Welsh-Irish Traditions of Folklore and Mythology
By: Aisling Bronach of House Shadow Drake
The mother goddess of Ireland was considered to be the goddess Dana
gave her name to the Tuatha de Danann, or the People of the goddess
Dana. In Wales, another mother goddess of the same position was known
as Don. This article will demonstrate the relationship and commonality
held between these two
goddesses in an attempt to support and explain Heathen traditions which
span both Irish and Welsh culture.
Within Wales, Don held the position of the mother of the gods and gave
her name to the children of Don (MacKillop: 130). In the Welsh
Triads, the husband of Don is said to be Beli Mawr (ibid.). The descent of
many powerful royal families in Wales have claimed that their lineage is
derived from Beli and Anna, the `Ancient One' of Wales, that were known
together as the Coil Hen (Pennick: 102). The use of this
lineage has stemmed from both Heathen and Christian times (ibid.). The
actual name Don appears to be a form of the Welsh Donwy which can be
directly link phonetically to the Irish Danann (Rees: 52). This term is
evident in the names of a few rivers in Wales such as the Trydonwy and the
Dyfrdonwy (ibid.). The Dyfrdonwy is identified as one of the `three wells
of the ocean' and according to a late text `comes through the veins of the
mountains like the flinty feast made by the King of kings.' (ibid.).
The equivalent goddess was called Dana in Ireland. Dana is connected
linguistically to the Old Irish word "anai" which means wealth
(O'Hagain: 151). In medieval manuscripts she is called Ana (Maier: 12),
later known as Danand (O'Hogain: 151), and finally as Danann (Maier: 17).
The mutation of Ana to Dana was the result of a prosthetic "D" being added
to her name (MacKillop: 130). The Irish goddesses Dana and Danu were not
initially the same goddess, but instead appear to be merged together via
oral tradition (Green: 77).
Ana held deep associations with two mountains located within Co. Kerry
in Ireland which were called the Da' Chich nAnann, or the Paps of
Ana (Green: 30). Early texts refer to Ireland as `iath nAnann' or
the land of Ana (O'Hogain: 152). Many families within Ireland claim to be
descended from this goddess (Squire: 245).
Both the Irish Dana and Welsh Don are considered to be the mother of
the Children of Light. In early manuscripts they are both known as either
Ana or Anna, and are related to the prosperity of the land itself. Dana is
derived from the Old Irish "anai" meaning wealth and Don is the
sister of Math whose name means wealth (Rolleston: 350).
Although it must be remembered that the name of a goddess is specific
to that goddess, we can still examine the root of Ana and therefore
illustrate the spread and integration of her worship in both Ireland and
Wales. Other examples of goddesses which exhibit this same root are as
South Munster (Ireland) - Cnoc Aine
Her day of celebration was on St. John's eve. She is
considered the first ancestress by many famous Irish families (Squire:
Also called the Blue Hag, she is said to suck the blood
from children. This is a very late period form of Ana (Ann and Imel: 501).
Leicester (England) - Dane Hills
She is depicted as a black cat that devours children
and is fairly late period. In her more temperate aspects she is referred
to as Gentle Annie (Ann and Imel: 505).
Ireland - Boyne River
Her name means "she who has white cows" (MacKillop: 40).
Ptolemy mentions a possible earlier form of her name, Bou-vinda (ibid.).
She was the wife of Nechtain, and in other stories of Elcmar, who had an
affair with the Dagda and by him conceived the child Aengus (MacKillop:
157). Her pregnancy was hid by the Dagda who cause the sun to stay in its
place for nine months until the child was born and could be fostered by
Midir (Green: 44).
Ireland, Wales, and Scotland
She is considered to be the mother of heroes, and her
name means "the lasting one" (MacKillop: 56). With Scathach, she taught
martial arts at a school for warriors (Ellis: 54). She was given the
honorary title of, the "mother of the Fianna" by Fionn and the Fianna. The
Morrighan was referred to as Buan, the male form of the name, in the
Tain Bo' Cuailgne (MacKillop: 56).
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