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The Legend Of Lugh: King Of The Tuatha De

Lugh Celtic Mythology

The ancient Irish mythology is filled with tales of gods and goddesses, each with their own unique powers and abilities. One of the most prominent deities among them is Lugh, who is considered as one of the primary semi-mythical deities and a king of The Tuatha De, Ireland’s ancient godly race. Lugh was known as Samilidanach, which means skilled in all arts and crafts, and is typically represented as a wise and all-seeing deity. He is known to have liberated his people from the grasp of the evil Fomorians. In this article, we will explore the life and adventures of Lugh, and try to understand his role as a highly respected and powerful deity of Irish mythology.

The Birth Of Lugh

Many ancient races have called the sacred island of Ireland their home. Two of the most mysterious who appear all through Irish mythology and legends were the Seafaring Formians and the godly Tuatha De Dannan.

When the Tuatha De arrived in Ireland, the Formoains held sway over a large portion of the island. Trying to avoid all-out war, The Tuatha De and the Fomorains signed a peace treaty, with each of the groups taking a portion of Ireland for themselves.

While they didn’t always see eye to eye, marriages between the two groups ensured things remained civil between the neighbouring groups.

The coastal dwelling Fomorians had imposed a tax upon all people of Ireland; for every quern grinding corn, for every flagstone baking bread, for every person herding cattle, all had to submit to their tax. As the Fomorians were known for being a vicious and dreadful army, the recent arrivals of the Tuatha De decided that paying a small tax would be better than an all-out war for the island.

To ensure this treaty was honoured properly during his era, Balor, a leader of the Fomorians, gave his daughter Ethniu’s hand in marriage to Cian of the Tuatha De. Little did Ethniu know at the time, but she was set to give birth to one of the greatest heroes and warriors that ever lived in Ireland.

One day Balor went to see a Druid, who foretold an ominous prophecy that claimed his own grandson would one day slay him. After hearing this news, Balor imprisoned his own daughter at the top of a great tower on Tory Island.

Distraught by his wife’s imprisonment, Cian decided he must go and see her. Cian knew it would be no easy task to sneak onto Tory Island and into the tower; thus, he sought help. Cian knew of a local fairy woman from the area known as Birog, who could transport him unseen to the top of the tower using magic.

During this visit, Cian seduced his wife, who fell pregnant thereafter. Balor eventually found out and claimed upon the child’s birth, he would be drowned, and not even the mighty Cian of the Tuatha De could stop him.

Balor played close attention to his daughter over the next nine months, and when the time came for Ethniu to give birth, he had his guards take not one child but triplets to be drowned at sea.

Poor Cian could do nothing, for he had been banished from the area. Balor told Cian if he were to return, war would break out between the Fomroains and Tuatha De, yet this didn’t stop him from considering it. Cian went to see a Druid for advice, but the Druid reminded Cian that no one could get near Balor without risking their lives because of his evil eye. However, Cian hatched a different plan. He would again turn to his fairy friend Birog, who would carefully watch the guards as they went to drown the children. As Balor’s guards threw the children to see, Birog arrived too late, and two had already drowned; however, miraculously, one child had survived, and she was able to smuggle him back to Cian. The father named the child Lugh.

The Early Life Of Lugh

Following Cians retrieval of Lugh, he took him back to the Eastern portion of Ireland, far from the reach of the Fomorians who wanted him dead. It was common practice for a child to be given a foster mother during ancient times, and Cian knew precisely where he wanted to send his son. Lugh was set to live with Talitu, a Queen of the Fir Bolg, one of Ireland’s most ancient groups. As a young child, Lugh excelled in almost every art, from sword fighting and archery to poetry and medicine; he became a master in every field and seemed destined for greatness.

While Lugh lived on a plain in the east of Ireland as a young boy, he would go on adventures with another one of his foster parents, Manannan Mac Lir, the great seafarer and ruler of the Otherworld. Mananan was a lord of the Tuatha De, but he lived on a bountiful island known as Emain Ablach, a place that lay hidden in the mist and could only be found by the Sidhe or Tuatha De. Mananan had taken Lugh on various trips to this sacred island and trained him well in the art of war and seafaring.

Over the years, Mananan and Lugh had become very close, with Mannan looking at him as a son, so much so that Mananan wanted Lugh to travel the world with him and take up permanent residence on Emain Ablach. While the offer tempted Lugh, what he said next both shocked and surprised Mananan, for Lugh, claimed he was going to liberate not only the Tuatha De but all of the smaller tribes in Ireland from their Fomorian overlords. Mananan was proud of the young warrior’s decision and knew if any in Ireland could lead them in the war against the Fomorians, it would be he, for he possessed gifts no other prince of the Tuatha De did. Mananan sailed Lugh back to Ireland and told him when the time came, he would have magical armour and weapons for the young warrior to use in his war, but for now, he must venture to see King Nuada at the sacred site of Tara and join his court. Only then will he be able to convince the Tuatha De that the time has come to overthrow the Fomorians?

So, a little time passed as Lugh began to prepare himself for the journey to Tara. He realised the time was upon him to leave and venture to the court of King Nuada of the Tuata De at their sacred site of Tara and liberate Ireland from the grasp of the Fomorians one and for all. So, one afternoon, Lugh, with his foster mother, Talitu, about his desire to leave for Tara. After a long debate, she eventually permitted him to travel to the capital and join the fabled court of the Tuatha De. However, joining the court of King Nuada wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Nuada was known as one of the greatest kings of the Tuatha De, having won many battles for the Tuatha De on their way to Ireland and upon arrival. But, Nuada was an organised and honourable king who already had many experienced men in his court. Thus, in order to join his court, Lugh would have to prove he had a skill that the king required. Upon arrival at Tara, the doorkeeper asked Lugh what he could offer to King Nuada.

Lugh offers himself as a blacksmith, swordsman, harpist, sorcerer, poet, historian, craftsman, and hero, yet each and every time, the doorman says they already had someone in this position. Following a long day of trying to convince the doorman to allow him access to the king, Lugh asked, do you have someone with all of these skills? To which the doorman replied no. Thus, Lugh was admitted to the court and went to speak with King Nuada. Following a long conversation, Nuada realized the young man’s potential and appointed him as the Chief Ollam Of Ireland, meaning he was the highest-ranking poet and historian on the island and had as much power as a provincial king.

An Honourable Warrior

Over the following months, Lugh began questioning why the Tuatha De allowed the Fomorians to oppress them with their tax and threats of war. Lugh proclaimed that with the help of the various princes of the Tuatha De, their many allies on the island, and through the use of their magic, they could quickly push back the Fomroians and rid their people of the harsh and unjust taxes.

Nuada sensed what Lugh was saying and wondered if the time was right to fight for freedom. Following this, Lugh was promoted to chief of the warriors for Nuada knew that a warrior with the capabilities of Lugh would be a much better leader for the impending war against the Fomorians. Nuada had already lost his hand in a previous scuffle with a band of Fomorains, and he had heard rumours that the half-Fomorian Bres wanted to reclaim the kingship of the Tuatha De. Thus, Nuada and Lugh came to the same conclusion, war was inevitable, and they began making preparations to end the Fomorian rule over the island.

Cath Maige Tuired

The Battle of Maigh Tuired is the greatest story recorded in Irish mythology. It’s centered on a legendary war that took place between the devious Fomorians and the godly Tuatha De for control of Ireland.

The Tuatha De became exhausted by the Fomorians’ continuous tax enforced upon them. Thus, Lugh, one of Ireland’s greatest heroes, decided that he would revolt against the tax placed upon his people by the Fomorians and go to war to end their rule.

The Tuatha De Wage Plan To Go To War

Following Lugh’s promotion to leader of the Tuatha De military, things seemed set to change in their favor. He was well respected even amongst many of the older warriors for his courage and desire to free the Tuatha De from the grasp of the Fomorian tax. In years previous to Lugh’s oversight, the Fomorians had been increasing their tax on the Tuatha De and getting away with it. Little by little, they demanded more grain, cattle, and children to use as slaves. With each increase, the chiefs of the Tuatha De grew increasingly furious with the Fomorians until, one day; they decided they would take no more. Thus, Lugh began to prepare his warriors and allies for an invasion of the Fomorian stronghold in the west of Ireland.

The Tuatha De knew that while they could compete with the might of the Fomorian army, the leader of their warriors was a force to be reckoned with. The leader was none other than Balor Of The Evil Eye, Lugh’s own grandfather and the same man who tried to have him killed as a newborn. Balor was a fierce and deadly warrior, huge in size and almost unbeatable due to the power possessed by his evil eye. This third eye that sat on his forehead was so devastating that whenever it opened, it could split rocks and kill anyone in its path. Even a quick glance at the eye could even blind a person for life. This would truly be the Tuatha De’s greatest challenge, for if they could defeat Balor, they would easily overcome the rest of the Fomorian army. The Tuatha De Prepare For War

As the Tuatha De readied themselves for the march West, Lugh first had to meet with his former mentor and stepfather, Manannan Mac Lir. The ruler of the underworld supplied Lugh with enchanted weapons and armor, such as his own sword, Fragarach. Any wound inflicted on an enemy with this sword would be fatal, and the opponent would immediately enter into a fragile state of weakness, leaving them useless in war. Manannan also supplied Lugh with a full set of armor to protect himself against the many spears of the Fomorian army, as well as the evil eye of Balor. This included Manannan’s personal chest plate and helmet, which were made of shining metal and adorned with various precious gemstones. Lugh was also given Manannan’s fierce horse, Aonbharr, one of the fastest in all of Ireland. Finally, King Nuada gave Lugh one of the Four Jewels of The Tuatha De, a magical spear called Assasl forged in the northern part of the world. Following the meeting with Manannan, Lugh now had everything he needed to wage war on the Fomorians, and it was time to leave their home at Tara. Thus, Lugh, King Nuada, and an army made of the finest warriors of the Tuatha De and their allies began the long march west towards the Fomorian stronghold at Dernish Island in County Sligo.

The army marched for several days, crossing valleys, green fields, and rugged mountainous terrain. Throughout the long days, many of the Tuatha De’s warriors had their doubts and even considered the great Fomorian army to be too much for them to handle. But, as they began to approach the home of the Fomorians, a territory that lay surrounded by hill hills and great rocks on either side, the Tuatha De remained calm, for they had put their trust in Lugh. When they were but an hour away from war, Lugh stopped in his tracks and halted his army. He then began to make a great speech, assuring his warriors that there is no greater cause than what they plan to fight for today. The young hero elevated the spirit of each and every warrior that stood before him, and they began to cheer as they made their final march to the plain below them. Here the Fomorians awaited their presence, having been warned by their own Druids that the Tuatha De planned to invade their home.

The Culmination Of The Battle

Lugh led his forces toward the Fomorians, and they stopped around half a kilometer away. He stood in front of his army and gave them one last look, telling them to lift their shields of bronze if and when Balor opened his deadly eye to stop it from blinding them. And with one raise of the magical sword given to him by Manannan Mac Lir, Lugh’s army rushed toward the opposing Fomorians. The battle started well for the Tuatha De; they remained structured in offensive and did not look towards the Evil Eye Of Balor. King Nuada, while he had but one good hand, was prepared to slay Balor himself and began making his way through the crowd to do so.

Balor, being older in age, required the assistance of four of his attendants to pull up his evil eye, and Nuada noticed this. Believing he had time, Nuada rushed through the ranks of Balor’s army and made a dash for the evil leader. But he was caught off guard as he did so, and Balor’s evil eye opened up, blinding Nuada in the process. Before Lugh could make it to his defense, the giant Balor made one swing at Nuada and decapitated him where he stood. The Tuatha De was devastated as their king lay headless on the battlefield, looking to Lugh for guidance. Immediately Lugh entered into a state of frenzy and raised his magical sword to the sky. This time a flash of lightning came down from the sky, giving the warriors hope that they could still win this war. The Tuatha De began to press though the Fomorian defenses even harder, and Lugh urged them to link up with their shields and push toward Balor, who was again preparing to use his deadly eye. They drove forward, slaying Fomorian warriors in the process as they inched their way towards Balor, and just as he had recharged the power of his evil eye, preparing to this time wipe use it on a portion of the Tuatha De’s army, the unthinkable happened. Lugh took his magical spear, Assal, and launched it right for Balor’s eye as his attendees opened it. The spear pierced right through Balor’s evil eye, forcing it to roll back in his head. As it did so, it fired off a blinding shot to his own army behind him, turning them all to stone in the process. Lugh was victorious, he had defeated the mighty Fomorian Army, and in doing so, he had fulfilled the prophecy foretold to his grandfather many decades ago that Balor would be slain by his own grandson.

The Death Of Lugh

Following the death of Balor and much of his army, Lugh went looking for the Fomorian King, Bres. After he found him, Lugh made him swear an oath to never again tax the peoples of Ireland, including the Tuatha De. Bres was also made to swear that all the cows in Ireland will produce milk and promised to teach the Tuatha De how to ensure they receive four great harvests per year. This was enough for Lugh and he agreed to spare the life of the Fomorian king. After the battle of Maigh Tuired, Lugh was crowned the new king of the Tuatha De for his role in the victory over the Fomorians. No longer were his people under the heavy taxation of the Fomorians, and now they could live on the island in peace. While many Fomorians stayed in the West of Ireland. Others fled to the islands that surrounded Northern Scotland and Ireland.

Lugh led the Tuatha De for many years to come. He instituted an Irish event similar to the Olympic Games held in Greece and called it the Assembly of Talti. He also instituted a fair known as Lughnasadh. Horse races and martial arts competitions were an integral part of both the fairs and the Assembly Of Talti. Lugh reigned over Ireland for 40 years from the Battle Of Maigh Tuired until he was eventually slain by three brothers who sought revenge for the death of their father. Lugh was speared through his foot and then drowned in Loch Lugborta in County Westmeath.

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