar, it is in fact difficult to find an etymological link between Bile and Beli. We will deal with the name Bile in the next paragraph; Beli, despite its close similarity to the former, doesn't seem to be either a cognate or a borrowing -- although the resemblance between the two names may have guided the development of the characters' parallel roles in Irish and Welsh tradition. Since in Latin texts Beli sometimes appears as Belinus, it was once widely assumed to be related to the Gaulish theonym Belenos, but this no longer seems so likely. It is most probably derived from the stem bel- meaning battle, tumult, exemplified in words like the British theonym Bellatucadros (Beautiful in Battle) and perhaps early Welsh belu to kill (although there may also have been some influence from Breton beli power, authority).

The most plausible etymology of Bile (though even this isn't certain, since the mediaeval copyists seemed unable to decide whether the i in the name was long or short) derives it from a word that means tree, especially in the sense of sacred tree. Throughout Irish tradition the term bile has been used to designate particularly large and ancient trees that served as focal points for ritual spaces or tribal territories. The lore of places frequently mentions the trees that marked the centres of the provincial divisions, with the centre of Ireland as a whole indicated by the biggest of them all, the Craeb Uisnig (Tree of Uisnech), an ash tree of such proportions that it was said to have covered twenty miles of ground when it finally collapsed. It was described as dor nime (door of heaven), suggesting that it was a means of gaining access to other worlds, a role often played by great and wonderful trees in Celtic stories, and which certainly points to the fundamental Indo- European motif of the world-tree or world-pillar which serves as the axis of the entire universe and whose immense height penetrates all the levels of existence and unites them all.23 The importance of this concept to the Celtic theory of sacred space is further reinforced by the architecture of the later temples of the Belgic type (like the particularly elaborate one discovered at Gournay-sur-Aronde), where great posts were strategically placed to indicate the centre and the four quarters, exactly like the famous bilí of Irish sacred geography.24 The term bile is also known (as a rare and archaic term) in Scots Gaelic, while in Manx billey has become the ordinary word for tree. It has its origins in Old Celtic bilios, attested in Gaulish place- names like Biliomagos Plain of the Sacred Tree (modern-day Bilem).25 No cognate has survived in Welsh, but in Breton bilh can still mean the trunk of a very large tree that has been cut down.

These linguistic and theological features could indeed suggest that the figure of Bile, first ancestor of human lineages in time, is also first point in space out of which all subsequent spatial dimensions grow. That the name of the character did have such symbolic associations cannot be ruled out by any means, but there are simpler reasons why a human could be compared to a bile. In literary Irish -- and especially in the praise-poetry the filí addressed to their aristocratic patrons -- the term bile is often applied to the scions of noble families, with the sense of eminent warrior.26 Sometimes a poet might make a playful allusion to the tree meaning (as when, for example, we read in the Metrical Dinnshenchas: mac Golláin cen imduibe/ba bili bán Bregmaige - the son of Gollán without darkness of dishonour was the white bile of the plain of Brega),27 but the basic characteristics invoked were visible glory and solid, immovable strength. These are, in fact, the main qualities suggested by bile when it refers to a tree. The word is ultimately derived from an Indo-European root *bhel- applied to things that are bulky and swollen, or in the process of swelling and growing (it is, in particular, the root from which the word phallus developed). The idea, then, is great size and solidity with a specifically masculine, virile flavour. In relation to the trees, it originally expressed their size rather than their sacredness, although the longevity of a giant tree, remaining as an unchanging landmark for centuries in the shifting landscape, would have naturally made it the focus of religious awe. But given the generalised meaning and diversified usage of the term, and even while noting the fascinating correlation between trees, maleness, and the centre of ritual space, it becomes less compelling to link the literary character Bile directly to the concept of the World Tree.

Where does this leave our original pair of primordial parents? The evidence linking the two figures to each other in a literary context is, as we have seen, almost nonexistent. Bile/Beli is indeed associated with a first ancestor motif (and in both Irish and Welsh traditions he has a grandson who rules an Otherworld place for the dead), and his name (at least in its Irish form) does contain a possible reference to sacred trees, but this seems to be little more than an instance of a widespread Celtic metaphor (albeit a powerful one) in which male strength and dependability are compared to the solidness of a giant tree. As for *Danu, although it remains possible that this was the original nominative form of the name, in all extant sources the nominative in fact appears as Danand (modern Danann).28 The scant literary evidence concerning her places her within the now-familiar Celtic pattern of a Land-goddess linked to three male divinities who represent either a functional triad, the three vertical divisions of the universe, or something less clearly defined. In the mediaeval texts these goddess-figures are never shown as primordial mothers, but always as daughters of some pre-existing character. Danand is specifically identified as a bantuathach (female farmer or landowner -- one can assume that the term bantuathaid sorceress, witch used in Cath Maige Tuired came from a misunderstanding of the original word), which links her to the world of third-function activities, and may indicate the context of her worship in pre-Christian times. Squire's comparison of her to Demeter is particularly apt, since the Greek goddess was, despite the more exclusive Eleusinian mystery cult that grew up around her, first and foremost tied to the processes of the agricultural cycle, and relevant to the lives of farmers (as she still is in her guise of St. Demetra); and although her name meant Mother Earth (suggesting that she once had a more primordial role), the official theogony didn't portray her as the progenitor of the other gods, but made her a child of Rhea and Kronos. The association of Danann with a probably much older figure named 'Anann' or 'Anna' also suggests that she may have been superimposed on a goddess with more primeval Mother Earth traits.

Moist earth and pillar of strength: although one can no longer point to them as characters in an explicit mythology of origins, they are still powerful archetypes of the primordial qualities of the divine female and the divine male, as expressed by the Celtic imagination. As symbols, they remain basic to the vocabulary of Celtic myth, and exploring the intricate patterns into which they have been woven throughout the literature and lore of the Celtic languages will continue to be a fruitful and enriching endeavour.


1. Squire:"1979"[1905], 50-1.
2. DIL:1983, 182.
3. LGE:1941, 128, 156, 160, 192.
4. LGE:1941, 134-6.
5. ibid.
6. LGE:1941, 162, 198.
7. LGE:1941, 182.
8. LGE:1941, 132, 158.
9. Tuathach can also mean lord, chief representative of a tribe, which complicates the picture. However, since the term bantuathach is unique to this text (and to texts derived from it), I have chosen to retain R.A.S. MacAlister's interpretation.
10. LGE:1941, 150, 182.
11. CMT:1982, 52-4.
12. LGE:1941, 122.
13. LGE:1941, 188.
14. LGE:1941, 182, 216.
15. FFE:1982, 86.
16. LGE:1941, 134, 165.
17. LGE:1956, 44, 90.
18. LGE:1956, 38, 54-6, 70, 80.
19. Ír, another son of Mil, was drowned at Sgeilig, which also became an important sacred site associated with death and the Otherworld.
20. Davidson:1988, 176.
21. TYP:1979, 75-82, 277-8.
22. TYP:1979, 281-3.
23. Davidson:1988, 178-81.
24. Brunaux:1986, 20.
25. Ross:1967, 34.
26. DIL:1983, 73.
27. LL:1965, 867.
28. In some later texts, Danann is given a new genitive form Danainne, treating it as a feminine noun of the second declension (cf. DIL:1983, 182).


  • Book of Leinster (vol. 4), ed. by Anne O'Sullivan. Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1965.
  • BRUNAUX, Jean-Louis. Les Gaulois: Sanctuaires et rites. Éditions Errance, Paris, 1986.
  • Cath Maige Tuired, ed. by E.A. Gray. Irish Texts Society Vol. LII. Dublin, 1982. ""[CMT]
  • CÉITINN, Seathrún (Geoffrey Keating) (ed. by Padraig de Barra). Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, vol. 1. FNT, Dublin, 1982. ""[FFE]
  • DAVIDSON, H.R. Ellis. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1988.
  • Dictionary of the Irish Language, (E.G. Quin, general editor). Royal Irish Academy, Dublin,1983. ""[DIL]
  • Lebor Gabála Érenn, parts IV and V, ed. by R.A.S. MacAlister. Irish Texts Society Vols. XLI and XLIV. Dublin, 1941, 1956. ""[LGE]
  • ROSS, Anne. Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and Tradition. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967.
  • SQUIRE, Charles. Celtic Myth and Legend, Poetry and Romance (original title: The Mythology of the British Islands). Bell Publishing Company, New York, 1979 ""[1905].
  • Trioedd Ynys Prydein, ed. by Rachel Bromwich. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1978 ""[1961]. [TYP]



Traditional power: know for bestowing luck and good wishes and finding treasure; often the patron or pirates or treasure hunters
Color: green, blue, silver, and black
Stones: any river stone
Chakra: 2nd—womb chakra
Ritual Energies: matriarchal strength, transformation, manifestation, compassion, spiritual guidance
Symbol: black cauldron filled with water
Animals: snake, fish


Dikter om Danu

För att lättare känna in på Danu och hennes energier, har jag samlat lite dikter här också:

Danu's Call

by Cypress Finvarra

On the cairns of the old land she calls
From the mountains mighty face she whispers
The sidhe chant her sacred name
In the forest deep her breath is felt flowing and part of all of us.
The land is her body, the earth is her soul, all are of her, in the end all return to her.
Our sparkling spring maiden, our devoted summer mother, our peace giving winter crone.
Though the world has changed since ancient days of yore
Cars buzz over her, planes screetch to ignore her, subways rumble through her, the day to day of us all
Still the faithful can hear the divine and mystical words of Danu's call.

The Celts are known for having a poetic knowledge of the World. In honor of that, and their ultimate Mother, Danu, we present this poem in honor of Danu by the awesome Irish mystic A.E.

I am the tender voice calling Away,
Whispering between the beatings of the heart
And inaccessible in dewy eyes
I dwell, on all unkissed and lovely lips
Lingering between white breasts inviolate
And fleeting ever from the passionate touch
I shine afar, till men may not divine
Whether it is the stars or the beloved
They follow with rapt spirit
And I weave my spells at evening
Folding with dim caress
Aerial arms and twilight dropping hair
The lonely wanderer by wood or shore
Till, filled with some deep tenderness He yields
Feeling in dreams for the dear mother heart
He knew, ere he forsook the starry way
And clings there
Pillowed far above the smoke
And the dim murmur from the duns of men
I can enchant the trees and rock
And fill the dumb brown lips of earth with mystery
Make them reveal or hide the god
I breathe a deeper pity than all love
Mother of all
But without hands to heal
Too vast and vague, they know me not
But yet
I am the heartbreak over fallen things
The sudden gentleness that stays the blow
And I am in the kiss that foemen give
Pausing in battle
And in the tears that fall
Over the vanquished foe
And in the highest
Among the Danaan gods
I am the last council of mercy in their hearts
Where they mete justice from a thousand starry thrones.


She is a river,
Her blood flows down across the Land.
Her whispering lips birth her names into the void:

Listen to the voice:
Deep as a well that vanishes into the darkness, echoing with secret desires
With sighs that bring both pleasure and pain,
Washing away death with life.

In her arms she carries all lives into the cradle of the Earth:
Embracing our bones,
Like shining pieces of stone.


Vedic Origins of the Europeans: The Danavas, Children of Danu

Note: This article shows how the Proto-European Aryans, like the Celts, were originally a Vedic people called the Danavas or Sudanavas (good Danavas) connected to Vedic kings, sages and yogis.

Many ancient European peoples, particularly the Celts and Germans, regarded themselves as children of Danu, with Danu meaning the Mother Goddess, who was also, like Sarasvati in the Rig Veda, a river Goddess. The Celts called themselves Tuatha De Danaan, while the Germans had a similar name. Ancient European river names like the Danube and various rivers called Don in Russia, Scotland, England and France reflect this, as do place names like Den-mark (Danava-Marga), to mention but a few. The Danube which flows to the Black Sea is their most important river and could reflect their eastern origins.

In fact, the term Danu or Danava (the plural of Danu) appears to form the substratum of Indo-European identity at the base of the Hellenic, Illyro-Venetic, Italo-Celtic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic elements. The northern Greeks were also called Danuni. Therefore, the European Aryans could probably all be called Danavas.

According to Roman sources, Tacitus in his Annals and Histories, the Germans claimed to be descendants of the Mannus, the son of Tuisto. Tuisto relates to Vedic Tvasthar, the Vedic father-creator Sky God, who is also a name for the father of Manu (RV X.17.1-2). This makes the Rig Vedic people also descendants of Manu, the son of Tvashtar.

In the Rig Veda, Tvashtar appears as the father of Indra, who fashions his thunderbolt (vajra) for him (RV X.48.3). Yet Indra is sometimes at odds with Tvashtar because is compelled to surpass him (RV III.48.3-4). Elsewhere Tvashtar’s son is Vishvarupa or Vritra, whom Indra kills, cutting off his three heads (RV X.8.8-9), (TS II.4.12, II.5.1). Indra slays the dragon, Vritra, who lays at the foot of the mountain withholding the waters, and releases the seven rivers to flow into the sea. In several instances, Vritra is called Danava, the son of the Goddess Danu who is connected to the sea (RV I.32.9; II.11.10; III.30.8; V.30.4; V.32).

In the Brahmanas Vishvarupa/Vritra is the son of Danu and Danayu, the names of his mother and father (SB I.6.3.1, 8, 9). Clearly Vritra is Vishvarupa, the son of the God Tvashtar and the Goddess Danu. Danava also means a serpent or a dragon (RV V.32.1-2), which is not only a symbol of wisdom but of power and both Vedic and ancient European lore have their good and bad dragons or serpents.

In this curious story both Indra and Vritra appear ultimately as brothers because both are sons of Tvashtar. We must also note that Tvashtar fashions the thunderbolt for Indra to slay Vritra (RV I.88.5). Indra and Vritra represent the forces of expansion and contraction or the dualities inherent in each one of us. They are both inherent in Tvashtar and represent the two sides of the Creator or of creation as knowledge and ignorance. As Vritra is also the son of Tvashtar and Danu, Indra must ultimately be a son of Danu as well. Both the Vedic Aryans and the Proto-European Aryans are sons of Tvashtar, who was sometimes not the supreme God but a demiurge that they must go beyond.

The Danavas in the Puranas (VaP II.7) are the sons of the Rishi Kashyapa, who there assumes the role of Tvashtar as the main father creator. Kashyapa is a great rishi connected to the Himalayas. He is the eighth or central Aditya (Sun God) that does not leave Mount Meru (Taittiriya Aranyaka I.7.20), the fabled world mountain. Kashyapa is associated with Kashmir (Kashyapa Mira or Kashyapa’s lake) and other Himalayan regions (the Vedic lands of Sharyanavat and Arjika, RV IX.113.1-2), which connects the Danavas to the northwest. The Caspian Sea may be named after him as well. The Proto-Europeans, therefore, are the sons of Tvashtar or Kashyapa and Danu, through their son Manu. They are both Manavas and Danavas, as also Aryas.

In the Rig Veda, Danu like Dasyu refers to inimical people and is generally a term of denigration (RV I.32.9; III.30.8; V.30.4; V.32.1, 4, 7; X.120.6). The Danavas or descendants of Danu are generally enemies of the Vedic people and their Gods. Therefore, just as the Deva-Asura or Arya-Dasyu split is reflected in the split between the Vedic Hindus and the Persians, one can propose that the Deva-Danava split reflects another division in the Vedic people, including that between the Proto-Indian Aryans and the Proto-European Aryans. In this process the term Danu was adopted by the Proto-Europeans and became denigrated by later Vedic people.

We should also remember that in the Puranas (VaP II.7), as in the Vedas the term Danavas refer to a broad group of peoples, many inimical, but others friendly, as well as various mythical demons. In the Rig Veda, the Danavas are called amanusha or unhuman (RV II.11.10) as opposed to human, Manusha. The Europeans had similar negative beings like the Greek Titans or Celtic Formorii who correspond more to the mythical side of the Danavas as powers of darkness, the underworld or the undersea region like the Vedic Asuras and Rakshasas. Such mythical Danavas can hardly be reduced to the Proto-European Aryans or to any single group of people.

The Celtic scholar Peter Ellis notes, Irish epic contains many episodes of the struggle between the Children of Domnu, representing darkness and evil, and the Children of Danu, representing light and good. Moreover, the Children of Domnu are never completely overcome or eradicated from the world. Symbolically, they are the world. The conflict is between the ‘waters of heaven’ and the ‘world.’ The same thing could be said of the Vedic wars of Devas and Danavas or the Puranic/Brahmana wars of Devas and Asuras.

The Good Danavas (Sudanavas)

The Maruts in the Puranas (VaP II.6.90-135) are called the sons of Diti, a wife of Kashyapa, who is sometimes equated with Danu. Her children are called the Daityas which term we have found also connected to the Persians, as the name of the river in their original homeland (Vendidad Fargard I.3). While meant to be enemies of Indra, the Maruts came to be his companions and were great Gods in their own right, often referring to the Vedic rishis and yogis. As wind Gods they had control of Prana and other siddhis (occult powers). They are also the sons of Rudra-Shiva called Rudras, much like the Shaivite Yogis of later times. They were great sages (RV VI.49.11), men (manava) with tongues of fire and eyes of the Sun (RV I.89.7). They were free to travel all over the world and were not obstructed by mountains, rivers or seas (RV V.54.9; V.55.9).

The Rig Veda contains many instances where Danu has a positive meaning indicating abundance or even standing for divine in general. Danucitra, meaning the richness of light, occurs a few times (RV I.174.7; V.59.8). The Maruts are called Jira-danu or plural Jira-danava or quick to give or perhaps fast Danus or fast Gods (RV V.54.9). This term Jiradanu occurs elsewhere as the gift of the Maruts in the last line of most of the hymns of Agastya (RV I.165-169, 171-178, 180-186, 189, 190). Mitra and Varuna are said to be Sripra-danu or easy to give and their many gifts, danuni, are praised (RV VIII.25.5-6). The Ashvins are called lords of Danuna, Danunaspati (RV VIII.8.16). Soma is also called Danuda and Danupinva, giving Danu or overflowing with Danu (RV IX.97.23), connecting Danu with water or with rivers.

The Maruts are typically called Sudanavas, good to give or good (Su) Danus (RV I.85.10; I.172.1-3; II.34.8; V.41.16; V.52.5; V.53.6; VI.66.5; VIII.20.18, 23). Similarly, the Vishvedevas or universal gods are called Sudanavas (RV VIII.83.6, 8, 9), as are the Adityas (RV VIII.67.16), the Ashvins (RV I.117.10, 24) and Vishnu (RV VIII.24.12). The term also occurs in a hymn to Sarasavati (RV VII.96.4), where Sarasvati is called the friend or companion of the Maruts (Marutsakha; RV 96.2). Most importantly, there is a Goddess called Sudanu Devi (RV V.41.18), which is probably another name for the mother of the Maruts. The Maruts in particular or the Gods in general would therefore be the sons of Sudanu or Sudanavas. This suggests that perhaps Danu, like Asura, was earlier a positive word and meant divine. There was not only a bad Danu but a good or Sudanu. In the Rig Veda the references to the Sudanavas are much more than those to Danava as an inimical term.

The Maruts are called Sumaya (RV I.88.1), having a good (Su) or divine power of Maya, which stands for magical power, or Mayina (RV V.58.2), possessed of Maya power. Danu is probably, in some respects, a synonym of Maya, a power of abundance but also of illusion. Like the root Ma, the root Da means to divide or to measure. Maya is the power of the Danavas (RV II.11.10). The Danavas, particularly Ahi-Vritra, are portrayed as serpents (RV V.32.8), particularly the serpent who dwells at the foot of the mountain holding back the heavenly waters, whom Indra must slay in order to release the waters. Maya itself is the serpent power.

The Maruts as wind gods are powers of lightning, which in Vedic as in most ancient thought was considered to be a serpent or a dragon. The Maruts are the good serpents, shining bright like serpents (RV I.171.2). The Maruts help Indra in slaying Vritra and are his main friends and companions. Indra is called Marutvan, or possessed of the Maruts. Their leader is Vishnu (RV V.87), who is called Evaya-Marut. With Rudra (Shiva) as their father and Prishni (Shakti) as their mother, they reflect all the Gods of later Hinduism. As Shiva’s sons they are connected with Skanda, Ganesha and Hanuman.

Perhaps these Sudanavas or good Danus are the Maruts, who in their travels guided and led many peoples including the Celts and other European followers of Danu. As the sons of Rudra, we note various Rudra like figures such as Cernunos among the Celts, who like Rudra is the lord of the animals and is portrayed in a yoga posture, as on the Gundestrop Cauldron. If the Maruts were responsible for spreading Vedic culture, as I have proposed, they could have called their children, the children of Danu, in a positive sense. We could also argue that the Sudanavas were the Maruts, Druids and other Rishi classes, while the peoples they ruled over, particularly the unruly Kshatriyas or warrior classes could become Danavas in the negative sense when they refused to accept spiritual guidance.

We know from both Celtic and Vedic texts that the early Aryans, like other ancient people, were always fighting with each other in various local conflicts, particularly for supremacy in their particular region. This led to various divisions and migrations through the centuries, which we cannot always take in a major way, just as the warring princes of India or Ireland remained part of the same culture and continued to intermarry with one another. Therefore, whatever early conflict might have existed between the Proto-European Aryans and those in the interior of India, was just part of various clashes between the different princely families that occurred within these same groups as well. It was forgotten over time.

The European Aryans had Gods like Zeus, Thor and Jupiter that serve as the counterparts of Indra as the God of heaven, the God of the rains, the thunderbolt and the lightning. Therefore, we cannot read the divide between the Rig Vedic Aryans and the Danavas as a rejection of the God Indra by the Proto-Europeans. In addition, the Proto-European Aryans continue to use the term Deva as divine as in Latin Deus and Greek Theos, unlike the Persians who make Asura mean divine and Deva mean demon. They also know Manu, which the Persians seem to have forgotten and only mention Yima (Yama). Unlike the Persians, who developed an aniconic (anti-image) and almost monotheistic tradition, the Proto-European Aryans maintained a pluralistic tradition, using images, and worshipping many Gods and Goddesses, like the Vedic. This suggests that their division from the Rig Vedic people occurred long before that of the Persians or Iranians, and that they took a larger and older form of the Vedic religion with them.

Migrations Out of India or Central Asia

We have noted Danu or Danava as a term for an inimical people or even an anti-god, like Deva and Asura, probably reflects some split in the Aryan peoples. This could be the conflict the Purus, the main Rig Vedic people located on the Sarasvati river near Delhi, and the Druhyus, who were located in the northwest by Afganistan, who fought quite early in the Rig Vedic period.

Certainly we can only equate the Proto-Europeans with the northwest of India or greater India that extends into Afghanistan and Central Asia. If they can be connected to any group among the five Vedic peoples it must be the Druhyus.

However, we do find Druhyu kingdoms continuing for some time in India and giving names to regions like Gandhara (Afghanistan) and Aratta (Panjab) connected more with Iranian or Scythian people. Yet, we do note a connection between the Scythians and the Celts, whose Druid priests connect themselves with the Scythians at an early period. The Scythians also maintained a trade from India to Europe that continued for many centuries. In this regard the Proto-Europeans could have been a derivation of Aryan India by migration, cultural diffusion, or what is more likely, a combination of both.

Though the Druhyus and Proto-Europeans may be connected, it is difficult to confirm particularly as the Europeans were a very different ethnic type (Nordic and Alpine) than most of the Indians and Iranians, who were of the Mediterranean branch of the Caucasian race. T

However, it is possible that European ethnic types were living in ancient Afghanistan or Central Asia, even Kashmir, where we do find some of these types even today. The evidence of the Tokharians suggests this. The Tokharians (Tusharas) were a people speaking an Indo-European language closer to the European (a kentum-based language), and also demonstrate Nordic or Alpine, blond and red-haired ethnic traits. They lived in the Tarim Basin of western China that dominated the region to the Muslim invasion up to the eighth century AD, by which time they had become Buddhists. They may be related to the European featured mummies found in that area dating back to 1500 BCE7. They were also present in Western China around Langchou in the early centuries BCE. The Tokharian language is possibly related to the Celtic and Italic branches, just as their physical features resemble northern Europeans. The Tarim Basin region was later regarded as the land of the Uttara Kurus and as a land of the gods. So such groups were not always censured as barbarians at the borders but were sometimes honored as highly advanced and spiritual.

The evidence does not show an Aryan invasion/migration into India in ancient times, certainly not after the Harappan era (c. 3000 BCE) and probably not before. No genetic or skeletal or other hard evidence has been found to prove this. Similarly, we do not find evidence of migration of interior Indic peoples West, the dark-skinned people that were prominent on the subcontinent to the northwest. But if the same ethnic types as the Europeans were present in Western China, Afghanistan or in northwest Iran, like the Fergana Valley (Sogdia), such a migration west would be possible, particularly given their familiarity with horses. In this case the commonality of Indo-European languages would not rest upon a common ethnicity with the interior Indo-Aryans but on a common ethnicity with peripheral Aryans on the northwest of India.

It is also possible that the European people derived their Aryan culture from the influence of Vedic peoples, probably mainly Druhyus but also Scythians (who might themselves be Druhyus), who migrated to Central Asia and brought their culture to larger groups of Europeans already living in Europe and Central Asia. The Europeans could have picked up an Aryan influence indirectly from the contact with various rishis, princes or merchants, without any significant genetic or familial linkage with Indic peoples. Or some combination may have existed. Such peoples with more Vedic cultures like the Celts could derive mainly from migration, while those others like the Germans might derive mainly from cultural diffusion. In any case, various means of Aryanization existed that can explain the spread of Vedic culture from the Himalayas to Europe, of which actual migration of people from the interior of India need not be the only or even primary factor.

We do note the names of rivers like the Don, Dneiper, Dneister, Donets and Danube to the north of the Black are largely cognate with Danu. This could reflect such a movement of peoples from West or Central Asia, including migrants originally from regions of greater India and Iran. At the end of the Ice Age, as Europe became warmer, it became a suitable land for agriculture. This would have made it a desirable place of migration for people from the east and the south which were drying up.