Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Is Danu the Indigenous Goddess of Ireland?

Ireland has recently conducted national DNA research that asks the question of what actually  makes the Irish...well, Irish?  As a country conditioned by emigration the Celtic tiger of the 1990's and early Noughties brought an influx of new blood into the population. Cue some national soul searching.

If you read the earliest Irish texts, such as the Book of Invasions, Ireland has always been rather 'multi-cultural' although that was probably not the fashionable interpretation in earlier times.  This  DNA survey has noted that along with the Irish being well connected with the Scots and other British populations, there is a strong marker for Spanish, specifically, Basque, lineage.


Back to Danu and the primordial invasions, it is now speculated that the Basques are the marker for the sons of Mil or Milesians who vanquished the Tuatha dé Danaan, precipitating their withdrawal into the sídhe.   But then this makes us ask about those who are said to predate the  Tuatha dé Danaan, the Firbolg and Formorians.  What makes anyone truly indigenous? 




Some Irish pagans have pointed out to me that Celt is a useless term and this DNA research clearly shows that what Celtic influence in Ireland came via the Basque country rather than central Europe.  Yet Danu was well-established in central Europe that was the stomping grounds of the Celts. She was venerated enough to give the name to the main watercourse, the Danube.


But this may also be an example of how in Ireland there are never more than three degrees of separation.  (For instance, you, dear reader, are connected to me, who lived next door to James Joyce's great-nephew, so now you are three degrees from James Joyce...and Samuel Beckett, for that matter.)


Somehow, Danu's cult spread, perhaps to or by non-Celtic people.  Or perhaps we are to take this story as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all things.  


More importantly, the legends of the Tuatha dé Danaan have always struck me as symbolic of how humans are a combination of immortal and mortal, for the tales tell of intermarriage with the Formorians.  In particular, you read of Brigit, a goddess, marrying a mortal Formorian Bres.  Three of their sons were slain at Moytura and it is said that this was the first incidence of keening in Ireland as Brigit mourned her sons.

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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


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