Celtic Goddess Danu
Danu was a Celtic Goddess and mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann (”people (tribes) of goddess Danu”). She is seen as a primordial Goddess, an ancestral figure that existed before other people or gods. Danu means ”swift flowing” in Gaelic and the root ”dan” means ”knowledge.”
Danu is often associated with the Welsh Goddess, Don, and with the Hindu Goddess, Danu. ”Dan” in Welsh means ”moist earth” and in Hindu, ”Danu” means unknown. Danu therefore, is seen in a general sense as the Goddess of the primordial waters from which all things came. Indeed, in the Vedic story “The Churning of the Oceans,” Danu is the Goddess of the waters of creation. Many rivers are called after her, including the Danube and river Don.
That she rules over the primordial waters gives Danu status as a life-giver to everything we do – from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the land that sustains us.
The Tuatha Dé Danann were the fifth tribe to invade Ireland and they burnt their ships on arrival so that they could not return. There is a rich symbolism around the children of the Goddess Danu which represents a story of creation. The tribes are said to have originated from the area around the Danube River and had to battle the native Fomorians, whose own Goddess was ”Domnu”, meaning the ”depths of the earth.” Like many ancient stories, the battle between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Formorians is the equivalent of light meeting darkness, of good and bad, of the heavens meeting the depths of the earth.
Despite their best efforts, the Tuathe Dé Danann never quite managed to rid Ireland of the children of Domnu and an uneasy peace held. In turn, the Tuathe Dé Danann were defeated by the mortal Milesians and thus retreated to the sídhe (hills) or Tír na nÓg (a mythical land where nobody grows old), to become known as the ”Daoine Sídhe” (”people of the hills) or more commonly, the Faeries.
Given her source as mother to the Tuatha Dé Danann, Danu is a goddess of fertility and abundance. She is associated with water and in her role as mother of the faeries, she is associated with land. She is sometimes identified with the war-goddess Morrigan and the fertility-goddess Brigit.
Danu is said to have had a husband or consort called Bilé who also appeared in the Welsh versions. He was the God of death and the father and protector of the people. As the God of Death meeting the Goddess of life, there is an obvious symbolism in the death and rebirth cycle. Interestingly, Bilé is said to be the father of the chief of the Milesians who drove the Tuathe Dé Danann to the hills. Bilé means ”tree” which also represents the meeting place of life and death. The God Bilé therefore, takes on a status similar to that of Hades, the Greek God of the underworld, further enhancing the symbolism of the story of Danu and the Tuathe Dé Danann as a story of life, death and rebirth.
There is very little primary source material on the Goddess Danu, and much of what we know is derived from scraps of other tales and from the writings of English settlers and travellers in Ireland who recorded the tales.
Colors: Blue (for water), green (for earth). White is sometimes used to signify the source, or purity.
Planet: The Moon (due to the water and goddess connection).
Elements: Water and Earth