It’s a strange fact that the most important goddess in Irish mythology is also the one that we know the least about. But such is the case with the mysterious Danu, mother-goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Danu is one of the oldest of the Irish mythological gods, and she was an extremely important figure to the Tuatha Dé Danann, the supernatural race of magical beings who inhabited Ireland in Celtic mythology. The name ‘Tuatha Dé Danann’ actually means ‘Tribe of the goddess Danu’, which shows just how revered she was by them.
It is said that when the Tuatha Dé Danann came to Ireland they were shrouded by a magical mist, which in fact was Danu’s presence surrounding and protecting them as they made their journey forth. How strange and fascinating it is that all of the subsequent gods and goddesses of the Tuatha Dé Danann have long mythologies and detailed stories, but the goddess that they themselves are named for and possibly founded by is the subject of such mystery.
Danu is usually seen as a motherly goddess of the land and water, and a progenitor of all life. She has strong associations with fruitfulness and fertility. She is a nurturing presence, but with an assertive side that makes her a leader and a warrior. In many ways she is very similar to Brigid, another motherly goddess from Irish mythology.
Although there are some modern tellings of Danu’s deeds, there are very few stories from antiquity about Danu that have been recorded. However, her importance and impact are still felt in Ireland today, and there are various sites that have been named after her. The most notable example of her presence being the two hills known as the Paps of Anu in county Kerry, which look like a woman’s breasts and are seen to represent abundance and nourishment of the land. Danu is also associated heavily with water and rivers, as they are the vessels that water the land.
The mystery of Danu is one that will continue to capture the imaginations of people for years to come, as they wonder what this great and powerful goddess was like and what she meant to the famous tribe that followed her.