Fairy Gifts from Tir Na Nog

Juleigh Howard-Hobson

Called “Ever-Living Ones” or áes sídhe (Fairy folk) and regarded as Ireland’s Ancient Gods, the Tuatha De Danaan did not actually originate in Ireland: they settled there. The name ‘Tuatha De Dannan’ means ‘the people of the God whose mother is Danu’.  Arriving from Tír na nÓg (which means Land of Youth, the Otherworld which some say lies to the west, others say is hidden in the blue heavens), the Tuatha De Dannan landed in Ireland on May 1st—the day Paganly celebrated as Beltain—roughly four thousand years ago. They brought with them arcane wisdom, practical science and advanced knowledge in all areas of the arts. They brought magic, in both arcane and practical forms, and from each of Tír na nÓg’s four magical cities, they brought four pieces of magic in material form as well.

The first magical object is Lia Fail (The Great Stone of Fate). Pronounced Lee-a-Fall, it would scream joyfully when the Ard Ri–the true king of Ireland– put his feet on it, and having proclaimed him it would ensure that his reign was long and his youth sustained. The Tuatha De Dannan considered this stone so sacred, they called Ireland Inis Fail after it. The Lia Fail announced and supported Ard Ri for two thousand years, to be cleaved when it would not scream for a pretender to the throne: Lugaid Riab nDerg. Lugaid’s champion, Cuchullan, was so enraged at the stone that he hit it with his sword, breaking it in two. The Lia Fail fell silent. Half of it still stands on the Hill of Tara; it’s whispered that the other half is Scotland’s Stone of Destiny.

The second sacred item is the Spear Luin.  Known as the ‘slingshot of Lugh’, it always hit whatever or whoever it was aimed at, and it always won every battle—nothing could be used against it or its wielder.   It was such a powerful weapon that it needed to be kept spear-tip-down in a magical cauldron of liquid (some say blood, others water) when it was not in use, to make sure its heated intensity wouldn’t burn everything down around it. The so-called ‘Spear of Destiny’ (also known as the Lance of Longinus) may be no other than Ireland’s Spear Luin.

Claiomh Solais, (pronounced cleave soul-ish), or the Magic Sword of Nuadha, is the third treasure. It belonged to the Irish King Nuadha. It never struck but to make a fatal blow, and once unsheathed, it was as irresistible as it was inescapable. Also called The Sword of Light or Nuadu’s Cainnel (Nuadha’s Bright Torch), it had the ability to draw a man to it like a moth to a flame, only to unfailingly cut him in half when he got close enough. Like so many of the great sacred and magic swords of European history, Claiomh Solais has been put forward as a likely candidate for both the Sword in the Stone (with Lia Fail being the stone) and Arthur’s Excalibur itself.

The fourth and most pleasant of the gifts of the Tuatha De Danaan is the Coire Ansease:  the Cauldron of Daghda. It brought forth abundance from where there was nothing. It has been called the Cauldron of Bounty as well as “Undry” because it could provide enough food or water to accommodate any amount of gods or humans, and was particularly useful for armies. None left its presence unsatisfied. This satisfaction continued beyond mere food—it was capable of healing both the ill and injured as well as regenerating life itself. Since only the righteous were able to use the Coire, its powers were only ever used for the ultimate good of Ireland.  Spear Luin is kept in Daghda’s Cauldron, which attests for the righteousness of the Spear’s use as well as keeping the world from bursting into flame. Archeologists at Newgrange, in Ireland, have unearthed what many consider to be Coire Ansease itself; there is a replica on display there: a four-foot granite basin covered in grooves and circular engravings, very much in keeping with the nature of folk of the Gods whose mother is Danu.

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