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THE TUATHA DE DANANN
Such a great people were the De Danann, and so uncommonly skilled in the few arts of the time, that they dazzled even their conquerors and successors, the Milesians, into regarding them as mighty magicians. Later generations of the Milesians to whom were handed down the wonderful traditions of the wonderful people they had conquered, lifted them into amystic realm, their greatest ones becoming gods and goddesses, who supplied to their successors a beautiful mythology. Over the island, which was now indisputably De Danann, reigned the hero, Lugh, famous in mythology. And after Lugh, the still greater Dagda – whose three grandsons, succeeding him in the sovereignty, were reigning, says the story, when the Milesians came. The Dagda, was the greatest of the De Danann. He was styled Lord of Knowledge and Sun of all the Sciences. His daughter, Brigit, was a woman of wisdom, and goddess of poetry. The Dagda was a great and beneficent ruler for eighty years.
The sixteenth century scholar, O’Flaherty, fixes the Milesian invasion of Ireland at about 1000 B.C. – the time of Solomon. It is proven that the Celts whenceover they came, had, before the dawn of history, subjugated the German people and established themselves in Central Europe. At about the date we have mentioned, a great celtic wave, breaking westward over the Rhine, penetrated into England, Scotland, and Ireland. Subsequently a wave swept over the Pyrenees into the Spanish Peninsula. Other waves came westward still later.
A celtic cemetery discovered at Hallstatt in upper Austria proves them to have been skilled in art and industries as far back as 900 B.C. – shows them as miners and agriculturists, and blessed with the use of iron instruments. They invaded Italy twice, in the seventh and in the fourth centuries before Christ. In the latter tie they were at the climax of their power. They stormed Rome itself, 300 B.C. The rising up of the oppressed Germans against them, nearly three centuries before Christ, was the beginning of the end of the Continental power of the celt. After that they were beaten and buffeted by Greek and by Roman, and even by despised races – broken, and blown like the surf in al directions, North and South, and East and West. A fugitive colony of these people, that had settled in Asia Minor, in the territory which from them (the Gaels) was called Galatia, and among whom Paul worked, was found to be still speaking a Celtic language in the days of St. Jerome, five or six hundred years later. Eoin MacNeill and other scientific enquirers hold that it was only in the fifth century before Christ that they reached Spain – and that it was not via Spain but via northern France and Britain that they, crushed out from Germany, eventually reached Ireland. In Caesar’s day the Celts (Gauls) who dominated France used Greek writing in almost all their business, public or private.
Of the Milesians, Eber and Eremon divided the land between them – Eremon getting the Northern half of the Island, and Eber the Southern. The Northeastern corner was accorded to the children of their lost brother, Ir, and the Southwestern corner to their cousin Lughaid, the son of Ith. The oft-told story says that when Eber and Eremon had divided their followers, each taking an equal number of soldiers and an equal number of the men of every craft, there remained a harper and a poet. Drawing lots for these, the harper fell to Eremon and the poet to Eber – which explains why, ever since, that the North of Ireland has been celebrated for music, and the South for song.
The peace fell upon the land then, and the happiness of the Milesians, was only broken, when, after a year, Eber’s wife discovered that she must be possessed of the three pleasantest hills in Eirinn, else she could not remain one other night in the Island. Now the pleasantest of all the Irish hills was Tara, which lay in Eremon’s half. And Eremon’s wife would not have the covetousness of the other woman satisfied at her expense. So, because of the quarrel of the women, the beautiful peace of the Island was broken by battle. Eber was beaten, and the high sovereignty settled upon Eremon.
Long, long ago beyond the misty space
of twice a thousand years,
In Erin old there dwelt a mighty race,
Taller than Roman spears,
Like oaks and towers they had a giant grace,
Were fleet as deers
With winds and waves they made their ‘biding place,
These western shepherd seers.
Their ocean god was Mannanan MacLir,
whose angry lips,
In their white foam, full often would inter
Whole fleets of ships;
Crom was their day god, and their thunderer,
Made morning and eclipse,
Bride was their queen of song, and unto her
They prayed with fire-touched lips.
Great were their deeds, their passions, and their sports;
With clay and stone
They piled on strath and shore those mystic forts,
Not yet over thrown
On cairn-crowned hills they held their council courts
While youths alone,
With giant dogs, explored the elks’ resorts,
And brought them down