This week we're talking about The Dagda, a large and lusty, but goofy god. Have a great weekend!
Back when gods and goddesses lived above ground there was a great conflict in Ireland between the Tuatha De Danann and their enemies, the Fomorians. The Fomorians were a group of misshapen evil spirits who were said to live on an island off the west coast of Eire, although some bards hinted that they lived under the water as demons of the deep. So when the time for battle came between the two tribes it was clear to the Tuatha De Danann that they would have to muster every skill, ability and resource they had. For their leader, they turned to Lugh who, upon taking command, promptly demonstrated his leadership by inspiring every member of the community to step forward with their best skills for defeating the enemy. Various members stepped forward and made promises: Goibhniu pledged to make magical spears that would never miss their mark; Morrigan would instill fear in the hearts of all their enemies; and Dian Cecht would heal warriors who fell in battle. Finally the Dagda spoke with “These great things that all of you are boasting you will do, I can do them all as well, all by myself!” Everyone cheered and declared him the “Good God” – good at everything. His other titles also include “Master of All Skills” and “Great Father of All”.
Fatter than a sumo wrestler, he seemed more a goof interested in a feast than a multi-skilled god willing to put his talents to work, but he was not one to shrink from battle. He wielded a club so big it had to be transported on wheels and was said to kill 9 men in a single blow, however the other end, with a simple touch, could restore the slain to life. He owned two other magical possessions – a harp, Uaithne, richly ornamented and made of oak that would fly to his hand whenever called and when played, put the seasons in order; and a cauldron, known as Undry, which was said to be bottomless and one of the four great treasures of the Tuatha De Danann.
Not just a father god, he is a god of abundance, the ultimate provider and guardian of life and death. Much like his appetite and physique, he also indulged in his lusty side, sharing a bed with various other goddesses, one of the most famous couplings being between him and the Morrigan. He was also said to have had an affair with Boann, the wife of Nechtan. To hide it, he made the sun stand still for nine months, therefore their son, Aengus, was conceived, gestated and born all in one day.
To honor him, call upon him at Samhain which is particularly sacred to him both because of its harvest connections and his role as the lover of the goddess of death. However, the dual nature of his club as a force for death and life make him a fitting deity to be honored on the Spring and Fall Equinoxes – even though there is no ancient reason to link him with those dates because we have no firm evidence that the Celts honored the equinoxes at all. We learn from him to exult in the good things in life, be it sex, food or the ability to master a skill; to laugh at ourselves, make music, accept our bodies and, for men, to take delight in fatherhood. Finally, choosing to believe that the world we live in is one of abundance and prosperity rather than a place of scarcity.