Lugh (pronEng|ˈluː; modern Irish Lú, earlier Lug) is an Irish
deityrepresented in mythological texts as a hero and High King of the distant past. He is known by the epithets "Lámhfhada" ("long hand"), for his skill with a spearor sling, "Ildanach" ("skilled in many arts"), "Samh-ildánach" ("Equally skilled in many arts"), "Lonnbeimnech" ("fierce striker" or perhaps "sword-shouter") and "Macnia" ("boy hero"), and by the matronymic"mac Ethlenn" or "mac Ethnenn" ("son of Ethliu or Ethniu"). He is a reflex of the pan- Celtic god Lugus, and his Welsh counterpart is Lleu Llaw Gyffes"Lugh Strong Hand".
Lugh in Irish tradition
Lugh's father is
Cianof the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother is Ethniu, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians. In "Cath Maige Tuired" their union is a dynastic marriage following an alliance between the Tuatha Dé and the Fomorians. [ Whitley Stokes(ed. & trans), [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T300011.html "The Second Battle of Moytura"] , Revue Celtique12, 1891, p. 59] In the " Lebor Gabála Érenn" Cian gives the boy to Tailtiu, queen of the Fir Bolg, in fosterage. [" Lebor Gabála Érenn" [http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/lebor4.html#55 §59] ]
folktaletold to John O'Donovan by Shane O'Dugan of Tory Islandin 1835 recounts the birth of a grandson of Balor who grows up to kill his grandfather. The grandson is unnamed, his father is called Mac Cinnfhaelaidh and the manner of his killing of Balor is different, but it has been taken as a version of the birth of Lugh, and was adapted as such by Lady Gregory. In this tale, Balor hears a druid's prophesy that he will be killed by his own grandson. To prevent this he imprisons his only daughter in the Tór Mór (great tower) of Tory Island, cared for by twelve women, who are to prevent her ever meeting or even learning of the existence of men. On the mainland, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh owns a magic cow who gives such abundant milk that everyone, including Balor, wants to possess her. While the cow is in the care of MacKineely's brother Mac Samthainn, Balor appears in the form of a little red-haired boy and tricks him into giving him the cow. Looking for revenge, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh calls on a " leanan sídhe" (fairy woman) called Biróg, who transports him by magic to the top of Balor's tower, where he seduces Eithne. It time she gives birth to triplets, which Balor gathers up in a sheet and sends to be drowned in a whirlpool. The messenger drowns two of the babies, but unwittingly drops one child into the harbour, where he is rescued by Biróg. She takes him to his father, who gives him to his brother, Gavida the smith, in fosterage. [John O'Donovan (ed. & trans.), "Annala Rioghachta Éireann: Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters" Vol. 1, 1856, pp. 18-21, footnote "S"; T. W. Rolleston, "Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race", 1911, pp. 109-112; Augusta, Lady Gregory, "Gods and Fighting Men", 1094, pp. 27-29]
There may be further triplism associated with his birth. His father in the folktale is one of a triad of brothers, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh, Gavida and Mac Samthainn, and his father in the medieval texts, Cian, is often mentioned together with his brothers Cú and Cethen. [e.g. "Lebor Gabála Érenn [http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/lebor4.html#55 §61] ; [http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/turenn.html "The Fate of the Children of Tuirenn"] , Tom Peete Cross & Clark Harris Slover (eds.), "Ancient Irish Tales", Henry Holt & Co., 1936, pp. 49-81] Two characters called
Lugaid, a popular medievalIrish name thought to derive from Lugh, have three fathers: Lugaid Riab nDerg(Lugaid of the Red Stripes) was the son of the three " Findemna" or fair triplets, [Vernam Hull (ed. & Trans.), [http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/medb.html "Aided Meidbe": The Violent Death of Medb"] , "Speculum" v.13 issue 1. (Jan. 1938), pp. 52-61] and Lugaid mac Con Roíwas also known as "mac Trí Con", "son of three hounds". [James MacKillop, "Dictionary of Celtic Mythology", Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 273] In Ireland's other great "sequestered maiden" story, the tragedy of Deirdre, the king's intended is carried off by three brothers, who are hunters with hounds. [ [http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/usnech.html "Deirdre, or the Exile of the sons of Usnech"] (ed. & trans. unknown)] The canine imagery continues with Cian's brother Cú ("hound"), another Lugaid, Lugaid mac Con(son of a hound), and Lugh's son Cúchulainn("Culann's Hound"). [MacKillop 1998, pp. 102-104, 272-273]
Lugh joins the Tuatha Dé Danann
As a young man Lugh travels to Tara to join the court of king
Nuadaof the Tuatha Dé Danann. The doorkeeper will not let him in unless he has a skill with which to serve the king. He offers his services as a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman, but each time is rejected as the Tuatha Dé Danann already have someone with that skill. But when Lugh asks if they have anyone with all those skills simultaneously, the doorkeeper has to admit defeat, and Lugh joins the court. He wins a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertains the court with his harp. The Tuatha Dé are at that time oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lugh is amazed how meekly they accept this. Nuada wonders if this young man could lead them to freedom. Lugh is given command over the Tuatha Dé, and he begins making preparations for war. [Stokes 1891, pp. 75-81]
The sons of Tuireann
When the sons of
Tuireann, Brian, Iucharand Iucharba, kill his father, Cian (who was in the form of a pig at the time), Lugh sets them a series of seemingly impossible quests as recompense. They achieve them all, but are fatally wounded in completing the last one. Despite Tuireann's pleas, Lugh denies them the use of one of the items they have retrieved, a magic pigskin which heals all wounds. They die of their wounds, and Tuireann dies of grief over their bodies. [ [http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/turenn.html "The Fate of the Children of Tuirenn"] , Tom Peete Cross & Clark Harris Slover (eds.), "Ancient Irish Tales", Henry Holt & Co., 1936, pp. 49-81]
The Battle of Magh Tuireadh
Using the magic artifacts the sons of Tuireann have gathered, Lugh leads the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh against the
Fomorians. Nuada is killed in the battle by Balor. Lugh faces Balor, who opens his terrible, poisonous eye that kills all it looks upon, but Lugh shoots a sling-stone that drives his eye out the back of his head, wreaking havoc on the Fomorian army behind. After the victory Lugh finds Bres, the half-Fomorian former king of the Tuatha Dé, alone and unprotected on the battlefield, and Bres begs for his life. If he is spared, he promises, he will ensure that the cows of Ireland always give milk. The Tuatha Dé refuse the offer. He then promises four harvests a year, but the Tuatha Dé say one harvest a year suits them. But Lugh spares his life on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé how and when to plough, sow and reap. [Stokes 1891, pp. 81-111] It is widely held by scholars that the battle between Lugh and Balor reflects a common Indo-European motif, the battle between the youthful hero and his tyrant grandfather.Fact|date=February 2007
Later life and death
Lugh instituted a harvest fair during the festival of
Lughnasadhin memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, held on 1 Augustat the town that bears her name (now Teltown, County Meath). He likewise instituted Lughnasadh fairs in the areas of Carman and Naasin honour of Carmanand Nás, the eponymous tutelary goddess of these two regions. Horse races and displays of martial arts were important activities at all three fairs. However, Lughnasadh itself is a celebration of Lugh's triumph over the spirits of the Other Worldwho had tried to keep the harvest for themselves. It survived long into Christiantimes and is still celebrated under a variety of names. "Lúnasa" is now the Irish name for the month of August.
According to a poem of the "
dindsenchas", Lugh was responsible for the death of Bres. He made 300 wooden cows, and filled them with a bitter, poisonous red liquid which was then "milked" into pails and offered to Bres to drink. Bres, who was under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drank it down without flinching, and it killed him. [E. J. Gwynn (ed. & trans.), "The Metrical Dindshenchas" [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T106500C/index.html Vol 3] , 1906, [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T106500C/text040.html Poem 40: Carn Hui Neit] ]
Lug is said to have invented the board game
fidchell. He had a dog called Failinis.
He had several wives, including Buí and Nás, daughters of Ruadri, king of Britain. Buí lived and was buried at
Knowth. Nás was buried at Naas, County Kildare, which is named after her. Lug had a son, Ibic, by Nás. [E. J. Gwynn (ed. & trans.), "The Metrical Dindshenchas" Vol 3, 1906, [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T106500C/text005.html Poem 5: Nás] ] His daughter or sister was Ebliu, who married Fintan. One of his wives, unnamed, had an affair with Cermait, son of the Dagda. Lug killed him in revenge, but Cermait's sons, Mac Cuill, Mac Cechtand Mac Gréine, killed Lug in return, drowning him in Loch Lugborta. He had ruled for forty years.
Lugh in other cycles and traditions
* In the
Ulster Cyclehe fathered Cúchulainnwith the mortal maiden Deichtine. When Cúchulainn lay wounded after a gruelling series of combats during the " Táin Bó Cuailnge" (Cattle Raid of Cooley), Lugh appeared and healed his wounds over a period of three days.
* In "Baile in Scáil" (The Phantom's Trance), a story of the
Historical Cycle, Lugh appeared in a vision to Conn of the Hundred Battles. Enthroned on a daïs, he directed a beautiful woman called the Sovereignty of Ireland to serve Conn a portion of meat and a cup of red ale, ritually confirming his right to rule and the dynasty that would follow him.
* In the
Fenian Cyclethe dwarf harper Cnú Deireóilclaimed to be Lugh's son.
Luigne, a people who inhabited Counties Meath and Sligo, claimed descent from him.
Lugh’s sling rod was the rainbow and the Milky Way was called "Lugh's Chain". He also had a magic spear (named Brionac), which, unlike the rod-sling, he had no need to wield, himself; for it was alive, and thirsted so for blood that only by steeping its head in a sleeping-draught of pounded fresh poppy seeds could it be kept at rest. When battle was near, it was drawn out; then it roared and struggled against its thongs; fire flashed from it; and, once slipped from the leash, it tore through and through the ranks of the enemy, never tired of slaying.
Another of his possessions was a magic hound which an ancient poem, one attributed to the Fenian hero, Caoilte, calls,cquote|That hound of mightiest deeds,
Which was irresistible in hardness of combat,
Was better than wealth ever known,
A ball of fire every night.
Other virtues had that beautiful hound
(Better this property than any other property),
Mead or wine would grow of it,
Should it bathe in spring water.
Lugh's name and nature
Lugh's name was formerly interpreted as deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root *"leuk-", "flashing light", and he is often surrounded by solar imagery, so from Victorian times he has often been considered a
sun god, similar to the Greco-Roman Apollo. He appears in folklore as a trickster, and in County Mayothunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lug and Balor, so he is sometimes considered a storm god: Alexei Kondratievnotes his epithet "lonnbeimnech" ("fierce striker") and concludes that "if his name has any relation to 'light' it more properly means 'lightning-flash' (as in Breton "luc'h" and Cornish "lughes")". [Alexei Kondratiev (1997), " [http://www.mythicalireland.com/mythology/tuathade/lugus.html Lugus: the Many-Gifted Lord] ", accessed 7 January 2006] However, Breton and Cornish are Brythoniclanguages in which Proto-Celtic*"k" did undergo systematic sound changes into "-gh-" and "-ch-". This change did not occur in Irish, so it is unlikely that Lugh derives from the root *"leuk-", nor is it related to any other Proto-Indo-European root connoting luminosity.
Lugh's mastery of all arts has led many to link him with the un-named Gaulish god
Julius Caesaridentifies with Mercury, whom he describes as the "inventor of all the arts". [ Julius Caesar, " Commentarii de Bello Gallico" [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Caes.+Gal.+6.17 6:17] ] Caesar describes the Gaulish Mercury as the most revered deity in Gaul, overseeing journeys and business transactions. Juliette Wood interprets Lugh's name as deriving from the Celtic root *"lugios", "oath", and the Irish word "lugh" connotes ideas of "blasphemy, cussing, lies, bond, joint, binding oath", [Alexander McBain (1982), "An Etymological Dictionary of the Irish Language" [http://www.ceantar.org/Dicts/MB2/mb25.html Section 25] , accessed 7 January 2006] which strengthens the identification with Mercury, who was, among other attributes, a god of contracts.
Lugh in other media
Kenneth C. Flintretells this story in his "Sidhe" series.
* The character of Lugh appeared in the dramatic musical program Celtic Hero, which was based on events from the
Tochmarc Emire, or the “Wooing of Emer” story from the Ulster Cycleof Irish mythology. The program was produced by the Radio Talesseries for National Public Radio.
Lebor Gabála Érenn" - The Book of Invasions
Cath Maige Tuireadh" - The (second) Battle of Magh Tuireadh
Oidheadh Chlainne Tuireann" - The Death of the Children of Tuireann
Compert Con Culainn" - The Conception of Cúchulainn
Táin Bó Cuailnge" - The Cattle Raid of Cooley
Baile in Scáil" - The Phantom's Trance
*Cross, Tom Peete and Clark Harris Slover. "Ancient Irish Tales", Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 1936. ISBN 1-56619-889-5
*Ellis, Peter Berresford. "Dictionary of Celtic Mythology." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-19-508961-8
*Kinsella, Thomas. "The Táin", Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969. ISBN 0-19-280373-5
*MacKillop, James. "Dictionary of Celtic Mythology." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-280120-1.
*Ovist, Krista L. "The integration of Mercury and Lugus: Myth and history in late Iron Age and early Roman Gaul." Chicago: University of Chicago Divinity School dissertation, pp. 703, 2004. [http://proquest.umi.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/pqdweb?did=765208431&sid=1&Fmt=2&clientId=3959&RQT=309&VName=PQD (link)]
*Wood, Juliette. "The Celts: Life, Myth, and Art." Thorsons Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-00-764059-5
* "Lugh's Song", by
T. Thorn Coyle, summarizes and recounts several of the myths about Lugh.
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